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QMH Script

Pansy Division & Queercore Special


Pansy Division - Fem in a Black Leather Jacket (1993)

Welcome to Queer Music Heritage, and this is JD Doyle. I'm heard every month as a part of Queer Voices on KPFT, and the song I opened with is by one of my favorite bands, Pansy Division. It's from their first album, from 1993, called "Undressed," and the song is "Fem in a Black Leather Jacket." I'm very pleased this month because I get to share with you a special interview I did with Jon Ginoli, the founder of Pansy Division. And he's been very busy lately. The band has just released their ninth full length album, and it's called "That's So Gay." And a new documentary has been hitting the film festival circuit, called "Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band." That's out on DVD now. And Jon's written a book, called "Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division." So he's been travelling the country on a book tour. I'm very glad he stopped in Houston, as he was able to come by for an extensive interview.

Let me tell you how this show will be set up. My interview with Jon will be split into two parts, with a lot of it being in Part 1, the segment designed for broadcast radio. But if you know anything about this band at all, you already know that most of the joy of their music comes from the boundaries they've always gleefully leaped over. Their music celebrates gay sexuality, and they were one of the first to do so with such explicit lyrics. Many of their songs, well, I can't even read the titles on this show. That's where Part 2 will come in. That can be found on my website, as an internet-only version. Of course that's at www.queermusicheritage.com.

But wait, there's more. In preparation of this show I also decided that on QMH I've never really done justice to the punk music genre of Queercore. And the main reason why is the same one that's prevented me from playing very many Pansy Division songs over the years. It's the lyrics, folks. So as long as I'm extending this show to the internet I'm going to attempt the very daunting task of covering the genre of Queercore, focusing mostly on the early 90s. I'll finally play such bands as Team Dresch, Tribe 8, Fifth Column, Go, God Is My Co-Pilot, Fagbash, and on and on, about five hours worth.

And if you've ever dug into Queercore at all, you've heard of JD's Top Ten Homocore Hits. You'll hear about that as well, because in a special segment I have a very interesting interview with GB Jones, who is credited with being one of the first influences of queercore, both for her work with the fanzine JD's and in the band Fifth Column. So hold onto your seatbelts when you visit those segments.

But let's get started with my Jon Ginoli interview. Pansy Division was not Jon's first band. For several years in the mid-80s Jon led a band called The Outnumbered.

JG: I had wanted to be in a band, have a band since I was a kid, so throughout college I had the idea of wanting to do a band, and as college was finishing up I finally started writing songs and, I think I was 20, I started playing guitar, and writing songs. So The Outnumbered was my first band. You know, all the ideas of my childhood, my youth, building up, thinking, you know, what would I finally do if I got to have a band. So that was my first band. We were in Champaign, Illinois, and the band was successful. We were together five years. We made three albums and a single. We played over 200 shows, and went all over the country. The Outnumbered was…started when I was 22 years old and broke up when I was 27. And I just listened to a lot of The Outnumbered's music again recently and just thought, wow, this is the music of a disillusioned young man who just got out of college. It's the Reagan era, and things pretty much seemed to suck. I was working at Kinko's. I wanted to try to play music. The music scene, you know, mainstream music just seemed really dispirited, really horrible. So I thought, I guess I'm just an outcast, and here's me doing my music, and I'm just going to do it the way I wanted to.

I want to stop and ask about a particular Outnumbered song, "I Feel So Sorry Now"

JG: Yeah, that was actually the first really good song I wrote, and it really wasn't about anybody in particular. I was just thinking about various things, thinking about what a relationship would be like, a situation I might find myself in, but it really wasn't written from experience.

Was that the basis for "Homo Christmas"?

JG: A variation of that is what I used for the music for "Homo Christmas," yeah, cause I wrote "Homo Christmas" in a hurry, and it was right before Christmas of '91, and we were going to play a show, and it was the week before Christmas and that afternoon I decided I wanted to write a Christmas song, just for the show. And it turned out to be a really good song, but I pilfered, I stole from myself, to get the music in a hurry, cause I had to do it right then.

We'll hear "Homo Christmas" on Part 2 of this interview, but here's a bit of the song it grew from, "I Feel So Sorry Now."

The Outnumbered - I Feel So Sorry Now (1985)

The band The Outnumbered released three albums. That was from their first, in 1985, called "Why Are All The Good People Going Crazy."

I know this is a very well known fact, but as this is a history show I can't Not ask how you came up with the name Pansy Division.

JG: It was a complete accident. I was working at Rough Trade Distribution, which was a wholesale independent record distributor, in San Francisco. And the left side of my desk was against a wall and on that wall was a bulletin board, and Rough Trade distributed releases and Rough Trade label put things out. So there was a list of upcoming titles that were being distributed. And one of them was a band whose record never came out, because Rough Trade went bankrupt, called Third Panzer Division. I don't know what kind of music it was. I think it might have been electronic. So I could see the bulletin board out of the corner of my eye, cause it was to my left. If it looked forward I wouldn't see it, but out of the corner of my eye to the left I would just glance at it, and I thought I saw the phrase Pansy Division, instead of Panzer Division. I thought, Pansy Division…that was right when I needed a name for this gay rock thing that I was contemplating doing…and I thought, wow, that's a really good name. I thought, well, I'm going to hold onto that until I think of something better, but I was satisfied with that pretty quickly.
I heard the phrase pansy…it really wasn't used where I lived, as a put-down, but it was on "Monty Python," and on "Monty Python," that's how they would refer to the gays, as you know, "pansies, you bleeding pansy." And I thought, I like that, pansy.

What did you want the band Pansy Division to be?

JG: I wanted it to be blunt, unapologetic and in-your-face, because I had moved to San Francisco, and had gotten involved with Act-Up and Queer Nation, especially with Act-Up. I was pretty active for a couple of years. And what that showed me was…it showed me a lot of possibilities, including the idea that a bunch of activists and radicals out on the edge, making a lot of noise, and being to some people unreasonable, were able to create a lot of space in society for other people to kind of follow in step behind them, people who don't want to be first to draw all this attention, but once somebody else is able to make that point, they're able to be there and agree and build on that. I saw from Act-Up how effective that could be. The experience of being involved with those queer activist groups made me think I could do something that was musical, but was still, instead of being like a political activist, I would be a cultural activist. I wanted to sing about sex, because I thought sex hadn't really been talked about in, and celebrated in a direct way. It's always couched in terms of something else. I thought, I will be blunt, I will be out, it's the time of AIDS, the time of Jesse Helms and right-wing people attacking gays, saying we're monsters. And I thought, instead of being…instead of trying to placate those people, who really couldn't be placated anyway, I would just try to be as out and as direct and as unapologetic as I could be. I thought that would be something I think I can do nobody else is doing.

Not a lot of people know that before Pansy Division the band released its first album, "Undressed," in 1993, Jon on his own had recorded a tape, also called "Undressed," sold mostly in San Francisco record stores. It had the exact same track listing as the recording that came out later. He got some friends to help him out on the other instruments, but really there was no band. This was several months before he put an ad in local papers and found Chris Freeman. So I want to play for you the almost demo version of "Fem in a Black Leather Jacket" and get Jon to first tell us about the song.

JG: I had the idea to do a gay band, and I thought, this is what I want to do, what am I going to sing about? And "Fem in a Black Leather Jacket" was the first thing that I wrote, was the first song that I wrote for Pansy Division and it turned out to be one of our best songs. It's actually a composite about several people. It was just about a kind of guy that I liked. I had always thought that even with Pansy Division or Outnumbered, my previous band, that I wanted to write a song that I could listen to that I felt like nobody else had done before. And that's what that song was for me. I thought, what can I sing about, how can I sing about this that is different, that I can't pull a record out from my record collection and say, ah, this satisfied that feeling. So that was my first impulse, to write about desire in an uncensored way, with the pronouns being correct.

Pansy Division - Fem in a Black Leather Jacket (1991)

So how did people react to your in-your-face lyrics?

JG: In San Francisco, pretty damn well. I was in the right place, at the right time. I went over really well, from the beginning. I remember the second show I did was a benefit I did for Queer Nation. This was when it was just me, I didn't have a band yet, but I was calling it Pansy Division, just me and my electric guitar. And I played this benefit and all the dykes left the room, which I was pretty disappointed that that kind of cleared the room of women. So I was very happy that the very next show that I did, my third show, was actually at a queer cabaret called Klubstitute, which is kind of legendary in San Francisco. I was opening for Tribe 8, who I had not heard of. I think it was their second or third show. And suddenly here were dykes who were right on the same wavelength as me, but they had a whole band. And that was exciting to me, so after seeing them and playing a few more months on my own, I thought, alright, time to look for a band.

And as I said, an ad in local papers found him a kindred spirit in Chris Freeman, and with their first of many drummers they signed with the label Lookout Records and released the first album.

In the film you and Chris talk about how you didn't expect your audience to be so young

JG: That is because we ended up on Lookout Records, and Lookout Records had as a label a lot of bands that appealed to teenagers, but the style of music we were playing was appropriate for what Larry Livermore, who started the label, was trying to go for. The first album came out and immediately we started getting letters from teenagers. We thought, okay, we're not aiming at teenagers, we're aiming at people like us who were in our 20s and 30s, cause that's how old we were, thinking, okay, it'll be people like us who don't really appreciate the music in the gay scene and have wider variety of tastes than you're supposed to have if you're a homo. So then the record came out and we started getting letters from kids, not exclusively but way more than I would have expected. And that was really good, because Chris and I have said many times, the band we started was the band we didn't have when we were teenagers, when we were kids. For us it's satisfying that people that age can hear it.

JG: But that was how we ended up with a younger audience first thing. Then the second thing was the Green Day tour. So probably before we did the Green Day tour, our audience was probably, I don't know, 80% gay, 70%, and after we did the Green Day tour our audience was probably 80% straight, because suddenly there were all these teenagers who discovered us through Green Day and got into our music, and a lot of them thought it was really cool and would write us letters telling how they said, "I saw you open for Green Day, I'm straight, but I'm a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school, and I think your music is fantastic," and it really seemed like we connected with a lot of kids and that was a wonderful surprise.

Now that we're talking about Green Day, tell us about that whole phenomenon

JG: We had been on the same label as Green Day, Lookout Records. Their first two albums came out on Lookout. Then they got signed to Reprise Records, Warner Brothers. That first album on the major label came out in the beginning of '94 and was building up, and they were becoming popular, they were catching on. By the time that they called us to ask us to open for their summer tour their first video had gotten on MTV and was really taking off. So when we did the tour, by the time that tour began, which was almost two months after they called us, they had gotten huge, and all these places that had been booked were way sold out. They could have played 3, 4, 5, maybe 10 times the size of venues that we were playing on that first tour, so they had gotten popular suddenly.
They were very loyal to their old label. They had heard us and thought, alright, here's our opportunity. We're really getting popular, we want to do something that will show people what kind of values, what kind of people that Green Day are. And by having a band like us open for them made a statement about who they were. It was using the power they had, their sudden popularity, to put us up on the platform with them and say, here's what we believe in, having this band open for us is making a statement, they're a great band, but also they do something unique. I mean, Green Day weren't political particularly then, but a lot of their songs were about personal politics and identity. So we matched well with them, and they were getting bigger and realizing that these kids coming to see them were just treating them like any other band. They were just this week's new flavor, and they thought, no, we want to do something to differentiate ourselves from any other new band that's out there, and having Pansy Division open for them made that statement.

In the film Matt Wobensmith said the biggest thing in the 90s for the queercore movement was you touring with Green Day.

JG: I think that's true. Matt says this in the film. People were dismissive of the whole idea of Queercore, like in the press, there weren't very many people who were covering us. So the fact that we were suddenly visible in a really mainstream setting, made people who might not have written about it, or thought it was too insignificant to warrant coverage, to suddenly take it seriously and give it a good look.

And pause a moment to tell my listeners who he is.

JG: Matt Wobensmith was the guy who founded Outpunk Records, and he also did Outpunk Magazine. When we decided that we would be the gay band, if nobody else wanted to be out, then we would be out. His idea was, well, if there's going to be gay bands, I want to put out their records. So he put out Tribe 8's first EP, and put out a Pansy Division single. And started to put out records by other queer bands that were starting to materialize about the same time.

Okay, we've kind of skipped a bit too quickly through the early years of the band, and they released an album a year through 1997, adding to their catalog ones called "Deflowered," "Pile Up," Wish I'd Taken Pictures," and "More Lovin' From Our Oven." I want to cover some of those songs, but I admit some of ones I want to play the most, well, you'll have to go to Part 2 for those.

From the list of ones I can play is one from the "Pile Up" album, from 1995 called "I Can't Sleep," which is…

JG: About my experiences trying to get laid in San Francisco, and how frustrating it could be.

Pansy Division - I Can't Sleep (1995)

And from that same album is one I especially like, called "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other."

