Rockbitch performing Breathe (video)
|Years active||1998 - 2002|
Rockbitch was originally formed in 1989 as Cat Genetica by bassist Amanda Smith-Skinner ("the Bitch") and guitarist Tony Skinner ("the Beast"). The band was later renamed to Red Abyss, and drew in other band members from the matriarchal, polyamorous, pagan, feminist community of which Smith-Skinner was the prime founder.
Musically, Red Abyss drew on jazz, funk and rock influences dominated by singer Julie Worland's Janis Joplin–influenced vocals. In time, its music took on harder punk and metal edginess. Red Abyss switched to the Rockbitch name when the lineup changed: a male drummer (Steve) was replaced by Jo Heeley. The line up varied over time with other characters such as 'Luci the Stage Slut', 'The Haema-Whore', Kali and Erzulie the Sex Magik Priestesses all making appearances.
The former two were primarily a combination of sexual performance artist and gonzo-camera team; capturing closeups of stage action to be displayed on the projection screen at the rear. They were also responsible for the cued playing of prepared art videos of subject matter relating to the songs.
The latter two were primarily sexually explicit performers, described as 'Archetypes of the Dark Feminine psyche' personifying Kali, the Hindu Goddess of death, and Erzulie, the Voudoo Goddess of Love.
At its intended last gig (at a biker festival), the decision to incorporate the orgiastic, pagan sex from its home life into the stage act gave birth to Rockbitch.
The band toured Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, (but were banned from venues in Scotland), Italy, Spain, Finland, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Estonia and did a promotional tour that involved Canada (but were eventually also banned from the intended venues without having played), while instituting its new theme of liberation through sexual freedom.
Rockbitch became infamous not only for performing live sex acts, but also doing so with audience members via "The Golden Condom". At a point during their show, a condom was tossed to the crowd and whoever caught it (male or female) was taken backstage for sexual relations with one or more band members.[dead link]
This led to critics saying they tried to use sex and paganism to sell bad music; however, fellow musicians from disciplines as varied as jazz (bassist Jonas Hellborg) have voiced their appreciation.
Rockbitch toured widely from approximately 1998 until 2002, meeting increasing resistance from authorities, particularly English, German and Norwegian town councils who often banned its concerts.
Because of the banning in Almelo in the Netherlands, Dutch TV producer TVAmsterdam caught attention on the band, and was forced by a non-Dutch "manager" to arrange a concert in Zaandam to record the show as it went, adding some extra footage to complete the documentary "Bitchcraft".
It was local authorities, not the public itself, who caused a struggle. Babe stated in the programme Anna in Wonderland in 2002: "Rockbitch had no problem with lads out for seeing breasts, as they were a component of the audience, there were always others seeing the deeper meaning and both groups had a good time. They generally made up for a great combined atmosphere".
Outside the UK (and censorship problems it also encountered in some states of Germany) audiences were sympathetic, particularly in the Netherlands, where they drew vast crowds of men and women from all walks of life.
The Rockbitch lineup became entirely female in 2000. Original lead guitarist Tony (known as 'The Beast') retired, taking over management/production. Alexandra (known as 'Babe') moved into lead guitar duties (from rhythm) while Luci, previously a "Stage Slut" (one of the nude dancers and sexual band/crowd liaisons), instead strapped on a rhythm guitar.
Members lent their voices to female and sexual issues, were winners of the yearly prize at the Sex Maniacs Ball (now Night of the Senses) founded by Tuppy Owens, openly voiced their admiration for sexual politics icons such as Annie Sprinkle and Betty Dodson, and generally advocated for open female sexuality as a healthy part of human nature.
After the release of its first studio album, Motor Driven Bimbo, which received critical acclaim in many countries (OOR Magazine in the Netherlands, the UK, and Japan), Rockbitch was dropped by its record company.
A second, goth-influenced album called Psychic Attack was never released
Following continued pressure from British Interpol about its sexually driven themes and performances, Rockbitch ceased performing in 2002 and was the subject of a 30-minute documentary on BBC Choice the same year. A further, hour-long documentary was broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK in 2003.
In 2005, the entire latter-day Rockbitch lineup emerged under the name MT-TV. This was a music-only project—no sex or nudity of the Rockbitch days—but it incorporated stage theatrics. After a UK tour in summer 2005, they performed throughout the United States. The first part of their US tour was documented on the DVD 'Shevolution', released by Blackwing Films in 2006.
Amanda and Jo subsequently went on to form the band Syren with singer/songwriter Erin Bennett in 2006. In 2011, Jo died of breast cancer. Amanda gave up her musical career shortly after. Erin Bennett continued as a solo artist with a backing band, discarding the name Syren.
The personnel were as follows:
- Julie Worland: Vocals
- "Luci": Guitar (from 2000, previously dancer and sex performer)
- Amanda Smith-Skinner ("the Bitch"): bass
- Nikki Fay: piano, flute
- Joanne Heeley (2 November 1972 - 11 January 2012): drums
- Babe[ [lead guitar]], backing vocals (also webmistress)
- Tony Skinner ("the Beast"): guitar on Motor Driven Bimbo and producer of both studio albums
- "Chloe": dancer, sex performer
- Kali" dancer, sex performer
- "Erzulie": dancer, sex performer
- Luci's Love Child (as Red Abyss) (1992) (Eurock)
- Rockbitch Live In Amsterdam (1997) (Crystal Rock Syndicate – doCD)
- Bitchcraft (concert and documentary video, 1997, subsequently released on DVD) not available in countries like USA, Japan
- The Bitch O'Clock News (reports and clips video, 1998) made for audiences in USA and Japan
- Motor Driven Bimbo (1999) (Steamhammer)
- Psychic Attack (unreleased) (2002)
- Sex, Death and Magick (concert/documentary video, 2002)
- "About Rockbitch". MTV. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
- 'This is Rock Bitch' documentary on Joost
- Charlotte Richardson Andrews (2012-07-05). "The 'slut rock' of Butcher Babies pales next to music's true female adventurers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
- "Rockbitch". MusicMight. 2009. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
- "Big Brother's Anna Nolan gets her very own BBC series". BBC. 2002-01-16. Retrieved 2014-12-27.
- The Diamond Condom Award 1998
- Luiz Carlos Barata Cichetto (2012-05-16). "Rockbitch: Sexo e Rock Debaixo da Saia da Rainha" (in Portuguese). pt:Whiplash.net. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
- Lorraine Smith (2003-05-16). "This is Rockbitch". The F-Word (feminist blog). Retrieved 2014-12-27.