“Queer the World”
Industrial music pioneer, and veteran Jim Marcus, his current project “Go Fight” and the support for the LGBT community within the punk/industrial music world.
I got into Jim Marcus’s music in the early ’90s when he was with a politically charged insdustrial band, Die Warzau. He later worked with Pigface, Machines of Loving Grace, Bjork, collaborating with Nine Inch Nails, and anyone else of the Who’s Who of of the synth punk Industrial dance music world. The album just released “Tokyosexwale” is named for a revolutionary human rights activist who went to prison along with Nelson Mandela, and is a tribute to members of the LGBT community and what they have done in the face of human rights issues. Jim is openly bisexual and has taken the fight to the face of opponents with songs like “Moscow Drag”, a tongue and cheek commentary on the Russian oppression of LGBT people as of late, “Gay on the Dancefloor”, and now “Queer The World” is reclaiming the term “Queer” as an empowering adjective.
I was able to get with Jim Marcus, have a great involved conversation, and pick at that creative brain of his.
Jeremy Hinks: So Jim, let’s start with the “when did you know” question, then move on to how it plays into your music.
Jim Marcus: Well, I came out as gay in high school, then a year later realized I was bisexual, it was a journey. I went to an all boys’ catholic high school.
I would think that men were for really good sex, women were for emotional connection. Then, meeting someone else, I would think, “women are for really good sex, men were for emotional connection.” It was about the person. Then the journey into understanding more about who I was attracted to and came out as bisexual.
So how did that work, being in a Catholic school, and family?
Well, I did get kicked out of the house. I was lucky enough – a lot of young LGBT people end up living on the streets. I decided I would call my friends and tell them what happened and the first one who said, “ooh, come live with me, I would go there.” I was fortunate enough to have someone offer, and I stayed there..
That’s inspiring. Im in Salt Lake City and we don’t have that kind of support system. Utah has an epidemic of homeless LGBT youth, based on the fact that the LDS Church is so avidly against the “decision” and the “sinfull” lifestyle, kids get kicked out all the time. So you understand why we have the LOVELOUD Festival. Ok, it’s more mainstream pop music there, but still a cause close to all of our hearts. Closest thing to industrial was Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Those guys were a bit dark, but well, nothing like Skinny Puppy or Ministry.
So then you went on to Die Warzau, and the rest is history? I remember watching the Die Warzau video of “Welcome to America” and I saw it as very homo-erotic, but the subject matter and sound were still very aggressive and politically charged. Can you go into that a little?
Die Warzau was named after a group of resistors, “Die Warsau Symphony,” who kept playing until they were all wiped out. The best-selling t-shirt we had was one that said “Gay Soldiers Died, too”, so there was no hidden message there.
I never got to see you guys live. You probably came through when I was living in Germany. From a previous conversation/interview, you said “If you are not going to find love and acceptance as LGBT in the industrial, punk, techno dance music scene, where are you going to find it?” Did you find there was much static against you guys making all this music, because of the stereotypes? You know, it’s punk. It should be more masculine, more manly, more machismo. Or was it just generally accepted from the get-go?
The originators of industrial, many of them, were transgressive in how they approached gender and their sexuality. There was Genesis, obviously, was pansexual and non binary, the members of Coil, us, Cosey Fan Tutti, who was a sex worker, too. Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher who founded WAXTRAX, were not just co-owners of a record label, but they were two people very much in love, a gay couple who also had a record company. What most people still don’t see is that it is just assumed that you are straight until they learn otherwise. That is the defaultism that people exhibit here. You couldn’t miss it with WAXTRAX though. I mean one of the first singles the released was Divine’s “Born To Be Cheap”, so that was clear.
Right, a hetero-centric culture, it’s the base template people start with, and, “WE”, myself included as the straight guy, I see it that way. I mean, I have no problem learning otherwise about people, but I understand that I make that assumption by default I guess, now that you point it out.
Exactly, it’s how people operate with when they meet someone. People say things like “I don’t know any gay people.” – yes, you do. Or, “I never met a trans person”- yes, you did. In the beginning, we knew this about each other, and were open about it, and so we saw no real contradiction in being who we were and making an aggressive sounding dance music, without having to conform to a specific stereotype.
Right, I did think it was funny when all the “macho football players” were singing QUEEN, WE WILL ROCK YOU, and WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS at the games and Freddie was also out and very flamboyant. I did also get a laugh about Judas Priest’s Rob Halford coming out, and the Metalhead world had a hard time with that. I mean, one of the most popular metal bands of all time and he really turned that stereotype upside down.
Well, Rob Halford is a good guy. He has an amazing voice and you can look at him now and realize he wasn’t hiding anything. People were just willfully not seeing him. He made no effort to hide who he was, he was exactly who he was, and it fit him well, and it was just assumed he was NOT gay because that was the defaultism of the time. No one should have been surprised when he came out.
Well, on that point though, I remember looking at Depeche Mode in 1988 and 1990, they were wearing all the leather, black, spikes, etc., but thinking to myself “well, sure they dress that way, but it’s probably because it’s hard to look badass standing behind a keyboard”. You guys kinda threw that out the window, because your music, look, and image reflected the aggressive loud sounds, but left people, and still leave people doubting as to the gender or sexual identity of the musicians. Though these days it’s becoming less of an issue. It was for so long a point in people’s music, and image. I remember when Bob Mould the punk star, one of the pioneers with Husker DU, he came out and was kind of bugged about it. Not because of the image issue, but he didn’t feel it mattered as to the quality of his music. It was not in his subject matter, at least not when he was younger. Now, it has been in some of his work. On that note, for you, how much of it is for you now with Go Fight? I mean, Moscow Drag was great, Gay on the Dancefloor, kind of thing. You can’t mistake that, but the new song “Queer the World”. We are now out of Die Warzau and kinda skipped Pigface, tell me about the new stuff. I liked … LOVED the Moscow Drag video, cause, well, it was just a fun song, but it was really like, a campy snubbing your nose at the Russian oppression, with some fun to it. I’ll admit, for me, I have not had “FUN” used to describe industrial stuff for a while. Not since Revolting Cocks had “Beers Steers and Queers”, or “Do you think Im Sexy”, and… Well, Ministry “Jesus Built My Hotrod”. So, fire away.
