More Than “Male”

Gender variance… The quantum mechanics of the gender world.

The whole topic of gender is a much more murky concept than most people give it credit for. It certainly goes further than what’s on your birth certificate or driver’s license. I debated for a long time on whether or not to actually write about this subject, and I think most people will understand why by the end of this.

Most people think they have a pretty clear view of what gender is and how it works. It seems cut and dry doesn’t it? You’re born, the doctor slaps you on the ass and tells your parents “congratulations, it’s a boy” (or girl as the case may be) and that’s that. The only gray area may be in the case of someone who is intersexed, or possesses parts or pieces of both genders. But, the further you dig, the larger that gray area becomes. You see, when the doctor says “it’s a boy” when you’re born, a more correct phrase would be “it appears to be a boy”. Being intersexed comes in many forms, some of which may look and even function like that of being totally one gender or the other. I won’t dwell on this too long, and I don’t want to get too technical, so suffice it to say that just because you have a wank or a hoo-ha doesn’t necessarily mean you’re male or female. It really takes a science lab to know for sure. Even then, there can be some variance. When they look at chromosomes, “XX” usually means female, but not always, just like “XY” usually means male, but not always. Other codes are the markers of being intersexed.

Your gender was formed before you were born. If you’re male, then at some point a wave of testosterone washed over you as a fetus and changed the way your body and mind formed. But what happens if for whatever reason that “wash” was incomplete? What if it affected the way your body formed, but not your mind? Well, that’s one theory of how we came to have variance in gender identity.

Now that the waters are sufficiently muddied, it’s a perfect time to bring up the topic of gender identity. Most people are “cisgendered”, that means that their gender identity and their birth gender match up. People who identify as the opposite of their birth gender can be called “transgendered”. If you feel that you are both genders at the same time or one gender more or less than the other, you can be called “androgynous”. If you feel that you are neither gender, then you’re “gender neutral” or “neutrois”. If you feel like you have a dual gender identity, then you can be called “bigendered”. If you feel like you’re two or more gender variations, then you can be called “trigendered”. There are many more variations too, and I over-simplified my definitions quite a bit. This all seems like it could be very complicated, and it gets much more complicated once you find out that gender identity isn’t even limited to the standard gender binary of male and female. If your gender identity is neither here nor there, difficult to label, or constantly changing, you can use the term “gender fluid”. All of these can fall under the umbrella term “gender queer”, although some people find that term offensive.

This gets into what I call “crazy label land”, where every different nuance of your personality comes with a new label.

As for me, I identify as being bigendered. Hold on a minute, I’ve got to close the closet door. In a nutshell, there’s as many ways to define exactly what bigenderism is as there are people who identify as being bigendered, which isn’t many. Somewhere around 3% of males and 8% of females identify with the term. For me, basically, it’s like being both male and female at the same time, although sometimes I lean more to one side or the other. Originally, I thought I was transgendered… To be specific, I thought I was a failure at being transgendered. For several months I actually lived full time as female (and yes, I was hot), but after some time, living that way became tedious. Sometimes I felt totally cisgendered and wondered why I even went down that road. In those times, feelings of regret and shame about my identity were common… Sucks to have gender dysphoria in either gender. That’s about the time I figured out that I was bigendered, but by then I was so fed up with the whole thing that I just ignored it for a few years. Yeah, it didn’t go away.

The outward effect of being bigendered isn’t an obvious one. It’s something like the Native American concept of “two spirit” people. I’m just more than male. I can carry on a conversation about anything from bear hunting to eye liner. I’m totally male, but part of me is also totally female. The way I see it, some personalities are just too wide to be defined by one gender. I like to think of it as a harmony between masculine and feminine thought patterns. The best of both worlds, if you will.

To wrap all this up, gender isn’t something most people think about. After all, if you’re cisgendered, it would be a little like a fish thinking about how wet they are. No matter how much we think about it though, it’s a big part of who we are and our identity. Probably the first thing we notice about people we meet is what gender they are, since that defines how we relate to them. Our gender defines how we relate to the world as well. It’s not a stretch to say that gender largely defines how we experience life, yet it is still one of the least understood bits of who we are as human beings and as a society.

I’d be more than happy to answer questions about this one since it’s pretty much impossible to sum it all up in one post.

