Interview with Lisa King of The Hot Place

Formed in 2011 by vocalist/bassist Lisa King and guitarist Jeff Calder (of new wave The Swimming Pool Q’s), The Hot Place recently put out their second album. Making the new self-titled release was more of a band effort than The Hot Place’s debut, “The Language of Birds.”  The group is rounded out by guitarist Mike Lynn (Betty’s Not A Vitamin, Unminded) and drummer Robert Schmid (The Q’s, The Method Actors.) David J of Bauhaus/Love & Rockets appears on the song “Hell, Highwater, or Sunlight.” In an email interview, King discussed the band and their new album.

Could you discuss how The Hot Place came together? From the bio I saw from ‘The Language of Birds’-era, it seems that it was initially a solo project? If this is the case, what was the initial reason for using The Hot Place name, and how did it evolve as others became involved?

The Hot Place was formed in 2008, around a handful of recordings I made in my home workspace, No Big Wheel Studios. I played bass, guitar, keyboards, and sang on the tracks. In the early 00’s, I introduced my tapes to Jeff Calder, founding member and guitarist of Atlanta band, The Swimming Pool Q’s. He really liked the material, and so with the addition of Mike Lynn on guitar, (Betty’s Not A Vitamin, Unminded) and Robert Schmid on drums (The Method Actors, The Swimming Pool Q’s, Blasting Cap), we went into the historic analog recording studio, Southern Tracks Recording, and made our first album, “The Language of Birds.”

The name, The Hot Place came from a documentary I was watching on boxing legend, Jack Johnson. A patrolman had apprehended Jack for speeding through some small little town. He fined him $100 on the spot. Jack said, “Here’s $100 for now, and another $100 for later, because when I come back through, I’ll be going just as fast.” The cop said, “Man, If you keep acting like that, you’re gonna’ go straight to the hot place.” I just thought about Jack’s attitude, how bold and brave that was, and I thought, “Wow, now that is rock and roll, and I’m going to name my band The Hot Place.”

In the 90’s, I played in a band called Unminded with our guitarist Mike Lynn. In the early 00’s I toured with Jeff, as a keyboard player for The Swimming Pool Q’s. I’d also played keys with his longtime drummer/bassist, Robert Schmid in Atlanta’s The Glenn Phillips Band. So, even though the songs were mostly my home recordings, after playing together in the past, it was very easy to work together as a live band in the studio. My influences were very much post-punk and new-wave, from my high school years in the 80’s. As Mike, Jeff, and Robert became more involved with the project, I’d say we picked up a pop-rock sound, with influences coming from the broader field of psychedelia and blues.

Does this latest album represent material spanning the years since ‘The Language of Birds’ or was most of it written/recorded as a whole more recently?

The new album was written much more recently, and was a product of playing together. “The Language of Birds” is very stylized, with influences like The Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. I really wanted that first album to be a post-punk, guitar and keyboard based album. One of our songs from the record, “Saturn Moved” was this angular, jagged song about alchemy, and Richard Lloyd, the guitarist of proto-punk band Television plays the guitar solo. It really gives it a feeling of that late 70’s punk era.

The new self-titled album evolved out of that, but sounds much more like a cohesive collective writing songs in the room. While making the record, we were opening up a series of Living Room Shows in the Southeast with David J, (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets). We were in a state of inspiration, so a lot of new songs just came pouring out of all of us.

Was there any thing you wanted to do differently this time around, either in terms of the actual music or recording process?

When Southern Tracks Recording closed its doors in 2018, it was really a difficult blow to the Atlanta music scene. Large, historic, analog facilities like that with a knowledgeable and dedicated staff, are incredible places to make records. It’s so easy to take them for granted. Even though Southern Tracks was no longer operating, we were able to work independently with two of its audio engineers, Tom Tapley over at West End Sound (Blackberry Smoke, Mastodon) and Steven Morrison, working out of Madlife Stage and Studios. We also worked with recording engineer Tim Delaney at Electron Gardens in Avondale, on the vocals, bass, and guitars. I was learning so much more about myself as a singer and a bass player, from playing live shows, and for this record I wanted the vocal melodies to really shine. Three tracks on the new album, “Showdown”, “Home”, and “Absolution” were mixed by the legendary Ed Stasium, who is best known for his work with the Ramones, on “Talking Heads 77”, and Julian Cope. So, even though we had a large and diverse group of audio engineers who were working in smaller locations, we still had our roots in the more analog, old school vibes of a traditional recording studio.

What made you decide to have the album be self-titled?

I had been struggling to think of a title that would really represent the material on the album. The thing that stood out for me the most was the fact that it had really become a band. When our graphic designer Peter Heckman started sending me ideas for the album cover, I really just kept focusing in on the logo he created. The imagery on the album is both Southern Gothic and West Coast seventies in the style, and the name just seemed to speak for itself with the art.

How did the guest appearance from David J come about? What was the process behind that like?

I met David around 2002, backstage after a gig I had played, with The Swimming Pool Q’s at The Echo Lounge in East Atlanta. I had a little project going on, called The Madcap Speaks. Inspired by Andy Warhol, I used to carry around a handheld tape recorder, and do these spontaneous, word-association, free-form interviews with the musicians I was always playing with. The interview that I conducted with David J sparked up a friendship, and in 2016-2017, I hosted a series of nine Living Room Shows with David, with The Hot Place as opening support. One evening before a show, I played David the song, “Hell, Highwater, or Sunlight,” and he immediately heard a harmonica part for the song. We were able to record it the following day, as we were performing at Electron Gardens recording studio. It’s this heady, blues song, and as David put it, “dripping in swampy mojo vibes, full of the night, storms, and yearning ghosts.”

I’ve read about your initial influences, but I’m curious if there are any more recent influences that perhaps inspired elements of the new album? (Either more recent music or things you’ve discovered.)

I’d definitely say that Johnny Marr is a perpetual influence for me. I was listening to “The Messenger” and “Call the Comet” a lot while we were recording. His new double album, “Fever Dreams Part 1-4” has been on my turntable for the better part of a year now. I like San Francisco shoegaze band Film School, and their 2018 record “Bright to Death” has been something I listen to a lot. I think this album has an assortment of classic rock influences, probably subliminally cooked into the entire band. David Bowie, Linda Ronstadt, George Harrison, Peter Buck, Lindsay Buckingham, Donovan. Though you might not pick it up directly, Blues influences such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker have always been really important to me. As a bassist, Steve Kilbey has always been a big inspiration. He stays busy, and all of his solo and group projects are usually in heavy rotation. Patti Smith is a personal hero of mine, so she’s certainly inspired me in many ways, as a female bandleader, and as a poet.

How extensively will you be touring now that the album is out?

I’m really ready to hit a stage again, after being in the studio for so long, and the absence we have all had from public spaces the past few years. We’ve been working a lot on our live show, so I’m really hoping that we can get out soon, especially in the Southeast where we are based. We’d like to visit our fans on the West Coast and in the UK. We’re working on an album release party here in Atlanta, and we would love to pull in some of our friends and special guests.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Thank you for such a great interview, Bob! You can follow us online on our official website, and we’re pretty active on our Facebook page. Our album is available on No Big Wheel Records on Bandcamp, and you can stream it live on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and YouTube