Bad Behaviour #1

In: KubaParis #1, Nov. 2014

Text: Nadine Hartmann

Bildschirmfoto 2015-03-25 um 07.05.42

© Jack Mannix

 

Since 2003 Jonnine Standish has been co-producing the music and contributing vocals and lyrics for her band HTRK. In both she displays a hypnotic mix of drama and coolness, seduction and detachment. Her low voice and her staccato-like intonation have attributed to the distinctive sound of the band since their first album Marry me tonight, on to the follow-up, Work Work Work and their latest, 2014 Psychic 9-5 Club.
Besides the geographical challenges HTRK had to face – the three band members were at times scattered over Berlin, London and Melbourne – there was the tragedy of band member Sean Stewart’s death to overcome. The cut was a deep one and the grieving retains yet Jonnine and Nigel Yang decided to go on. They returned to their home country Australia where Jonnine is now involved with the cultural scene not only as a musician but as a DJ and a party organizer.
We got together in a chat to discuss beauty parlors, perfectionism, Dennis Cooper and why sometimes the girls want to be with the girls.

Nadine Hartmann
Supposedly there is a strong machismo-culture in Australia. I’ve never been but films like „Wake in fright“ or „Snowtown“ sort of give that impression. In “Wake in fright” basically all that the men seem to be doing is drink beer and hunt and kill Kangaroos. “Snowtown” which is based on true events is of course more extreme as it portrays a series of brutal murders. But they also seem to be fueled by fear of a “feminization” of society and be a hatred for homosexuals etc.

Jonnine Standish
Hmmm yeah there is a strong manly/machismo culture over here. There’s an underlying idea that anything feminine is just a weakness and can be owned. There’s also a tradition of Australian boozy mateship culture. Combine that with how isolated from other countries and eyes we are over here. A sense that no-one is watching…how creepy is that! The natural landscape around us is very masculine and overpowering…that might encourage the human behavior.
„Wake in fright“ blew my mind, incredible film. You know that director also did ‘Weekend at Bernies’, haha another favorite.

N.H.
No way, that is funny!
The movies I was talking about show this small town bogan culture but would you say you also find an imbalance in a more urban, artsy subculture context?

J. S.
I don’t know… there still is a large male dominated manipulation going on in these art and music scenes but it’s easy to slip into your passive side isn’t it?

N.H.
I think I know what you mean. There can be comfort in someone else taking charge?

J. S.
Yes you get it, it seems like a comfort, an easy fix, allowing guys to take over, fix the thing or whatever; but the next thing you know you can’t remember what your favorite color is or how to order from a menu

N. H.
Ha! What’s your favorite color?

J. S.
Yellow. It matches my sunny optimism!

N. H.
You and Laila Sakini, a DJ who runs the Day Care parties in Melbourne, put together a new party series in Melbourne called “Girls night”. Tell me about that. Is that a counter strategy?

J. S.
A counter strategy, yes! Well it all started …my psychologist said I probably should spend some more time with women….my work colleagues are mostly male, I’m in a band with a boy, husband at home, sometimes I’d go for weeks without even having a proper conversation with a female.

N. H.
So it’s a therapeutic measure?

J. S.
Ha yes. I may have taken it to an extreme with Girls Club, my psychologist laughed when I told her what I was planning. She said maybe i should just start with some nice dinners!

N. H.
What did she say female companionship was going to give you that the boys couldn’t?

J. S.
That’s interesting, she didn’t say either way…I guess it’s about something I can’t put into words, something like feeling wholesome. Masculine energy on its own can be a little controlling.

N. H.
Did it work? How did the first Girls Night turn out? It’s not only female DJs (and artists) but also the audience is girls only, right?

J. S.
Girls only yes, if you identify as a girl (even for just one night), nothing to do with sex.
The idea is also inspired by ‘Female Pressure’ a global collective of women involved in electronics.

N. H.
So what was the crowd like and how did it differ from your regular night out?
Did it confirm the thesis that women dress up for other women?

