Interview with Brijitte West
Brijitte West grew up in New Jersey, just 45 minutes from Manhattan’s Lower East Side where in 1990 she formed The New York Loose. NY Loose wrote the kind of songs that New York City is famous for, and for a short time in the mid 90s it looked like they were well positioned to take over from where the Ramones had just left off. But as Brijitte explains in the following interview, due to a lack of record label support and poor management that wasn’t to be.
Now Brijitte and The New York Loose are back, after a 10 year absence, with a new band line-up and the exciting prospect of some live UK shows all in support of a new album called Born To Loose that collects together all the rare early 7” singles and a load of other great unreleased tracks...
"NY Loose wrote lullabies for people who fall asleep on the subway and love songs for the chronically unloved." - Sleazegrinder
© scotty ramone
- THE NEW YORK LOOSE - Interview with Brijitte West 16th April 2007 -
In the late eighties you had a band with Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Bacchus [D Generation] called Sprokett. Was this after Dee Dee had left the Ramones, and after his rap album ‘Standing In The Spotlight’?
Dee Dee was in mid nervous breakdown 1990. He made a decision to leave the Ramones and was looking for something to do. He caught us on the rebound so to speak.
Did Sprocket have any Ramones songs in their set list and did Dee Dee write any original songs for this band, or were all the writing credits down to you and Richard Bacchus?
No Ramones songs but we did open for them once. You can’t imagine how awkward that was. I was given the evil eye by Johnny Ramone the whole time we were on stage. I was known as the punk rock Yoko Ono even though I was “with” Rick. It was weird. Rick and I just thought it was cool to play with Dee Dee. Dee Dee was really like a kid. He had a serious case of arrested development. He was like a little boy trapped in a man’s body. Rick and I wrote a song called 'Poison Heart' that Dee Dee later recorded. He gave the writing credit to himself. We were young and naïve. I didn’t say anything at the time; this is the first time I actually told anyone that.
After Dee Dee left Sprokett the band became known as Viva La Wattage. How long did this band last?
It was an amazing time. Jesse Malin was still in Hope and he used to come and see us, as did Howie Pyro. It was the beginning of the NYC rock scene. We played for a couple of years. Jesse formed D Generation and asked Rick to play. Rick and I were so tumultuous anyway it was time we did our own projects so I started New York Loose.
I believe Vive La Wattage recorded one 7” single. What were the titles of the tracks on this single, what label was it released on, and what year was it released?
The A-side was a song called 'Motorboy and Spitfire'. And the B-side was called 'Dizzy'. It was recorded in 1990 on Religion Records which was one of Rick’s labels he was starting up.
You were forced to change the name of the band from Loose to the New York Loose after a legal challenge from a band of the same name. Do you know what ever happened to the band that forced you to change the name?
Nothing happened. I think they split up. Who cares?
Born To Loose will be the first opportunity for a lot of people to hear 3 of the 4 songs that were included on the first two 7” singles, ‘Bitch’ and ‘Green Light Semaphore’. Nearly 15 years on, do you still like these two singles? [I love them!]
Yes, I think they are really cool! They were a snapshot of an incredible time.
In 1995 you were invited over to the UK for the first time by Chris Parry [chairman of Fiction Records] and Fiction Records. Why did you only ever release one 7” single? Was it never the intention to record a whole album with Fiction?
Chris Parry’s intentions were never really clear. We thought he was trying to get us a record deal here and then found out he was trying to sign us himself and really just wanting to rip us off. We got some good press and recorded some great stuff in London but the Chris Parry thing was a mistake.
During your first visit to the UK in 1995, NY Loose played a residency at the Splash Club in London . Did the band also tour around the UK at this time or were the shows confined to London?
We did a tour with Man or Astro-man? and with Kerbdog. We played all over England and Scotland.
Can you tell me anything about the 7” single, ‘Fade’ / ‘Boom Boom’, that came free with the Fear & Loathing fanzine? Was that a project that came about during your first trip to the UK ?
Andy was a good mate and always wrote about us in Fear & Loathing. When he asked us to do a single we said we would. I am really glad we did. We recorded it at this studio that used to be a church. It was somewhere off the Blackfriars Bridge in London. It was called Black Wing. I don’t know if it is still there.
Flipside Magazine released your first mini LP, the Loosen Up EP. A lot of people would probably say that this EP captured the NY Loose sound perfectly. So did you ever consider recording a full length album for Flipside?
Loosen Up was so great for us in so many ways. It was recorded by my old friend Jonathan Daniel who started off in a band called Candy. He is now a big manager of some bands called Panic at the Disco and Fallout Boy. Anyway he helped us record Loosen Up. I would have loved to continue with Flipside but they had no money to pay for the recording. I had just about enough money for rent, guitar strings, a damp rehearsal space and a bit of black eyeliner. I remember living on a bagel a day and reading menus in cheap diners by the prices not by the food selection. I guess that’s why we got mixed up in the major record label game. I just wanted to keep recording and signing a deal allowed us to do that.
You were also in a band called Famous Monsters with Sean Yseult of White Zombie, and she was also responsible for the cover photo from the Loosen Up EP. How did this collaboration come about?
Sean and I were good friends. She was really into the surf music thing and I was along for the ride. It was a lot of fun. She was into doing design work so she was kind enough to do the artwork for us.
Can you tell me anything about the process that led to NY Loose signing to Hollywood Records (part of the Disney corporation!) and are you happy with that decision, or would you say that they contributed to the demise of NY Loose?
