John Grant: The gay interview

JohnGrant1

In tomorrow’s print edition, we have a review of the sophomore CD from out 40something recording artist John Grant, Pale Green Ghosts. (Quick preview: We really liked it.) Before you check out the review, though, you might wanna read up on the Iceland-based Grant himself. Our Chris Azzopardi sat down with the musician for a tell-all interview in which he discusses his HIV status, his addiction and the new album.

“Who wants to hear about some diseased faggot and his disease that he got that he deserved because he’s living this horrible lifestyle?” Grant says outright when he explains his HIV catharsis piece “Ernest Borgnine,” a self-proclaimed “expression of anger and absurdity” that sorts out his behavior through the perspective of the track’s actor-namesake — a song he says isn’t a fit for radio audiences. No matter; it wasn’t for them anyway. It was written for Grant.

“I needed to explore why I allowed myself to get HIV after I spent so much time getting sober and turning my back on self-destructive behavior,” he says. “Why did I have to keep the self-destructive behavior in the realm of sex for myself?”

It was always some realm for Grant. The realm of drugs. Of alcohol. Of sex. “It didn’t matter what I could get my hands on to achieve that different state of mind,” he says. “I can do it with food, or with spending money.”

He could do it, unprotected, with an HIV-positive man. And he did, resulting in his seroconversion. “This shouldn’t have happened — and yet, here we are. And what does it say about you that you still allowed this to happen?” By turning the song’s perspective onto Borgnine (an actor Grant adored and once met at a New York restaurant), he found his answer: “That you weren’t completely willing to let go of your self-loathing. That I still had a long way to go … and still had many things that I needed to let go of.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LISTEN: Gentleman Reg previews new EP with “Waiting Around For Gold”

After the greatness of his 2009 album Jet Black, it’s nice to hear new stuff from gay musician Gentleman Reg again. Today, the singer announced his upcoming work along with a preview track. According to Exclaim, he takes the Robyn-Body Talk route and will release three EPs over the course of the year. They will all be components of the full-length Leisure Life, set for a fall release. The first EP, Leisure Life Part One is scheduled for a July 3 digital release and “Waiting Around for Gold” is the first track.

In Jet Black, Reg had polished off the rougher edges of his previous sound and produced a stellar album. That echoes here in “Gold” with added emotional resonance that works superbly. If this is any indication of what’s to come, 2012 should be a good year for Gentleman Reg and perhaps a great one for his listeners.

—  Rich Lopez

Listen: Adam Lambert’s “Never Close Our Eyes”

As if to tease his fans more, Lambert releases another single as they wait for his second album Trespassing to come out which was pushed to May. I think this single, “Never Close Our Eyes,” is a really good song with its electronica foundation but Lambert’s delivery commands a rocker’s edge. And his voice here has a beautiful grit to it that I never quite felt before. This should definitely amp up the anticipation for his legions of Glamberts.

Listen here.

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

Concert Notice: Jay Brannan returns to play Sons of Hermann Hall this August

I had a hint of this already, but the official word is out that gay singer-songwriter Jay Brannan will make his return to Dallas this summer. Upon release of his latest album Rob Me Blind this week, the folkster will hit the road in July, making his way to town August 13. He’ll play at the Sons of Hermann Hall (yes!) in Deep Ellum and is another notch in Tactics Productions’ increasingly impressive roster of concert bookings with some LGBT-friendly approach on the side. Props to those guys.

The last time we saw Brannan here was at The Loft in late 2010.

Brannan posted this video on release day yesterday and even gave a live performance of the song “The State of Music.” Check it after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Mr. Nice Guy

Gay musician Tom Goss stays defiant about his squeaky-clean image

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

PINING UPSIDE DOWN BEEFCAKE | Tom Goss just turned 30, and love has softened his musical heart.

TOM GOSS
With Brant Croucher. Opening Bell Coffee, 1409 S. Lamar St. May 12 at 8 p.m. $5.
OpeningBellCoffee.com

………………….

Once upon a time, Tom Goss was a wounded, angry man. He alludes to his parents’ marriage leaving scars when he was younger, and at one point even believed he wouldn’t live to see 30.
But Goss hit that milestone birthday this week, so some things must be going right.

“You know, I kept waiting for my tragic death,” he admits. “When I turned 30 a few days ago, I used it as an excuse to give myself a new perspective on things.”

