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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

EQ Interview With MEN - "It's Just Gender - It's Just Whatever".


So one of my new fave bands MEN just hit the UK this week playing three live shows in Brighton, Shoreditch and Soho and it truly was a great experience seeing them live for the first time.  The more I learn about this band, the more I realize how truly important they are to the gay community and to music.  What they do on-stage, in the studio and how they represent themselves really make me proud to be "electroqueer". 

I was fortunate enough to catch up with MEN right before the show for a chat and it was a lot of fun.  In this EQ interview with MEN, JD Samson, Michael O'Neill and Ginger Brooks talk about life on the road, the UK versus US music scene and JD tells it straight about her feelings on the whole "him" or "her" debate - enjoy!

MEN on MySpace

EQ: Hello guys - very nice to finally meet you - Have you guys been to London before?
Michael: As a band this is our second trip to London.

How was your show in Brighton? I bet they were really up for it there!
Ginger: Yeah they were! It was great - it was a tiny club - every one was really packed in!
JD: And they did the night on the same night as the RIOT Girl party - it was really cool to have that going on in the same building!

To be honest, I'm not an old-school MEN fan, I'm kinda a new MEN fan, having just got your EP not too long ago. I wasn't really as familiar with all the gender and political context of your music before listening - I just really loved the music on it's own, so tell me, what is MEN all about then…
JD: I think first and foremost, we want to create music that is also artistic and political. We want to make music that is passionate - we are passionate about who we are as queer individuals, being a part of the queer/radical and art community in New York. We just want to continue that…

That quite sums it it up!
JD: We also want to put as much multimedia into our music as we can. We've done a couple of shows at museums where we've been playing behind a large art canvas - our friends were painting on it and parts were cut out where we eventually emerged from the background.
Ginger: We are interested in collaborating as much with other musicians and our friends as we can to make different kinds of performances - that's what it's about really.


A lot of people are curious as to when the actual album is coming out...
JD: So are we! (All laugh) It depends what happens with the label situation. We are here in London to talk to different people and showcase what we do. If people are interested, we'll see how quickly we can figure something out. It's really hard right now to make a decision on who to give your record to or if you should release it yourself. I think we are just trying to be creative about it. Potentially we might not get a deal or even figure that out until May - but realistically, the album probably won't be out until Winter.

How far are you into the recording process?
Michael: We have about 70% of the record done and when when we return next week we plan on using the next two months to finish it and lock down some more studio time.

I'm curious on your opinion actually - do you find the music scene different over here in Europe versus America. Take Scissor Sisters for instance - they are a massive band over here but in New York where they are from, they are virtually unknown...
Ginger: Over here you just are exposed to so much more music - whereas in the states, you'll only hear certain kind of music unless you listen to the college radio stations.
JD: In the states you have to pay people to be on the radio or television and here they are willing to take chances and play music that no one has ever heard before. The Scissor Sisters aren't that well known in the US - it's weird. In my old band Le Tigre, they used to beg to open for us in New York, but over here, we opened up for them in Royal Albert Hall! We were like "whoa this is totally crazy!"

What was it like playing Royal Albert Hall?
JD: It was really amazing - awesome.
Michael: I think people in Europe also have a more diverse appreciation for music. Over here, we've played shows with like punk bands and other bands from other genres and people stick with it throughout whereas in the states, people really wrap their identity in the music they listen to and they think like "I can't like a punk band if I'm really into techno".


I love it how when you go to the grocery store here, you hear pop music, but in the states you'll hear muzak…
Michael: Well The Bee Gees are ok! (all laugh)

Now JD - when you did your guest blog for EQ, I got a few angry emails about using the wrong descriptive of "her" in the headline…I kinda thought I fucked that up, but I was wondering, from your perspective, do you care if people describe you as either her or him?
Michael: I saw that - someone said in the comments you used the wrong pronoun!
JD: People ask me a lot what I prefer and I don't really care as much as everyone else does. I just don't want other people to feel like they HAVE to make a decision. I also don't want them to feel uncomfortable. I mean if someone calls me "he" I'm not like "excuse me you got it wrong". I don't want them to feel bad. I do mostly go by "she" and "her" and I consider myself a woman in most senses of the word. I sometimes consider myself part of the trans community and I don't mind at all when people call me "he" if that's how they see me. So you didn't get it wrong and you shouldn't feel bad! (laughs). There shouldn't be just two words to use though when describing somebody and it shouldn't feel uncomfortable or be a weird thing. It's just gender - it's just whatever.

I guess you would say "call it like you see it" then…
JD: Exactly.

What kind of music do you guys listen to?
Michael: I'll be honest, I'm sort of trapped in the 90's (All laugh)

It's ok - it's cool to be trapped in the 90s - everyone wants to be the next Ace Of Base!
Michael: There was just a Smashing Pumpkins song playing and I got all excited - I haven't heard that in ages…but techno and Nirvana is what I grew up with and I can't quite escape it! CeCe Peniston!
Ginger: I am actually going to see Buffe Sainte-Marie here next week! I'm sticking around an extra week - I listen to a wide range. Folk music is definitely in there, Dizzee Rascal - a wide range of music for me.

Do you guys like traveling? Life on the road must be a bit tiresome sometimes?
JD: I love it - it's been my job for so long now - it's who I am. It feels weird when I'm not doing it. I've learned to really love and appreciate it. I feel like everyday is a new adventure, a place I've never stepped before. I think there have been times when I think this is exhausting, but I've learned to see the beauty in it.


Have you ever had those moments of "where am I?"
JD: All the time!
Ginger: Or where did that happen…
Michael: Or what time is it?
JD: Or like where are we we going tomorrow, you wake up and go like "ok what is happening today".
Michael: We were just talking about that though and how that helps you live your life more in the moment - not knowing where you're going to be tomorrow.
Ginger: We've also figured out ways of doing things we want to do while we are on tour. For example, when we were on tour with The Gossip, all of us went to this hot springs in Oregon…

Oh really? I'm from Oregon!
Ginger: No way - where?

Eastern Oregon - little town called Hermiston…
Michael: OMG we were in Eastern Oregon!
Ginger: Yeah it was like all these hunters that were there at the hot spring. But that's the good part of touring, it's like figuring out what you like to do and working that into your tour.

OK - it's my first MEN show tonight - what am I going to see and hear…will I be surprised?
JD: Sometimes we call it "shredding at the club"
Michael: Wait till you see Ginger's guitar - it will all be explained! (laughs)
JD: You are going to see something new - something you've never seen before - that's the one thing that's for sure. You'll see some multimedia performances and major queer family coming down to support.

So when are you next coming back to London?
JD: We plan on coming back around March/April/ May - doing a whole European tour and more dates in the UK.


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