Automne Zingg is an artistic force. The New York City-based visual artist creates funny, surreal, psychedelic portraits and images, but she’s also an author, publishing recipe books starring the Ramones, Nick Cave, Morrissey and others. But, first and foremost, she’s a musician, writing and recording songs under the name Lacey Spacecake. Amy Haben uncovers all of the various strands in an interview with Automne Zingg for PKM.
There is a freedom and humor in Autumne Zingg’s critiques of popular culture. For example, an androgynous, gap-toothed fully-clothed model sits on a toilet in her neon-art piece entitled Constipated Model Hiding in the Bathroom. And, in Goes to Joshua Tree Once, human eyeballs grow out of the ground like flowers. In another piece, Tim Burton-esque skeletons and semi-featureless humans burn an American flag. She frequently paints musicians with their astrological signs attached and posts them on her Instagram account, Lacey Spacecake. Reproductions of many of these pieces will be included in a book in progress, but all of her work, visual and musical, can be found on her website automnezingg.com.
First and foremost, though, Autumne Zingg is a musician, whose former bands include Troops, Terrorwatt, Bat Fancy and Cat Fancy. She now records post-punk songs with danceable beats under the name Lacey Spacecake. She has also posted numerous DIY videos, accompanying her catchy songs, on Youtube, including a new one called “Stars Align.”
“Stars Align”-Lacey Spacecake:
A living breathing art-piece herself, Automne presents as a well-dressed Goth with a sharp shock of bleach-blonde hair hanging down over thick black eyebrows. Her illuminating pale skin highlight her wide eyes, and a blast of red lipstick frames her attractive, gap-toothed smile. She may be part of Generation X, but unlike the slacker stereotype, she is constantly creating.
I recently had a chance to talk with Automne Zingg.
PKM: Is your name the one you were given from birth? Where did you grow up?
Autumne Zingg: My name is my birth one, but I changed the spelling of “Autumn” to “Automne” in junior high after taking a French class. I just liked the way the French spelling looked and I never went back to the regular spelling. My last name (Zingg) is Swiss and pretty common in Switzerland but not so much in the States. I have always liked my name because it sounds so fake and ridiculous. I never even changed it when I got married, which was smart because I was divorced shortly after that. Weirdly, a lot of people think my name is Lacey Spacecake. It’s really funny to me. I’ll be out and hear someone go, “Hey Lacey!” I don’t even correct them. I like that name, too.
As for my teenage years, I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and hated every second of it. I was actually mad at my parents for not living in New York City because I thought that was where I was meant to be. I’m not sure why I thought that (probably Sesame Street and MTV) but I was OBSESSED with it… or maybe I was just obsessed with a particular romanticized and very punk rock version of NYC. I spent a lot of time alone in my room blasting music and reading music magazines. I also had a lot of gothic pen pals who lived in more exotic (or what I perceived to be more exotic) locations. I lived for writing letters, receiving letters, decorating the envelopes of letters to be sent, and slipping incense and sexy Polaroids (the original thirst trap) into letters. I still talk to some of those pen pals. I still cringe that some of them have those Polaroids. One of my best friends in the world is a pen pal I had from a fan club for The Cure that we found in the back of Star Hits magazine. We were maybe 12 or 13 when we started to write one another and now we’re in our mid-40’s and still writing every day (online) because we live on opposite coasts.
It’s kind of a romantic time period to look back on even though I was miserable. I hated my hometown and pen pals made me feel like I was connected to the world in a much bigger way. We would all send each other mixtapes and make zines. I discovered so much new music that way and can remember the first time I heard My Bloody Valentine and Swans. I still have most of the mixtapes my pen pals sent me and I’ve kept every letter in the same treasure chest for the past 35 years. I had a few friends in Des Moines but the ‘80s and early ‘90’s were a hard time to be a “freak” anywhere. All the metal heads, punks, weirdos, goths, and hippies stuck together because the “normal” kids were such insufferable trash. I don’t think a lot of people get how bad it was if you were different back then, especially in the Midwest. I was constantly bullied. Weirdly, I never got into Nirvana because they just weren’t strange or goth enough for me but I have to thank that band for blowing up the way they did. The second that happened, suddenly all the kids that bullied me relentlessly thought I was cool. It was so bizarre to me. It’s like Kurt Cobain cast a spell on every asshole I went to high school with. Thanks, Kurt.
I had a few friends in Des Moines but the ‘80s and early ‘90’s were a hard time to be a “freak” anywhere.
PKM: Your paintings have a humorous running theme of feminist angst, bad sex, musical idols, goths, and teenage memories. Are these works a glimpse into your life?
