"Riot Acts" Trailer (2009)
That's part of the trailer for the documentary film "Riot Acts," and I admit it doesn't pack the same punch just hearing the audio, but it's a good way to intro this show. This is JD Doyle and this month I'm bringing you a multi-hour journey into the world of Transgender Music. This is a subject I love and it's actually my 12th show of this nature, totaling almost 21 hours of programming, all which are archived on my site. And that site is queermusicheritage.com. This month I'm adding three more hours, and will continue next month with another three hours.
For this show the first two parts will include interviews with a couple folks who are bringing the music and the stories of the artists to the forefront. In the second hour I'll be talking with AJ Brice, who created the online community Trans-Genre, which has been getting out there lots of music by Transgender folks.
On this segment I'm saluting the film "Riot Acts," and I definitely need to give you its subtitle, which is "Flaunting Gender Deviance in Music Performance," and it does a great job. I'm fortunate to have been at the premiere of the film in San Francisco in June of last year, and I loved it. And as a bonus there was a party after the film, where a number of the artists performed, so I was in heaven. For most of the country it's difficult to see live performances of Transgender artists, so this film not only whets our appetite for that, but also does better, it lets us know they exist and it shares the stories of their journeys.
One reason "Riot Acts" was so successful was that it was produced and directed by artists who are transgender themselves, so the angles such as the approach, who to include, what music, and the editing, I think, were all done right. The back of the DVD says it better: "Riot Acts" is a 'trans-fabulous' rockumentary representing the multi-dimensional lives of transgender and gender variant musicians." I'll add that this is a transgender film that for once is not a tragedy. It is not about politics or body parts. What it does is give us music with a personal touch.
- Queer For You (2009)
And, accordion and all, that was Geo Wyeth, but the song "About the Dream," which you heard a snippet of in the movie trailer, was released under the name of just one of his many musical projects, called Novice Theory.
Madsen Minax Interview
Again, Madsen Minax was the Director and my first question was to ask about the inspiration to make the film.
Madsen Minax: My band, Actor Slash Model, was interested in going on tour, and we hadn't been on tour before. I'm also a filmmaker. I went to school for film and video, and was working in video at the time, and wanted to make kind of a road movie, while we were touring. So we started out seeking other queer or trans bands that maybe would be interested in performing with us, and realized that we didn't actually know that many. And so this idea for this kind of road film quickly kind of spiraled into a little bit more serious documentary form, about the artists that we were going to play shows with, and that's kind of where it came from
JD: I understand one of the reasons for making the film is that you wanted there to be a movie about transgender issues that wasn't a tragedy.
MM: That's true, yeah, I think that became clear for us during the making process. We really went into it with a lot more intuition. I mean, it was more of an intuitive process than it was a pre-established trajectory of what we were making, but that really became clear to us in the process itself.
JD: How did you find and select the artists to include?
MM: We really worked mostly through word of mouth. MySpace was a happening thing, at that time. This was 2006 and 2007, so we really put out a lot of MySpace messages, and would friend queer and trans bands on MySpace and then asked them if they wanted to be included in our film; told them what we were doing mostly just networking.
JD: Were there folks you wished you could have included, but scheduling or budget or whatever, just didn't work out?
MM: Yeah, tons of them, just off hand, AJ Bryce (Modern Day Pinnochio), Dana Baitz, in Toronto, Rae Spoon, who's in Berlin now. There's tons, tons of trans artists that didn't get to be in this film that could have been.
JD: How long did the filming take, and then how long after that to finish the film?
MM: We shot over the course of two and a half years, two major big tours and then many smaller shooting expeditions, weekend trips, week trips. We shot many of our bands as they toured through also, so we took that opportunity to shoot them again if they were playing Chicago. And then the editing process took six to nine months, to compile everything, about three years, and a little more, for getting it out to audiences and whatnot.
JD: From filming and interviewing all these artists and performers, was there anything overall that surprised you?
