COME ONE, COME ALL. FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE FAIR MAIDEN OF FREE WILL, LIZ McGRATH. SHE'S AN ARTIST, A MUSICIAN, AND SHE LIKES CHEAP BEER. TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S HUMAN FREAK SHOW, DEBBIE, INTERVIEWED HER. PROBABLY BECAUSE HE'S SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH HER.
debbie: Seeing as how L.A. is a pretty large test market, youíve probably tried the newest beverage to hit store shelves -- beer. Whatís your opinion of this miracle elixir?
Liz: I love it. I donít know if itís quite new. I mean, they had it back when-- I guess Jesus didnít drink beer. He drank wine. Itís my drink of choice.
d: Is there any specific brand youíre into?
L: I like Budweiser, just because itís cheap and easy to get out here. Although it kind of sucks when you go to other states and they donít have Budweiser. Theyíve just got that dark crap.
d: You donít like dark beer?
L: I donít like dark beer. I canít handle dark beer.
d: Thatís odd because dark beer is all the rage. Everybody wants to be Irish and drink dark beer.
L: Iím a wimp. It just tastes like soy sauce or thick gravy or something.
d: It does itís job. How did you get started with everything; your band Tongue, art, fashion?
L: I was just kind of into it. I didnít go to school for it. The band thing came about because I was into punk rock when I was a kid. One day this guy calls me and heís like, ďYo, I want to start this all Asian punk rock band with a girl singer, and youíre the only chick I can think of whoís half-Asian and into punk rock.Ē It just kind of evolved from there. One day we were passing out flyers and this guyís like, ďHey, Iíve got this studio down the street. I could really use your talent down there.Ē He was an animation director named Fred Stuhr and he did all the Tool videos. My flyers were like Kentucky Fried Chicken with a dick coming through a chicken or just some really crass, weird line art. I went from there and figured out how they were making stuff and went on to art direct videos for him. From there I went on to the other things. Working at Trashy Lingerie was the fashion stuff. I went to a community college so I could take fashion. I did really well until it came to the sewing. Then I quit. No spirit. I couldnít sew.
d: How do you get by with the costume design work you do now? Do you work out the details and get someone else to do the sewing?
L: Actually, Juxtapoz didnít really get their facts straight on that part of the interview. I worked for Trashy Lingerie and they make costumes for people like Madonna. But I did costume accessories, which is a big difference. Strippers would come in and say, ďI want to be a sexy zebra.Ē My best friend, Winter Rosebud, is the designer over at Trashy. She has 30 sewers in the back and they make everything there. My involvement with the store was accessories.
d:I read that you went through a pretty strict school system. Was it a Catholic boarding school?
L: I was raised Catholic but my parents freaked out. My dad was gonna be a priest and my mom was gonna be a nun. Basically, I was all punk rock and they were like, ďOh my god! What is this?Ē I got kicked out of seventh grade. So one day my parents are like, ďWeíre going to the wild animal park for your thirteenth birthday!Ē So we go and it turns out theyíre dropping me off at a southern Baptist home for girls.
L: It was horrible. We drive up to this gate and it opens. My parents are telling me, ďWeíre just gonna get directions. Weíre lost.Ē As theyíre driving up, the gate slams shut behind us with barbed wire. Then I see these Christian weirdos coming. I went crazy and wouldnít get out of the car. They finally dragged me out and locked me in the ďG.R.Ē room -- the ďGet Right With GodĒ room. It was a little closet with religious tapes playing outside the door. It was hell. They said, ďYouíre here for a year.Ē I thought, ďIíll escape. They canít hold me here.Ē But they could. It broke my spirits, but then again I was a bad kid. So, I donít know what I wouldíve been like had I not gone there.
d: Well, at least you got through it.
L: Yeah. It taught me a lot of discipline. I also learned a lot of scary things about the Bible.
d: Like how you can go to hell just for having impure thoughts?
L: Well, thatís the Catholic belief. Itís different for Baptists, but I was raised with both. I think the Catholic religion is way creepier. In the Baptist religion, the people are just dumb. Theyíre so, ďThis is the right way; thereís no other way.Ē But Catholics add this creepy element to it that has this mystique about it. I kind of dig that. But itís all the same bullshit. Itís just that some of them are a little more fun than others.
d: Which ones are more fun?
L: I donít know. Santaria ones are kind of cool. (laughs) You know, people dancing around with chicken blood on them or snake handlers.
d: People told me I needed to let Jesus into my life and go to church group meetings. But I think itís up to the individual to determine their relationship with God, whatever it is.