Catherine Capozzi [Artist]

Photo by Kelly Davidson

Wow.  Just, wow.  I’ve spent the better part of my life critiquing (in one form or another) what I considered to be quality guitar playing.  Whether it’s sweet and solid folk chords, to full-blown metal riffs.  Or maybe a combination of the two, if at all possible.  Rarely it is, but dammit sometimes it happens.  And what do most of the legends of our time, and times before have in common?  They’re usually men.  Yet, here comes along a lady who can strum the electric musical sword better than damn near anyone I’ve ever heard.  I’ve never felt more like a sexist prick than I did before listening to Catherin Capozzi rip my rock and roll loving heart apart in her amazing instrumental group Axemunkee, and lead for the brilliant trio Darling Pet Munkee.

I absolutely hate to bring up the bullshit plaguing that is sure to follow Capozzi for the rest her days, but the elephant will always be in the room.  But, rest assure, all preconceptions and judgments are null and void.  When these crafty electric riffs, fused with a beautiful surf style slap you in the face with bloody finger tips, you just plain won’t know what to think.  I mean, who has the balls (pun, intended) perform an acid/fuzz/surf take on the likes of Django Reinhardt?  This badass will!  And then she’ll spit venom laced whiskey in your face for denying her!

Photo by Bill T. Miller

While her previously mentioned projects (Axemunkee and Darling Pet Munkee) are substational and brilliant works that deserve their own praise, it is definitely of the utmost importance to realize that Catherine Capozzi is a guitarist who shines in everything she does.  Everything she touches turns to awesome.  She’s the type of artist that speaks through her music, and becomes instantly recognizable by sound wherever she may roam.  To hell with gender recognition, I just want to rock.  And a talent as true and revitalizing as this one can truly make you feel as though you will indeed feel the joys and blunder of rock and roll deep within your heart and loins.  My how we’ve been lacking such traits these days.  Thank you Catherine.  Thank you.

To hear the manic amusement that is Catherine Capozzi, check out two of her amazing bands Axemunkee and Darling Pet Munkee.  Seriously, do yourself a damn favor and check them out.  And Psst….little secret, for a limited time, you can download DPM’s 7 track album Glows In The Dark for FREE!!  Of course, this is for a very limited time, so hurry the hell up and cop it before your latte and/or PBR money will have to cover the spread.

Robin Grey & Anja McCloskey: The Park [Cover]

Oh Robin.  Oh Anja.  Oh, my, you both equally amazing.  For those of you who have followed my existence as a music blogger (is there anyone actually out there who has done this?), you know both of these beautiful people as staples in my life, not only my work.  I first covered Robin Grey almost 3 years ago when I first heard his amazing EP, I Love Leonard Cohen.

I was just getting into the music blogging game, and was dabbling in the idea of covering artists who are willing to give away their art for free on the ever so fashionable interwebs.  This is where I discovered this amazing artist.  This would lead to the friendship we have today.  Robin Grey topped my list as the creator of the best album of 2010, with Strangers With Shoes.  I spent a whole summer in Qatar listening to his entire discography as I performed menial construction duties.  You really can’t appreciate the power of music until it is the only comfort you receive as your grout several shower stalls a day.  And someone like Robin Grey is exactly who you need serenading you in your darkest hours.

And Anja.  Sweet, sweet Anja.  Children of Mercy fans know her as a contributor, supporter, and curator for all European sales of the book.  But, beyond that, she is an amazing talent.  She plays the accordion like a mad woman stuck in a storm of genius and precession.  Her voice is phenomenal in ways we just don’t see enough these days.  Her solo work, as well as the multitude of bands she comprises herself with, is some of the greatest work being recorded and shared with the world today.  I seriously can not say enough good things about her.  I’ve written of Anja before, but I would be a fool to think that I could truly describe her brilliance in anything less than a full-fledged manuscript.

