Piss, Porn, Shit, Sex & Sewing: On The Road With Xiu Xiu

Intense in noise and sexuality, Xiu Xiu's Angel Guts: Red Classroom is one of the Quietus' LPs of the year thus far. Here, Jamie Stewart guides Luke Turner through the mundanity, insanity, violence and deviance of years on the road. Warning - may make you ill or aroused

Los Angeles: drag queen Vaginal Davis mocks my gross body

This was a shitty band I was in before Xiu Xiu, we were playing this night where Vaginal Davis was the MC. We’re onstage waiting to play and she starts coming onto me super hard and takes my pants down. I’d not toured at all before this and I didn’t really know how to stay clean on the road, so she stretched my butt cheeks apart and is making fun of my totally dirty butthole. I got really nervous, and when I get nervous my dick shrivels up – I don’t have a lot spare. So it all shrinks up because she’s looking at my filthy butthole and talking about it on the mic to the people there, many of whom are my friends from high school. Then she’s all, "Oh, I want to lick the little mushroom cap"… she doesn’t really give me head, she just sort of tongues it. I have to try and deal with this in my head, and my response is to get a drum stick and try to fit it up my butt. I’m trying to play along, and not be totally mortified out of my mind. And then we have to play a show.

Brussels: playing in Sal Mineo with Eugene Robinson, who is forced to resort to violence

I have a really short temper, and would always get my ass kicked, but Eugene, who could annihilate almost anybody – it takes a lot for him to get riled up. On that tour he fought two people and he hadn’t hit one person in about six years before. I have no idea why it happened, maybe people were irritated because he wasn’t playing Oxbow. We were in Brussels and half the set was noisy, half quiet. This one fucking guy in the front kept putting his camera in Eugene’s face when he’s trying to sing in a particularly intimate part of the show. Eugene has a very slow fuse. He gets off the mic, says, "You’ve got to stop this, I’m trying to sing", but he has to do it four times. Eventually Eugene says: "If you put the camera in my face again, I’m going to smack you down." This whole weird interaction is going through the PA as I’m stood at the back making knobby [synth] shit, and I see Eugene’s giant hand go ‘bam’. It was like crushing a bug, he doesn’t sock him, he squashes him. The mic is in his other hand, so you hear this incredible ‘bwwaaaaoooooohmmm’ through the PA and the guy goes "ugh" and I’m there going ‘warrrhhhhhwarrrrhhh’ on the synth. Obviously it was really quiet after that.

Austria: getting naked at Donaufestival

Donau is a particularly progressive festival, they put a lot of effort into their curation – it’s apparent that their main priority is the combination of high and low art. Performance art bums me out, and participatory art especially bums me out, but there was something special about this one. It wasn’t pushy at all. I’ll do about anything, but this was one of the most fun things I’ve done in my life. They poured water and baby oil over the floor and you’d take off your clothes and four people would hurl you across the dancefloor, back and forth six or seven times. There was about ten people doing it, and you have to catch people. Maybe seven of the people doing it were dancers so they all looked super great naked, so it could have been sexual but it wasn’t. I think if I saw any of these people walking around naked it’d be "wrrowowow" but in this context it was just all of us being kooky together.

