Q&A: Punk icon Lydia Lunch brings Retrovirus to Tampa biker bar on Friday

She’s part art revolutionary, part provocateur sex symbol.

click to enlarge Lydia Lunch, who plays Born Free Pub & Grill in Tampa, Florida on Sept. 29, 2023. - Photo by Jasmine Hirst
Photo by Jasmine Hirst
Lydia Lunch, who plays Born Free Pub & Grill in Tampa, Florida on Sept. 29, 2023.
Hurling used tampons, shrieking into the mic about fucking and fighting, her red-nail-polished-middle finger perpetually aimed at commercialism—that’s punk rock legend Lydia Lunch. A hot red pout beneath her signature black bob haircut, her fishnets no doubt ripped, her voice vacillating from breathless to howling; she’s part art revolutionary, part provocateur sex symbol.

Lunch’s roster of co-conspirators includes Brian Eno, Sonic Youth, Suicide, Henry Rollins, Nick Zedd, and X’s Exene Cervenka…just to name a few. The filmmaker, writer, composer, performer, poet, and actress does it all with a distinct fuck-you style.
From her early no-wave days in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks to her current touring musical project, Retrovirus, her independent ethic remains uncompromising. She’s hosted her weekly podcast, “The Lydian Spin,” since 2019 with co-host and Retrovirus guitarist, Tim Dahl.

Lunch brings Retrovirus to Tampa’s Born Free Pub on Friday, Sept. 29, with locals Purr Purr Purr and Tiger 54 opening. Creative Loafing Tampa Bay spoke with Lunch recently about her podcast, living as a nomad, and how she turns trauma into shared catharsis.

Tickets to see Lydia Lunch play Born Free Pub & Grill in Tampa on Friday, Sept. 29 are still available for $15-$20.
Thank you for coming to Tampa. We get so few chances to connect with you and your work.

Lydia Lunch: I’m always in Orlando, which I also will be, but don’t often come to Tampa. I used to come when I was doing more spoken word, but that was always tricky. How’s the club we’re playing?

I haven’t been yet, but they seem focused on being an actual punk venue, which is fantastic.

Really? We’ll bring something else to it. I like bringing Retrovirus and playing. These days especially, you gotta fucking rock. You’ve got to do something to relieve this bullshit that seems like a dark cloud hanging over our heads from the minute we wake up. When the sun goes down, I get rid of all that crap anyways.

I was thinking about what you do with your shows and your work, it feels like a secular tent revival of sorts.

I do call myself an evangelical… I just have to say it’s honestly amazing Creative Loafing is still going. So many zines and weeklies have just fallen off.

It’s kind of like being a telegraph operator at this point…. I want to talk about your podcast, “The Lydian Spin.”

I’m like an alternative to a fanzine and the journalism that has stopped. Some of that journalism doesn’t exist anymore. We have had so many kinds of people. It’s once a week. We haven’t missed an episode. Exposing people to different things and people they might not know about is essential.

It’s this excellent roundup of randos you’ve collected over the years.

We’re all stubborn individualists who keep doing what they must do. They were born to create in whatever format, we gotta get them on there. It’s mandatory. I consider it a cultural audio museum, like…

You’re like, what’s his name, Alan…


Yeah, Alan Lomax.

Lydia Lomax, I’m gonna change my name.

I love that you do that old-school radio show thing with the little news tidbits you bring to the show’s opening. In the last episode I listened to, you opened with some facts about the longest-living animal being a sponge.

There was a gruesome one today, a guy ate at Olive Garden…

The guy who got a rat foot in his soup? I saw that.

I only focus on the negative in my spoken word, mainly because somebody’s got to tie it all together. But I’m a very optimistic person. News does focus on the negative, and that’s another reason we put some funny shit in the intros to the podcast.

I was thinking about your work as optimistic, even though you get heavy, violent, wild, and unhinged.

Somebody else has to approach that. It can’t only be politicians and the military using that aggressive language…I was one of the first people to speak about incest, climate change, and Mother Nature’s revenge…Somebody has to try this crap out and be the voice for those that can’t scream out.

When you started doing your work, it was put down and denigrated. It hasn’t stopped you.

I wasn’t doing it for the fucking press comments. I was doing it because you had individuals who felt like I did and had the same experiences. I know I’m not alone in these feelings.

If you’re an artist, it just never stops. Maybe that’s because the bills don’t stop either.
I’m basically a professional juggler. I do a multiplicity of things to keep the wolf away from the door. There’s so many musicians that started when I did. I don’t blame them. They couldn’t survive. Fortunately, I never had a day job. I’m just too much of a jiggly-juggler. I’ve been a nomad for four years after I came back from Europe. I’m just gonna travel like the men used to do. Like the beats used to do all over Europe and Morocco.
What’s it been like being back in the States? You’ve been back a few years.

I did live in Barcelona for eight years. I can do more different types of performances in Europe. I came back to work with Retrovirus. But I don’t leave the house unless I go on tour. I have a unique position in Brooklyn, outside every one of my windows is trees. Gotta have some mental relief.

What’s your relationship with Florida?

I’ve come to Florida many times. It was basically James Faherty with Figurehead Records who had been booking bands since the late 80s (Black Flag, Elliott Smith, Sonic Youth). Much before the internet. They have an exhibition in Orlando at the history museum of all the shows he booked. At one point he had the best club in America, the Sapphire Supper Club. I toured with Exene [Cervenka] under James Faherty. That’s my connection to Florida.

I’ve gotten to speak with Exene about her time growing up here.

Oh yeah, she’s from St. Petersburg. A lot of people from the band Mars and the band DNA, came to New York from St. Petersburg in the mid-’70s and were part of the no wave movement. We used to be able to move more freely because it was a lot fucking cheaper. Especially in New York, my first apartment was $75, honey. I lived between two abandoned buildings with garbage piled six feet high. It was rough but that’s the way it was then. Now I’m looking at a tree and a couple of squirrels. Subscribe to Creative Loafing newsletters.

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