It probably takes a fair bit to make Jello Biafra blush, but one of the great pleasures of his 55th-birthday bash, last June at the Rickshaw, was seeing the notoriously loquacious punk frontman reduced to fidgety silence as Ani Kyd sat him centre stage and serenaded him with “The Sex Song”, by her band Fuel Injected .45. Between Kyd’s throaty descriptions of wanting to suck her target’s dick and her provocative gyrations, it sure seemed like she had the upper hand.
“That’s the way I like it.” Kyd smiles brightly at JJ Bean on Commercial Drive, where she sits sipping tea without milk. She keeps her jacket zipped during the conversation, her multiple tattoos hidden from sight. “He had no idea that was coming—but we’ve been friends for a long time, and we can harass and joke with each other.”
Kyd’s friendship with the Alternative Tentacles label head was one of the more solid aspects of her life during a tumultuous 2013. Her marriage to makeup FX man Toby Lindala crashed and burned less than a year into it. Shortly thereafter, in April, a good friend killed himself; and her adult son was hospitalized for a month. The stress of it all saw Kyd lose 40 pounds.
“I was pretty devastated by my breakup,” she explains. “I didn’t sleep. I barely ate. Anyone who has been through a painful breakup will know you have to do something to keep your mind occupied. So I created art, I worked out, and in that process I ended up losing a whole bunch of weight.” She credits being vegan and gluten-free with having kept it off. “As an artist—we make art when we’re in pain, so I created music. I wrote scripts—I wrote comedy! Dark comedy. I put my head to the grindstone and worked really hard. This is how I stayed sane and alive.”
Entangle, Kyd’s new EP, was released for digital download by Alternative Tentacles on January 7. Fans of Kyd’s growling vocals for Fuel Injected .45—which once provoked her grandma to observe “That’s not you, that’s a fella!”—might be surprised to hear her voice in the context of Entangle’s trip-hoppy torch songs. “I’ve never really been into squeaky female voices,” she says with a laugh. While Kyd acknowledges her respect for singers like Billie Holiday, the influences on her vocal style on Entangle have more to do with Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, or Chuck D. “I know that sounds really bizarre—but I love the way he expresses himself and the thickness and fullness of his voice. I always wanted to do that vocally, to have that power and not waver.”
Three of Kyd’s musical collaborators on Entangle are local. Stephen Hamm cowrote and plays the music for “Virus”, “Paralyzed”, and “Love Again”, sounding more like a member of Massive Attack than the former bassist for Vancouver grunge legends Slow and Tankhog. Damien Wallace, who wrote the music for “Taking a Leap”, is “an amazing photographer, a composer, an inventor of crazy stuff—his Land Cruiser actually runs on water; it’s insane. He’s an amazing motorcycle mechanic, too.” He first got to know Kyd when working on one of her Harley-Davidsons. And multitalented Marc L’Esperance—who is himself an ex Mr. Kyd, though he and Ani have remained friends and collaborators since their 1994 marriage ended—cowrote and plays all instruments on the album’s heaviest number, “Put the Lies Away”.
The most curious track on Entangle, however, is “Box of Broken Toys”, which Kyd describes as a “really fucked-up song” about “manipulation” and how humans are interchangeable to those who use them. The music—twisted, bleepy, and Residents-like—is by Ralph Spight, of Victims Family and Jello Biafra’s backing band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine. “When I went down to Coachella to see them, that’s when my friend had died, and Ralph was really supportive. He lives in San Francisco, I live here, but we talk on the phone and he was doing all these little bits and pieces of music on his computer, and I said, ‘Send them!’ This one, I said, ‘Can I put vocals on it?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ ” The two swapped files back and forth, with Spight adding guitar tracks alongside Kyd’s vocals.
Beginning with that track, Kyd will be bringing her multimedia skills to bear on music videos for at least three of these songs. She has various other video projects in the works too. Jello Biafra, who stole the show in Kyd’s debut as director, I Love You… I Am the Porn Queen, is onboard as costar and coauthor of Tales From the Goat Cave, a series that Kyd is shopping to a major network in the U.S., about “a couple of people and their punk-rock world”. She’s done a pilot for The P.I. Experiment—a comedy about a group of misfit private investigators. And Kyd is developing The Vegan Road Show, “a motorcycle road trip show going from restaurant to restaurant in 13 different cities, all across the U.S., 10,000 miles, two hosts”.
“I’m doing okay now—I’m happy, and I’m glad this release is coming out. The last year has taught me a lot about myself,” she says. Kyd is contemplating the idea of relocating in 2014, moving closer to her label and her collaborators. She may not do that—but wherever she ends up, she’ll have plenty to keep her busy.