Following the release of their compilation album, Best of Lizzy Borden, Vol. 2, Games Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life had the pleasure of talking with seminal frontman and vocalist of the band, Lizzy Borden. Below is a transcript of some of the major talking points but you can listen to the full thing on YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Hi Lizzie, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. How have you been holding up through 2020?
Its been a difficult year. I have my recording studio in my house, so I’m pretty much doing what I do no matter what is happening outside. So, it could be a complete apocalypse and I’d still be in here recording. So nothing’s changed that drastically for me but yeah, I mean, its been crazy.
So you very much in a self-contained world then?
Yeah, that’s what I do. I just isolate myself off and just, you know, try to write songs that I like. It’s not always easy, for every for every 15, I’ll get 1 that I like.
That’s wicked output by the sound of it, about 1 out of 15.
Yeah, but it takes a while to actually finish all those before I realise I don’t like them.
How did you go about selecting the songs that would make up Best of Lizzy Borden, Vol. 2?
I come from the old school, so, you know, it’s all about albums and then cassettes and then CDs and then the streaming world happened. It took a long, long time for people to catch up, including me. And once I got into it, I really liked it. So I went on one of the platforms to find out which was our biggest streaming album. And it turns out Best of Volume 1 is our biggest streaming album!
You could probably say that about every artist. You know when people find an artist, they just go right to the best stuff. So that was my thought process. I said, you know, our biggest streaming album is best of Volume 1. So, the last three albums were not on that. So I figured let’s make the Best of Volume 2 but surrounding the last three albums.
I didn’t want to pick a slew of songs, I just picked four songs from each record and then we did two covers. So finding those songs, they either really generated something live when we played them and everyone just loved them. Or we did a video or those are the songs I hear the feedback most of from fans. So it was pretty easy to pick the songs that got the most response over the last few years. I didn’t try to dig deep and find some obscure song that no one knows about. I really wanted to pick the four songs that represent those three records.
As you said, it features two covers, the first being a gripping version of the Ramones’ Pet Semetery. Where did the interest in covering that come from?
Well, last year, we did a one-off show at the Whiskey in Hollywood, played there a million times, but this was kind of a special show.
As you know, we were on the My Midnight Things tour but this was just a one off and it was Halloween night. And I said I really wanted to do something special and I only cover songs that really meant something to me when I was a kid. Every one of these songs that we cover are songs that had an effect on me.
And so the Ramones, they had a big effect on me.
You know, Lizzy Borden started as a punk band. Our first demos, everything we did was all punk. The Ramones was my favourite punk band and Pet Semetery was an odd song for them. And that made it perfect for me. I think. So that’s why I chose it.
Also it was Halloween night and I wanted to do something special for the show at the Whiskey, you know, because you never know how long the Whiskey is going to be around. So we learned that one and it wasn’t easy because there’s a lot of lyrics. It’s like some weird story, which is, again, unlike the Ramones. But it was great. We crammed it in and we got through it. But after that I said, you know what? We did a good version of that. Let’s record it.
Likewise, I think people would be quite surprised to see the other cover, Blue Oyster Cult’s Burnin’ for you. What about that track then?
Well, when we This Ain’t the Summer of Love in 2000 on the Deal With The Devil record, I wanted to do Burnin’ For You but I got outvoted by my producer at the time. It would have been perfect for the Deal With The Devil album but I got outvoted and I was fine with that.
So when we decided we wanted to do at least two covers on this best of, I got my chance to do it. Then when we recorded it, you know, sometimes I’ll take a song and I’ll make it my own. Sometimes I like to try to keep it the way it was. With Burnin’ For You, I tried to make it my own at the beginning and it felt sacrilegious. You know, that song meant so much to me that I didn’t want to reinvent it. It was perfect the way it was. So we really stuck to the script on it and I think it turned out pretty good.
I like your thinking. A cover is a tribute as well, to some degree but you also want to have your own spin on it. Inevitably, it does sound exactly like Lizzy Borden. But obviously Blue Oyster Cult too!
Yeah, a lot of people say that. I mean, I guess it’s my voice. Everyone says it sounds like a Lizzy Borden song. Even when we played Pet Semetery live a couple of more times and people came up saying “that’s a great new song” because, a lot of these people don’t know the history, so they didn’t know it was a Ramones cover and they thought it was the Lizzy Borden song!
It’s pretty interesting from my point of view. I’m singing a classic song that meant a lot to me. But from their point of view, it sounds like a Lizzy Borden song. I’m happy however people perceive these things.
You’re looking at a near 40 year career, can you put your finger on just how you’ve managed to stay so relevant throughout the years?
I think it’s because I don’t want to keep recording the same album. I grew up on David Bowie and all these people trying to constantly reinvent themselves. And that’s where I come in. That’s where I come from. I see a lot of heavy metal people staying in their comfort zone and I know that I could do that and retain my fan base. I know every time I take a chance I’m going to lose part of my fan base, but it’s worth it to me.
To record the same song over and over and over again. I just can’t do it. I’m trying to constantly be a better songwriter and constantly grow in different directions. It’s fun for me and I think that is the thing that bleeds through. I’m not just going through the motions.
It’s still fun and I’m still learning all the time.
So that’s why I’ve been able to keep doing this, because it’s still fun for me not to do the same old songs, but to constantly try to improve and be a better songwriter.
How difficult was you was it for you to adapt to the world of streaming?
I was hardcore against it for a long time, I’m from the old school. Just having that physical thing in my hand, the whole experience behind it… I loved it all. So letting go of that was weird.
But I also went through all of this stuff when I’d walk into a record store and all the albums were gone and it was just CD, so I had to adapt to that.
The streaming world, it’s not financially beneficial to anybody. Once I signed up for one of the platforms, went to all my favourite artists and downloaded all the records. I’m looking through and I’m going ‘oh my God’, I don’t even know they did this. I didn’t know they did that. I didn’t know. And there’s a slew of records I didn’t know existed. So, it really made me go, OK, well this is a benefit. I get to hear these things I didn’t know even existed.
There are so many things you can do with the streaming thing, I hope it becomes more interactive. I don’t know if that’s possible, but as far as me adapting to it, I finally came around.
How does work on the next album go? Are things looking bright and exciting in the Lizzy Borden camp?
Yeah, I mean, as I was saying before, I’m learning so much and technology has afforded me the ability to explore and do things. Every day I’m recording something that I’ve never recorded before and I’m singing and doing different things that I haven’t done before.
Lyrically, I’m a better lyricist now than I’ve ever been, I think.
We’re knee deep in the new record and we’re doing it kind of interesting this time. Like I said, I constantly want to try and do things different. So, we’re doing one song at a time to its completion because I have the time, you know, because of this virus. Which is pretty interesting because I get to see what else the album needs, you know, as I go.
So, we’re on our almost fourth song and I get to see where the album moves and what it needs, what the complement to that song is going to be, what the complement to the next song is going to be. So it helps me to write because these songs are done. I get to hear them. Not a demo. They’re not a rough version, they’re the finished song.
So I’m going, OK, well, I like that but now we need this and I like that, but now we need this. So it’s very different than anything we’ve ever done. I’m having more fun making this record than I ever have making any record because I like that sense of accomplishment. Usually I’m spinning plates, I’m writing 10, 15 songs at the same time, and I’m just doing a little bit on each song per day.
Some of those songs, you know, at the end get rushed. They suffer a little bit because they didn’t get the attention that I paid to the songs in the earlier phase of writing and recording. So when I get to do everything that I want to do to a song before I move on, there’s a sense of accomplishment. So it makes me hungry to do the next song and write the next song.