MM: I guess the thing that I'm most pleasantly surprised by was that everyone gave us their most genuine selves. We didn't have any trouble really with any of our interview situations, and I feel like sometimes you're dealing with really sensitive subject matter and sensitive people, there's room for injury there. And I feel like we went about project in a really mindful way, and I feel like our interviewees really respected us for that, and were really able to foster helpful relationships. [When you're watching there is a real sense of sharing] Yeah, yeah.
JD: The film's been in a number of festivals. What has been the reaction to it?
MM: It's been pretty well received. I feel like people appreciate, A, being able to see a film that's not quite a primer, being able to see something beyond the 101, but at the same time, I don't know, there's a lot of folks that it maybe still a 101, I don't know. I mean, I don't think it is, but I have gotten some feedback that it's still pretty basic. And I feel like for the most part people are super happy to see it and there's always people who won't like it, but it's not my problem.
JD: I was glad you addressed the issue for transguys of the effect of taking or not taking testosterone on their voices, and how they deal with that.
MM: Yeah, I felt like it's something that's getting talked about a lot, more and more now than at the time we were making the film. There's a lot more blogs out there that talk about this, and at the time there wasn't, so it's interesting.
JD: Could you kind of summarize what the issues are for that?
MM: Well, there's always the question of how your voice will be shifted by the hormones you take, so there are tons of guys out there that are just afraid of their voices changing, or don't want their voices to change. Hormones come with all the positives and negatives, nothing is perfect, so you're going to have to sacrifice something. And I think in the film you had some really good conversations about what some folks are willing to sacrifice, and what some maybe weren't willing to sacrifice. I mean, it's really scary to learn how to sing with a new voice.
JD: Anything else you want to say about the film?
MM: I'm really happy that all the interviewees feel really happy about being represented, and Outcast has decided that they want to wait until the Spring for an official DVD release, even though the DVD is available, through Outcast Films, they want to wait until the Spring to release it on streaming sources, like Netflix and Amazon. But in the meantime it is up for purchase at Outcast Films.
JD: That's where I got my copy. Tell me about Actor Slash Model.
MM: Ah, we just got off a big, long tour. We toured for almost a month, to promote our new record, called "Hardly. That's our third album, kind of in the tenure of the band.
JD: Last year when I met you, you gave me "Madsen Minax & the Homoticons."
MM: Yes, I did, new project also. It's myself on vocals and guitar, and I switch back and forth with Elias Krell, who plays accordion and does vocals and he does guitar also, and Jesse Alexander of Cobalt and the Hired Guns, plays drums, and Colin Palombi from the band Velvetron plays base. And we all kind of switch up instruments a lot, so it's fun. But it's definitely different from Actor Slash Model. It's a lot more orchestrated, definitely has kind of a pop drive, but is also pretty lo-fi feeling. So yeah, it feels good to get back to my indie roots a little bit there, and also be able to play with Actor Slash Model at the same time.
In "Riot Acts," in his role as Director, Madsen decided to not appear in the film itself, so I've decided to bring you music from Actor Slash Model and his other acts in a later segment of this show, keeping my role for the rest of this hour to try to share with you as many artists from the film as I can. They definitely will not all fit, so let's get to it.
Another act who can be heard in the film's trailer is Coyote Grace. Lead singer Joe Stevens has one of my favorite voices and the song I picked is one he wrote during transition, called "A Guy Named Joe." It's from the 2006 album "Boxes & Bags."
Grace - A Guy Named Joe (2006)
After Coyote Grace you heard the act Basic Fix, featuring Kelly Moe, and the song "Voodoo Engine," and that one has a very provocative video you may want to track down. And then I played one of the acts from the film that's been around quite awhile. Steven Grandell, also known as Venus DeMars, is lead singer of the Minneapolis band All the Pretty Horses, and from their first album, "Queens and Angels," from 1998, I gave you "Morphine Milk."
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. And this is another one of my shows where I had much too much great material for just one hour, in fact, it turned into five hours, and you can find the rest at my site, at 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.
Bringing you a bit of rap is an artist going by the name of Katastrophe. From his third album, "The Worst Amazing," is the song "Sigh."
