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    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.


    "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."

    Monica Nelson (vocals)
    Jason (Sgt.) Springwell (guitar)
    Lucky Bel-Mateo (guitar)
    Dunxan McKay (bass)
    John (The Pummeler) Hummel (drums).
    Killing Time   RA
    Menace   RA
    © 1999 Nelson, Springwell, Bel-Mateo. Used by permission.
    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.

    "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.

    "We tried 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.

      Monica Nelson and Jason Springwell of Candymeat at Mercury Lounge. in Candymeat
      Monica Nelson and Jason Springwell of Candymeat at Mercury Lounge.
    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 style.

    "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

    Reader comments on Candymeat:

  • [no subject]   from spc cooper, May 3, 2004
  • trying to get in touch with Jason   from oldfriend, Nov 25, 2004
  • Re: trying to get in touch with Jason   from Bryan Caisse, Feb 21, 2009
  • Hey!   from , Mar 5, 2006
  • what Monioca's been up to lately   from Monica, Oct 17, 2006
  • what the singer's been up to   from mMonica, Oct 17, 2006
  • A blast from your past   from Herlethia Thomas, Dec 6, 2006
  • Re: A blast from your past   from Monica, Dec 24, 2006
  • Re: A blast from your past   from , Jan 11, 2009
  • Re: A blast from your past   from jason Lally, Aug 21, 2009

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