Autumne Zingg: Ha ha! Yeah. It’s often very confessional without using real names, but I will use real humor as a defense mechanism. My whole purpose in making art is to connect with like-minded people (often women) so I use my miserable life as the muse for that. I was also a teenage goth, and to be fair, I’ve always found that goth is like the herpes of subcultures because it never really goes away. It’s like in my bone marrow. If Bauhaus comes on anywhere, I will just start shadow dancing like it’s a nervous tic.
PKM: Bernie Sanders as an ‘80s pro wrestler and Glenn Danzig with a walker as “Old Manzig,” made me belly laugh. Where do you think your sense of humor comes from?
Autumne Zingg: A friend in L.A. thought my art was funny and commissioned me to make a mashup of Bernie and the Ultimate Warrior (full credit to them) but Old Manzig was 100% my own doing. I just think Glenn Danzig is a really funny person. Do you? Is it just me? I was reading this thread somewhere about him yelling at his neighbor while cleaning up some bricks and I thought, what an old man thing to do. Then I drew Old Manzig. I even made an animation with that to a slowed down Misfits song. He’s like a constant source of comfort and joy for me. Whenever I get depressed, I look up pictures of him. He is always just so… SO Glenn Danzig. I like how consistent he is. On stage. At his home. In the supermarket. Washing his car. Carrying cat litter. Lifting weights. Moving bricks. HE’S NEVER NOT DANZIG. Even Robert Smith takes his lipstick off, but Glenn is like a leather fist 24/7. He’s practically a landmark. A mountain. A planet. A buff kangaroo. Google “buff kangaroos.” You will totally know what I mean.
I think my sense of humor came from a lot of places. I mean, mainly from Glenn Danzig, but I also probably got a lot of it from my family. My mother is so intentionally and not intentionally funny. She’s very Italian. My whole family has a very dark sense of humor to deal with heavy shit. I was also just a really strange kid who would stay up all night watching late night television. I became obsessed with the self-deprecating comedic stylings of David Letterman and all the comedians he had on that show in the ‘80s. I think it really shaped me. It never occurred to me how powerful it was to make fun of the insecurities you don’t want anybody else to make fun of. I was also a fat kid so that was helpful information and I still make fun of myself constantly. I watched a lot of British TV like The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents…,Monty Python (etc) and appreciated how absurd and dry British comedy was. When I got older, my tastes evolved but I’ve always turned to comedy and music (but never musical comedy) as a form of escapism. I’m sure it has something to do with the endorphins released by it. I feel like my whole existence is trying to make more endorphins to get through another stupid day.
PKM: I love your deep, breathy vocals in your musical project, Lacey Spacecake. Do you make music alone or with other musicians?
Autumne Zingg: Thank you! That means a lot. Lacey Spacecake is just me writing, singing, playing, making drum loops, mixing, and recording everything. It’s like my alter ego. When I do the songs live, I have to have other musicians involved because I don’t have the patience for loop pedals or pre-recorded anything. It’s kind of cool getting other people involved to play my songs because they always sound completely different and almost become brand new songs entirely; like weird cover songs of songs. Luckily, I really scored with my live drummer. I feel very fortunate that if I’m a train wreck on stage (often), the drummer is so good that it doesn’t matter. I give them the craziest drum loops and they perfectly play them after hearing a song once. It’s magic to me. My best friend plays keyboards and does backing vocals in my live band, but over lockdown, he started making some really cool music of his own. He’s one of those people that is just casually great at everything.
I’m looking for another bassist right now, which is something I take very seriously since the bass is what I write all the songs on. I don’t want to jinx this but my old bandmate in L.A. is moving to the East Coast this year. We used to be in a band called Bat Fancy and have always had a really great dynamic together. It’s just always been effortless with her. I’m trying to get her to be my new live bass player because it would be so nice to just collaborate with her again. I don’t know what candle I have to light during which phase of the moon or what crystals I gotta shout into or blow on but I really hope it happens.
PKM: Who are some of your inspirations?
Autumne Zingg: It changes often. Off the top of my head, Jarvis Cocker and Mark E. Smith have always inspired me as lyricists. Arundhati Roy inspires me as a writer. Tom Scharpling inspires me as a funny person. John Waters in every way. The story of Ferdinand Cheval and his creation of Le Palais idéal has inspired me on just a basic human level. He was a postman in the 1800’s. While doing his daily mail rounds, he collected stones, fossils, and pebbles and brought them home to create a dream palace. He frequently worked on it in the evenings with just the light of an oil lamp and it took 33 years to complete. The pictures of it are incredible and anytime I feel overwhelmed, I think about him and that palace. My dream is to visit it in person.
