Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
"I love music, touring, recording and being on stage", says heavy metal bassist TEMPEST. "Everything else in my life tends to revolve around that which tends to drive most people around me rather batty."
TEMPEST is leader of the Aggressive Metal band Harsh Reality (www.harshreality.us or www.myspace.com/harshrealitymetal). The band just came back from hiatus in May of 2006 and completed about 120 shows nation wide in the last year to date. TEMPEST was the first transsexual nominated for bassist of the year by the MMA (Minnesota Music Academy) in 2006 and was the Featured Performer of the year by URnotAlone in 2006.
TEMPEST also plays bass in the internationally recognized Trans Goth/Glam band (2005 MMA award winning which is also another first for a TG group) All The Pretty Horses which also just returned from hiatus; and occasional bassist for the infamous industrial band Apocalypse Theater from time to time… TEMPEST also just started working with V. Mercy (of Apocalypse theater) on a new project that has yet to find its name… Whew!…
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?
I play exclusively with Carvin Redline series amps. They have been tweaked a little to improve cooling but I have been touring over 10 years with Carvin and only had a problem when my flight case was very badly handled in New Zealand (side was crushed in) and flames shot out the moment I had the amp out to test (no fault of Carvin’s I don’t think any amp would have survived that.)
Guitars I prefer Ibanez sound gear, I have several but my favorite is one Ive had for about 12 years now… Its scratched and beat up and has rust on some of the parts from all the stage sweat and such but I keep trying to replace it but when the lights go up that’s the one I always grab. They are light weight and have a low radius neck that is very fast. I also started using a Schecter for a back up bass. The feel is almost the same as the Ibanez and it has a nice bite to its tone.
I use a Boss Metal zone distortion and that’s about it for effects… everything else is built into the Carvin and I hate clutter and long setup times. My rig is massive but I want to be up and running in 5 minutes if I have to. Lets see what else… everything I play on stage has active pickups so I can tweak my tone just a little more without having to go back to the amp.
- What brand/model/year amps & effects (if any) do you use?
Playing with distortion is something that most bassists either don’t do or haven’t quite figured out and end up using way way too much, a little goes a long ways and too much you end up with mud. I tend to play like an angry guitar player, there is a lot of string bends and chords and fast runs in some of the songs but I’m also not afraid to hold an open chord and simply smack the hell out of the guitar to get a nice big explosion of sound.
I don’t like a lot of studio re-processing. I go into a studio and knock out a part in one or two takes usually and like to keep the sound a little raw. I’ve had studios who go in with pro tools and do all these “fixes” to the tracks and show me this song that sounds absolutely pristine but also absolutely lifeless. Give me my rock n roll back! Its supposed to be a little dirty, its supposed to be dangerous if you make rock n roll safe it isn’t rock n roll anymore… something you play in the grocery store or something maybe…I don’t know… but its not what I call rock n roll.
If you spend too long in the studio trying to record something you forget what it was all about anyways and get tied up and all this production stuff… if you’re a guitar player you should be playing your guitar not agonizing for hours over a computer keyboard trying to get some 1/10 of a second little effect to sound exactly right. Go in the studio knowing what you need to do and get the job done and get back out and on stage.
My basic rule is simple. If you get the sound you like out of your instrument you cant be doing it wrong.
- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
Hmmm. Going to make me go back there are you…
Motorhead is a easy first both for sound and sheer tenacity. If you don’t know about this band by now look above you because you must be living under a rock. Lemmy is another one who plays his bass like a guitar and well he should… seems to have worked for the last 30 years for him.
Black Sabbath. I simply love Geezers playing, his solo stuff is fantastic too… every wonder who the one was behind the really thick heavy Sabbath sound listen to his solo stuff then anyone else’s from the band and its quite clear.
Jethro Tull. Consummate musicians every last one of them.
- Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style of rock, etcI don’t really have one style… Everything to me is just rock n roll but done with a slightly different take. To me good rock n roll makes you feel something, if you don’t feel anything your not doing it right. Happy, sad, angry, released… whatever your looking for but if you polish it so much your just doing it by the numbers it loses that quality and you don’t remember it 10 minutes after you hear it.
I tend to gravitate toward music that is about rebellion as I tended to have a lot of that in my life. People always trying to tell me what I could and could not do. People trying to fit me in some nice little box that they can put a label on. With me it just wont work, if somebody tells me I cant do something I just have this natural urge to prove them wrong. Guess if I was born in a different century I’d be an outlaw or a pirate or something.
- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music? Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc? Does your playing appear on recordings of any other artists?
I’ve dabbled a bit in some session work and been a part time member of several other bands but Harsh, ATPH and APOX are currently where I spend most of my time. I don’t really have anything for the cover scene so all the music is original but I don’t do the bulk of the writing except in Harsh Reality which is still a group effort but my band after all.
- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?
That’s a hard one. There are some I really like to play just because they are fun to play... that’s not to say they are the most technical piece I’ve written but they just make me feel good when I play them. Dead Weight is one of those songs. Really there’s only 3 parts to that song (with a couple variations) but I just feel energized every time I play it.
Other songs I feel I accomplished more on, Inconvenience has as a great interlude section in the middle of a bunch of punk/metal madness and Trickle Down has a much more active part to play and a great section where I tend to solo for a bit when we do the song live.
Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?
I couldn’t imagine life without my instrument. I would either go crazy or drive everyone else there
Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a glbt player in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
I don’t really think of myself as a LGBT player to tell you the truth. I am a transsexual and everyone usually figures that out sooner or later at the shows, I don’t exactly hide it and am rather proud of who I am and how far I’ve come but really I do probably 90% of my shows to straight crowds at straight clubs. I guess that’s the best thing about it. I get to use music to bridge a gap. I see the stares and hear the jokes and mutterings when we show up and load in our gear but the same guys who talk behind my back before the show are usually right at the front of the stage and the first ones to come up after. If you can show them that this is your life and its not a put on, its not a gimmick and you command respect with being proficient on your instrument and your stage show then you can show them that life really can be different and yet belong just like everyone else.
I’m also quite happy that many of the queer culture can feel more at ease going to an otherwise straight bar when they know Im playing, I do my best to look after the girls from the T side of the community and make sure that they are treated well by the club and its patrons alike. Everyone is welcome at my shows and my main band is all about diversity, we have every preference covered somewhere in our lineup and if a club cant respect that I would rather not play there.
As it is most of the traditional LGBT club community seems like they are not ready for a metal band quite yet. In most areas I have traveled to there are no queer clubs for the heavier types of music, goth clubs tend to be quite understanding of the lifestyle but its not quite the same thing. I know there is a audience out there for the goth/rock/metal scene within the LGBT crowd but they don’t really have a home yet in the club scene… I might be actually working with a club here in Minneapolis to open and industrial strength area within the club just for that crowd as a lot of the queer culture feels uncomfortable in the straight metal clubs (trust me I get to feel what its like in a straight club as a TS on a regular basis and if I didn’t have the comfort buffer of the band it would be rather intimidating.) The crowd is there the clubs just haven’t caught on yet… I see these youth at the clubs on the 18 plus nights in their Nine Inch Nails and Manson shirts, dressed all in black with spikes but not part of the traditional “leather” scene… yet they wonder about the clubs filled with dance hits waiting for the once or twice a night that the techno room will spin something with a little bite to it so they can have their chance on the dance floor.
After 21 years of playing I’m still in my formative years. Every day I see players doing all kinds of amazing things so it never really stops.
- For a glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today
from years ago?
