MAN ON MAN
We see you
“MAN ON MAN” is the quarantine project of Joey Holman and his boyfriend Roddy Bottum. You may know Roddy as the keyboardist and guitarist for the legendary crossover Punk/Metal band “Faith No More”. This new work is nothing short of extraordinary. Musically, these guys are at the top of their game, and the content has left no stone unturned for the message and experience.
In my interview with them, I found several missing pieces in my life that filled in some gaps. This led me to find some healing in places that I didn’t know of until this conversation.
They talked about making a once “hidden” or “shamed” part of the community culture visible, and to acknowledge them. They had a video get taken down from YouTube, and managed to get it back on. They have a project called “Chosen Family” that developed during the pandemic. Most music junkies in the industry have been waiting a long time for this album. I was lucky enough to have heard it early.
Here are some chosen excerpts from the interview while the full audio can be streamed below or at https://stickyjazz.sounder.fm/episode/man-on-man
JH: So Roddy, Joey, thank you both so much for taking the time. I am going to shamelessly say that I am a HUGE Faith No More fan, so when this opportunity came up, I had to take it. I am a longtime fan, since Chuck actually.
Roddy: Oh that’s old school.
JH: Yeah, been a fan since 1988, I saw you opening for Metallica in ’89, and then I met you the next year opening for Billy Idol. Though I don’t think you would remember me, you were all great guys, really nice to me, my brother, and my little sister. Jim Martin was in a bad mood that night on stage but was really cool to us too.
Roddy: Whew, it’s good to hear that when people say we were nice. Though, I think I do remember meeting you.
JH: Yeah, back when I had hair.
Roddy: Oh is that it? I thought you were just wearing a wig that night.
JH: OUCH, thanks for that. So, that was a great night. So, I am going to fire off into the record. I want to say, that was some of the best new music I have heard just dropped in my lap in a very long time. It’s in the “shoegazing” genre but sounds like some of the old good “Wedding Present” stuff, I went through the album twice a day. This is some of the best new vibe rock that I’ve heard in a long time.
Joey: Thank you.
Roddy: Thanks, it’s a very personal record, a real feat for us to make, as a couple, as a band, as an experience in the age in which we live, through covid, it was a real achievement to create something like that.
JH: The music itself was powerful, lyrically you could have been singing about playing golf, or looking at the daisies, and it would have been just as good. But talk about it being a personal experience.
Joey: I think it was personal because we both were at the beginning of covid, and how everyone felt. We had personal stuff going on, my mother had passed a few months earlier, and Roddy’s mom was really sick. I think we were a year into our relationship, we knew what we had was really good, and felt strongly about that. The music was a reflection of that, it became personal because it was a coping mechanism for what we were dealing with. It was a process for us, a responsibility, and a teacher for our relationship, how to work together and to communicate. We are both gay, and we both want to be loud and proud about that, so what we put out is very personal, and we want to do right by our community and by each other.
Roddy: We didn’t start on this project with an agenda, we came from a pretty damaged place, my mom was sick and Joey’s mother had just died, and we made this crazy trip right at the beginning of Covid, from New York where we live, out to California to take care of my mom. And just that journey in itself was super emotional, and knowing what was coming, and then the uprising, and all of the things going on in our world, to spring from. It started as something personal, but then it did turn into a responsibility to the queer community. We started writing songs, and put the video out, once we put the video out we started to get a lot of reaction from people saying that they feel they were being represented, and seen as they had never been seen before. And it dictated where we were going to take the project. So it became a responsibility for the two of us.
JH: So it helped your relationship, as your passion project and for each other?
Joey: Yeah, Roddy and I met each other when my mom was taking a decline in her health, and Roddy was incredible support for me. Then the pandemic happened, and amid everything going on, Roddy and I have always been supportive of each other. We didn’t start out to form a band, but we are musicians, and Roddy is an incredible synth player.
Roddy: Thank you.
Joey: And I wanted him to be into it, and we hadn’t been a couple for quite a year yet, it’s not just this doting thing, but it becomes more serious, but it was kind of like going to your partners’ workplace in a way. It’s like “Oh he is seeing me do my thing, I hope he likes it.” And we developed the tools for communication and how we can work together, and this project was what revealed that.
Roddy: Every time I’m in the studio, it’s like when you are behind the glass booth and the whole band is watching you, it’s an extremely vulnerable situation, and that is a lot of pressure. Now add that that it is your boyfriend, super comforting at the same time, easier in a way, but the stakes are a lot higher when you are doing something like that with someone you love.
JH: So let’s talk about the song 1983, I loved it, powerful song, cheesy funny lyrics, you are getting your point across saying, “This is what we are.” What was the whole story about?
Joey: I was born in 1983, and it was just the thought as I was writing the song.
Roddy: It’s a tribute to a bygone era in which, particularly now, when people can’t really engage. But a nod to an era where gay men would cruise each other. The place we shot that video in a park in Brooklyn that is notorious for where gay men come to meet and have sex in the bushes. Particularly in this day and age, it felt like a sacred special thing that is not really around anymore.
JH: Well, yeah COVID prevents that, but yes, reflecting on a time when it was at least tangible for a lot of the gay community.
