Gaga opener Semi Precious Weapons glams androgyny. Just don’t call it queer rock
Chris Azzopardi | Contributing Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mosters Ball
American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. July 22–23. 8 p.m. $49–$175.
Haus of Gaga official afterparty at Ghostbar, 2440 Victory Park Lane. 11 p.m.
Semi Precious Weapons misses when sex — the dirty come-ons, reckless rebellion and, of course, groin grabbing — was as important to rock as the music itself. So they’re bringing it back … Justin Timberlake be damned.
As those who’ve beheld Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball spectacular know, they’re taking this mission seriously — in pantyhose or whatever other girly garb singer Justin Tranter’s feeling, the New York foursome make every glam-rock song, like the brazen, buzzed-about “Magnetic Baby,” a climax.
As the modern priestess of pop rolls out another leg of the tour this summer, Semi Precious Weapons, which dropped its proper debut You Love You late last month — will wield sexy shenanigans across the world. Before they head out again, we caught up with Tranter to talk about being on tour with Gaga, how he sees himself sexually and his own precious weapon (or lack thereof).
Dallas Voice: Why is sex an important part of rock ‘n’ roll? Tranter: Because the whole reason rock ‘n’ roll became something different than pop music — and why rock ‘n’ roll became something different than every other genre out there — was that it was dangerous and rebellious and extremely sexual. Sex needs to exist in rock ‘n’ roll always, or it shouldn’t be called rock ‘n’ roll.
Hence the crotch grabbing? I don’t really even realize how much I grab my crotch. It’s a very natural thing for me even though maybe I’m fixing my pantyhose. Maybe I’m checking the dance belt. Maybe I’m just trying to grab my crotch. I don’t even know myself!
It’s not because you’re obsessed with your junk then? Oh god, no. I like to pretend I don’t have genitalia. I like to think of myself as a “merperson” — genderless.
Your sexuality confuses me. Well, it should. Ha!
How do you describe yourself sexually? I don’t really describe myself at all when it comes to gender and sexuality. There was a period of time where I technically would’ve identified as gay, but then I started sleeping with lots of women so that confused everybody. And I feel like if I were to call myself bisexual, that’s just so ’90s/Reality Bites, so I don’t really define myself at all. I’ll say like, “gender fluid” — that’s what I am. I’ve actually been on a kick lately where I really like to sleep with people who look just like me. So I don’t really know what you’d call that either.
So why don’t you make a name for it? Once there’s a name for it, I have to give it up.
Why do you hate that Semi Precious Weapons is often labeled a “queer band”? It’s not that I hate when the band is labeled as a queer band. It’s just that it’s not true. I’m obviously some sort of something that’s not typically heterosexual, but the rest of the band is 100 percent straight and there are four of us in the band, so to label us as a queer band would just be wrong. Besides, a verse and a chorus can’t decide whom it wants to fuck; it’s just a verse and a chorus. So labeling music as “queer” or “black” or “Asian,” it’s not that I’m against it, I just think that it’s incorrect.
You’ve licked tits on stage? Oh yes. I’ve done lots of motorboating on stage. I’ve made out with lots of women on stage. Lots of exciting things.
Not on the Lady Gaga tour, though, right? When we play club shows they’re much, much crazier. Not that Gaga shows aren’t crazy, but as far as the audience interaction with me, it’s much crazier at smaller venues because security wise it’s actually a possibility.
Are you ever surprised at the fans that come out to your shows? Our audience is so mixed, and that’s how we love it. There are lots of cutesy gender-confused teens that come to see us play, which is amazing and an inspiration and they’re cooler than I am. But then there are lots of dudes that come with their girlfriends, and there are lots of clubby hot girls that try to bang the other guys in the band, or I guess try to bang me. Most times they just want to pet me.
How has opening for Gaga changed your life? We’ve got to travel with the biggest pop star in the whole world, who luckily is a friend of ours. It’s an amazing, surreal experience for her to love our band so much even though we’re a filthy rock band and she’s a cutting-edge pop star. It’s a pretty ballsy move to have a rock band open for her, but she’s obviously a ballsy girl.
What have you learned from her? Her advice deals with the beginning stages of our career, because we’ve been a band for three-and-a-half years, driving ourselves around in the van and playing every small, gross bar in America. Her advice on how to deal with [fame, meeting celebrities, etc.] — and our first trip around the world as an actual band that people pay attention to — has been amazing.
Does she ever let you borrow her clothes, like the Kermit the Frog get-up? Ha! We do not share clothes. I’m 6-foot-4 and she’s 5-foot-2, so I don’t think it would be work out. That would probably fit on one of my thighs. Maybe one day I’ll wear it as a leg warmer.
When did you start dressing in feminine clothes? I started dressing in genderless clothes on and off since I was 15. I thought I looked fantastic, but now when I look at pictures, I looked absolutely hideous. I had glasses and clear braces and blue eye shadow. I’ve been wearing heels every single day since 2004, just after I had been in New York for two years, when I felt comfortable enough to look like that every day no matter what shit people said to me. I just realized that’s just how I see myself — as pretty — so that’s what I’m going to look like every single day. It’s a lot more fun to feel pretty, all day every day. I’d prefer to get a bottle to the back of the head and feel awesome as the blood drips down my neck.
You’re a lot happier with this album than your actual debut, We Love You. True. We bought back the record we made with [our label] so that we could really make our first album, You Love You. We wanted to pay tribute to the first record, to the fans who loved it and what it meant to us. But since we made that record, I’ve realized that letting kids know that we love them is not nearly as important as letting them know that they should love themselves. Obviously, they should love me and worship me, but they should love and worship themselves just a teeny bit more.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.