MARILYN ROXIE: Interview with Marilyn Roxie

A friend of mine (Angelica) interviewed me for a music class she’s taking – hurrah! Here’s the Q&A session!:

  1. What influences in your life inspired you to become a musician?

Even though I had grown up with music all around me and played the keyboard since I was little, it wasn’t until I fell in love with video game soundtracks around the age of 8 that I began to think more seriously about being a musician in a professional sense. I would especially listen to songs from The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy series of games and learn them by ear and practice until I got them right. It wasn’t long before I started to think about the possibility of becoming a video game or movie soundtrack composer and I would make up scenes in my head and try to compose themes to go along with those scenarios or characters from my own stories…I still do this often when composing tracks!

Later on, as I started to move beyond video game music, the style of artists like Brian Eno, Ray Manzerek from the Doors, and William Basinski resonated strongly with me. When I finally put up my music on a public platform in 2008, through the streaming radio site, users began to recommend me artists they thought seemed similar to my music, like Delia Derbyshire (60s electronic composer, known for the Dr. Who theme) and Ghost Box record label artists – all of this was like pieces of a puzzle fitting together and I just felt more comfortable with making own music because there seemed to be an audience for what I was doing. Krautrock (60s-70s German experimental music; Kraftwerk, Cluster, Can, NEU!) has had more of an influence on my recent work.

  1. Why did you choose to compose instrumental music?

Mostly because of being drawn to the keyboard for so long, and probably because I’m terribly nervous singing in front of other people! I wouldn’t mind playing in a band eventually, though, and I used to write lyrics fairly often that I may have to do something with someday.

  1. How do you compose an album? For instance how do you choose how to put pieces of a song together and arrange them into an album?

New Limerent Object in June of this year was the first full-length album I’d done, so that was a big step in something new. The other releases were either compilations of songs, or EPs that had very loose concepts, for instance: Bits was intended to be a light, video-gamey release, Dark Mist EP was a collection of some of the more haunting tracks I’d made, I Dreamt of Sound were songs to fit scenes from dreams I’d had. For these EPs, they were tracks I had composed independently that I decided to put into the EP setting – their was no set destination for them in the beginning, just ideas that I was putting into sound.

When I decided I wanted to do an LP for a change, I was more meticulous about how I worked through the songs, and I really wanted it to be the best I could put out at that time. “New limerent object” is a term referring to one’s new object of affection/romantic fixation. It’s a phrase that interested me, so I decided to call the album after that and do a series of songs that reflected this sort of feeling, but not in a sense of normal relationships and through nature and atmosphere instead (hence song titles like “The Shores”, “The Cove”, and “Out in the Moonlight”). I was listening to a lot of drone-based, hypnotic music at the time (Spacemen 3, Natural Snow Buildings) and semi-dark post-punky stuff (particularly Dead Can Dance), so I think that came through as well. So I worked on tracks independently of each other, creating instruments in Propellerhead Reason and building tracks in layers that way, and later put them in an order that seemed to tell a story of this “new limerent object” idea. It’s hard for me to explain exactly how I come to making a track – I begin with constructing a scene in my mind, trying to evoke an emotion or an element of nature, and then find patterns in the keys and melodies that seem to represent this for me. It doesn’t always work right away, though, I have to be in the right state of mind to make it happen!

  1. When did you first learn how to play the keyboard and how long have you played it? Are you self-taught or did you learn from someone else?

Around 4, I think. I’m almost 20 now, so that’s about 16 years (which seems crazy for me to think about)! I just learned how to go about it on my own, because my dad had a Casio keyboard that I would play – I now have more keyboards than I know what to do with, but my favorite of all is the Korg Triton Le Workstation! When I was younger, I learned songs by ear and also looked through a chord book and tried out different patterns. I didn’t learn how to read sheet music until I was 15, but aside from understanding more about music theory and being able to play pre-existing songs if I want to, it didn’t really have much of an affect on how I compose my own songs since I don’t write down my music or get hung up on music theory – I just listen to loads of music all the time, absorb it, and anything that goes on when I’m playing is typically automatic!

  1. What do you hope to accomplish with your music? Anyone you hope to influence in a particular way?

I’m always surprised and happy when somebody tells me that they like a song or release of mine, since I’m mostly doing it because it’s like a part of me compels me to put it out there, while at the same time it is encouraging that it appears to have gelled with some others in a way. When I re-listen to my own music, I notice lots of pieces that remind me that I’m not anywhere near being the best that they can be, which is what I’m trying to get closer to all the time. I hope that when people listen to my music, if they like it, they also take the time to explore my influences, because they’re just as and even more important than my own. It seems like people can sometimes get a bit stuck in contemporary music, when in actuality it’s the whole lineage of works that are important – I don’t think that any type of music can be improved upon if there’s not an appreciation, or at least an understanding, of what came before it!

I really enjoyed teaching a Beginning Piano workshop at my former high school, and while teaching students about music theory and reading sheet music, also incorporated my techniques of learning songs by ear and composing. When I saw the students learning from me and testing things out on their own, it really made me happy and proud! Knowing that what I’m doing has anything to do with someone else making their own music is absolutely cool for me!

  1. Would you consider performing in a concert setting? Why or why not?

Definitely! It’s just a matter of having the right sort of electronics set-up: the way that I make music now, I’d have to get an array of amps and do something about my laptop and Properllerhead Reason – I’d probably need a more portable keyboard than my main Korg, currently. I’d also prefer to play with other musicians than it just being me on my own – I think it would be more fun that way!

  1. So what is the next step in your musical career?

I’m currently in the process setting up my own record label, Vulpiano Records, in a partnership with a distributor (Select-o-Hits). The basis for the label is for each artist (currently about 10 involved) to offer at least one single, EP, or album for free. The option will also be available for them to get distributed digitally, through iTunes/Amazon/eMusic, or in a limited run of physical copies. It’s going to be like a sort of artist-collective where we’ll be collaborating with each other and promoting eachother’s music. Aside from that, I’m continuing to write music reviews at A Future in Noise and working on some soundtrack music for a Tim Ashworth film in 2010!


Interview with Carol Queen at the Center for Sex & Culture


Center for Sex & Culture intern Marilyn Roxie interviewed Carol Queen, author, sexologist, and founder of the Center, in March 2011 for an LGBT American History class assignment. Here now are the contents of the interview, ranging from youth group organization in the ’70s to sex-positivity, from her involvement with Good Vibrations to the founding for the Center for Sex & Culture, plus a guest appearance from her partner, Robert Morgan Lawrence!:

Marilyn Roxie: In the ‘70s, you had founded a gay youth organization and I wanted to know what was the process for starting that out and how did you get going on that?

Carol Queen: Well, in 1975, actually 1974, I was 17 and I started college a year early, and I wanted to go to college and come out. I was already bi-identified and really there was nothing for me to connect with in my small mountain town that I grew up in Oregon, except figuring out who the gay teachers were and trying to get them to give me support and that, then as now, is dicey because teachers are often a little fearful of reaching out to queer kids. So, I mean I did get some support, but I went to college, and at college it turned out, not only was the bisexuality part a little challenging to people, but, I was too young to go to the bar, which is where all the other people really came together and connected. The bar scene, this was in Eugene, Oregon in the ‘70s, and it was not the only LGBT space in town, but it was almost the only LGBT space.

There was kind of an organization already going on on campus and it was a kind of radical gay men’s organization and that was about it. And there was nothing for underage youth to do or to attend or any place for them to get support. I got put on a panel on gay youth at the first gay pride week at school that I attended, which was in ‘75. I got to know two young gay men, both of whom were really adamant that there needed to be something for people under 21. And so, one of them was 14 and one of them was 16, and I had just turned 18 at that point. We got together and started to organize and founded this group. It was called Growing Alternative Youth, because that spells GAY (laughs), so GAYouth. We kind of became a non-profit by attaching ourselves to the metropolitan community church branch that had just started up in Eugene, so we became the church’s youth group in effect, but really, we and the church had nothing to do with each other ever again, it was just that they were kind enough to give us that support. We would hold meetings and every once and awhile we would hold a youth-only dance, things like that, we did that kind of stuff. Once we took a field trip to Portland where there was an all-ages disco, a gay disco, there was no alcohol served there, so it could be an all-ages space.
The most exciting thing we did was sue the city school district in Eugene for the right to advertise in the high school newspapers about our group. A straight student from inside tried to buy an ad for us, who was friends of ours, and they refused, well actually they let her buy one ad and then people freaked out and they stopped her. So, then they had tried to get us completely shut out from the school and even though we weren’t getting very many people from the school we knew that that’s where gay kids who weren’t out would be likely to see that there was such an entity. Because if they weren’t already part of the LGBT community, how would they find out about us? So that was the whole point. We got a lot of attention from the lawsuit, we filed a lawsuit against them, and we might have won, except that after like two years had gone by, it takes forever to do these things…after we got representation from the ACLU, it was really exciting, it was one of the first LGBT/ACLU things that I know of, certainly in Oregon. It turns out that the school district was able to do this legal maneuver where it required us to give all of the names, ages, and addresses of all of our members. We couldn’t break peoples’ confidence like that. We just couldn’t. They were like, “We’ll find out if anyone’s a sex offender or something”, they made the argument to the judge and the judge accepted the argument, but really, of course none of them were sex offenders and a lot of them weren’t 18 yet, and we just had to drop it.

