She once had an opening act who used his junk as percussion
Frank Gonzalo Muñoz. He is fantastic. He played with me for a very long time. He played the saw on two of my records [Dogs and The Blackened Air], actually, before he went and joined a circus in LA as a clown. And I’ll tell you how he got in. We actually had him do a show with us, a sort of opening routine. He came out on stage with a T-shirt wrapped around his head like a Spanish bullfighter and just a towel around his waist. He has a guy with him playing the Spanish guitar, and the guy takes the towel and pulls it off with a ‘Hola!’ and there’s nothing underneath apart from a tiny towel, like a square. Then Frank starts singing and you can hear him slapping up against his thighs. Can you imagine? We had to mic his ‘wollallas’ before our show. The sound guy was like, ‘What does he need for his act?’ ‘Just one mic in front of his dick. That’s all he needs.’ Haha. And that’s how he got into the circus. He’s funny.
She once baked bread for seventy people in a desert
I love to cook, and I like cooking in stressful environments for some reason. I’m really terribly chaotic and unorganised. I don’t know where things are, or what anything is, and then I start shouting. I love it. A few years ago I was a cook at camp for Burning Man. That’s a cruel environment. It’s just unbearably hot. And there are sandstorms that happen so you have to wear goggles. We did have an army – a lot of people – and I was in charge of baking the bread. It’s kind of a remarkable place. Fifty thousand people gathering at a spot that has nothing living on it – nothing, just cracked earth; that’s it – right in the middle of the desert. And you have to bring your own water, your own food. It’s crazy.
The thing I love most about it is the artwork. There are pieces that are so big that they can’t really be shown anywhere else. You can go to Burning Man and anything goes. You can express your individuality. I mean, there’s definitely a dress code; all the girls have their tutus and strap socks and bras. And you know, it’s a lot of techno music which is fine but it becomes kind of samey when you’re there for a week or two weeks. I would actually really like to go back. And I would love to learn how to cook. I mean, really learn. It’s so much fun.
If you listen closely to her first album, Dogs, you can hear the bass player swearing
When we played our first record back to back on vinyl and CD, it’s amazing how much more you can hear on the vinyl. We really like to screw up a lot on our records. You can actually hear the bass player’s ‘Fuck!’ when he screws up on one of the songs. Really listen!
She only recently learned how to ride a bike
I’m such a late bloomer in a lot of ways. I find that some things that appear simple for a lot of people are harder for me. It takes me a really long time to get comfortable with some things, certainly in music. Sometimes I wish I had a hundred years to really get good on the guitar, and get comfortable with performing. That would be really helpful. And learn how to do interviews better. And other stuff. Like, I only recently learned how to ride a bicycle for the first time. It was really hard. It was at [Outlaster arranger] Paul Bryan’s house in Los Angeles and he was helping me, assuming that I was just going to be a little wobbly. By the end he was like, ‘Wow, you really don’t know how to ride a bike.’ I looked like I had been in a horrible car accident by the end. I got all bruised up but I loved it anyway. I was like, oh my god, this is why people do it. Flying down the street. It’s incredible.
She doesn’t think she’s funny
Sometimes I don’t think I have a very good sense of humour. Sometimes I don’t know when something is funny until it has passed. Somebody can be really dry and I’ll just, you know, not catch it at all. I can be stupid like that. I’d love to be funny. I think that’s such a great thing to do. To do something that makes people smile. I think if I could, that’s what I would do.
Her surname is Calabrian
A lot of people assume that my surname is Greek but it’s actually Italic. Calabrian. I have never been there. People ask me what Calabria is known for and the only answer I have is ‘Kidnapping!’. And the Nastasias, I guess. Haha. My dad’s father was from Calabria but he never talked about it. It was kind of taboo actually. I kind of want to try and get that family tree happening because I would love to go and try and see if anyone is still around.
Her great aunt once got stuck in the Statue of Liberty
My father was born in New Jersey. I don’t know much about his childhood; all I know is that he came from a family with not a lot of money and not a great relationship between his mother and father. As I understand it, it was pretty horrible, but he talked about his aunt a lot. She was a big support to him. This is a really silly story but he told it so often. His aunt would take him up to the Statue of Liberty because she came to America in search of liberty, or something. Anyway, she was a really big woman and one day she went she got stuck in the spiral staircase between the elbow and the wrist. My dad said it caused a huge panic as people couldn’t go up or down, and finally they had to grease her side and pop her out. He loved that story.
Her father once took LSD for a headache
My parents were pretty fantastic. I only recently found out that my father wanted to be an artist when he was a young man – a painter – before he became a teacher. He basically wanted to check out society so he bought a van, drove to Mexico and lived in it. It’s pretty funny. I didn’t know that guy at all! My mother was a medical technologist, and worked really hard, but she was also a photographer. Growing up with the two of them was really great. I was very lucky to have a lot of different kinds of people in the house all of the time. A lot of artists. People, mostly students, would hang out there and smoke weed and stuff, but never my parents. And my poor dad he would get these horrible headaches from the smoke. One day a student offered him something to help with his headache. It turned out to be LSD! Haha. My poor dad. He would probably have rolled over in his ashes if he knew that I was telling that story. When my mum told me that story she was like, ‘Oh my god. Don’t tell your dad that I told you that!’ – can you imagine? Haha.
Her grandmother made her want to be a nun
My grandmother was an Irish Catholic who went to church every Sunday. She was such a strong, big woman. She did her rosaries and everything. I just adored her and would go with her all the time. Then, after church, we would hang out and eat doughnuts. That was really exciting. I actually wanted to be a nun for a very brief while. Mostly because of my grandmother, thought I think that maybe [1960s US sitcom] ‘The Flying Nun’ factored into it too. I actually don’t know what the appeal would have been. I have very vague memories of getting my first Communion and priest asking me to make my first confession, to tell him a sin, and I couldn’t think of anything. I was too young. I hadn’t done anything! I mean, is to disobey your parents a sin?
Then after a while, of course, I realised that I coudn’t buy into that lifestyle. I was really sinning then, as a teenager. I remember my mother trying hard to keep me in public school because she felt like it would be kind of hypocritical of our family to send me to a private school. But then when she realised I was getting zero education at the public school, she put me in her old school, a convent school, in Los Angeles. I can’t remember if there was any serious worry on her part though. I actually don’t know why they felt they needed to move me. I was pretty naïve. But anyway, I lucked out. The nuns didn’t even wear habits!
Nina plays The Macbeth in London tonight, and Whelans in Dublin tomorrow.
Tagged nina nastasia