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Lords of Acid w/Praga Khan and Genaside II

Thursday, Feb. 24

Electric Ballroom

Chain Gang

Lords of Acid just wanna spank shake yer booty

by Jesse Fox Mayshark

The man they call Praga Khan gives a deep gurgling laugh over the trans-Atlantic phone line and barks out unintelligible commands in French to someone behind him. In the background, there are sounds of whips cracking and men and women screaming in either pain or ecstasy (possibly both). Turning his attention back to a scheduled interview with a semi-terrified reporter from someplace called Knoxville, Khan snorts and says, "And then we will eat your children..."

Well, it coulda happened like that. I mean, we're talking about the presumably demented bleach-blond leader of Lords of Acid, the Euro-sleaze techno squad whose first club hit kicked off with a sing-song invitation to sodomy that I can't quote even in the R-rated pages of Metro Pulse. Subsequent rave faves have included odes to S&M ("Spank My Booty"), a smorgasboard of chemicals ("Let's Get High," "Marijuana in Your Brain"), STDs ("Crablouse"), and genitalia (um, "Pussy").

So it's kind of a letdown to pick up the phone and hear a cheerful voice say, "Hello! How are you? This is Praga Khan calling from Belgium!" Turns out that Khan, who is pushing 40 these days, is a friendly, easily amused guy. And that Lords of Acid is mostly a side project, something he and some buddies started on a whim back in 1988 in between their regular gigs.

In Europe, Khan is a stand-alone star, known primarily for albums released under his own name. When he tours the continent, Lords of Acid is just the warm-up act. In the States, that equation is reversed. The current Lords tour, which careens whips-a-flyin' into the Electric Ballroom this Thursday, is actually the first American outing for Praga Khan as a solo act; he'll do a set of his own material before bringing the rest of Lords on-stage. (His biggest solo track in the U.S. was the mid-'90s college radio hit "Injected With a Poison.") Also on the bill is the British goth-dub sound system Genaside II.

"We're going to take the best selections out of the previous albums, and we have a new singer," Khan enthuses in a crackly Belgian accent. "It's like she was born to sing this music. It's like now there's a new vibe in the band, and everybody's excited." For the first time, Lords co-founder Oliver Adams ("My partner in crime," Khan chuckles) will also join the band on tour.

Initially, the Lords were a one-off project. In the midst of Europe's "new beat era," Khan and some friends in the burgeoning Belgian dance scene cut a 12-inch called "I Sit on Acid," a throbbing techno groove with a recurring chorus of "I wanna sit on your face."

"When this music scene died, that was the only record that kept selling, Lords of Acid," Khan says. "It was 300 a month and 300 a month and 300 a month, and then we found out all these records were going to America. And Caroline Records called and wanted us to do an album."

Figuring they'd stick with what worked, the Lords dedicated themselves to a full decade of decadence, writing songs with comically graphic lyrics and staging goony sex-show tours complete with paddlings and fetish gear. Khan, whose solo songs tend to be about depression and alienation and other gloomy things, still seems perplexed by the Lords' reception in the U.S.

"It's about sex, but it's about sex in a funny way," he says. "I think sometimes in America people don't get the humor. It's not that there's sex on-stage and things like that. But we have shows where the police come in and the sheriff comes in, and the rubber dolls are all on the ceiling, and they say, 'Okay, you have to take them down and cover the nipples with tape.' But it's just a doll!"

Of course, the sauce and spectacle are only part of the show. It's the beats that put feet on the floor. Khan and co. may be too hammy to gain the critical street cred accorded some of their electro peers, but they've managed more than a decade of legitimacy in a genre that evolves both musically and technologically by the month. The bottom line on any Lords cut is whether it moves yer butt, and the answer is usually yes. The funk quotient gets a boost on the band's latest release, Expand Your Head, a greatest hits-cum-remix album that has assorted big names (Chris Vrenna, Joey Beltram, KMFDM) tinkering with the Lords' back catalog. It also includes the recent hit "Am I Sexy?," an uncharacteristic bit of retro-mod swing that lit up the last Austin Powers soundtrack.

"There's so much progress in this field, it always gives you new possibilities," Khan says. "When you have a rock band, they can still do the same thing they did 25 years ago. But in dance, you need to keep up with the new technology."

And he's predictably jazzed about the Internet's ability to distribute both software and music, as well as the possibilities of interactive programming. "When you know where to go on the Internet, you don't even need to invest in a studio, you can just download everything," he marvels.

Except maybe the whips and chains...

February 24, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 8
© 2000 Metro Pulse