The early years of Lora Logic have been well documented, given a tenor sax at thirteen by her dad she answered an ad in the music press and in 1976 joined X-Ray Spex while only fifteen. She played on the debut single ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’ and the Live at the Roxy album (from what I remember one of the highpoints) and arranges all the sax parts for X-Ray Spex first album, Germ Free Adolescents, before being ejected from the band.
Disillusioned with the music industry Lora entered St Martins Art College to study photography, while there she recorded ‘Aerosol Burns’ and ‘World Friction’ and formed Essential Logic. Their first single was released in 1978 with an EP, ‘Wake Up’ released the following year along with the first album Beat Rhythm News. In 1980 the band released four singles alongside extensive gigging.
Alongside Essential Logic Lora worked with The Stranglers, Red Crayola, The Raincoats, Scritti Politti, Swell Maps and Dennis Bovell and acted in, and composed music for, the film Crystal Gazing released in 1982, the same year her solo album Pedigree Charm was released.
Around 1980 Lora encountered an old friend who has become involved with the Hare Krishna movement and found the teachings answered questions she ‘had buried’. She moved into the Soho Street Temple, Bhaktivedant Manor and Chaitanya College in Worcestershire for several years. In 1984 Lora started recording again and in 1995 teamed up again with Poly Styrene for a short lived X-Ray Spex reunion which produced the acclaimed album Conscious Consumer.
Lora continued to record and in 2003 Kill Rock Stars released a 2 CD compilation Fanfare in the Garden. I bought Fanfare in the Garden having heard a few Essential Logic and Lora Logic tracks and was completely amazed by the innovation and imagination. Park up all your reference points Essential Logic truly were original, one of the best examples of the bringing of avant-garde experimentation into pop culture that Gavin Butt identifies as a hallmark of post punk (1).
In the last couple of years Lora has been working on a new album and then a few weeks ago released a lead single/video, ‘Alien Boys’ from her new album Land of Kali and announced the November release of a 5 vinyl album box collection Logically Yours on Hiss and Shake Records which will include Beat Rhythm News, Pedigree Charm, two compilation albums (Aerosol Burns and Other Misdemeanors and No More Fiction) plus the new album. Listening to it is a reminder of just how surprising Essential Logic/Lora Logic were, I hadn’t heard the 1980 single ‘Eugene’ before, amazing! ‘Music is a Better Noise’, ‘Moontown’ ‘Fanfare in the Garden’, superb, soaring marvels. Hopefully at some point there may be a CD release?
The new album Land of Kali is a grower, it has a different sound to her early work of course and lyrically reflects Lora’s Vaishnava cosmology and faith. The first track is a new version of ‘Prayer for Peace’, a track originally recorded on Conscious Consumer, the song features Lora’s sax playing which really lifts the track; mellow and very beautiful.
Next track up is the lead single ‘Alien Boys’, Lora comments in the press release ‘A fun song with unnerving undertones. On planet lock down, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that normal people are being threatened by different kinds of alien boys with alien toys, propelling us into a dystopian future’ (2), great track.
The next three tracks. ‘Mother Earth’, ‘Never Know’ and ‘Charming Every Cupid’ are mellower, quite ethereal with elements of the latter track ‘Charming Every Cupid’ linking the new album back to Lora’s older material.
Side 2 starts with ‘Sky Rocket’ co-written with her daughter Malini, reflects on ‘the fairground of life’ (2). Next track ‘Serious’ is a bit of a rocker, again those Essential Logic vocals and sax are present, drawing you in. Good news is Lora’s voice has held up, her sax playing is still transcendent. My favourite track.
Title track, ‘Land of Kali’ starts with Lora’s sax and is cleverly juxtapositioned with the previous mellower track ‘Fallible Soldiers’ as this accentuates the driving rhythm and sax of ‘Land of Kali’. Again Lora’s voice sounds great. ‘Beyond’ starts with a bit of a disco thing going on and is basically a worship song (I think) and again features Lora’s sax playing.
You need to reorientate yourself a little when listening to Land of Kali, if you are hoping for Beat Rhythm News Part 2 this isn’t it because people move on, change, evolve but interestingly the more you listen to it the more there are certainly elements of continuity between Lora’s earlier work and this new album. Approach it on its own terms and you can appreciate it as a fine body of work from an artist who can still deliver.
Intrigued and enthralled by Lora’s early Essential Logic and solo work and with the news of a new release I contacted her and the ensuing interview is fascinating.
