The Village voice
Candymeat rocks the downtown clubs with a tight punk/metal lineup and a secret weapon the raw passion of singer Monica Nelson.
By JOSHUA TANZER
"Baby, I'm beginning to fall in love," Monica Nelson coos sexily at the
beginning of the song "Menace" (hear it here). But then watch out she starts listing some of your less desirable qualities and soon she's letting you have
it with an aural onslaught that lets you know you've been a bad, bad boy.
You won't cross this woman and get away with it.
Nelson fronts the hard-rock outfit Candymeat with a raw
passion that make me think, from song to song, of the power of Linda Perry, the overdrive of Axl Rose and
the demonic growl of Lemmy. "Male or female," says admirer Joe
Mannix, "she has one of the best voices I've ever heard."
Candymeat as you can almost tell from the name started as
something of a novelty concept when guitarists Jason Springwell and Lucky
Bel-Mateo were sitting in a strip joint.
|Monica Nelson (vocals)|
Jason (Sgt.) Springwell (guitar)
Lucky Bel-Mateo (guitar)
Dunxan McKay (bass)
John (The Pummeler) Hummel (drums).
| AUDIO |
|Killing Time || RA|
|Menace || RA|
| © 1999 Nelson, Springwell, Bel-Mateo. Used by permission.|| |
"We came up with the idea of a mid-'80s punk band on my side meets a '90s
mod band on his side," Springwell recalls. The band is a tight unit with
dual guitars meshing perfectly, backed by powerful bass and drums. But the brilliant part, or so it
seemed at the time, was putting a go-go girl up front.
out a girl because she was a stripper and she was really hot," Springwell says. The inevitable problem: "She couldn't sing."
That's when Nelson who was familiar with Springwell from their days
in the Portland, Oregon, punk bands the Obituaries and the Indigo Zeroes
entered the picture. "She's a phenomenal singer," Springwell says
with obvious pride. "Nobody else sounds like us."
Nelson, whose black clothes match the black shocks of hair on the unshaved
parts of her head, stands at the microphone, deceptively demure until
the band kicks in and she unleashes an unexpected fury. Obviously
self-taught, she sings at the limits of her ability, sometimes on the brink
of losing control but always with charisma and blazing intensity.
Nelson says she's never wanted to get formal training she's just
inspired by the love of singing and enjoys the reality of her personal
| ||Monica Nelson and Jason Springwell of Candymeat at Mercury Lounge.|
"When I was 13, one of the reasons I decided to become a singer is that I
heard Suzi Quatro for the first time," Nelson says. "I thought, if she could
do that, I could do that. She was human touchable."
She saw a newspaper ad from a band looking for a singer, and got in. "I called and lied," she admits now. "They said, 'What's your experience?' and I said, 'I've been in a couple of bands.' I said I sounded like Pat Benatar. You know it was the '80s."
When she started performing, the reactions were mixed. "Some people thought
I was just really awesome, great, and other people said, 'Well, maybe you
can make a living off your songwriting instead of singing, because you're
not that good at it,' " she says. "But at least they cared enough to
have an opinion. In the end, I don't really care what anybody else thinks. I
just love singing."
At first, Nelson feared that her boisterous personality was going to cost
her the Candymeat job. She recalls her first wild gig:
"I sat on the drummer's lap and he didn't miss a beat. . . . And
I crawled through the guitar player's legs, which he didn't mind except that
I unplugged his effects pedals. Later, he called me and said, 'Monica, we
have to have a talk about personal space,' " she recalls with a laugh.
At the time, she thought: "Yeah, I had a damn good time, but they're
probably going to kick me out of the band."
But she loves the chemistry of Candymeat as much as the other members love
playing with her. "When I look over at Jason and I look over at the drummer
[John Hummel], I feel like I'm at a party," she says.
|JANUARY 6, 2000|
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