Maggie Estep Gets ‘Vicious’ With Lou Reed

Ex-Velvet Underground leader lies down in a gutter for her.

Do a web search using the keywords “cynical,” “poetry” and
“twentysomething,” and chances are you’ll find a picture of
singer/songwriter/poet/novelist/spoken word performer Maggie Estep smoking a
butt with her evil movie twin Janeane Garofalo, both sloshing in a huge coffee
cup filled to the brim with the detritus of their love lives and enough foamy
disgust to keep a college town buzzed for a week.

But even Estep wasn’t
jaded enough to feign too-coolness when she found out Lou Reed had agreed to
appear in the video for her cover of his song “Vicious,” from her upcoming
sophomore effort, Love is a Dog From Hell (July 1), also the title of a
poem and book of poems by Los Angeles bohemian and well-oiled author Charles

“It was really cool,” said a jovial Estep over the phone from New
York. “It was one of those things where someone told him we were covering his
song, he heard what we did and his people told me he’d like to appear in the
video.” The video was directed by actor Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge),
who, like Reed, heard the song, loved it and agreed to take his first stab at
music video direction.

The cover, which re-works Reed’s breezy S&M fantasy
into a moody trip-hop ballad, is one of many surprises on Estep’s more musical
second album (her first album, No More Mr. Nice Girl was released in
1994), recorded with the Golden Palomino’s Knox Chandler. The video for the
song, shot May 18 on the streets of New York, is described by Estep as a series
of scenes of her and her male protagonist being “absurdly vicious” to each
other in a “BuÐuel-like atmosphere” (referring to Spanish surrealist director
Luis BuÐuel). At one point, the video shows them feasting at a surreal dinner
party with about 20 friends of Estep’s, none of whom was paid for their

“At the end, Lou and Michael are lying in the gutter and Lou’s job is
to console Michael,” said Estep about the legendarily prickly Velvet
Underground founder’s character who originally released “Vicious” on his 1972
album Transformer. “Originally, he was even going to lip synch to my
words, but he can’t really lip synch very well, so he eliminated that concept.
He was just so far off it was incredible,” Estep said, adding that Reed was
“much shorter and skinnier” than she imagined.

As to how the cover made it
onto the album, which includes a mix of hilarious and scary spoken word rants
over ambient sound and trip hop beats as well as a few straight-on rock songs,
Estep said it was, literally, a last-minute thing. “I’ve always loved that song
since I first heard it when I was 14, and I never even had an inkling that I
would ever be in a band, but I’d always wanted to do it. Then, in the last day
in the studio, I said, ’hey, can we try to do a sort of trip hop version of
’Vicious?” and everybody looked at me like I was insane and then we did it.”