- Sigh (2009)
After Katastrophe was the band Tough Tough Skin and from an album I really like by them from 2008, called "Let It Sink Down," that was a sweet song called "4" Away." And then you heard a brand new song by another terrific act, the Shondes. I found an article in the Village Voice that described them as three-quarters transgender, three-quarters Jewish, and 100-percent-political. Also the article stated that shondes is a Yiddish word for "disgrace" or "outrage" so the band says they're outcasts even in scenes that celebrate outcasts. And the song "Ocean to Ocean" is a sneak preview from their album coming out next month, named "Searchlights."
I happen love the name of this next band, but what's not to love about a band called Trannysaurus Sex. Here's their song "Trans Rights Now."
Sex - Trans Rights Now (2008)
Another terrific San Francisco band, Lipstick Conspiracy, and from their 2004 album "A Perfect Alibi" was the track "Welcome to the Gender Frontier."
This next song is very heartfelt and it's very sad. Jessica Xavier wrote it when she transitioned and all her male friends deserted her. From her 1999 album "Changeling," is the song "The Same Old Me."
Xavier - The Same Old Me (1999)
That was Canadian artist Lucas Silviera from his solo acoustic album "Mockingbird." The song was called "I'm Your Man," and it's a very different sound than you may be used to from him. But I'll get to that in a moment. This is JD Doyle and I'm closing out Part 1 of my Transgender Music Special for this month, and this special will continue into October, for a total of six hours, as I've got lots to share. I want to thank Madsen Minax for the interview and you for listening, and to encourage you to check out the other segments of this show, at queermusicheritage.com.
On this hour I've been playing artists from the film "Riot Acts," and no, I couldn't get to all of the artists. And there were a couple acts we can see in the film that unfortunately have not released any recordings.
I mentioned a moment ago Lucas Silviera, and I very much admire his voice, and I'm more used to hearing from him a very different sound, because his first three albums were with his band The Cliks. I'm going to close out this segment the same way the "Riot Acts" film closed, with a song from "Snakehouse," The Cliks second album. It's called "Oh Yeah."
The Cliks - Oh Yeah (2007)
This is JD Doyle, bringing you Part 2 of my Transgender Music Special, and that track is called "Oh So Strange," and it's from an album I really like by Jenny Slater, who is out of the UK. Her "Zodiac" album was released in 2008 and I love the Beatles influences I hear on many of the songs. You can also find that track on a various artists compilation called "Trans-Fusions Volume 2," released last year as one of the projects of the website Trans-Genre. This site is an impressive online community for transgender artists, musicians, and performers, and I was so impressed I wanted to have its founder tell us about it. He's a transman named AJ Bryce, who also records under the name Modern Day Pinnochio. I am delighted by his mission, ambition and enthusiasm.
AJ Bryce Interview
AJ Bryce: Trans-Genre started out just as a website, and what I was trying to do was compile artists from our community so that when people within the trans were searching out like-minded individuals who could create art or tell stories that were going to be actually more relatable to them, in some ways, so that there would be something out there that they could find.
It kind of came about I was traveling with the Tranny Road Show in 2006, and that was the first time I had ever really found trans community. And it was amazing. All of a sudden my world just had expanded, and I knew about 14 at that time, and so I kind of searched around on the internet, you know, transgender artist and transgender musician. I wasn't really coming up with anything. And I felt like that was a problem. And so it only seemed like the next logical thing to do was to create a site where people could actually find musicians that were coming out of the trans community. Since then, it started out with about 14 artists, from across the country, with whom I had travelled with the Road Show, and today it is over 60 artists strong from around the world. And we released a couple of compilation album, featuring the artists, and make it more accessible to people who need to hear those voices, who are interested in hearing those stories.
JD: You've released two various artists albums, could you talk about those?
