JD Samson & Saving the Noise
The girl from MEN is here to show you a good time.
By Tyler Pratt, 9:05PM, Fri. Aug. 31, 2012
JD Samson, of groups Le Tigre and MEN, is in town September 1st for SAVE THE NOISE! at Cheer Up Charlies. JD recently talked to the Gay Place about community, art and activism.
Gay Place: How long are you going to be in Austin?
JD Samson: Really not very long, probably just the time that I DJ because I go straight to the airport after and then back to New York. It’s a really, really quick [trip] unfortunately because I have friends [in Austin] that I would love to spend time with.
GP: You’ve been here quite a few times. Is there anything that you like to do if you have the time?
JD: I really love to eat Mexican food because it’s delicious and I love to hang out with the people that I know there. Last time I was there, we took out canoes and canoed along the river, which was really cool. I love it in Austin; it’s a beautiful city!
GP: Tell us a little about the show that’s happening at Cheer Up Charlies on Sept 1st. What can your fans and newcomers anticipate?
JD: I think for this particular situation, I feel like it’s all about trying to enjoy ourselves and have a good time. That’s generally what I do as a DJ, make sure that everyone is happy. So pretty much, I’m just going to have to read the crowd and see what people are in to and make it a really special night for everyone.
GP: Have you come up against [sound ordinance issues similar to those faced by Cheer Up Charlies] in your experience as an artist?
JD: You know, often times, clubs can kind of come and go, and it’s always sad to see for whatever the reason. I used to go to this club called DUMBA in New York, which was kind of this queerish, blend, collective space and it got bought out by some people who basically renovated it and turned it in to expensive apartments and stores. And you know, I guess this is something that happens a lot in New York; this cycle of cool places becoming apartments for rich people and I guess that’s something as an artist I’ve consistently had to deal with for the past 15 years. But I don’t take it too personally, I guess. I think it’s part of a natural part of development. It always sucks, though, when it’s a place that has a lot emotion built inside of it and a lot of history. It’s nice to be able to try and keep it alive.
GP: What’s your experience been working within venues that are safe spaces and queer venues?
JD: It’s always great to come across one that is really mixed and open where people can be positive, and all I’ve heard about Cheer up Charlies is that its’ a really great place for people to go and a great venue. It seems like something that’s right up my alley. I mean, obviously, it’s nice as a queer performer to go to a space that’s warm not just to us as queers, but to our allies. I really appreciate any space that can have any communities coexist and have a great time.
GP: What are some of the perks to performing in a bar over a large music venue?
JD: There are benefits to both to be honest. It’s always nice to play in a club with really great sound. When you walk into a club that has a state of the art, modern, million dollar system there’s something that feels really awesome about that, but at the same time sometimes it can feel really cold and distant and you don’t feel really close to the people that are there. So it’s really nice to be in a smaller place sometimes, but it really depends on who’s promoting, on who shows up and who’s ready to have a good time.
GP: I thought your HuffPo article was really fantastic. You discuss issues that a lot of people are struggling with right now- being an artist, being queer, and not having a lot of money. While individually we have to work to overcome these issues, what do you think as a community can be done to overcome these obstacles?
JD: I think one of the things that’s always been important to me is, obviously, visibility, and I think part of what was important about that article is that being able to discuss that stuff and put it out in the open. The main thing I wanted to get across is that some people might think I’m rich and famous and just because people might know who I am doesn’t mean I’m always getting a paycheck. I think that is part of what was important to me, to throw out that idea and that concept of judging someone’s class before you know [them] for sure. But, I also think it’s important to support each other as artists financially. Whether that is giving five dollars to someone’s Kickstarter or giving a thousand dollars to an arts organization, I think that’s all something that is important and I think the more of a collective feeling we have about out arts and arts programs the better we will move forward as a community.
GP: You’ve been really involved about the Pussy Riot protests in New York. What has that experience has been like?
JD: It’s been really powerful. When I was in Europe this summer, I recognized how the media there was so much more involved in the case than the media in the United States. When I returned [to the US] I felt like I had to do something about it. I wanted [the case] to have a lot of visibility and wanted people to grasp onto it. For me, it was easy to do, because I consider myself a feminist punk activist and I think Pussy Riot describing themselves as such was this incredible thing for me, because nobody ever calls themselves feminist punk activists if they’re artists. I felt really close to that. I guess part of the reason why I continued to keep going on and helping the organization was that they would do the same for me. This is about starting a revolution and kind of speaking our truths, so I feel like that was important to me
GP: What’s next for you in your involvement with the protests now that they have been sentenced?
JD: Right now, I think part of what’s interesting to me is trying to broaden their case a little bit. Pussy Riot is a symbol for a lot of terrible things that are going on within the Russian Government, and all over the world to be honest; people are political prisoners who are being treated poorly in jail. I think we have an opportunity here with the whole world watching to broaden this and kind of use the visibility for a lot of other issues. The next thing specific to the PR case is to get an appeal and have the government to listen. I think people want to do things and the most important thing you can do is to write to your representative or the President or whoever it may be who has a lot of political pull in the government to try and get on our side. The more people we have embarrassing the Russian government, the more people that can possibly get the appeal.
GP: Do you see the Pussy Riot case influencing your work in the future?
JD: I’m always going to make political art, whether that is completely literal in my lyrics or in the way I perform and exist as a human; so we’ll see. But I’m inspired by these women, because they are so strong and they are keeping to their politics and intentions and they are intellectual and academic and really brave; that is all inspiring to me. But it terms of the kind of art I make, I feel like we are sisters because we have been making the same kind of art, so I will continue to do so.
GP: What’s it like to be queer artist in the music industry right now?
JD: I feel like it’s always been the same for me. It’s not different than being a queer person in the rest of the world. I think sometimes we are taken seriously and other times [treated as] as novelty. But we have a great community and a great audience and sometimes people don’t take us for granted. I don’t know, I feel like I’m one of those people who don’t really pass as anything other than queer. I’ve never been considered just an artist, like, I’m always a queer artist, I don’t have the opportunity to not be a queer artist. So I’m going to use that visibility to help our community and help other people.
GP: What’s next for you?
JD: MEN is finishing a new record soon. We’re not sure how we’re going to put it out, but we are; that’ll probably be in the winter at some point. And, [I’ll be] working more on Pussy Riot stuff and DJing all over the world and, ya know, seeing what else comes my way. I also have a weekly party in New York now, on Sunday afternoons, which is really super fun.
GP: Do you think we’ll see a move to Austin in your future at any time?
JD: I don’t know, we think about it all the time, us New Yorkers, moving to Austin, because it is such wonderful place.
GP: While you’re still in New York, can we expect to see you on a future season of [the HBO series] Girls?
JD: (Laughs) I don’t know, it’s funny you mention that. I just walked past the Girls set today. I don’t know. Who knows?