Goss performs Thursday at Opening Bell in support of Turn it Around, an album that heralds an optimism not heard on his early releases. Now married to his partner of five years, Goss is in love and he wants the world to know.
“I got married to the man I’m madly in love with and I want to convey that in this album,” he says.

Everything about Around is feel-good, maybe overly sentimental, but it does offer a refreshing perspective.  Goss dissolves the idea that uplifting songs equate to Christian music. Instead, he brings a level of cheer without being annoying. And with such a blatant overtone of romance, he resonates with gay listeners who might also want to celebrate their love.

“As an artist, I want my music to connect with everyone,” he says. “I don’t specify ‘he’ or ‘she’ in my lyrics, because I want to focus on everybody. I like the things people share instead of divide. At the same time, I can bring a kind of normalcy to gay relationships.”

He does that to full effect in videos such as “Till the End,” “You Don’t Question Love” and most notably in “Lover,” from his 2009 album Back to Love. Depicting the relationship between two men —  one a soldier hurt in battle, the other waiting at home — the video has gotten heavy rotation on Logo. While portraying gay relationships, Goss also makes political statements … even if he doesn’t mean to.

“I wasn’t trying to shock anybody with the video — I’m not that political,” he says. “I started getting emails and meeting soldiers telling me about their involvement with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the video was a result of that even though the song wasn’t originally written with that in mind.”

Goss says that his evolution as an artist is most apparent with this album. His songwriting is crisper and he felt like he let loose with a strong positive energy all in an effort to make a “really great pop album.” He’s fine without trying to have an edge that music sometimes requires.

“You can go back to first album and hear the hurt, but I don’t feel like I have that anymore,” he says. “As for an edge or dark side, I don’t really have one. I’m supposed to be edgy and all these things but for the most part, I’m nice. I left my anger and violence in my past.”

He laughs at himself for being a “bad artist” because he thinks more about songwriting than branding or marketing, but he also knows his look, sound and tone are bright and what his fans want — something that’s wholesome.

“So much of the world, especially in the gay world, is bitter,” he says. “Although I’m not sure I ever set out to be anything particular, I want to turn people emotionally. I want to show them there is something beyond that bitterness.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

A gay in the LIFE

Photographer Tim Hailand’s intimate access to gay musician Jake Shears and Rufus Wainwright makes for racy coffee table decor

Out photographer Tim Hailand gets way behind the velvet rope — heck, he crosses through the bedroom door — with his One Day in the Life of… photography books. His first, 2010’s One Day in the Life of Daniel Radcliffe, tracked the extremely gay-friendly actor from morning (waking up in bed!) till nighttime, but he gets even racier with two books that came out this week, both featuring queer musicians: One Day in the Life of Rufus Wainwright and One Day in the Life of Jake Shears (Hailand Books, $35).

These are coffee table books you might not want sitting out when mom’s bridge club comes over. Both tomes feature Hailand’s intimate black-and-white images of his subjects (Shears is especially open to getting naked in front of the camera) as they prepare for evening concerts, which are documented in full color. Each book’s photos are accompanied by text from the subjects, with Elton John providing an intro and Kylie Minogue an afterword to the Shears book.

Hailand has snapped for dozens of international magazines, chronicling a bevy of queer icons, from U.K. pop gods the Pet Shop Boys and cult artists Gilbert & George to transgender actress Candis Cayne and singer/performer Justin Bond. A portion of the books’ proceeds will go to charities determined by Shears (the Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Wainwright (the Kate McGarrigle Fund).

Hailand talked about his unfettered access, the challenges of shooting 2,000 photos over 14 hours and who’s next in his dream-list of subject.

— Lawrence Ferber
Visit OneDayintheLife.org for more information or to place an order.

Dallas Voice: Can you elaborate on the genesis behind this project and your choice in subjects? Hailand: I’m very much inspired by great performers — those who seem to be able to do what I can’t do. After shooting Jake Shears for V Man five years ago, I decided to expand upon this “one-day-long” portrait concept and use it for my own work. Dan Radcliffe is a friend, and the book arose out of our friendship. As a person, Dan is incredibly charismatic and super smart — wise beyond his years. He’s also very curious, as most smart people tend to be. Rufus and Jake have been friends of mine for quite some time, and I’ve been photographing them over the years both onstage and off. I love their work — Scissor Sisters’ Night Work and Rufus’ All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu were my favorite records of 2010 — and they just seemed the next natural choices as book subjects.

