Christian Cowpunk and the Queercore Explosion! Glen Meadmore Talks Toxic!

Glen Meadmore boasts a career that spans a broad stylistic collection of media. Be it film, music or performance art, Meadmore has embodied the availabalist technique of drag in both his solo and collaborative career with such luminaries as Vaginal Davis (as part of Queercore legends, Pedro Muriel and Esther) and worked with recording legend Steve Albini. Read on as we talk serial killers, punk notoriety and performance art…

Dis) So, Glen, you got your start as bassist/vocalist of Winnipeg based punk group, the Psychiatrists. How do you view the Canadian scene – it has been commented that at the time, there was only disparate activity for alternative culture in Canada – would you agree with this?

Glen Meadmore)  I don’t really know much about the Canadian scene or any music scene for that matter. I’m pretty much a hermit and live in a cultural void.

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D) Your move to Los Angeles saw you teaming up with queercore poster girl, Vaginal Davis, forming Pedro, Muriel & Esther. This signified the beginning of an incredibly fertile and creative period for yourself and your contemporaries. Can you tell us a little about performing with PME and your involvement with the burgeoning queercore scene…

Spew with Glen and Vag

G)  I met Vaginal on the steps of the anticlub a venue we both performed at . At the time I could tell we were kinderd spirits. PME didnt come until several years later. he wanted me to play guitar behind his poetry and I thought it would be a good idea to form a band. I didnt know anything about queercore. I still dont know much about it except the term. As i’ve said I am pretty out of the music scene.

D) I believe at this point as well, that RuPaul was also working with yourselves, are you still in contact with Ms. Paul and how do you view your time working together…

G) I met Ru while performing at the limbo lounge in west hollywood. We would later perform together at club rio in atlanta and later with vag  at the pyramid in ny. Ru and I hadnt spoken for many years till last year he invited me to chat with him in the dressing room of his tv show. He is very ambitious. 

D) Drag, particularly ‘outsider’ or what could be termed ‘availabalist’ drag, became a great vehicle for you during this time as represented in your videos from the ‘Squaw Bread’/’Chicken and Biscuits’ period of your solo career. What about drag, particularly this style, appealed/appeals to you?

G) When I first started doing drag it was mainly just to get attention walking down the street. I would just throw on any old dress without makeup etc. very frumpy. Later in performance I would try for an asexual minimalist look. usually all black sometimes just a body sleeve with no arms so I had restricted arm movement. Later a simple black t shirt form fitting dress. Later a black body suit and later pink spandex and a pink sequin  body suit. minimalist makeup usually just foundation black eyeshadow and red or pink lipstick. My smokey eye look was inspired by Serge Luten. my looks after that were very spontaneous i wore a large plastic sheet I found on the street etc. or some black fabric I found which I fashioned into a burka. later my friend collaborator Jim van Tyne would design and make elaborate outfits for me.

D) You’ve been credited, with creating the genre of ‘Christian-new-wave-country-punk’ – what a mouthful! – blending bluegrass with DIY punk and synth. What drove you to combine this unusual melange?

G) When I started doing music it was spontaneous also. I had given up guitar and started playing synth and was interested in disco and repetition but wanted it to be demented. I liked things that broke rules. Later I got back into guitar and thought I might be able to do something with country music which I found corny and thought if I thought it might be interesting to pervert it in some way. I use the term christian loosely as i’m more of a spritualist. There are some christian ethics I find appealing.

D) Aes-Nihil recently added videos from your early period to YouTube and I believe still distributes a number of films and albums of yours. ‘No Money, No Honey’ for instance, features Ms. Davis again, how do you characterise your relationship with each other and the work you’ve produced?

G) Vaginal is a dear sweet soul and we are of a like mind, so working together comes naturally.

D) The video for ‘Do Me’ featured a risqué performance during which you performed a hyper-acidic and cartoonlike black face character being hired by a suspicious, suburban couple to keep house for them. What drove you to create this character and employ this imagery?

G)  The video for ‘Do Me’ was a video created by ken camp . the look was one i put together for performing. like i say all my creativity comes spontaneously not much planning. What can I say, I was possessed!

D) Your third album, ‘Boned’ dropped the synth element of your sound in favour of a more aggressive ‘Grunge’ flavour, what was your reason for this diversifying of your sound?

