Interview with JD Samson (MEN)
MEN, a DJ project originally founded by JD Samson and Johanna Fatemen of Le Tigre turned into a band that could hardly be ignored during the last year on queer dancefloors as well as on internet blogs.
Even though they haven‘t even put out a full length album they still seem to be all the rage and everybody loves them. During the last months they have been touring Europe again and I was happy to get to see them perform great shows in Hamburg and Berlin getting everybody to dance and enjoy themselves. If you get a chance to see them – take it!
While I‘m unpatiantly waiting for more great songs to be released by them, JD Samson took the time to answer some questions for us:
Politics and your personal experiences seem to play a very important role in your lyrics. And I’m sure you get a lot of feedback from your fans. With Le Tigre I heard there were also many younger people writing to you. When you were growing up how important was music for youself?
Music was an escape for me as a kid. If it was listening to my walkman in the car with my family and falling into my own world or if it was locking myself in my room and turning up my boom box really loud. Music was the one thing that I had just for me. And i think that was really important to my development.
Could you name a band/scene that influenced you (the most)?
The one scene that really influenced me the most was the queer musicscene. Once I realized that there was such a thing as out musicians I was just so excited to find a place where I could be. I was touched by anything and everything queer. I read magazines and bought every single cd I read about that had a lesbian in the project. It‘s funny to me now but I was just so thirsty for queer culture.
What made you decide to play music yourself?
I always wanted to play music but I wasn’t allowed to play an instrument as a kid so I just kind of waited until High School and at that point I begged my parents to let me learn guitar. So I took some lessons that I paid for myself and learned a lot about song structure
and classical theory which has helped me a lot. It wasn’t until college when I was booking punk shows when I realized that I was interested in making music and writing songs.
And what is important for you in doing so?
Writing music is a release for me.Iit is a way to extend myself. My inner self. Pull out everything I have and show it to people.
In the song Credit Card Babie$ you sing about the difficulties gay couples have if they want to have a baby. Do you believe in monogamy, finding a partner for life and starting a family equal to mainstream heterosexual couples? Or do you think, that especially in a queercommunity, there are other forms of living together/structuring your life?
I think it really depends on the people. I think some people are great at monogamy and need it in their lives. Other people survive well with other kinds of relationships. I’m not really interested in making large generalizations about relationships. The song is meant to
question the reality of having children in queer relationships nowadays and to show both how difficult and financially burdensome it can be. But also how challenging it can be to decide whether or not to bring children into this world as radical queers. I’m not interested
in comparing queer people to straight people. People are people and I don’t really care who is like who.
I talked to Joel Gibb from the Hidden Cameras yesterday and he said that it might be easier for gay people to live a different idea of family, because from early age they would know that they will never fit into this man-woman-children picture and therefore a big circle of friends could maybe become a substitute for that. What do you think about that?
I think that is probably true. I think I have built my own family full of my relatives and my friends and I think we are all pretty much sure that whatever it looks like love makes a family.
I would also like to talk about the queer scene in New York. Would you say there is such a thing and if so could you name a few bands you consider part of it?
There is a queer scene in New York of course. We don’t spend much time there so it is hard to say really who is who in it. But we love MKNG FRNDZ a rad band in Brooklyn. The Ballet is a queer band from Brooklyn as well. Again we don’t spend as much time there as we would like so its hard to say really but we are part of a feminist/queer art scene that includes many visual artists as well as bands.
You’ve been traveling a lot around the world lately, playing at different places and events, would you say your audience is alway kind of similar; people who consider themselves queer/lesbian/feminist?
Our audience really shifts from night to night depending on the promoter and the city and the other bands. We are lucky that we really do bring in a wide variety of people to the shows. Sometimes we see a lot of straight people at the shows and we are proud of that. We feel excited to be sharing our culture and we feel excited to be bringing people to the shows who are interested in our music, not just our politics. Again each city is so different. Some places don’t understand our lyrics very well which can be frustrating but in general we are happy with the variations.
You have a strong DIY background, mixing different genres, trying to create something that doesn’t have to fit into mainstream categories. Especially when you are traveling abroad, how independent can you stay, and for example have a saying in where you want to play and where you don’t want to play?
We are independent as a band but I’m not sure if our goal is to playat DIY spaces all the time. It is nice for us to do that once and a while, but honestly our kind of music is best with a good soundsystem in a real club so playing at squats and DIY spaces is hard for us
sometimes. We generally learn from experience and if we have a bad time with a certain promoter we don’t work with them again and obviously if we have a wonderful experience we work with them again.
I was at your show in Hamburg last week, and I saw that you alsoincluded signs, JD Samson had something written on her fingers, your clothes… How important are those visual aspects for you when you are on stage?
Our outfits and bodies are very important during the show. We are very happy to be able to bring a lot of interesting elements to the performance so that the audience feels that we have given a lot of energy to creating an experience. We really want to give a lot of
energy to the crowd so that they can give it back. The more you plan and build a show the more the audience thanks you.
How about your new album, when is it going to come out and have you found a label yet?
We are just working on a label deal not sure when it will come out but hopefully soon!
And what about your side projects? I heard Le Tigre was working on two songs with Christina Aguilera?
Le Tigre wrote some songs with Xtina and it was an amazing experience we were lucky to be a part of her process and we are happy to know Christina. She is an amazing feminist.
And when is The Ballet finally coming to Europe/Germany?
Ginger and Michael are no longer in The Ballet so we are not sure of their plans.