AJ: Trans-Genre is open to all forms of art, performance art, or visual art, the whole spectrum, and if it lies within the creative spectrum, we want it to be a part of what we're doing. But as a musician my mind kind of goes there, so the first thing that seemed like the next step to was to create a compilation that featured all of these artists that I was finding, who were amazing, and allow people to be able to be able to have a variety or broader spectrum of what's coming from our community out there, in a physical form and not just online. So our first compilation featured about 14 audio tracks, and we also accepted visual art from artists for things like the CD, and the CD insert, the cover, back and that stuff, so that we could incorporate into that compilation as well.
And that went really well. We had some submissions and everybody that submitted was included, and through working with the Road Show we toured a lot and were able to distribute that across the country. And so about a year and a half later we came out with our second compilation, which featured 19 audio tracks and over 25 artists from our community. And it's always a really exciting process. I tell people a lot, I get to come home from an eight-hour day of stocking shelves at a grocery store, cause I have a day job like everybody else, and I'll find a submission in my inbox and it's something I know very few people will have ever heard before, and it's so amazing and so beautiful and mind-blowing. It's been a really exciting and fulfilling process to be able to take that, put it together in these compilations and get it out to people. I've received a lot of really positive feedback, which has also been very nice.
Let's take a break and hear another track from the two albums. Again, the albums are simply called "Trans-Fusions" Volumes 1 and 2, and I'm going to try to fit into this segment as many artists from them as I can. So next up is Red Durkin, who I discovered several years ago when I found on YouTube her selection of video blogs, which are thought-inspiring mini-discussions of trans issues. And some of them have found their way to music, as in this track, called "Queers Snack."
Red Durkin - Queers Snack (2007)
JD: What was the hardest part about these two albums, to make them happen?
AJ: Well, it's always a matter of resources, really, I don't have any outside funding. I'm doing this all out of my pocket, and I've pretty much been doing it by myself, and so like it's a matter of having enough money to pay for all the CDs upfront, and whether or not we'll break even. We usually break a little under even, but we make a lot of progress, which I think is more than breaking even. Other than that it's pretty easy. It's pretty easy and pretty amazing. People have been very willing to share their music and their stories, and very willing to work with the fact that we're not the kind of project that has money that can pay them for that, but we are the kind of project that has the drive to push it out there, further than even we can imagine.
JD: Are the albums still available?
AJ: The first one is no longer available, but the second compilation is still available and we have a number of copies of those left, but I'm also excited to say we're working on our next, which we decided to work more toward the visual artists, so the next compilation is going to be a mixed-media compilation that has both a zine to represent written word and more static visual art, and we're also going to include a DVD with that zine that's basically going to showcase videos, performances, animations and things like that, depending on what people end up submitting.
JD: Wow, that sounds really cool, and really ambitious.
AJ: Yes, it's going to be amazing. I'm happy to say I'm finally working with a few other people on this one, so I knew I was going to need some help, it's a bit of a bigger project and we wanted to take it up to the next level.
JD: Other than that, are there any other future plans for Trans-Genre?
AJ: There's nothing set in stone but I guess I see a lot of possibilities, and so am trying to take it one step at a time, but it always seems to be getting ahead of me. There's all these opportunities coming up, people interested in artists and trying to see if they can work with us getting artists for their events, and working on how we can start building that network, or how we can take the network we have been building and organize it in a way that it can become a really amazing resource for all those in our community, whether it be the artists trying to go out and have shows or safe places to play, or organizations or universities that are looking for artists and needing to be able to see the whole spectrum and make really solid decisions on who they want to bring. There's a lot of ideas out there and it's just a matter of having the resources to actually make those ideas come into reality. And I don't know what's actually in story, because it's always changing. It's a very fluid movement, but it's always getting bigger and better, and that's been one of the most amazing things about the project since its beginning.
Here is another selection from the albums, and it's a spoken word piece, and I've played it before and love it. It's by Ryka Aoki De La Cruz and is called "Less Than or Equal to One." And it will be followed by two more spoken word tracks.
