Gina X \ Biography
Stylish electro pioneers Gina X Performance formed in 1978, as a collaboration between charismatic singer-lyricist Gina Kikoine and writer-producer-musician Zeus B. Held. Hailing from the German city of Cologne, GXP mixed cool Euro-disco synth pop with an arthouse performance sensibility, and sexually provocative imagery. Their classic singles No G.D.M. and Nice Mover delivered sounds and beats that would dominate the European new wave scene for decades afterwards, and whose influence can still be heard in artists such as Ladytron and Miss Kittin and the Hacker.
The Gina X story begins with producer-musician Zeus B. Held. Having already recorded seven albums with the rock band Birth Control, and somewhat bored with rock mannerisms, in 1978 Held set about creating the ultimate in 'cold' electronic albums, armed with his collection of state-of-the-art sequencers and vocoders. These sessions resulted in two solo sets (Amusement and Europium), as well as the material included on the debut GXP album, Nice Mover.
The concept for Gina X Performance came together after Held was joined by art history student Gina Kikoine. Influenced by avant-rock stalwarts such as Lou Reed and Patti Smith, as well as the art avant-garde, Kikoine came on board as singer, lyricist and all-round conceptual director. Inasmuch as GXP had any kind of explicit manifesto, it was "to create and perform music as part of a total combination of poetry, sounds and visual performance, to entertain, and to provoke thought and reaction." Kikoine also described their creative vision as "the absolute union of music, poetry and travesty."
The Nice Mover sessions continued into 1979 and were co-produced by Held with engineer Martin 'Jimmy' Homberg, and featured a live drummer on several tracks, Lazlo Czigany. The album was released on Crystal Records in the autumn of 1979, and subsequently licensed to EMI Electrola. The classic first single, No G.D.M., appeared in September and showcased Kikoine's much-imitated detached, narrative vocal style, set above a slinky, minimalist floor-filling beat. The song was dedicated to Quentin Crisp, the writer and self-styled 'stately homo', title referring to the unattainable 'great dark man' of his sexual imaginings.
No G.D.M. was a hit first in Austria, GXP making their live debut in Vienna on 1 November 1979, performing with dancers and backing singers in front of 14,000 people on a festival bill shared with Boney M, Clout and Ludwig Hirsch. Both the single and smooth album title track, Nice Mover, made waves across mainland Europe, and also hipper clubs in New York and London. These included the legendary Blitz Club, the epicentre of New Romantic hedonism in London in 1979, while Nice Mover namechecked the infamous Studio 54 in NYC and was memorably compared to Amanda Lear hanging with Kraftwerk at Danceteria. The UK media was slower to catch on, however, able to cope only with one German artist at the time (colourful Nina Hagen), and preferring to cover home-grown electronic acts such as Gary Numan, Cabaret Voltaire and The Human League. In fact, hindsight tells us that contemporaneous new wave electro releases by GXP, Yello, Telex and John Foxx were no less groundbreaking. Put simply, Nice Mover was too far ahead of it's time.
In January 1980 Held and Kikoine attended the Midem conference in Cannes, and signed a licensing deal with EMI. This lead to the album and singles being promoted across Europe, while a Canadian company also bootlegged Be A Boy as a single from cassette and scored a top ten hit. The album also took off in Israel. Variously labeled 'cerebral disco' and 'electronic cabaret', GXP found themselves performing gigs and club PAs across Europe, joined by established performance artist Hinrich Sickenberger.
During 1980 the duo commenced work on the second GXP album, X-traordinaire, which marked a deliberate shift towards a warmer, more orthodox funky sound. The production team of Held and Homberg remained in place, with Zeus now working with PPG synth and sequencer development pioneer Wolfgang D¸ren. New track Do It Yourself found club success as a single, following which X-traordinaire was recorded in the spring and early summer 1980, once again at Cologne's Studio am Dom. The album was released in September. The deliciously funky opening track, Strip Tease, also a single, introduced a brass element, while Opposite Numbers refers back to the darker textures of the debut album. Elsewhere Nowhere Wolf allegedly features real wolves recorded on the Russian Steps, while the ghost of opera singer Enrico Caruso haunts the track Ciao Caruso, inspired by the work of murdered Spanish writer Garcia Lorca. Reviews were mixed, however, and within the GXP nerve centre anxiety grew over whether with X-traordinaire the previously left-field project had moved too far toward the pop mainstream.
In 1981 an increasingly busy Zeus B. Held released a third solo album, Attack Time, and began working with Birmingham-based synth/funk band Fashion, co-writing on and producing their futuristic second album Fabrique, as well as mixing their live sound and playing keyboards from the mixing desk. On their UK tour the following year Fashion were supported by GXP, and Gina would go on to contribute a guest vocal to their minor hit single Love Shadow, released in August 1982.
Also in 1981, GXP began working on a third album. In part a reaction against the overt pop stylings of X-traordinaire, Voyeur was a far more radical affair, with Kikoine and her performance dream team of Ralph Morgenstern and Hinrich Sickenberger free to concoct an album full of futurism and controversy. Stand-out tracks include Hypnosis/Hypnose and Babylon Generation, while Hom Intern and Pederast Dissection added shock value. The provocative cover art was the work German artist M.A.F. Räderscheidt: an apparently plain black cover features a tiny peephole, through which an abstract colour squiggle is visible. Remove the inner sleeve and - lo! - the voyeur is rewarded with a graphic image of gay sex.
Once more media reactions were mixed. The most euphoric noises came from the French music journalists, where Voyeur sold most copies and was supported by a string of gigs in hip night clubs in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Reims. Elsewhere the album was barely heard, and there was no accompanying single.
Indeed Gina X Performance would release no more records. In 1983 Kikoine duetted with Billy McKenzie on a version of The Best of You during early sessions for the album Perhaps, only to be replaced by Annie Lennox. But neither version appeared on the finished album in 1985. In 1984 Kikoine returned with the album Yinglish on Statik, again co-written and co-produced with Held, but credited simply to Gina X. Adopting a softer sound and image, the featured singles were covers of Drive My Car (The Beatles) and Harley Davidson (Serge Gainsbourg with Brigitte Bardot), while initial copies of the album came with a free disc of remixes. Backed by guitarist and sound-artist Dierk Hill, Gina performed a string of international shows, including Camden Palace (London), Les Bains Douches (Paris) and Danceteria (New York), and while in NYC finally met Quentin Crisp, the two becoming friends and correspondents thereafter. Her singular version of Drive My Car was heard in many European and American clubs, and Yinglish gained some exposure on German, French and UK television, including an appearance on The Tube to promote Harley Davidson, but five years after No G.D.M. defined an entire genre almost by accident, the fourth and final Gina X album lost out to the competition.
No G.D.M. and Nice Mover remain turntable favourites in electro clubs and on genre compilations such as The 9 O'Clock Drop (Andrew Weatherall) and Music From Hell (DJ Hell), and through these reissued albums you can hear the whole story. Since the golden age of GXP, hyperactive Zeus B. Held has produced a dazzling array of artists, including John Foxx, Dead or Alive, Nina Hagen, Win, Die Krupps, Spear of Destiny and Transvision Vamp, while Gina Kikoine lives in Germany, still active within the art scene as a writer and organiser.