Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, February 28, 2009 05:05pm | Post a Comment
Jon Ginoli is the beloved founder and lead singer of the revolutionary gay rock band Pansy Division. He has recently completed a book about his experience, Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division, which is available now! To celebrate, Jon will be embarking on a book tour, crossing America and hitting everywhere in between! Check out the dates here. There will be a veritable blitz of Pansy Division in the coming months! Their 7" single "Average Men" is out now and features Jello Biafra; the band also has a full length album called That's So Gay to come very soon AND the release of a documentary about the band-- Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band. Information about screenings of the film can be found here. Following the book tour, Pansy Division will be touring as well! Dates will be up soon on their official website. Read on to learn more about Jon's fabled career, PD's future plans and what to expect from his book tour dates. For a past interview Jon and I did click here.

Miss Ess: How did this book come about?

Jon Ginoli: Over the years I'd tell people stories about my experiences with the band, and it was often suggested that I should write a book. Eventually, I did. I worked on it on and off for a long time before making a final push to get it done.

ME: Obviously you have a lot of writing experience when it comes to songs. What was the experience of writing a book like for you and what was your general approach?

JG: With song lyrics I try to squeeze a certain amount of information into a small amount of space, and make it rhyme. With the book, I could expand on things in a way a song would not allow.

ME: When you formed Pansy Division, did you have any specific dreams of how big you wanted to get?

JG: Our goals were modest. We wanted to make records and play in cities we figured would react favorably to us. We never expected to play arenas opening for Green Day!

ME: I think your band helped start the ball rolling as far as further evolving some people's perceptions of how diverse the gay community is. Did you hope to provide anything specific like that for the GLBT community or was your goal just to write songs, make music and live the dream?

JG: I was trying to make space for myself. I have always had issues with what is defined as gay culture. There is a kind of assumed set of tastes and experiences, and sometimes that was (is) an awkward fit. So I was conscious of trying to create some kind of alternative.

ME: Can you share maybe a rougher moment from when you were first starting touring and experienced homophobia?

JG : On our first tour, Chris, the bassist, called his roommate every day at a certain time to let him know we were OK. The wonderful thing about the experience of having this band is that there has been so little homophobia directed at us. It's out there in the country, and the world, but we've managed to avoid it pretty well. It showed us how much the country was changing for the better. The only incidents, and they're mentioned in the book, are minor. Sometimes we've wondered if certain opportunities were closed to us because of the gay factor, but the gay factor has opened up so many doors that I don't fret about it too much.

When you experienced that kind of prejudice, even if it was minor, how did you keep going and were you ever afraid?

We were afraid early on, and on the Green Day tour. But our fears turned out to be pretty unfounded; on the Green Day tour we had good security, which certainly helped.

Do you feel that Pansy Division has provided a legacy for younger, emerging gay rock bands? What has your legacy been?

I hope so, but I don't really know. I know our being out within a certain scene where being gay was unusual did help people, and some of them are in bands. Our legacy, I think, is that even as outsiders we were able to be honest and open and succeed at what we wanted to do. Because we're tenacious people, we've stuck with it for along time.

What can fans expect at your book tour dates?

A mixture of stories, funny and serious, and me doing a few songs on the acoustic guitar. I've never toured with an acoustic guitar, cause I'm a rocker at heart, so this will be different. I'm looking forward to that.

Tell me about your upcoming album -- where was it recorded and who produced it?

We recorded it in the East Bay with Willie Samuels, who has run a studio in Pittsburg, CA for over a decade. We all produced it together, with him as engineer. We call him an Aural Surgeon-- he makes us sound really good. The album is called That's So Gay, and it'll be out at the end of March.

Will you tour to support it and when?

2 weeks on the east coast in late June; 1 week & change on the west coast in mid-August. My book tour will go for as long as I can. My schedule is freer than any of my bandmates, so I'm visiting cities PD hasn't played in years.

How are you guys doing, all living in very separate cities but keeping the band together? How has it changed your creative process?

We communicate via computer and talk on the phone. When we convene, we are very efficient. This batch of songs went through fewer permutations than any batch of songs we'd ever recorded, in part because most were recorded without the benefit of playing them live. That's the opposite of the way we used to work.

How do you feel about gay rights today? Have things changed since when you first started making music?

Things have improved tremendously. The Jesse Helmses and Jerry Falwells are gone, and their successors seem far weaker. Not without followers, but less influential. But gay people still lack full rights in terms of achieving life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, though I think it's coming. I am sad Prop 8 won in California but I was under little illusion it would lose. One reason it was on the ballot last year is because its proponents know they are fighting the tide of history. We'll get there.

Any decadent, super rock and roll tour moments from the past you'd like to share here?

At this point I'll just say read the book, which is titled Deflowered: My Life In Pansy Division.

And I should mention that there's new 7" single out now, "Average Men," where we share the lead vocals with Jello Biafra, ex-Dead Kennedys. That song is on the upcoming CD, but the B-side is a cover of a Green Day song that won't be. I should also mention the upcoming DVD of the documentary film about us, similarly titled Pansy Division: Life In A Gay Rock Band. It's out at the end of March as well. We had all the stuff in the pipeline and decided to make it happen around the same time for maximum effect.

What has been the musical highlight of your life thusfar?

The Green Day tour. Being able to play for thousands of people each night, especially younger ears, was an opportunity I wasn't expecting to have.

Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams you would become an gay indie rock icon? How does it feel? What is it like to meet fans who have listened to your music for 15+ years now?

It feels pretty good. We're not a huge band, but our music has affected some people who really needed it. I think we make great music, but if it speaks to you in a unique and deeper way, that's more rewarding. It's the kind of band we wanted when we were teens; the fact that we're out there for them to find (even though they'll have to dig a bit) makes us feel good.

Thank you so much for your time! Best of luck with everything.

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