An interview with Marlene Marder of Kleenex/LiLiPUT
By Jean Encoule
Kleenex, formed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1978, remain one of the greatest female Punk Rock groups. One of the first groups to sign to Rough Trade, Kleenex, along with The Raincoats, redefined the role of women in rock, which in 1978 – despite the encroachment of Punk Rock values – was still a resolutely male-dominated arena. Eventually forced to change their name to Liliput following legal threats from a popular tissue manufacturer, Kleenex’s legacy is best appreciated via kill rock stars’ Kleenex/Liliput career-spanning compilation: Kleenex/LiLiPUT (krs373).
Jean Encoule chats to Marlene Marder:
What was your personal Punk Rock epiphany?
Remember that day? (awhoop, shudbiiiduup) Without warning (whoopadoop) there was this total eclipse of the sun (shaggalaggadoop) there was a humming sound – and when I turned round – I saw all these strange, weird little punks sitting there … so I said to myself, go ahead and sing along with them, it looks like we share the same tune.
Did Punk Rock establish itself quickly in Switzerland?
Yes, within seconds, mainly in Zürich.
Who were the first Swiss Punk Rock Groups?
Next to Kleenex (the first all-girl group) – Nasal Boys, Mother’s Ruin, TNT, Dogbodys, Troppo, Sperma (and many more… all from Zürich) – later the scene established itself in Geneva and other places!
How did you keep up with what was happening in the UK?
What was your musical experience prior to Kleenex?
I played saxophone for one gig with Nasal Boys – then I took over the guitar in Kleenex.
How were Kleenex born?
Right time, right place, right girls!
What do you recall from your first ever Kleenex gig?
Very funny – a good party. We played our four songs – over and over again!
What do you remember of the recording sessions for your debut EP?
It was great, a new time and experience. We played the songs all together – on and on – until we had the final version. No cuts and re-entry. When the EP was finished, I looked at it as if I’d never seen a record before.
Did Sunrise release any other records?
Yes, Sunrise became the studio of most Swisspunk bands: Nasal Boys, Mother’s Ruin, Sperma.
How many pressings of the Sunrise EP were there?
I think 500!
What did you think when the EP was picked up by Rough Trade?
What memories do you have of your time in the UK?
The Rough Trade tour with the Raincoats and Spizz Energy. Superb time, good people, amazing fans, nice venues, made a lot of good friends.
Did Kleenex the tissue people really threaten legal action over your use of the name?
Where did the inspiration come from for the name Liliput?
After a long day and night, tired of thinking of a new name …
What was the highlight of Liliput’s career?
As always, playing gigs and communicating with the audience. No special highlight, like “this is it!!” It was great to see how people liked our music and performance.
It was all over some time in late ’83/early ’84. What caused the wheels to fall off?
Time goes by, people change, new ideas and ways to go for it. I played then in a new band: Dangermice!
You subsequently returned home to run a record shop in Zurich. How did that work out for you?
A logical step, I think. Support colleagues, bring out good music for the young folks . . . being involved in what’s going on!
Klaudia eventually became a leading modern Swiss painter. What did you make of her work & how is she doing these days?
I think she is doing fine, but you’d have to ask her personally.
Do you still communicate with any of your ex-Kleenex compadres?
By chance, mostly with Klaudia!
Looking back, how do you feel about Kleenex’s legacy today?
I’m happy to be part of something that was not for nothing!
Would Kleenex ever consider reforming?
I don’t think so.
And finally, what are you up to these days?
Managing Kleenex’s legacy :-)) Seriously… right now there’s a lot of interest in Swiss Punk (from newspapers and magazines). A few friends have made a beautiful book: Hot Love – Swiss Punk and Wave 1976-1980. It is a wonderful book – they worked very hard, collecting every bit of information to show what happened back then.
The band’s entire back catalogue has also been reissued on vinyl as Kleenex/LiLiPUT 1977-1983 by Mississippi Records as a 4LP box (MR 084LP). They quote Kleenex as:
One of the most unique punk bands of our time, hailing from Zurich, Switzerland. From 1978-80 Kleenex gigged around, recorded 2 7″‘s and toured the UK with such acts as Gang Of Four, Subway Sect, The Swell Maps and The Raincoats. In 1980, the group changed their name to LiLiPUT (due to pressures from the Kleenex tissue company), and continued under that moniker until their demise in 1983. As LiLiPUT, 3 more 7″‘s and 2 LPs were released, as the band evolved through numerous personnel changes. Finally, the entire contents of the ever-popular kill rock stars double-CD is now available as a 4 LP set. Housed in a sturdy tip-on sleeve slipcase, it includes a full-color 12-page booklet.