JG: This is a good story. The writer, Ned Sublette, is from Texas, West Texas, I think Lubbock, and the song, as I heard it, was actually the second version he recorded. I never heard the original. I've asked him but he doesn't want to let it out. It never got released. When he was living in New York in the mid-80s, as part of the new music scene there, he had recorded a very odd version of this song, with odd instrumentation. And it had come out on a collection put out by Jon Giorno, the gay poet from New York, who had a label, which used to get arts funding grants, called Giorno Poetry Systems. And the Giorno Poetry Systems albums…a lot of it is spoken word. He had William Burroughs, Ann Waldman, Laurie Anderson…he put out these compilations, which would be a combination of spoken word, poetry and music. And on one of these albums was "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other." And I got it from the Champaign Illinois Public Library, and I think I got it in '86. And I loved the song. I just thought it was so good. I had to return the album, so I taped it, on a cassette, which I still have, and when we started the band we did a bunch of covers, usually as the B-sides to singles. A lot of those songs were either songs that I thought were by gay people or suggested that there was a gay meaning to the song. That one was obviously clear, there was nothing hidden, and I thought that was a song that needed to be rescued, plucked off the heap of obscure songs. So I'm really glad to have dragged that one out there, and people hear it and they think, oh, that's a song I wrote, but I didn't. The guy who wrote it a hetero, and he told me that if you stand out as being the least bit creative in West Texas, you're called fag, you're called homo. Cause I asked him if he was gay, he said no, that's what he was called as a creative kid in an uncreative environment. And so that's what he wrote the song about. I think it's a great song. And Willie Nelson's version, because he does it kind of slower, more waltz-style, he omits the final chorus and the second verse, so our version is more complete. But I like Willie's version, too, and I think it's great that Willie did it.

Pansy Division - Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other (1995)

And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. As I said, this is another one of my shows where I have much too much great material for just one hour, so you can find much more on my site, including more of this interview, an interview with GB Jones, and several special segments on Queercore music. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night/Sunday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT; it's Queer Radio, with attitude.

We're up to the 1996 album "Wish I'd Taken Pictures" and it included an interesting song called "Vanilla"

JG: Chris had written "James Bondage," and I thought, good, good for you. It was the first song he wrote for the band. I thought as an alternate to "James Bondage," I would write "Vanilla," cause Chris really wasn't into the things he sings about in "James Bondage" so much. "Vanilla," yeah, it's fairly me. [I've never heard anybody write about that] Good, then we did something unique.

Pansy Division - Vanilla (1996)

Also from "Wish I'd Taken Pictures" is the song "I Really Wanted You"?

JG: That song was written and recorded for The Outnumbered. It was on the second Outnumbered album, and it was about a friend of mine who I used to hand out with who I didn't know if he was gay or not, but who I was quite attracted to, but then one day he told me he had met this woman, and this woman just sort of sunk her claws into him, like really deeply right away. And I thought, oh, it's something that I hoped might develop into something for me and him, and then it didn't, so that's kind of a lament.

Pansy Division - I Really Wanted You (1996)

Your book is subtitled "the inside story of the first openly gay pop-punk band," your film is subtitled "life in a gay rock band." How do you differentiate between those terms?

JG: I think my book publisher wanted to be more specific, and I had written the title of the book, and they came up with the subtitle, and I said, sure, that works. I kind of use the phrases interchangeably anyway. We're an indy rock band, we're a pop punk band, we're a punk band, a rock band, a gay rock band.

So in more general terms, how do you differentiate between punk and rock?

JG: Punk is generally noisier, edgier, shorter songs. There's definitely a punk rock sound that is rock and roll but at the same time specific, has a specific tone to it. Even though punk has a lot of wide parameters, people define it differently. I didn't just want to call us a punk band because I think it doesn't really describe what we do, it kind of narrows what we do.

What does the term queercore mean to you?

JG: It was first homocore. When I got to San Francisco in '89 there was a zine called "Homocore," but in 1990 that was the year, I think in retrospect, the year of the queer, where suddenly the word queer got reclaimed. I think it was by ACT-Up people, or activists in general, who were saying, you know, you want to call me queer? Yeah, I am queer, so I'm going to defuse that term for you. You call me queer I'm going to accept that. And that was when you started hearing the term Queercore. The funny think about Homocore, the magazine and the movement, is that they were starting to write about queer rock bands when there really weren't any. There was a cassette tape that JD's put out, Juvenile Delinquents Magazine, Bruce LaBruce and GB Jones, but a lot of the bands were on this tape, which I think was '89, I can't exactly remember what year, but it was definitely before Pansy Division, seemed like just a lot of adhoc groups, like bands that just got together to record a song, or something, but not a band that you could really go see, bands that for the most part didn't make records later. So it's kind of like the idea of homocore, or Queercore, or a gay rock band, people imagined it before it really existed.

But what is it? It's edgy, noisy, blunt, and very in your face, rock and roll, punk rock. A lot of it's funny, a lot of it is confrontational. There were a lot of people who just , said they were fed up and weren't going to take it anymore, and they made this music that was sharp-edged.

So, was Pansy Division Queercore?

JG: Yes, we were poppier though than I think a lot of the other people who were associated with the term were. You know, I was aware that even though the fit wasn't perfect for us, yeah, we're a Queercore band.

In 1997 the band released their album called "More Lovin' From Our Oven" and it included Jon's salute to Canada, called "Manada"

JG: I had been curious about Canada, and had never been up there until Pansy Division first got to tour, in '94. I always thought that Canada would get overlooked. People in this country, I think in general, think America has all the answers to everything, and that we don't look around at what the other countries are doing to solve some of the same problems that we have. Having that attitude made me more curious about Canada, so I was really happy when we started to go up there and started to get popular up there. And the experience of being up there, and getting laid frequently, caused me to write the song, as both a tribute to the men, the men of Canada, and the country itself, which I think is a great place, gets overlooked.

Pansy Division - Manada (1997)

They also recorded that song in French and how many of you noticed that about half way through I switched to that version.

Over the years Pansy Division has become well-known for their cover versions, and they did a very fun one of the Josie Cotton song, "He Could Be the One."

JG: From "Valley Girl" soundtrack, ya know, just a song Chris liked, wanted to do, thought it would be a good one that we could do without having to change the lyrics.

Pansy Division - He Could Be the One (1997)

"Absurd Pop Song Romance," from 1998, had a different sound and was lyrically broader. Talk about that, and how was that album received in contrast to the ones before it?

JG: We took a different approach on "Absurd Pop Song Romance" for several reasons. One was that it was our first album with Patrick on lead guitar, Patrick Goodwin. He had joined our band right after "More Lovin' From Out Oven" came out, our fifth album. "Absurd" was our sixth album, and having him aboard gave us the ability to have a broader range of sound. But as far as the lyrical content goes, we had reached a point that we thought that if we continued doing what we had been doing, that we would be repeating ourselves. I realized that and sometimes I'd show Chris new songs that I'd written and he's kind of like, you know, that's kind of like this song that you already wrote before, or this lyric is similar to this and that. I'd felt like we'd reached a point where we wanted to evolve, but also felt like we needed to evolve. And one of the things I had always wanted to do from the beginning of the band was in every song, somewhere in the lyric there had to be something that was overtly queer. Like, whether it uses the word "gay," or uses the word "he" if I'm talking about a love or sex object. And I got to the point where I realized, people know about our band now. We've made five albums. We don't have to spell it out all the time. People now get the context that we're in without being needed to be reminded of it constantly. So on that record, that was when we shifted to making some of our songs, either without any gender being mentioned, or maybe addressing more universal situations.

How was it received? It was actually received very well, however, it came out at a time when the scene that had propelled us, the sort of post-Nirvana, post-Green Day, alternative/punk scene, was kind of fading. None of the bands on our label, for example, were selling as well as they had had. So, bad timing. We had really good timing in so many ways, but when we made our, we made what we considered a career move…like here's a record that will, like, start a second career for us, reach a whole bunch of other people who may not have been into the punk stuff so much, or into the humorous stuff so much. Here's a more serious record. Here's a record with more musical chops. But it didn't reach the people that we thought and hoped would appreciate it. It's still probably our best record, but we thought we'd done our best shot, and had sold less than our others, but I think that whatever record we would have put out at that point would have sold less than the others. I don't chalk it up to that record in particular.

You had 6 albums of new material in the first 6 years and then 2 in the last 10. Talk about that change in frequency.

JG: After we did "Pop Song Romance" we stopped doing the band full time, and we had done it full time since '94, five years, so in '99 we did a tour that year but we had all gotten jobs, and after that, with the experience of "Pop Song Romance" not taking off like we'd hoped, and the fact that we had other jobs we needed to do, we were less inclined to just get together and make music. So when we finally did, it was actually not that fun a process. But we did get "Total Entertainment" done and I think it's a real good album, but at the same time it wasn't as much fun at that point as it had been earlier. So after "Total Entertainment" came out we did a tour, and then Chris went to school, which really detracted from our availability. He did a four-year film degree in three years, so he was not available most of the time, but it was a good time for him to do it, because we really weren't sure how much activity we wanted to do anyway. So it had gone from being our whole life, or at least most of our time and energy, to being something that was a hobby that we got to indulge in every once in a while, and it was fun doing it that way.
But after that, people started spreading out. Patrick quit the band in 2004, but with Chris being in school there wasn't much reason to be too active cause we just couldn't do much, so we kind of went a while without a guitar player. I had hoped that we would make another record someday, but by the time I finished my book a couple years ago, it looked like that wasn't going to be the case. So I had a couple songs that I wanted to record, and it was hard getting everybody together. Chris was in Los Angeles. Luis, Joel and I were in the Bay Area, but Luis was making plans to move to New York, and Joel eventually moved to Boston, so now there was four us in four different cities on two coasts. However I wanted to record a couple songs, and when we went into the studio to do them we had such a great time that I thought, we'd do these songs, I think they're great songs, I guess if Pansy Division is not going to make another album, we're not going to record them. I thought, let's just put them on the website, you know, maybe we'd put out a single or something, but they're I thought just really good songs. And when we did them, we had such a good time that we decided, no, the results were so good and we had such a good time doing them we thought, let's make another album. But since we're all living on different coasts it took a year and a half to get the album done, and another six months to get it released. So we began working on it in April of '07 and it came out at the end of March '09. "That's So Gay." The new album.

And that very quickly brought us up to date. We'll hear about several of the songs from the new album, and whole lot of songs from their whole career on Part 2. And we'll also go in depth about why Jon wrote the book.
What do you see as the future for Pansy Division?

JG: It will I think go back to being an occasional thing. We are doing a tour in '09 but our tour is shorter than I'd hoped for when we discussed it originally, because of people's life obligations. So I think in the future we'll probably…I mean, the way that we worked on this album, doing demos and then working on them from a distance, and then getting together and then suddenly just whipping them into shape and recording them. That's the way we did it this time. We'd like, do our demos, get together one day to learn the song and record it the next day. I would have never in the past thought that we could have done that and had such good results, but the fact that we did means it's a template for further activity. So I think we'll probably make more records, but not right away.

Looking back, what do you think is the place in gay music history of Pansy Division?

JG: In our film, Chris says that one of the things that we're trying to show by our band's mere existence is that the gay experience is a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and I think that we really helped expand the idea of what the gay experience is by having the band that we had and doing it the way that we have.

I agree, but I want to go a bit further than that, and I couldn't say it much better than Tom Robinson. His assessment is, and I quote, "Few bands outside the mainstream ever write songs so striking that listeners will rush out and buy them on first hearing, but I think Pansy Division is one such band. To this day, their back catalogue remains hugely liberating for any gay music fan who's grown up immersed in the het pop, macho rap, and metal posturing of Western youth culture. The songs are also tremendous fun. Their riotous celebration of male-on-male sexuality remains a unique achievement in pop music history."

I'm down to the last song. This went way too fast, and I want to thank you all for listening, and Jon Ginoli for the wonderful interview. You can find out more about the band at www.pansydivision.com, and much more of this show at my site at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.

I'm closing with one of their most popular songs, and it's from their 1998 album "Absurd Pop Song Romance." It's "Luv Luv Luv."

JG: It was from the idea that pop songs lie to you about love, and set unrealistic expectations in our lives as to what love will be like someday when we grow up. I'm just pointing out something that's already there.

Pansy Division - Luv Luv Luv (1998)


What is the most popular Pansy Division song?

JG: "Bunnies," followed by "Luv Luv Luv." After that…"Bunnies," "Luv Luv Luv," "Femme in a Black Leather Jacket."

And are you basing this answer on sales, audience response?

JG: Audience response. That's what people yell for, and that's what people request, like if I run into somebody before a show, they'll say "are you guys going to play 'Bunnies' tonight." That's often what people will say.

Pansy Division - Bunnies (1993)

Welcome to the July 2009 edition of Queer Music Heritage, and that song sets the tone and gives a very energetic start to Part 2 of my Jon Ginoli interview. This is where we're going to talk about a whole lot of Pansy Division songs that I just can't play on broadcast radio, obviously like "Bunnies," taken from their 1993 album "Undressed."

How has the subject matter of your songs evolved over the years?

JG: Well, let's look at those songs I just mentioned. "Bunnies" and "Femme in a Black Leather Jacket" were songs about desire, about a guy desiring another guy. "Femme" is about a guy, you know, somebody's he's attracted to. "Bunnies" is about getting it on. The other song in that trio is "Luv Luv Luv" which came five or six years later, and "Luv Luv Luv" is much more cynical, and kind of worldly. It's like, here's how the world works. The idea that we grow up with pop songs…from the music we hear as kids we get ideas about what love is going to be like, what life is going to be like. What is it like to be in love, and I think that because pop music is made to sell you songs, it's a distorted picture, so you get to a certain point where you realize all these ideas you had about what love is going to be like are pretty inaccurate. In the beginning of the band we were trying to be more celebratory, because that's what we felt hadn't been done…celebratory songs about gay sex, about gay love…and by the time we got around to "Absurd Pop Song Romance," five years later, I felt like it was time to show the other side of the coin. Instead of always getting the guy, or feeling like the guy is attainable, we turned and showed some disappointment. And that was I think…"Luv Luv Luv"…a good distillation of trying to evolve but at the same time doing something that people could still recognize as Pansy Division.