Yes, Go Fight is a more playful approach to the subject matter, but no less indicative of what we are about and stand for. The song “Queer the World” leverages the word “queer.” It’s a word that has been reclaimed and even refocused. We can recognize that it’s not just about being different and transgressive, but about being interesting. “Queer the World” is about making the world less average, more interesting, more expressively beautiful. Retaking the word “queer” is coup for LGBTQ community because you don’t have to dive into the alphabet soup of it all and you can just be Queer. Someone doesn’t have to say, “oh, I’m a femme-presenting non binary bisexual,” you can just be Queer- and there is power in that grouping.
Yeah, I love the feel for the music. I mean, I remember thinking you were able to stand next to “Pussy Riot” over Moscow Drag, and the statement was similar with that, “we’re never going to go away” and the point of it being in your face, and not to be afraid of it, unless YOU make yourself afraid of it. What is the … I guess … the just scratching the surface point of the new album?
The Album is called “Tokyo Sexwale”, named for a political prisoner, who broke the law to do the right thing. Building up the release of it, we celebrated one person every day for 30 days who had broken the law to do the right thing, from Harriet Tubman to Harry Hay, etc.
So, I also wanna say Cate McFarland called me last week told me she got her copy of the album that she had no idea you had used the pictures of her in the sleeve. She was very happy and surprised. (She is a mutual friend of ours). So, I expect to score a signed copy when I see you next.
I got involved with the LOVELOUD Foundation, and covering that concert because of the situation in Utah, with the LGBT and teen suicides. It’s an epidemic here, and being Mormon, I can honestly say why that is happening. I am pushing to tell these kids it’s going to get better. I would use you as an example if I were to talk to a kid in the throws of depression over being shunned. It gets better. Get out there and create something. How would you address it personally? I mean, I doubt it’s as bad in Chicago.
I am lucky in that regard, having good friends. In high school, I fooled around with guys who identified as straight. The labels fall away at night, I think. What a different world it would be if they would tell kids in school that they might be sexually attracted to people and things that have NOTHING to do with their emotions. How liberating. You had said earlier about your niece, “She claims” she is a non Binary young man, then later is “A gay teenage girl”. I’m uncomfortable with saying “she claims” because there is an undercurrent of falsehood to it. I think we benefit a lot from assuming the person in question knows who they are better than we do. Finding out who you are is part of the sexual identity and gender identity journey. And that is fluid. No term is going to describe someone completely, nonbinary, gender fluid, etc. My son is gay, and we knew it when he was very young. And sexuality didn’t really factor into it. He just had friends who were boys, and he felt he wanted them to be “Special” to him, and he wanted to be “special” to them. I would say to the young people in this, yes it will be ok, it will be difficult, but I remember that one point in life when I realized and was able to say to myself “I am bisexual, and this is THE BEST THING I could have been.” I do know I experience passing privilege and I have options that other groups don’t have, joyful experiences that are unique as well. But, as an adult, my friends uniformly love being who they are, no matter how they identify.
I know that. Lemme tell ya, here in Utah, the scandal, people put so much on the label, cause of the stigma around it, the religion and culture dictate so much. I mean, hell, they told me for years, masturbation will make me gay, and … well, I’m still hung up on Belinda Carlisle. My wife constantly complains that Im still stuck in the ’80s as far as music goes. BUT… Belinda man…
Labels can be dangerous because they give people a SOLID identity that they now feel they have to protect, despite the fact that people don’t just have one. There are people running away from their sexuality, because of the stigma, but also just because they have been attracted to women their entire lives, then suddenly at one point want to have a connection with a man that way. That NEED to protect their identity turns them into the most virulent haters, wanting to legislate it, wanting to codify who people are. And that far right methodology occasionally sees reality through the fog. Rush Limbaugh, years ago said it perfectly on accident, “They want you to believe that whatever happens between consenting adults’ sexually, is ok”. And that was exactly it. We do feel that way, you unintentionally figured it out in your ongoing effort to insult us. Pedophilia is wrong because children can’t consent. Bestiality, Objectophilia, none of those can consent, people who are drunk or altered, etc. We do have a very bright line and it’s actually really obvious.
I get that, I also agree. If someone is a Dom, and someone is a Sub, and they are totally into what each other want to do, “Beat My guest” I say.. (Bad pun).
Well, Jim, Really thanks for your time, I hope your new album does well, and I do hope to see you perform live some time, in any form, and I hope the readers give your music a good listen.
Yes, thanks for the opportunity.
An indie GONZO music journalist in Salt Lake City, and an Anarchist behind the Zion Curtain. Jeremy Hinks is an obnoxious Type-A Male, who is embarrassingly straight and a staunch LGBTQ Ally with little tact, and a big heart. He has supported his LGBTQ friends since he was a teenager.
He has photographed on multiple tours U2, The English Beat, Peter Hook & The Light, and is somehow making a name for himself photographing Pink Floyd Tribute bands, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Britfloyd, Dead Floyd. He is one of the photographers for the LOVELOUD Foundation in Utah, an organization to bring awareness and support for the young LGBT community in Utah, and to bring an end to the epidemic of suicides there.
He also drives a Vespa, and wears kilts, is rarely seen wearing pants, should be considered armed and dangerous, so do not approach without extreme caution.