NERVOUS GENDER - Interview 2002

„Noise, Blasphemy and Fun...“ An Interview with NERVOUS GENDER

Some years ago, I first read about NERVOUS GENDER in some Fanzines, but had no real chance to listen to their music, because their very few releases are really hard to find today, as the band was active in the late 70s and through the 80s. When I found the Split LP of NERVOUS GENDER and BEELZEBUB YOUTH (in fact, both bands had the same members), I was totally fascinated by the msuic, which is today mostly called Synth-Punk. Such sounds have been something totally new then.

With the help of Spider and Micahel of the band Red Wedding, I got in contact with Edward Stapleton of NERVOUS GENDER and he was so kind to answer some questions about his musical history, so here is one of very few NERVOUS GENDER interviews on the www...

BACK AGAIN (BA): As NERVOUS GENDER is today in Europe only known by very few „freaks“, please tell us, how it all started and what NERVOUS GENDER have been...

EDWARD STAPLETON (ES): When I started NG I knew I wanted the harsh agression of Punk and other worldliness of electronic music. Everytime I saw a straight ahead Punk band I felt they needed an electronic injection and electronic bands needed some balls.

The words we used were a mixture of vulgarities and abstract concepts. Brutal but intellectual, using contrast both musically and in statements to hammer home our own perspective on life and leaving it very much open to personal interpretation. This resulted in some very interesting projections. Hence, an array of name calling ranging from Art Damage Snobs to no talent cock suckers.

The ideas behind NG’s performances were quite basic – noise, blasphemy and fun. Others interpretation and descriptions were more profound. One of my favorites was Tomata De Plenty’s (Screamers) description of us – the electrononic Von Trappe Family, or after I played a tape for a friend of a friend “If there is a sound track in hell it would sound like that. But, my favorite was when Pat Robertson (an American born again TV evangelist) said during a broadcast of the “700” Club, that NG was more dangerous than Black Flag because we promoted anti-Christian ideologies and Black Flag only promoted violence.

It seems that when negative statements were made about what we did, it only fueled our enjoyment. Being told you suck after just getting off stage was a compliment. My response to that was always “No, we’re not that good”.

BA: As NERVOUS GENDER didn´t have too many releases, how do you explain, that the band still has a „cult“ following, especially from fans of minimalistic music?

ES: Since there weren’t many bands that sounded like us at the time, if you liked this type of music there wasn’t a lot to choose from. The fact that there are still fans out there is indicitive of how much music has changed since we came on the scene in 1978. It feels like some people (minimalists) are more interested in the sounds and rhythm and less in order, and can listen with a more developed ear to chaotic music. We have more people interested in NG now than when we were performing.

BA: Why did you decide to use Synthesizers in this early Post-Punk days and how was it accepted by the Californian Punks? Your music is often been described as „Synth-Punk“, can you deal with such a description and how was your connection to Punk? Have there been any other bands in these days, that played „Synth-Punk“?

ES: The scene was so small at the beginning that all types of bands found themselves playing together. Some hard core punk, some death rock, some art damage or No wave functioned in the same arena sharing venues. Consequently, when we formed NG we were already in the Punk scene and were socially accepted, that acceptence extended to our music (in other words people who liked us, liked our music. We were trying to use electronic sound as another form of aggression, which appealed to the punks. Even the explicite homo-erotic lyrics were never questioned because we were so harsh, no one was given the room to respond.

The only bands, other than NG, that played something close to Synthpunk were the Screamers and a band called Cut who never released anything. Synthpunk was not a positive term in the early days, it was not commonly used. When it was said to me it was usually accompanied by a snarl. I was very surprised when I found that people who liked the music were using the term.

BA: How have your live shows been in these early days? More chaotic improvisations or did you have a structured show? Any funny or special remembrances about these shows?

ES: Our songs always sounded like chaotic improvisation, but they all had a structure. Room was always left, like in jazz, for personal improv. One of our worst shows, but one that garnered good reviews, was when the soundman had nodded out on heroin during the set. All the sound settings got messed up so every song sounded like a howling dying dog while we barked. One show we did in San Francisco was preceded by someone committing suicide in front of us moments before we were going on stage. Without even realizing how it effected us, it turned out to be one of the most emotional performances we ever gave.

BA: Tell us a bit about the production of the „Music from hell“ album. Why did you use the band name „Beelzebub Youth“ on one side of this record? Do you know, that this record is today a very expensive and sought after rarity? Could you think of a re-release on CD or so?

