Ultraviolence Against Noise Bro Crap: A Conversation with Lana Del Rabies

Photo: Paul Murray

Deathbomb Arc. is a Los Angeles-based label founded by Foot Village's Brian Miller which has released experimental music from groups like AIDS Wolf, JPEGMAFIA, and Sam An. The latter is a Phoenix-based musician performing under the moniker Lana Del Rabies. Her 2018 album, Shadow World, is within itself a noisy record, but would I call this straight-up noise music, no. There's structure to what An is doing with the Rabies' output, rather than the gazillion limited tapes available through Discogs. An’s music is cathartic, harsh, and somber, but it never takes itself too damn seriously.

After being a fanboy for months, I saw her set at The Smell with the Deathbomb Arc showcase with White Boy Scream. I phoned An later that week and this is our interview. 

You said you received some polarizing feedback because of your name. What do you think that could be linked into directly? 

Partially due to with the fact Lana Del Rey is a kinda polarizing figure in music. Partially due to misogyny, people having a problem with an unabashedly feminine singer. Also has part to do with it she's extremely problematic as well, so there's kind of two camps of people having problems with the person I'm referring to with the name. Which had nothing to do with me but you can't control that. I think that I'm working in music that is tied to dark genres, I personally couldn't tell you what genre I am, I tend to be put in those categories. I think there's no humor in those genres.

It's funny but the project itself is not meant to be funny. Some people want things to be kind of simple and accessible and clear, when they see the name they think it's gonna be a dumb band, or I've had people think I'm a band full of dudes. 

Really? Tell me about that, people thinking you're a band full of men. 

It's interesting. There's more to the name, I used to sample Lana Del Rey way way way back when I had no plans with music other than to amuse myself and to get something out cathartically. I used to make noise dissonant drone tracks, probably like 8 years ago. Sampling her and kind of tapping into what I do like about Lana Del Rey's music, which is this unapologetic feminine kind of melancholy. There was something I liked about that I wanted to tap into in the less literal way... I do have a sense is humor, I do value humor as a way of coping with darkness. Things like the nature of the world, mental illness, various reasons why I value humor which is why I don't want to just keep this dark nihilistic aesthetic theme, which is why I think we need balance.

Photo: Michael Castaneda

I have been in bands before that didn't go anywhere and weren't good situations. Stepping out as a solo artist, I wanted a name that represented a woman, I do identify as a woman. With the rabies I wanted to identify with something destructive and confrontational as well. Rabies, it's a weird word but it's a frighten word as well. I think there's this weird trend of male bands naming themselves after women or using girls or women.

What do think is up with that? 

I think they're being clever. I know there's more into why they're doing that and why they're capitalizing on femininity while not valuing femininity. At the end of the day, I think of these bands think it's like fun like 'oh I guess we're not girls!'. I think they're not really thinking much about it. I think it's interesting.

You make perfect sense, at the top of my head I could at least a handful of bands with the word "Girls" in it. Or just a take on femininity with a misogynistic tone. I was just looking at your social media, and I see you have like a deep appreciation for Shirley Manson [Garbage].

If I'm gonna be honest, I mean really honest, it's more of what Shirley Manson represents and who she really is had way more of an influence on me than Garbage's music, in a way. I was a kid when Garbage was in their prime, I wasn't going to their shows. As a kid, I used to read magazines out of boredom, there wasn't much to do when I was growing up. I remember reading this interview with her it was the first time I've been exposed to a female celebrity who had this kind of unapologetic confrontational world view. Like before puberty I was dealing with depression.

Photo: Ollin Opochitli

That young? Wow. 

Yeah, pretty young. She [Shirley Manson] was very vulnerable, I valued that and felt like I wasn't alone with that. She didn't do this in a way that wasn't exploitive, like she's been this person and she's gone through things been suicidal, that was huge for me. Plus, also the redheaded thing, too... It was a familial thing I guess she can be like my order sister or my mom. 

I saw on Deathbomb Arch's social media pages that you're booking a tour in Europe. When do you plan on doing that, and how do you care for yourself while you're on tour? 

I have yet to do a hardcore, 40-day North American tour or anything like that. What I tend to do is go where people reach out to me, like, "Hey we want you here," or through people who reach out with certain city dates. I'm not going out for crazy amount of time, I go home for a few days, then I go back out. I'm used to intensity and doing a lot. I work to support myself on top of everything I do as well, I've had points in my life where I work 4 jobs in order to support myself plus other passion projects. And I've been unhealthy about it in the past too... now I know when I hit those limits. Like even when I was in LA, there was this event I wanted to go to after the show "I can't, I have to go to bed." Respecting that, unlike when I was younger saying yes to everything, now I just know my own boundaries. I'm more aware of my limits these days.

This year has kind of been life changing, moving away from my older self. Back to the idea of self care, that's been big this year with learning. I've had a lot of time to evolve with my process. It's weird, I mostly work within the medium of electronic music, I don't consider myself an electronic musician, because I feel like that comes with a lot of baggage. 

Photo: Boy Harsher

Like about gear and hardware?

Yeah! About the equipment more than than what you're trying to do. I get questions like that all the time, like "what do you do, and what are you using" I can tell you, but it doesn't matter. I have used hardware, I've used all sorts of things within my music synthesizers — I like textures, I'm getting more into playing keys. For me, this is about making something, it's not about what you're using. I feel more passionate about my craft rather than how much money I've spent on a modular synth. That's where I'm at with it.


Lana Del Rabies' latest album, Shadow World, is available now via Deathbomb Arc.

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