My first ever live encounter with Sisterbutterfly from Berlin was in the summer of 2011 and it is the stuff that legends are made off. I was about to experience the near fatal electrocution of Otto bond, aka Jesse Rod, the lead singer, halfway through the band’s set. Without going into great detail, I’m glad to report that Otto bounced back a few days later after a stint in hospital declaring that he doesn’t believe in death by electrocution. Good! It just takes the old rock n’ roll cliché to a whole new level.
The autumn of 2012 sees Sisterbutterfly, who have been together since 2009, release their long anticipated debut album ‘Problem Reaction Solution’. It’s worth looking into the band’s current line-up where we will find Mark Standley on the lead guitar. He is well known and respected in his native hometown Manchester from back in the days when he used to be in original ’77 punk band V2. It also needs to be mentioned here that Mark co-directed the documentary 'Inside the Smiths' which on its release in 2007 went straight to number one in the UK and US DVD Charts. Otto Bond, the lead singer, originates from Huntington Beach in California, has been involved in the early 1980’s Los Angeles punk rock scene and used to hang out with now such legendary bands such as Social Distortion, TSOL and Agent Orange. Irish Beano Heenan is the main drummer and has contributed greatly to bands such as Texas Terri Bomb! and The Vile. Knowing these facts I was intrigued to find out more about the concept behind Sisterbutterfly and spoke to founding member Mark.
SVENJA: Sisterbutterfly were formed in Berlin, yet the line-up is very cosmopolitan. Please tell us about all band members’ musical/artistic backgrounds.
MARK: Only Lena, the bass player is a Berliner. Otto is from Hollywood, Beano hails from Dublin, 3M’s hometown is Westerland, Miss Riot’s is Harare and then there’s me from Manchester. Previous bands include: Sigue Sigue Sputnik, The Glitter Band, V2, The Drones, L. A. Jesus, Death Chick Zero, House of Light, Black Kamikaze, Brinskill Bomb Beat, Blood and Whiskey.
SVENJA: What made you move to Berlin?
MARK: I had been playing guitar in Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic for a couple of years. In 2007 we started to get regular bookings in Germany. We always seemed to get a night off in Berlin. I had only ever been here once before for one night with New Model Army in 1992, so didn't really know it at all. Once I started to get to know it, especially Kreuzberg, I just felt at home here. More so than I did in the UK. The atmosphere, the way people are, the wide streets and trees. At the time I lived in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, which was OK, but just too noisy and crowded for me personally.
SVENJA:’Problem Reaction Solution’ is the name of the Sisterbutterfly debut album. What is the message behind it if there is one?
MARK: The title refers to the method used by ruling elites throughout the centuries to manipulate the population to go along with policies they would otherwise not tolerate. It's actually quite a simple problem - The government creates or exploits a problem blaming it on others reaction - The people react by asking the government for help willing to give up their rights solution - The government offers the solution that was planned long before the crisis. Google these for example: The Reichstag fire, Operation Himmler, USS Maine, Bay of Tonkin, Operation Northwoods, 9/11. And these are but a few. So, to answer your question, I wouldn't say there is some big message as such, but you have to call an album something. We thought if we at least bring this phrase and its history into at least a few people's conciousness, they may be more able to recognise it for what it is next time our 'leaders' attempt the next one.
SVENJA ‘Failure in the System’ is one of the tracks from the album. I can’t help but wonder if it may be a reference to current affairs and the state of the world in general. Is that right?
MARK: Absolutely. You just have to look around at what's happening all over the World to see it's all failing disastrously. We have been living in a delusion for a very long time. With the advent of the internet, especially Youtube and Facebook, people have access to vast amounts of information and diverse opinions that was unimaginable before.
SVENJA: Mark, you produced the album. How would you describe the sound that SB have cultivated?
MARK: We don't really have a specific 'sound' When I start to produce a song, I sort of let it go where it want to go. I just try and make them as melodic and interesting as I can, and don't let them waffle on for too long! Tom, our first drummer once asked me what our style of music was called. I said 'I don't know, pop music I suppose' he said 'Diamond Pop' So we called it that. All this classifying music into rigid genres is a bit annoying and inhibiting as a musician, so I basically ignore it, do what I'm going to do and let other people worry about that bit.
SVENJA: Do you ever encounter any problems when trying to book shows with promoters? I’m asking this because your live presence is very visual and unusual compared to what I have seen in recent years, especially here in London. Could it even be a parody of fascism?
MARK: Well, I've always had a bit of a uniform fetish. And I've always been into bands that have a strong visual image as well as good music. To be honest, a lot of bands today look to me like the blokes who have come to fix the plumbing (No insult to plumbers intended!) I also think it's a good thing to experiment with yourself visually. It can give you an insight into human nature. The way people treat you differently if you dye your hair, or wear make-up whereas you know you are exactly the same person as you were before. I've always found it a good laugh too! I think the point about fascists is that they don't look like that anymore. They have learned not to stand out too much, so wear nice suits and look very 'normal' Look at the people currently running the World to see what I mean.
SVENJA: How do you deal with negative criticism?
MARK: Depends on the motive. There's no chance that everyone's going to like what you do, so it's going to happen. If some sarky twat tries to score points by being a smart arse, I'm not interested. But sometimes, someone can say something that could be perceived as negative and you think 'Yes, your right' And as long as you know yourself that you have done your best given whatever circumstances you have, that's all that really matters.
SVENJA: Are there any musical collaborations planned in the near future?
MARK: Not at the moment, although Tex Morton from The Kamikaze Queens did some nice slide guitar on the song called 'Deep Inside' on the album, so we are open for anything
SVENJA: Otto, Beano and you have their roots in punk rock. You cover the V2 song ,,Man In The Box’’ live which is always well received by the audience. Would you consider integrating a heavier sound at some point?
MARK: We have a heavier sound live than on the album, most bands I've seen, do too. I look at live performances and recordings as very different things. Live it's the atmosphere, the volume, the excitement, reacting to the audience etc. With a recording, it's there to be played again and again, so needs more in it to sustain the interest. I've always enjoyed it when I've heard a song lots of times, then notice something new.
SVENJA: And finally how about making a documentary about all things Sisterbutterfly? It would make great viewing for sure!
MARK: There is lots of footage knocking about from the beginning up until now. Some of it could be used, but other bits probably best left!
Interview/photos by Svenja Block - www.facebook.com/SvenjaBlockPhotography