So, where does this lead us?  Well, it’s just plain magic really.  Anja and Robin both decided they shared similar interests, and should meet up.  They realized each other’s brilliance by both being a part of the Children of Mercy project.  Selfishly, I am very proud of this.  Selflessly, I take no credit for the brilliance they created when they decided to meet up in Robin’s respected region of England to record a cover of Feist’s “The Park”.  I imagine they simply wanted to meet each other.  And in which case, I am extremely happy they did.  And the fact that they dedicated this cover to me, is by far greatest compliment and gift I have ever received.  Especially since I am completely unworthy of such an honor.  I was completely surprised when I heard this track for the first time.  To know that I could have played a part in creating such an amazing collaboration was so entirely humbling I thought I could die the following day, and be entirely satisfied with my life.

I have listened to this track many times.  And it never gets old.  My love for this beautiful cover track has nothing to do with self indulgence.  These amazing artists have created something amazing and sensual when they took a Feist song, and made it so much more beautiful that it was probably ever intended to be.  Robin Grey and Anja McCloskey are two of today’s finest artists.  This is a simple fact.  Everybody on this earth should feel fortunate that they came together, even once.  And we can only hope they find each other once again.  I for one am willing to hold my breath until they decide to put out an album together.

To hear Robin & Anja’s beautiful cover of Feist’s “The Park”, take yourself on a journey of brilliance….right HERE.  (P.S.  You can download it for free!!)

Rocky Votolato [Artist]

Call me smitten, call me ashamed.  Prior engagements are deferring my eligibility to see the great Rocky Votolato (and accompanied by the equally amazing Matt Pond PA) as he passes along the dusty road here in Spokane.  I’ve been a fan of Rocky sense right around his solo inception.  His sultry vocals and splendid songwriting abilities are almost incomparable to most artists riding the indie folk storm these days.  His power and energy has a life all of its own as he strums his way through the battlefield of life.

It’s been a while since I first heard Votolato’s sensational single “Red River” (in which he name drops my fair city of Spokane, and still, I won’t be attending!), but the track has never left the eternal playlist in my mind.  And as he proves again on another city name-dropping track “Portland Is Leaving” that his words are derived from experience and emotion, rather than splendor and malevolence for the unknown or simply unfamiliar.  In this amazing track, he pronounces, ‘Love’s a train wreck”.  Hmm….sound familiar.  Purely coincide, maybe, but Rocky’s inspiration has been known to touch people over the years.  Which could likely lead to inevitably lifting of lyrics for a music showcase.  Maybe.

In a career spanning well over a decade, there has been nothing short of progress in the ways of Rocky Votolato.  He established himself as an indie sensation long before he signed to the esteemed BarSuk Records.  The revolution of sound since I first heard this cat back in 2003 on Suicide Medicine, to True Devotion in 2010 has been phenomenal and easily recognizable.  And as he hits the road this fall, right now actually!, alongside the likes of fellow indie sensation Matt Pond PA, it appears as though the love and devotion Rocky has put into his music is coming back two fold by the love and adoration from his fans.  A well deserved honor if you ask this train wreck’d society.

If you have missed the tour thus far, as I will inevitably do (sorry to mention it again, I’m just really disturbed by this), catch a greyhound or a west/east bound trolley car, and catch the man on the ending dates:

10/15 Sat – Seattle, WA – Neumo’s
10/16 Sun – Spokane, WA – Aclub
10/17 Mon – Pullman, WA – BellTower
10/19 Wed – Boise, ID – Neurolux
10/20 Thurs – Provo, UT – Velour
10/21 Fri – Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
10/22 Sat – Kansas City, MO – The Record Bar

And pick up some albums, and find out more information about what Rocky has been up to at his WEBSITE.

Jess Walter [Interview]

Jess Walter is undoubtedly one of the finest American writers living today.  His whimsical and explicit position in the world of fiction has been solidified with a terrific perception of the tyranny of the world around us.  Comedy is definitely infused into the world of modern American literature these days.  Walter’s work isn’t entirely funny in a Judd Apatow or Sinbad kind of way, but maybe more like George Carlin in his prime.  The idea that “it’s funny because it’s true” has turned more into a “funny because it’s sad” sort of atmosphere.  And since the mid 90’s, Jess Walter has proven himself a master of such new-found idealisms and eccentric glory.
In his decades spanning career, Jess Walter has proved himself to be one of the finest novelists of the latter-day generation.  When Bukowski passed along his last novel, Pulp, in the early 90’s and later died in the most fashionable of senses, there was probably some confusion on what the hell we were going to read next.  Thankfully we have Walter to pick up the pieces of a drunken man’s rage towards beauty.
Walter may not be, in the literal sense, a poet or (as far as we know) a sex crazed drunk, but his style is definitely a combination of the beauty of Bukowski, and the wit of Carlin.  And with great fortune, I was able to get a few incredible responses from one of the finest authors of our time.  Here I talk with Jess Walter about everything from his love for his hometown of Spokane, basketball, and what is in store for this amazing writer to include is work in film and literature.
You’ve been praised, awarded, and praised again for your amazing work.  How have you handled literary stardom?