Did either of the guys dictate rules as far as what you could and couldn’t shoot? Clearly Jake was pretty uninhibited — we see a lot of his butt. The books are portraits of each subject, of their personalities. No real rules were set up, but I’m always sensitive to and respectful of any subject’s sense of self and what I perceive to be their boundaries.

Did you always plan to shoot on the day of a concert or did you consider another occasion? We wanted to choose a day that has a creative crescendo, that captures the height of their creativity. That’s why the book moves into color at that “high creative” point of the day. They’re all performers, so we wanted to capture what they do best.

What was the biggest challenge as far as shooting Rufus’ day? Shooting one person for 14 hours is demanding in itself — staying both focused and flexible at the same time, going with the flow, and capturing what I perceive to be the rhythm of that particular person’s day. It’s both an exhilarating and exhausting process, as it requires much psychic energy, but I’m very pleased with the end results.

ALL  ACCESS PASS | Queer photographer Tim Hailand, center, with subjects Jake Shears, left, and Rufus Wainwright.

How many shots did you take of each subject? Did any photos that you loved not make it into the books? Probably somewhere around 2,000. In editing the book, I chose images that best told the story of that subject, of that day. I think my favorite images made it into each book, although there are a few that probably stand on their own.

Does being queer yourself somehow affect your choices in subjects or what you draw out of them? It’s funny you should ask, as I recently met with a heterosexual wrestling coach who’s a big advocate of LGBT acceptance, and in looking at my photos, I asked him if one could detect the “queer gaze” of the photographer. He didn’t think so. I think I photograph those that I’m attracted to, sometimes sexually, sometimes in terms of inspiration. I’m interested in those who occupy the space in between — those who are a bit of an outsider to mainstream culture, but are ultimately the true creators.

Who else is on your wish list for future One Day subjects? The next confirmed subject is theater director Robert Wilson. I’ll be documenting his new opera, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, in July, which will also feature Marina Abramovic, Antony Hegarty [of Antony and The Johnsons] and Willem Dafoe. I’m very excited about that project! Kylie Minogue lent her words to Jake Shears’ book, and I’d like to make a book with her, so I’m working on that possibility now. I’d also like to do a book with Lady Gaga, Marc Jacobs, David Bowie and heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko. I already shot a day with Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas [who came out in 2009].

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Jay Brannan and Eric Himan perform tonight at The Loft

A double-dose of sexy

Indie rocker Jay Brannan returns to Dallas tonight. Not only might he remind you of our national anthem, Brannan isn’t half-bad when it comes to lyrics. Quirky, original and at times even delightful. With an acoustic set, The Loft is the ideal setting for his music as it was last year. Fellow gay musician Eric Himan joins the bill tonight. He’s not doing too bad himself. He just released his piano-based solo album Out With the Old and hits the pavement pretty often according to his Twitter and Facebook feeds.

These boys are working it for all they can and if past shows say anything, tonight should be an acoustic set of awesome.

DEETS: The Loft, 1135 S. Lamar St.. Doors at 7:30. $17. GilleysMusic.com

—  Rich Lopez

Preservation road

Acclaimed gay musician Michael Feinstein isn’t interested in simply playing the Great American Songbook — he’s also trying to save it

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer  lopez@dallasvoice.com

Michael Feinstein
‘TO THE MOON,’ ALICE | Michael Feinstein performs songs from his new CD at the Winspear Wednesday, but his passion is saving America’s musical heritage for future generations. (Photo courtesy Randee St. Nicholas)

AMERICAN SONGBOOK
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. $25–$125.
ATTPAC.org

…………………………….

Michael Feinstein is on the road again, touring for his new album Fly Me to the Moon — a reference to a Sinatra song lyric, in keeping with his love of American standards. On this new collection, Feinstein tackles newfound arrangements of classic songs.

But today, Feinstein isn’t being talkative about his latest CD and his tour, which comes to the Winspear on Wednesday. He’d rather talk history — or better yet, rescue it.

The musician began the Feinstein Foundation with the mission of educating and preserving the music from the early half of the 20th century, which included the likes of the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.

“Many of these composers had no success during their own lives but there are still many samples of their songs out there in movies or commercials,” he says. “They get rediscovered by a new generation. That what happens with Gershwin all the time. As long as it’s out there, it will continue.”

PBS stepped in last month to help. Feinstein partnered with the Public Broadcasting to produce Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, a three-episode series documenting his work on saving our musical heritage. In it, he documents recording sessions, live performances and gives histories on artists. But the best part is when it turns into the musical version of The History Channel’s American Pickers. He’s not reselling old heirlooms but rather unearthing sheet music, old recordings and memorabilia in attics and dusty storage areas.