Okay, you want evolving? Here's that same song, "Luv Luv Luv," done very differently.

Common Thread Community Chorus - Luv Luv Luv (2009)

Now that was something I would not have expected, and it was just uploaded to youtube from a May 30th performance by the Common Thread Community Chorus of Toronto. Further irony is that it was recorded at a performance at the Holy Trinity Church. Yup, plenty of contrast on this show, as you'll continue to see.

On this segment we're going to cover four songs from the "Undressed" album. We started with "Bunnies" and next is "Cocksucker Club"

JG: I had a friend in San Francisco, he's still a friend of mine actually. We were talking about a guy who we thought was gay and I wasn't sure, and I said, is he? And my friend said, "well, he's in the club." And I thought, well what club would that be? And then I immediately thought, well, the cocksucker club. You know, are you gay? Well, if you're sucking dick, you're gay, or you're bi, or whatever. And the song says, he might be bi, he might be gay, that's one of the lines. So I thought, that's where the…that's the club we're in. [it's where the rubber meets the road] Yes, so to speak.

Pansy Division - Cocksucker Club (1993)

Tell me about "Anthem"

JG: The chorus of "Anthem" was actually the first thing that I wrote for Pansy Division. It's an anthem, of course, given the title…the lyrics, "we're here to tell you, you better make way, we're queer rockers in your face today." That's what my initial impulse was to do with the band, and you know, to sort of draw the line in the sand…"we can't relate to Judy Garland, it's a new generation of music calling"…to say, this is different than what queer culture normally is.

Pansy Division - Anthem (1993)

"Rock & Roll Queer Bar"

JG: I had been a DJ at a club of the same name in San Francisco, along with Don Baird, who's been a columnist for the queer biweekly magazine in San Francisco called "San Francisco Bay Times" for almost 20 years, I think. He and I started a club together because we wanted to have a queer rock club. And it happened right as I was starting to record Pansy Division's stuff in '91. So when I went to do the first recording session for Pansy Division, I recorded that song thinking "ah, it'll be the theme for my club and then I can blow people's minds with, by playing that at my club. But the club only lasted a couple more months after that, because the club we were doing it in shut down, and then I got busy with the band.

And this time I'm going to share another early version of the song, from Jon's 1991 cassette tape, "Undressed," here's "Rock & Roll Queer Bar."

Pansy Division - Rock & Roll Queer Bar (1991)

When Pansy Division formed what other openly queer bands were there?

JG: Well, when we formed, when I had the idea to do Pansy Division I knew of no one. As it turned out the one band that was together…the records were impossible to find at that point, was Fifth Column, from Toronto. They were the only band that were all gay, and singing about gay stuff before. So they were like a year before us, maybe a year and a half, couple years [note: Fifth Column's first recording 45 was actually in 1985 and LP in 1986, but would have been as Jon said, very difficult to know about or find]. I forget when their first album came out. It was pre-CD, it just came out on vinyl, and has never been on CD. They were very obscure and I only knew about them because of "Homocore" magazine, and "JD's," Bruce LaBruce's old fanzine, "Juvenile Delinquents," that he did with GB Jones from Fifth Column. Apart from that, like I say in the intro to my book, there were, you know, there were gay musicians who were around before that, some of whom were out. But mostly it was people who rumors were about, or it was about people who were dance acts.

JG: So when I talk about who was out in rock before us, we started at the exact same time as Tribe 8 in San Francisco. Glen Meadmore in Los Angeles was around about a year before us. There was an article in "Option" magazine, which is a music magazine, in '92 where they were talking about queer musicians. It was mostly about Glen Meadmore, queer musicians playing rock, and at that point Pansy Division had recorded but had not gotten anything released yet, and I was chomping at the bit to get something out there, cause I thought, yes, the time is right for this, maybe somebody's going to beat me to it, but there was room for plenty. But to answer your questions, who was out before us? Almost no one. I think there were a lot people you could point to that may have done something before we did, but not a whole band, and trying to go about it like we did, or Tribe 8 did. I mention Tribe 8 a lot because I think they are really the good, a good comparison to us…same time, same place, a lot of the same issues, but their approach was very different, but I think they're a really good parallel to us. Put the two of us together, covers a lot of ground.

In 1994 the band released their album called "Deflowered," and without revealing too much about myself, I'll say that I was anxious to hear Jon talk about one of my two favorite Pansy Division songs of all time, "Groovy Underwear."

JG: Yeah, it occurred to me one night, as I was laying down to go to sleep, that I couldn't think about any good songs about underwear, and I thought, really? I couldn't think of any, so I thought I'd better write one, and that's what I came up with. I stayed up until like three in the morning. I thought, this is pretty good.

Have you gotten responses from people with underwear fetishes on that one?

JG: A few…that is another one of our favorites, people are always asking for that one.

Pansy Division - Groovy Underwear (1994)

And from the next year, and the "Pile Up" album, comes my other favorite song of theirs, "Homo Christmas."

JG: I wrote it in 20 minutes before a gig the week of Christmas, and I had come up with the idea, wrote the words pretty fast and, and I thought, if I want to rehearse this song tonight, and play it tonight…cause we had a rehearsal before the show we were going to do, it was like a Saturday, and we were going to rehearse for an hour at four, and at five we were going to take our gear over to the club. So I thought I better write this in a hurry, because if I want to do it tonight I can't spend a lot of time trying to worry about the music, so I pilfered an Outnumbered song, and adapted that and added the lyrics to it. The music's similar but not quite the same, and it was an instant hit.

"I Feel So Sorry Now" was the song by The Outnumbered, and I played a little of it on Part 1, and I think the transition to "Homo Christmas" is apparent. So I want to let you hear them back to back.

Outnumbered - I Feel So Sorry Now (1985)/Pansy Division - Homo Christmas (1995)

I want to backtrack just for a moment, as I had asked Jon a couple of questions about the band Outnumbered that time-wise just didn't fit in Part 1 of the interview.

I've seen that band referred to as an all-male feminist band.

JG: There's a couple songs that we did that were pretty blatantly feminist. The one high-profile review that the band got was in "Spin Magazine," when our second album, "Holding the Grenade Too Long" came out, and that write described us as a feminist garage band. And I thought, that's pretty good. Cause garage rock, 60s style garage rock, you know, it's all about how the girl done him wrong, and to come out and sort of do a version of that that is sensitive about women and feminism, I thought, alright, I can accept that, it's cool, it's not going to make us sell many records

How does the music of The Outnumbered compare to that of Pansy Division?

JG: Funny thing about that is that as Pansy Division has gone on it started to sound more like The Outnumbered, especially after "Absurd Pop Song Romance" and after. Because The Outnumbered were power pop, indy rock, a lot of 60s influences, garage rock. Pansy Division has more punk rock in it. It blends those same kinds of things. So I think there's a parallel to the way that Pansy Division sounds now, especially with the new album, compared to The Outnumbered's stuff. It's comparable in certain ways.

Can you tell us about the song "Fuck Buddy"?

JG: I still think that's one of my favorite Pansy Division songs, even though it's not on our "Best Of." It's always been a favorite of mine, and I wanted to write about having a fuck buddy because I thought that is one of the things that is more commonly accepted in gay circles, rather than in hetero circles. So the idea of having a fuck buddy, someone who you just get together and hook up with every once in a while, was something that I hadn't really heard talked about in a song. I thought, this is really not such an obscure concept but I don't really hear it mentioned. I thought, that's a good idea. I like the phrase, fuck buddy, to have a fuck buddy. So I thought here's something that we can document that is unique but at the same time people will hear it and go "oh yeah, I want to have one of those."

Pansy Division - Fuck Buddy (1995)

I like what you did with "Real Men."

JG: I used to think that Joe Jackson was gay, turns out he's not. I ran into somebody at some point who told me he knew his wife. But yeah, I always hated the idea of "real men," cause it was always this sort of impossible thing to live up to, and I thought a false concept anyway. So I thought we'd put the Pansy Division treatment onto this song.

Pansy Division - Real Men (1995)

Next up is "Bill & Ted's Homosexual Adventure"

JG: That is pure silliness. That and "Touch My Joe Camel" are probably the silliest songs that we did, just for fun, but I love the video for "Bill & Ted's Homosexual Adventure," it's just…so ridiculous.

Pansy Division - Bill & Ted's Homosexual Adventure (1995)

By the way, "Bill & Ted's Homosexual Adventure" was on the very first Pansy Division 45, released on the Outpunk label, prior to the band signing with Lookout Records.

From the 1996 album "Wish I'd Taken Pictures" came the song "Sidewalk Sale"

JG: Written after…we'd played in Portland, Oregon, and we ended up at this gay bar there after the show, and just standing around outside at the end of the night, the phrase popped into my head, and I went home, where we were staying in Portland and wrote the lyrics.

When I was hitting the bars, years ago, I used to have a rule for myself: leave at 1:30am, cause you make not so good decisions after that.

JG: Yeah, that's good.


Pansy Division - Sidewalk Sale (1996)
Pansy Division - Hibernia Beach (1996)
Pansy Division - Son of a Preacher Man (1995)

"Sidewalk Sale" was so short that I threw in two more, both from the Pansy Division website. "Hibernia Beach" was done in 1996 as an opening theme for a San Francisco gay radio show by that name. And the name was taken from a corner on Castro Street where the Hibernia Bank used to be. That corner became a cruising, or at least, posing area and I understand that while the bank changed names years ago the name Hibernia Beach has continued.

Hibernia Beach

And after that of course was a cover of the Dusty Springfield song "Son of a Preacherman." This was considered for the "Wish I'd Taken Pictures" album, but then was not included.

But one song that did make the album that I can't leave out is "Dick of Death."

JG: We did one tour of Australia and Chris picked up this guy, who he said had had the biggest one that he had ever seen, and I said, well, you should call the song "Cockadile Dundee," but Chris called it "The Dick of Death," and you know I thought that was fine, but I remember at the time thinking, some people think, or are going to think, this is a song about AIDS. But I thought, I'm not going to let what someone might think the song might be about, I'm just going to put my meaning on it.

Pansy Division - Dick of Death (1996)

Moving on to 1997 and "More Lovin' From Our Oven," and the song "Negative Queen."

JG: We did it twice. There's a band version on "Deflowered," and then the a cappella version. The a cappella version came about where there was a big heat wave one summer in Chicago, in '95, where hundreds of people died. It was 108 degrees for a week. And we were playing a club in Chicago that week, and our van kept breaking down, the power kept going out, so we played this club and the power was on across the street, but not on our side of the street where the club was. All these people were showing up for the show, so we were trying to entertain them on the sidewalk, to keep them there instead of leaving, cause it was miserably hot. So we started doing a cappella versions of our songs, and that one seemed to work really well.

JG: As far as the subject matter goes, one of the things that I used to do constantly in the early days of the band was put up posters in San Francisco to advertize our shows. And when I moved to San Francisco you could put up posters in The Castro…there were ACT-UP and later Queer Nations posters all over. And then at a certain point some self-appointed people would go around and rip down all the signs off of all of the lampposts in that neighborhood. And I found this infuriating. They would say they're cleaning up the neighborhood. And I would go like…the neighborhood is fine. It doesn't need to be cleaned up. So the people who were behind that struck me as…you'd see them quoted in the paper, cause it was a contentious thing…they'd get quoted in the gay paper and they were really negative people, and I thought they're just out to ruin other people's fun, so that's why I wrote that.

Pansy Division - Negative Queen (Stripped Bare) (1997)

Can Pansy Division do a metal song?

JG: We wanted to do a metal single, when Dustin was in the band, so the three of us were discussing metal songs that we might want to do. Chris was a big Kiss fan, and we agreed to do "Sweet Pain," because we thought it was a song that we could improve on. With "Breaking the Law," I'm not that big of a metal fan, but I liked that song and I remembered that song and just thought, wow, well we're breaking the law all the time in all these different states that we go to, cause there's these stupid sodomy laws, so I thought let's adapt that to make our point.

Pansy Division - Breaking the Law (1997)

And Jon didn't mention it but "Breaking the Law" is a Judas Priest song, and when Pansy Division sang that song live at San Diego Pride in June of 1997, Rob Halford of the band Judas Priest came up on stage and sang it with them, even singing the modified lyrics. A few months later Halford came out of the closet.

From the "Absurd Pop Song Romance" album came "Bad Boyfriend"

JG: It's easy to complain about somebody else, so I thought…I started writing this song and I thought, oh, this would be a lot more interesting if I point the finger at myself, rather than point the finger at somebody else and accuse them of being a bad boyfriend. Not based on a real person. [Not based on you]. Not based on me.

Pansy Division - Bad Boyfriend (1998)

Well, there's too much Pansy Division for just Part 2, so please come back for more.



