No band has waved the rainbow flag more proudly than Pansy Division. From its origins and involvement in early-’90s Bay Area punk to becoming de facto leaders of the “homocore” movement, Jon Ginoli, Chris Freeman and a rotating cast of straight and gay drummers (the band is now rounded out by drummer Luis Illades and guitarist Joel Reader) never shied away from graphic depictions of queer, bi and questioning dudes getting sweaty with each other and a variety of apparati. But as acceptance of queer culture and community has grown and the band’s members find themselves in their 40s and 50s, the topics on new album Quite Contrary have also progressed. Pansy Division will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.
Ginoli: The indie scene that grew out of the original punk era succeeded in large part to its famous DIY attitude. This was true for the queercore or homocore scene that sprung up as the ‘80s turned into the ‘90s. With no real audience in sight, a number of queers into rock music formed bands and made recordings. At that time, it seemed like being gay was the last frontier of music; many musicians were rumored to be gay or lesbian but extremely few were out. Even ones who seem glaringly obvious in retrospect had not done so yet. It was an open secret, but in a more homophobic era, the risks were greater for anyone who wanted to have a successful career in the music biz on any level.
Because this was the pre-internet era, a lot of this music has remained obscure. Fanzines (homemade xeroxed paper magazines) were an important way that word about bands was spread. These zines did not appear online (and blogs later took up the slack), and thus are underrepresented online. (I should mention QZAP, the Queer Zine Archive Project, run out of Milwaukee, which has been collecting and digitizing underground zines for years now. You can find them here.)
At a certain point in the mid-2000s, with pre-internet work being lost or forgotten, Pansy Division got around to documenting ourselves. I wrote a memoir about my band experiences, titled Deflowered: My Life In Pansy Division, and we contributed to the documentary film Pansy Division: Life In A Gay Rock Band. I also wanted to document other bands from this very underground scene, and had the idea for a compilation I wanted to call Queercore Explosion!. I wanted to do a CD with a thick informative booklet and pictures of the bands and their records. I contacted bands, set about securing rights, but was having trouble finding a label for the project. In the new century, compilation albums are pretty much doomed to be money losers, though several labels were sympathetic and supportive of the idea.
In the end, I made a YouTube playlist instead. It has 34 songs in 79 minutes. Check it out, because most of this stuff is raw, wild, and deep underground.