Lately, most of my inspiration comes from everyday life situations and vivid dreams. A lot of my songs are inspired by my failed love life, but even a total stranger on the subway will inspire me to create an entire video or piece of music. People in general just really inspire me. I love how annoying, weird, and awkward everyone always is. I also love how soft we can all be when things are so hard. Vulnerability is inspiring. Imperfection is inspiring. Honesty is inspiring. Teenagers are inspiring. The elderly are inspiring. Recently I joined Tik Tok and find that oddly inspiring. It’s like if somebody dropped the internet on the floor and there were just people everywhere. Every time I open it, I feel like I took psychedelics at the international airport or something. It’s just so pure and raw. It’s also completely terrible but there’s something very human about it. I’m also lucky to know a lot of very funny and interesting people that inspire me every day. My friends just constantly blow my mind. I was going through a really dark time last summer and had a friend in L.A. who was so funny that their correspondence inspired me to just get through the day so I could laugh through another one. I’ve never told them that. I just love people so much. We’re all trying and we all help and inspire each other in ways we don’t even realize.
PKM: How long have you lived in New York? Do you think we will have a musical scene again now that rents are lower?
Autumne Zingg: In my brain, I have been living in New York since I was 8 years old but, in reality, I’ve only been here 5 years. I’m still mad at myself for not going with my gut and moving here immediately. I moved around a lot after high school and ended up in Omaha, Boulder, Denver, San Francisco, London, Portland, and LA…. mostly because of dudes I was dating but also because I like taking the scenic route. New York has been different. I came here for me and I’ve loved every second of it. Can’t say the same about a lot of other places I’ve been. I have noticed (thanks to social media) that no matter where you live, we all know the same 25 people. Haha. It’s like we were handed these people and those are the people we all know for the rest of our life.
That’s a great question about the music scene. I think it’s going to be incredible here. There are so many fantastic bands and musical weirdos doing interesting things all the time. So many of them stuck it out here. I love scrolling through my Instagram feed and seeing what they are doing during all of this. The amount of creativity, experimentation, passion, patience and purpose is so inspiring right now. A lot of us are hungry for community and connection again. Once we enter a safer new normal and shows can resume, it’s going to be like the late 70’s again, I swear. It’s going to be so sexy. I think people that would always flake and never come out to shows (y’all know who you are) will be desperate to come out to shows now. I think more bands will stick around and watch other bands play instead of doing the NYC “too cool for you” thing by leaving immediately after their own set. I think we all need each other and live music now more than ever. It’s easy to take that for granted in a city that has cool things happening every single night of the week. When that got taken away, it made all of us realize how special that is. Nobody pays New York rent to be in our shitty New York apartments. We all pay outrageous rent to never spend a second in the place we pay the rent on. The people are what makes New York great and as long as we can all afford to still be here and stick together, I think the next few years are going to be incredibly important both artistically and culturally. We just all need to help out the smaller venues and bars that are barely surviving. We need those places and they need us. I am very optimistic for the post-Covid music scene. I have to be. Music is my life, and I don’t want to be in a world without it.
“Get Off”-Lacey Spacecake:
PKM: You are an activist. I noticed you mentioned protesting the Bush election in your blog. What do you feel needs to change in our current political climate?
Autumne Zingg: I’ve been fighting and protesting the same stuff for almost 30 years. It’s insane and I feel like my politics just get more radical the older I get. I’m glad Trump is out but I’m not giving Biden any love. U.S. presidents just feel like mythological Hydra monsters at this point. There was a moment when lockdown first happened and I naively hoped that there would be a revolution and we’d all come together and really address how capitalism is destroying us and how our corrupt system has been failing us/pitting us against each other since before we were born. I wanted people to get real about this lie we are constantly fed about how great America is. It’s not. If you spend even 4 minutes in Europe, you realize that pretty quickly. We can’t find one dollar for affordable healthcare (should be free) but miraculously have plenty of dollars to bomb whatever country we’ve decided to bomb that day. It’s just absurd to me. People are out of work and struggling so much right now. I know there are worse places than America, but we are hardly the best.
I was so excited during the BLM protests. I loved how many people came together to fight for human rights. It made me so proud. That was great. Unfortunately, real change is slow moving and there is SO much more work to be done. This country is so divided on things that feel like no brainers to me. We are all living in alternate realities and can’t even agree on facts anymore. It’s wild. The lack of nuance and critical thinking is just stunning to me. It sounds corny, but I think local politics and helping communities and individuals is where we have the most power. I try to focus on that; on what I can do in a tangible way instead of fighting online or doing performative activism to get likes instead of getting real things accomplished.
Being a decent f*cking person sometimes feels like a political act, I swear. I feel like people forget that there is real power in being a good human being that looks out for other people in their own life or community. I see some of the biggest cowards post so much political stuff on social media but don’t do shit in real life. They are not even good friends to people in real life. It’s so gross to me so I try to hear all kinds of different perspectives instead of singing all my favorite verses with all my favorite people in my favorite echo chamber. I like to know how other people outside my bubble think and am often surprised by how much we do have in common when we get offline and just interact in real life. That’s one of the things I love about New York. It’s full of so many people with very different ideas managing to exist (for the most part) harmoniously. The subway is not Twitter. Thank god. When we start fearing each other, that’s when problems happen. It’s good to be exposed to all kinds of people all the time and I hope this pandemic doesn’t ruin that forever. All that said, ACAB! F*ck racists. F*ck capitalism. F*ck performative activism.
