My Top 10 Albums: Zena Davine of Queen Zee
Queen Zee are the breakout band of 2019.
The Liverpool band are on the verge of big things and their new album is getting rave reviews.
They are also playing the Membranes and Friends festival at Manchester Ritz on Saturday June 8th (info on the event here) with Membranes plus choir, Henge, and Glove and two more bands. Best get your ticket now as this event will sell out .
Described as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show on steroids” by BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart, whilst Iggy Pop commented “Strange people from Liverpool. I don’t wanna say they’re dirty, they look a little weird, but they rock like crazy”
Queen Zee are set to release their explosive self-titled debut album on the 8th February 2019 via the band’s own Sasstone Records, the release will be supported by a short UK tour, the majority of which has already sold out; there are numerous festival dates in the summer including a debut appearance at the Rebellion Festival (Tickets)
Ahead of the release we took the opportunity to chat to vocalist Zene about the albums that influenced her, the albums that are still played, the albums that perhaps even sign-post the roots of Queen Zee. As ever, we restricted the choices to just 10 which are presented in no particular order:
The Prodigy “Fat of the Land” (XL Recordings) Rel. June 1997
This is the closest I get to an all time favourite record. I remember when ‘Invaders Must Die’ came out, I was about 14/15, and suddenly The Prodigy where everywhere again. My mum was a massive super fan, and had even been to Glasto to see them while she was pregnant with me. But I’d never really paid any attention, and it wasn’t until I saw a feature of them in NME for that touring cycle, that I went “wow who the fuck is this”.
They just looked so fucking weird. I instantly dug out “Fat of the Land” and “Experience” from my mums collection and just had my mind totally blown. I had never had an interest in music until then, because it had never been able to grab my very short attention span. But “Fat of the Land” is so high energy, so quick in how it changes from one idea to the next, aggressive yet danceable. It is definitely my biggest inspiration and the thing that gave me the push to making music. I decided I wanted to be a drummer, and spent hours drumming away on pillows in my bedroom learning every Prodigy song.
Rocky Horror Picture Show ‘Original Soundtrack’ (Ode Records) Rel. 1975
I heard Tom Robinson say once that good art makes you go “what the fuck is that”. Nothing seems truer to me. I am always looking for that moment of “oh fuck” when I listen to something. Whether it’s the song writing or the content of it, the visuals, the anger, the beauty. I want it to do something to me. So when I was 8 or 9 my Nan (who loved horror and often made me watch stuff like The Exorcist when I was a child) sat me in front of The Rocky Horror Picture show and I just went. That’s me! It was like a light switch went on, the horror, the glamour, the dirt, it’s so wrong it’s right. With the added gender bending it was perfect. If I was stranded on an island with one record, it would be the soundtrack to this.
ABBA ‘The Best Of’ (RCA / Polydor) Rel. 1975
Obviously I’m not into ABBA for the albums. I couldn’t name one. But the song writing is outta this world! I always cringed at my punk friends resilience to pop music, because when I listened to the Ramones, Buzzcocks, Misfits it was all pop to me. Big chorus’, catchy hooks, sing along moments.
I love ABBA because it’s pure instant gratification, there’s nothing to it, just massive chorus’ and that’s all I want yanno.
You’ll find me at your mums disco, two glasses of secco deep singing “GIMME GIMME GIMME”. It’s just good, stop fighting it.
Idles ‘Brutalism’ (Balley Records) Rel. March 2017
To me at least, this is a modern classic. I could have picked either of Idles’ records, but purely out of an initial response. When I first heard “Well Done” I was hooked. We are such a serious generation with such a massive sense of humour. We are the meme generation, and yet the same generation that know nothing other than post 9/11, Tory government, post-Iraq War, Terror, Austerity England.
Put into perspective, Queen Zee as a band is younger than Brexit. We’ve never existed outside of that climate. So to us, and myself, a band like Idles touch a nerve.
That’s why they had a No.3 chart record with “Joy as an act of Resistance”. But they had that magic on Bristolian as well, they were just maybe not in enough of a position to watch it explode as much. They capture the absurdity of our modern lives, with an important and beautiful message, and have the ability to laugh in its face. They are a truly legendary band already, I don’t know where they go from here.
Beastie Boys ‘Ill Communication’ (Grand Royal / Capitol Records) Rel. May 1994
I stole this record from my Mum as I was getting into punk. I’d heard they were a hardcore band and seen old flyers of them playing with Bad Brains and Minor Threat. But then these flute samples start, drum machines, fuckin’ bongos. My little ten year old mind was blown.