De La Cruz - Less Than or Equal to One (2008)
I really appreciate the variety that the spoken word tracks give to the Trans-Fusions CDs, and as that kind of creation is not generally heard on the radio, the CDs are a wonderful outlet for them. The last two were by Sassafras Lowery and Kestryl Cael Lowery, and were called, respectively, "Where I Come From" and "Poison."
Sassafras and Kestryl Cael have a blog together. Sassafras identifies as a genderqueer high femme, militant storyteller, author, artist, performer, and activist. Sounds like a full plate. And Kestryl Cael Lowery self-identifies as a trans-butch performance artist. On their sites you find use of the gender-neutral pronouns "hir" and "ze," spelled h-i-r and z-e, and I'm running into this usage more and more as transgender issues gain more attention. Makes it a challenge though to know what the person prefers and to be respectful of that. Back to AJ Bryce to finish up our interview.
JD: As an artist on these CDs you're listed as Modern Day Pinnochio; could you talk about that name?
AJ: Sure, yeah, there's definitely the fun of playing with that idea of very stereotypical story of "oh, I just want to be a real boy." And that's the first thing that people latch onto, which I think was intention to some sorts, but also to open up the discussion of what does a "real boy" mean? Kind of playing on the idea of searching for identity, you know, how you come to become who you are I think is more the point of who Modern Day Pinnochio is and what Modern Day Pinnochio stands for.
JD: Tell me about your track "Sober-Rated"
AJ: Sure, that was sort of my trans-guy dance party anthem. I know a lot of people probably don't understand what that word means, so I would like to clarify. "Sober-Rated" is intended to mean that's it so over-rated that's it's sobering, and ideas that when you go out, you want to have a good time. You don't want to have to sit and have this conversation about your body parts, with somebody that you just met at the bar, that you may not be trying to go home with anyway. Everybody, no matter who they, are when they go out to a party they just want to have a good time, and that sometimes in our positions when we have things that are different about us, that people aren't always so easy to understand, the overrating of what that can be can really be sobering or kind of kill the mood, and that's basically what that song is talking about.
Day Pinnochio - Sober-Rated (2009)
That was Lenny Zenith and "The Car Song." In the 80s he had a successful band called RZA, long before there was a rapper named that, and he's been making music ever since. He's had a number of bands and that track was under the name Jenifer Convertible, originally from the 1997 album "Wanna Drag?" Here are two more tracks from the "Trans-Fusions" compilations, and they continue the variety of music styles. First is Shawna Virago, singing "Tranny Dominatrix.
Virago - Tranny Dominatrix (2009)
Shawna Virago's song came from her 2009 CD "Objectified," and following her was Kalil Cohen, otherwise known as Metahuman, and his track "You Don't Really Know Me." And here's another spoken word piece, by Rahne Alexander, called "Meat Coma." You'll hear her elsewhere on this show as lead singer of the Degenerettes.
- Meat Coma (2010)
And that was Sam Peterson and "Punch Drunk." This is JD Doyle and this is just Part 2 of this show. Of course I want to thank AJ Bryce for filling us in on his project, and you can find more about it at www.trans-genre.net, and there's a hyphen between the words trans and genre. In addition to his interview, on this segment I was able to fit in 12 of the 34 tracks from the two albums, so there are many more worth checking out, and I'll play more artists associated with that site in other sections of the show.
I'm closing with a duo I just love, Coyote Grace. As a shameless plug I'll mention that you can check out a wonderful interview they gave me on my October 2009 show. It included the song that closes this segment. The track "Daughterson" is on one of the "Trans-Fusion" comps but also can be found on their EP from 2010 named "Buck Naked." Coyote Grace.
Coyote Grace - Daughterson (2010)
This is JD Doyle welcoming you to Part 3, the final hour of my out-of-control special on Transgender Music for this month. Showcasing the music of trans artists is one of the passions I have in producing the show Queer Music Heritage and I kind of get carried away. But it's all good, I want to give exposure to as many trans artists as I can.