It sounds corny, but I think local politics and helping communities and individuals is where we have the most power. I try to focus on that; on what I can do in a tangible way instead of fighting online or doing performative activism to get likes instead of getting real things accomplished.
PKM: You managed to combine two of my favorite things: Nick Cave and food, into one book. Tell me how that book came to fruition. I imagine it’s done well.
Autumne Zingg: I have to thank you for doing so much research with this interview. You are asking great questions and I appreciate it. The Comfort Eating with Nick Cave book happened after I started making these zines in L.A. of goths eating things. This was WAY before that “Ian Curtis is hungry” thing started happening but oddly coincidental. Anyway, I was really miserable at the time and when I get sad, I don’t eat. It made me feel very envious of people that do eat through their pain because I was starving but all I wanted to do was listen to comfort music. I started to think about how certain bands are sonic comfort foods to me. In this case, it was Nick Cave. I just started drawing him eating things (it really made me laugh), and then I started drawing Siouxsie Sioux eating things and Depeche Mode eating things and it just became this weird cathartic release to draw my sonic comfort food with actual comfort food. The drawings were intentionally done badly and I turned the Nick Cave ones into a zine. A friend requested that I do a Morrissey one and I did but changed it to food hoarding. I called that one Defensive Eating With Morrissey.
Microcosm Publishing really liked the zines and asked if I’d be interested in turning them into cookbooks while collaborating with this vegan, punk chef, Joshua Ploeg. I agreed and we spent a year working on the books, but it took a long time for them to be released because of the way the publishing industry works. By the time they came out in 2016, the timing was AWFUL. Nick Cave’s team knew about the books but he had just lost his son and I felt weird even promoting them since every picture was of him crying while eating. I didn’t want anybody to think it had anything to do with his loss. Also, Morrissey became an incredibly problematic figure for numerous reasons and I didn’t feel right promoting anything with his name attached to it. Luckily neither one of them ever sued us and the books still sell. Unluckily, I have about 200 extra copies of Nick Cave and Morrissey eating food in my closet if anybody is interested.
PKM: What are you currently working on?
Autumne Zingg: I just put out a Lacey Spacecake album a few months ago. It’s called In Your Bedroom and I worked on it all through lockdown. It’s available on Bandcamp. I’m working on another album as we speak as well as a few long-distance musical collaborations with some good friends.
I’m also working on a few books. I have two more cookbooks with the same chef and publishing company coming out. One is all vegan pizza recipes with The Ramones (It’s exhausting drawing so many motorcycle jackets), and the other one is a Metallica cookbook that is taking me forever to finish. I will be so lucky if they don’t sue us. I just feel like Lars is gonna f*ck this up for me. FOR ALL OF US. I’ve also been working on an astrology book. I have been drawing famous people and their astrological signs for the past 3 years. It feels like it will never be done because there is always somebody new to draw. I kind of like how time-consuming it is. My own Palais idéal. Maybe in 33 years it will feel complete.
PKM: What would your advice be to a young, female artist starting out?
Autumne Zingg: This is more of a pep talk but I would say this. Use your voice as an instrument and a weapon. We’re all taught to be pretty but it’s way more interesting to be ugly. Take up space. Make shit weird. Get in people’s faces. Don’t lose your sense of humor or sense of purpose. Never make yourself smaller for anybody but also never tear down others (especially other women) to make yourself feel bigger. It’s hard out there and you have no idea what another person is going through. Try to avoid jealousy and competition. Do not compare yourself to other people or put too much emphasis on age. We live in an ageist culture that worships youth and gives a false narrative that people have to accomplish things by a certain time. It’s all bullshit. You are never too old and nothing is ever too late.
Be kind. Be real. Be generous. Be true to yourself and honor whatever artistic pursuit you’re passionate about. People can see right through a fake person or an opportunistic person doing something for all the wrong reasons. Do what you love because you love it. Because it makes you feel alive. Because it feels like home to you. There is often no fame or money in any of this. At times you will feel frustrated because mediocre men are often praised, while brilliant women fade into obscurity. I wish the world were different, but until it is, just don’t give up. Maybe you will help change it. Maybe your art will start a revolution or inspire a new sound or a new band or just get a person through their day. It all matters. You matter. We all need your stories, voices, ideas, masterpieces, perspectives, and creative contributions. F*ck shit up. Experiment. Get outside your comfort levels. Be bad at it. Be great at it. Become it. Live it. Breathe it. Have a blast. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Listen to your body and follow your heart. You got this and I can’t wait to hear/see/experience the brilliance you will create. GODSPEED!