Lisa King of The Hot Place takes a moment off from multitasking, and sits down with DJ Hermes Helena to talk about her debut album The Language of Birds, her artist-owned label No Big Wheel Records, the creative process, her vintage gear, and the challenges of working Analog in a Digital world.

(Click here to download an mp3 of the Audio Commentary)

Stream the interview on YouTube! Part one is  HERE and Part two is  HERE.

DJ: Well, this must be new for you. You're usually on this side of the microphone.


LK: (Laughs) Yeah, I'm quite used to being the one asking all of the questions. Now I suppose I'll have to take the proverbial dose of my own medicine. So, please be gentle!


DJ: So, you went into one of the most exclusive recording studios in Atlanta, (Southern Tracks Recording) sandwiched in between sessions by Mastodon, Bruce Springsteen, and Faith Hill, and made a record? How did you pull that off?


LK: Very carefully!

DJ: Do tell...


LK: Well, I actually have a lot of experience recording in my own little project studio, and I have been making my own recordings for a long time. Although most people have never heard any of my personal studio work, I was playing some of it one day for Jeff Calder of Atlanta band The Swimming Pool Q's, whose ears perked up at a few songs, and he encouraged me to really dig in, focus, and pull together enough material for an album. I had been playing keyboards/percussion and touring with The Q's in the early 00's, which included a live gig on air at XM Satellite Radio Studios, (now Sirius Xm Radio) and I was filmed with the band on Broadcast TV playing the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards show.

I was also playing keys with The Glenn Phillips Band, so I was accumulating a lot of amazing live musicianship. At the time, I was able to focus 100% of my time to becoming a better instrumentalist on guitar, bass, and singing.  I've been writing songs since I was in high school and college. I played bass in a band when I was 14 called Grave Shift and I spent my college years playing in Atlanta band Unminded. I actually started playing piano when I was around 5, and so I guess I've been writing songs all of my life. But, anyway, Jeff picked up the red pen, and helped me to arrange a large body of material spanning several decades of songwriting.  I asked him if he would be interested in producing my project at Southern Tracks. Well, to make a long story longer, he said “Yes,” and we set out right away working whenever we could at the studio. The late Mike Clark was very integral in helping me set up shop and feel welcome at the studio, and I'll always be very grateful to him. With the guidance of Calder, and the dedication of several amazing engineers such as Greg "Fern" Quesnel, Tom Tapley and our Fifth Beatle Steven Morrison, who were working at the studio at the time, we made a record!


DJ: Did you ever bump into Bruce or other musicians while you were there?


LK: While I never met The Boss there, I did bump into many, many amazingly talented people in the long span it took to make this record. Southern Tracks was a very busy place at the time, and I had to squeeze in whenever I could work. Sometimes very odd hours. As a result, it took almost 2 years to make the record, some people were starting to believe the project was just a mythological puff of smoke, and refused to acknowledge it really existed while I was working! I don't think any local publications slated us as officially recording an album there, unfortunately, but that's what happens when you dig in and work on a big project like that. It seems a bit unreal and fantastical to some of the outsiders looking in, and it takes a lot of dedication and follow through to do it right and get it finished.


Southern Tracks Recording, The Hot Place recording sessions, 2011. Photo by Lisa King



DJ: How did you get The Hot Place together as a band? How did you go from demos to a solid act?


LK: Well, as I mentioned, I was playing live with The Swimming Pool Q's, and Jeff and I had been working out some of my songs together with him playing guitar, and me playing the bass.


DJ: Sorry to interrupt, but talk a bit about your exotic choice of instruments as well...


LK: Oh yeah! Well, on my home demos, I'm playing everything...drums, bass, guitar, percussion, keyboards, singing...and Jeff started learning some of my guitar parts. I had been a bass player in my teens, and I'm very comfortable with playing bass lines and even writing songs from bass lines, so Jeff arranged a meeting between myself and this awesome Joe Maphis Mosrite bass from the early '60s. That bass and I fell in love, and the rest is history! And then, being a huge, huge Cure fan, I started playing a vintage Fender Bass VI too, and then I really fell in love. Those 2 guitars became my “guitarsenal”, and in the long run, they really shaped the sound of the album, which has a bit of 60's psychedelia, 80's post-punk, and hopefully, something new and very 2014 about it too. We also used a British solid state HH Amp on many of the songs on the album, which are as rare as hen's teeth on American soil. We imported the amp especially for this project from Glasgow. The HH was a popular English amp of the 1970's and 80's, and you're probably most familair with its sound from hearing the work of Marc Bolan (T Rex), The Undertones, Pink FloydBig Country, early Cure, and of course, Daniel Ash from Bauhaus/Love and Rockets plays a Tele through an HH. It has a very unique sound!


Video Still of Lisa and her Shell Pink Fender Bass VI 


DJ: So, you needed a drummer, because you were playing bass and Jeff was playing guitar?


LK: Yes, and the obvious choice was Robert Schmid, who I had already played with in The Glenn Phillips Band, and in The Swimming Pool Q's. Robert was the original drummer for the Q's, so Jeff felt really comfortable with him as well, of course. Because I had played with Robert too, the three of us worked easily together in my little home studio. We worked the songs up by listening to my demo tapes, and it was very natural. He's a great punk drummer, and my roots are definitely punk, new-wave, and post-punk, so it sounded great from the get go. And since I was becoming the bass player in the band, we needed a second guitarist. I had played a decade or two with Mike Lynn, who was a member of the popular Atlanta 80's/90's band Betty's Not A Vitamin. Mike and I have a long history of playing together, so I was really happy when he agreed to be a part of this new band. So, Jeff, Mike, and I also started working up the material playing along to my demos, and when we went into the studio to track, we already felt loosely like a live act. It was not a situation where we were technically a gigging band that went into the studio and made a record, but since in an odd way, we had all played with each other in some combination in the past, it worked right off the bat.


DJ: You recorded the bass and drums onto a Studer 2” tape machine?


LK: Yes, we did. I went into this project with vintage guitars, vintage keyboards, and an analog mindset in a digital world. I kept telling Jeff, who really was a fantastic producer for this project, that I wanted it to be as if a band like Echo and The Bunnymen or The Cure went into a studio for a week, and hit tape with the best takes they could muster up, and make this record as if it were 1984. Lucky for me, Jeff was making albums in 1984! Ha ha ha! So, it was easy for him to help me recreate an authentic analog studio experience, instead of just patching together a ton of takes in Pro Tools. Of course, we did our editing digitally, with the Master of Editing, Tim Delaney at Electron Gardens, but we tried to keep the mentality of good takes, real playing, real character, and not just a digital patchwork quilt. I think that's why the album sounds like a “band” and not a studio project.


Jeff Calder at Southern Tracks with the Studers, The Hot Place recording sessions 2011



DJ: So, once you completed the album, what was your plan?


LK: Well, I always wanted to release this album on vinyl. Even while we were making the record, I kept saying 'I feel like for this record to really be appreciated in it's full glory, it should be on vinyl'. The band kind of rolled their eyes at me. This was a few years ago, before this really recent vinyl resurrection. But, as a kid, I discovered my favorite music, from Pink Floyd, The Doors and Led Zeppelin to The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths on vinyl. I grew up working in record stores, and the saddest day of all was the day we packed up all the vinyl and unpacked all the CD's in longboxes. I mean, don't get me wrong! CD's are super convenient. I have walls and walls of them still. And we are making a high-resolution copy of The Language of Birds available to our fans as a digital download, but to me, in order to be a real release it has to be on vinyl. The physicality of it makes it real for me. And I still have a super turntable and my record collection that I listen to more than my CD collection. So, don't look for CD's at our merch table. We'll have download cards, and vinyl only!


DJ: It has taken you, let's just say, an infuriatingly long time to get this album out on vinyl.


LK: Well, yes, that's just the breaks! When I set out to make this record, I wanted to make the very best album that I could. I wanted to make it at an amazing studio like Southern Tracks, and then I wanted to release it as the most beautiful high quality package that I could. Like something on 4AD or Creation Records. I don't have 4AD's budget however, (laughs), and I am self-employed, so I'm afraid that it takes me some time make this all work. I also wanted professional musicians in my band, and both Jeff and Robert still play and record with The Swimming Pool Q's, so there are scheduling issues all around. In a busy studio like Southern Tracks, sometimes I'd have to stop recording and wait months before I could get back in. But, during those breaks, we were playing this material together as a band rehearsing. I really grew as a bassist and a vocalist. Playing bass and singing is very challenging. I was used to playing guitar and singing, but to do the bassist as vocalist thing requires a lot of practice.


The Hot Place, live rehearsal 2014


DJ: So, I think the question that you probably get asked more than any is “When are you guys playing out?”


LK: Every day! I get that question every day! And the answer is “When our album is out!” We shall sell no wine before it's time! Back in January, we Kickstarted the album on 180 gram tangerine orange vinyl, we successfully funded, and it's taken a LONG time to get in line at the record pressing plant, because there were so many bigger bands and bigger labels in line this year to make vinyl releases for Record Store Day. It's also a super deluxe package, and if I've learned anything from working with experienced musicians in a big studio, it's “You only get one time to do each step in this process, so you'd better do it correctly and carefully from the get-go.” I could have easily made an inexpensive album on someone's laptop in a garage studio, churned it out on a cheap little CD run, and played a gig with a half-cocked band at the club down the street. But, let's face it. That's not my aesthetic, it's not my style, and it's not what this album is about. I mean, hey! Kate Bush just sold out, what, a million gigs in a row recently because she never plays out live? Look at XTC. Not every band comes out of the gate as a live act. There are a lot of bands that just really love working in the studio. And you generally don't tour and record at the same time. You make a record, release a record, then play out to support it.


