“People were scared of me,” Glitter Trash’s statuesque singer Jenna Talia says while reminiscing about her hard-partying days on the Detroit scene. “Someone would make fun of me, and I would literally pull a knife out and slice my arm, right at the bar. Blood dripping everywhere. Fuck you!”
This was 2010. Talia formed Glitter Trash in the Motor City shortly after coming out as transgender, initially as a coping mechanism. Relationships became strained and meaningful work harder to come by, and the intensely likable, talkative Talia needed a pressure-valve release. Gloriously trashy, sleazy rock & roll, as is so often the case, was the answer.
“It was a form of expression and escape, I guess, from society,” Talia says. “I started writing lyrics as I would drive around — I used to be a sales rep. Started getting the idea of putting a band together. We drew some songs together, and did a first show in the January” of 2010.
Talia had no previous musical experience. No time spent gigging around the nation in a shitty van. In a previous life, Talia was a cisgender sales rep with a wife and kids. So naturally there was a learning curve. Early on, band members came and went.
“Everyone has their styles and their agenda set up about what they want,” Talia says. “Different needs for being in music. Maybe they’re on a pussy hunt, maybe they like the party scene. It was a shock for me because I came from a corporate background.”
The self-released and appropriately titled Wreckage album dropped in 2011. Produced on a shoestring, the record did a magnificent job of boiling down the ingredients that make a Glitter Trash live show such a royally exciting, unpredictable and dangerous experience.
“Recording the Wreckage album, we just steamed through it,” Talia says. “We didn’t have money. I was dead broke. I spent the last of my money to get the albums done. I had lost my job and was on the skids. When it came out, I was literally about to go homeless. The album came from complete chaos. I was separated from my wife, and didn’t get to see my kids at Christmas. I was drinking on the party scene, too. I’m beyond that now. Not that I don’t get drunk and stupid — everyone does. But it’s not at those levels.”
Musically, the proto-punk meets glam elements are all there, soaking up Iggy & the Stooges and MC5, The New York Dolls and The Dead Boys, while comparisons to Jayne County have more to do with the trash-punk sound than gender identities. Wreckage is a good album, but still, Glitter Trash need to be seen live. That's where they excel. And with Talia relocating to Los Angeles last year and assembling an all-new lineup, you’ll have plenty of chances.
“I think the partying [in Detroit] was getting too much,” Talia says. “We were getting thrown out of venues — at one point 13 different places. From throwing glitter to breaking mic stands, to getting drunk. I was using alcohol to help me handle stage anxiety. So basically I would overdo it, and then it would turn into a wild and reckless, out-of-control affair. People liked it because they liked to see us destroy everything. People respond a little bit differently here.”
Talia also says that people are far more accepting of her transgender lifestyle in SoCal than they were back in Michigan.
“It’s not like L.A., where there are transgender people everywhere, who gives a crap?” Talia says. “Detroit’s more like, ‘I don’t know about that — that’s kind of weird.’ I understand that my presentation might be over the top. Here, they dig over the top.”
Having met guitarist Loren Molinare (a fellow Detroiter who moved to L.A. in the 1970s with his band The Dogs and is now also in hard rockers Little Caesar) online, Talia convinced him to join the new L.A. lineup of Glitter Trash. The band lineup is completed by bassist Jesus “Chuch” Rauda and drummer Brian Irving.
“It’s now a legit band with a Detroit sound,” Talia says. “The explosive stage show of the MC5. Loren is 65 years old and he’s incredible. He has double the energy I have. These guys kick ass every time. Detroit was hard. If you’re really different, it’s difficult to wedge in. The punk scene is more hardcore than our semi-glam thing. We didn’t fit in there, and the minds are more open here.”
It’s wonderful that Talia feels at home in L.A., comfortable in her own skin. But she’s still had to struggle to get by since relocating here, something that is reflected in the new material she’s been writing.
“One song is called ‘Hustlin’,’ which is about having no money when I first got here, working shit jobs like doggy daycare,” she says. “Eating shit canned food. It’s about trying to make it.”
Things are more settled now. Talia has a day job selling props to movie houses and isn’t having to beg, borrow and steal to survive. But the fire in her belly, the edge that makes Glitter Trash’s rock & roll circus so perfectly terrifying, is still all there.
Need proof? The band play Cafe Nela on Saturday, April 28. Talia says we should expect a mixture of old and new tunes.
“The early stuff — ‘Wreckage,’ ‘I Need Sex,’ ‘Material Damage,’ ‘Crucify Me.’ Then the newer stuff like ‘Pretty Suicide’ and ‘Chopper.’ A punk version of The Platters’ ‘Only You.’ The set is about 12 songs, 35 to 40 minutes.”
Setlist aside, though, expect Talia to appear next to you in the crowd and perhaps yell lyrics directly into your face. Expect to see her on her back, fishnets and enormous heels kicking in the air as if she’s having a fit. Expect feedback and fuzz, fire and fury.
And a shit-ton of fun.
Glitter Trash play with The Golden Rulers, Pat Todd & the Rank Outsiders and Mars 9 at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, at Cafe Nela.