That kind of led to the demise of the group but the other thing that led to the demise of the group was that the leaders were getting to be close to the age where people had to stop affiliating with the group, because we had an overlap of a year or two after people turned 21, but then people had to split because we didn’t want it to slowly age into a non-youth group anymore, we wanted the direction to stay in the hands of people who were under 21 and nobody stepped up to take it, so that’s what happened.

MR: I mean, as far as the names and addresses thing, it’s interesting how that’s a recurring theme with different things that when gay people try to organize and they publish things in the papers…The thing that surprised me about this group is, I don’t remember the particular circumstances, but there was a school in the 90s that tried to form a group and there was a big media hoopla about that [referring to 1995 Gay-Straight Alliance at East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah], and this was way before any of that.

CQ: I don’t know that any of the other youth groups got into any trouble, any kind of controversy, because if my understanding is correct, there was one here in San Francisco already, one in LA already, and there was one in New York already, which makes sense because those were the three hotbed cities of LGBT organizing in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Particularly the ‘60s and ‘70s. Of course in the ‘70s, then it spread all over everywhere, it really caught fire after Stonewall. We, I think, as far as I ever found out, were the first group to try to organize in a small-ish college town, in a state that wasn’t necessarily completely liberal. Eugene’s a very liberal city but it was surrounded by Oregon which was not liberal at all, in all of its particulars.

We weren’t the first people to be exposed in that way, that would be the people who would get busted way back when, even today they still do that, in some states or some counties where somebody is caught, you know, cruising at a bus stop or something, their name will get put in the paper. But, that was strategically done all the time back in those days because so many people were in the closet and so many people, even if they weren’t, stood to lose so much if their names became very public, they’d lose jobs, you know the drill, they could lose everything so that was the issue.

MR: I’ve noticed obviously a lot of your writing is sex positive and, what I was going to ask you about is a sex negative undercurrent on the other side…At different points in time when you were writing about things or promoting a kind of sex positive attitude, what was the climate like in queer and feminist communities as far as differing on certain points?

CQ: That’s a really great question. I came to the sex positive feminist party a little bit late in terms of, you know, who really got it rolling, that was the women who did On Our Backs, it was the women who were at the Barnard Conference – which you’ve studied about already? (MR: Yeah.) – sort of that range of the activists, many of whom are a little older than me, although probably one of the most famous ones is Susie Bright and she’s just about my age. Her memoir is coming out this spring, by the way, so that’s pretty exciting, I just started reading it last night. I came to the sex positive activist world through my studies in sexology. I came to San Francisco specifically to attend the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, which I did, it took me forever to graduate, but I (laughs) started in 1987 and graduated in 1998 after many, many years of dropping out or only doing part of the year, stuff like that, which in my experience is always what the really over-committed activist college student tends to do, like “I can’t do all this stuff, there’s a ballot measure I have to work on, I guess I’ll drop out of school again until it’s over.” That’s how I did it. I always knew I would go back, but I dropped out of school a bunch of times in order to do projects and stuff like that.

The Institute was the place really that introduced me to the notion of sex positivity and the minute I heard the term it all just kind of clicked for me, it was like “Oh! This explains so much.” It doesn’t just largely explain homophobia, I mean there are things about homophobia that aren’t exactly about sex positivity and sex negativity, but a lot of it is about that, and people squicking out about somebody else’s sexual practice. And the other thing that it did was sort of solve a little mental problem that I had been chewing on for awhile which was why were all these various sex-related issues essentially separate from one another in activist terms. There weren’t that many people who came out and started talking about LGBT issues and wound up talking about sex work, and heterosexual open-relationships, and things didn’t get compared and put together in a way that the issues of one type of sexuality and activism around that sexuality could shed light on others. There were kind of walls up between all those and, to a significant extent, that’s still true today but there is much more ability for us to sort of think past those boundaries now than there used to be. This notion of sex positivity is one of the things that really makes a difference for it.

It’s really important to me personally because I didn’t ever feel like I could stay in one box. So, I came out as a lesbian, but really I was bi, and then I was bi, but then I was kind of interested in BDSM, and I was curious about that, and so there wasn’t any one community where all the people that sort of matched me were because I didn’t match very successfully, it seemed. Of course, one way that you deal with that is you go to a bigger city where there’s a bigger pool of people to meet and go, “Oh! There are some people more like me here than there were in a smaller city.”

The notion of sex positivity was one that I embraced really eagerly, really immediately, started to write about it, as soon as I started to write. I’m probably one of the 3 or 4 people who is most associated with the term now, just because I use it all the time and I’ve been using it for over 20 years. I’ve seen it sort of come into the culture more. I had literally never heard it before, in 1987, so that shows you how much change there’s been. Every once in awhile you see it in the New York Times or something, it’s pretty amazing.

The “sex negative” feminists were the best example of what the opposite, or the converse, of sex positive people were, just because of all that stuff that had gone down at Barnard and all of the discourse around it, all of which had made its way into the feminist writings that I was seeing. So, some of the feminists were arguing on one side versus the other. It was very much an issue in the 80s. Anybody who was not a just strictly mainstream feminist, who really were only talking about jobs and paychecks, were not talking about any of the cultural parts other than that, everybody else knew about it. Anybody who was sexually other-than-heterosexual knew about it, and plenty of heterosexuals knew about it too.I think the thing that was most notable to me as I sort of started to pay attention to this stuff, and I started getting involved in the dialogues myself, was that the other side didn’t want to come out and debate us. This is still true. I talked to somebody two weeks ago who is a notable pro sex-work, pro porn speaker on the east coast and a college had gotten her and another woman who is very much an anti rising star right now to debate, and the anti said “I’m not going to debate anyone.” So, this is still really their strategy.

Because of this strategy in a way I have gotten much less backwash from this stance than you might suspect. Susie really broke ground and some of the others, Pat Califia and Dorothy Allison and several of the others who were at Barnard and known for those things got much more flak than I ever did. I think it’s also partly because I really do try to speak across the spectrum. I really try to bring everybody’s identity into the mix and to discuss so I think that people tend to not feel like “It’s just a bunch of lesbians acting up over there.” because I try to make sure to say that men too are affected by this stuff. I just think that the culture sort of shifted a little bit more in a sex positive direction, at least in a way, in a superficial way because of course you can think of millions of ways that it hasn’t at all, that anti-sex, religious feelings are still very much what they were, there’s laws on the books, all that stuff is still real. At the same time, when you look at pop culture, many of the points that we were trying to make in the ‘80s and early ‘90s have really gotten embraced pretty much. Maybe not in a deep way, some of that embracing is a little shallow sometimes, but still, embraced and used and sort of riffed on. I really think that I have had much less personal effect, certainly negative personal effect, than, one, I anticipated I would when I got started, and two, that others have had.

The other thing that I would say about this is that I think part of the reason for this is that almost everyone wants sex to be positive, you know, this idea of sex positivity even if people can’t imagine how to get there themselves and so they can’t really believe that anybody else feels that way…most people don’t want to feel bad about sex. Some of them may want sex to just leave them alone altogether forever, but most people hope that they will have a good sexual experience, or relationship, or life, right?

MR: As far as the negative output I think that the angle that you take, especially in incorporating the wide diversity of wants and desires that people have, is almost hard to argue with, perhaps…(laughs)

CQ: Well I try, you know, I feel like it’s so important because I feel like when I was primarily affiliated with the LGBT community, in the first place there were also the issues around were lesbians really included, were bis really accepted, were trangendered people really accepted… those still are live issues now but they aren’t as bad as they were 20, 30 years ago, 40 years ago. But, I would always hear people say, “Well I’m straight, I can’t go to the gay parade.”

On the one hand, it’s easy to say, “Don’t be such a baby. The LGBT community needs to have a pride movement, and they didn’t send you a personal engraved invitation in the mail because you’re not LGBT and they think you’re doing just fine, thank you very much.”, even if they’re not. And then the discussion about, well are they doing fine, and if not, why not? And what are the elements that are alike in the two kinds of oppression, or the five kinds of oppression, really? How do we learn from the fact that plenty of straight people also feel repressed around their sexuality, what do we learn from that?