LGBT player or not live music is in a tail spin. It has been since about 1992. This used to happen about every 5 years then it would turn around but it hasn’t so far its just getting worse. The record companies don’t know what to do either. They have been force feeding paint by numbers music to the world for so long they have no idea what people want anymore. They just keep trying to copy the last thing that sold well. Well everyone knows what happens if you make a copy of a copy of a copy… you end up with a blurry mess that isn’t much of anything and that’s exactly where we are at today. I actually had a lawyer threaten to sue me and shut my show down because we didn’t get signed agreements from everyone at the club to put on a show like we do… Fuck that… keep your hands off my rock n roll, nobody made him come into the show and if we were a bit too much for his eyes and ears I have a hunch a smart fellow like him could find the door just as easy.
At some point this whole system is going to break. The record companies are out of touch and nobody working there remembers why music was great to start with. Ever notice there are no new rock stars… No new Ozzy’s or Mick Jagger’s… you cant manufacture that… that’s real and its one of a kind, Paris Hilton is 10 times the rock star of any rock star of the last 10 years.
When the sytem fails, and the clubs go under, the radio stations lose that corporate backing and the record stores close then we will see what comes next and it will all start over again, this time the underground wont be in bar rooms and back halls, we moved into the media age and this revolution will be electronic when it comes, Im not sure how but I just have a hunch that’s what we are going to see… hell the only truly free radio is on the internet already and everyone of these record companies are working their asses off to try to shut it down because they have no control there. They want to find ways to make these little start up stations pay all this kind of money to play songs by their artists… in theory they cant so then they have to go away right… wrong… the indi internet stations will turn to the indi artists who just want their music to be played and don’t give a damn about the money. I get a check every now and then for air play and distribution but I couldn’t even tell you what the last one was... Im just as happy if somebody sends me a letter saying they have us in rotation… it means somebody is getting the message and they like what I have to bring.
- How is the overall music scene in your locale?
Minneapolis is struggling just like the rest of the nation. I just completed a national tour and things are hard all over for original music. We have seen some major clubs close here and the new ones that open all just play it safe and hire a DJ to spin dance music.
- Any advice for young glbt players?
Yes, learn your instrument. I’ve seen some horrid bands who wave the LGBT flag and try to work the scene to gain fans. To me that will devalue everything we do. This isn’t a gimic, I don’t put on the makeup and heels just to get attention for stage its an extension of who I am… I take a aspect of who I am and I turn the volume up all the way to 10 for stage but its still me at the core on or off stage. If its something you really believe in by all means speak up but don’t do it just to get attention. If you want your music to stand for something you better take a stand for making your music… put in the hours of rehearsal time and make it something for everyone to be proud of… dance, country, rap, rock, metal… whatever your style just try to do it the best you can.
- What are your current and future musical projects?
I have also been a live sound engineer and have done some recordings for other bands as well as appearing on stage with them for time to time but I currently have 3 main projects that I work with.
Harsh Reality is my band and my main focus. Much of it is a group effort with myself acting as editor and keeping things on track with the direction I want to go.
All the Pretty Horses I was pretty much a hired gun… I was given a part to play and did my best to deliver exactly what Venus wanted without putting too much of myself into the mix… now having said that there were a few songs that I kind of fell into and put my own take on but everything was done for the “song” rather than the part I was playing.
Apocalypse Theater, hired gun here again but more of an outlaw this time, they would give me the basic structure and I would play whatever worked under it, I have a lot of fun with them and there are a lot of spur of the moment things like when your up on stage and they tell you they are going to play a song you have never heard before let alone tried to play… rock n roll moments at their finest. I am starting to work with V. Mercy on a new project that has spun off of both Harsh Reality and APOX but is finding a life of its own… more on that in the future.
I’m currently working on a new studio album in the writing phase with Harsh Reality as well as working up new songs with Mercy that will probably see the light of day in some fashion. Future projects include one more national tour before the end of the year, most likely east coast but it depends on what bookings come in. Europe is also a possibility and there are tentative plans for going down under or to Japan in 2008… None of that is cheap so we will just have to wait and see.
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