What happens when you mix a world leading bee scientist with a Hollywood A-Lister’s controversial beauty claims? You get ‘I Stung Gwyneth Paltrow’ by Killer Bee Queens, that’s what. John Clay caught up with lead singer Lars Chittka to get the lowdown on his beef with Pseudo science.
John Clay: So Lars, how long has Killer Bee Queens been going for?
Lars Chittka: We started about 4 years ago – it had long struck me that there was a lot of music and poetry in the world of bees (my research area), which I couldn’t express in my scientific writings. So the idea of a music project took shape. But my guitars (and my musical skills) had been gathering dust for three decades, so I realised I needed help with the project. I was really lucky to find seasoned post-punk musicians Katie Green (vocals, bass guitars) and Rob Alexander (guitars) to form the band!
Do you write the music with the band or do you present them with pre written songs?
I wrote all the lyrics and a first (rough!) draft of the music for all the songs. But they have all evolved considerably under Katie and Rob’s competent musicianship, so some tunes turned into quite different animals compared to the original versions. It was an interesting challenge since I was in Berlin for part of the time we worked on the album, so we bounced multiple recorded tracks back and forth to merge them together.
I’m of course a fan of your latest single. How long have you had that idea for a song?
It was about four years ago, when reading my seat neighbour’s glossy magazine on the London Underground, as one does. I saw an article about Paltrow’s latest ludicrous beauty treatment – “bee sting therapy” and immediately thought that there is a story here to be told from a bee’s perspective. Often news articles can trigger ideas for song lyrics – stay tuned for a song about the bee hives on the roof of Notre Dame that survived the big fire last year!
Seriously? There are bee hives up there?
Yes, for some reason someone kept three hives on the roof of Notre Dame – fortunately on a part that didn’t collapse. And so while this 850 year-old cultural and religious symbol of France was in flames, the bees quietly waited out the end of the disaster, and then continued harvesting sweetness from the flowers of Paris as if nothing had happened. Is that a magnificent living metaphor of resurrection from the ashes, or what?
Sounds like the premise for another video. Mind telling us a bit about your recent one?
I initially wanted a Paltrow lookalike to play the part – but then we couldn’t locate anyone suitable, so your idea to portray one of her fans instead was great! I thoroughly enjoyed the creative spirit of making a little B-movie with basically no means, and improvising at every turn. The plastic bees, the fake cosmetics boxes, using a male (stingless) bumblebee for the “sting scene” – I loved how we turned “being cheap” into an asset!
Tell us more about the charity the single money is going to. Why choose them over others?
Many animal conservation charities’ focus is to look after iconic “cuddly” animals – pandas, seals, polar bears etc. The charity Buglife, conversely, to whom we donate all the proceeds from Killer Bee Queens, looks after creepy-crawlies – those somewhat less-loved, less-noticed small animals such as insects. We are only beginning to appreciate the disaster that habitat destruction and pesticide use have wreaked on these animals in recent decades. Their survival and protection is key to keeping mother nature (including us humans!) going. Buglife will use all the funding from us for bee conservation projects.
It’s amazing how vanity manifesting as anthropomorphisation has created a pecking order in the animal kingdom. If only humans could check their ego at the door when it comes to the assessment of animal welfare. Surely you’ve a book in you somewhere, perhaps write it after you’re done with rock and roll?
Haha, you think I’m getting close to the age when I should be done with Rock’n’Roll? Let’s see… about the book – I’m pleased to report it’s already (mostly) written. It’s called “The Mind of the Bee” and should appear later this year, published by Princeton University Press. And yes, it contains the message that the welfare of bees (and other little creatures) needs to be taken seriously, given what we now know about their intelligence and inner lives.
Excellent. We must do a follow up interview regarding the book! And for the record, I think when done right, Rock and Roll is ageless. Any plans for this year regarding the band?
It’s time for a “Best of…” double album I think, covering all the Killer Bee Queens’ glorious hits from our beginnings in the heyday of post-punk in 1980 all the way up to 2020. Oh wait…
Nice. Thank you for your time Lars!