Gay Times February 09 - Issue 365
"I like hardcore boys! I like boys hardcore!"
GT meets five bands who are changing the face and sound of queer music in the UK
You never forget the first time you hear a band like Limp Wrist screaming dirty queer lyrics. Growing up listening to soppy, sentimental heterosexual drivel, riddled with lame sex references (both euphemistic and misogynistic), it’s easy to see why these five new bands offer an alternative salvation. Marginalised by the media, Queer Bands have been screeching and preaching a messy Punk message for decades, under more guises and banners than your average Pride March.
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It’s about more than just what you hear; it’s how it makes you feel, a flicker of recognition, however distorted or exaggerated. The democratising effect of technology and the internet has allowed each new hybrid to leak, spread and infiltrate almost every genre of music. It’s no co-incidence that none of these new acts comes from London. Be it guttural screech, tabloid critique, Rap diss, go-go swish or bisexual ballad, these bands offer a fleeting glimpse of the UK's ever-changing queer underground music scene. Click on their MySpace links, get yourself to their gigs and support some local talent. Your disco doesn’t need you – it’s these guys.
“We say things that people wouldn’t dream of saying out loud. I’m not afraid of people not liking us, and I certainly don’t need acceptance about my sexuality.” So says Saltylips singer Ged Weir, eagerly aided and abetted by his straight female counterpart, Dawn, and go-go terrorist Babybear. The band look as exciting as their faux-shocking lyrics, and they throw around pop culture while wrestling with Disco samples, filthy Electro beats and a chav-tastic theatricality.
According to their last.fm page, they make music for “hetero’s, homo’s, trannies, serial killers, smackheads, shoplifters, grannies, retail whores, WAG’s, knobheads, furries, don’t know’s, twisted kids, groupies, flashers, rappers, blind people, single mums, perverts, cats, bears and people with big fannies”. Which goes some way to explaining how they tore up Manchester Gay Pride last year – it was that or the raunchy aprons.
Underneath the tacky glamour, fake beards and Whitney-Houston-piss-taking (check out the song of the same name) lies one of the reasons it’s important to have visibly queer bands. “I’ve written songs since I was 12 and it’s just something that I do. When I was at school I was bullied for being a homo and writing helped me deal with it. Sounds really cheesy, but it’s true!” Each generation should have it’s own Smalltown Boy, even if it’s eulogising scally mums or simple boys with tight asses.
“The amount of shit that we’ve come up against because of the content of our show is a disgrace. I’m not sure if it’s your sexuality that matters more than how you portray it. Our show is very in-yer-face and it makes the audience ask themselves questions.” Questions like, “Why aren’t I in a band like this?”
The Hooker’s Handbag EP is available from www.myspace.com/thesaltylips. The band are working on a new album due out this year
The artist formerly known as Psychofags in Binbags, Psycho Fag is the brainchild and alter ego of Ben Wilkins. Of all the artists featured here, he speaks most directly about young gay boys’ sexuality, totally shame-free and hilarious, weaving his way through bedroom beats, Rap, Grime and Electro. He often throws in witty spoken asides alongside refrains like, “There’s a boy on the internet I wanna have sex with, but he lives in fucking Newcastle”. But Wilkins is anything but a singing cliché.
“I won't deny that, lyrically, my music connects with the gay community, but I think some of the things I talk about are relevant to anyone”, which is fair enough coming from someone who sites Pansy Division as an influence (pioneers of style over substance in-yer-face queer lyrics). Yet Psycho Fag has mastered great Pop-Grime anthems like Don’t Stop The Pop or You’re Gonna Remix Me One Day. These songs are totally independent of sexuality and the usual musical genres gay men get an assumed interest in. “By limiting gay people to one genre of music, I think we're being denied any form of intelligence. It's saying this is all we do – we go out, take our tops off and dance to Kylie all night, whereas myself and some of my gay friends like going to Dub Step, Speed Garage and Bassline nights.” All these Dance genres find their way into Psycho Fag’s sound. He’s the only guy we know who could’ve written the song Scream Like a Gay Man Who’s Fucking Pissed Off. Brilliant.
This February, Psycho Fag has several gigs in Poland. Check his MySpace for details and future gigs, www.myspace.com/psychofagsinbinbagsuk
Patrick Wolf had better watch out; experimental melodic Electro Pop star coming through. Say hello to Alan MX. Here’s his take on this crazy-queers-in-music lark: “People still make such a huge deal when someone in the public eye comes out, and it’s strange, really. It's worrying to a certain extent that people can still raise eyebrows, like Katy Perry has. I think sexuality is still a weapon in this industry as much as it ever was.” Girl, don’t even get us started on KP.