Wearing a Rick Castro bodysuit

G)  ‘Boned’ was the album where I first got the band together. I think it was recorded right after the band was formed and the songs were thrown together and not rehearsed much if at all. Which is how we usually work.

D) Advancing further, your next record, the acclaimed, ‘Hot, Horny and Born Again’ garnered your inclusion on the soundtrack for Bruce LaBruce’s ‘Hustler White’, did you have a pre-existing relationship with Bruce through the Homocore association?

G) I dont think I knew Bruce before the film but I did know the girls from fifth column (GB Jones et al.) and the boys from shadowy men

D) I’ve heard that songs from this album are to be included in a compilation record entitled ‘Queercore Explosion’. What’s your reaction to being canonised within this cultural frame?

G)  I dont know about the queercore explosion but I’m all for being canonized

D) Returning to ‘Hot, Horny…’ it would be remiss of me to overlook the cover art, created by infamous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. What lead you to contact Gacy and, further to this, include his artwork in your release?

Cover by Gacy

Cover by Gacy

G)  I had heard that Gacy did commissions so I wrote to him and he agreed to my portrait. I have 4 altogether based on photos Rick Castro took of me.  I suppose I was interested because I was curious about how the criminal mind would interpret art . Also being able to talk to Gacy a few times I was able to get a glimpse inside the personality of a murderer. He seemed like an average guy. Nothing unusual at all.

D) After a long hiatus, PME returned in 1998 on the Spectra Music label with ‘The White to be Angry!’ which featured a sardonic VD proclaiming herself a white heterosexual male and keeper of all societal privilege’. What encouraged your return, collectively, to this project?

The White to be Angry

G) The PME cd was sponsored by our friend Mark Freitas , without him it wouldn’t have been recorded. He was the one who wanted to do it.

D) Steve Albini produced this record and then returned to produce your following album, ‘Cowboy Songs’, how did this partnership occur and do you plan to release any further material with Albini in future?

G)  I asked Steve if he would record my country band and he agreed. I would love to work with him again. He is very efficient and gets a  great sound. He works very fast too , plus he is very funny and sweet 

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D) Thank you so much for your time today Glen, can you tell us, where is best to purchase your awesome music and merchandise? Where also, can we see you next and what upcoming projects do you have in the works?

G) You’re welcome Dis! The best way to purchase music is to write to me 225 s olive st #1607 LA CA 90012. no gigs as yet but we are always ready and able for any.

Glen

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Tuck and Cover: The History of the Punk Rock Drag Queen part 2 – Ever Upward oh Freak of Nature!

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Hello and welcome to Part 2 of Tuck and Cover – this time focusing on BOOB, RuPaul and the U-Hauls and the enigmatic Vaginal Davis. Shall we begin…

As Punk Rock, Glitter and Glam turned evermore toward the bloating commerciality of excess, and disco’s star waned, the subterranean world of the drag queen once again reappeared to attack the mainstream in America with the brash approach of Warholian NYC club kids. Led by the ever-charming yet psychotic Michael Alig, who spiralled ever closer to the edge of sanity, those who were truly creative within the scene were sporting looks that influenced the fashionistas as well as burgeoning rockstars and booking appearances on the cat walks of major runway events. Walt Paper, also known as Walt Cassidy, formed the art punk troupe BOOB with fellow club kid superstars, Desi Monster and Loxanna. Sick and tired of the jeans and t-shirt crowd that had invaded their native New York, BOOB sought to attack the complacency of the rock scene in America by harnessing extreme visuals, abrassive sonic structures and marrying them with experimental films and lyrics.

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The bands shows were exotic and caught the attention of a number of small time rockstars who would later adopt the images they had been witness to and claim them for their own – making a larger name for themselves in the process. It was during a showcase at Disco 2000, Alig’s famed club based in the Limelight, that Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids were first introduced to Paper and his partners in crime. A few years later Manson, who had dropped the Spooky Kids tag line, could be seen sporting Walt’s signature modern primitive look as were many of his band members.

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Unfortunately for BOOB, as Giuliani cracked down on what he saw as the obscenity of club culture and deviant nightlife taking hold of New York city, groups such as theirs found themselves with fewer venues to play and an even more restrictive and moralistic attitude towards drag monsters thanks to Aligs antics. BOOB disbanded in a bit of a haze leaving a void behind them in New York nightlife and only recently saw any recognition for their contribution in the form of an exhibition of archived material thanks to the invisible exports and Big Screen Plaza. Hopefully a much coveted CD and DVD will be released of their performances, as the surviving footage from NYC docs such as Freaks and Glam Gods by Ryan Island and the tracks uploaded to their myspace/youtube accounts are incredible. Insanely weird and wonderful, BOOB should never be discounted!