E&D: Essential Logic were a post punk Henry Cow, a prequel to Bjork; beautiful, innovative, avant-garde art with vocals and structures that force you to reimagine what music can be. Artists who make music a bigger thing. Was that how it felt at the time, were you aware of how imaginative Essential Logic were?
LL: My first experience of being in a band was with X Ray Spex and my first gig was at the Roxy Club in early 1977. So being surrounded by individuals who expressed themselves unrestrictively in such a variety of ways, not caring for genre or boundaries, set the creative norm for me. Going on to form Essential Logic I expressed myself as I heard the ideas in my head without thinking too much about it. It was quite spontaneous. I didn’t feel the need to channel the early songs into a conventional verse/chorus/middle eight type structure, they just flowed from lyrics, sax and vocal melodies.
E&D: In the early 1980s you joined the Hare Krishna movement, could you explain the context and reasons around that decision? You stayed at the Hare Krishna centre for a few years, didn’t you? How did faith help you at the time. Did it give you a new environment, codes of conduct, focus, community at a time when you needed those things? A structure for living so you could heal? How about now? Had you had a spiritual awareness as you travelled through punk and post punk? Was that disregard for the status quo an expression of searching for something deeper, a discontent with the superficial? Or did your encounter with faith surprise you?
LL: In the early eighties I started a totally new chapter! It was a culmination of a few things which led to a personal meltdown. I was feeling jaded by the years of so-called rock and roll lifestyle. Living in a Stoke Newington squat without a kitchen or bathroom for an extended period of time didn’t help. We used to go to an old Victorian public bath house to wash. You could spend as long as you wanted in a massive bathtub for 50 pence, which we thought was costly. My physical health wasn’t great and there was no-one around me who did not use drugs.
There was some kind of seeker in me since childhood which was buried. At the age of twelve I remember saying a prayer every night before I went to sleep; ‘Oh God, if you really do exist then please always guide me to do the right thing’. I don’t know why I did that, because I did not grow up in a God conscious family.
In 1980 an old school friend and hardcore punk-ess moved into the Soho Krishna temple and I bumped into her gleefully singing and dancing with the Hare Krishnas on the Portobello Road . She was dressed in a sari and had yellow tilak (river ganges clay) on her forehead. I was surprised and worried about her, and so decided to visit the temple to rescue her, but found myself happily overwhelmed by the experience. The strong peace and zest for life which radiated from the Krishnadevotees and the delicious free vegetarian feast. I’d never experienced such an exquisite variety of tastes. I soon started to visit at lunch times which included an introductory talk on the Bhagavad Gita, which bowled me over as this ancient knowledge seemed to have perfect answers to the questions which I had buried. These teachings have been my compass since 1981 when i was first handed ‘The Science of Self-realisation’ by Srila Prabhupada. Not only my best school friend, but Poly Styrene’s closest friend, Mary, had also moved into the temple and she was soon to invite me to Bhaktivedanta Manor, ( a rural country estate and temple) which George Harrison had gifted to Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual preceptor of the Hare Krishna Movement in the Western World.
While recording Pedigree Charm I also had a life changing, out of body experience. Having smoked something way too strong in a Brixton den, it triggered an intense epileptic fit, which left me shaking uncontrollably. I remember being placed on a stark wooden bed and rising dramatically above my trembling body, looking down on it in terror. I thought everything was over. Time stood still, and instinctively I started talking in earnest to Krishna, because, from reading the Bhagavad Gita I knew that He had to be the Supreme Person, who controls everything, including my fate.
The song ‘Serious’ on the new ‘Land of Kali’ album is about this near death experience.
“I’ll be more serious if you let me stay,
I’ll be more serious no more floating away.”
A few months later I left my squat home and moved into the Soho Street temple. I’ve never regretted that decision, spending time also at Bhaktivedant Manor and Chaitanya College in Worcestershire for about three and a half years.
Meditative mornings started early at 4.30 am which took a little readjustment! But I soon learnt to love the special quality and inspiration found in the early morning hours, and this is still my favourite time of day. At school I’d never been so interested in reading books, and took any opposite direction to escape enforced academics, being more artistically inclined by nature. However, while living in the temple, I developed a taste for reading and group discussion of the timeless knowledge of the Vedas (the literal meaning of this sanskrit word is knowledge), of which the Bhagavad Gita is the essence and most well known, since it was sung by Krishna Himself and goes to the root of the meaning of existence. Alongside this, we would chant the Hare Krishna mantra on a string of 108 wooden japa beads. In Sanskrit ‘Man’ means mind, and ‘tra’ means to free. The purpose of this mantra is to reconnect with the Supreme, and a side effect is to free the mind from anxiety.