And that opening number was very special. It's brand new and it comes from a video produced by Michael Simon in Los Angeles for a documentary on transgender performers. And it's the first kind of ensemble recording I know of with all trans artists. The song of course was David Bowie's "Changes" and you heard Amber Taylor, Shawna Virago, Keith Mina Caputo, D'Lo, StormMiguel Florez, Angelica Ross, Sissy Debut and Our Lady J. The combined group was called Transbeats, and as the documentary is still in a post-production stage, I thank Michael Simon for granting me permission to use the audio in this show.
And this show will be packed with music I just could not leave out. First, way back in Part 1 I interviewed Madsen Minax of the band Actor Slash Model, about his film "Riot Acts." Now he was behind the camera so his music was not in the film, and I want to play for you some of it now. In 2009 under the name Madsen Minax & the Homoticons an EP called "Shipwrecks and Drumbeats" was released, and one of the songs was called "When Your Back Goes (Pathetic)."
Minax & the Homoticons - When Your Back Goes (Pathetic) (2009)
Hee Haw. The second song of that set was by Actor Slash Model, and that usually means by Madsen Minax and Simon Strikeback, but this time the project was an EP called "Things You Can't Keep" which also featured Brenna Sahatjian. Then came "Hardly," the brand new Actor Slash Model CD, and those two songs were "Heart of the Midwest" and "Hotter Than Mohave in My Heart."
Another artist appearing on the Trans-Genre compilations is Ricky Riot. In 2008 he was in a band called Twilight of the Idle, and from their CD "Modesty" comes the song "Colder." And then he goes off with a different sound, with a band billed as 100% TransJews. Now, I don't know any Yiddish, but Google tells me their name, Schmekel, means either stupid or penis. You'll hear them sing "Tranny Chaser."
- Colder (2008)
Ah, I love the poetry of Kit Yan, and I also liked the CD he did with Melissa Li under the name Good Asian Drivers. But you just heard a solo track, called "Tranny Shack."
Up next a couple bands with queer or trans members. From North Carolina is Humble Tripe, singing the song "Washington," off their CD "Counting Stars," and then the band Spooky Q's, from Lexington, Kentucky, doing "Dancey" from their latest EP "Winterband"
Tripe - Washington (2010)
And I've loved that artist for many years. The song was "Freedom Train," by Namoli Brennet, off her eighth album, "Crow." Next up is Chaos & Lace well, that's the name of the act, and on lead vocals is Juliana Brown, also formerly of the band Twilight of the Idle. The song is called "All Knowing."
Lace - All Knowing (2011)
And, that was an act you heard in Part 1, the Degenerettes, singing about their "Truck Drivin' Girlfriend," or at least the one they had in 2009, when they released their CD "Bad Girls Go To Hell."
I want to feature a triple play of this next artist, kind of a spotlight segment, and from her 2005 CD called "Pretty Little Shape Shifter," I could have easily picked several more songs. I think this is a very underrated CD. She's out of Toronto and is Dana Baitz. I'm actually going to start with an outtake from that album, called "Out of Bounds." To understand it you need to know that there's been a, let's say, difference of opinion for many years concerning the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and their policy of only admitting women-born-women. As a result a camp was started opposite the Festival gates called Camp Trans. Dana's song is called "Out of Bounds," and it will be followed by her rewrite of the Kink's song "Lola."
- Out of Bounds (2003 demo)
Again, those last two are from the Dana Baitz album "Pretty Little Shape Shifter." The last song was "Freak of Nature," and included the voice of the late activist Sylvia Rivera.
This is JD Doyle, thanking you for joining me on my Transgender Music Special, and of course I thank my interview guests for the show, Madsen Minax, and AJ Bryce. Come back next month for Part 2 of my Transgender Music Special and an exclusive interview with Ryan Cassata, and much more.
In the UK Sparkle is the name of the National Transgender Celebration, held in July, and this is their seventh year. Jenny Slater, who I played earlier in the show, put together a band in 2009 called the Treacles, and they recorded a very celebratory song for the event. It's a great way to end the entire show. It's called "Sparkle."
- Sparkle (2009)
was fortunate to not only see the premier of "Riot Acts,"
And, at the Trans March stage event...