ES: We split the album between Music from hell and Beelzebub Youth because we wanted to separate out the music we performed live (Music from Hell) and the music we created for ourselves. Later on we performed that music live under the band name of Gobscheit. It has only been recently that we were made aware that the Music from Hell album was still being sought after and sold. I have had another label ask to put out the album on CD. We’ll see what happens.

BA: I somewhere read, that Rozz Williams of Christian Death had something to do with Beelzebub Youth, but nobody could confirm any connection to, you are definetly the right one to tell us...

ES: There was no connection between Rozz and Beelzebub’s Youth.

BA: I know, that you have been friend with Rozz, can you tell us a bit about him in these early days? Have you been in contact with him until he untimely died? How do you remember him?

ES: I first met Rozz a couple of months after Christian Death started to perform. He was about 18 at the time, and I was an old man of 23. I felt somewhat parental. We remained friends over the years and lived and hung out with each other at various times. We gave each other a lot of support in the early days and took great pleasure in each others creative projects. I actually performed with Rozz (taking him off the cross) during his famous Whiskey performance and again in 1992 when he and Eva reprised the performance, again at the Whiskey, as Shadow Project. He called me a few months before he died to ask me to participate in his current recording project. The next thing I heard was he had taken his own life. Rozz was a beautiful, intelligent man whom I loved very much.

BA: How was the contact and friendship with other bands in the late 70s/early 80s? I know, that you are still friend with Spider and Michael of Red Wedding. Any Other contacts today? Any cool storys about some people?

ES: I really didn’t know Spider and Michael that well during the 70’s/80’s. I did play on the same bill at one show when they were known as the Tracers. It was at the Women’s Building here in LA, an organization devoted to Equal Rights and women in art. It was a benefit. We were have problems with one of our amps and Spider offered us the use of theirs. We saw each other off and on over the years, but we never really got to know each other. It has only been in the last year that we have developed a real friendship. Wall of Voodoo and Christian Death were our closest friends. It was a rather motly crew when we all got together. I am still in touch with a couple of the men from Wall of Voodoo.

BA: I read, that you had an 8-year old drummer some time...strange! Tell us, how you met him and how he came into the band!

ES: Sven was the son of a women we gave a ride to, she needed to get from San Francisco to LA. Sven had been in the audience with a toy gun when we performed in SF and he pretended to shoot us throughout the whole set. They had no where to stay when they got to LA and we didn’t want to let them hang out at the bus station, so we brought them home and Sven wound up being our drummer. After about 6 months his mother decided to go back to Germany and we never heard from either of them again. Sven was a wild child. Periodically, when he couldn’t keep up with us he would kick over the drum kit and start crying. His favorite thing to do was to graffiti with spray paint, tagging everything with his name and age (8 ½) everywhere we went.

BA: How close was your connection to Wall Of Voodoo?

ES: From the very start the guys from Wall Of Voodoo were extremely supportive of what Nervous Gender was trying to accomplish. To give us broader visibility, they booked us to open for them at venues which were normally off limits to punk and industrial bands. At one point Bruce found out that we were about to disband. He came over to our apartment and told us that he wanted to be our new bass player and that Ned wanted to drum for us; then came Marc and Chaz - with a lineup like that we’d have been crazy to quit. At a show at Variety Arts, Joe joined us on stage playing bongos and whatever else he could hit. This lineup became the guitar incarnation of NG and we performed regularly for a number of years, whenever WOV were not touring.

BA: Why did it not come to more releases than the „Music from hell“ album?

ES: At the time felt there was no response to the album. We didn’t feel anyone was interested in hearing from us again, but we did enjoy creating and performing so we continued on until 1989.

BA: Anything of importance, that I forgot to ask? Anything you want to tell our readers?

ES: By the late 80’s I had lost interest in the LA undergroud music scene and my personal perspectives were changing so it no longer seemed viable to continue on in Nervous Gender. I stopped doing music for the next 10 years. Nervous Gender was an expression of both Gerardo’s and my world -- expressed through sound and words (neither of us were in it as a career). Since nothing ever remains the same, when change came into both our worlds, we had to find a different form of expression. During the ten years I did not do music, I read and study a variety of subjects and different forms of music. When I finally felt I had something of value to say, I started Kali’s Thugs.

Thanx Edward for answering these questions and sorry, that it took such a long time to put the interview on . Anyway, even if NERVOUS GENDER never had big commercial success, they have been a very influential band and their very few releases are kind of modern classics of the so called Synth-Punk.

For more informations about available recordings on CD-R and news about the recent projects of Edward and Karene Stapleton, visit their websites and .

All pictures in this article taken from (A.P.)