“I was approached by [producer] Amber Edwards who wanted to create a show,” he says. “I trusted her with the material so I have nothing to do with that. She followed me around for quite some time and honestly, I didn’t like that in that sense to know someone’s watching you or filming you all the time. But ultimately I accepted it for the purpose of the result.”

With the TV show and his tours and CDs, what Feinstein worries about is getting through to the younger generation. Now in his 50s, Feinstein has been a musical historian, archivist and musician for a quarter century, and throughout that time he was entranced by the classic American songs. He worries, though, that enthusiasm for what came before is waning. He’s not a fan of MTV and even declares that it (along with movies and TV in general) has shattered what focus young people might have with fast editing and lack of details. The Internet hasn’t helped, with the onslaught of social networking and its nurturing of fast-paced information. To him, it has become a “subversive means of destroying attention spans.”

Irony may be his biggest ally. Musical trends now lean toward an appreciation of vintage country music and old-school soul. Feinstein thinks that’s a start and that there are people in Generations Y and Z exploring the American standards.

“People can’t sit still anymore, and it’s an awful thing that’s happened,” he says. “But I do think people are exploring it. It may not be in the Top 40 ever again, but you can find anything on Buddy Clark or Ethel Waters on the Internet. There is more access than ever, so yes, it will survive and take on a life of its own. One never knows what happens with music.”

While those trends toward vintage sounds are on the rebound, Feinstein is not so thrilled with the idea of modern bands taking up the fad of releasing an album on vinyl. In fact, it kinda pisses him off. He grunts with disapproval.

“No, I wouldn’t do a vinyl recording — that’s a stunt,” he says. “It doesn’t make any sense, unless it’s recorded in analog, but otherwise, it’s the same. The time for vinyl has passed for new music. I loved my Sinatra project when we recorded with one channel like they did it the ‘50s, but we didn’t put it on vinyl. The people who do it now, it’s bogus.”

With his focus on the foundation’s work, Feinstein doesn’t forget he has an album to promote. For Moon, he collaborated with guitarist Joe Negri. He’s a fan of the collaborations — both professional and personal (he and his longtime partner were married in 2008 by TV judge Judy Sheindlin.) Feinstein did it last year with fellow gay artist Cheyenne Jackson in The Power of Two. That album and the live performances at Carnegie Hall were huge successes for them both.

His approach to Moon plays it a bit more subdued, thanks to Negri’s delicate strumming.

“He was one of the greatest guitarists and very facile,” he says. “Any song I could name, he could immediately play beautifully. This definitely was a meeting of musical minds. He’s magical.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart’s new video with his side project Former Ghosts

Freddy Ruppert and Jamie Stewart of FG

Jamie Stewart has a thing for that which grosses us out. Remember this video I posted in which his Xiu Xiu bandmate Angela Seo performed her gagging talents? That’s always a great one before lunch. Now, the gay musician and his side project band Former Ghosts bring us this video for their song “Taurean Nature” from the forthcoming album New Love.The video was posted by Pitchfork.

Stewart bandmate Freddy Ruppert’s day starts off a bit differently than most people’s in this video. In sequined Elvis garb, Ruppert pees, gorges, doesn’t like cute kitties and gets kinda naked. It’s all so strange but also a glorious kind of train wreck I couldn’t stop watching. However, I am swearing off strawberry milk.

—  Rich Lopez

Concert Notice: Jay Brannan returns to Dallas this December

It is my duty to report to you that gay musician Jay Brannan will be coming to Dallas this December. He returns to The Loft where he played last summer. I profiled him before that show which I thought went well. After my review of his show, it all went downhill. Brannan himself commented the following on our little ole Instant Tea blog.

jay brannan
Posted on July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm (Edit)

based on how nasty you and your boss have been to me, i regret giving you an interview at all, especially when i really didn’t have the time, went out of my way to speak with you, and i only do a limited amount of gay press (b/c they are always so entitled and bitchy and critical as you both have been in your writing)

i assure you i will never do anything with the dallas voice again!

and i can’t believe i even gave you free tickets to the show!

jay

Of course, that second to last line kinda burst our bubble, but still, we only want his fans to know he’s coming back. Last year’s show was a packed house. He’s set to play The Loft on Dec. 14. Doors at 7:30. Tickets are on sale right now.

—  Rich Lopez