It would be an insult to compare Alan’s take on sexual experimentation against Perry’s ham-fisted attempt, so we’ll let him explain. “If I want to write a song about falling in love with a boy then I want to be able to do it as cleanly and cliché-free as possible. One of the songs on my album is about a gay boy who falls for a girl and then feels he can't do anything about it because he has established himself as gay.” His lyrics meander around the subtler nuances of relationships, through everyday narratives about things such as Captain America Videos. There’s something of Thom Yorke about our Alan’s music, though it’s more like playful, fun versions of songs from Kid A.
“When I think about it, most music is an expression of love. Or songs, anyway. The most common subject of a song is love or lust. If someone was to renounce or ignore their sexuality as a musician, I think it limits their accessibility.” With that kind of openness and some tunes to match, it won’t be long before you’re into Alan. Oh… did we mention he’s quite cute?
Alan MX’s single Warpsichord comes out on Feb 16th on Smalltown America Records, and is limited to just 1000 handmade copies. Check out www.smalltownamerica.co.uk
The exquisitely named “p6” is the lead singer of Desalvo, who produce an unholy racket that has one foot firmly in the camp marked Metal. They have a penchant for parent-unfriendly song titles, to match their rollicking noise – Cock Swastika, anyone? It makes you wonder just who these songs are written for. “For our own pleasure,” says p6. “Lyrics include neologisms, disgruntlement or erotic convulsion. If you're deranged, pissed off or horny then you’ll find us interesting, but it's nothing profound. Strap in, strap on and ride us like a moistened flume”. If there’s one thing you can say about Desalvo, it’s that they have a way with words. He describes himself as the “Uncle Monty (from Withnail & I) of Metalcore”. One would have to agree.
Though they’ve only released their debut album, their experience in other bands (from Stretcheads to Idlewild) has left them with no illusions about the fickle state of ‘the biz’. “It's naïve to think that anything but money matters in the 'music industry'. If it's commercial enough, the PR goons will be all over you like a rash. There's a danger that (say in Metal and Hardcore) we're avoiding the fact that art, sexuality and sensuality are interlinked. Queer people have a shamanic responsibility to lead the tribe, create rituals and bring joy. Fuck commerce.”
They may be anti-commerce, but their dark sound and twisted time signatures might just see them follow in the footsteps of abrasive, confrontational and critically acclaimed Rock bands like Fucked Up or Gallows. We’re rooting for you, Uncle Monty.
www.desalvo.co.uk; www.myspace.com/desalvoland. Their album, Mood Poisoner, is out now on Rock Action Records. www.rock-action.co.uk
Ste McCabe is a queer one-man band, armed not with a harmonica but a mean, lean, bedroom Disco drum machine, a cheap guitar and his biggest asset; a mind and a loud mouth to speak it. “I long for the day when we stop stereotyping ourselves and each other. Music that speaks to me as a gay man is music written by queers and feminists, not silly divas. We need to claim queer music as music written by us and show the world that we can speak for ourselves.” McCabe is being the change he wants to see in the world, writing songs that “attack the people who try to bring us down, in the same nasty and in-yer-face ways in which these people attack us”. Hence the vitriol-filled debut album, Hate Mail.
What saves it from being a rabid, elongated rant is his knack for a Punk Pop tune. Huyton Scum is a classic example, regularly played at D.I.Y. discos and feminist fundraisers up North. “All sense of politics is practically dead, and for those of us who are working class there's this feeling that we just aren't ‘gay’ enough because we can't afford the scene.” Which is probably why he’s depicted himself being pelted off Canal Street on his record sleeve.
Not that Ste is likely to give a shit any time soon. Rejecting traditional forms of musicianship has gone hand in hand with political lyrics dealing with conflict in his own life, while being ignored by mainstream culture. “The hetero love song has polluted our ears for centuries. Why would I make queer music that imitated Oasis? I sound more like a homemade Go-Go's with Peter Tatchell's lyrics, and I'm bloody proud of that”.
On Feb 16th, Kaffequeeria presents Ste McCabe, Drunk Granny and Husbands at the Retro Bar, Manchester. Ste’s debut, Hate Mail, is out now on Cherryade Records
Words: Bob Henderson