Switzerland: Zola Jesus tour and the porn store incident

One of the people who used to be in Xiu Xiu used to work in a porn store, so she’s really interested in going to them, but this is Dark with a capital D inside. There’s no music on, everything is all crammed in together and dusty. It was definitely seedy, there were some stairs that went up and we assumed that all the real action happened upstairs. As soon as we walked in Nika from Zola Jesus was immediately yelled at by the guy behind the counter. In the shop there’s a lot of creepy, small press, ultra-speciality magazines. One of them was baby fetish plus cross dressing but not trying to pass, so hairy ugly guys dressed as women but also wearing diapers and with pacifiers. A lot going on, and because the printing was really bad it just makes it look weirder – I was going to buy all these, anthropologically it was right up my alley. But the guy suddenly comes over and pushes Nika out of the way and says, "get out get out get out". As we’re all walking out he’s holding the door and before he has the chance to close it I fart one foot away from him. We’re four blocks away, and suddenly the guy appears and starts spraying something in Nika’s face. We’re all stunned, he’s had to run four blocks to do this, he’s thought about it for a while. He’s very focussed on her the whole time, and Jakub the tour manager and I start chasing him. As a kid I took karate, and somewhere buried in the back of my mind was the reaction to do a flying side kick at this guy, which is probably the most theatrical but least effective move you could do. That was my animal brain response – Sunday morning, Channel 9, Kung Fu Theatre. I obviously missed. The guy realises that we want to beat the shit out of him, so he runs into a falafel store and is hiding behind the owner and yelling at us in German. I see he’s holding bug spray, literally trying to poison my friend, I snatched it out of his hand, and we’re screaming "get your kids out of here" at these doe-eyed Swiss people who are all ‘violence doesn’t solve anything’ and the falafel guy doesn’t understand at all. I can hear police sirens coming, and though I know we’re in the right there’s no way we’re going to be able to talk ourselves out of this. We went back to the van and listened to Scott Walker’s The Drift and sang what had happened to us in his accent.

Minnesota: the most debauched night ever in Minneapolis

We’re on a tour with a band who at the time was not famous, but who has since become incredibly famous, they’re horrible people, not all of them, but some of them we hated. The vibe was a bit disappointing – it wasn’t as successful as we thought it would be and we’re on tour with these assholes, so we’re kind of losing it. I don’t drink on tour any more, but at the time we all drank a lot. We had a day off, so we went to this liquor store and bought 40s, the most toxic beer you can possibly drink. To celebrate the 40s we bought 40 donuts, and went back to this hotel room. Because we’re so exhausted the alcohol is kicking in really fast and the driver and merch guy David, who’s since become this really successful artist, he’s really good at egging people on. Initially we’re just getting drunk and ironing the doughnuts. Then David gives me a plastic bag, he pees in it, pours beer in, cuts the bottom off and makes me drink the entire bag. It wasn’t that bad. I get into the bath tub, and he throws in all of the doughnuts, and then he pees in the bath tub, pushes my head down and barfs on my head. I’m sitting in this bath of barf and donuts and pee, and some water, and I don’t remember what happened after this, but someone had put some human shit in my hand, and I barfed on the shit. I remember the next morning the bathroom being pretty clean, so someone – not me – had the wherewithal to clean up the donuts, pee, barf, shit and beer.

Texas: a friendly welcome in Austin

We were playing at this really terrible venue in Austin called Emo’s. Obviously our music isn’t for everyone, and someone in the audience really hated it, and threw at least 15 lit cigarettes at me when I was trying to sing. The guy who paid us… you really don’t expect to hear someone say this… kept describing people outside the venue using the N-word as if it wouldn’t be any problem for us. I have very mixed feelings about Texas – my favourite studio is there, I have two really excellent friends there – but that night it really lived up to it’s potential to be shit.

Nine people who look like Beetlejuice

We have a running tally of people who work with us who look like Beetlejuice, we’re up to nine. The one who sparked the hunt looked like Beetlejuice, smelled like Beetlejuice and behaved like Beetlejuice in that every time we tried to do something he said "no" and went out of his way to prevent the night from working in almost every possible way. He also spit a lot when he talked. He was dressed in pants that were tied with rope before the show started, but when it did he put on a long black leather cloak. Nobody has really measured up to Beetlejuice One. We did run over one of their motorcycles with the van.