Pansy Division Film Trailer (2009)
Pansy Division - Coming Clean (2004)

Welcome to Part 3 of my Pansy Division special. That first little snippet was the trailer for the film "Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band," and it was followed by one that may be hard to find, as it's only found on the B side of their latest 45, "Average Men," and not on any CD. The song is a cover of a Green Day song, called "Coming Clean."
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We had gotten as far as the CD "Total Entertainment," from 2003, putting it five years after "Absurd Pop Song Romance." And on that CD we find out "Who Treats You Right"

JG: Was a phrase Luis was using when we were on our last European tour in '98, and I thought, that sounds like a good song title. It's one of the first songs, and there are several, that we wrote at that point and afterwards, that sort of used a sport motif. It's just partly because there's been so much progress for gay people in our society in the U.S., but not much in the area of sports and athletics. There are not gay athletes that are out, at least not during their careers.

Pansy Division - Who Treats You Right (2003)

JG: That was like the first song where I was thinking about sports as a motif to use, and I do that on the new album as well, on "Pat Me On the Ass," which we just got a bad review the other day, and they're talking about how frivolous some of the songs on the new album are, but "Pat me On the Ass" actually is based on the idea that, you know, guys can't touch each other except on the field, except in basically to cream each other, except to pat each other on the ass after a good play, and I thought that was just…something that needed comment.

Pansy Division - Pat Me On the Ass (2009)

One of the more serious songs from "Total Entertainment" was called "No Protection"

JG: What year was this? 2001 or 2002, there as a terrible meth epidemic in the gay scene in San Francisco, and after a long slow decline HIV rates were starting to go up, and you started hearing about bare-backing as a phrase, and it made me really mad at and really frustrated, because I felt like one of the things I tried to do with Pansy Division was…even though we were singing about sex…emphasize the safe sex angle, not in a proselytizing kind of way, but just as footnote to the kinds of activities that we were talking about and advocating. So it's the idea that we wanted to tell a story about, you know, yes, you still need to use condoms. I mean, the message is clear but at the same time I don't think it's too preachy. Oh, one more thing about "No Protection," we did "No Protection" as a dance track, because…our version of what a dance track would be, a Pansy Division dance track, because that was the setting for…you know, that's the gay bar setting. I don't know it if really got played in gay bars, but that was the idea, like, here's our version of what a club song should be.

Pansy Division - No Protection (2003)

In August of 2002 I was in Los Angeles, and attended a festival called Sunset Junction, held in Silverlake. Pansy Division were the lead act and I got to hear several songs prior to their being released on the "Total Entertainment" CD. I had my recorder going and I hope Jon will forgive me for playing a live version of "He Whipped My Ass." It's the first time they played that song in public.

JG: "Whipped My Ass In Tennis"…that was just a phrase I came up with. I don't know why, and I just kind of based the song around it. I do play tennis. That was just a fun piece of fluff.

Pansy Division - He Whipped My Ass In Tennis, and I Fucked His Ass In Bed (2002, live)

I've not mentioned enough the Pansy Division website, of course at www.pansydivision.com. I think it's just about the perfect artist site, with the right information, organization, and music. And courtesy of the Pansy Division website are two tracks otherwise not available digitally. They were outtakes for the "Total Entertainment" CD and showed up only on vinyl, on a split 45 EP with the Skinjobs, in 2004. The songs are "Your Loss" and "I Know Your Type.

Pansy Division - Your Loss (2004)
Pansy Division - I Know Your Type (2004)

Pansy Division made many guest appearances on compilation albums over the years. In 2003 there was a project called "The Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show." They got to contribute "I Can Make You A Man."

Pansy Division - I Can Make You A Man (2003)

Over the years with your songwriting and the many sexual subjects you've covered, and all the boundaries you've gleefully leaped over, have you come up with any songs that you thought, oh no, even for us that's too over the edge

JG: No, but I did come up with songs that kind of repeated themes, but you know, there are limits. You know, at one point I thought, alright, what haven't we sung about, and I thought, you know, like certain sexual activities. I thought, I'm not going to sing about that. I've got my limits about what I want to sing about, what other people in the band want to sing about, and it's not like we have to catalog everything. At some point I thought well, maybe that's what people expect from us, and I thought, well, if I feel like doing that, then I will, but I haven't really felt the need.

Why did you write the book?

JG: Even if a lot of people hadn't heard us, a lot of people had heard of us, during the 90s. I thought that we got our name out there pretty well. By the middle of this decade it seemed like that was fading away, like there wasn't too much talk about queer rock anymore. We weren't active. Most of the bands that started out in the 90s weren't active anymore. Most had broken up. And I felt like the moment that we…the moment that gave birth to us and these other bands was a really interesting moment, and that a lot of people, especially people who were younger, who were…you know, people who went to see us on the Green Day tour, a lot of them were 14 years old, and now they're 29, so people who are under 25 probably missed that, or under 20 for sure. I felt like I need to document this history. It's something I lived through, and it's something that's important, and I think I have a unique perspective on it. I had some tour diaries that I kept during the 90s that were, I thought, pretty interesting and pretty entertaining. And it thought, this is a good starting point to write a book. So I did, and it took me quite a while, cause I kept starting and stopping, and putting it off and doing other things, and just life intervened.

As you know, I've been a fan of the band for many many years, and reading the story, with the activity getting less and less, and members moving to different parts of the country, it made me kind of sad, but somehow you managed to give the book an upbeat ending.

JG: I think that's because we managed to put another album together. When I finished the book, at the end of 2006, we weren't planning on doing any other recording, so I had to kind of re-write the last chapter, and touch it up a little bit before it went to press, cause things kept happening. But I think it's the idea that I still feel a purpose for our band, to sing about things the way that we do, and if the times are different we'll sing things that are different. There's a couple of angrier songs on this album. We've had a few before, but I think there's three pretty angry songs, two of which Chris wrote, which actually he's turning out to be really good at, cause I'm supposedly the more ideological one between us, I'm more politically oriented, not that he isn't but I'm more so. So for him to write songs like "Never You Mind" and "That's So Gay," I thought, wow, that's really something different that we haven't done before. I'm really happy with what we just came up with. If it's not quite as good as "Absurd Pop Song Romance," I think it's close. I think "Total Entertainment" was a good record, but it had a few weak spots, and I'm not really used to thinking of our records as having weak spots, but I think the new one's really solid.

I want to go back and slip in one of their longest songs. It was on their first Lookout 45, in 1992, but did not make it to a CD until the "Pile Up" album, in 1995. It's a revamping of the Nirvana song, which became "Smells Like Queer Spirit."

Pansy Division - Smells Like Queer Spirit (1995)

We're almost up to the latest album, "That's So Gay," but I want to slip in a song about Pansy Division. It's by a Massachusetts band called Pre Basso Continuo, and called "You Don't Have To Be Gay To Like Pansy Division (But It Helps)."

Pre Basso Continuo - You Don't Have To Be Gay To Like Pansy Division (But It Helps)

And here's another tribute song, and it's brand new, done by a friend of Jon's and an accomplished artist in his own right, Tim Cain, who founded the band Boys Entrance. He did his own version of "Fem In A Black Leather Jacket"

Tim Cain - Fem In A Black Leather Jacket (2009)

Okay, on to "That's So Gay," which starts out with "Twinkie Twinkie Little Star."

JG: There's this guy who I used to see around San Francisco who was a bad-tempered twinkie, who I remember seeing probably when he first got to town, and thinking, that guy's cute but what a bad personality. And then I saw him a few years later and he was looking kind of haggard. He was working at this café. He was standing in the doorway of the café on his break smoking a cigarette, thinking, wow, look at what he's come to at this point. So I was just thinking about him. [Did not age like a fine wine]. No.

Pansy Division - Twinkie Twinkie Little Star (2009)

I asked Jon what song from the new album he would like to talk about.

JG: Ooo, I'll mention "Obsessed With Me," from the new album. That's another serious song that's funny. It has a topical reference to Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, for being hypocrites, about the way they say they are versus the way they've actually led their lives in private. And it's just a song about how a lot of guys are never going to be willing to be out, but they're still obsessed with gay issues, and obsessed with men, obsessed with dick, and I've been playing it on my book tour. It gets a really great reaction. And I wanted to include those topical references even though I usually don't do that, cause they might not age so well. I don't want people to forget those hypocrites, and hopefully when people run across the song in the future, if they do, and they don't know who those names are, hopefully they'll google them

Pansy Division - Obsessed With Me (2009)
Pansy Division - You'll See Them Again (2009)

After "Obsessed With Me" was another track from that CD, called "You'll See Them Again." Time for the title track, "That's So Gay"

JG: Chris came up with that, and I wish I'd written that song, because the phrase really irks me. I think the listeners of this show will understand why. When people are saying, that's so gay, they're saying that gay equals bad, gay equals weak, gay equals inferior, gay is lousy, lame, and that gets back to the whole thing about feminism. It's like, why is gay lame, cause gay is a feminine man. It's just devaluing women. It's like why is a gay guy bad, it's because he's like a girl. And then I hear girls using the phrase, that's so gay, and it's just like this double whammy. When Chris told me that he'd written the song, and then I heard the song, I said, that's got to be the title of our next album, because I think that's one of the things Pansy Division does best, is take these things that are floating around out there in society, in public, and having some kind of commentary on them. It's an angry song, but it is funny, too. And I think that's a good way for us to continue to work.

Pansy Division - That's So Gay (2009)

I really admire Joel's song, "Some of My Best Friends."

JG: Yeah, so do I. I talked to him about writing songs for the band, cause I said when he joined the band that, you know, Chris and I write a lot of songs, they'll mainly be our songs, but if you want to write something, find something to write about that would be appropriate for the band, do it. And that's what he came up with and I just think it's fantastic. And on an album that doesn't have that much bad language his song is the one that has the words in it that you can't air on the radio, so it's kind of funny.

Pansy Division - Some of My Best Friends (2009)

Okay, that brings us up to date, covering the brand new CD "That's So Gay." I had to end the segment with something naughty and anthemic, and what better than this one.

JG: I had reached a certain age, that I had to reach to write that song…you know, there's a couple songs on the album that about getting older in some ways. The other one is "You'll See Them Again." "You'll See Them Again" and "Twinkie Twinkie Little Star" are the two songs that I really wanted to record, for posterity's sake. It's called "20 Years of Cock" because I like the way it sounds, but also because Luis is 15 years younger than me, so between me and Luis and Chris it's kind of the average of, given our ages, how many years we've been out and having sex, so maybe someday I'll be singing 30 years, cause I'm almost coming up on 30 years of cocks.

Pansy Division - 20 Years of Cock (2009)

Tribe 8 - Manipulate (1992)

That should give you a flavor of this show. Welcome to a very expanded edition of Queer Music Heritage. My show this month includes a comprehensive interview with Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division and this special series of five segments celebrating punk and queercore music. I asked Jon this question in Part 1 of the show but it bears repeating, and expanding on. It's where he describes what the term queercore means to him.

What does the term queercore mean to you?

JG: It was first homocore. When I got to San Francisco in '89 there was a zine called "Homocore," but in 1990 that was the year, I think in retrospect, the year of the queer, where suddenly the word queer got reclaimed. I think it was by ACT-Up people, or activists in general, who were saying, you know, you want to call me queer? Yeah, I am queer, so I'm going to defuse that term for you. You call me queer I'm going to accept that. And that was when you started hearing the term Queercore. The funny think about Homocore, the magazine and the movement, is that they were starting to write about queer rock bands when there really weren't any. There was a cassette tape that JD's put out, Juvenile Delinquents Magazine, Bruce LaBruce and GB Jones, but a lot of the bands were on this tape, which I think was '89, I can't exactly remember what year, but it was definitely before Pansy Division, seemed like just a lot of adhoc groups, like bands that just got together to record a song, or something, but not a band that you could really go see, bands that for the most part didn't make records later. So it's kind of like the idea of homocore, or Queercore, or a gay rock band, people imagined it before it really existed.

JG: But what is it? It's edgy, noisy, blunt, and very in your face, rock and roll, punk rock. A lot of it's funny, a lot of it is confrontational. There were a lot of people who just , said they were fed up and weren't going to take it anymore, and they made this music that was sharp-edged.

So, was Pansy Division Queercore?

JG: Yes, we were poppier though than I think a lot of the other people who were associated with the term were. You know, I was aware that even though the fit wasn't perfect for us, yeah, we're a Queercore band.
In researching Homocore and Queercore I had trouble getting a real handle on what the sound was, and I asked Larry-Bob that question and he kind of said, well, it's really more than a sound, it's like a scene or an attitude.

JG: There is that, but there is, there is a sound too. In our film when Matt Wobensmith is interviewed he talks about how all these bands that were starting to form under the umbrella of Queercore, or Homocore, or queer punk didn't sound very much alike, and there are great differences, but there are some other things in common.

I understand you're interested in compiling a Queercore CD.

JG: Yes, the same way that my book documents a period that I think has been underdocumented, I don't think there's a CD out there that is a definite collection of the queer punk stuff from that moment, from the first half of the 90s, and that's what I want to do, is document that. I've talked to Alternative Tentacles, they're willing to put out the record. I've got a lot of work ahead of me…putting a compilation together is really difficult. You have to reach so many people and a lot of people are not easy to find [to acquire the rights] yes, get their permission, to just find them. So we'll see how long the process takes, but it's something I'm hoping to do.

