By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
I was doing this interview in Europe and they were talking about which female musicians were people that I respected, and I named [the Gossip's] Beth Ditto, Peaches, Amanda Blank, Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé. And they were, like, "Amanda Blank, you know, she doesn't work with women" and stuff like that, and I was, like, "Why are you trying to tell me that my answers are not good enough?" or whatever.
Also, the States are in a really conservative place, in general, and I think people as fans are interested in one thing and it's, like, "Majority rules." People are afraid of going against the grain. If everybody likes Lady Gaga, then everybody likes Lady Gaga, you know what I mean? Everybody has to feel OK about liking someone else. People aren't ready for smart people other than Lady Gaga right now, 'cause there's only room for her.
When you think about Talking Heads, B-52s, people who made it in the pop world but were also saying interesting things about being alive or what's happening in the world, I think it's happened before. I think it still happens on a certain level — but not on pop radio.
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Do you guys ever feel pressure to compromise?
SAMSON: I mean, our first single is gonna be a song that we made a radio edit for that it's very different from the album edit. But the content is what's really important to us.
And it's also something that's really cool about us as a band. I don't think that anyone ever expects us to change our content, because that's who we are. That's why our label wants us. That's why our fans want us. Because of our content — not always completely because of our content, but that's our strength, and I think it would be completely ridiculous to try to water that down. The radio edit was a very complicated decision to make, but in the end, you know, I think it doesn't change who we are as people, and I think we're willing to at least make a 7-inch with that edit, to make that compromise, and also give us a chance in the radio world, because, you know, I want people to be ready for music like ours.
Do you feel now as a band that you are part of a bigger, maybe nameless scene that includes the Gossip and Peaches?
SAMSON: Yeah, it's funny because they're our friends. That's what it feels like to me: It's just our "friend group" of musicians, our peers. But Peaches is in a scene that we're not in. And Gossip is in a scene that we're not in. I think we all fit together in this way, but we also fit into other scenes.
BROOKS TAKAHASHI: And we all have some things in common. Some history that we come from, we all grew up listening to certain records.
SAMSON: I think we all grew up punk. That's what it really is. Peaches, Gossip, us ...
[They all make faces.]
SAMSON: Not the latter. [laughs]
O'NEILL: "Punk" not as much as bands or influences, but figuring out how to play shows on our own, being part of a local scene.
SAMSON: And being artists is also a big thing. I mean, I know Kathleen [Hanna] was like a really big influence for Beth [Ditto] and Peaches, and Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear — all those people listened to those bands. Sleater-Kinney ...
BROOKS TAKAHASHI: The Raincoats ...
SAMSON: Totally. Slits ...
BROOKS TAKAHASHI: I think it's also a lot of people who went to art school. I think that's one segment of it.
But MEN is different from bands that are explicitly art school. The art is there and the theory, but it's not shoved down your throat. You don't feel lectured to.
SAMSON: It's about love. And enjoying each other. I was just thinking about all those bands you mentioned and it's like Peaches plays that show so hard because she wants that energy between her audience and her to be so strong and full and that bond to really be there. Same with the Gossip. Beth plays that show like it's her last breath. Even if she's hoarse.
It's like the joy of being able to speak your mind and be visible to other people like you and to spread your politics and spread your feelings and all of that together. I feel that's something that is really important to me and us as a band. And no matter if there's three people there or 3,000 people there, we're gonna play the same show. We're gonna fucking give people the energy that they deserve for paying money to come.
According to prevailing stereotypes, gay culture has generally been more receptive to dance music (think: disco) than lesbian culture (think: Lilith Fair). Le Tigre was one of the first really popular acts to challenge that perception, and MEN takes the beat-intensive party vibe and runs with it.
SAMSON: I think there was a different kind of dance [in lesbian culture], it wasn't called "dance music." Like when I used to go see Tribe 8, I was dancing! I was moshing! I had blood all over my shirt when I came home from that show! [laughs]