Neon Trees gay front-man Tyler Glenn is a nice guy. Funny, smart, and thoughtful, he’s the kind of artist who makes the interview process an enjoyable one. So it’s not all that surprising that Tyler’s band also comes off as funny, smart and thoughtful, especially on its latest release, Pop Psychology (Mercury). A more personal effort than the quartet’s previous releases, many of the songs involve serious subject matter. But instead of getting bogged down, the music, which is buoyant and brilliant dance-pop, elevates the songs and the mood, sort of like a musical anti-depressant. I spoke with Tyler about the band and more during the summer of 2014.
Let Me See It (Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press, 2014), James Magruder’s second book of fiction, following his 2009 novel Sugarless, is a collection of linked stories about gay cousins Tom and Elliott. The ten stories span a 21 year period, from 1971 to 1992, opening with a prologue set in 2008. From gay adolescents (and gay adolescence) to adulthood, Tom and Elliott navigate their distinctive paths, taking them to various locations, eventually coming together in the sexually charged and treacherous NYC of 1985. Magruder is a gifted storyteller and Let Me See It is necessary reading for the way it depicts the past, in all of its brutal and beautiful glory, and connects it to the present.
Some musical genres are less welcoming to LGBT folks than others. Jazz and hip-hop, come to mind, although there have been dramatic shifts within both, and increasingly one can find queer artists within the ranks. The same can be said for heavy metal (and sub-genres such as progressive rock, death metal and hardcore), and yet, few and far-between as they are, LGBT musicians such as Rob Halford of Judas Priest, are coming out and rocking out. Add the names Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert of the prog/math rock trio Cynic to the list. Like Husker Du, another influential rock band in which 2/3 of the members were gay), before them, the gay majority in Cynic is changing head-banging minds by simply living their lives as out gay men. I spoke with Masvidal and Reinert in June 2014, LGBT Pride month, fittingly enough, about coming out and the music of Cynic.
Most people know Ben Watt as the guy in Everything But the Girl, a band he started with his now wife Tracey Thorn in the 1980s. The pair developed a solid following throughout the 80s and into the 90s, but they didn’t achieve worldwide success until ten years after the release of their debut album. A remix of the song “Missing,” from their 1994 Amplified Heart disc would not only become their biggest commercial hit, but would also signal a change in their sound, leading them to move in a dance music direction on later albums. Watt continued to explore dance music as a DJ and musician throughout the beginning of the 21st century. Hendra (Unmade Road/Caroline), Watt’s first solo album in more than 30 (!) years, is a return to his singer/songwriter roots. I spoke with Ben about the album, EBTG’s LGBT following and more.
Billy Porter is a true hyphenate. He’s a singer. He’s a dancer (in high-heeled, thigh-high boots, no less). He’s an actor. He’s a songwriter. He’s a playwright. Is there anything he can’t do? Did I mention that he dances, nightly on Broadway, in high-heeled, thigh-high boots? Porter, who won a Tony (and several other awards) for his portrayal of Lola in the acclaimed stage musical adaptation of the British film Kinky Boots, has just put out his first new studio album, Billy’s Back on Broadway (Concord) in almost ten years. On it, Porter revisits the Broadway songbook, old and new, and comes up with refreshing and appealing interpretations of legendary show tunes. I spoke with Billy about the disc, Kinky Boots and more during the spring of 2014.
REACHING OUT TO THE GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITY?
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