In that discussion you heard me mention to Jon that I had sounded out Larry-Bob on the subject. Larry-Bob is someone you should know about in this area, as he hosts the website at www.holytitclamps.com, which has a wealth of information about queercore and other genres. He started his Holy Titclamps zine 20 years ago in May, and he was very active in the queercore music arena when it started in the early 90s.

So, I'm including many of the acts and particular songs that both Jon and Larry-Bob recommended, along with my own choices. Still this will be a subjective show, no one could hope to cover all of queercore in even a few hours. Most of the music of these five segments will focus on the early 90s, with the rest being about evenly split before and after those years. The Queercore scene was not organized, and neither will these segments have much organization, but let's jump right in with the band Jon gave a lot of credit to, as they were both starting out at the same time, Tribe 8. I opened with one of earliest recordings by Tribe 8, called "Manipulate." That was issued on a 4-song 7" EP by Outpunk Records in 1992, along with three other acts, including Bikini Kill. Tribe 8's main members were Lynn Breedlove and Leslie Mah. Leslie Mah was one of the founders of the earlier band Anti Scrunti Faction, which was influential in this genre. Tribe 8's first full-length album did not come out until 1996 and it was called "Snarkism." I'm sharing two songs from it, and for me the choices were easy. Here's Tribe 8 and "Wrong Bathroom" and "Tranny Chaser."

Tribe 8 - Wrong Bathroom (1996)
Tribe 8 - Tranny Chaser (1996)

I didn't say before what the title of that Outpunk EP was. Well it was called "There's a Dyke in the Pit." And the contribution by Bikini Kill was also one of that band's first recordings, with the song "Suck My Left One."

Bikini Kill - Suck My Left One (1992)
Bikini Kill - Rebel Girl (1993)

Bikini Kill was not a lesbian band, but was such a part of the early movement that I had to include them. Bikini Kill was led by Kathleen Hanna, who later fronted the band Le Tigre, so she's long been associated with the Riot Grrl scene. That second song by them was called "Rebel Girl," which is one of their best known songs. It came from their 1993 album "Pussy Whipped," on the Kill Rock Stars label, a major force in Riot Grrl and Punk Music to this day. The Queercore and Riot Grrl movements started about the same time, and there's a lot of crossover, with of course the Riot Grrls not necessarily being lesbian. And I've got one more song to play from that "There's a Dyke in the Pit" EP, and like many of the songs you'll hear, it has a definite point of view. It's by Seven Year Bitch and is called "Dead Men Don't Rape."

7 Year Bitch - Dead Men Don't Rape (1992)
Power Snatch - Booty Go (1993)

I followed 7 Year Bitch with an act called Power Snatch. Their track "Booty Go" appeared on, in my opinion, a mandatory CD for any fan of queercore, which I'll tell you about in a moment. Power Snatch featured Terry Lord and Darcee Douglas who also in the mid-90s were in a band with Gretchen Phillips called Lord Douglas Phillips. The CD I was praising so highly was on Matt Wobensmith's label and was called "Outpunk Dance Party." It's an excellent starting point for an adventure in queercore land. It features the band Swine King, which included Darcee Douglas, who I just mentioned, and the much respected Randy Biscuit Turner, who died in 2005. Here's Swine King and "All Broke Down."

Swine King - All Broke Down (1993)
Hyperdrive Kittens - Rock 'N Roll Drag Queen (1993)

Also on the "Outpunk Dance Party" album was the band Hyperdrive Kittens doing "Rock 'N Roll Drag Queen," and this next act, the Mukilteo Fairies. You might find them a bit hard to understand, even with the lyrics in front of you. I did, so here are the words to this 34-second song:

I suck my cheeks in when I dance
Dig Erasure and Man 2 Man
Get 49 enemas every day,
So you'd better get the fuck out of my way

My wrist is limper than spaghetti
Lisping everyday together
Lambdas pink & ferns abound
Carefree when I hit the town

I've got intrinsic fashion sense
YMCA locker rents
Butt's as wide as Tennessee
Fucking faggot yeah you know me

And for the chorus they repeat the title four times,
Queer Enough For You?

Okay, are you ready? Probably not…

Mukilteo Fairies - Queer Enough For You (1993)

The Mukilteo Fairies, and by the way Mukilteo is the name of a small town north of Seattle that has ferry service to a nearby peninsula, although of course that ferry is spelled differently.

And I guess this might be a good time to play another prominent punk act I have trouble understanding, Limp Wrist. They've been at it a long time, and I picked from them two songs, "I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore," and "The Ode"

Limp Wrist - I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore (2000)
Limp Wrist - The Ode (2002)

Those songs were done at the end of the 90s, and the song "The Ode" pays tribute to pioneering hardcore musicians Gary Floyd of The Dicks, Randy Biscuit Turner of Big Boys, and others. You already heard Randy Turner also as a member of Swine King.

Let's get back to something a bit more melodic, in the form of a song called "Queens Make the World Go Round," from 1994.

Vaginal Davis - Queens Make the World Go Round (1994)

That was a drag queen named Vaginal Davis, also known as Vaginal Crème Davis, and she spreads her talent around. She's also an actress, performance artist and writer. She founded an act called PME, which stood for Pedro, Muriel & Ester and included L.A. queercore artist Glen Meadmore. From 1991, here's their song "Closet Case."

PME - Closet Case (1991)
Glen Meadmore - Boy Like You (1991)

That was quite a musical transition, and Glen Meadmore, part of the act PME you heard first, definitely had his own niche in the queercore scene. What he did has been called cowpunk. His first album, called "Chicken & Biscuits" came out in 1987, and I took the song "Boy Like You" from his third album, "Boned," from 1991. I love the titles of his recordings. Others have been named "Squaw Bread," "Hot, Horny and Born Again," and "Cowboy Songs for Little Hustlers."

Another important queercore band came out of New York City and went by the name God Is My Co-Pilot. They were unusual in that they were a mixed band with male and female members. Craig Flanagin was on guitar and most of the vocals were by Sharon Topper. I'm playing two of their songs, and the first is a cover, and I have trouble resisting cover versions of girl group songs of the 60s. They did the Shangri Las song "Out In The Streets."

God Is My Co-Pilot - Out In The Streets (1992)
God Is My Co-Pilot - Queer Disco Anthem (1995)

After "Out In The Streets" was the song "Queer Disco Anthem," which they recorded for the 1995 compilation "Outpunk Dance Party." And the lyrics "we're here, we're queer, we're going to fuck your children" according to the liner notes, were sung as the complete absurdity that it is, because it's straight men who are child molesters. Keep that in mind for this next song.

Halflings - Oi Oi We Fuck Boys (1997)

That was a Pennsylvania band called The Halflings, and "Oi Oi We Fuck Boys." You can probably only find that on a 7" vinyl EP called "Stop Homophobia." There were two "Stop Homophobia" recordings issued by Rick Magee, from Dallas, in the mid-90s, and I think he did a great job in compiling the songs. Here's a medley of three more from Volume 2, starting out with a UK band called "Mouthfull," ranting about the then age of consent in England, with their song "16."

Mouthfull - 16 (1993)
Homomilitia - Homofobia (1997)

Following the band Mouthfull was one you probably could not understand, and in this case that's more than justified, as the band was from Poland and the song "Homofobia" was sung in Polish. And the third of the trio, from "Stop Homophobia, Volume 2" and closing this segment is by a band called the Decembrists, which is not the same band that was formed by Colin Meloy around 2000 called Decemberists. This band is led by Eden Felt, who in the mid-80s was in the queer band Comrades In Arms and later in the band Fagbash. He wrote and sings on the song called "Heterosexual Panic."

Decembrists - Heterosexual Panic (1997)

Okay, here's one more. I start off the JD's Homocore Tape segment this month with Nikki Parasite, and there's so much to that band than that demo. Perhaps to coin a phrase, they are high-energy power-pop-punk. From 1993 by The Parasites is "Letdown."

The Parasites - Letdown (1993)


Team Dresch - Fagetarian and Dyke (1994)

This is Part 2 of my series on queercore music and that was "Fagetarian and Dyke" by Team Dresch. Again, you're listening to Queer Music Heritage.

By the early 90s Donna Dresch had created her own fanzine and record label and queercore act, which was called Team Dresch. And while it was not uncommon for band members of these acts to come and go, and to join new bands, Team Dresch may have a record for this. You almost need a flow chart to track it. Also in the band was Kaia Wilson, Jody Bleyle and Marci Martinez. All had been in other bands previously. Donna had a record label called Chainsaw and Jody had one called Candy Ass Records, so the first Team Dresch album, "Personal Best," was a co-release on both labels. By their second album, "Captain My Captain," drummer Marci Martinez had been replaced by Melissa York. Martinez went on to be in The Vegas Beat, and York and Kaia Wilson later formed The Butchies. Dresch continued with her record label, releasing work by newer queercore bands, such as The Need and Sleater-Kinney.

Okay, time for another Team Dresch song. From the 1994 release "Captain My Captain" you'll hear the voice of, and a tribute song to, lesbian artist Phranc, with the song "Uncle Phranc."

Team Dresch - Uncle Phranc (1995)

If you've only heard the pholksinger music by Phranc you may not know that she had a definite punk past, being in bands like Nervous Gender and Catholic Discipline.

In 1995 Candy Ass Records released a very unique compilation, called "Free to Fight." It came with a thick booklet explaining self-defense techniques, and between every music track was some sort of spoken-word message about the subject. The two-record set was all-women bands only and from it we'll hear tracks by Excuse 17 and Heavens to Betsy, with my favorite of those spoken work pieces in the middle.

Excuse 17 - Forever Fired (1995)
Free To Fight Message (1995)
Heavens to Betsy - Get Out of My Head (1995)

By Excuse 17 we heard "Forever Fired" and by Heavens to Betsy was "Get Out of My Head." I played those two together because Corin Tucker was in Heavens to Betsy, and when that band broke up she and Carrie Brownstein, of Excuse 17 formed Sleater-Kinney. So this would be a great time to play a couple Sleater-Kinney songs, starting with "I'm Not Waiting" from the album "Call the Doctor," from 1996.

Sleater-Kinney - I'm Not Waiting (1996)
Sleater-Kinney - One More Hour (1997)

Again, that was Sleater-Kinney, with "I'm Not Waiting" and also "One More Hour" from their 1997 album "Dig Me Out." Here's some trivia, the group's name is derived from the Sleater Kinney Road, Interstate 5 off ramp in Lacey, Washington, the location of one of their early practice spaces. Next up, The Butchies.

Butchies - The Galaxy Is Gay (1998)
Butchies - Sex (I'm a Lesbian) (1999)

Also from the end of the 90s I wanted to give you a couple songs by The Butchies. You remember, I mentioned that Kaia Wilson and Melissa York formed the band after being in Team Dresch. From their 1998 album "Are We Not Femme?" was "The Galaxy Is Gay," and since that one's so short I added "Sex (I'm a Lesbian)," from a compilation called "New Women's Music Sampler," from the Mr Lady label.

Okay, one more Team Dresch offspring, original drummer Marci Martinez went on to be in the band The Vegas Beat, and from their self-titled album from 1994 is "Pitfall."

The Vegas Beat - Pitfall (1994)

Rachel Carns was another influential figure in queercore, beginning with her work in the band Kicking Giant and then in The Need. Here's music from each band, starting with "Lucky" from the 1994 Kicking Giant CD "Alien ID," and then you'll hear two by The Need.

Kicking Giant - Lucky (1994)
The Need - Girl Flavor Gum (1999)
The Need - Rim Me Isabella (1997)

"Girl Flavor Gum" by The Need is from that "New Women's Music Sampler" CD I mentioned earlier. And the second one was a bit more suggestive, "Rim Me Isabella" from the 1997 CD just called "The Need."

Let's go next to one called "Straight Girl Soundtrack." That's by Cheesecake, from 1994, and was another song Jon Ginoli recommended I check out.

Cheesecake - Straight Girl Soundtrack (1994)

We've been neglecting the guys, so here are two fag groups, Fagbash and Fagatron.

Fagbash - Another Freak Out (1993)
Fagatron - Asskickatron (1998)

By Fagbash we heard "Another Freak Out" from Rick Magee's "Stop Homophobia," Volume 1, and from the CD "Homocore Mpls: Live and Loud" came the band Fagatron, and one called "Asskickatron." This album was a composite of live performances from a number of homocore shows, featuring acts such as The Need, Tribe 8, The Butchies, and The Third Sex, among others.

I want to mention that the band Fagbash was the creation of Paul Bonomo and sometimes the act was called Bonomo's Fagbash. He's still at it these days, going under the name Snax, spelled s-n-a-x.

More guy music. From around 1991 is the band Go, with the lead singer calling himself Mike BS. You'll hear two by them, "Section 28" and "Fear of a Gay Planet." "Section 28" is about the UK anti-homosexual law that was enacted in 1988.

Go - Section 28 (1991)
Go - Fear of a Gay Planet (1991)

I played this next song on my feature on Bear Music a few years ago, as subject wise it fit right in. This time it fits the sound. As far as I know this Lexington, Kentucky, band had one 7" EP, from around 1996. They were called the Sally Strugglers and the song I liked was "Big Boy." "Call me a chubby chaser, I don't care, you think it's strange when I stop and stare/ at that big bear of a man, you just wouldn't understand. All I really want is a big boy."

