When Michael Aston decided to build his next Gene Loves Jezebel album around the women he has loved, admired and hated in his life, he quickly discovered something:
He had enough material for about 15 albums.
For now, he’ll settle for one, “Exploding Girls,” released through Aston’s BlessMomma Records on Aug. 12.
“It’s really looking at the profound effect women have on our lives, from our mothers to our lovers, to our daughters, to our wives and ex’s, and how powerful and potent that is,” Aston said recently. “It was an instant concept for me. It just kind of evolved into it. I think it’s an interesting record, and a little radical, too.”
The most jarring song is “Exploding Girl,” about a woman Aston never knew: Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber.
“She’s no different than anyone who signs up for the military and will die for God and country,” Aston said. “I think she was very desperate, very frustrated. They don’t have much of a future, do they? I think it was a act of desperation, a very thought-out, deeply considered act.
“This wasn’t the act of some crazy terrorist. She was a highly educated woman. It just boggles the mind; could you do that, blow yourself up? I certainly couldn’t.”
On “Jenin,” Aston addresses the Palestinian refugee camp an 23-year-old American protester Rachel Corey, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer that was razing a family home.
Peace in the Middle East, Aston says, will remain elusive under the present conditions.
“Not when foreign policy from the U.S., in particular, is guided by Zionist Israeli interest,” he said. “There can only be peace when Israel acknowledges Palestine has a reason to exist. They can’t just keep driving these people out and continue to build settlements. No one’s listening to these people. That’s why young women sacrifice themselves.”
A British native now living in Los Angeles, Aston says he’s not afraid to speak his mind, regardless of the post-Sept. 11 crackdown on foreign residents.
“My wife always says, ‘You shouldn’t speak out,’ ” he said. “Well, for what I know of history, you have to speak your mind – you can’t live your life in fear, thinking that (John) Ashcroft’s going to stick you into some jail in Guantanamo Bay and send you home.
“I have to stand by my beliefs and principles. How would my children feel about me if I let these things go on without at least an attempt to raise my voice? We can see the real motives behind the Patriot Act, which is essentially to perpetuate this (Bush) regime.”
Formed in the early 1980s, Gene Loves Jezebel – led by twin brothers Michael and Jay Aston – took the techno-rock world by storm. Though they never had a Top 40 hit, at home or in the United States, their albums sold well. They peaked in 1990 with the Geffen album, “Kiss of Life,” featuring “Jealous” – which topped Billboard’s modern rock tracks chart for two weeks.
Michael left the group in early 1989 and rejoined in the mid-1990s, only to get into a legal battle with Jay over ownership of the group name.
Michael prevailed in court, and subsequently, he and Jay haven’t spoken since their last performance together in 1997.
Aston hopes that “Exploding Girls” will get enough attention “to justify continuing.”
“At one point, I thought maybe I should disguise the content, the substance of the record, and put a pretty girl on the cover,” he said. “But then I said, ‘Hell with it, let’s go with the impact.’ There’s so much to talk about.
“People aren’t really interested in what type of lip gloss I was wearing in 1986 – I still retain an interest,” he said, laughing. “We’re contemporary; I’m a working, breathing artist – and I’m putting everything I have into my work.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “It was a single by Marc Bolan. The first album I bought was Black Sabbath’s first album.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Queen and Mott the Hoople in 1973 at a small hall that holds about a thousand people. It was a really funny show because that was the first time I had ever tried pot, so I spent most of the show on my back freaking out. I do remember feeling I didn’t like being a punter or just a fan, because you have your T-shirt and you pay to get in and you get lousy seats.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “Working at a steel mill. It was wet, hot and oily. Eight hours of pure misery. And horribly noisy. That only lasted a few months – after that, I knew exactly what I didn’t want to do with my life.”
ON THE WEB: www.genelovesjezebel.com.
BWF (before we forget): The Gene Loves Jezebel album discography – “Promise” (Geffen, 1983); “Desire” (Relativity, 1983); “Immigrant” (Situation 2, 1984); “Discover” (Geffen, 1986); “The House of Dolls” (1987); “Kiss of Life” (1989); “Suspicion” (1989); “Heavenly Bodies” (Savage, 1993); “From the Mouths of Babes” (AV, 1995); “Some of the Best of Gene Loves Jezebel” (Avalanche, 1995); “In the Afterglow” (Pink Gun, 1996); “Desire: Greatest Hits Remixed” (Cleopatra, 1998); “VII” (Robinson, 1999); “Loves Lies Bleeding” (Triple X, 1999); “Live in the Voodoo City” (Robinson, 1999); “Voodoo Dollies: The Best of Gene Loves Jezebel” (Beggars Banquet, 1999); “Giving Up the Ghost” (Triple X, 2001); “Live at Nottingham” (Perris, 2002); “Exploding Girls” (BlessMomma, 2003).
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc