top of page

Conversation with James Chance about Anya Phillips

- Who was Anya Phillips? 

Anya was born in China. Her mother came from Beijing, and her father was a general in the Chiang Kai-shek army. Her mother was a script writer for Chinese movies but they weren’t married. Anya had never met her father. When the communist took over in 1949, her mother got away to Taiwan and then met an american serviceman, I believe he was in the air force, and they got married. So Anya spent time growing up in Taiwan and some army bases in the US, but then she left home at around 19 or so, and first place she went was Hawaii. From there she moved to NYC. I believe she got to NYC in 74, 75. She had a friend from Taiwan who she went to Hawaii with, and later to NYC too, and that was Silvia Morales, who later married Lou Reed. I believe her father was also a serviceman. 

- アーニャ・フィリップスとは? 


- And what was Anya up to in NYC at the time? 

She was a photographer and for a while she was writing this newsletter type of things, and she was also a stripper at this strip club in Time Square. Her name used in the act was China Doll and she was one of the main attractions and she worked there for quite a while. She was very beautiful, and was one of the main people that was visible in the downtown music scene, and it took me a really long time to even meet her. First couple times I met her she treated me bad because I wasn’t in a band. It was before I was in Teenage Jesus. 


彼女は写真を撮っていて、音楽のライブ情報なんかを掲載したニュースレターのようなものを作ったり、Times Squareでストリッパーもしてたな。China Dollというステージ名を使っていて、人気のダンサーだったよ。彼女はとても魅力的で、当時のダウンタウンの音楽シーンの中心にいる存在で、実際彼女に会うまでにはしばらく時間がかかったよ。初めて出会った当時は、まだ僕もバンドに入ってなかったからひどい扱いを受けたもんだ。


- And what were you doing at the time, and did you meet Anya?

I was trying to play jazz and I had this little jazz group. There was this thing called the Loft Jazz happening, which was sort of a free-jazz playing in these lofts mostly in Soho and I had a little band with young Jewish musicians from Brooklyn. I played a few of those lofts, but I began to realize, even though I loved the music, I just didn’t fit in that scene. My whole personality wasn’t suited for jazz, I mean the audience didn’t get me at all. So I started hanging out more at CBGB and Max’s and started to think about forming a band that could appeal to that audience. And then I met Lydia Lunch and she started Teenage Jesus, so I joined that. Then Lydia kicked me out of the band, as she decided to do more severe minimal sound and she decided she didn’t want the sax there anymore. So then I started to put together the Contortions. Meanwhile Anya had left NYC for Germany for 6 months or so and she met a German filmmaker and then she came back to NYC around the beginning of 78’. I think she was staying with Diego at the time and I was friends with him too. Diego was one of the first people that got interested into my music and he put together a private show at this little space in Tribeca he somehow got a usage to and we just did a little concert of me and a drummer basically playing free jazz. 

Anyway, the Contortions had been doing shows for about 2 months and we did a benefit for the X magazine, who were associated with different NO WAVE bands, even though that term wasn’t invented at the time. It was at a small space somewhere with no stage or anything, and the audience was sitting on the floor. See at that time people who came to see the Contortions were mostly Soho type of people, very pretentious you know, it really irritated me. I just couldn’t stand people sitting on the floor like hippies. So I just started walking out to the audience grabbing people and making them stand up. Then I got to the back of the place and saw Anya sitting on a chair again the wall by herself. I thought hmm should I do anything to her, but I said no to myself and went back to the stage and finished the show. And she came up to me afterward and talked and we ended up hanging out going back to Diego’s. But he was out of town somewhere, and we just hung out for like 2 days. 

Then we started to spend more time together, and then she got an apartment on St Marks, and I ended up moving in there too after a while and she decided to become my manager, and also my girlfriend a little after that.  


当時NYにはLoft Jazzというシーンもあって、主にSOHO地区のロフトでフリージャズの音楽が演奏されていて、僕もブルックリン出身の若いユダヤ人ミュージシャン達と一緒に小さなジャズグループを持ってたんだ。ただ音楽自体は好きだったんだが、そのシーンに自分が合っていない事に気付いてね。自分の性格が「ジャズ」というものに合わず、オーディエンスにも全く理解してもらえなかったよ。だから次第にCBGBやMax’s Kansas Cityなんかのクラブに出入りするようになって、そっちのオーディエンスに向けてのバンドを結成しようと思い始めたんだ。そんな折りにLydia Lunchに出会って、彼女が結成したTeenage Jesus and the Jerksに参加を決めたよ。だけど後にLydiaはもっとミニマルなサウンドに傾倒していって、サックスが必要なくなったんで僕はバンドから脱退した。そこでContoritonsを結成したんだ。その頃アーニャはドイツ人の映画監督と出会って、半年ほどドイツに滞在していてね。NYに戻ってきてから確か彼女はDiego Cortezのウチに泊まっていて、彼とは僕も友達だったんだ。彼は僕の音楽を最初に理解してくれた人の一人で、彼が企画したTribecaでのプライベートコンサートなんかにも誘ってくれたんだ。

Contortionsとして2ヶ月ちょっと活動した頃に、沢山のNo Wave(当時はまだそんな言葉もなかったけど)のバンドと関わりのあったX Magazineのベネフィットコンサートに出演したんだ。ステージもない小さなスペースで、オーディエンスは床に座っててね。当時Contortionsのライブを観に来るような人たちは、SOHO系の偉そうな態度の奴らばかりで、すごく鬱陶しかった。ヒッピーみたいに床に座っているのが気に入らなくて、演奏しながらオーディエンスを一人つづ掴んで立たせたんだ。それで会場の一番後ろに着いた時に一人で椅子に座りながら壁に寄りかかっているアーニャが目に止まった。彼女にも同じようにしようか迷ったけど、何もせずステージに戻った。そうしたらライブのあとに彼女が話しかけてくれて、それから一緒にDiegoのアパートに行って数日間共に過ごしたんだ。

それから一緒にいる時間が多くなっていって、アーニャがEast VillageのSt Marksにアパートを借りたのをきっかけに、僕もそこに引っ越す事になって、アーニャは僕のマネージャー、そして恋人になったんだ。

- how did she get into managing you? 

Well actually, she was originally gonna manage Teenage Jesus but that didn’t work out at all. Lydia always thought Anya was kind of a rival or something, and she agreed to let Anya do it, but anything Anya lined up, she refused to do it. So that only lasted about a month. Then Anya decided to manage me instead. She told me that when she was in Germany, that’s when all that Baader-Meinhof terrorist stuff was going on, and she said that she had decided she’ll either become a terrorist or a capitalist. I guess this was a way she could kind of combine the both. 

- どのような経緯でマネージャーを務める事になったのですか?


アーニャははじめTeenage Jesusのマネージャーをやる事になってたんだけど、全くうまくいかなくて。Lydiaがアーニャに敵対心を持っていたのか、アーニャが為す事すべてに反抗してたんだ。だから1ヶ月ぐらいしかもたなかったね。そんなこんなで彼女は僕のマネージャーする事になったんだ。彼女が言ってたんだけど、ドイツに行ってた頃にちょうどドイツ赤軍が活発に活動していて、その時に自分はテロリストか資本主義者のどちらかになるんだって決心したらしい。僕のマネージャーを務めるっていうのはちょうどその二つを足した様な感じだったのかもしれない。

- and how long did that last? 

The whole time until she died. The last year she was too sick to work. 

- それはどのくらい続きましたか?



- and how was she as a manger? 

She was great. She was the one that moved me beyond from an opening band to headlining. She had a lot of credibility from the people in the scene, everybody trusted her taste. Her managing me, opened up to a lot of people that might have not perhaps paid attention to me. And she was also really the one that put my image together. If you look at the pictures, you could really see the difference before/after Anya was involved. Before I was more of punk-looking, then she got me wearing pompadour, the staged jacket, she really put that image together for me. And she did most of the photography on the album covers, and she pretty much conceptualized the covers. She also came up with names like the Sax Maniac album, and also the name James White and the Blacks. 

- マネージャーとして彼女はいかがでしたか?

素晴らしかったね。彼女は僕を前座バンドからヘッドライナーへと押し上げてくれた。彼女は当時のシーンから多大な信頼を得ていたから、彼女のセンスを皆信じていたんだ。彼女のおかげで普段目を向けてくれない様な人間が注目してくれたよ。僕のビジュアルイメージを作ってくれたのも彼女なんだ。アーニャと会う前はもっとパンクな見た目だったんだけど、髪にポマードを塗って、ジャケットを着せてくれた。レコードのジャケット写真も彼女がだいたい撮っていたし、アルバム”Sax Maniac”やJames White and the Blacksっていう名前をつけてくれたのも彼女だ。  

- where do you think her talent came from? 

I think it was her natural taste. She was much more sophisticated compared to a lot of the people in the scene. She definitely wanted to go beyond than just punk rock. She wanted to do something a lot more stylish. She was really the first one to go beyond the whole punk idea. By 1980 everyone was going to that direction. 

And she designed all these clothes and made these dresses out of spandex that she just tied together which sounds very punk, but they didn’t look punk. Those are the dresses that the background singers wore and Debbie Harry wore some of her dresses. She wore one of them on her album cover and they were good friends. 

- 彼女の才能はどこから来たと思いますか?


洋服のデザインもしていたんだけど、スパンデックスを結んだ様なドレスを作っていて、一見パンクっぽく聞こえるけど、全くパンクなものには見えなかったね。僕のバックシンガーは皆そのドレスを着ていたし、Debbie Harryも彼女のドレスを着てた。二人はとても仲良かったんだよ。

- and what was like a typical day like? 

She was always up to something, designing closes, drawing sketches. I really think if she still had lived, she would have become a designer. Many other people used her ideas. She did sing once on the OFF WHITE album, the song Tropical Heat Wave, the Irving Berlin song that Marilyn Monroe did, and Anya sang with a Marilyn Monroe style, and she used the name Ginger Lee. And then she came up with the idea of the whole Ginger Lee solo album. It was influenced by George Clinton and it was gonna be this Sci-Fi disco funk album about how the earth will be destroyed in some cataclysm and she would go into outer space and go into adventures in different planets. She had all the names of the songs and we were actually getting ready to do a demo but then she found out that she had cancer. And I had a song called ‘Last Disco on Earth’ and we were ready to record that. Anya was extremely creative. She also designed some of the jackets I wore on stage. Her mother came and stayed with us for a while, and her mother sewed them. 

- 当時どの様な毎日を送っていましたか?  

彼女は常になにかをやってたよ。洋服をデザインしたり、スケッチを描いたり。まだ彼女が生きていたら、きっとデザイナーになっていたんじゃないかな。色んな人がその後彼女のアイディアを使っていたからね。一度OFF WHITEっていうアルバムの”Tropical Heat Wave”のなかで歌った事もあって、マリリン・モンローのスタイルで歌ってGinger Leeっていうステージネームを使ってた。Ginger Lee名義でソロアルバムのコンセプトも出来上がっていて、George Clintonに影響を受けたSci-fiのDisco Funk調のアルバムで、地殻変動で地球が滅亡して彼女が大気圏外に行って色んな惑星を旅するっていうアイディアだった。全曲のタイトルまで考えてて、実際にデモを録音する準備もしていたんだけど、ちょうどその頃ガンが発覚したんだ。アーニャはとてつもなくクリエイティブで、彼女のお母さんが遊びに来てた時も一緒に僕のジャケットを作ってくれた事もあったな。

-what was most interesting about her? 

I guess its the combination of punkish attitude and the sophistication. She had a very precise way of speaking. A lot of people were actually terrified over that. They thought that she was the biggest bitch, but she could be extremely generous towards her friends. She was very much a person of her words, and she expected other people to be like that too. If they cheated on her or something, she would just cut them off completely. 




-at James' apartment in New York, Sep 2015



bottom of page