The Sweet Smell of Stinking Lizaveta
By: Chris Pacifico
“We’ve seen metal change in our lifetimes a few times, from the glam-hair thing to Meshuggah and what have you. There’s definitely a progressive metal trend,” says Lizaveta guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos, who just recently appeared at this year’s Bonnaroo playing with the Gypsy Hands Tribal Belly Dance Troupe.
“They all have the different veins that they draw from like whether it’s the Slayer/Sepultura vein or the Neurosis vein,” says Papadopoulos, speaking of the transparent influences of today’s thinking man’s metal bands. “Our band is trying to pick up the threads that a lot of people left untouched. We’re more like an SST band. We’re not trying to be super killer but just a good band.”
Live, their facial features seem chiseled and intimidating, sort of like Clint Eastwood before he fills someone full of lead, which makes it abundantly clear they’ve reached a bewildering state in their heads that feeds into their vigorous performances. Their body language is enraptured in a way that can’t be fully explained. Agusta is quick to label the sensation as “desperation” when she is onstage but it’s a bit deeper for Yanni, who remarks, “It’s like you’re trying to fit into this zone that’s just about a foot off the ground, and you’re trying to step on it and stay there. It’s a feeling like levitating”.
With Augusta and Alexi both mastering their respective instruments for 20 years and Yanni for 26, Stinking Lizaveta’s influences are as broad and eclectic as each of their songs. “We could keep going on and on so that’s just why we say everything,” says Alexi, who grew up in Washington, DC on a steady diet of punk rock. Aside from the obvious greats of metal, each member has a refined palette all their own. Agusta used to play in a band that was influenced by West African pop music and African club music, while Yanni is an admirer of jazz greats Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Thelonious Monk and “all the great and not so great guitarists of the world” are given props, to with special accolades aimed at Philly’s local jazz musicians such as Elliott Levin, Rick Iannacone and Jeff Lee Johnson.
Continue Reading for Page II of our Stinking Lizaveta feature…
Scream of the Iron Iconoclast was recorded at Electrical Audio Studios with none other than Steve Albini, whom the trio has the utmost respect for. “He works really hard. He never seems driven. He’s never bitchy. He got the best drum sound I’ve ever had,” lauds Agusta.
“Yanni will bring riffs to the rehearsal studio and then we’ll learn chunks of it,” Agusta adds. “He’s really good at thinking about what a composition means. We’ll be like, ‘Okay, we got this part and got that part’ and ‘What is this thing?’ and ‘What should we do with it?'”
The final compositions are a mixture of what is already mapped out with space for improvisation built in, according to Yanni. “We always leave a little bit of room somewhere in the song. And that’s the hardest thing about when you get in the studio because the part in question is no longer in question anymore.”
Shortly after releasing Scream, Stinking Lizaveta embarked on a tour of Europe with The Hidden Hand before making an appearance at this year’s Roadburn Festival this past 4/20 in Tilburg, Holland along with the likes of Pelican, Clutch, Blue Cheer, An Albatross, The Sword and The Melvins.
As far as tour stories go, Stinking Lizaveta has more than they can count. There was a weekend encounter with a mysterious figure known only as Dr. Fly in Ridgeland, South Carolina that remains at the tip of their tongues. Dr. Fly wasn’t a medical doctor but a “doctor of something” remembers Agusta. An ex-garbage man and Vietnam vet who drove around without a driver’s license and almost played for the San Francisco 49ers, Dr. Fly spent a few years selling whippets at Grateful Dead shows. “He’s the only guy that ever tried to get into our tour van with a shot gun stuffed in his pants,” recalls Alexi of the man whose regular outfit was a leather jacket while shirtless.
“He had a wife in Ohio, and he had just gotten done building their house but his wife was running around on him,” Agusta continues. “So, one night he said, ‘Woman, if you don’t come home tonight then I’m plowing this house down.’ She didn’t and he actually bulldozed the place and split.”
Dr. Fly was always keen on sleeping with his gun but Yanni is one of the few people who ever talked him into leaving it behind. “We got along because I kept playing ‘Dust In The Wind’ on the guitar. It all ended with a big birthday party at a K.O.A. I hope Dr. Fly is doing well.”
Stinking Lizaveta – Live at the Northstar
JamBase | Philadelphia
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