L: I think organized religion is just an easy way out. Itís easy to be like, ďOh, I feel empty. I better find Jesus.Ē Itís a part of human nature. We donít know why weíre here and curiosity is gonna make us search for an answer. Donít make me get deep.
d: (laughs) Donít worry. Iíll bring it back down to Earth. Didnít I tell you tastes like chicken is a deeply seeded religious magazine. If youíre gonna make jokes we just wonít do this.
L: Iím being deadly serious. I mean, thereís a unicorn out there waiting to be discovered. (laughs)
d: So, are you still working on Censor This?
L: I do every now and then, but I do Internet interviews. Itís a lot easier.
d: What have been some of your best interviews?
L: Well, we interviewed Stephen Hawking. That was cool. We used to meet at this restaurant Ďcause it was the only place that under-aged people would be able to sit and drink, and he just happened to be there. Someone was like, ďOh my God. Thatís Stephen Hawking,Ē and Iím like, ďWho the fuck is that?Ē They got me to interview him and it was really short. Another fun one was when we interviewed The Vandals.
d: You mentioned on your website how excited you were to be featured in the same issue of Juxtapoz as Robert Williams.
L: Yeah, I was pretty happy. And Joe Coleman. Those are two really strong influences in my art.
d: I read that you would collect their concert flyers and trace them in the sixth grade.
L: Everyone collects the flyers. Of course my parents burned all of mine. The gallery, La Luz de Jesus, used to be in a different area. I remember seeing Robert Williamsí and Joe Colemanís stuff at La Luz, and being really blown away.
d: Were you into drawing before you found the punk flyers?
L: Well, my grandfather was a cartoonist. He would always tell me, ďYou can draw a monkey with the number eight.Ē I would always say, ďThis isnít art.Ē I was into art, but I was disappointed because I wanted it to look like the paintings that were in church. They were all bloody and gory. They were really cool looking, and I was disappointed that my drawings didnít look like that.
d: Were your parents supportive of you becoming an artist?
L: They werenít into it. My mother didnít know what to do when she saw an issue of Censor This. Sheís like, (in mother-like voice) ďElizabeth, I have to take shower. I feel so dirty when I look at this magazine!Ē
d: So whatís going on with your band Tongue? Are you guys recording a new album?
L: Our CD just came out on Hello Records.
d: Have you guys gotten a pretty good response to your tours and previous releases?
L: Itís been going pretty good. Weíve been a band for a long time. I just started doing more art. Everyone else started getting busy, because theyíre doing commercial stuff, too. I think that weíre gonna have to tour again and we might be out in your neck of the woods.
d: You say youíve been making more art. Now that your show is up, what would you like to focus on?
L: I have a show coming up in September at the Copro/Nason Art Gallery. Next week, Iím going in to record with my friendís band. I have a few other projects like that. After that I want to do a solo show. All the new stuff that Iíve got is different than some of my other work. Itís more Art-Nuevo and there are more dolls and stuff in it.
d: Is it based more off the religious artwork that first influenced you?
L: Yeah, itís a lot more religious. There are some other things in there like circus freak show-type weird anomalies. The featured piece is on heroin and religion.
d: You do a lot of technical and artistic stuff. Other artists Iíve talked to also do more than just one thing. Do you think itís necessary to be versatile to survive as an artist?
L: I donít know. I think that it could be good and bad. For me, Iím gonna try and exploit every aspect of what I know.
d: The jack of all trades but the master of none.
L: Exactly. I want to try and morph it all into one. Thatís what my dream project is all about. Itíll probably be a two year project. Hopefully I can get enough freelance jobs in between so I can fund it.
d: Now, this is a question we ask everybody: Do you think dogs have lips?
L: Yes. Iím looking at my dog right now. She looks like she has black lips around her mouth.
d: (to insane wayne, as he walks into the room) She says they have lips.
d: (to McGrath) That was insane wayne.
w: (grabbing phone from debbie) Hello.
w: Hi. Iím wayne.
L: Hi, wayne. You think dogs have lips, too?
w: Of course. But, uh, debbie here, heís not really doing an interview. Heís just madly in love with you. I just thought Iíd let you know.
L: Oh, okay.
w: Right on. Here he is again.
d: Yes, Liz! Will you marry me? Iíll fly out to California right now!
L: Well, ya know, Iím really a small, Filipino boy. So I was kind of hoping you were a girl named debbie.
d: Damnit! Is there anything you want to tell the people? One final message?
L: Um,.. what tastes like chicken?
L: Alright. I like it.
VISIT LIZ AT HER SITE.