Chicks on Speed is a music and fine art ensemble, formed in Munich in 1997, when members Australian Alex Murray-Leslie and New Yorker Melissa Logan met at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
Though Chicks on Speed reached cult status throughout 2000's as catalysts of the musical genre electroclash, Chicks on Speed were actually founded as a multidisciplinary art group working in performance art, electronic dance music, collage graphics, textile design and fashion.
Melissa Logan and Alex Murray-Leslie were art students at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, when they met in 1997 at one of the Academy's parties. Alex founded an illegal bar called "Maria Bar" in 1994 with friends Barbara and Karl Fritsch, changing its name to "Seppi Bar" in 1996 (a nomadic ArtBar around Munich, lasting 3 years) It was a project based on the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich where the Dada artists met and performed. It was here that Alex invited Melissa and Lisa Walker to join Seppi Bar in 1997 . Melissa and Alex began working as a group at Seppi Bar to create art exhibitions and host illegal parties. Melissa and Alex then met Kiki Moorse (a member until 2006 now on Toffeetones Records), and invited her to join Chicks on Speed. In this period, Alex worked with Upstart at Ultraschall, a Techno Nightclub working the door, curating live-art events and interior media art installations. This meeting with Upstart (Label owner of Disko B) would see the medium of music merge with the Chicks' multimedia explorations.
Chicks on Speed created an live-art piece named I Wanna Be A DJ...Baby!. They stood behind DJ decks and smashed records while a sound collage tape was playing. For this project they also put together a "box set" with a T-shirt, a cassette, a paper record and a fake interview for their "band". During this time they met Upstart (a.k.a. Peter Wacha) of Disko B record label who joined their freshly started record label, Go Records, which later become Chicks on Speed Records with Jeurgen Söder. Go Records was a suicide label—the release numbers started at 10 and went down to zero; the motto was, perhaps what is wrong with the world is that things are made to grow & get bigger. The 10 releases were primarily limited edition 7" and 10" records that sold out fast.
A cassette titled Analog Internet was the first piece of music released by Chicks On Speed. The cassette was released in 1997, though it seems widely agreed that the first COS single was a cover of the song "Warm Leatherette", originally by Daniel Miller (as The Normal), released in 7" form. The single was released in 1998 and four further singles ("Smash Metal", "Euro Trash Girl" (originally by Cracker in 1993), "Mind Your Own Business" (originally by Delta 5 in 1979) and "Glamour Girl" over 1998 and 1999) preceded any actual album releases. In March 2000, two CoS LPs were released; the first, titled The Un-Releases, is not considered an official album, instead described as a "collage" of various songs in various forms. CoS' debut, Chicks On Speed Will Save Us All appeared later in the month and featured all five of the previous singles as well as a new one, "Kaltes Klares Wasser", a cover of a song by the German all-women punk band Malaria!. All six of these singles proved popular and in October 2000, The Re-Releases Of The Un-Releases was issued.
Several EPs were issued over the next few years such as chix 52, a collection of B-52's covers and Fashion Rules that heralded the arrival of the 2003 second album 99 Cents released on Chicks on Speed records and licensed to EMI. The album produced three more singles: "We Don't Play Guitars", a collaboration with Canadian artist Peaches, which was a hit around the world; a cover of Tom Tom Club's "Wordy Rappinghood" which saw a number of guest stars including Le Tigre; and "Flame On", a hidden track on the album with Mika Vanio. By this time CoS have already been collaborating with Anat Ben-David, an unofficial band member working with them since 2002.
In 2004, their third album, Press The Spacebar was released. The album was a collaboration with the Spanish band The No-Heads and Cristian Vogel. No singles were issued from the album, though it included a new version of "Culture Vulture", a song from their previous LP release 99 Cents.
In November 2006, the Chicks released the 12" single "Art Rules" produced with Christopher Just, with guests Anat Ben David and Turner prize artist Douglas Gordon; after the release, the Chicks concentratd on live art performances under the same name and toured art institutions the world over, collaborating with A.L. Steiner, Anat Ben David, Kathi Glas and Adi Nachman.
Chicks on Speed began researching and developing ObjektInstruments (self-made musical instruments) in 2005 for studio and stage implementation, and held a solo exhibition presenting the instruments in a performative installation at Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre in 2010.
2011-2013 Chicks on Speed were Artist Residents at ZKM, Centre for Art and Media, karlsruhe producing the new Chicks on Speed album UTOPIA and a series of 6 APP's as musical instruments for interactive stage performances. Chicks on Speed collaborated with Julian Assange, Yoko ono, Peter Weible and Francesca Thyssen, Anat Ben David, Angie Seah, Oliver Horton and Christopher Just on the album UTOPIA to be released March 2014.
