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NIGHT LIFE THE CLUB SCENE

Basic Whine Rock : The Violent Femmes are neither. The group will appear at the Ventura Theatre next Tuesday.

March 26, 1992|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Drinking and driving. Hannibal Lector and the munchies. Wile E. Coyote and the Acme Co. Dangerous combinations, one and all. But how's this for a really dangerous combination: Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and religion?

Those are the topics songwriter Gordon Gano--the eccentric front man of the Violent Femmes' songs--most likes to write about.

This is not happy music. Gano is such a whiner that Peter Lorre would slap him. He's so low, he'd have to rally to die. He's also very good at his job--sort of a pint-size, Angst- laden Lou Reed from Wisconsin.

The Violent Femmes are three guys and no girls. They will be playing at the Ventura Theatre on Tuesday. They're about as violent as a marshmallow hammer or an Uzi that shoots cotton balls. They have five of the best albums you've never heard of. The latest is "Why Do Birds Sing?"

Femmes' music is basic folk-rock, not overly electrical, featuring Gano on guitar and whine, Victor DeLorenzo on drums and Brian Ritchie on bass. DeLorenzo, reached by phone somewhere in the 414 area code, discussed the latest triumphs and tragedies of his favorite band.

So with five albums and a new tour set to start, you guys must be rich now, right?

Well, I don't know if we'll ever be that. All I know is we're still alive and functioning as a band.

The first single, "American Music," certainly isn't the Blasters' version, and I understand MTV made the band drop a line about drug use from the video. What happened?

We are two different bands signed to the same label. What came down the pike on the video is that we did two versions and the uncensored one was the best.

Where did you guys come up with the name Violent Femmes?

That was over 10 years ago. Someone asked Brian about the name of his brother's band. And he was temporarily stymied, and he just said "Violent Femmes" off the top of his head. Then, one day, he said, "Hey, Victor, what do you think about this for a band?" And I think the idea of a violent femme is pretty funny. A femme is a sissy, a guy who can't catch a football.

How would you describe Violent Femmes music?

I think it kind of runs the gamut and expresses many feelings. It's about what's happening around us, but not necessarily in the realm of reality. It means different things at different times.

How did the band get started?

I knew Brian through a mutual friend and then we met Gordon. We played together one time and decided to keep going with it. We decided to stick it out, and I guess we made the right decision.

Yeah, but you guys have broken up more times than Elizabeth Taylor--the last time for, what was it, three years?

We didn't do the Elizabeth Taylor thing--we just needed to go apart for awhile, but we still kept in touch. We had to take time to figure out what had to be done or changed to keep doing it, so we practiced a little isolationist theory, otherwise the band would no longer exist.

Why was the fourth album called "3"?

It was a title we had left over from the third album.

Makes sense. So how is this album different from the previous efforts?

This one is a little more reckless, a little more aggressive, but there's also a softer side. The most innovative one will be the next one. There's a lot of strange things going on in our heads.

But why a cover of "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"--a Culture Club song?

It's more of a challenge to yourself especially if it's a song you don't necessarily like. Also, we thought maybe it would be a way to promote the album, but so far it hasn't.

What's the most misunderstood thing about the band?

That we're not from England.

Who goes to Violent Femmes shows?

I don't know. Sometimes I feel like the portrait of Dorian Gray. I feel like Dorian Gray because the audience keeps getting younger. I guess we're finally targeting the record-buying public.

Why go see the Violent Femmes?

If you want to see a band like us, you have to see us because there's no one like us. We're the honest, real thing.

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