I don't think you have to be playing in the local bars every weekend, and releasing a song every Tuesday that you recorded in your bedroom, just because you can, with the technology we have now. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of making as much music as the muse will inspire, so I'm happy to see people constantly writing and growing. However, I think there is a lot to be said for artists who want to make carefully crafted albums in good studios, live with the music for a bit, release their material with quality packaging, and make ART. I am a painter/printmaker who went to art school in my 20's, so visual art is a huge part of my life. I wanted to make something that If I left the planet right now, I would feel like I had made a great piece of art, that I can be super proud of. It just takes time. I mean, the word “Creative” evokes the physical act of birthing a thing. As artists and musicians, we must physically create. I think people who are always arguing about music and art, especially through social media, are at best critics or pop-philosophers, but they are not creative “makers.” If they were, they would have no time to be arguing about it online. They'd be too busy birthing art! So, I usually just let criticism like, “You're taking too long to do this” or “You're treating it too preciously” and “Just get out and play, you don't need a record” go in one ear and out the other. I've played in bands for approaching 20 years now, and I've been there and done that. Now, I want to leave a nice piece of art behind. I've gigged and gigged, and my creative process is just different. I don't compare myself to my peers. They have their path, I have mine. I believe you don't BECOME an artist. You DECIDE you are an artist, and work hard every day to make it happen. I'll make five things while people sit around and argue what art is! You just have to put your head down and work, you can't listen to critics, and before you know it, you have something amazing you can be proud of. And that's what matters to me.


Test pressing of The Language of Birds, United Record Pressing 4/30/14


DJ: So, the album will be out in May?


LK: If all goes well, yes indeed. We are first and foremost focusing on our Kickstarter Backers, who are all listed on the album credits as Assistant Executive Producers of the record. We will be shipping out their reward packages just as soon as we can get United Record Pressing to move into production mode. We got our test pressings of the record back on Tuesday, and we've been busy running around town listening to them on as many systems as we can. The album sounds amazing on vinyl! We'll be printing up super cool t-shirts and lapel pins, and sending those out to our Kickstarter Backers ASAP. Then, we'll focus on distributing the album to indie record shops, and then, believe me, we'll be playing so many gigs out live you'll be sick of us by the end of the year!


DJ: So, you started a record label, which will be releasing The Language of Birds? Was that always in the plan for you? I know you are a bit of a Renaissance woman...


LK: I did! I partnered with my longtime friend David Courtney, and we started our own artist-owned label, No Big Wheel Records. We have a great roster of bands already, and we will be releasing really astounding high-end vinyl packages by the ambient act Tenguzame; some classic industrial dance by The New Synthetics; goth darkwave by The Von Vons, and more. I'm really excited to pursue this in tandem with my band, because I've always been inspired by quality labels that have a real “look” to the artwork, like 4AD, Factory, Wax Trax, and Creation, and I really believe in the old-school approach of artist-owned labels like Dischord. So, we're very committed to making this work.


No Big Wheel Records logo, by David Courtney and Lisa King, 2014



DJ: Speaking of Goth, you have partnered with World Goth Day this year? Can you tell us a bit about that? Didn't you work with them last year too?


LK: Yes! World Goth Day is a National Awareness Day on 5/22 started in the UK by BBC 6 in conjunction with DJ's Cruel Britannia and Martin OldGoth, who got the event up and running. The day helps raise awareness and tolerance towards alternative subcultures, and of course the Post-Punk and Goth culture is near and dear to my heart. Last year The Hot Place released a free download of the track Petals of Ruin off of Birds. This year No Big Wheel Records will be premiering a new video/releasing a new single by Atlanta darkwavers The Von Vons. I can't announce what song it is yet, but if you stay tuned to the No Big Wheel Records FB page, we'll be making an announcement soon. (Updated 5/3/14, The Von Von's have released "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division). You can download the single HERE and watch the video HERE.)


I love the work that World Goth Day does, and we'll be fund-raising for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. The single is free, but if you choose, you may donate any amount, and all proceeds will go to S.O.P.H.I.E. You can go to to read more about the event, and you can to to the No Big Wheel Records FB page at To learn more about The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, a group which helps educate young people to speak out against bullying members of alternative lifestyles and subcultures, you can go to


DJ: Well, it sounds like you have your capable hands very full at the moment!


LK: The best thing an artist can be is busy! We are really looking forward to officially releasing Birds in May, and we are all really itching to play out. I think people are starting to think we are a fake band and that our project is a bit of a Unicorn, (laughter), but trust me. Jeff Calder, Mike Lynn, Robert Schmid and I have been very focused on our live performance, and we'll be bringing the music, the vinyl, the merch, and the rock to everyone really soon. We can't wait!


DJ: Neither can I. Thanks for letting me be on the interviewing end of the microphone.


LK: Thanks for being gentle with me! I had a great time talking with you.




For more information about Lisa King and her band The Hot Place, visit or join her FB page at:


DJ Hermes Helena spins darkwave, post-punk, industrial and goth about town in Atlanta, Ga. He's looking forward to producing an original Podcast series in the Summer of 2014. You can visit The Madcap Speaks for upcoming interviews conducted by the DJ.



Update 5/3/14: Lisa King of The Hot Place guests with Atlanta Darkwave band The Von Vons, (as Greta Von Greta with musical partner Fritz Von Fritz), for a very special No Big Wheel Records video premiere of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division) to help celebrate World Goth Day on 5/22/14. GET YOUR GOTH ON!


Download a copy of the song: