In a sea of black leather, tattoos and head-noddin’ nonchalance, several pockets of fresh-faced, glammed-up girls gather by the Dragonfly’s stage, oozing with an excited energy that seems to glow like Christmas lights in the dark. It’s a Wednesday night at Hollywood’s Pretty Ugly club, and the glittered-and-gelled gals eagerly anticipate the arrival of their favorite celestial body, DJ and rock star Coyote Shivers.
He may have moved from New York to L.A. a mere two years ago, but this kind of ardent reception attests that Mr. Shivers belongs to good ol’ Hollywood now, and if the Apple wants him back, it’d better be prepared for a fight. Rudy Giuliani’s puritanical Manhattan make-over may have made it a better place to raise children, but now it’s a boring place to rock — just ask other N.Y.-to-L.A. transplants such as Sisters Grimm, D-Generation’s Todd and Danny, Daniel Cartier, and, most recently, Sexus and Candyass.
“A lot of New Yorkers seem to be moving out here these days, like rats fleeing a sinking ship,” says Shivers. “The mayor has outlawed adult theaters in Times Square, cracked down on nightclubs, and artists are being arrested for selling their work on the streets of Greenwich Village. At the same time the scene in New York began to struggle, the scene out here began to feel much more alive, active and happening.”
Shivers, who’s originally from Toronto, played music and deejayed at punk/new-wave clubs as a teenager, and worked with producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan) in his studio. He moved with Lanois to Santa Monica, then went to Amsterdam, and finally arrived in New York in the late ’80s, where he became a rock & roll “It Boy,” headlining shows at CBGB, at the raunchy gay/straight/mixed mash known as Squeezebox, and at the infamous Green Door parties that evolved into the raucous live-music spot Coney Island High. “It gave the rock scene a focal point in the ’90s, kinda the way CBGB did in the ’70s,” he says of CIH. “But the mayor’s constant harassment eventually helped bring about its demise, and the scene lost its focus.”
But Shivers, who cites Andy Warhol and Saturday Night Live as his biggest songwriting influences, kept his eye on the prize. His bold-’n’-boisterous ditties spotlight a deeply sensual vocal style that’s intense but never takes itself too seriously. And with tunes like “Plus One” (“Sluts ’n’ drugs ’n’ fags ’n’ rock ’n’ roll/It’ll be fun/I’m on the guest list baby/Be my plus one”), it’s obvious he has both a sense of humor and a fascination with rollicking good times.
Shivers and his band (which includes bassist Casper and drummer Chad Stewart) are not only visually mesmerizing, with the skinny, sculpted Shivers singing shirtless and swaddled in shiny star stickers, but their Pretty Ugly gigs inevitably become a who’s-who party, with guests like Sisters Grimm, Texas Terri and members of Betty Blowtorch jumping onstage to offer backing vocals on the “Walk on the Wild Side”–inspired hit “Secretly Jealous.”
Much in the way his shows often become a celebration of L.A.’s most interesting performers, Shivers’ latest endeavor, The HORNY [Hollywood’s Only Rock and Nightlife Yellow] Pages, is an homage to the city’s most dedicated nightcrawlers. The tiny zine features different scenester gals on its cover and offers photos of clubland’s most fabulous faces, as well as sections such as “Fresh Meat,” a gossip column called “The Starr Scene” and ads for hangs like Scream, Cherry, Makeup and Goldfingers.
“It’s a street magazine dedicated to the true stars of Hollywood, the fabulous, the freaks, the ones who really make things happen,” says Shivers. “I promise you will never find Leonardo DiCaprio in The HORNY Pages.”
Clearly, the man who left behind one city to start afresh in another has helped make his new town what it is today. With lively bimonthly shows, regular DJ gigs, his role as co-promoter of the soon-to-be-reopened Club Vibrator at 7969, his hot little mag and a new record to be finished any day (in the meantime, check out ½ a Rock n’ Roll Record), Coyote Shivers will keep on rockin’ L.A. for the foreseeable future, even if he does miss his old dwellings sometimes.
“I really wish the old New York scene and the newer Hollywood scene would magically merge in a New York City that was transplanted here in California, with a brand-new mayor,” says Shivers. “’Cause I hate driving. But I like the weather here.”
Coyote Shivers plays at the Virgin Megastore on Sunset, Wednesday, May 24, at 7 p.m., and deejays Fridays at Club Cherry, Saturdays at Goldfingers, Mondays at Scream and every other Tuesday at Peroxide at the Beauty Bar.