Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes Biography

The textbook American cult band of the 1980s, the Violent Femmes captured the essence of teen angst with remarkable precision; raw and jittery, the trio's music found little commercial success but nonetheless emerged as the soundtrack for the lives of troubled adolescents the world over. The group formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early '80s, and comprised singer/guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo; Ritchie originated the band's oxymoronic name, adopting the word "femme" from the Milwaukee area's slang for wimps.

We always wondered what the godfather of quirky alt-rock would choose to listen to when he’s not making his own idiosyncratic ditties. So we asked Gordon Gano to take some time out of his busy schedule to make ARTISTdirect a mixtape.

He did... and wouldn’t you know it... we’ve never heard of a couple of them. Here it is:

1. “Requiem Pour Un C..." – Serge Gainsbourg
Rap music before rap (1968!). Listen the the drum; ahead of his times...Serge surged!

2. “Ballade de Melody Nelson” – Serge Gainsbourg
Encore Serge – best rock album ever?

3. “Baba Hanuman” – Krishna Das

4. “Like a Possum” – Lou Reed
As good as anything he did with Velvet Underground. The only person who agrees with me...first name is Lou.

5. “Run With It” – Spencer P. Jones
Aussie mate. Should be a classic rock song, but probably least known on this list.

6. “Dhen Tha Dhiakriso Pia Yia Sena” – Pyx Lax
Huge in Greece. Combines traditional and modern. Great lyrics (trust me) and music.

7. “My Uncle Used to Love Me, But She Died” – Roger Miller
I don’t know this song (what?!). But I boldly list it there because Roger is one the cleverest songsmiths ever and this title gives a taste of Mr. “King of the Road.”

8. “Sexual Healing” – Marvin Gaye
I thought I’d put one mass worldwide pop hit on my list that I love.

9. “Mississippi” – Bob Dylan
A young promising songwriter from his newest release. Could be the next Dylan.

10. “My Mother Is a Fish” – Vardaman
Picked this up in France in 1992. It blew my mind and stayed there. Only last month did I re-visit it (13 years it lay buried in my stuff). Also currently one of Oprah Winfrey’s favorites!! (Popular American television star).

Violent Femmes Bio from Discogs

Violent Femmes were founded in 1980 by bassist/multi-instrumentalist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor De Lorenzo. The name is a contradiction in terms, “Violent” being self-explanatory and “Femmes” being Milwaukee slang for wimp.

The rhythm section added high school singer/songwriter Gordon Gano in 1981. Gano and Ritchie had previously performed together at Gano’s National Honor Society induction ceremony, where they caused a near riot. Gano was expelled from the Society and suspended from high school for this outrage.

One of the only stable aspects of the band is their aversion to rehearsal. Due to this they would take the music to the streets in an attempt to hone it and earn some spare change. It was on one of these occasions that they were spotted by the Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde and the gang were so amused by the Violent Femmes antics that they invited the band to open the show for them. The hometown Milwaukee audience received the Femmes with unanimous booing. However by the end of the set the Femmes had converted approximately 50% of the audience to their cause. Many years later Brian Ritchie encountered Hynde when the Femmes and Pretenders shared the bill at a radio concert. She said, “Oh, you’re still around.”

The Femmes borrowed $10,000 from Victor De Lorenzo’s dad to record their legendary first album in 1982. Slash Records in Los Angeles was the only label to offer them a deal with the amazing advance of $0. The band accepted the deal and started on the predictable round of world tours, recording, more world tours, nervous breakdowns, band members quitting, solo albums, regrouping, more touring, divorces, more crackups, dropped from record deals, new deals, more touring, record company going bankrupt, lawsuits, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Fast forward to the present. Many things have changed. One thing that hasn’t is the sound of the band. Their loose, improvisational, acoustic sound is timeless.

Latest Music News

more news headlines »

Featured Links