Joey: I don’t think the lyrics are cheesy, the reality is that cruising culture is a big part of our culture, we don’t get to date people in high school, and fool around with them in the back of the car as teenagers. WE have to go to public bathrooms or parks to explore our sexuality. That video is important because that is like most gay people’s introduction into sexuality is finding a safe place, all be it in a public place, to experience it. There is no novelty in it, if it’s humorous, we are proud of the lyrics we wrote. It was really important not to shy away from what our general interests and language are. And as a queer person, I think what Roddy was saying before was that I can understand how in an economy of how things are marketed to us, and the economy of this puritanical idea of sex, and this “WE all pretend that we don’t watch porn” and everyone watches it, and we try to save face. A lot of times with those topics, especially things like sex, if someone talks about it, the response is typically going to be “Oh they are being funny”, especially if two gay people who are not nineteen years old, super skinny, and have no hair on their body. It’s going to be a joke because people haven’t had to. The lyrics are about sexual expression and freedom, and when we talk about sucking each other off, in our music, it’s not a joke, I think it can be light-hearted, it can be humorous. We are not trying to be cheap, and we can be proud of our lyrics, because it is honest, and honest representation we talk about in our normal lives. Sex is something we are comfortable talking about. The shallow response would be “Oh they are being funny” but we’re not actually. It’s serious, it doesn’t have to be so serious.
Roddy: I just think universally, the gay community and the music world there has been a real lean in the past towards music or presentation that’s kinda campy, goofy, and very palatable, and we sort of pushed that envelope in what we were doing and our goal was for us to be super real, and who we are, and that is the tone that resonated with a lot of people who originally started getting on board with what we were doing “Applaud to you guys, so good to feel represented in this way”. That is important to us.
JH: Well, my dad was one of those guys, who in his 50s was out cruising in the parks, he lived a double life and hid it from us, and we were exceptionally Mormon as a family. So you can imagine his inner turmoil, and he was an abusive asshole to the rest of us. But an older friend of mine said, “Look you are going to find guys like your dad out there needing to experience who they are, and have been hiding it for so long. But they are just as part of the community as the rest of us.” So when I saw that video, I saw that you guys were the age my dad was when it was happening. I realized, “Ok, this is my dad’s situation.” I felt like a door had been opened to see something in it. The gay friends I have and hang out with, are “out”, married, etc. So seeing your video, I saw that opening to the demographic was that you were saying, “We see and acknowledge you.”
Roddy: Well that is great that it speaks to you that way.
Joey: Yeah, your dad sounds hot. But yes, that is a reason why we would be open that way. It’s for people like your dad that feel like they need to hide.
JH: He died some years ago actually, and me being so ultra Mormon at the time, it drove a serious wedge between us, and I didn’t get to patch things up. So, I did get a bit of closure from this. This conversation is the heaviest one I have ever had writing for instinct or anything I have ever done with the LGBTQ community, so thank you for that.
So, congratulations on winning the fight with YouTube. On having the video for Daddy blocked and then getting the block lifted. That is quite an achievement there.
Joey: Yeah we had this good momentum with 20k views a day, then woke up Sunday morning with an email from YouTube saying we had violated their terms, and we did some research and circled back on why it gets flagged, and taken down. Then Rolling Stone caught wind that we got shut down so they wrote an article and they reached out to YouTube before they did the article as well, I think the pressure from people who liked our product was calling out the bullshit double standard thing. A few days later we were back up and running.
Roddy: Yeah it’s just a celebration of whatever, we were in our underwear in the video, we make out, there was no nudity, no lewd behavior, I think a lot of people, for YouTube specifically, it was a shock to see men like us behaving that way. Which is crazy, talk about a double standard, we have all seen videos on YouTube all over the world that show super slutty behavior. Our video wasn’t even that, it was just two guys in briefs. Was so TAME compared to so many other videos.
Joey: It’s not a knock on them, it’s fine, just don’t punish us for something so mild.
JH: Well these types of things wouldn’t bubble to the top if you guys weren’t doing them. Can I ask you both to end this conversation, what would you say to the young gay kid who is in the closet, and afraid, and vulnerable?
Roddy: I have been through a lot of shit in my life, and reaching out to a community and being in correspondence with a community that is bigger than yourself is super key. It’s a really lonely place to be by yourself and dealing with stuff, particularly in the early phases of being a gay kid, I think there is a lot of shame involved, and it’s hard to reach out and ask for help. It is hard to make connections with people in the community is a real key, hearing other people’s problems, and sharing yours, and shed light on yourself and out of the shame spiral, reach out and find people.
Joey: I would say the world seemingly is not made for us, because every ad you look at, every movie you watch, every book you read, every religious story, it all revolves around this concept of what you like and who you are is not normal. I think it’s understandable to feel hopeless because it looks that way from the surface. But try your best to know and listen to people who are older than you, who tell you that you deserve everything, and you are worthy of everything, nothing is wrong with you, and you don’t owe anybody anything. You are perfect the way you are. There is hope, and you deserve help, you are not gross, and you have been strong for so long to maintain this idea of what is acceptable, and we have weak moments, and that’s ok. People are wanting to help you. Reach out to us on our Instagram, we will be happy to talk to you.
Roddy: Yeah, we started on this project under the umbrella of what the project is, we started a group called “Chosen Family” we encourage people. We started a pen pal program, where we match people up, people correspond via mail. And sort of a fanzine that comes out with the release of our record, with the art of people who are part of our chosen family. Our ultimate goal is to make it a safe place for people to commune and communicate.
Manonmanmusic.com has our mailing list called “Chosen Family” or Man on Man Music on Instagram.
JH: Well, thank you for putting that out for the community, and thank you both Joey and Roddy, this has been a wonderful conversation.