MR: I mean, I think that the kind of work that the queer community has done on unraveling things about gender and sexuality, has kind of drawn back the veil about what straightness even is in the first place, I really do. (CQ: Absolutely.) And I know that your work has certainly done that, and lots of the other people that I’m studying about, and it’s really helped. I think that’s what a lot people are afraid of, too, because this paragon of normalcy is kind of being shredded away bit by bit, but I really do think that it’s made a big difference, because…

I know I’m supposed to be interviewing you (laughs), but as an aside, when I was about a teenager I identified really strongly with gay guys (CQ: Mhm.) and I was attracted to gay guys but I was like, “Am I not trans enough because I don’t want to take hormones, I don’t want to have a male name?” and all this other stuff (CQ: Right.) and it wasn’t until I read your writings and figured out more things that I was like, “I don’t have to do any certain thing, I just have to do what makes me feel comfortable.” It’s just made a huge difference to me.

CQ: Well, thank you for saying so. I think the whole point of sex positivity is that we all deserve to get that message that as long as we have figured out how to be consensual with other people that we’re okay the way that we are, generally. Sometimes we have some skills to learn, and sometimes we need to figure out how safer sex applies to us, and all of those kinds of specific things that, in certain instances, make sex more difficult than ideally it might be. But, those are all things that can be tackled. And you figure out, where are the gay guys that are bi enough to hang out with a woman, you just figure that out, and of course it helps to be in a place like the Bay Area to figure those things out, but I will tell you I’ve travelled all around the country and its all going on out there as well.

The thing about the normalcy-busting of it all is that that normalcy was always kind of a myth (laughs). If you really look back you find all of these kinds of issues going on, with the exception of people actually getting gender reassignment, but still cross-living sometimes, the surgery hadn’t caught up, the drugs, the hormones hadn’t caught up, but the gender questions and issues were there already. It’s like, you know, our last three generations sort of seemed to pretend like we all invented all this stuff, oh we totally didn’t, it was all there before. I’m giving a sex history in San Francisco tour tomorrow and this stuff’s been going on in San Francisco from the get-go. If I knew anything about the native peoples who lived here before, I’d probably find something there too, I just don’t have the right…who has inclusive of sex and gender 200 year old sex history of peoples that have largely been chased away from the area? That stuff is continually so challenging to find.

Sort of seeing through cultural differences remains one of the really big issues with sex-positive thought and even LGBT organizing to some degree, I mean the LGBT community has been pretty mindful of trying to get to culture and race and other kinds of differences, but the U.S.A. in general is not as good at that as it could be (laughs) so it stands to reason that the sex positive community could be better at those things too, but I think the inclusivity part…I mean once you expand the notion of multi-cultural into this kind of cultural identity that includes the sex and gender orientations it also, if you’re lucky, helps you turn a mirror back on the notion of diversity as it’s usually thought of and as a race, culture, religion, class kind of a thing, because you need both things to get a holistic idea of what we have been doing and why. Why could somebody be an out-homosexual and have many lovers while people were getting thrown in jail for homosexuality across town? It’s because of class, that’s why.

MR: I think that it’s taken awhile for people to understand the intersections of different aspects of peoples’ identities and how that makes a big difference in all of that stuff. It seems like obviously people have been writing about that sort of thing for a long time and speaking about it, but it seems like it’s just now starting to seep into the masses on a bigger level.

CQ: And you don’t find good information about it just anywhere, either, you know they don’t really teach this stuff successfully in high schools around the U.S. There’s some attempts but not…you know, the sex stuff they’re scared of in the first place and the race and class stuff is always on the chopping block because of the right-wing, so it’s a big question. It’s a really big question. You know, we’re lucky to be in this community again where that set of issues is just better understood and sort of more embraced, but even here…

MR: As far as San Francisco, part of the reason I always wanted to live here is where I lived before was in Amador County which is pretty much nowheresville (CQ: Right.)…

CQ: Much like where I lived in Oregon except we had more rain than you did, I think.

MR: I had to go through the ‘Yes on Prop 8’ signs everywhere (CQ: Yeah.). I was teaching a school workshop at a predominantly Mormon school and they would bring things up to me and I couldn’t say a word, and it’s so different here (laughs), and I’m so relieved to be here and talking to you, and taking classes, and it’s just incredible to me, the difference is just mind-blowing.

CQ: Yeah, it really is, and I’m so glad you’re here too because I know exactly what it feels like to be in an environment like that, although we didn’t have Prop 8 then, but we had some…in the late ‘70s the thing that was happening was the beginning of the human rights laws in cities and counties, the anti-discrimination laws, so instead of marriage what people who were right-wing organized against was giving “special privileges” to LGBT people around…you know, could you throw them out of a restaurant, could you kick us out of their job, that kind of stuff and I should say, “us”, and that went to the ballot too, and any time something like this goes to a ballot, you really start to see who’s under the rocks, both on your side and on the other side, it’s pretty interesting.

MR: One of the other things I wanted to ask you about was the forming of this Center which is now in a different building, I wanted to know more about how that had gotten started.

CQ: Well, early in the…this has to do with how my partner Robert and I met and what we did in our early, early years together. We’ve been together for 22 years – wow…wow, that’s a long time! – we met at San Francisco Sex Information. He was already on the training staff and I came in as a trainee and joined the staff the next year. I had already started at the Institute and we almost immediately started to do workshops together. Robert and I would travel around the country whenever we found a place where we could do a workshop, it was interesting to go there and, A, do the workshop and B, check out what was going on in that particular locale.

So, when Good Vibes-like sex shops opened up in Boston and Seattle and in different places, we would go to those places and Madison, Wisconsin is another one, we would go to the S&M organizations and clubs, we would go to conferences and conventions like, probably most notably the very first ever Texas bisexual conference. We were sharing the hotel with baptists, it was awesome (laughs), like, culture clash. The baptists were sneaking around drinking out of brown paper bags so it was like, okay…some of you may actually come over to our bisexual club, but actually I think you’re too busy being excited being able to have drink (laughs).

So this moving around was exciting but we didn’t have as many places to teach in San Francisco as we wanted to, and this is very ironic because we hardly teach at all anymore because we’re so busy running the Center, but…one of the things behind the Center was us wanting to have a place where we could do any kind of teaching that didn’t just necessarily involve talking, but could also involve demonstrations or even, “Okay, people who came to the class, now it’s time to try a hand-job out on your partner.” kind of live stuff, so that was the thing that was really missing in San Francisco was, outside of the BDSM community, which was more about spanking and knot-tying and things like that, certainly at that time, there wasn’t a place for live sex in workshops and classes.

We wanted to incorporate that because we felt like, for some people, being able to observe or to participate, you know obviously not everybody wants to do that, but for those people who are comfortable with that, it’s a pretty profound way to learn stuff and it is different from reading a book or seeing a pamphlet or any of that so we wanted to be able to do it. We sort of started on the road to the Center for that reason…our founding myth is kind of awesome, we’ve already started to talk a little bit about these issues without thinking that we would tackle it ourselves, when Betty Dodson, the mother of masturbation, said to us, “I don’t really have any place in San Francisco that I like to give workshops either. You kids should start a place.” Betty’s like, almost 30 years older than I am, she calls us “you kids” all the time, you know I’m over 50 now, but she’s older, so…

We kind of looked at each other and went, actually…we probably should be the people to do this, because we had connections and relationships and roots in all these different communities, so sex positivity and diversity wasn’t just something that I think is important to talk about, it actually describes my affiliations, and Robert’s too, to a really substantial degree. So, we wouldn’t be coming from one community and then trying to open the doors to other communities, we would have relationships everywhere.

Then, we started to talk about it and then we talked and talked and talked for years and years and years and then finally, one of our friends who is a computer geek guy and had just made a bunch of money in one of the booms, the bust was just around the corner, but it wasn’t there yet, said, “I’m tired of hearing you guys talk about this project. I’m going to give you $4,000 and I want you to get a lawyer and I want you to write up the incorporation papers and get your non-profit status and get going.” And we were like, thank you! And that’s exactly what we did, we used his money and got our non-profit status and then it was four more years, at least, before we actually raised enough money and found a place that we could afford to start the very first Center location and this is now our fourth location in seven years, and the reason we’ve had different locations in seven years is mainly because we’ve shared locations each of the other three times.

People think it’s such a good idea at the outset and then…somewhere along the line, something happens in our programming that makes somebody go, “Oh my god! Oh, I didn’t know you were going to do that!” Like, look, we said we were going to do sex stuff, information, performance, teaching, live action demos, everything for people of all orientations as long as they were over 18 and it was all consensual, what about that line made you think that nobody would come and have a jack-off party, or a fisting class, or whatever it was that in each case made people get squicky. So each time we’d been like, this isn’t actually a safe a space as we thought, and we probably should go and see if we can find a better one and this is a better one because not only is it on the ground floor, so our friends who are on wheels can come in here, but also…because we’d been putting them in freight elevators and apologizing and we couldn’t ever call ourselves accessible, really, for all these years now. But the other reason is because we have this whole building ourselves, we don’t share it with another entity so, I think we will be able to put down our roots in a new way here.