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Forging ahead following the demise of the club kids, was  the Atlanta expatriate RuPaul. Have y’all head o’her now? Yeah thought that name would ring a bell, and what a bell to ring! Drag supermodel of the world and reigning queen of the world of drag – a queen who has been able to conquer America and beyond with her positive attitude and glam fish aesthetic. She who did the impossible and broke conservative America! But what of the early years and what of Ms. Pauls punk past….

Wee Wee Pole featuring RuPaul and the U-Hauls was the Atlanta based project that allowed Ru to cut her teeth on the stage. The new wave and punk clubs of the eighties played host to their unique brand of stage show often featuring a predominantly nude RuPaul howling and prancing amongst the audience. Wee Wee Pole made use of typical post-punk devices; spiky guitars, primitive beats and lo-fi electronics though these were blended with a funk and soul edge which garnered enough attention to earn them spots supporting the Now Explosion and showcases in New York where RuPaul, alongside fellow Atlantan and music star Larry Tee really broke into their own. Have a listen to the groups surviving record, Tarzan here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tQvf4E3Y00

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As RuPaul stood, transformed into the glamazon we know her as today, image completed with her ’93 break through hit Supermodel (You’d Better Work), the underground was stirring once again and as unhappy teenagers angry with society erupted into grunges pessimistic fury, a new subculture was emerging. Queercore, the punk movement which sought to raise the profile of LGBT persons and their experiences outside of the typical environments and imagery associated with consumer gay lifestyle. Heading up this movement were Fifth Column and the zine JD’s, the brain child of Column drummer and film maker GB Jones and Caroline Azar along with soon to be (not so) reluctant pornographer, Bruce LaBruce. However, Queercore also owed a huge amount to the relentless talent of one lady in particular who has been know to raise more than just an eyebrow in her day, a lady known as Vaginal Davis!

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Ms Davis, AKA Vaginal Creme Davis, AKA Graciela et al… first made her name in the queer and punk zine communities of LA and Canada in the eighties with her xeroxed efforts, Fertile Latoyah Jackson, which amongst other things provided a spotlight for local bands, Ms. Davis’ inner thought processes and within the confines of the zines supplement, Shrimp, discuss the finer points of foot fetishism. VCD would regularly collaborate with BLaB and GB and fast became a stalwart of the burgeoning subculture and its associated movement, Riot Grrrl. In fact, if you listen to the Le Tigre song Hot Topic, you can hear Davis being name-checked. But let’s talk actual music! VCD began her career with the Afro Sisters, a post-punk acapella performance troupe that staged performances inspired by communism and rebellion against white supremacy – their now infamous ‘We’re Taking Over’ show featured the group claiming themselves to be the Sexualese Liberation Front who sought to overthrow the white corporate heads of state and violate them with gigantic black dildos. Somehow this managed to upset and unnerve even the punk crowds.

Following the demise of the Afro Sisters, Davis developed the seminal queercore group Black Fag, as well as Pedro, Muriel and Esther and later, with Alice Bag of 70’s punk progenitors; the Bags, Cholita! The Female Menudo! VCD’s punk-rock credentials not only overflow, they flood the plain! If you’d like to have a listen to some of the Cholita tracks which are currently out of print to purchase, you can head over to Alice Bag’s website at http://alicebag.com/media.html

VCD’s musical projects typically erred towards the sound exemplified by californian punk rock; brash loud guitars and pummeling drums. Davis’ vocal stylings varied from shrieks to spoken word to a tuneful catterwauling  – I generally prefer to call it wonderful! Listen to Chinga tu Madre on the link above and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Davis left LA around 5 years ago and headed for the urban art mecca, Berlin where she has become an art lecturer who tours regularly as well as a member of the art collective CHEAP. Davis has been credited along with Kembra Pfahler of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, for helping create the arts movement known as Availabalism – using that which is at hand and readily available (hense the name) to create works of artistic significance. Davis is a well-respected author, performance artist and journalist and continues to host events, perform and sing with various musical projects as well. You can look up her website here: www.vaginaldavis.com/

Thanks for reading darlings, more to come soon

Drag on!

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