When Poly and I lived in the temple together she wrote a song called ‘musical medicine’ about the healing, transformative power of the Hare Krishna mantra. It was a nourishing time to be linked to the powerhouse of ancient spiritual practices, with a culture based on equality and respect, which was refreshing after the shallow posturing of fame, and the obsession with superficial identity.
E&D: The new album is steeped in Hinduism which for those of us from a non Hindu background makes it a little difficult to navigate at times, could you explain what Kali represents on the album and what ‘Land of Kali’ means. Is it a Dystopian idea?
LL: ‘Kali’ is the name of the age we are currently living in, described in the Vedas (which are also the oldest wisdom texts known to man). It is explained that the universe goes through four cycles, like the seasons, over billions of years. The age of Kali is the final, and most problematic era, characterised by quarrel and hypocrisy, which I think everyone can relate to. You only have to listen to the news headlines for five minutes! The symptoms and effects of this Kali age, described in vivid detail, are becoming increasingly pervasive. It is also explained that the root cause of our problems is disconnection from the Divine source, lacking awareness of our eternal identity as part and parcel of the Supreme whole. According to the Vedas, the darkness of Kali can be counteracted by the simple and sublime process of mantra (chanting or singing the names of the Supreme Person, as they are invested with inconceivable power). Mantra appears on three tracks on the new album.
E&D: Forty years since your last album and twenty five years since your last recordings (released on Fanfare in the Garden), do you feel the new album has a sense of continuity with your earlier work or is it better approached as the work of a very different person? Do the lyrical preoccupations of original Essential Logic recordings re-emerge on the new album even if expressed in a different way for a different time?
LL: I guess I have always been a questioning punk, wanting to break out of the box of conformity and blind acceptance. I would say that this questioning of the prevailing mythos which surfaces in early songs like ‘Wake Up’, ‘Martian Man’ and ‘Brute Fury’ carries over into new album songs like ‘Land of Kali’, ‘Fallible Soldiers’ and ‘Sky Rocket’. More esoteric tracks like ‘Love eternal’, ‘Stay High’ and ‘Soul’ resonate with ‘Beyond’ and ‘Charming Every Cupid’ from the new album. Over the decades I think you can find threads of continuity, even though the most recent music, co-produced with Youth, may initially sound strikingly different. When I listen to the boxset, as the singer, I hear the stepping stones and emotional journey of the person I have now become.
E&D: Could you expand on lead single ‘Alien Boys’, it came out of a sense of lockdown being used by some politicians to advance their own agendas, didn’t it?
LL: ‘Alien Boys’ is a scenario exploring the idea of being asked to surrender the technology, gadgets and life style we’ve become accustomed to- ‘the end of my world is coming now’. Portrayed comically in the video, directed by Kavi Karnapurna Das, the alien boys are a bit hypocritical as they themselves make full use of technology for running their spacecraft, and are not exactly peace loving. The same elite class of individuals telling us we should give all this up, are themselves flying around the world, attending conventions, in gas guzzling private jets. Similarly during lockdown, in the UK, we found out that the same politicians and their advisers who had created stringent lockdown rules, were themselves not following them.
E&D: There is great footage of you playing sax with The Raincoats in 2019, can we look forward to more Lora Logic appearances?
LL: Yes, I am currently forming a new band incarnation of Essential Logic and hoping this will lead to future appearances …
Much thanks to Lora for time taken.
Logically Yours a limited edition, 5 x LP boxset of 50 essential recordings from Essential Logic/Lora Logic is released on 25th November via Hiss and Shake Records and is available here.
Land of Kali is also out 25th November and is available here.
(1) Butt, Gavin. 2016b. Being in a Band: Art-school Experiment and the Post-Punk Commons – a Lecture by Gavin Butt (16/10/14) in Gavin Butt, Kodwo Eshun and Mark Fisher, eds, Post-Punk: Then and Now, (London: Repeater Books), pp. 57-83.
(2) 9PR press release for Logically Yours/Land of Kali
Gross, Jason (2003) ‘Essential Logic, Interview by Jason Gross, (July 2003)’, https://www.furious.com/perfect/essentiallogic.html
9PR press release for Logically Yours/Land of Kali
Greil Marcus’ liner notes to Fanfare in the Garden.
Crystal Gazing (1982) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083773/
Marcus, Griel (2003) ‘Are You Ready To Fly?’, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2003/may/09/artsfeatures