The way that we think about what our mission is is so broad, that it’s kind of weird, and in fact one of our big issues is, in spite of what I said about having roots in all of these different communities, people who don’t know us don’t necessarily get that and so people who are new to town, newly come out, whatever, will hear about the Center and see that there’s something for gay men at the Center and they’ll think it’s for gay men, and they’ll see the calendar and see something for swingers and they’ll think the Center is for swingers, and they’ll look at the calendar and see a sex work thing and they’ll think it’s for sex workers, and they won’t think it’s for themselves if it’s for somebody else, which all by itself, to me, illustrates the most fundamental challenge about sex positivity and sexual diversity, which is that people tend to group with people that they think are like them and that they think they’ll feel comfortable with and there’s a discomfort factor even among some comfortable people, generally, about people who are different from them.

In order to overcome that, from the first place, maybe in order to overcome that, you need some bisexuals to start the ball rolling, maybe, I don’t know (laughs) that’s just a theory, I’m just throwing that out there. But, you really need to be able to put it out on the table to say, just because somebody else is just because somebody else has a home here doesn’t mean you can’t have a home here. The whole point is to make a sex positive space for anyone who needs and wants it.

I didn’t predict that that was going to be the biggest conceptual challenge when we started, actually, in retrospect I should’ve known it, but I didn’t really predict it, I thought all of our challenges were sort of going to be operational and raising money, stuff like that, and indeed they have been, I mean any non-profit especially, when its young, go through that, but the part about the sex and gender identity piece is so fascinating to me, I mean, I’m…at some point I’m going to write about it, but I don’t even feel like I’m ready yet, you know? It’s very deep. I think it’s very, very key to what makes people not easily able to embrace the notion of sexual diversity in sex positivity, because that’s a key element of sex positivity. People go, “Oh I’m sex positive, I like sex.”, it’s like, yes, that’s great and that’s not an irrelevant element, but, you can hate sex and still be sex positive, because you could realize that you haven’t had the right set of circumstances to have good, pleasurable sex yet and yet you can know that those circumstances are out there and you could strive for them, and you can not have had sex at all and still be sex positive, so just because you like sex is not the only definition of it. It’s that, great, you’re in a place where you like sex, and other people have the right to that also – super-important and not always the thing that the pop culture discussion of sex positivity really deals with.

I think it’s still really important to talk about this stuff, I mean I’m not quite working on a book, but I’m outlining a book right now that’s going to have some stuff like this in it because I think, now enough people have heard the term sex positive that it’s about time to unpack it some more and help people who are embracing that notion kind of know what, at least, I think they’re embracing (laughs).

MR: What I’ve noticed when I’ve tried to…I don’t go out of my way to explain my own situation to just anyone, there’s certain people I feel more comfortable talking with and what I’ve noticed is, even with the people that I feel comfortable talking with, there’s still a general misunderstanding of what gender even means, about different possibilities in the way of physical sex or orientation, it seems like it’s really hard to open up a discussion when people aren’t even sure how to define the terms that are being discussed.

CQ: Right. And of course, we all get, almost all, really poor sex education in high school. You know, we can get to college and start to get the sex ed that we deserved to have when we were 14, 15, 16, and were starting to really have questions burn in a lot of us, it’s not like young people wait until they’re 18 to get curious. This isn’t the location for young people to get their questions answered, we made a clear, distinct decision to be 18 and over so that we could bypass the harmful-to-minors discussion that we knew would come if we let youth in to do anything here, even if it was a level of sex education that was not very far removed from what they ought to get in high school, so that’s for other people to do and for us to support from afar, but, once people get to turn 18, then they start to be able to figure out, well, okay, what did I learn, what are the gaps – everybody knows there are gaps, it’s just not necessarily clear what those are when you get started – and where do I find the correct information that I can trust to fill the gaps in?

Plenty of people just do it on the hoof, they go have sex and start to figure it out, and some sex is better than other sex and you learn things that way. Having sex is not a bad way to learn about sex, it’s like a lab (laughs) but, it’s nice to have some guidance, a handbook, something. I think that the way in which people have to get their information in a piecemeal fashion is another thing that helps take them out of the mode of diversity and acceptance of everybody else. Because there’s this notion that people learn to have sex because it’s natural, and it’s not always that natural, and I don’t mean it’s unnatural by saying that either, I mean it sometimes is very hard to figure out for people well into adulthood, middle age, age, what things would turn them on, or their partners on, what things would affect them in the most erotically positive way? It’s not easy to know that stuff if you don’t have enough information.

So, part of the idea of sex positivity to me really is an attempt to get people to be comfortable with one another and diversity, but another thing is to get people aware that they deserve to have access to the information they need to be who they are, to even discover that in the first place. This society cannot be said to be sex positive in that respect, it just can’t, it does not give everyone access, certainly equal access, to basic knowledge about pleasure and protection, maybe basic knowledge about protection if you’re lucky.

MR: As far as figuring my own self out, I mean the only reason why I was really able to know is because of reading romance and erotic stories, that’s really the only way that I stumbled into it, if it wasn’t for that, who knows how long I would’ve been befuddled.

CQ: Yeah and you go, “What do I respond to in that?” And what kinds of scenarios do you see being presented to you, the reader, and you go, “Oh, do people really do that?” I think that that actually is probably the commonest…books, porn for some people, bouncing off of things that you see in mainstream culture, like the movies and especially cable TV, and some non-cable TV these days, but those kinds of images that are out in the culture now for almost anybody to have access to them, if they want to or choose to, and of course people are so often left fearful about sex because a lot of people don’t choose that.

MR: Another thing I was going to ask about is, how had you gotten involved with the Good Vibrations store, how did that come about?

CQ: Well, it was…the way I know Betty Dodson, the mother of masturbation, is because one of my instructors at the Institute told me, when I was going to New York in the late ‘80s that I should look her up and kind of put us together. Then Betty did one of her masturbation workshops in San Francisco a year or so later, so I signed up and one of the people at that workshop was Joani Blank who founded Good Vibes. There she was and there I was and we met and did the whole workshop all weekend together and at the end of the weekend she said, “How would you like to come work in my store one day a week?”, because it was hard to get one person on Saturday, they didn’t want to work on one day. And I went, “Oh, I would love that. Sure.” because I was just basically, wasn’t working at that point I was still in school and so I had the time.

I started and as soon as I got there I went, okay this is great, in the first place, it was so great to be able to talk to people about the toys and answer their questions about sex and it was just great, and so much a dovetail…like, I thought I would be doing something public health-related like when I started the Institute, it was the height of the AIDS epidemic when I started, and I thought I would be teaching safer sex workshops at a non-profit or something. It didn’t even occur to me to think about, was there anything private sector at all that would allow me to use the skills I was developing at the Institute and to do stuff that would make me a living and it just didn’t even cross my mind. Then I got this one day a week job and all of a sudden I realized, oh this is a place where I could do the stuff that I do, and I could do it here. So, I told Joani that if she wanted to give me more hours that I wanted them, and she did. For awhile I worked the mail-order call center phones too, so I talked to people from around the country and I was already doing San Francisco Sex Information, so I had that piece, doing a lot of talking to people about sex at that point, like much more intensely even than I do now.

We had a retreat, the staff and Joani, we all, like 12 of us at that point, maybe not even that many, and we had a retreat one weekend and talked about the future and somebody suggested that I start to do educational workshops for the staff, we already did the workshops for the people in the public, those were already set up and going, and I started to do continuing education workshops for the staff and they would tell me what they wanted to learn more about and I would go and research it and teach the workshop and then, a little while went by, and I went, “Let’s turn this into a department, let’s make it be like an official part of Good Vibes,” so that we can do it continually, but also we can say that we do it and that makes us more distinct from all of the other companies, even more distinct than we already are. So, everybody went, “Cool, let’s do that.” So, I became the first director or manager, or whoever, like the convener of the education department, and around this time also Joani was busy selling the store to the staff and we were a co-op for awhile, and so that became my role and I was still working the store but I was also doing these workshops and teaching. Then, once I got my doctorate, I got a new title which was staff sexologist, the first one ever I think, of any company like ours, although there are a couple more now that have hired themselves some sexologists.

By the time the education department thing came together, and the part about owning the business with everyone, at that point it began to feel to me like, “Oh, this is what I’m going to be doing for my work trajectory, I don’t anticipate that I’m going to leave”, and I still don’t anticipate that I’m going to leave, although I’ve obviously got myself a whole other level of work started here, I sort of wear three hats now and have for awhile. The Center, Good Vibes, and my writing and other stuff that I do. So, I keep really busy, but I grew up in the country where sometimes I was bored. (laughs)

MR: I was going to ask you, how do you manage to juggle these things that you do?

