Lizzi Bougatsos can do it all. As the howling frontwoman for electro-grime outfit Gang Gang Dance (pictured center), and a prominent visual artist in New York’s downtown art scene, there’s no question that she’s a force to be reckoned with. The last Gang Gang Dance album, Eye Contact, was released last May, and since then Bougatsos has been focusing on her art career. But the always enthusiastic Bougatsos found time to talk about the skate deck she helped design, her dream venue (spoiler: it’s underwater), and that time the HBO comedy Girls used one of her songs to soundtrack masturbation
What is your songwriting process like?
I’m sort of a multi-tasker. I write lyrics all the time, whether it’s really late at night or I’m watching Mad Men, I just gather from everything and I have notebooks everywhere. So after there are certain music melodies, I just apply my lyrics to the melody. That’s kind of how it works. I have seven or eight different notebooks that I write in at the same time, but sometimes I write it all at once on the plane or a train. I’m really good at that.
“Mindkilla” was recently featured in an episode of HBO’s Girls. Have you seen the show? What did you think of the song being in it?
I’m pretty thrilled about that. I haven’t seen it, but someone downloaded a clip for me. I heard it was a masturbation scene?
Yeah, it is.
That’s great, I’m totally into it. We were in another teen show in the UK called Skins, and everyone was tripping on mushrooms. I went to see that movie Rampart, because we were in that as well and of course, it’s the druggie music scene.
You guys recently designed a skate deck for Alien Workshop. What was that like? Did you all collaborate on it?
It was interesting cause they wanted a picture of me for the skateboard. I gave them one and then they said it wouldn’t work, so Brian [Degraw] ended up giving one. His is really nice – I’m in the water and I’m in Japan. But I was ready to take it to the next level. So something got mixed up there. I would like to do another one that’s not so nice.
What are some of your essential backstage items?
Red wine, tequila, fresh ginger, lemons. I’ve been drinking alkaline water. I like the New York Times. Ginger and honey is kind of the most important thing.
What’s your favorite venue?
I really like the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Everyone’s so nice there. One time I lost my money in the ATM and one of the security guards went on his mic and said, “Lizzi from Gang Gang needs assistance at the ATM!” That was really sweet. I thought, “Wow, even the security guard knows my name.” I ended up hanging out with them anyway at my shows rather than the people that come backstage, because it gets too crowded and I’d rather be alone.
What are you obsessed with at the moment?
I have an art studio and when I’m there there’s this website I’ve been reading a lot called Al Jazeera English. It’s opinions of all the things happening all over the world, from the Eurozone, to trafficking, to what’s gonna happen to Greece and those families that make decisions to kill the matriarch of the family. It’s just really intense stuff. But when I’m home at night I like to watch Mad Men. I’m almost done with the whole thing. I’m one of those show junkies. Once I start, I have to watch the whole thing, and it doesn’t matter if it’s two days or a week. Breaking Bad, Weeds–I’ve probably been through them all.
You have done a lot of art on your own that’s been featured in books and galleries. What artists from the past and present have influenced your work?
Definitely Jack Pearson, Così fan tutte, Patti Smith, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Francis Picabia. I like Horst Fischer, I like Kehinde Wiley. He helped Santigold recently on her video set, he styled it with his aesthetic. He does portraits of black men with these decorative backgrounds; I have one of his towels. It’s pretty much all across the board. I’ve studied so many–Linder Sterling was a big one, Dorothea Channing, Salvador Dalí.
If someone gave you 1 million for a live show, what would you spend it on?
I would wanna play on the water in Dubai in one of those techno-buildings. Or underwater would be great, like in a submarine. But in Dubai, definitely. But I don’t think that the guys would like that, maybe we’d be better in a rickety shack in like Bangkok or something. But it would really be fun to have a show on the water. That or the tallest mountain.
What have you been listening to lately? Are you anticipating any new releases?
I’ve been listening to CDs I bought in Jamaica and a lot of my old CDs. Sometimes I listen to things that come up on the internet, but I get bored pretty fast with those things. I like this one song by Lil B, and I really like Spaceghostpurrp. I like Shabazz Palaces. There’s one woman, Fatima, she’s really good. I’m kind of a mix. Sade is always playing at my house.
What are you working on right now? Is there a new album in the works?
There’s a lot of songs that I wrote, but we’re trying to plan out the writing of the new album. Right now I’m just making artwork. I just finished two pieces. I have a group show at Andrew Rose in the beginning of next month, and then I have a solo art show in October at the James Fuentes gallery, so I’m just really trying to make a lot of work in my off-Gang Gang time just to keep myself going.
How are you spending your summer vacation?
I had one weekend in Miami with one of my close girlfriends, but other than that I’m still trying to get to the beach. I like Fire Island the best. I do like to go to Greece, but I don’t think I’m gonna be able to go this year, so I think Fire Island is gonna be my spot.