The following is an interview with Nikki Van Lierop, also known as Jade 4 U. Nikki is one-third of Lords of Acid, a Belgium group known for their unique, somewhat twisted style of techno. Their music is often very intense and aggressive, but, at the same time, very fun. Nikki’s occasionally sexually explicit vocals are extremely powerful, and the music has enough catchy melodic hooks to make one wonder why it isn’t at the top of the pop charts. This past fall, Lords of Acid released their third album, “Our Little Secret,” and toured America. This interview was conduced over the phone from a Texas stop.
For fans of your music who have never seen you live, how would you describe your concerts?
Nikki: “Our show is very sexy, I always try to make sure that the crowd feels like they’re part of the show, which they are. I get people up there, get spanked by me, guys’ faces that I sit on. There’s lots of things happening, really.”
How does this affect the sound, compared to your studio work? What’s the instrumentation like?
Nikki: “We have a full band with a drummer, keyboards, bass, guitar … we have a DAT running, just for a basic wild, wild grooves and some of the sequencing that cannot be played by human hands. It all creates a very wild musical show. So we have a live combination between techno and rock.
How does this affect the sound, compared to your studio work?
Nikki: “It’s much more live. It does sound different from what you heard on the album because of the liveness of it, so it’s not like you’re going to come to a show and listen to the CD. Everything is there, the mistakes that we make will be heard, just like any rock band, actually.”
The latest album sounds quite a bit more varied than “Voodoo-U.” Was that an intentional thing?
Nikki: “We wanted to make it sound different from the last one, because the last one was quite chaotic. The first album, “Lust,” was very techno; the second album, “Voodoo-U,” was very chaotic, with much more of a rock feel; and on this one, we tried to make a nice balance between those two, which meant taking one small step back and just creating a nice balance, which means you can actually sit down in the comfort of your own home as well as dance to it or have sex to it or whatever.”
Are you ever thinking about how songs will sound live while you’re writing them?
Nikki: “When we’re in the studio, we just make whatever we feel like making. We worry about the live stuff after, when we start rehearsing for the show and everything. We can do anything.”
What’s your approach to making an album?
Nikki: “When we get the idea of working on an album, we’ll make about 20 songs for that particular album. We do a song, we put it aside, and about couple of weeks later we’ll listen to it again, see what can be improved. We’ll usually be diminishing the song somewhat. In the beginning, it may be to full-sounding, and then picking it up again, we’ll start throwing stuff out. Less is more, especially in music, I think. That’s why the ‘Voodoo-U’ album sounded so chaotic, because we didn’t do that back then. We made the song, made as much noise as possible and then off to the next one.”
Since you’ve done so many projects, how did Lords of Acid come to be the one you seem to be promoting the most?
Nikki: “Doing all those projects — as you know we’ve done quite a few projects — Lords of Acid seems to stand out. It’s something that’s picked up in America and people are really into it. That’s why we’re taking care of this baby, treating it as well as we possibly can out of respect for all the people who have always believed in Lords of Acid. That’s why we do it.”
Did you intend it to be that way when you started it?
Nikki: “When we did the first track ever, ‘I Sit On Acid,’ we thought it was going to be a one off 12-inch. Just having fun, being as sexual as we can with what we say, and look what happened. Ten years later we’re still at it. We’ve made three albums now and it’s still going up. That’s good. It’s not something we’re going to be dropping.”
How do you feel about having “Parental Advisory – Explicit Content” stickers on your music?
Nikki: “I think it’s very discriminating, because if you listen to some of the R+B acts that are around — and they’re very explicit using their lyrics — and they get played on daytime radio and TV or whatever. And they don’t get those little stickers, and we do. I wonder why that is actually. Maybe because our music sounds more aggressive? I have no idea.”
Do you know if it happens in other countries?
Nikki: “I think it’s a very American thing to do. Americans, forgive me for saying this, are the most perverted people in the world, because they are the most sexually repressed. Americans always bump into stickers of ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. I don’t get it. Because, OK, our lyrics are very explicit maybe sometimes, not even all the time, but they are never about killing people, hurting someone. It’s all done tongue in cheek, having fun with sex, and that’s what it should be! That’s how I see sex, anyway.”
Last night after the show, this guy who owns an all-nude bar invited us back there. And, OK, we saw the all-nude girls, and it was like, us, the band, we were in the bus within 15 minutes. We didn’t care much for it, because we’re Europeans, we see stuff like that all the time. We’re bored with it now, you see. But everyone else, the crew, all the guys, they stayed around. It was a big deal to them, but not to us.”
Have you noticed any difference between the music scenes in Belgium and America?
Nikki: “It’s a big difference. I listen to radio stations here and I don’t hear any techno. I hear one Prodigy song, maybe one Chemical Brothers track, and the only other track that we’ll hear is the Barbie one, which is an embarassment to techno lovers! It’s still got a long way to go.”
Are you involved in any other projects right now?
Nikki: “I recently did a CJ Bolland track, ‘Sugar is Sweeter.’ I’m always on the lookout. If somebody comes to me with a nice tune or a nice idea, I’ll work with that. But I’ll only do what I want to do. This is unbelievable — you should see this. I’m sitting in this small room and there’s this little mouse running around here and he’s not even afraid. Well anyway, that’s not what we were talking about.”
Do the members of Lords of Acid have specific roles within the band in terms of composing, song writing?
Nikki: “Over the years, we’ve sort of found our place, each one of us. Oliver, for example, has his own big studio with a fully automatic mixing table. He knows the studio inside and out. He had friends who make the greatest filtering machines, which cannot be bought in shops. So he knows about mixing and making things sound absolute right. Whereas Praga Kahn comes up usually with most of the ideas, I’ll come up with most of the lyrics. But the programming is something that the three of us will do, whoever is closest to the computer at that time. It’s a nice cooperation for three people, a good team. I can’t really specify and say ‘I do the lyrics, Praga Kahn does the music and Oliver does the mixing’ because that’s not really how it goes. We’ll also have big arguments and discussions about ideas, and that’s when you come to good results.”
Do you keep all your projects completely separate?
Nikki: “Yes. For example, if we make Digital Orgasm stuff, we’ll never think ‘Oh, this would be a good Lords of Acid track’ or something. We try to keep the sounds different from each other for each project. So a Praga Kahn-Jade 4 U project would not have the explicit lyrics that Lords of Acid would have. It would be more commercial. Digital Orgasm is completely made up out of old machinerey, like that ARP 2600, old Oberheims, that kind of stuff.We try to keep them as separate as possible.”