CQ: Well, I mean in a way, it’s completely dysfunctional, in a way I just take on all these things to do and I just…every time a ball lands in my hand I throw it up in the air again and catch another one, I just do it. I don’t think I would ever suggest to another person in so many words that they should set up a life that’s patch-worked in this way, although I’m aware that other people do this, not just in this field. I mean plenty of people actually work this way, it’s very possible I would work this way in whatever I was doing, so as not to sort of get into any kind of rut and so as to always have something a little different on my plate each week, each day, that keeps me feeling lively and I think it’s good.

I don’t know any other way to be, really, but part of the answer to the question is that I have…I really lean on Robert to help sort of, certainly to help with this, other things too. I have a great team of people that I work with at Good Vibes who help keep me organized around what I’m supposed to be doing over there. The thing that I’m sort of in charge of myself is what I’m writing and when I’m writing, and I even recently have gotten hold of somebody who is going to represent me as an agent, which I haven’t had all this whole time, in hopes that her presence in my life won’t just get me book gigs, but that I’ll have somebody to answer to, and to say, “Oh yeah, it’s almost ready. Oh yes, I’m working on a chapter this weekend.”, so that there will be people at all points, in all of these things that I do, who sort of help make sure that I continue to roll down the track because it’s true, I’ve got a lot going on and it would be easy to drop balls, and I try so hard not to. It comes out in my e-mail etiquette though, because sometimes people have to write to me four times before I even write them back, not because I didn’t see their e-mail the first time necessarily, although sometimes I didn’t, but because I’m like, “Oh, I’ll e-mail them back tomorrow.” And then tomorrow is just as busy, busier than today was or yesterday was. If I had any advice for anyone around this, it would be, try not to learn in college to do your paper on the very last day that it’s due, because that will make you think that you can just do that.

MR: I was going to ask you, as far as the queer community in San Francisco today, what do you think the kind of climate is as far as getting certain things pushed forward? I mean, the thing is that gay marriage is a big issue right now, but there’s a lot of people that talk about marriage as being assimilating, you know, and all this other kind of stuff, what do you think the kind of climate is on the direction that is being headed for as far as activism is concerned?

CQ: I think that the two things that I see right now with the LGBT community are indeed that question of marriage, and not just whether people are getting together behind activist push for gay marriage, same-sex marriage, but also the whole question of, if that’s what the majority of the community is really focusing on, then where does that leave all the other issues, sort of the question of, should this be the point of the wedge? And I see some controversy around that, you know, I think it’s a valuable discussion, I also however, and I’m not really a pro-marriage person at all, but I’m certainly pro same-sex marriage because I feel like if there are a lot of people in our community who feel as though that’s an extremely important goal for them and a civil right, and that their lives aren’t complete without it, or without the potential of it, and they feel oppressed, rightly, if they don’t have it, then it’s a civil rights issue and, even though it’s not my personal issue because I very likely won’t ever get married because that’s just not my thing, it would be cold of me to not support that desire on the part of people for whom it is extremely heartfelt.

I hope that they can think comfortably in terms of the whole discourse about it, about whether marriage really is all that and will be all that to them, and will it change their life the way they want it to and all of that, because as I like to say, with no disrespect meant to anyone, a vote for same-sex marriage is a vote for same-sex divorce. People cannot expect that that’s the be-all and end-all of equality issues, it’s a profound equality question but it’s a profound equality question in a culture that thinks that marriage is so important, and isn’t very good at it. So, I’m all mixed about it as you can tell, but I think it’s good to be mixed about this particular issue and I am mixed in a way that I cannot imagine disrespecting the marriage equality deal, that just doesn’t seem like it’s an option for me, even though, and I don’t disrespect the marriages even though I don’t respect marriage per se (laughs), if that makes any sense.

MR: No, I understand what you’re saying. I mean I think that a lot of times with these kinds of issues, it would be…sometimes things have to be achieved in blocks, like there’s people who want to abolish gender for example (CQ: Yeah.), people who want to abolish marriage, and it’s like, well hold on a moment! (laughs)

CQ: Let the people get to the gender of desire, preference, and identity before we throw it all out. Yeah, I mean it’s kind of a baby with the bathwater thing. And the other thing that I think is currently a really interesting issue, and I don’t know that it’s being talked about this way so much, but when I see the history of the LGBT community in San Francisco, I mean I guess I’m thinking about this because of this tour thing that I’ve been working on, I see two main things coming into being and interacting with each other, and those two main things are organizations, activists, and support and those kinds of organizations, and economic entities, businesses and like, gay bars, LGBT-oriented stores or restaurants or…just the way the Castro is, especially has been, a gay neighborhood, mainly because of the kind of businesses that are located there drawing in residents who visit and that gives a dense community of people for organizers to communicate with and give support. So, there’s sort of both things going on at the same time.

To have a really robust LGBT community of the kind that we have in San Francisco, and that was a pioneer city for certainly other places, I think you need both of those kinds of things. I am concerned, I noticed this during the last sort of big recession ten years or so ago with arts organizations, many of which were also queer, and that’s happening now too I think as well, but where if the money is really tight, it’s hard for those entities that help keep a community organized and thinking of itself as a community, places to meet, and ways to go out and identify as LGBT, even when they’re going grocery shopping or something, those things are at risk and the economy has been so challenged for the last couple of years that I actually worry about that part of the LGBT community in San Francisco and the way that when money gets tight, activist and non-profit entities have a harder time and they may go under so the whole infrastructure of what brought so many people here in the first place is more at risk than it is in better times.

The city and its queer community has ebbed and flowed in lots in different ways and contexts, so I don’t think that it’s all going to go away, but I think that there are arguments to be made that the community has to figure out ways to revive itself and its identity, and if people get too too lazy about it, complacent about it, there ultimately will be less of what they needed in the first place that brought them here, or that made their lives quite rich. If we don’t have critical mass around those kinds of things, does San Francisco stay as LGBT positive as it has been for the last couple of generations? I don’t know, it would be very interesting to see whether cultural changes in a community like ours could erode enough to make it be less a queer positive city, I don’t want to see that happen, but it would be interesting to see if it would and it’s something that in the back of my mind I think, is something that we all ought to be a little conscious of.

MR: One of the things that we were talking about in my class, just yesterday actually, was whether gay neighborhoods like the Castro are relevant anymore, because the point should be an increased diversity and acceptance, but on the other hand, as this sort of thing happens, it’s like, well is this really a gay space anymore, so that does seem to be a very relevant thing.

CQ: If there’s real assimilation, complete, then that means that there won’t be any dangerous places for LGBT people anymore, and there won’t be any places where LGBT people are not accepted, and saying it that way makes you see how far away we are from real assimilation. Robert?

(Carol Queen’s partner Robert Morgan Lawrence comes in)

RL: May I? (CQ: Of course.) The thing is, that kind of assimilation into the current society, LGBT will cease to exist because you’re identified not only about our orientation, but about the sex that we have …And, as I see it, the 300-something gay bars that were existing in this town 20 years ago and now there’s 30…hello, I’m Robert (MR: Hi.)…you see very few, the idea of assimilation is actually happening. In the sex culture of San Francisco, the public sex culture of San Francisco, is moving more away from sex as the computer culture takes over, more on Craigslist, that sort of stuff…so we’re seeing an assimilation of the sex culture into a culture that is trying to no longer be willing to even call it sex. The hipster Mission population calls it “art”. You go to an art show and then there’d be people fucking all over the room, this is not about sex, this is about “art”. So, even the word itself is becoming an anathema. So, there is some assimilation but I’m not sure it’s of any help, the loss of bars that we had, the loss of pick-up places, and changes in common culture. By the time you get from sex to art, the next thing that happens is “not”.

CQ: Well, we all know that art is not safe in our culture, so yeah, Robert’s point is well-taken.

RL: Sorry for barging in.

MR: No no, it’s okay.

CQ: There’s a way of…Robert gets involved in all of my interviews. (RL: No I don’t!) Yes you do.

The way that we understand what the purpose and the goals of us coming together in community even are includes those questions like what role does sex and the culture of sex play, what kind of relationship range is appropriate to us and do we want, how much diversity of all kinds do we mindfully include and make space for in our community? There’s so many different things and you know, ordinarily I wouldn’t say what I said in the second point about the economy and stuff, I’m just so aware of the way that San Francisco is a very expensive city to live in and that, while there are plenty of other places around the country that have gotten much more queer-inclusive and queer positive over the ensuing three decades or so since San Francisco sort of became the gay capital of America, and you really can go somewhere else and live a good life somewhere else and plenty of people have done so, and not everybody wants to live in a city.

