Wednesday, 13 January 2016

James Chance on Richard Hell

You’ve said that that “listening to Richard Hell, that’s when I knew I could sing.”
When I was in Catholic grade school, I was in a boy’s choir. My sister describes it as sounding like yowling cats. I never had any training as a singer. I didn’t do it when I was playing jazz, though I was a big fan of Billie Holiday. One time when I was 16, I was at the music conservatory, I was standing in the hall, singing a Billy Holiday song, I thought to myself and someone came out of a classroom and said in a nasally voice “ will you please stop that!” But when I started the Contortions I thought I would just sing some of the songs and I would have a girl singing half of the songs. Actually, before I was in Teenage Jesus with Lydia Lunch, we had a band that never got out of practice called the Scabs. It was me and Lydia and Jody Harris and Reck from Teenage Jesus. The idea was to do half my songs and half Lydia’s songs. That idea continued onto the Contortions.
Originally I had this girl; she was the girlfriend of Alan Vega. Ann something… she had this homemade synthesizer that had like two octaves. After she kind of dropped out, I had this little punkette girl, Debby, who worked at this punk clothing store on St. Mark's. They called her Debby Revenge. Had her singing for one or two rehearsals. She wasn’t really serious, so after that I decided “Enough of this.” I was just going to sing the songs and let the chips fall where they may. Because it was true, Richard Hell didn’t have anyone’s idea of what a trained voice would sound like. But all kinds of other people were doing the same thing! Nobody cared if you had any kind of training or voice…or even if you could carry a tune. As long as you could project yourself somehow