By Andrew Bansal
Even in the midst of a long summer residency at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, punk rock trailblazers Barb Wire Dolls, originating from Greece but calling Los Angeles home for the past several years, are busy mixing their new album at NRG Studios in North Hollywood. The songs for this album have been written with a great degree of thought, vision and effort and the process has taken its time, but once ready, Barb Wire Dolls will deliver the goods. They are mixing with Jay Baumgardner, who describes the band ‘fantastic to work with’, and finds their involvement in the mixing process to be in a happy medium between hands-off and micro-management. Last week, I went down to NRG Studios for a chat with vocalist Isis Queen, guitarist Pyn Doll and drummer Krash Doll to talk in detail about the album. Enjoy the conversation below.
First of all, let’s talk about the songwriting for this upcoming album. When did you start with that process and how has it been for you?
After we put out our debut album ‘Slit’, we went on the road for three years and played all over the world. 700 shows in 22 countries. What happened was, a new bass player joined the band and that’s when we essentially started writing a lot of new songs while we were in Germany, in between tours. As it turned out, we totally changed direction. What we’re doing is what we call ‘meta-modernist’, because it’s rooted in the old, in the original hard rock/punk movement, and even grunge and new wave, but it’s not retro. It’s something new. So when you fuse the old and the new stuff that’s out there, you create something new and it’s meta-modernist. We’re not a retro band. You can hear our influences but it’s something totally new. Having said that, the new songs are not a whole lot different from ‘Slit’. The bass player added a lot of melodies, but the power of Barb Wire Dolls is still behind every song. Playing them live for the past few years also helped us decide what works and what doesn’t. We tracked a lot of the songs in Berlin twice, and also in Greece. We felt ready and we decided to come back to America to do the album. We recorded in Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, Texas, and then we also started tracking here at NRG Studios in North Hollywood. We got Jay Baumgardner to co-producer and mix the album, and that’s where we’re at right now. As you can see, NRG Studios has a long history, and Jay has produced a lot of things. The songs are being mastered by Howie Weinberg, the best mastering engineering in the world, from Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ to our album and everything you can imagine in between.
Your sound on stage is quite different from what one hears on the album. In terms of the quality of production and the mix, what are you looking to achieve on this new album?
In this situation, after working on this album for a while and trying to figure out our sound with the bass player and taking that next step, we wanted to work with the best, record in the best studio, have the best engineer and mixer. To have someone like Pyn with his vision in songwriting is one thing, but to have someone that’s able to capture it is one of the most important things. You can do things D.I.Y., which we still do for the most part, but you need the big dogs behind you. This is why we wanted to work with these people in these studios. That’s why it has taken such a long time, because we’re financing everything ourselves. We don’t have anyone giving us money or anything. We play shows, we make money and we invest it and try to find the right people to work with. So we’re here in LA, at NRG, to capture the best sound.
So, in that sense is this album different from the previous one?
The energy is the same. We’re still Barb Wire Dolls. The power, the songwriting, everything is there, it’s just a different frequency or a different … vibe. ‘Slit’ was done with Steve Albini. He has his vision. And this new album has a different vision. But the music is still there, the songs are there. We’re just excited to see what comes out. Bands always evolve, and it’s a natural progression. It can never be the exact same thing, or at least shouldn’t be. This is just a different side of us.
When is the album expected to release?
It’s hard to say. We’re still working on the album. Good things take time.
You’re here mixing the album for hours every day, and then you play at the Whisky every Monday for your residency there. How is the transition between the two? Is it almost like a stress release when you get up on stage?
In a way, yes. The power that’s been put behind these songs in the recordings is the power you’ll feel when you see it live as well, but it is a release playing live, giving our ears a break and our bodies in motion.
Once this album is ready for release, would you be continuing to be D.I.Y. or will you be looking for labels to release it?
We’re open to anything. We’ve been doing it ourselves, licensing the album out to lots of labels all around the world which is what we did with ‘Slit’, but now that we’re getting a lot of offers to actually put the record out, we’ll let Dave handle that and see what’s the best move. We just want to play in more countries. We’ve been to many countries but it’s not even a drop in the ocean of countries out there. We don’t want to limit ourselves. No compromises.
And even the countries that you’ve not been to, do you notice through social media that you have fans in those countries?
Yeah! So imagine the potential of actually going there and playing, and getting the word out there. We had a #1 hit in Brazil, #7 in Peru, and we have a lot of fans in South America even though we’ve never been there. Imagine what it would be like. Someone came to see us at the Whisky last week and was talking to us about taking us to South America. So yeah, the world is a huge place and at the same time it’s all there at your finger tips.
Catch Barb Wire Dolls live at the Whisky for the remaining residency shows every Monday in August.