Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Black Fag interview with vocalist: Liberace Morris. October 11th. 2010.



Vista: The first question is the typical, lame, xerox copied Fanzine question...Who's in the band & who does what?

Liberace: Here's the typical, lame, xerox copied answer:
              Liberace Morris - vocals and personal stylist
              Greg Streisand - guitar and flower arrangements
              Cher "The Dyke" Dykeowski - bass and golf lessons
              Robo Simmons - drums and aerobics instruction

Vista:  Can you give us a history of Black Fag? Year started, what has been released, what's still available, etc.?

Liberace: Black Fag came out of the closet with its first show and debut album in March of 2006 and has been adding a touch of pink to the punk scene ever since!  Our album (and fabulous t-shirts!) are available on Interpunk.com and they make the perfect birthday/holiday/bar mitzvah gift!

Vista: I was looking up some information on Black Fag...Is there another band with that name? Any chance of both bands fighting it out over the name "Black Fag"?!

Liberace: There are actually several bands that have tried to claim the name Black Fag, most notably the one featuring the legendary Vaginal Davis, but we are the only ones that exclusively cover Black Flag. Vaginal doesn't seem to be using the name anymore, so hopefully she doesn't mind us taking it out for a spin!

Vista: Have any of the guys from Black Flag ever seen Black Fag perform live? Also, what is the story of Henry Rollins being asked to perform with Black Fag live? 

Liberace: After all this time, we STILL have not been able to drag any Flag members to one of our shows!!  And believe me, we've tried. We even opened up for the Circle Jerks once, but Keith missed our set. I know that Black Flag's roadie, Mugger, saw us once in Long Beach and wrote us later to say he enjoyed it, so that's the closest we've come. But Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, and Ron Reyes have all heard our album and have been very complimentary about it!  We have a standing, open invitation to all members of Black Flag to join us on stage for a song in drag, but none of them have taken us up on it. Ron Reyes said that he'd do it if we ever made it up to Vancouver, so we're trying to plan a trip immediately!! Even though none of the Flag members have accepted our invitation, we have been joined on stage by Mike Watt and Blag Dhalia in drag on separate occasions! We extended our invite to Henry Rollins in person...the full conversation is transcribed in our MySpace blog (myspace.com/blackfag).

Vista: Do you fellas mix in any original material in your live sets, or it it strictly all Black Flag re-makes? Also, who re-wrote the lyrics to these songs? 

Liberace: All Flag all the time! Every now and then, though, you might catch a snippet or two of a popular disco or techno song that we might mix in to one of the arrangements...We just played a show in Las Vegas and the Dropkick Murphys were playing across town, so we played part of one of their songs and did a Riverdance routine to it.  We don't re-write the lyrics to most of the songs we do, but every now and then we'll switch pronouns from "she" to "he" or change a line or two, like in the song "Revenge" instead of saying "there's a bed of cold pavement" I'll sing "there's a plate of salmon croquettes!" But the rest of the song is pretty much the same. The big exceptions are "My War", which we change to "My Wardrobe" and sing about famous designers and "TV Party" which we have changed to "TMZ Party" and made about celebrity gossip or "Tea Bag Party" which makes fun of Fox News. Other than that, we keep the lyrics very faithful to the originals. The whole joke is that you don't have to change much: if you play the songs with the same intensity and sing the exact same lyrics, but just change the voice and context, you get an entirely different end result that runs completely counter to the enshrined image of Black Flag. But your question was about who does the re-writing...Me, mostly. The other members, sometimes.

Vista: I was reading on the bands Myspace site that you donate money from your CD sales to some charities. Give us some details on this & the organizations you have donated to?

Liberace: Some people are offended by our band name or the fact that we derive humor from gay stereotypes, and that's a legitimate reaction to our band. In our minds, though, politically incorrect humor is valid and funny as long as it's coming from the right place.  Unfortunately, we can't personally shake hands and talk with every single person who visits our MySpace or Facebook sites, or who hears about our music, so we decided to donate 10% of the profits from our album sales to various gay-related charities as a way of publicly indicating that we are very much on the side of gay rights and that our humor is meant to be taken lightly, not as any sort of attack.  The profits we make from our album are very meager, so we're not donating huge amounts of money, but hopefully some people recognize the gesture and hopefully we can convince others to donate their own money to some of the same charities.Since we started making a profit on our album, we have donated to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) which promotes a positive image of gays in K-12 schools in order to eliminate homophobia. Since we play with stereotypes all the time, we thought that maybe they could offset any damage we're doing. And we have donated to the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) which is a collective of lawyers that fights important gay rights cases in the courts. The NCLR was very active in the court case fighting Prop 8 in California (our home state) so donating was one small way we thought we could help out in such an important battle. We are actually overdue with this year's donation, but we will likely be sending a check to the ACLU.  While they're not solely focused on gay rights, they do have a department dedicated to LGBT causes and they were on the side of justice in this past year's Constance McMillen Prom Scandal, and we like to stay topical! We do a lot of research on our charities to make sure that they spend their money wisely, and the groups I've mentioned above all get very good ratings from charitynavigator.org, so if you're thinking about helping out the cause of gay rights you should send them some cash!

Vista: I know a few years back {2008} Black Fag did a tour entitled "I Caught Henry Kissing Santa Claus", which is such a great name for a Winter Tour! I'm wondering, have you guys had any other "Henry-themed" tour names? 

Liberace: In fairness, our friend and part-time lover Tim Decker came up with the name for that tour when he designed our lovely poster! Usually our tours aren't long enough to bother naming them, but we welcome all suggestions!

Vista: Who was a better front-man...Liberace or Henry Rollins? Or Kieth Morris?