Sally Strugglers - Big Boy (1996)

Jon Ginoli also thought I should include this next act. They're from the UK and were named Huggy Bear. Their song "Pansy Twist" is from their 1994 album "Taking the Rough With the Smooch."

Huggy Bear - Pansy Twist (1994)
Scott Free - Just Don't Touch Me (1997)
Victim's Family - Homophobia (1986)

After Huggy Bear was an artist I much respect, Scott Free, and the song "Just Don't Touch Me" came from his first full-length CD, from 1997, called "Getting Off." You can find an in depth interview with Scott on my October 2008 show. And after Scott Free was a California band called Victim's Family. From their 1986 album "Voltage & Violets" was their song "Homophobia."

Closing this segment is Brian Grillo and his band Extra Fancy. There's some debate if they should be included in the discussion of queercore. Some say they were not part of the scene at all and other sources, like the book "Homocore," devoted a whole chapter to them. The song I'm playing is called "What I Have" and was from their 1996 album "Sinnerman."

Extra Fancy - What I Have (1996)

 

Third Sex - Love in the Basement (1996)
Sta-Prest - Double Your Chances for a Date (1995)

Again, you're listening to Queer Music Heritage, and opening this segment is the band "Third Sex" and the song "Love in the Basement," from their 1996 album "Card Carryin'" And after them I slipped in Sta-Prest with a bisexual queercore song called "Double Your Chances for a Date," from their 7" single from 1995.

By now we know that what is and what isn't queercore can definitely be up for debate, so I'm going to play several acts that some may not think of for this show. Call it a producer's prerogative, which of course the whole show has been. First is Tim Cain's band Boy's Entrance, and the title track from their 1998 album "Queer Punk Folder."

Boy's Entrance - Queer Punk Folder #2 (1998)
Best Revenge - Cockring for Christmas (2000)
Best Revenge - Punk Rock Fag (2002)

Coming after Boy's Entrance, and yes that was deliberate phrasing, was a band that was considered to be in the second wave of Los Angeles queercore, and I've read that they took their name from a Pansy Division song, Best Revenge. That first song was part of a compilation called "The Freak Show," which gathered songs from monthly music events by that name, and that CD included the song "Cockring for Christmas." I kind of got my hand slapped one December years ago for playing that on broadcast radio, so as this segment is definitely internet-only I couldn't pass up the chance to play it again, coupled with their anthem "Punk Rock Fag," which can be found on the 2002 CD "Best Revenge Starts With You."

And next is for sure the poppiest punk song of the whole show. It's from Australia and I just love it. The band is called The Mavis's and on their 1996 album "Venus Returning," lead singer Matt Thomas posed the musical question "Do You Have a Brother?"

Mavis's - Do You Have a Brother (1996)
Ste McCabe - Hate Mail (2008)

By the way, the Mavis's were active from 1987 until the band split in 2001, and lead singer Matt Thomas, now calling himself Matt Doll is currently in two bands, the Blow Waves, and one just called Mattdoll. And after the Mavis's I snuck in a young punk artist from the UK named Ste McCabe. His debut full-length CD called "Hate Mail" came out last year and that was the title track. And yes, playing something so new is straying a bit from the purpose of this show, but I just wanted to include him.

Coming up, two more indulgences, and the first is, gasp, a straight act. The band Superchunk didn't care when they did a cover version of the Shangra Las hit "The Train From Kansas City" that they were keeping the male pronouns intact. Well, that's what gets it on this show.

Superchunk - Train From Kansas City (1989)
Slojack - Let Me Be (1997)

That last one was by Slojack from 1997, from their CD called "Naked" and of course was the Turtles song "Let Me Be."

And this next song starts off as a cover song, but quickly derails.

Nip Drivers - Nips Get Pissed (1984)
Nip Drivers - Quentin (1984)

Those two were by the Nip Drivers and are from 1984, from their "Destroy Whitey" album, so they're a bit earlier than the years I'm mainly focusing on. All the ones in this set and the next were featured on the JD's Top Ten Hit Parade, which you'll hear more about in that segment. Those two songs were called "Nips Get Pissed" and "Quentin," with that one honoring Quentin Crisp. And here's two more early songs.

Mighty Spincter - Fag Bar (1984)
Bazooka Joe - We Are Everywhere (1989?)

You know, one thing about punk music is that sometimes you can't tell if the lyrics are homophobic or making fun of homophobia. Such is the case with "Fag Bar," as done in 1984 by the band Mighty Sphincter. Don't you love that name? I ended that set with an act I know little about, other than that they had a 7" EP called "Pastor of Muppets" put out on a South Carolina label, in the mid 80s. The band was called Bazooka Joe and the song "We Are Everywhere."

I want to thank my friend Larry-Bob for sending me not only this next track, but several others for this show. As I said earlier he's an expert in this area and I so am not, so I much appreciated a little mentoring from his direction. This band I had not heard of, and it was called Sparkmarker, led by Kim Kinakin, who went on to form the band The Skinjobs. So here's a track by each band. From the Sparkmarker CD, with the unusual title of "500wattburner@seven," is a song about coming out called "Tom Foolery," from 1997. And from the Skinjobs 2002 release "Burn Your Rainbow" is one called "Might As Well Be You."

Sparkmarker - Tom Foolery (1997)
Skinjobs - Might As Well Be You (2002)

I keep mentioning Larry-Bob. Well I also asked him to recommend if there's a recent queercore act that's really impressed him. He came up with a Minneapolis band called Tough Tough Skin, on Queer Control Records. And I think it's really cool that all three members of the band, River, Radford and Chris, are FTM. From their CD from last year called "Let It Sink Down" are the songs "Manwhore" and "Stranger Danger."

Tough Tough Skin - Manwhore (2008)
Tough Tough Skin - Stranger Danger (2008)

Again, the band Tough Tough Skin, who unfortunately after six years and only one album is breaking up this month. I am really sorry to hear that, but hope they will continue creating music.

And, back to the women, and you've noticed that in queercore they've been in the majority. There was a band from 1997 from Olympia, Washington, where many of these acts have been from, that only released two songs. One showed up on the "Outpunk Dance Party" compilation and the other on the comp "Stars Kill Rock." The songs were, respectively, "Chickenhawk" and "Only Straight Girls Wear Dresses," and you'll hear them both. I'm glad that both of these CDs list the group just by their initials, CWA, which saves me from saying their full name.

CWA - Chickenhawk (1995)
CWA - Only Straight Girls Wear Dresses (1995)

Okay, it's time to close out this main marathon of queercore songs. Again I have no will power in narrowing them down, but I figure how many chances do you have for this music and story to be captured; why not share as much as possible. Be sure to visit my separate segments on the famous "JD's Top Ten Homocore Tape," where I'll feature an interview with GB Jones, of the JD's fanzine and the band Fifth Column, and she'll talk at length about both.

I'm closing with queercore from the UK, as evidenced by the band Sister George. They took their name from the lesbian themed movie "The Killing of Sister George." From their 1995 album "Drag King," are the songs "Handle Bar," and one called "100 x no." I hope you recognize the lyrics they are borrowing for that song's beginning and end, which I think is an appropriate way to end the segment.

Sister George - Handle Bar (1995)
Sister George - 100 x no (1995)

This is JD Doyle and you're listening to Queer Music Heritage. Welcome to the JD's Homocore segment of my Queercore show. I want you to listen carefully to especially the last verse of this song. There will be a quiz.

Nikki Parasite - Male Call (1985)

Yes, that group wanted to be on the JD's Top Twenty Tape. That was Nikki Parasite, from 1985 and the song "Male Call." And male was spelled m-a-l-e. On this segment you will hear every song from the famous JD's Top Ten Homocore Hit Parade Tape, plus many more. And I'm delighted to also give you an interview with GB Jones, who with Bruce LaBruce created the JD's fanzine in Toronto in the mid-80s. GB will tell us about the zine and we'll also get deep into the story of her band Fifth Column. And besides being a musician and zine publisher, she's also an artist and filmmaker. Her film "Lollipop Generation" is currently making the rounds of film festivals.

I wanted to get your impression of what is Queercore music?

GB: Oh, that's a good question but it's so hard to answer. It's definitely different things to different people, because all the different bands that were involved, and are still involved, all had very different styles of music, and I think that's what's really exciting about it, is that there wasn't one particular set type of music that a group had to be in order to feel like they were part of it, like for instance, Pansy Division, who I know you're also talking to, are like a pop-punk group, and if you look at a group like, say, God Is My Co-Pilot, they were extremely experimental, kind of free-form punk, I guess you'd…I had to label groups cause they always insist that you've labeled them the wrong way afterwards, but I'd say Limp Wrist are like a hardcore group, and a group like Three Dollar Bill, from Chicago, has a…you can hear punk, and indy rock and a little bit of metal in their sound, and then there's the newer groups like Kids On TV and Lesbians on Ecstasy, and they've got a, they're using electronic music and synthesizers. There's such a wide range of music involved. I think that's what's really exciting about it, it's not like…you can talk about Queercore, but you're not talking about a specific genre of music.

I've been doing a lot of study and I've read a lot about JD's, the magazine, and the tapes. There's a lot of opinions out there, and a couple things I've read is that JD's seen to be sort of a catalyst that pushed the queercore scene into existence and that one person said that it created a fiction that there was already a homocore movement and people started believing it and it self-fulfilled that prophesy.

GB: Right, I would say that's kind of true.

So this was started in the magazine, JD's, so could you tell me about how JD's started.

GB: Fifth Column had done a song, "The Fairview Mall Story," for the album "To Sir With Hate," and the guest star on the song was Bruce LaBruce. We were writing about a sting operation in St. Catherine's, in Ontario, in Canada.

Let's hear the song "Fairview Mall Story," from Fifth Column's "To Sir With Hate" album.

Fifth Column - Fairview Mall Story (1985)

GB: I started thinking about different groups who had done songs about queer subjects or gay or lesbian subjects and I was also listening to a lot of hardcore bands at that time that did have songs that had something to do with that, whether they were pro or con, I didn't really care, I just thought it was interesting that they'd have that subject matter in the songs, since we had just done this song ourselves, the band Fifth Column. I just started finding all these songs, there were so many of them. There were groups like The Nip Drivers and the Angry Samoans and The Dicks, oh, I can't think of all the different groups. There were quite a few of them. I thought, wow, this is so funny, I put together a little cassette tape for friends, of all these different songs that all had queer lyrics in them. And I thought, wow, it'd be such good idea…like I kind of called the tape Homocore, and I thought, oh, it'd be such a good idea to have a fanzine, just based on all these songs and the idea that all these punk kids were doing queer songs and. So I asked Bruce, do you want to do a zine? And he said, yeah, sure, so we quickly put together our first issue and got it out.

So your mix tape inspired the magazine? Wow.

GB: Yeah, and just reading the lyrics of all these different groups and writing interviews with them…a lot of them were talking about gay stuff in interviews, and for instance, a group like Nervous Gender from San Francisco, they were very public about having queer members in the group, from the very early days of punk, like, they were one of the very first synth punk bands, they had lyrics about queer stuff, and of course Phranc was in the group originally, that was like her first group, and the other members were also queer and they talked about that in interviews, notably in research magazines. And this was in the late 70s, so that all came into play too. And also The Dicks' lead singer Gary Floyd, he wrote a lot of queer lyrics in his songs, and he talked about that in interviews as well, he was very public about it. All these things kind of came into play and we put some of the interviews extracts into "J.D.'s." We put a lot of their songs on our Top Ten lists, and that's kind of how it started, just gathering together different things, like songs and interviews and stuff and putting it all together. [and photography and art] and photography and art, yes, that's true, and comics, and anything we could find.

The top ten lists fascinate me, cause I'm a queer music fanatic, who put together those lists?

GB: Bruce and I did. We just picked whatever songs that we had most recently found that had queer lyrics and we just put them on the Top Ten list, which quickly became a Top Twenty list, and then we tried to update it every time we put an issue out.

How many tapes were released?

GB: How many of the "JD's Top Ten" tapes? You know what, I never counted, I just kept making them and doing the covers and I never ever counted how many we were doing. I know we mailed out hundreds.

How many different ones?

GB: There's only one.

Okay, that's what I wanted to be clear of.

GB: Oh, I see. The mix-tape I made for myself was just something different. It was like material by other groups that had already been released on record. I just tapes songs from records. We never released that commercially because…[well, you couldn't] no, exactly, but the songs we have on the "JD's Top Ten" were all songs that were either given to us by different groups or that we had recorded ourselves.

Okay, there's one tape, one individual tape, and you sent out hundreds. They're pretty rare, I guess.

GB: Yes, I would imagine so. I have no idea…and of course Bruce was sending them out as well…I have no idea how many he sent out. We didn't really sell them in stores. I think we sold them in a couple of stores, but they may have had a tiny bit of distribution at one point, not to any great degree, but somehow they managed to find themselves…people managed to find them, copies, I guess people dubbed them for their friends, and they made copies of them and it certainly has got around.

Yes, my copy, I don't know what generation it is, but it's not an original.

GB: It's not an original? How can you tell?

Well, I presume it doesn't have as clear as sound as an original might.

GB: They never really did have clear sound, I have to say, they were not hi-fi, they were low-fi. This is how you can tell, on the original copies I spray painted on the covers. There were little stars and I would spray-paint them different colors. I'd spray paint some blue and silver and orange and, so that's how you can tell if you have an original copy or not.