Still, if the ability of people who want a community like this gets too affected by the economy, it will affect the community, it affects the ebb and flow. And, certainly, it sends people out who might not be ready to leave, it affects our institutions, it tends to make people more conservative, often, although there’s another side to that too, I mean, all the stuff we’ve been seeing playing out in Madison, Wisconsin, although it doesn’t appear to have a sexuality-related connection, is one way that hard economic times bring out conservatives and progressives to duke it out, in sort of more brilliant and excitable terms than otherwise might be the case.

MR: As far as the assimilating versus having different spaces thing, I think the way people can have an all-or-nothing attitude about things…there’s a difference between accepting and assimilating, and celebrating difference, and it’s just odd how there’s usually people on this side and that side, there’s not really a lot of moderate feelings about that sort of thing.

CQ: When I was becoming an activist in the ‘70s, the word that everyone used was right to privacy, that was true though the ‘80s, and is still in many cases true, although it’s the more conservative side of the LGBT community that talks in those terms, and you know, I mean who can argue against the right to privacy? We should have the right to privacy. What that’s shorthand for is, if we are quiet enough you will leave us alone, and that’s a version of the closet and you can’t expect everybody to live that way, because in the first place, not everybody is physically able to project a normative, closety look. The genderqueers can’t, often, people who are, even if they don’t identify as genderqueer, men who are fey and women who are butch can’t, often, and there’s just…I think when people believe that it’s possible for them to find a white picket fence, marry, adopt a kid, have a life, you know, go to work, go to church, of course all of those things are wonderful, individual elements for people to desire and to want to have as part of their life, that’s not true of everyone, but it’s fine for it to be true for those people it’s fine for, but even if they’re the people who could pull that off, they still wouldn’t be protected from discrimination.

Unless they get that through their heads, that we don’t yet have a world that protects all of us, the desire for privacy is, at best, a temporary safe space for them. That’s why we have to have out places, and we have to have out places where we brought the whole city along into a space of acceptance, which is largely a description of San Francisco, not 100% of course, but largely, we have a city that gets it around this issue and if it were not there to show other cities and other communities and other activists in other places what can be achieved, then I’d worry that we’d be lost.

MR: Even a lot of straight allies of LGBT people seem to expect that, as long as they don’t flaunt their queerness (CQ: Right, right.) then they’re fine, they can do it in private just as long as we don’t have to see any elements of it in public, seems to be a popular, unfortunately common, attitude.

CQ: And then some of them whine because they don’t feel like they’re welcome at pride because they’re jealous because they want to go flaunt! Or, of course, they get drunk and flaunt every single weekend. Yeah, some of the old arguments are still very much part of our issue set today.

I think that looking at history, the part of history that I’ve lived, but then the part of history that I know about through others and the work of historians, is that it changes a lot, and it’s the same. There are still things that are so comparable to what went on in our community in the ‘70s, in the ‘50s, in the ‘30s, in the teens. Now it’s a different era and it looks so different and yet there are these similarities that continue, both really positive and things that are challenging that we need to continue to work on. It’s one really good reason to learn a little history, is to get a perspective on the past and the kind of light that it shines on the present.
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A Future in Noise: Interview with Richard Lloyd

Richard Lloyd known primarily for his solo work, as a member of Rocket from the Tombs and former member of Television, and collaboration with Matthew Sweet – kindly participated in an A Future in Noise Q&A session, following up on last year’s Artist Feature on his music.

A Future in NoiseAre you working on any upcoming musical projects / future tours?
Richard Lloyd: I have a new record out  called Lodestones – Nuggets from the Vault, which at the moment is digital download only through almost all of the major download sites like oriTunes or Rhapsody etc. I’ve had enough demand for physical copy to begin offering the CDs by mail order, in different colors and covers and pictures and also autographed, for $50, through the store we are building on my website I also have some shows coming up in New York as well as a tour of Spain and some other parts of Europe in late May. We have also recorded a new Rocket from the Tombs records which will be out this year, but I don’t know quite when.

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A Future in Noise: Interview with Richard Lloyd

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview with Moe Adame (Burning Image)


American deathrock band Burning Image’s recent LP Oleander, following 2009 release Fantasma and 2004 compilation 1983-1987, described as “15 tracks of corruption, mystery and despair”, is certainly their most impressive output to date. To call Oleander ‘edgy’ would be putting it mildly, especially when considering the background of how this album got started. I got a chance to talk with Moe Adame recently about the release, his composition style, and some future plans – our conversation is below, along with an mp3 of the most well-received track from the album thus far, the brooding, crunchy “All of Those Vampires”.


A Future in Noise: What was the band’s inspiration – musical and otherwise – for the recording of Oleander?

Moe Adame: Well, the way that the album came about was…I got invited to a play in San Francisco by Jello and we got to talking, it was a play that my wife and I went to. Jello [Biafra] asked me if we were going to write another album and I told him I hadn’t really thought about it. So, he happened to ask my wife, “Do you know anything about the Lords of Bakersfield?” Are you familiar with the Lords of Bakersfield?


Adame: Okay – let me see if I can try to tell you this sordid tale. It’s like a local thing I’ve known about since I was a teenager. What it is is apparently, allegedly, higher-ups in Bakersfield, we’re talking like, judges and cops and business owners, apparently they used to, allegedly, have this secret society, called the Lords of Bakersfield, and before that it was called the White Orchid Society. Basically what they would do is have parties and have young guys come to the parties and have them “service” these higher-ups, you know what I mean?

To me it was always this local folklore kind of deal, so what happened was that Sean Penn had made a documentary called Witch Hunt based on the early ‘80s molestation charges upon dozens of people in town and that was led by the local prosecutor of the time. Sean Penn apparently asked Jello if he knew about what was happening in Bakersfield, so that’s why Jello asked my wife, “Hey, do you know anything about the Lords of Bakersfield?” and she said, “Yeah, I’m real familiar with it, especially Moe, he’s been around here a lot longer, so he knows about what allegedly happened.” So after we told Jello, his jaw dropped to the floor and we told him these fantastic stories and stuff. And that’s when he asked me again, “Moe, so are you guys going to write a new album?” I said, “Oh, well, we’re thinking about it.” He says, “That sounds like some intense subject matter, maybe you should write about that.” I really didn’t give it a second thought that night, but the more I thought about it, I thought wow…the possibilities.

AFIN: That seems to explain now the dark content of the album…

Adame: Yeah, if you listen to the album, there are a lot of local references in it, a lot of the content is definitely, if you listen to “Wickerman” and “Witch Hunt” and “The Money is Nice”, it all ties together pretty well, I think. But Oleander is a house on Oleander Street where they would meet, in the Oleander District. That’s why I chose that title. A lot of people look at that, oleander is a plant, a flower, but to me it has a totally different meaning.

AFIN: What was the difference in composing and recording this album as compared to Burning Images’ last, Fantasma?

Adame: Well, I think Fantasma was a lot more heavy-handed, a lot dirgier. This one, because I was really thinking of a time and place that a lot had happened, for some reason it really led me to a more stripped-down, old-school kind of approach to the music. I really think that it had more of a post-punk feel, a lot of the tunes I was listening to at the time inspired me, not purposefully, but like old Killing Joke, old Siouxsie & the Banshees, and Gang of Four, stuff like that. That just kind of got me pushed in the right direction, whereas Fantasma was a lot murkier, the sound was a lot more dense. This one is definitely cleaner and more stripped down, not so, you know, thick.

AFIN: When I had listened to Oleander, one of the things I thought of, recording-wise it reminded me of the Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, which has kind of an interesting quality, crisp-sounding, very post-punk influenced too.

Adame: I’m glad you see that kind of similarity. That’s what I like about the Manic Street Preachers, they’re not technically polished, it’s not glossy, and that’s really what I wanted to put forth on this one. The subject matter…I didn’t think it needed to sound like Fantasma 2. It needed to have a totally different sound, everything…the vocal style, the guitar style…We really tried to go all-out on this one, tried to push the boundaries, for ourselves.

AFIN: I think a lot of your band’s music, one can discern the context by listening in to the lyrics closer, but the music does a good job of establishing a specific mood first and foremost, from what I’ve gathered.

Adame: I like to use a lot of metaphor, a lot of imagery…If you listen to Fantasma, Fantasma’s the same way. A lot of Fantasma was based on this local, financial meltdown, people losing their jobs, their homes, this country going to hell, fighting unnecessary wars…without being too ABC News about it, I really tried to use a lot of imagery and spoke of it that way, rather than being so obvious.

You know, it makes me really happy to hear that because people have asked me before, “How do you write the music? What do you do? Do you come up with the lyrics and then write music to it?” And the way I’ve always written, this is from the very first song I’ve ever wrote…to me, the music is what’s most important. A lot of people say the lyrics tell the story and I say, not necessarily, not all the time. You can say a lot with the music, and that to me, when I write a song, I write the music first, and then the song dictates to me what I’m going to write about. It’s the mood-setter, the song is what says to me, okay this is the type of song it is, let that be your guide.