Yeah we were young, stupid, starving and itching to get back in the studio and record all the new stuff I had written while in London. We had just got back from London and the record labels were hovering like vultures. We were camped out in this big house in the Hollywood Hills. Russell Crowe was staying there too. We had hired this high-flying business manager who was a fan of the band and he let us stay there because we were homeless. Were were so poor though that we could hardly afford a pizza between us. We didn’t have jobs; we just bummed around and wrote songs. I wrote 'Detonator' by the pool at that house. Anyway, we were approached by White Zombie’s manager Andy Gould. Now, he was an Englishman that claimed he was a Frenchman (sorry that last sentence isn’t true but a line from one of my favorite movies, Slingblade...)
OK, so Andy Gould was an Englishman who was friends with this guy called Bob Pfeifer who at the time was the president of Hollywood and now resides in a prison cell. He was investigated by the FBI and put away for some sort of slimy business about a year ago. You can imagine where this is going. We think Bob gave Andy some kind of pay off so that’s why Andy talked us into, advised us, or whatever you want to call it, signing with a label as lame as Hollywood. Bob was/is a loser who didn’t show up for work half the time due to a fondess for expensive drugs and high class hookers, or was it the other way around? Bob was fired from Hollywood Records about a year after we signed. Everyone at the label hated him so much that they wouldn’t lift a finger to help us because he had signed us. We made three videos that never saw the light of day and nothing was promoted to radio off of Year of the Rat because head of radio said we “didn’t have any songs”. New York Loose was tossed in the round file titled, “Bob’s Pfeifer’s very short career at Hollywood Records.”
Were you happy with NY Loose’s only full length album Year Of The Rat, or are there things you would have liked to have done differently with that album?
Yeah I wouldn’t have signed with Hollywood. It was an expensive record to make and it sounds it. Maybe it would have been better a bit more raw. It was great to have the experience of being able to do whatever we wanted. The songs had never sounded so good.
When Year Of The Rat was released in 1997 you supported Marilyn Manson on a USA tour. Was this a good experience for NY Loose? Did Marilyn Manson’s audience appreciate NY Loose, and how did the band get along with Marilyn Manson himself?
I got on well with him. We had long chats about philosophy and stuff. He is a great guy with a very wide scope of creative vision. The fans were hellions. At first they tried to boo us off stage. I spit at them and gave them the almighty middle finger. Then they loved us. There was this cult that followed Manson around called the Spooky Kids. Once the Spooky Kids decided we were cool then all the Manson fans did as well. They were like sheep dressed in black, black sheep I guess. They use to carve things into their arms and chests. And be really proud of it. Long before it was trendy. To be honest my worst fear about that tour was that some 16 year old would carve NYL into their arm.
I’ve always felt that NY Loose never realised their true potential. Do you have any regrets about your time in NY Loose and looking back now, would you do anything differently?
I would not have signed to Hollywood. I would not have worked with certain people and I would have worried a lot less and had more fun. Not to say I didn’t have fun but our management was so poor it was on my shoulders to keep things together. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.
In 1997 NY Loose recorded a cover of Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You To Want Me’ for a tribute album; Did that tribute album ever get released?
I really don’t know. I don’t think so.
Will 'I want You To Want Me' Be on the new album Born To Loose?
I had to put the record out myself, so in order for me to get the record out close to the release date I had to just go with the songs that I own. However all of the covers are going to be available to download.
Do you still keep in touch with Danny Nordahl, or any of the other old members of New York Loose?
Yes I do. I try and check in with those guys every so often. I was trying to organize a reunion but we could never get it together.
Why did you decide to reform New York Loose now, 10 years on, and how did you meet the new band members?
I was contacted by a guy called Rich Jones. He played in the Black Halos among other things. He had heard I was kicking around London and asked if I wanted to do some stuff together. I thought since Born To Loose was coming out it may be a good idea to play some live shows. I ended up getting the writing bug and now I am working on an album of all new songs.
Were all the new members of New York Loose fans of the original band?
Most of them. I don’t think the drummer ever heard of us. Maybe that’s a good thing. Legend has it, my reputation ain't so good, and I am a bitch.
Do you have a personal favorite NY Loose song and is there any story behind it?
Wow, what a great question! I think it would have to be 'The Desperate Hopeful' which is on Born To Loose. It was originally on Loosen Up. It really is about me just trying to break out as a chick fronting a band. I was writing the songs and taught myself to play guitar but it was still a bit of an oddity back in the early 90’s. 'The Desperate Hopeful' is about breaking down the walls of perception and proving what I am capable of.
Does Born To Loose pull together all the NY Loose rarities or are there still other unreleased songs and demos for us to look forward to?
Yes, oh yes. There are still a bunch of covers that I couldn’t put on Born To Loose. Folks are always sending me stuff that they recorded back in the day!
Can we expect any new releases from New York Loose in the near future?
I am supposed to have a 7” released by Devil’s Jukebox in the summer.
Do NY Loose have any plans to play live or even tour in the near future?
I wish we could but it’s really down to how well Born To Loose sells. If you want us, buy the album. Maybe we can generate enough of a buzz to get us back on the road.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about your music, The New York Loose, or life in general?
I think my writing style meets a lot of people where they are at. My friend Sleazegrinder said it best, calling them “love songs for the unloved”.
I have found my way through the muck of life and come out being proud of what I have achieved. It took a lot of sacrifice including giving up music for a while. I never thought I would be doing this again but here I am. New York Loose is like a scrapbook of my life experience and the stories and people that have had an impact on me. I think I am a lot like most folks but I can’t help but writing it down and plugging in a loud guitar. You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. New York is a place you can never really leave. Re-forming New York Loose is my way of going back to those days
in the early 90’s. But now I am much wiser and am going to try and give it the justice it deserves.
I really want to thank everyone that has written to me and remembered those days. I am back in action babies!
And as Frankie says “Don’t dream it, be it”!!!!