J. S.
Super glamorous, couple of hundred girls with hands in the air. It was a bit different to your usual club night. We had pampering booths for in between dance floor sessions. Think of women’s beauticians in the 1950’s that once served as a kind of social glue, where you could find out what’s happening. We had nail, hair and tarot booths for connection through touch, touching hair, touching hands. Imagine Turkish baths with a techno soundtrack.

N. H.
Wow, sounds magical

J. S.
It was magical actually. The girls certainly dressed up for the girls, I even wore very high heels which I haven’t done in years.

N.H.
It’s interesting that you’ve appropriated these cultural concepts that are traditionally not feminist ones like beauty parlors. But it makes sense: those have been places where women could exchange confidences etc.

J. S.
Yes it does make sense; hairdressers are really community counselors after all. I look up to these places of contact in the community. Yes, they might be traditionally girly but we weren’t consciously being perverse or anything. Me and Laila hang out at Fur Hairdressing in Melbourne a lot. I’ve had some interesting collaborations come out of hanging out there. And good grooming takes a healthy power of will.

N. H.
I shall remember that!

N. H.
So this is a somewhat big question I am afraid. Something I find really striking about you is how far apart your stage/music persona and your private persona are. I remember Sean announced you as a „femme fatale“ before I ever met you. „You are going to meet the singer of my band, she is what one would call a real femme fatale!“
And that’s totally how you come across in your songs and on stage. But then I was surprised because any other time, you are most of all this super-funny girl who likes to goof around.

J. S.
Ok, I know what you mean… I’m a total goofball. The „femme fatale“ reference was obviously Sean’s projection…how he imagined the ideal front person which is a kind of pulp idea. My HTRK persona is still and possessed but my personal side… you are right, I’m naturally playful. I got this way from my dad, that’s my actual self.

N. H.
Do you believe in an ‚actual self‘?

J. S.
I do, I think everyone has an actual self that is lively and playful.

N. H.
So it can’t be static?

J. S.
No.

N. H.
Then again it seems like the general theme of ‚perfection‘ is something you keep coming back to in your lyrics. „skinny, perfect, synthetic, glossed up…“ makes up a lot of your vocabulary. I am thinking: we see these images of people that are perfect, skinny, etc. and it makes one angry but it is also a promise and a dream we don’t want to give up
So are you being critical of these concepts or affirmative? Or both?

J. S.
I am critical of ‘perfection’ as a thing and find the word itself frightful but I also like how it sounds. It sounds like it should, so cool. I’m a lazy perfectionist and that’s a hard combination. I’ve played these two villains off in my lyrics.
I’m not so interested in the images that we see of female perfection in the media but they come into play subliminally. These lyrics had a muse in mind – Nicola Six from “London Fields”, a novel by Martin Amis. I’ve grabbed this from wiki just now: “Nicola is a self-styled „murderee“, who manipulates the entire cast of characters to bring about her own murder so that she will not have to face ageing.”

N.H.
That sounds like a great character. I will have to read it. Do you often incorporate these influences from literature? I gathered you are a huge Dennis Cooper fan. I know this is besides the point of his literary setting but it always bothered me that there were not so many strong female characters in his books. I don’t feel represented and then I get bored. Maybe that’s narcissistic…

J. S.
There were a couple of literary influences for the album “Work, work, work”; stuff by Martin Amis, Dennis Cooper, J G Ballard. The atmosphere that affected us in a novel may become something to guide the sound. Not so much for the latest album “P9-5C” unless you count self help books… ha.
I am a big Dennis Cooper fan. I read all his interviews and freak out in a good way over loads of his blog posts and really love his novels. But you are right there aren’t many women in his books. There aren’t really any strong characters in general, everyone is pretty fucked up. The power play between the predators and the submissive younger characters could be superimposed to any gender. Gender isn’t that important.
There’s an interview between Dennis Cooper and Irvine Welsh recently where Cooper says:
„I can’t think of another art form where the reader has so much power.“

N.H.
What is your advice for young girls?

J.S.
Don’t go out with nightclub promoters.
Don’t talk so much.

Links:
http://www.yourcomicbookfantasy.com/
http://ghostly.com/artists/HTRK