Iowa: fight with frat boys in Iowa City

This was in 2010, we were on tour with another totally shitty band we hated. We were in Iowa City, which is a total shithole, a really shitty combination of a super jock backwards baseball cap college town but also in a rotten state. The kids who come to shows tend to be really nice because they need a show, so it’s worth playing there. On this tour Angela Seo is in the band, and she grew up in a really tough neighbourhood and doesn’t take any shit off anybody. These two drunk frat guys walk past. She’s Korean and they start making all these racist comments because we’re in the shittiest part of America and people do that still, so she starts getting aggravated about this. The tour manager we had at the time was Latina so they’re giving her shit too. It looks like they’re going to hit them, I can’t let these guys beat them up but I can’t fight two guys. Do you know what kombucha is? It’s like the wimpiest drink in the entire world, the ultimate health food drink, they least tough thing you could drink. In the van there’s a bottle of kombucha, and I jump out, and these guys are pretty wasted and I’m waving this bottle of kombucha at them. Initially they seem freaked out, but they’re drunk and stupid and slowly figure out, "Oh there’s two of us and one of him". Angela’s screaming at them and the tour manager is putting her in the car, I somehow jump back into the van, the guy’s about a foot away from me, I’m trying to close the door and he’s not letting me. I can’t hit him in the face with a bottle, I just can’t do it, I’m not that kind of person, so I throw it by his face to get him to back off a second, and he does so I close the door. He starts kicking the van. Across the the street from the club is the police station, so the cops see this dumb fucking jock asshole kicking our van and they run over and start running after the jock assholes. They go all the way round the building, and then fat Paul Blart cop jumps in the air and tackles him, and frat kid’s face is on the pavement, just wrecked. I couldn’t believe it, that this fat cop flattens this 20-year-old jock.

Budapest: fake bikers and an athletic stripper

We were playing on this weird boat that low-rent bands like Xiu Xiu have to play in Budapest. There was a big motorcycle party, not a real biker party but for Hungarian yuppies to pretend they’re bikers. I don’t know if she was the most famous Hungarian exotic dancer, but this woman comes out, and I’ve never seen an exotic dancer dance so hard before, incredibly un-erotic but insanely fast, really really athletic. She was doing all these weird flips over a giant champagne glass onstage. David, the aforementioned shit-in-the-hand guy, is trying to take photos of this, then suddenly two massive bouncers grab him by the shoulders and say "give me your camera". His first reaction is to go, "oh my god your hands are so soft"… his camera was behind his back, so I took his camera and put it down my pants – I figure he wouldn’t mind getting beaten up but wouldn’t want his camera getting destroyed. I look up and the dancing gymnast has stopped, totally naked, to see what the ruckus is all about. So we run out, in an agitated state, and I take off all my clothes and sat on one of the motorcycles and took a photo [see above], which eventually we’re going to turn into a pillow case. We drive into the underground hotel parking lot, and the first door opens but the second doesn’t, and then the back door closes, so the van is stuck in this netherworld. We were in there for two hours.

France: 50 Shades Of Quiche

There’s this really shitty venue in Lyon called Ground Zero which is run by this really nice, well-meaning guy. It’s the grossest place you can play, I have no idea why it still exists or why we played there more than once. They keep having to move it because it’s always in a squat. The last time we played there was no electricity and no running water, just a generator outside and a bucket. They always have 30 or 40 quiches for the food, which are all cold and all about the same colour, and are so hurt if you don’t eat it.

England: getting large in London

I did go to a bizarro sex club in England, called XXL. We were on tour with a band called XXL so we thought it’d be funny to go to the club. I did some gross things there. I went threw a period of… I kind of grew out of this… but for about two years I’d have sex with unattractive people and I don’t know why, just no standards at all, and messed around with some profoundly yucky people that night. No! That isn’t the point of sex clubs! The point is to enjoy yourself. I promised myself I wouldn’t mess around with anyone I didn’t find attractive again, though I did this one time, but it was a specialised circumstance so it was hard to say ‘no’. I’ve only done it with two people since and both are attractive – thank you self esteem.

Dresden: Shayna sews herself to another woman

Shayna [Dunkelman, current Xiu Xiu percussionist] would probably be the first to admit it but she’s a bit of a sexual deviant. There’s a really great photographer called Mimi Hines and sometimes she’ll come to a couple of shows in a row with us and hang out. Shayna and Mimi are in the hotel room getting a little drunk, and Mimi without any provocation takes a sewing needle and says, "Oh have you ever sewed yourself?" "No, I never have." She starts sewing her fingers together. Shayna says, "Oh let me try this", ‘cos she’s really drunk, so she sews her hand to her eyelid, and then sews her hand to Mimi’s arm. It went on for a while and they asked if I wanted to do it, but I said I’d rather watch. A bit of a wuss move on my part… not a lot freaks me out, but that really did. The eyelid was really a lot to see. Are things less crazy now? This happened last year.

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