Ha! That’s an impossible question to answer, since I’m not sure I believe in “literary stardom” and wouldn’t know it if I saw it. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything like that. It’s nice to have people know the books, but I really just concentrate on the sentences and hope the rest takes care of itself.

What sort of influence does your almost like long residents and/or connection with the city of Spokane have on your writing?

Spokane’s a great source of inspiration for me. It’s a REAL place and I love its work ethic, its unadorned sense of itself. I think when I was younger I had a more difficult relationship with the city, wanting it to be something that it wasn’t. I recently wrote an essay for McSweeney’s recently (Statistical Abstract for my Hometown of Spokane, Washington) that dealt with my obnoxious youthful antagonism toward the city and came to the conclusion, in that piece, that hating where you’re from is just another form of self-loathing.I hate to use comparisons that might hinder an unknown reader’s interest, but I’ve heard many times that you are to Spokane what Palahniuk is to Portland.  Do you believe these are justifiable comparisons, not only as city reps but as writers overall?

Ha, that’s another funny question. I don’t think our styles are much alike at all, and I don’t think Palahniuk even lives in Portland any more. I doubt any city would claim to have a novelist as a representative for the city. Thankfully, writer is an unelected position. But I did just read his newest, Damned, and it’s very funny.

Is there any subject you haven’t tackled to date that you desperately would like to write about?  Any subjects you just plain won’t touch with a ten foot stick?

I can’t think of a subject I wouldn’t write about, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds I’d like to write about: more Western stories, more stories about class and wealth and income inequity, more crime stories, more humorous novels, more satires, farces and scary things, more short stories about basketball … I’ve got far more ideas than I have time or fingers to type with.

It’s been a while since you wrote Every Knee Shall Bow (or Ruby Ridge if so preferred), any thoughts on working on a new non-fiction project?

I do have some ideas for nonfiction books, but I haven’t researched any of them enough to really talk about. I sort of feel like the fiction mine has turned out to have a deep vein of material so I’ll just keep digging there for a while. If I run out of stuff, I may go back to mining nonfiction for a while.

Through a bit of research, I learned that you landed the elite role as “Spokane Basketball Player #3” in the 1999 film The Basket.  How did this come about?

My friend was one of the writers and producers of that film and they asked me to round up basketball players who looked like they could be from the early 1900s. I’ve played basketball all my life, but apparently, to the casting people, my game was all throwback. My acting is bad, but I’d love to try again, and if there were an Oscar for handlebar mustaches, I’d have been in the running.

What might have been more reasonable research notes, is that your amazing book The Financial Lives of The Poets is soon to be made into a film directed by the man behind the cult classic 24 Hour Party People (and an Angelina Jolie movie) Michael Winterbottom and starring Jack Black.  And most importantly, you wrote the script!  This is very cool stuff!  Any news on this you might be able to let us in on about the progress of the film?

Films take a long time to get from conception to screen (and often they never make it.) Right now we’re in the place a number of movie projects end up, waiting to get everything in place and, hopefully, start filming. But there are still a few hurdles to clear. So, unfortunately, nothing new right now, although I may know more in the coming weeks.

Any chances of seeing more film adaptations?  Shouldn’t George Clooney have hit you up for the rights to Citizen Vince by now?

The film rights for The Zero and Citizen Vince have been scooped up and there are scripts for both films out there, with producers trying to get them made. As of right now, neither one has the momentum that The Financial Lives of the Poets has, and I’ve yet to hear from George Clooney.

And you knew it was coming….what’s next for Jess Walter?

