Yet without sex or lyrics like "put me on your burning spear" or -- the direct approach -- "I wanna sit on your face," Lords of Acid is still a group of talented folk from Belgium that pumps out hard-core dance.
The band is the brain child of Praga Khan (a.k.a. Maurice Engelen), one of Europe's most renowned DJs. Along with Oliver Adams and Jade 4 U (a.k.a. Nikkie Van Lierop), Khan kept Lords of Acid lording throughout the '90s, helped score such films as Virtuosity and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and remixed hits for artists such as White Zombie and Alice in Chains.
Since its beginning in 1988, Lords of Acid has created a definitive style in a genre of sound-alikes. Keyboards buzz like killer bees, bubbling and popping ominously, hyperactive drum machines thunder steadily, and crunchy guitars chomp and bite. A mix of aggressive, metronomic styles has always served as Khan's compass for Lords of Acid and the band's five records. "The important thing is the hard synths, the hard guitars," says Khan, "and a sexy female singer, well, singing about our favorite thing."
Ah, yes. The only thing more reliable than the stream of pulsating, block-rockin' beats at a Lords of Acid concert is a writhing, slinky young thing front and center to act as ringmaster. Khan called on Nathalie Delaet in the early years and Jade 4 U and Lady Galore in the '90s, during the height of the band's popularity. Today, Khan says, "supersexy" Deb is in control. Although Deb has been with the group only since the beginning of this tour, she has already won over Khan. "Deb is very, very sexy," he says. "A good singer. She's been just wonderful this tour."
The woman drips pure id. "When they asked me to be the singer," she says, "I knew the music and said, 'Of course.' And then I got the lyrics. I was reading the lyrics and I was like, 'Oh, shit! They want me to sing that? What will my parents think,' you know? But when I got home and I was all alone, by the end of the CD I was as horny as I could be."
Like her predecessors, Deb is required to tame a tsunami of raging testosterone with a soft leather fist whenever the need arises. The previous front women have handled this chore in one of two ways: Sometimes they have released piercing, diva-esque screams in the middle of sonic maelstroms; sometimes they have spit and spewed demands in the bitchiest of snot-rock traditions.
Although Deb has taken pointers from those before her, she insists she's not a clone. "One thing that I would like to say is that I am not Jade or [Lady Galore]," she says. "I am Deb. I bring my own picture of things, my own sexuality and my own emotion."
As integral as sex and loud guitars are to the Lords of Acid formula, a good sense of humor is also important. "It started off as a joke," Khan explains. He says the band released one of the first of its many singles, "Sit on Your Face," in the late '80s on a goof, and was surprised by the response. "It was a smash in all the clubs in Europe," Khan says. "It just kept going, and Caroline [Records] asked us to do a record, which ended up selling like 500,000 copies. But the whole thing is meant as a joke. I mean, sex is something that we all do. You need to keep a sense of humor about it."
Indeed, these two elements -- sound and sex -- would together make it hard for any band of musicians to keep straight faces while banging their heads. Yet Lords of Acid does it. As the band pummels ears with huge chunks of electronic force, its heroine struts around in costume, using what Deb calls her "powers" to read the minds of all the bursting, sweating kids in the place. Almost every song is laced with that knowing smirk. The pubic-bone-vibrating bass adds just the right touch to a line like "You wanna play with pussy all the time/To hide that kind of pussy is a crime." If you laugh or even shift in your seat too much on hearing something like this, you might end up on the business end of one of Deb's whips. The dominatrix and her accomplices are an adult comic book come to life.
Lords of Acid has managed to appropriate other music forms such as reggae and country, while somehow always keeping its primal intentions intact -- and always winking and mugging to each other. Lords of Acid is about as subtle as a forehead tattoo, and it's one of the longest-running gags this side of Weird Al. The good news is they're in on the joke. Kinda.
Whether the band is covering its CDs with a bevy of devil women spread-eagle for Kmart shoppers or preaching the glories of copulation to the masses that religiously flock to its shows, Lords of Acid has made a venerable career out of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll turned up to 11. Fronted by various She-Hulks on Spanish fly, Lords of Acid has no problem using its jackhammer guitars and deep, charged beats to smash cities to the ground, then make off with the party people.
Lords of Acid is scheduled to perform on Thursday, March 9, at the Nile Theater in Mesa, with Paraga Khan. Showtime is 8 p.m.