Outside of music
Logan and Murray-Leslie have always classified COS as a multidisciplinary "project" blurring the lines between media, art, music, fashion and performance. They run a record label, Chicks On Speed Records, together with Peter Wacha, Juergen Söder and Gero Loferer, releasing recordings by Le Tigre, Kevin Blechdom, Planningtorock, Gustav, Ana da Silva of The Raincoats, DAT Politics, Susanne Brokesch, Kids on TV, Anat Ben-David, Angie Reed and the Girl Monster compilation series.
Chicks on Speed's interest lies in art, something that also characterizes their live performances. Major solo art exhibitions include Kunstverein Wolfsburg 2004, Kunstraum Innsbruck 2005, CAC Vilnius 2007, Kunstraum Kreuzberg 2010, Dundee Contemporary Arts 2011, ArtSpace Sydney, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane 2013 and Design Hub RMIT University, Melbourne, 2014. Group exhibitions include "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", Bilbao Fine Arts Museum 2007 and "Switch On the Power", Vigo, Spain 2006. XMas, Sell-Out, and ChicksTV. Chicks on Speed performed at Australian Pavilion vernisage, 55th Venice Biennale and Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, 2013, Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary 2012, Turner Prize Retrospective at the Tate in October 2007, and at MoMA in June 2006, as part of a special evening with Douglas Gordon. Their work with Douglas Gordon included a performance at the Centre Georges Pompidou in February 2007, Collection TBA-21 hosted a performance in Vienna in April 2007, and an exhibition at Yvonne Lambert in Paris in September 2007. They have been responsible for the cover art for various other artists, particularly ones signed to their label and Mego Records in Vienna.
Chicks on Speed's focus on fashion began in 1997 with their first stage costumes; these developed into a longtime collaboration with Kathi Glas, and more recently with Peggy Noland, Ari Fish and Jeremy Scott. The fashion side of COS has grown into collaborations with independent fashion brands, including textile yardiges for Crystal Ball Japan in 2007/2008, DAA (Designers Against Aids) and Hennes and Mauritz "Fashion Against Aids" in 2008. In 2009 Chicks on Speed and Insight launched the project, Insight on Chicks on Speed, with a range of girls' surf wear, and a song and video, titled "Super Surfer Girl". They are currently working on a larger collaboration with another larger brand.
Chicks on Speed launched an Art Scarf with Little Red Ridinghood, based in Berlin, released globally in art museum bookstores in December 2009.
Logan and Murray-Leslie published 2 books with Booth-Clibborn Editions, : Chicks on Speed: It's A Project 2005 containing historical pieces of information about the band and their art from their beginning stages onward, including a dress, a DIY pattern to make overalls, designed by COS and Jeremy Scott, a CD of unreleased music and a poster, all together in a tote bag designed by COS. "Chicks on Speed Don't Art, Fashion, Music 2011.
London jewellery label Tatty Devine designed pieces for Chicks on Speed Japanese and US tours to go with their "Fashion Rules" single. They made plectrum inspired earrings and necklaces.
Chicks on Speed's series of what they call ObjectInstruments sees the group shy away from filling the stage with conventional band instruments, they invented their own instruments, which at times double as fashionable stage outfits –for example: Super suits, outfits which remotely trigger audio/video, and an haute couture hat which is a self-contained amplification device.
The 2010 exhibition "Chicks on Speed Don't, Art, fashion, Music" at Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre was their first major solo exhibition in the UK. Chicks on Speed opened with a live art performance for invited guests, featuring the 'e-shoe' – the world’s first wireless high-heeled shoe guitar, made in collaboration with Milan based shoe designer Max Kibardin and Hangar.org. These shoes were unveiled alongside Chicks on Speed’s ever-growing collection of self made ‘objektinstruments’ – A Theremin Tapestry, cigar-box synthesizers, super suits with sewn-in body sensors that trigger audio/video samples and two hats made in collaboration with Christophe Coppins and Hangar.org, based on illuminated drawings of Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th-century Christian mystic who received visions, composed ethereal airs, performed healings and even founded convents. These hats transmit the utterances of their wearers by way of microphones and speakers.
The DCA galleries were further transformed into a giant stage and studio set for making music videos, experimenting with no-choreography and ongoing craft projects live, including loom-weaving inspired by Bauhaus design, lectures and workshops, film screenings of their fashion archive and selected video pieces. Chicks on Speed worked with local and international makers to combine traditional craft with cutting-edge technology.