It’s an important lesson that Punk is an ethos and energy. If you try to restrict it to a formula or a genre it’s just gonna age and fade. Beastie Boys may have gone on to be a hip-hop outfit, but they took that energy and ethos with them. It just lead them on to be great songwriters ‘cos there’s no bullshit there. Punk makes you strip everything down, musically it’s got to be there for a reason. “Why is there a solo? I don’t know? Okay get rid of it” It’s a good philosophy, it’s kinda perfecting a song through being imperfect in a traditional sense.
‘Turbonegro ‘Party Animals’ (Burning Heart Records) Rel. April 2005
This has got to be a serious contender for best punk record ever hasn’t it? It’s just hit after hit.
For me personally Turbo has sat between glam, garage and punk. It’s a bit New York Dolls, it’s a bit Black Flag, it’s a bit Stooges and it’s got the tounge in cheek. This record nails that formula so fucking hard. It’s a perfect record to me, it’s big and glam, you can sing along like a real twat. But it’s also gnarly and raw and aggressive. I’d say this record more than any other has influenced Queen Zee.
Run the Jewels ‘Run the Jewels (II)’ (Mass Appeal Records) Rel. Oct 2014
Lyrically El-P and Killer Mike are just stand out talents. I love this record, it’s a fun listen. I can play it to death and not get bored.
It still gives me the “holy fuck” moments with lyrics like “and where the fuck the warden, and we find him we won’t kill him, we’ll just waterboard him, we’re killing them for freedom cos they tortured us for boredom, perhaps some good ones die, but fuck it the lord will sort them”.
You’re just left like, fuckkkkk. They don’t pull any punches, they don’t hold back, they don’t censor. It’s content puts it in my top records ever, and the production of it keeps it there. The songs are just well written, it’s that simple. The soundscape is modern, it’s not throwing back to flute loops and strings, yet it’s retro in the sense of it isn’t following big hip-hop trends right now. They’ve never ventured into Trap, or tried to mimic the flow that are racking up millions (cough Migos) and I think it pays off. It’s unique, yet not obscure enough to be considered niche.
G.L.O.S.S. ‘Demo’ (Sabotage Records) Rel. January 2015
G.L.O.S.S. (AKA Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) It’s not an album, it’s not even ten minutes long but fuck me sideways and call me Britney. What a rager. It’s all the aggression the queer community has felt expelled in one minute segments and it’s just pure power. As a trans person it’s the most empowering piece of music you’ll ever hear, lyrically holding nothing back, musically relentless. It’s a beautiful powerful trans rage.
This is the only vinyl record I’ve ever bought, I don’t have a record player, I just wanted to hold it. Unfortunately they split up before I could see them, and yet I kind of love the legacy of “we got offered a big record deal so we’ve split up”.
Marilyn Manson ‘Mechanical Animals’ (Nothing / Interscope Records) Rel. September 1998
As I keep saying I’m always looking for that “what the fuck” moment when I listen to music. I want it to grab me. When I was 14, I had this album poster on my wall and I would stare at it like “what the …”. When you’re trans, you never have many idols that look like you. It’s hard being a teenager cos everyone wants to be Britney or Justin and you’re left like. Fuck, Britney doesn’t have a dick what the fuck am I. So you start to create your own idols.
I latched onto boys that looked girls and girls that looked like boys. It was androgyny that I was really looking for. I definitely found that in Marilyn Manson. He was everything I liked about post-punk and the 80’s synth wave but on steroids. New Model on this record is one of my top 3 tunes ever and I feel this is maybe the most artistically credible Manson ever was. Often getting lost in his own “brand” which I think really devalued and overshadowed a lot of the great music and ideas he had. This record had as a gospel element to it, a post-rock element, it was electronic yet also punk. You Could appreciate it if you liked The Human League or Fear Factory. A lot of that credit got lost in his own egotistical nonsense.
Gary Numan ‘The Pleasure Principle’ (Beggers Banquet) Rel. September 1979
I’m just a Gary Numan super fan and this is “the” record. Numan always stood out to me as a lot weirder than most of the 80’s pop that was around him. I always feel as if he set a bit of a trend that people tried to follow.
There is nothing more cringe worthy than performative weirdness. Yet what made Numan so weird was he was so normal. For a start his name is Gary. He never felt the need to change his name to Obsidian. Yet ‘Pleasure Principle’ is a strange record. His voice is haunting, a really strange quality to it that can only be Gary Numan.
The songs are absolute masterpieces, his vision and drive to experiment means that today he is still writing great records. A lot can be said about an artist who doesn’t have to cash in on nostalgia tours and has fans turning up after 30/40 years to hear the new record. I hope I can age as well as Numan has done, it’s a lesson for all of us.”
“Queen Zee” is released Friday 8th February, the album available on CD, LP, Ltd Edition LP and Cassette can be ordered direct from the Queen Zee Shop
The tour commences on the 12th February at Hyde Park, Leeds, and takes in dates in Bristol, London, Brightom, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham before concluding at Yes, Manchester on the 23rd February.