The artists on this tape and on the other Top Ten lists weren't necessarily queer, were they?

GB: No, some of them weren't. You know, I have no real way of knowing, actually, you know I don't really know a lot of them and I don't think that was really very important, for us the whole Queercore scene wasn't about specifically gay, lesbian, it was a more free-for-all type attitude. You could be anything, or you could say you were nothing, it didn't really matter, it was just about a letting everyone do their own thing.

Some of those songs I have to wonder if they were homophobic or not.

GB: Yeah, some of them they express a kind of conflicted attitude that people had in a lot of cases, and in some of them it wasn't quite clear what exactly they were trying to say. I know with some songs, like, there's a song called "Faggot in the Family" by Aryan Disgrace, there was a big kerfuffle in "Maximum Rock & Roll" (a music zine) some people accused them of being homophobic and being racist, because of their name. But my impression was that people hadn't looked at it very closely, because the name is Aryan Disgrace, so obviously they're not proud of their, of being Aryan, that's not the point they're trying to make, and in the song I thought they were actually quite the opposite of being homophobic. I thought it was talking about the ordeal this person, this queer person in the family had to go through, the kind of abuse that they suffered at the hands of their family, who couldn't deal with the fact that they were queer. I thought that's what the song was actually about, but I think that passed over the heads of maybe well-meaning liberal people, young punk kids who were trying to be politically correct and didn't quite get the whole picture.

Aryan Disgrace - Faggot in the Family (1983)

GB: And there's other songs, like "Homosexual" by the Angry Samoans, are you familiar with that song?

I remember it striking me as being homophobic.

GB: Right, but apparently it was actually about Darby Crash, from the Germs, who was a friend of theirs, and I think the big conflict for them was that he killed himself, and the frustration of dealing with that and trying to deal with finding out about his sexuality after he died…I'm sure they actually probably knew when he was alive, but maybe that was like…I think there has to be a forum for people trying to deal with these kind of things. I don't think that's it's always so great to just say that only politically correct opinions can be expressed. I think it's good sometimes to work things right out in public, as nasty as it might become. I think that's kind of a valuable learning experience.

Angry Samoans - Homo-sexual (1982)
Zuzu's Petals - Bert (1985)

And from the JD's Top Ten Homocore tape, that was Zuzu's Petals and their song "Bert," from around 1985.

Who were Zuzu's Petals?

GB: The Zuzu's Petals were a band with Bruce and Anne McClain, who was also in Fifth Column, and with her brother Joe, and Rod and Laurel and Kelly, who played trumpet, she also played trumpet with Fifth Column on a couple of songs. There were a couple of other members who kind of came and went. It was a very kind of flexible group. Yeah, and they played around town for about a year, and they recorded one tape and then they broke up.

I have that tape, and you did the artwork. [yes, I did] Looks like it was hand-colored. [It was hand spray-painted, yes, it's the orange cover with the silver flowers, that's right.] A friend of mine, Larry-Bob, sent me a cover of the JD's tape, cause I'd never seen it, and once I saw the cover I could see more information and it mentioned that Zuzu's Petals had a cassette, so I said, let me see if I can find that, and I did, and I ordered it online, and do you know who sent it to me? Who the dealer was? Mykel Board.

GB: Oh really, right, he's on the JD's Top Ten.

I know, in "Big Man. This is a really interesting circle.

And this is a good spot to play for you Big Man and "Too Scared to Be Queer"

Big Man - Too Scared to Be Queer
Toilet Slaves - Toilet Slave Trouble (~1985)

Following "Too Scared to Be Queer" was The Toilet Slaves and "Toilet Slave Trouble," which you'll hear GB describe as their experiment. And who were the Toilet Slaves?

GB: The Toilet Slaves were me and Bruce and a girl named Kate, and she recorded us and we made a lot of noise, and tried to do some weird effects and stuff like that. It was our little experiment.

So how many songs were done by The Toilet Slaves.

GB: One, maybe two, I don't remember now.

One song and it made the Top Ten, that's pretty good. Other than your own songs you were involved with, on the JDs Homocore tape, do you have a favorite?

GB: Do I have a favorite? No, I like the whole tape. I like playing the whole tape and listening to all the songs together. Sorry. Do you have a favorite?

I do. I like Nikki Parasite's song [yeah, that's a great song] and I love that it mentions wanting to be on the tape.

GB: Yeah, I know, it was so funny. I know we were so excited when we got that song. I think that was one of the first songs we got maybe, and we thought, wow, this is so great, this is perfect.

Nikki Parasite - Male Call (Reprise, 1985)

Again, that was the last verse of "Male Call" by Nikki Parasite, as he was called then. The story goes that his band, The Parasites, didn't want to record that song, so he just did it on his own. He now goes by Dave Parasite and he and the band have released quite a few pop-punk albums over the years, continuing to this day.

I'm speaking of not just the tape, but also the magazine, the zine, what do you think is the legacy is, of JD's?

GB: Well, it seems strange to me to be talking about a fanzine, how many years has it been?

Almost 20, it ran from '85 to '91, right?

GB: Yeah, it seems really strange to be talking about a zine I did 15-20 years ago, I have to say, and I have no way of accounting for why that's happened. I would have hoped that something really exciting would have happened out of it, but I had no way of predicting it would have had such a lasting impact, and of course, you know, when we were first doing the first issue, which was making up all this stuff about this scene going on in Toronto, it was partly a joke for us, partly fun, and partly serious, but we had no idea that so many years later we'd still be talking about that. So yeah it's really interesting that that's happened, and it's kind of not something I ever would have imagined.

I can't leave out your artwork in the magazine.

GB: Oh, right, right, I did a lot of drawings for JD's, they were based on…they were based on drawings by Tom of Finland, and I would change the scenarios. His drawings lean more towards very standard definitions of people in authority being tops in the sexual situations, and all the people who aren't the authority figures being the bottom. And so I switched that around and made the juvenile delinquents the good guys, and the cops the bad guys.

Also I think your figures, the female figures, were more realistic looking, where his were…no one's built like that.

GB: Right, right, I modeled a few of them after people I knew, so that's probably why I wanted them to be a lot more realistic, and I wanted to be able to draw some of my friends as well.

To you what is the difference between Queercore and Riotgrrl music?

GB: With some groups I don't think there is a difference. I know groups like, for instance, Excuse 17, who were on Donna Dresch's Chainsaw label were both a Queercore group and a Riotgrrl group at the same time. And I think that's kind of true for a lot of the women that were involved in both movements. It didn't really make any difference to them what movement they were said to be affiliated with. I think they'd probably be happy to say both of them. I think a lot of the original Riotgrrls in their zines and interviews and stuff were always…played with groups like Tribe 8 and Team Dresch, and they toured with them, and so I don't think there was a dividing line for any of the original people involved. I don't know what happened so much later. I think once the media got hold of it, and it kind of spread and the word became more exclusively identified with kind of a feminist movement, but I think in the earlier days it was freeform and inclusive of queer groups, some Queercore, and of course most of us knew all the girls involved, in the early days, the original people, so there was lots of talking back and forth and our groups played with each other. It was kind of like one big scene, really. So I don't know if I would say there's a real distinct difference, maybe that came later, but I don't think that was true at the beginning.

A group like Bikini Kill, I don't know offhand, did they have lesbian members? [No] So they would be more Riotgrrl than Queercore?

GB: Yeah, but they were very…they played with Tribe 8 and they were actually on the compilation record "There's a Dyke in the Pit." Those early records, the boy who did Outpunk put at least one of them out [right, Matt Wobensmith] Exactly, and I think what was true of them was also true of the Top Ten tape, is that he wasn't really concerned if anyone was gay or straight or queer or whatever they wanted to call themselves, as long as they were willing to do a song that had a relationship to the queer culture, then that was fine. So I think Bikini Kill was on that record, along with Tribe 8, and a couple of other groups and, you know, I think the most important thing was that they would want to align themselves with the Queercore movement, rather than whether there were lesbians in the group or not. And I think that was definitely true for us too, for JDs, we were more interested in if people would want to align themselves with us, than rather with what their sexuality would be. Because I think we could accomplish more if we had that attitude and it was more reflective of our day to day lives. We weren't obviously living in the ghetto. You know, everyone in the group was very much against the whole ghettoization of queer people, where they all stick to one small community, and only interact with each other. We wanted to be part of a much larger cultural arena.

There's much more to my GB Jones interview, so I had to split it into two parts. On the next part you'll hear about her band Fifth Column.

My goal for these two segments was to play every song on the JD's Top Ten Homocore tape, so here are four more. Am I the only one to notice that their Top Ten had eleven songs? Anyway, the most known of these four acts is the band Bomb. They were a San Francisco act and had several releases in the late 80s. Besides appearing on the JD's tape their song was on their 1989 cassette recording "Happy All The Time." The song is called "Be a Fag."

Bomb - Be a Fag (1989)
Robt Omlit - Bang
Gorse - Tell Me Why

Obviously, in my opinion, I didn't save the best of them for last. After Bomb you heard No Brain Cells, from England, and "I'm Queer" and California artist Robt Omlit and "Bang," and the noisy one at the end…that was from New Zealand, the song "Tell Me Why" by the band Gorse.

Another one, this one from the UK, to make the JDs charts was The Apostles. Here's their song "To Hell With Leviticus," from the 1986 album "Lives and Times of the Apostles"

The Apostles - To Hell With Leviticus (1986)
The Cheifs - (At the Beach At) Tower 18 (1980)

After the Apostles was an L.A. band called The Cheifs from 1980. They spelled their name c-h-e-i-f-s and that song was called "(At The Beach At) Tower 18."

I guess I might clarify the distinction between making the JD's Top Ten tape and making their charts. Their zine lasted from 1985 to 1991, and they printed in most every issue a hit parade chart, but there was only one actual JD's tape. So getting back to the charts two more that made the JD's Hit Parade were from 1985 by The Ugly Americans, and their LP "Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed." Together they don't add up to a minute and a half. Here's "Weenie Man" and "Homophobia."

Ugly Americans - Weenie Man (1985)
Ugly Americans - Homophobia (1985)

Let's close Part 1 of my GB Jones interview with a band she much admired, The Dicks, led by the openly gay Gary Floyd. They released an album in 1985 called "These People," but you can more easily find this song on the CD comp "The Dicks, 1980-1986." Making the JDs Top Ten lists was their song "Off-Duty Sailor."

Dicks - Off-Duty Sailor (1985)

 

Fifth Column - Don't (1994)

This is Queer Music Heritage, and continuing my interview with GB Jones, I started off with the song "Don't" from the 1994 album "36C."

I want to talk about the band Fifth Column. How was the band founded?

GB: It was in the early 80s, and I was going to college and I had a friend there who knew two girls who were putting together a band and they said they needed a drummer, and did I want to drum? And I said, sure, and I went over and pretended I knew how to drum. Luckily they had a drum kit. I had no idea how to drum, and I totally pretended I did know, but for some reason they didn't throw me out of the band, and that's how Fifth Column started. And then sometime, I think two months later Caroline (Azar) joined, and we started recording really quickly and doing shows, right away.

What was your first recording?

GB: Our first recording was a tape. The bands on it were The Party's Over, Dave Howard Singers, and March of Values. And the March of Values was a live show that was taped, and The Party's Over was, I think, the very first industrial band in Toronto, and they were the people behind putting the tape out. "Urban Scorch," that's what it was called. So those were our very first recordings. I think we'd only been together…not very long, maybe six months.

Was that a various artists album, or what was that?

GB: "Urban Scorch" tape, yeah, it was various artists, Dave Howard Singers, March of Values, The Party's Over, and Fifth Column.

How many Fifth Column songs?

GB: How many? I think there were five. It was a very long tape. Each artist got I think 15 minutes, and our songs were very short, in fact, I don't even know if we made up the 15 minutes. It actually might have been ten minutes, because most of our songs were about two minutes at that period in time.

And were these Fifth Column songs that were released later on other recordings?

GB: Yeah, some of them were. I think there's an early version of the song "Don't," which finally came out on "36C" and I think some of the other songs were never released on anything else.

Now when we did the interview I had not heard of the "Urban Scorch" tape, so that answer was a surprise to me, but through sheer luck I was in contact the same week with the producer of that tape, Scott Kerr. He's a long-time Toronto artist, being in a number of bands over the years and is currently in the band Kids On TV, which you'll hear more about later. Anyway, Scott very generously sent me an mp3 file of the whole tape, which included six songs by Fifth Column, and they indeed add up to 15 minutes. GB is incorrect though about the song "Don't" being on that tape. Instead the only song to be released later was one called "Boy/Girl." Hey, that was 27 years ago. So I very much thank Scott Kerr for making it possible for me to share a Fifth Column song from that tape. It's called "Hit the Dirt."

Fifth Column - Hit the Dirt (song from Urban Scorch, 1982)

From the various artists tape "Urban Scorch" from 1982.

When did the song "Boy/Girl" come about?

GB: That came shortly after the tape, maybe a year after the tape. Yeah, we went to this guy's studio and he recorded us, and they put the single out, and there were two other songs, "Monsieur Beauchamps" and "Legionnaires," and yeah, people like our single. There was a bit of a to do as well over that single, cause people were upset by the cover. It has a multiple exposure picture I took of a girl standing outside a window, and in Toronto there was a big fuss because people said it was horrible, that it looked like a girl was committing suicide on the cover, and blah blah blah.