AFIN: I think that the instrumentation part that establishes the mood pulls the listener in, and in a way, the writer of the lyrics in too, to set more details about the scene. I think that what you’re saying makes sense.

Adame: To me it makes sense, everyone has different ways of doing this, but that to me has always worked, it’s the mood-setter. I can’t even imagine doing it the other way around. The lyrics for me, don’t inspire me to write a song, it’s the song that inspires me to write the lyrics.

AFIN: As far as the future of the band with this album, have you got certain things in mind in the way of promoting it and gigs?

Adame: Well, the only gig we have planned is this Saturday, we’re playing in LA (referring to April 2nd gig at The Airliner). Other than that, I really honestly don’t have an angle, and I haven’t really thought of how to approach this, because we’re not doing this on Alternative Tentacles this time, we’re just doing it, it’s our own deal through CDBaby, and they’re distributing it through iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody and all this other stuff. So, as far as the promotion part of it, I’m still kind of …seeing what kind of angle I could take.

To be honest with you, everything is just so different now, this is kind of a new approach for me. It’s so different a lot of people just aren’t buying CDs and now, for the meantime, we’re doing strictly internet-based. We are going to probably, in the future, make some actual physical copies of the album, but it’s a new time and place and approaching it is so different, I honestly can’t tell you how we’re going to go about this. Before we relied so much on Alternative to send it to magazines and do their own one-sheets on how to describe the album and let the reviewers kind of take care of that.

AFIN: I think, as an aside, the internet has obviously changed certain things for better and for worse because it seems like an artist has to be more inventive about promoting and selling and/or giving away content in order to garner new listeners for sure

Adame: I think that’s the cool thing about this release is we can be a little freer when it comes to, How do we get this out?, How do we promote this to the people without being typical, however a regular company would do this?, What kind of approach to take? This is all kind of new and exciting actually because now we, we as a group, or myself, we actually have to come up with something inventive or exciting to promote the album.

AFIN: You’re in control so that’s both invigorating and…kind of a large task.

Adame: Daunting! It really is.

AFIN: Is there going to be any kind of music video or live footage accompanying this release?

Adame: Well, we do have plans on making a conceptual video for “All Of Those Vampires”, that should be happening in a couple of weeks.

AFIN: Is that going to be considered a single release too?

Adame: It seems to have gotten the most feedback, the most positive feedback and it just seems to be the song that a lot of people gravitated towards. That’s the one that we kind of picked too, to push a little.

Oleander is out now and available across a variety of platforms, including CDBaby and

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview with Moe Adame (Burning Image)

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview with ‘Richard’ Author Ben Myers


Following the AFIN review of his new novel Richard (a fictional take on the life of Richey Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers, to be released on Picador on October 1st, 2010), Ben Myers kindly answered some questions I had about the book. —-
A Future in NoiseWhat initially compelled you to write a novel based around Richey Edwards?
Ben Myers: I felt as if his story was getting lost within the myth that seems to have arisen in his absence so Richard was my attempt to view it from a new angle. It seemed slightly sad that he was being defined purely by his disappearance. I remember reading a quote from Nicky Wire where he said that his memories of Richey are comprised of personal recollections, like the time Richey got drunk and moonwalked across a bar in Portugal – these are insights that the ‘doomed Welsh rocker’ tabloid stories never really report. The moonwalking story got me thinking about the difference between myth and reality, something that rock ‘n’ roll thrives upon. We thought he was locked in his room reading Nietzsche but no, it turns out for some of the time he was out with the roadies, chatting up girls, moonwalking and doing what young men in bands do.

As someone who works as a journalist but also writes fiction – and was a fan of the band during the Richey era – I felt at least partially qualified to attempt such a thing as fact-based fiction. Richard started out a series of disparate sketches and scenes that I didn’t really imagine would ever see the light of day because I’ve written loads of stories and novels which have never been published. It was only when the novel began to take over my head that I began to consider the responsibility of what I was doing – the realization that these were real people I was writing about, and that I owe to all concerned to write something that rings true, even if it’s an oblique way.

AFINTell us a bit about your research and writing process throughout Richard.
Myers: I almost feel like I did a lot of research by simply being a fan of the band from the early days. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m 34 now and have the liked the band long enough to get turned away from gigs for being underage, so I’ve been following them since about 1990. Early on I liked the band just as much for their interviews, their reference points, their clothes. You’ve got to remember that Britain in the early 90s was full of bands playing the same dance-y drumbeat and spouting a lot of empty ecstasy-inspired lyrics. Some of it was good, but it was still just entertainment. Or else it was bands like The Sundays or the Cocteau Twins; bands lacking any visible personality outside of the actual music. None of it did much for the intellect.

The Manics however offered a philosophy and a lifestyle for their fans; also any band who had the piss-taken out of them so heavily by the music press for the first year or two seemed like they were doing something right. So my initial research entailed going back over all those old press cuttings and TV interviews, a lot of which I held onto. Obviously the book ends in 1995 so fortunately I was writing about the era I remember and lived. My teenage years, basically.

As for the writing process it was a case of trying to find the right voice. The novel has two narratives running in tandem – Richey’s early life and the rise of the band, then his final few days, told in the present tense. Finding and differentiating between those two voices and then weaving them together so that they were coherent was the big challenge. On a practical level I worked on the first draft of the book all day, every day for six months. The internet is a wonderful resource, but I also spoke to quite an array of people who knew Richey, many of who are friends, colleagues of mine. I didn’t do formal interviews as such, but just mined people’s memories for stories and overall impressions. The over-riding factor of this research was that everyone had good memories of him. People who knew him loved him for who he was – funny, sensitive, attentive – and that hopefully fed into this wider portrait of him.

AFINHow do you feel about some of the pre-release skepticism coming from Manics fan communities?
Myers: I totally understand it. A novel about the “demons instead Richey’s head”? It sounds a bit cheesy on paper, doesn’t it. I think people have a right to be skeptical, though actually most people have been encouraging. Manics fans are articulate and intelligent, so even when I’ve been called names, it has at least been poetically done. Obviously I’d prefer people read the book first, then called me names but….

AFINWhat prompted you to depict Richey as battling with a voice in his head, a sort of darker side of himself?
Myers: In choosing to write this book as a novel, I felt there were certain routes I could take concerning the telling of the story. The internal voice of a narrator is something that you just can’t do in biography because obviously biographies are based in fact, whereas this fictional approach opened up other possibilities. I suppose it created an opportunity to attempt to convey the mindset of someone who is mentally exhausted.

Any accounts you read about Richey Edwards seem to mention his drinking problems, the 12 step programme, the Priory and so forth, but I wanted to dig a little deeper and try and imagine what is going on in someone’s head when they no longer want to continue with the life they have.

AFINHave you ever read any Manic Street Preachers fan fiction? What are your thoughts on it?
Myers: No, I don’t think I have, which possibly sounds odd given the nature of my book. ‘Fan’ stands for fanatic though, and I’m definitely not a fanatic. I think a hardcore fan of any band can be blinded by their loyalty to the artist, which isn’t always a good thing because then you immediately find that you’re convincing yourself that the below-par album or the keyboardist’s solo project is really good when it’s obviously not. I think we’ve all done it. I did however enjoy reading ‘The Diary of a Manics Fan’ in Melody Maker in the early 90s. That was funny. Also when I worked at the same publication in the mid/late 90s I often used to edit the readers’ letters page, and each week about 50% of the mailbag would be very passionate about the Manics. Not all of them were written using blunt green crayons. I’m joking. I think…

AFINWhat was the biggest challenge you encountered in writing the book?
Myers: I was plagued by a constant nagging worry that what I was writing was no good and it was all just the insane scribblings of a madman (me, not Richey Edwards) so perseverance was a challenge. Sometimes it can be hard working on the same thing every day for months and months. Equally as big a challenge though was finding a publisher for it. Publishers are (rightly) very selective these days, though I was very lucky to get the book read and then signed by Picador, who seemed to get what it was about and helped shape the first version of the book into something much better. They also publish writers who have had a massive impact on me: Richard Brautigan, Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy and countless others…

AFIN: Would you write a Manics-centric book again?
Myers: No, I wouldn’t – and couldn’t – write another Manics-centric book again. I’m not sure I’d have much else to say, and two books would, I think, officially make me a stalker. I’m not a stalker. I’ve barely heard anything they’ve released over the past few years.

AFIN: Tell us a bit about any other current writing projects you’re involved in. 
Myers: I’m currently working on a couple of other books, both 100% fiction, though it is early days on those. One is set in my native north-east of England and is partly features the traveller community – ie. English gypsies – and the other book takes place in Eastern Europe and features a lot of sex. A sort of last-days-of-Rome story. Though vastly different to Richard they do however both loosely cover similar themes of marginalisation, alienation, modern living etc.