I have a novel coming out in early June called “The Beautiful Ruins,” which is a big, I guess I’d say ambitious book about 1960s Italy, present day Hollywood and the Donner Party. Oh, and it’s funny. And romantic. One of those.Finally, the most important question of all…..  what was the last thing that made you smile?

These questions, I suppose. I had one of the last tomatoes from my garden today; that was pretty swell. And my kids all the time.

Neil Nathan [Artist]

Photo by Nicole Szalewski

Neil Nathan is an impeccably brilliant pop rock mastermind.  Anyone how has ever heard his precarious melodies and savory hooks even just one time can attest to these claims.  The man has an exuberant way about him that simply screams brilliance louder than a protester in Tunisia.  His lyrics are like a hotel key card letting you in on the spiritual adventure that is a continual voyage in Neil’s head.  And ever since said mastermind released his debut album The Distance Calls in the summer of 2010, the voyage has been never-ending.

Everybody has a few tracks in their mental library that always show up during the essential playlist induction to the newest version of iTunes.  For this lowly music blogger, Neil Nathan’s “California Run” makes constant appearances alongside Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and Blitzen Trapper’s “Below The Hurricane”.  Nathan is undoubtedly on par with some of the greatest singer/songwriters in history.  Whether or not his genius has been fully reprimanded is of no real concern.  He makes brilliant songs, works with brilliant artists, and has the dutiful fortitude to wander down a path littered with of pretentious free prose that can leave you feeling mystified in less than 4 minutes.

And the illustrious Mr. Nathan has proved lately that his talents go far beyond just being a personal storyteller.  With his very own label, Pirate Vinyl, Neil has helped others get their stories told in amazing ways.  His eye for worthy talent is as inscrutable as his ability to pen a brilliant pop song.  He’s helped produce and/or release the likes of fellow folk pop oriented wonders like Susannah Conn, Pete Sinjin, and Caren Le Vine.  And if Neil Nathan’s work has intrigued you in any way, before or after reading this fanboy expose of the guy, it would definitely behoove you check out his cohorts of excellence.

Whether you realize it our not, everybody yearns for some sort of personal experience with musicians.  When you hear a

Photo by Cristina Gilbert

song that completely grabs you by the balls/labia, you most likely feel a sudden impulse and wonderment to know why the hell this artist was able to create a track/album/circus act that completely appeals to your wants and desires in life, as well as in music.  It may not entirely make sense to you, but your heart is letting you be had.  Because you need this.  You need fine folks like Neil Nathan telling you that you will be okay/are totally fucked.   This is the power of great music that a man Neil Nathan has probably been in tune with since his inception.  This is great music.  This is brilliance.

Discover all the news, music, and wit you could ever need or want about the great Neil Nathan at his WEBSITE.  



Sunbeam [Band]

Well alright, alright.  Here we have something special.  We’ve covered the likes of The Ascetic Junkies on Trainwreck’d before.  Therefore you know that pretty indie folk rock holds a serious place in our hearts.  Well, we got another one for you fine folks.  Introducing Portland Oregon’s Sunbeam.  A fancy new group that indulges in the glory of steel drums, sad eyes, and perfected storytelling.  And like the acclaimed AJ’s, this is a group that does an amazing job intermingling the beauty of male/female vocals.  Whenever unity can be found so masterfully done in folk (or any music for that matter), you can rest assure that you have something wonderful spilling out of your auxiliary cords.

Sunbeam is that sort of group that will make the shyest of white dude’s dance the night away, yet feel the poetic pull of such beautiful songs on the scale of Woody Guthrie his early years.  Last August found Sunbeam debuting their genius to the world with the release of the freshman LP, Sunbeam & The Lovely Ghost.  The beautiful old school approach to modern indie-folk the have become known for in the city of Roses has now reached audiences worldwide, and should be for their diligence.  This a project that simply came around due to guitarist/vocalist Brian Hall’s desire to not take himself too seriously, and just have fun with making music, which in turn lead to a project that is seriously awesome.

If you’re looking for a band that is sure to bring on some good feelings whether at your favorite downtown bar, or driving in your crummy car on a crummy day on the way to your absolutely crummy day job, this is the band that will enlighten you in ways that downright need sometimes.  This is good.  This is Sunbeam.

Sunbeam & The Lonely Ghost is available now from the band’s Website, as well as CDBaby and iTunes.