In 2013 & 2014 Chicks on Speed tour their major solo interactive multimedia exhibition SCREAM to global cultural institutions: ArtSpace, Sydney, RMIT Design Hub Melbourne, Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and Institute of Contemporary Art, Singapore.
Solo activities of the members
Alex Murray-Leslie has created numerous site specific multimedia performance projects including: 2008/09 acoustic-art-fashion performance, "A Hanging Garden Party" with Pelican Avenue and Choreographer Kroot Juurak, Tokyo & Paris Fashion week, 2010/2011 "Prototype Hits" with Anat Ben-david at Kampnagel Theatre, Mannheim National Theatre, Le Struch Media Art Centre Sabadell, Spain, 2012, "These Shoes are Made for Painting" with Max Kibardin and Anat Ben-David, Milan Fashion Week, "Gala's Invitation" with Anat-Ben-david, 2013 "Colour Tuning", Bon Marche Theatre, Sydney and Seam Symposium "Audience Authorship, Curation", Sydney.
2011-2012 Murray-Leslie was invited to the position of Entertainment Manager at Americas Cup sporting event, visioning and curating Live music and Art events in Plymouth, San Diego, Cascais and San Francisco, followed by Alex becoming director at Diane Pernet's 'A Shaded View on Fashion Film", CaixaForum Barcelona. She is professor of Soundtrack and Fashion Film at Elisava, Pompeu Fabra University, Instituto Eureopeo de Designo Barcelona and lectures at Interface Cultures, University of Art and Design, Linz. Alex Murray-Leslie is currently undertaking a PhD in Musical Instrument design for multimedia performance, Creativity and Cognition Studios, Department of Engineering and IT, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.
(Alex Murray-Leslie founded and curated the compilation Girl Monster in 2006, featuring sixty two women in cutting edge music from the late 1970s to present day, released on Chicks on Speed Records. The "Girl Monster" 12" single, featured Scream Club, Client, Chicks on Speed, Vivien Goldman and Kids on TV.)
Melissa Logan has appeared in theater plays by the director Angela Richter Versaut (with costumes by Kate Lloyd-Hughes and Chicks on Speed; at Kampnagel Theatre, Hamburg, 2001), Alles wird in Flammen stehen (Frank Gehry Tower, Hannover, 2001) and a "propaganda operette" L'Amerique (Hamburg, 2003).L'Amerique's "soundtrack" (with music by Les Robespierres featuring Melissa Logan) has been released on Chicks on Speed Records in 2004. She has worked with the theater and dance directors Gintersdorfer/Klassen from 2010 on. Die Geselschaft des Bösen, Erleide Meine Inspiration are theater productions she has acted in. The collaboration includes music, a mix of ivorien Coupè de calè combined with electroclash. New Black is the resulting album produced in Abidjan Ivory Coast, Berlin, Austria and Hamburg, released on Buback, Hamburg.
- Alex Murray-Leslie (Bowral, New South Wales, Australia)
- Melissa Logan (Upstate New York, USA)
- Erica Lewis (Melbourne, Australia)
- A.L. Steiner (Los Angelos, California, USA)
- The Un-Releases (1999)
- Chicks On Speed Will Save Us All (2000)
- The Re-Releases of the Un-Releases (2001)
- 99 Cents (2003)
- Press the Spacebar (with the No Heads) (2004)
- Cutting The Edge (May, 20010)
- UTOPIA (2014)
EPs and singles
- "Warm Leatherette" (with DJ Hell) (1997)
- "Euro Trash Girl" (with Mäuse) (1998)
- "Smash Metal" (with DMX Krew) (1999)
- "Mind Your Own Business" (with Pulsinger, Gaier/Reents) (1999)
- "Glamour Girl" (1999)
- "Kaltes Klares Wasser" (2000)
- "Split 7" with V/VM" (2000)
- "Chix 52" (2000)
- "The Chicks on Speed / Kreidler Sessions" (with Kreidler) (2001)
- "Fashion Rules" (2002)
- "We Don't Play Guitars" (2003)
- "Wordy Rappinghood" (2003) - UK 66
- "Flame On" (with Mika Vainio) (2004)
- "What Was Her Name?" (2004) (Dave Clarke featuring Chicks on Speed) - UK #50
- "Art Rules" (2007)
- "Super Surfer Girl" (2008)
- "10 Years Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary 21-Art Dump" (2012)
- Piers Martin, Chicks on Speed in The Face Vol. 3, No 38, March 2000
- Steven Wells, International Punky Art Rockers: Chicks on Speed in NME, 8 January 2000