As a teenager in the mid-90s I was introduced to LiLiPUT (a.k.a. Kleenex) on a mixtape I received featuring early 80s female-led punk. I was immediately drawn to the band, firstly because they were from Switzerland, my familial homeland, but mostly because their music resonated deeply with me. The openness and delight in their songs evidenced a certainty of person and place that appealed to me as I was trying to find my own way in the world. They were punk in exactly the way I wanted to be punk.
Since that first listen I have returned to their music over the years, each time finding it as fresh and relevant as ever. So in Spring 2010 I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to talk with three former members of LiLiPUT - Marlene Marder, Astrid Spirig and Klaudia Schifferle.
It was clear from our conversation that something special happened in Zürich all those years ago and the bond between the women was still strong after thirty years. What I had sensed as a teenager was confirmed during the interview - they were not just a band and it was never only about the music - they were first and foremost a group of friends having fun together, playing their part in some greater experiment of creative production.
This is a synopsis of the interview that took place in Astrid’s flat in Zürich, transcribed and translated into English from Swiss-German. I will publish the interview in three parts over the next three weeks. Full audio of the interview and a PDF download of the transcript will also become available over the next few weeks.
Check out the the mital-u website for more info and a discography of the band. Required listening is the 2001 Kill Rock Stars reissue of a CD compilation of the band’s studio recordings. Diehard fans will delight at the double CD/DVD of live recordings and video clips that KRS released in 2010, while vinyl aficionados will appreciate that Mississippi Records is releasing a 4x LP vinyl version of the studio recordings compilation in February 2011.
Jenny Woolworth: How did the recent compilation and reissues come about?
Marlene: A few years ago, I was approached by Kill Rock Stars asking if we had any further material to release. So we started thinking about what we could offer without just repackaging the old CDs and LPs. Then I remembered this road movie that we’d made on tour in 1982, but since that film is only about 15-20 minutes long we added tv-clips that a colleague of ours dug up from the archives of Schweizer Fernsehen (SF1) to get enough material for a full DVD.
Klaudia: Before Kill Rock Stars asked us someone else had approached us about a vinyl reissue so we knew it was time to got together over dinner and take note of what we had yet to release.
Astrid: And once we started digging around we uncovered things that we’d forgotten about.
Jenny Woolworth: What did you find?
Klaudia: Once, late at night, after we’d already started working on the project, I was bumbling aroung my flat, bumped into my bookshelf and a pile of cassettes came tumbling down. One of them had “Kleenex Live” written on it and I was so surprised because I didn’t think I had any of those old cassettes anymore! So there I was at four in the morning, sitting on the coach, listening to this tape, completely shocked!
Marlene: The tape that Klaudia had was a Kleenex gig recorded at Gaskessel in Biel. We also had this live recording from TonModern at the Rote Fabrik in 1983, recorded for DRS3 Swiss Radio, and so we used those two recording for the CD part of the Live & Clips release.
Klaudia: There are several things we don’t have anymore, like a video from Cologne… But we still found some great stuff. Videos had started to pop up online and that reminded us of this or that clip so we went and sought out the high-quality original version.
Jenny Woolworth: Who designed the Live & Clips cd/dvd? It looks great.
Marlene: Peter Fischli, like earlier. He’s let us use the catfish design woodcut from the cover.
Klaudia: Peter did all the designs for Kleenex – flyers, LPs, posters the later, I did some of the LiliPUT covers. Peter’s daughter actually worked with Marlene and I to design the booklet for the 4x LP set. We did it all in one day, Marlene and I chose the images for the collage and she glued it all together and stuck a few of her own odds and ends in. It was great to have a young woman as part of the process.
Jenny Woolworth: Back in the day, when you yourselves were young women, how did you become part of the punk scene? Did it find you, did you find it?
Astrid: When I was part of LiLiPUT the founding principal was that this was an opportunity, for the first time and perhaps the last time, when you could make music even if you had not been playing an instrument for years. There was this opening there…
The punk influence came from England and that stimulated a different kind of access to music, encouraging us to act spontaneously and then see what works. It was actually really audacious for us. The attitude was punk with an impulse to just get up on stage even if you only had one song to play but still to just play that one song three times. It wasn’t like that before or after.
Klaudia: Punk was a welcoming initiation when you heard it. It was so accessible and easy, we didn’t even think about it before jumping in and getting involved saying “I’m going to do that too!” Then other people around you would jump in and say “ok yeah, let’s do it!”
I was working at a clothing store with Lislot [Hafner] at the time and one day Rudi [Dietrich] came around and suggested we form a band together. Lislot immediately said “I’m playing drums!” and I said “I’m playing bass!” That’s just how it was. So Rudi played guitar with us for a bit but then he suggested we ask someone else - he must have been frustrated because he was better then us! He said he knew a women, a guitar player or rather a saxophonist, but in any case he would asked her if she wanted to join us…
Astrid (to Marlene): You were the only one who could actually play an instrument, weren’t you?
Marlene: Yes, thank god! Otherwise nothing would have happened! Someone had to know a little bit at least.
Astrid: We desperately wanted to do something so we just appropriated the punk attitude for ourselves. For example, one day at the flea market I saw a violin and just bought it. Then we wrote a song including violin, although I’d never played before.
Klaudia: It was also a shared spirit among the people we knew. Everyone supported each other and thought it was great that we were in a band, no one cared if we could play or not. People acted out of goodwill and were very supportive.
Part two of the interview will be posted next Monday. Stay tuned to learn all about Frauennerve, Edelpunks, Rough Trade and more. Until then enjoy “Boatsong.”