AFINWhat would you hope newcomers to the Manics, as well as veteran fans, would gain from the experience of reading Richard?
Myers: My aim with this book was to write a novel that could be read by people who have never heard of the Manic Street Preachers, or maybe has little interest in the music scene. People of any age. The best thing that could happen is that it would feature on Oprah or The Richard & Judy book club. Obviously that’s not going to happen though! I don’t know really…Manics newcomers might glean some new bits of information about the life of Richey Edwards or young readers might get a feel for the early 90s indie/rock scene, I suppose? I don’t really know if the band has a specific ‘demographic’ these days, so haven’t really think about old and new fans too much. Readers might think the book is a complete waste of time and trees. If that’s the case I’ll try and plant a tree somewhere. Either way, it’s out of my hands…
Pre-order Richard from Amazon | on Facebook | on MySpace | Ben Myers, Man of Letters (Blog)

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview with ‘Richard’ Author Ben Myers

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview With Calvin Markus (Dead Times) II


Previously interviewed here at A Future in Noise in October, 2009, Calvin Markus (from Dead Times) has kindly granted us the opportunity for another Q&A session! Their latest release I Love Myself and I Want to Live, currently available as an AFIN exclusive, is discussed within as well as Markus’ solo soundtrack album on Vulpiano Records Three Days of Sound…:

A Future in Noise: How have you and Dead Times changed since our last interview (music-wise and/or otherwise)?
Calvin Markus (Dead Times):  Not long after that interview, we went through an unseen inner collapse. Travis and I didn’t even talk about Dead Times for awhile. We did other things. This was most likely because a lot was promised to us that never happened. I think we felt like a lot of our efforts weren’t going anywhere. Dead Times has made no profit. We have only lost money throughout this project. The only form of payment we get is from people enjoying our music and telling us that they do. We are in a stage of rebuilding. We haven’t given up. We need to keep getting better. Continuity, progression, and honesty is what matters. We are making music for the sake of music.
AFIN: What is the main inspiration behind making I Love Myself and I Want to Live?
 CM: The inspiration came from wanting to turn a depression into something positive. I started drafting the framework for it in an art history class I was taking last semester. It’s all I could think about. I wanted to make an album that was uniquely enjoyable and life-affirming. I felt that Dead Times had covered a lot of dark, obscure, and moody territories with our previous releases and it was time to offer something new.  The idea was that the album would start out in the depths of despair and gradually climb up until it reached a pinnacle of joy. I consider the album a “how to” guide on handling an existential crisis. Creating meaning for yourself even when existence seems firmly rooted in meaninglessness. Taking responsibility for your life, finding your passions and becoming an individual. There are no religious or spiritual undertones to it. It’s elegant and concrete. The title of the album is a direct play on the Nirvana song “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die”.
AFIN: What was the recording process on the new album? Everything seems to sound very crisp and professional, while maintaining your unique sound.
CM: The crisp and professional sound is due to Robby Fronzo producing and engineering it.  We recorded most of the album at his home studio. We also recorded in the basement of a barn and a racquetball court.
AFIN: Your previous solo release was the soundtrack to Three Days of Sound – how did making this soundtrack come about?
 CM: Elliott Sellers, the creator of the film, used to play drums for Job For A Cowboy. Josh, the manager of my previous band was once the manager for JFAC. Josh introduced us once Elliott and I weren’t playing in our bands anymore. We jammed a couple times but never started any official projects. Elliott played drums on a Dead Times song called “Wet Static” that was released last year. Soon enough Elliott ended up moving to Hollywood to go to film school. He made “Three Days of Sound” and asked me to do the music for it. I feel really lucky about all of that. He’s one of the most motivated and creative people I’ve ever met.
AFIN: What was the experience of doing a film soundtrack like?
CM: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and hope I get to do again in the future. This particular soundtrack was an intense experience. I was working 3-8 hours a day on it for about a month. It was stressful but awesome and worthwhile. Hopefully the film will be out later this year.
AFIN: Is there anything in particular you’re hoping listeners gain out of I Love Myself and I Want to Live in particular, and your music in general?
CM: I recommend listening to it alone, from start to finish on decent speakers. I hope they gain some kind of satisfaction from listening to it.
Calvin Markus – Official Site | on 
Dead Times on MySpace Music | on
Tumblr: Dead Times | Voidism

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview With Calvin Markus (Dead Times) II

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview with Calvin Markus from Dead Times


Calvin Markus, from Dead Times (a band which has been previously featured here, and one of my favorites of the 2000s – see also the reviews on Midnight Glass and Voidism, Vol. 1 + Graves House split cassette), took the time to answer some interview questions for A Future in Noise. I think that Dead Times is making some of the most cool and important music (as well asart works, literature, and film!) of any band around right now, independent and otherwise, so I would strongly put forth to the reader that this is a band to keep an eye and ear out for now and the future. On to the interview!:

A Future in Noise: When and how was Dead Times formed?
Calvin Markus (Dead Times): Dead Times was formed sometime in 2008. I was walking home from somewhere and Travis called me and asked if I wanted to start a project. We both came from radically different bands, genre wise. He played drums in an indie/folk band. I played guitar and sang in a metal/rock/punk/odd-time/I don’t know band. We started this project knowing we didn’t want it to be like anything we had done before, we really didn’t want to become “just another band” or even worse “just another local band”. So we became an on-going project, not necessarily a band. I’m hesitant to call us band because a band sounds so official, so relationship based, so planned and structured. We want to be free and loose, natural and comfortable.

AFIN: When did “voidism” become integrated into your work? What are the concept’s origins and principles?
CM: Well, the initial creation of Voidism came at the early stages of A Loose Portrait of Body, which was a book of experimental poetry, illustrations and music that we released ourselves. The book covered, very subjectively, the collapse of the ego, of form, of structure and the pervasion of emptiness. Writing it was one of those times where I felt incredibly connected to an obscure source of creativity, like I was tuning into some cosmic frequency. Voidism’s principles and origins, on the surface level, are something close to that. Tuning into that stillness and transferring it into art. Defining the movement concretely isn’t simple. A set definition would be to put Voidism in a cage, it would tie it down, there would be no room for growth. Outside of it’s philosophical atmosphere, Voidism is simply about bringing important artists and musicians together to try and create refreshing, intriguing and powerful work. Dead Times and Voidism are both important artistic outlets in my life, both projects flow throughout one another.

AFIN: How did the Voidism art and music compilation come about?
CM: A small group of individuals, including myself, established it in July. It was the first volume of hopefully many, many more.

AFIN: What’s the artistic and musical inspiration behind your upcoming Black Pine Circle EP?
CM: There was no particular or deliberate inspiration for these songs. They happened naturally. We write and record songs very fast. They fit together well. They’re best friends and deserved an EP.

AFIN: What are some of the biggest inspirations for the work of Dead Times, art-wise, literature-wise, and music-wise?
CM: That’s a good question. I think my biggest inspiration for anything artistic I do is the feeling that I should be doing all of these projects. By that I mean, if I don’t finish or actualize all of the ideas I have then my emotional welfare is severely threatened. Ideas are loud. They don’t sit quietly in obscure corners of my mind, they demand my attention. There’s definitely bands, musicians, filmmakers and so on that inspire what Dead Times does but they aren’t the sole reason for our endeavors. I have a really specific taste for art forms and to try and capture these aesthetics, to create things that I believe in and truly like is definitely inspiring. I read a quote in high school on a tacky poster hanging in some classroom that read something along the lines of “write the book you’ve always wanted to read”. I now realize that I have subconsciously (or consciously) integrated that attitude into all of my creativity.

AFIN: Any contemporary 2000s artists’/musicians’ work that you admire?
CM: Absolutely. To name a few: Black Eyes, Daughters, Past Lives, and Justin Timberlake.

AFIN: Where do you see Dead Times headed in the future?
CM: In reality, I have no idea where we’ll be in the future because I never thought we’d even get to the level we’re at now. Doors are always opening. Opportunities are always arising. These doors ceaselessly opening and closing can get a bit obnoxious, can lead you to feel like you’re merely wandering around with no direction. Dead Times isn’t just another door in this seemingly endless metaphorical hallway. Dead Times is a hole torn through the roof. You have to learn how to hold hands with disappointment, turn loss into gain, find success through failure, and work with what you have at the best of your potential. This is musical enlightenment. The future is bright as long as you hold the light.
Look out for the new Dead Times release Black Pine Circle EP on October 30th on Matte Black Editions!
Dead Times on MySpace Music | on (lots of free downloadables – check out “Mirrors in Reverse” and “Wet Static / Elliot Sellers”)
Tumblr: Dead Times | Voidism

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Interview with Calvin Markus from Dead Times