Liberace: I've always said that Keith had the best voice, Ron sang the best songs, Henry was the best performer, and Dez was the cutest!

Vista: I was looking at all the pictures of Black Fag live, it sure seems like a hell of a performance! What is the craziest incident from a live performance? 

Liberace: I must say: I love being in Black Fag because every show is a story. At one of our earliest shows, Angelo Moore from Fishbone was booked on the bill doing spoken word and he had no idea what we were all about. When we walked on stage dressed in our fabulous outfits and started doing our thing, he started cracking up and then he joined us on backing vocals for the entire set! Also at that show, someone got kicked in the face, someone knocked over the PA speaker, and someone threw a chair across the pit. Punk rock. We've played Arizona three times and those might be our top three shows ever. The first time, the crowd grabbed me off stage and lifted me up so high that I was laid out flat against the ceiling and the promoter was throwing pitchers of beer over the crowd. At our most recent show there, two dudes got naked and refused to leave the stage. A girl got kicked in the face at that show, too. Lots of face-kicking now that I think about it...At Gilman Street the crowd took over the stage for our last song...at Punk Rock Bowling Paddy from D4 took pictures with our backup dancers with his dick hanging out...in Belgium someone handed me an 8x10 glossy of Jean-Claude Van Damme in the middle of our set...in France they cut the power and the crowd sang "Rise Above" with us a capella...I already mentioned the drag performances by Mike Watt and Blag Dhalia...and none of this is mentioning the chaos we've created ourselves or the ridiculous after-show parties...The bottom line: if you have an opportunity to see us live, TAKE IT.

Vista: Speaking of live pictures, with your sailing hat & bad assed mustache, not to mention your red jacket, you reminded me of Captain from Captain and Tennille! Any chance of a version of "Love Will Keep US Together"?!

Liberace: You never know. But no, definitely not. Captain and Tennille is a good one, but I was going for Buddy Cole meets John Waters.

Vista: Has Black Fag done a lot of touring? What states have you guys played?

Liberace: We've mostly played cities in California, but we've also played Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. And we did a tour of Europe and played Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Austria, and the UK. We're hoping to cover some new territory in the coming year...if you want to bring us to your town, get in touch!

Vista: Black Fag has done shows with other cover bands that perform classic Punk/Hardcore songs. What are a couple of bands out there doing some decent covers/tributes?

Liberace: Most recently we played with a band called Cuntsparrer which is two girls and a guy doing Cocksparrer covers with a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, and a snare drum. I described them on stage afterwards as "what happens when the Violent Femmes drop out of art school." And I meant that as a compliment!

Vista: If you had to pick one or two Black Flag songs that are your favorites to perform with Black Fag, which ones would they be?

Liberace: "Six Pack" and "Rise Above" are the biggest crowd pleasers, so they're always fun. And we always try to work in some sort of "twist" with "Six Pack", like dipping into "In The Navy" or "Groove is in the Heart" during the intro. I personally love "Revenge" because it's just plain killer, and I think it highlights more than most of the songs just how seriously we take the musicianship because it's a hard riff to nail down! Thomas from Strike Anywhere told us that when he heard us play that song he got goose bumps, which is such an amazing compliment and which has stuck with me at every show since. Subconsciously, I go into that song hoping to bring the goose bumps!  Or at least a goose.

Vista: As far as Black Fag goes, what were some goals or achievements you set out to reach {if any}? Was it to write, record & play shows? What else would you like to do, band-wise that you haven't done?

Liberace: It's funny: when I first came up with the concept for the band, my big goal was maybe to get an opening slot playing with NOFX and maybe get a blurb in a music magazine at some point. Both of those things happened within the first two years. We've also managed to release an album, tour Europe, and open for about a dozen other notable punk acts, so we've had to raise the bar of expectations! One goal I'd love to achieve is to go on a nationwide tour of all the most gay-unfriendly cities. It would be financially disastrous and physically dangerous, but it would also be punk as piss. Other than that, our goal is to get as many Flag members as possible in drag on stage with us. Honestly, if Henry Rollins ever took us up on that we would probably disband the very next day because where else could we possibly go from there?

Vista: I really enjoy what you guys have done with these classic songs from Black Flag. I am more than happy to have Black Fag in my zine for a couple of reasons as well...1. I like how you've presented the band...Fun, entertaining & in your face. 2. this band really titty twists every meat-headed thug, macho band/person out there. I'm wondering, has there ever been any backlash to what you are doing? 

Liberace: There has been a backlash from both sides, which is what we wanted and expected in the first place.  Some people think that we're disgracing the legend of Black Flag and ruining their music, which we love, because punk is supposed to be about knocking over pedestals and because we like that the homophobes are forced to show themselves instead of just being undercover assholes. And then some people think WE'RE the homophobes and how dare we use the word "fag" and how dare we joke about stereotypes, which we love, because we're trying to make a point about over-reaching political correctness and what constitutes "offensive" humor and we like that they're starting a dialogue about such things (even though they rarely appreciate that opportunity).  We've been spit on and yelled at at shows and had things thrown at us, but it's very, very rare, and like with any punk band that happens just as much from people who like us as from people who hate us.  Mostly the backlash takes the form of angry emails, some of which are hilarious.  We'll probably post some of them online one of these days.

Vista: Liberace, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. I appreciate it. Is there anything else you'd like to say? Also, what is the best way to get in touch with Black Fag?

Liberace: I think we've covered it! The best way to get in touch with us is through myspace.com/blackfag or facebook.com/blackfag! Or you can email us at thefabulousblackfag@gmail.com. And you can always pick up one of our shirts or CDs at interpunk.com!  Thanks for the interview, darling!  Live proud and stay fabulous!!!

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