Punish Yourself
It's been a few years since we last spoke to Punish Yourself, and they're back with a new album. Keith Elcombe catches up with the guys and sees how things have changed for the band since they exploded onto the scene. (July 2005)

1. Hello! It seems like ages ago when we last interviewed you guys( two years ago approximately). How do you feel you have progressed in that time?
vx69 : Well... We do more drugs, we make more noise, more people come to the gigs, we sell more records, but sadly, we don’t seem to play much better.
miss Z : I hope the last part of the sentence was a joke.
vx69 : it was. Was it ?

2. Are you happy with the way the album, Sexplosive Locomotive has turned out?
vx69 : Yeah. But it was such a lot of work I would kill myself if I was not happy with it...
miss Z : this album was quite a success in France, seems like it’s growing fast in Germany, US people who bought it keep saying they’re fuckin’happy with it... Could we ask for more ?

3. Have PY become better known in the alternative scene now? Do more people come to your gigs?
Miss Z : oh, yeah, In France, this album has been a real underground hit. The « industrial » scene here is quite small here, but our audience mixes rivetheads, punks, metalheads, goths... With a lot of teenagers coming, we’ve become some sort of a teeny-bopper band ha ha ha
vx69 : fresh flesh !

4. The track « Gay Boys in Bondage » care to explain where the idea came for that?
vx69 : ha ha... actually the title came from an old Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch, in the TV series, we even used at a point a sample of the gorgeous Carol Cleveland saying «gay boys in bondage», when we first played the song live. Apart from that, I have no idea what this song means... I just liked that, « gay boys in bondage ». I guess you can think it’s gay activisme. In a way, it is.
Miss Z : there’s no need for meaning, anyways.

5. What would you say was the main driving force behind the creation of the tracks on this album?
miss Z : An uncontrolable urge to write pop songs. With the good old verse/chorus/verse structure...
vx69 : On the first two albums we were focusing on agressivity, on this one we tried to write radio-friendly stuff. I know we won’t have a radio hit, that’s not the point, we just tried to write songs we’d be happy to hear on the radio or at a party.

6. How did the Iraq war affect your song writing? I'm thinking here of « CNN War ».
vx69 : We’re living in a new world order since the early 90’s. I mean, this is not a post atomic world, but a post-war world - the first and second war in Iraq were strong signs that there was/is something rotten in the kingdom of the USA. Or maybe « something wicked this way comes » was the right Shakespeare quote ? Anyway... This is our world, we won’t change it, but we gotta face it. Hence the songs.
Miss Z : we’ve always focused on comic-books and counter-culture trash, now we have Bush and this whole shit going on and it’s already pervading the subcultural trash. Dubbya is becoming something of a fiction character, he’s so UNREAL !

7. Do you feel that Politics and music make good bedfellows? Why?
vx69 : Sometimes they do. Look at the amazing Consolidated lyrics, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, some Springsteen stuff, Jimi at woodstock, even Rage Against The Machine were useful when they sang about Leonard Peltier. The mc5 were a fucking good political band too. But yeah some political lyrics can be incredibly stupid, look at those Alec Empire songs... You can make politic music if you don’t forget there’s gotta be some fun.
Miss Z : There’s a sadly increasing amount of fascists and nu-nazis on the industrial scene. Some guys think you can’t play industrial stuff if you have left-wing ideas... Fuck’em. It’s important to show some activism to front that.

8. I would say that while Sexplosive Locomotive is a great album, I donít really feel that it advances your music in terms of ability. Would you agree with this? If not, why not?
vx69 : Well, basically, it’s always the same old stuff we always did, beats and guitars, but I really feel the songwriting got better. We’re really proud of tracks like Holy Trinh Thi or ... And well, there’s more layering, the sound is deeper, but maybe I’m the only one to hear that. I should stop spending so much time in the studio. Gets on my nerves.
Miss Z : We had some quite different tracks written, but when it came to picking what songs would be on the album, we chose maybe the easier ones... We have jazz songs, electro-psychobilly stuff, orchestral stuff, we’ll definitely use these on the next record !
vx69 : after being Ministry rip-offs, we’ll become Foetus rip-offs ha ha.
Miss Z : and by the way, I think vx’s lyrics are slightly better on this album, some songs even make sense !

9. Since your last album, have there been any changes in the line up of the band?
vx69 : We had a new drummer just after Disco Flesh Warp 99 was released, it’s been four years now, and for a while we had a keyboard player, but he was way too paranoïd when he got drunk, a real pain in the ass on tours, after the shows. So now we’re back to a stable four members line-up, plus the dancers... The lovely Klodia has joined the team with her metal grinder. She’s unbelievable.

10. Would you say that you have grown musically since your 1st album?
vx69 : Oh, yeah. We’ve grown alot in terms of status, of musical skill, of alcohol drinking. Actually our real first album was recorded yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaars ago, in 1998 (it’s just been re-released as part of the « crypt 1996-2002 » digipack along with Disco Flesh Warp 99) and we were a really lame band.
miss Z : when we began making music, the goal was to become a cult band... And now more or less we’re on the way. Maybe the first self-proclaimed band ever ?

11. Whatís in store for us in terms of a third album, if thereís going to be a third album that is?
vx69 : We have enough songs for at least five new albums...
miss Z : we are to release a new album on 2k6, the songs are written, but we’ve not begun the real studio work yet. And we’ve not chosen a title yet... Generally we have the title before having the songs, maybe it’s gonna be different this time...

12. Itís two years since we last spoke, and the MP3/downloading debate has progressed to the point itís now considered to be more commonplace to download tracks. Has the downloading and free sharing of MP3s helped or hindered your music?
vx69 : It sure did help and still helps. Sometimes in funny ways. Some months ago, an unknown guy renamed our songs with the titles from the forthcoming With Teeth and let loose that stuff on the internet... We had quite a lot of funny hate messages. But actually, internet is a help, the guys who download the albums on p2ps wouldn’t buy’em anyway. But they sure help spread the word...
miss Z : and as our stuff is unavailable in most parts of the world, that’s an easy way to listen to us. We don’t make money out of it, but if we were to make money in the music industry, we wouldn’t play that kind of music ! ! ! !

13. How does the alternative scene in France today compare to say, 5 years ago? Is it growing, or shrinking?

vx69 : Definitely, growing, there are more and more interesting bands. It’s still quite difficult to tour, tho, if you ain’t got promotion. Luckily, we have, thanks to our record label.

14. When can we expect to see you tour here in the UK?
Miss Z : Hopefully soon, but touring in the UK is so strange sometimes... Not getting paid, sleeping in the van, no beer or anything... ha ha
vx69 : when we got The Jesus Fix to play two gigs in France with us, on the first day there were some problems, nothing hot to eat, not much to drink, the promoters had forgotten to book the hotel, so we didn’t sleep at all and moved to the second gigs place... We were so sorry to « welcome » them like that, but when we apologized they said something like « oh, well, these are the usual touring conditions in england, no problem » !
vx69 : but anyway, we wanna come back in the UK, we had a lot of fun in London and Nottingham, really.

15. Finally, what ís next for Punish Yourself?
vx69 : live DVD, new album, gigs, gigs, gigs.
miss Z : and hopefully tons of cocaine, but I’m not really sure about that.