Formed in 1978, Nervous Gender was a pioneering queer synth-punk band from Los Angeles. They’re easily identifiable by their aggressive punk sound played on all synths, as well as transgressive sexual subject matter and visual style–the latter which presaged the goth scene. While many post-punk and new wave bands adopted synths soon after, almost none continued in the punk vein that Nervous Gender and the Screamers had originally explored.
The band went through a number of permutations before breaking up after the death of founding member Gerardo Velazquez in 1992. In 2007 the band reformed with old and new members, and I caught up with them in December 2014 after their first-ever show in New York City. We talked about the evolution of the band over the years, as well as former members like Phranc; their relation to the LA “art-damaged” scene as well as to No Wave, industrial, and goth/death rock; the question of fascism, homophobia, and what it meant to be queer in the ’70s LA punk scene; and their mention on the 700 Club.
They have recently remixed their 1981 studio album, and released three live recordings, documenting different periods of the band, including a 1979 show with Phranc and a 1986 show with Wall of Voodoo members. These can be purchased via their website http://nervousgender.com.
Live at Target (Subterranean Records, 1980), compilation with Factrix, uns, and Flipper
Music from Hell (Subterranean Records, 1981)
Live at the Hong Kong Cafe 1979 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Live at the Whiskey A Go-Go 1980 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Live at the Roxy 1986 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Music From Hell, 2009 Remixed / Remastered (Nervous Gender Archives, 2009)
“Gestalt” / “Green Tile Floors” (Test Tube Records, 2011), 7″
This is an edited version of a December 7, 2014 interview at the Box Hotel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Band photos are from Evil Tracey. Please contact her for reprint permission: eviltracey at yahoo dot com.
SPENCER SUNSHINE: So I’m in Brooklyn with Nervous Gender. What’s the name of everyone in the band today and what’s everyone’s history with the band?
EDWARD STAPLETON: Me and Michael Ochoa are the original members. Joe and Tammy were friends from the very beginning, but they weren’t in the band. [Turns to Joe and Michael] How many years ago did you guys start it up again?
JOE ZINNATO: ‘89? I’ve been in the band since ’89, Tammy’s been in the band about…
TAMMY FRASER: I was just the manager and then I became the fill in…
JOE: Like two years ago?
MICHAEL OCHOA: I had a stroke four years ago.
TAMMY: Was it four?
JOE: So she was in the band for four years
MICHAEL: So I wasn’t able to play, and they had a show, so they got Tammy sucked in.
JOE: Yeah and Tammy actually knows how to play keyboards…
MICHAEL: …which we don’t…
JOE: …and read music, so it was kinda no-brainer. We had a show lined up, so she became our pinch hitter.
SPENCER: So the band has an odd history. The original form was between ‘79 to ‘89, and then Gerardo—this is what I read online—had a trio from ‘90 to ‘92.
TAMMY: It was Joe, Michael and Gerardo.
JOE: The original lineup was from like ‘78 to ‘79. These two, and Phranc…
MICHAEL: …the lesbian folk-singer…
JOE: …and Gerardo. And Phranc left, and there was also a drummer, Don Bolles. That was the original lineup, which lasted about a year. And then after that, people rotated in and out. It was never—except for the first year—it was never a consistent lineup.
SPENCER: So that was one of my questions, there was so many members of the band, like Paul Roesseler, most of Wall of Voodoo, and an eight-and-a-half year-old boy named Sven, sometimes I wonder about bands—was it more like an arts collective then if people are just rotating in and out, or did it have the consistency?