In 1993, cyberculture prankster/provocateur/publisher RU Sirius, founder of Mondo 2000 magazine, composer Scrappi DuChamp, and performance artist Simone Third Arm, recorded an album for Trent Reznor's record label. They had met at Reznor's Los Angeles rental home, the house where the Manson Family killed Sharon Tate and others. Tim Leary had brought RU along to a housewarming party there and RU gave Reznor a demo tape of his band, called Mondo Vanilli. Reznor quickly signed the band to his then-nascent Nothing Records. Unfortunately, this great work of curious and quirky synth-industrial-pop, titled "IOU Babe," never made it to the record stores. Almost two decades later, Mondo Vanilli has officially released "IOU Babe" for free online. A CD with bonus material is coming shortly.
I was lucky enough to catch a Mondo Vanilli concert at a San Francisco art gallery and I can assure you that it was as absurd as one might expect. RU, wrapped in Christmas lights, was spinning on a rotating gurney of some kind. Simone was mostly frozen in a strange Butoh-esque dance. And Scrappi operated the audio, and also a blender on a pedestal. Ah, those were the daze. From an interview about Mondo Vanilli at The Unheard Music:
I’m sitting outside at a coffee shop one morning reading the local newspaper and there’s a big fuss being made about Milli Vanilli. Their Grammy award had been rescinded because they had been caught lip-synching at their performances. To my Virtual Reality-bent brain, this demand for authenticity seemed completely ludicrous. First of all, this was obviously a prefabricated band making the most absolutely crappy, bland corporate music imaginable, so why did they get a Grammy in the first place... and who fucking cares if they lip-synched?
So I had the concept right then and there, Mondo Vanilli, a Virtual Reality band that would proudly lip-synch, or maybe not even pretend to play live music on stage, perhaps we would exist totally in Virtuality, or else we would do other, more original types of performance to our music. Wasn’t a bunch of guys standing around with guitars or synths a really boring old cliché, even if you had a theatrical front man or woman?
Anyway, I’d remained friends with Dave and he agreed to embark on another project. Neither of us really knew exactly what we were going to do… how this notion of a Virtual Reality band should be realized, but I had a bunch of old song lyrics laying around and some songs I’d done with an earlier band, Party Dogs, that seemed futuristic when I wrote them back in 1980 but seemed contemporary now so we decided to record a bunch of songs under the title Read My Lips. This was, of course, a reference to a George H.W. Bush campaign promise that he had just broken, so we were already playing with this notion of falseness on multiple levels just with the title and the band name.
Mondo Vanilli: "IOU Babe" (SoundCloud)
Mondo Vanilli: "IOU Babe" (Internet Archive)
Mondo Vanilli: "IOU Babe" (Pirate Bay)
"R.U. Sirius on Mondo Vanilli and music" (The Unheard Music)