Gina X Performance’s Zeus B Held takes to the chair as we stoke up the quick-fire question machine
Give us a little backstory to warm us up…
“My father built pianos, so I was always surrounded by keyboards. After leaving school, I played in a French art rock band called Eruption, then a prog rock band called Birth Control. By then, I was getting more into electronics.”
You had quite a famous neighbour at one point, didn’t you?
“In 1974, we were neighbours with Conny Plank. I spent a good deal of time in his studio, watching him work with various bands. I left Birth Control around 1978 and discovered the vocoder, which made me develop my own singing approach. I was glad not to have to deal with a singer’s ego!”
Talking of singers, how did you meet Gina Kikoine?
“Gina studied art history in Cologne and was really into cutting-edge performance art and music. I invited her to put some spoken words on my solo recordings. I was working on an album with vocoder, drums and synthesisers only – really cold-sounding music.”
She developed her own distinctive approach to writing lyrics and singing too? “She put that zest into my music. At first, nobody else was interested because this was unheard of, uncategorisable music.”
You also used a real drummer, László Czigány? “I always preferred to have a drummer playing to the sequenced structure of the music. The drummer on the first two GXP albums, and most of ‘Voyeur’, is Manni Von Bohr of Birth Control. We agreed for various reasons to give him the artist pseudonym László Czigány.”
The first album was a slow-burner, wasn’t it?
“It didn’t really fit into the German market in the late 1970s. The best feedback came from mainstream Austrian radio, Canada, and Rusty Egan and the new romantics in London. All this took about a year to happen.”
You moved to London in the early 1980s and ended up producing John Foxx…
“I was a big fan of ‘Metamatic’. We were working on ‘The Golden Section’ and I told him that it should be more about sound and noisy abstract tunes, but he wanted melodies, so I was there to make his vision happen.”
…and Dead or Alive…
“I often went to Heaven during those days and listened to the uptempo hi-NRG music. I really liked the irresistible drive and energy. Working with Pete Burns was a great experience. A great roller-coaster sound adventure.”
Didn’t Gina record a version of ‘The Best Of You’ with Billy MacKenzie from The Associates?
“She was friends with Billy, and he was very fond of her voice and its character. Annie Lennox did a version of this too, but the female voice you hear on ‘Perhaps’ is Eddi Reader.”
In 2020, you were officially recognised for your GXP work, right?
“We were very proud to receive Cologne’s Holger Czukay Award for extensive artistic work. The ceremony took place at the famous Gloria nightspot. DJ Hell performed a great live mix of classic Gina X tracks, and even worked in Erasure’s cover of ‘No GDM’.”