Against Me: “It feels like Germany is a little bit more progressive about Transgender”
For ten years, the punk band Against Me! has been touring and protesting against war, politics and injustice. These protests are also to be found on their album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” which they released in January 2014. Singer Laura Jane Grace put some very personal thoughts about her coming out as a transgender into the music of the album. We had the chance to meet Against Me! after their Hanover concert last year’s April and speak to Laura Jane Grace.
First we wanted to know if the album would have a different sound from today’s perspective.
Laura: From today’s perspective? I mean, that’s going to be true on anything because records are capturing very much a time and a place, and a representative of who you are at that time. It’s been out for a year and it’s even been finished for longer than that because it takes some time after finishing a record until it comes out. So, a lot since then has changed.
Did the situation of transgenders change in this period, too?
For sure. Definitely in the US: There is more and more visibility. It still feels that in Europe it varies from country to country. It feels like Germany and the UK are a little bit more progressive and that brings more visibility with it. But the further east you go, less and less visibility there is. And that’s just where it is. It is still a new issue in some places, a new movement.
How much does it help that artists like you and Mina Caputo come out?
Of course, this kind of visibility helps. Especially from my own experience with Mina Caputo who is really inspiring to me and who came out before me. I think that kind of stuff builds momentum. You have people empowering people to do that. And show them what is possible. So, the more and more examples you have on that, the more kinds of variation you have.
Are you a role model?
No way. (laughs) I’m kind of fucked up when it comes to in which way I’m a human being, but I realize that I have a kind of visibility that other people don’t have because I do what I do. I’m in a band and I do interviews. That was something I did before I came out. That’s part of putting out records. I do realize that I have a platform and can use that platform to spread awareness.
With “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” a lot of things have changed for the band. You didn’t produce the album on a major label, instead you did it single-handedly.
When we signed with Sire it was really the tail end of a period of time with major labels. The deals they do with bands are very different now. They want your merchandise and your publishing and all that and it’s not just a record deal. I don’t even think Sire exists anymore as an imprint or whatever. Everyone who worked at Sire worked at Warner unfortunately, at least in the US. Coming out of that, feeling so much is changing in the music industry and the music world, being totally in control of our own ship, seemed the smartest thing to do.
Why didn’t you want to work together with one of the indie labels?
I don’t know. I was open to that idea but it seemed like there wasn’t a right fit. When you’re on a record label – at least in the US – you end up assembling your own team of people you want to work with anyways. The label already has a publicist but you still hire your own publicist, you still hire your own radio person. So it just seemed to be the best thing to choose the people we want to work with and their capacities ourselves and to assemble our own team. We signed a distribution deal for our record label that goes through the same distributors that a major label would go through to get it into stores. But records being in stores become such a smaller and smaller part of putting out music. Anyone could put a record on iTunes.
Two musicians left your band during the production of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and there were rumors about a breakup of Against Me!. Did you ever have a plan B beside the band? For example like Warren Oakes, your former drummer, who opened a vegan restaurant after he left the band?
No, I have no ability to cook. (laughs) There is no plan B. That’s maybe part of why we’re still here and why we did make our music work. Even if it wasn’t under the name Against Me! I’d still be an artist of some type or a musician of some type.
Do you have plans for another solo album?
Some day, yeah, but we literally finished mastering a live record that will be out this summer the other day. 23 songs. It was recorded over the span of three months. And we started working on our next album which we are planning to record in fall once we’re done with all this touring.
After your first album “Reinventing Axl Rose” the punk scene loved you but after you switched to the label Fat Wreck and after that to Sire you got a lot of criticism. How did you experience that?
I think that if it weren’t for the backlash we experienced when we went to Fat that we would have probably stayed indie forever. Going through that experience was the reason why at one point we thought: “Well, screw you. Then we will just do whatever we want to do.” The backlash was stupid and exposed this hypocrisy and lack of logic. Especially when we signed to Fat Wreck we were met with violence, physical violence, which was such an eye opening experience that I changed my perspective. And I think if we wouldn’t have moved to Fat we would never have signed to a major label. We would have probably stayed indie forever.
Songs like “Drinking with the Jocks” sound like you dealing with your old critics.
Sure, but also dealing with the situation in general. That was the other side of it, too. You have the hypocrisy and then also feeling like the punk scene that you are surrounded with, in certain aspects and certain times, stood for nothing that I wanted to be a part of. There was damped sexism, thinly veiled racism or homophobia and stuff like that. Things that I never wanted to see in the punk scene. The punk scene has changed so much since back then.
How is your relationship to the American punk scene today?
Great, I assume! (laughs) It’s not that I talk on the phone to the punk scene every night: “How was your day, punk scene? Mine was good!”
The presidency of Bush or Reagan was an ideal breeding ground for punk bands. How did that change under the leadership of the democrats?
I think the difference between Bush and Reagan was especially 9/11. You would have a much stronger protest movement against Bush weren’t there things like 9/11 and homeland security. People were really afraid and prior to that it felt like a global protest movement really growing. There are little differences between Democrats and Republicans. I do think that Obama was fairly more liberal than George Bush, he is just as guilty of doing terrible things, acts of war and everything like that. I do think that symbolically an African-American president in the US, regardless of his politics, is something. It’s a sign of the time and progress, in the way people think. Considering a hundred years earlier, there was still slavery. It changed the way people perceived politics and protested against it. It will be interesting to see what happens going forward because I think, unfortunately, that the race ends up being Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton. That’s kind of terrifying in the sense of a dynasty. It’s like either a Clinton or a Bush in the last 30 years. We’ll see what happens.
A few weeks ago your fans could see you on Instagram side by side to Miley Cyrus. Why is that?
It was crazy. She has this kind of charity called The Happy Hippie Foundation and the charity mainly focuses on youth homelessness. She invited me and a couple other people to her house in L.A. and we all got together and played songs and filmed it. It is supposed to be released in the next couple weeks. All the proceeds raised from it are going to a great cause, but it was a totally surreal experience. It was the weirdest thing ever. But it was cool. She was super nice and hospitable. We played an Against Me! song for it together. It was rad!
Diese Episode wurde veröffentlicht unter der Creative Commons Lizenz Namensnennung 3.0 Deutschland (CC BY 3.0 DE).