Fifth Column - Boy/Girl (1983)

That was "Boy/Girl," the first Fifth Column single, from 1984.
Tell me about the "To Sir With Hate" album.

GB: That came out in 1985, and it took us about a year to record everything, it took a long time to record and produce. [That was the first full-length album, right?] That was the first full-length album, so it was probably recorded in 1984 and that was after we had a bunch of different people join the band, some earlier members left and some new members joined. It was released on our own label, Hide Records, which was started by Carolyn and a friend of hers named Candy, and only 500 copies were ever released. [oh wow] yes, but it was distributed by different people around the country and we sent it to so many different college radio stations, so it did really get around.

Didn't it make the Out Magazine Gayest 100 Albums?


[Note: This was the Oct 2008 issue, where they surveyed a number of journalists. It's a list I MUCH disagree with, both for the rankings and inclusion of albums by many, many straight artists]


GB: It did! Wasn't that strange? I couldn't believe it when I saw that. I thought, how did that happen? This is a record that only 500 copies were released, how did all these people hear it? I mean, maybe there are hundreds of cassette tapes that people make circulating around, I have no idea, but I was really surprised, it's so amazing I think, I was excited. [It is amazing, that's the only word] Yeah and especially considering that the album came out almost 25 years ago. Yah, it's totally amazing and very strange. It's like JDs, I just don't understand it, like 25 years later, and this record we did, with 500 copies pressed, suddenly appears on the top 100 of Out Magazine, yeah, weird. I don't even have hardly any copies of that record left, I think I have kept 10 copies. [So it's only 490 of them that got out there then…:] yeah, 490, that's not very many. I don't know how those people at Out Magazine heard that record.
[Well it was not the magazine, it was people that they asked, different so-called music experts, critics, whatever] yeah, that's true, that's very true.

On the first part of this interview we already heard one song, "Fairview Mall Story," from the "To Sir With Hate" album, and I want to share one more, the title track.

Fifth Column - To Sir With Hate (1985)

The band's second release was "All Time Queen of the World." Is there a song you'd like to talk about from it?

GB: Well, I could talk about "Like This" because there's a video on my YouTube channel for that song. So people can go there really easily, it's GBJonesTown, and they can just go and watch the video any time they like. That record was released in 1990, and the video was done by Fifth Column and Bruce LaBruce.

Fifth Column - Like This (1990)

 

Well there's no song on the album that I could see from my research called "All Time Queen of the World," so where did that title come from?

GB: Oh, yeah, there is no song. I think we were planning on writing a song, but we never got around to it, but we really liked the title so we used it anyway. Yeah, I know, that's very confusing, isn't it? The same thing with "36C" we never had a song for that title, and I think we were planning on writing a song for that title as well but we never got around to it once again.

And "36C" as supposed to mean what?

GB: 36C is a bra size.

Okay, that's what I figured, you've got to ask in the punk world. So "36C" came out in '94, and one song that got a lot of attention was "All Women Are Bitches" Can you talk about that.

GB: Yeah, right, there was a lot of misunderstanding about that song too, and some people said, oh my god, they're saying horrible things about women, you know, once again not very carefully listening to the song because it's obviously not…we're obviously talking about misogyny, we're critiquing it. You'd think that would be kind of obvious to people, here's an all-woman band, and the put this song out, but sometimes people don't like to look too deeply. [They take it so literal] They take it very literally, and I think in a lot of ways we're trying to reclaim the word bitch, and saying there's nothing wrong with being a bitch, quite frankly, it's a good thing. Oftentimes if people think you're a bitch it means you're a woman who will stand up for herself, and won't take any nonsense, and what's wrong with that?

Fifth Column - All Women Are Bitches (1994)

What do you think of the sort of sampling Lesbians on Ecstasy did of that song?

GB: Oh, I love their version so much, I think it's so great. I've had a chance to go see them a number of times, and hear them do that song live. It's just so amazing, to see everyone dancing, and especially at times they get a choir together and sing the chorus, yeah, it's just phenomenal. I love that band.

I think I heard Kids On TV did a remix, too.

GB: Yes they also did a remix which is also really amazing as well. I've heard that, and I love what Kids On TV do. They're such an amazing Toronto band. I've known Scott (Kerr) in the band for years and years and years, and in fact he was in the original Party's Over, who put out the very first Fifth Column tape, still doing really new and really exciting stuff. I think Kids On TV are great

So here's the remix of the remix. The Lesbians on Ecstasy renamed the song "All Women Are Bitches" as just "Bitchsy" and this is the remix by the Toronto band Kids On TV. You can find it on the Lesbians on Ecstasy CD from 2006 called "Giggles in the Dark."

Lesbians on Ecstasy - Bitchsy (Kids on TV remix) (2006)

That track is over 7 minutes long so that was just a portion of it.

What song is Fifth Column most known for?

GB: That's a good question. I don't know. I really don't know. I guess I would have to say something probably off of "36C" just because it had the widest distribution, and because it was on K Records, so there were a lot more copies pressed. The first two records, as I mentioned, only 500 copies were pressed. With "All Time Queen of the World," there were 500 copies of the vinyl LP and 500 copies of the cassette, so that's only a thousand, and probably not as many people would have heard that as anything on "36C" which got a lot of airplay, and there was a video for "Donna" and stuff, so I'd probably say "Donna" is the one that most people would have heard.

Okay, tell me about the song "Donna"

GB: Oh, yeah, well, that's a song…Caroline wrote the lyrics, and we all wrote the music together and that was the first K Records single, that came out before the album, and that was the flipside of "All Women Are Bitches" and it was written for Donna Dresch, who had been my pen pal since the 80s when I was doing "JDs" and I met her a few different times when she came to town on tour and she was doing some scenes for my movie, "The Yo Yo Gang," and then she met everyone else in Fifth Column, and we all just became friends, and had fun hanging out together, filming the movie, and when she went back to San Francisco, Caroline wrote that song for her.

Fifth Column - Donna (1994)

That was the song "Donna," inspired by Donna Dresch, and knowing the background and influence of Dresch I asked a question I didn't really have planned. It just came off the top of my head, and it got a very interesting answer.

Is she like the godmother of Queercore?

GB: The Godmother of Queercore? That's a good question, kind of. She has been a musician for years and years and played with so many different people. Obviously she's a really important part of Queercore, I mean, she had Chainsaw Records and she released tons of Queercore music, and of course she had the band Team Dresch, and she's played a huge, significant part in the development of Queercore musically, and she had a fanzine in the early days called Chainsaw as well. She's always been…yes, I wouldn't want to say there's just one godmother, that's why I'm hesitating, there's a few, not just one. There's Donna, and there's also Leslie Mah, from the band Tribe 8. She was one of the earliest people involved in Queercore. Even before she was in Tribe 8 she had a band called A.S.F, Anti Scrunti Faction, and they came from Colorado to Toronto to play a show with Zuzu's Petals, as a matter of fact, and this is kind of when Queercore was just starting.

GB: And I put on the show and I brought them from Colorado. So Bruce was showing one of his movies. It could have been "Boy/Girl" and it was at a punk club, and a bunch of fights broke out cause a lot of the punks were really homophobic, and they started yelling at us and tried to turn the projector off, and I think a couple got punched, and Caroline was there as well, and she got into the middle of it and it was a big to do. Then I wrote a letter to Flipside fanzine, talking about how all this had happened, at the ASF/Zuzu's Petals show, and there were all these homophobic punks and this was one of the catalysts also for producing "JDs." Right after that we thought we should put out this fanzine and talk about this stuff as well. As well as having fun with it, there was obviously a serious side, and that was one of the catalysts.

I think I read that letter. I was going through the Queer ZAP website, where you can download these old magazines, and I think I found that one, and I remember reading about that concert, where I think Bruce got punched in the nose, or something, and ASF were there.

GB: Yes, Bruce did, and David, and ASF were playing the show with Zuzu's Petals. That sounds like it, although we did write about it in a couple of different articles as well, cause obviously it was a big catalyst for the Queercore movement. That was one of the things that provoked us into doing the zine as well.

Well, besides Donna and Leslie, who else?

GB: I would say the guys who did "Homocore" zine, obviously, Tom Jennings and Deke Nihilson, were there right at the beginning. Deke also had a band called Comrades In Arms, CIA. I would say it was CIA, and Fifth Column, and ASF were the three original Queercore bands. This was in the 80s, before any of the other bands started, in the 90s. Those were the three original people. Oh, I should add there were actually four. There were The Apostles, that were in England. They were also one of the original Queercore bands, and they were also on the JDs Top Ten Tape.

I know, I recognize the name. Did all those acts have recordings?

GB: Yeah, The Apostles put out tons of different recordings. Just right after they put out the last song on the JD's Top Ten Tape, they actually changed their name to Academy 23, and then they put out a song on the JDs Top Ten as well under the name of their new band. But they really…I don't even know, they have about 20 different recordings that they've released.

What about CIA and ASF?

GB: And ASF put out three recordings. One was on a Flipside compilation album, and one was a single and one was an album. CIA only put out one single. But I think also if you go on YouTube you can find some videos of their performances as well. I think they have two songs that they did live.

This is fascinating, cause geez, should I include these people in my show? Where am I going to find the music?

GB: I know, it is hard to find. It's true. Deke played in a bunch of different homocore shows. The homocore zine put on a lot of shows in San Francisco. The band was not together that long though, it was only together for about a year before they broke up. But they definitely paved the way for everyone else, and what was to come in the 90s, along with ASF, and I guess Fifth Column too, a little bit.

Okay that was a lot of talking and we have some music to catch up with. Leslie Mah was much more well known later for helping found Tribe 8, but in the mid-80s she and Tracy Thomas founded the Anti Scrunti Faction, also just known as ASF. Their only album, was from 1986, called "Damsels in Distress" and from it is perhaps their best known song, "Slave to My Estrogen." Tribe 8 twelve years later redid the song on their "Roll Models for Amerikka" album, calling it "Estrofemme," but here's the original.

Anti Scrunti Faction - Slave to My Estrogen (1986)
Comrades In Arms - Stonewall Was a Riot (1990)

 

And I don't have that rare Comrades In Arms single GB spoke of, but from a video you can find on YouTube was a live performance from 1990 of the song "Stonewall Was a Riot." The band featured Deke Nihilson, who with Tom Jennings were the editors of Homocore magazine and an influential forces in the queercore movement in L.A. and beyond.

And GB also told us about the UK band The Apostles, who changed their name to Academy 23. Andy Martin and Dave Fanning were in both bands and both are represented on the JD's tape.

The Apostles - Forbidden Love (1989)
Academy 23 - The Boy Next Door (1989)
Academy 23 - Gay and Proud (1991)

Under the name The Apostles that was "Forbidden Love" and as Academy 23 you heard "The Boy Next Door," and another I found by them from 1991 that grabbed my attention called "Gay and Proud." That last one came out after JD's had ceased publication but I'm sure it would have made their charts.

Back to my GB Jones interview, please tell me about the song "I Love You But"

GB: Oh, yeah, that came out on a single, on the Dark Beloved Cloud single, in 1995 or 96, I can't remember, but that was a song that had originally appeared on "The Flintstones" and it was when Ann-Margret appeared as a guest star, as Ann Margrock, and she sang that song on "The Flintstones." And we always liked Ann-Margret, she was such an exciting character in movies. She was such a juvenile delinquent when she was young in all the movies she made, so we wanted to cover that song.

Fifth Column - I Love You But (1995)

How about the song "Yo Yo" from "Yo Yo Gang."

GB: Oh, yeah, that was a cover of the song that the Osmonds made famous, in the 70s I guess, so it was perfect for that movie, and it was part of our belief that…I don't know if you know how there's a tendency in the music world to have this kind of snobbery about who's a serious musician and who's not, but we were very much kind of interested in music that was considered bubble gum music, or especially music that was made just for girls, and how that was often delegated to an inferior status, so a lot of times we would like to champion that type of music, cause we were obviously all exposed to it when we were young teenagers, and that was kind of music that was directed towards us, and a lot of times, actually really interesting, and very girl-friendly, cause a lot of supposedly more serious music of that time period was not.

I found, on YouTube, the trailer for "Yo Yo Gang"…is that your voice on the trailer?

GB: No, that's Caroline's.

And what song is on the trailer?


GB: That's "Yo Yo" by Fifth Column. It was only released on a cassette tape I put out for the soundtrack for "The Yo Yo Gang." It's a ten-minute cassette tape. It's the soundtrack for the movie, for all the songs that are in the movie.
And I thank GB for sending me a copy of that rare tape so you can hear the actual song, "Yo Yo."

Fifth Column - Yo Yo (1991)

This is JD Doyle and I'm thanking you for trekking though my long series on Queercore music. I'm closing my GB Jones interview with the last song released by them, and here's how that happened. It appeared on a Kill Rock Stars compilation called "Fields and Streams," in 2002, placing it quite a few years after their prior releases in the mid-90s. GB told me it was actually recorded around 1996 for a proposed single on that label, but they never released the single and eventually used the song on the compilation in 2002, therefore making it the last Fifth Column recording to be released. Here's the song "Imbecile," by Fifth Column.

Fifth Column - Imbecile (2002)

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