Gen, The Genitorturers
Tampa, Florida: the ancient, burnt-out churches and cigar buildings stretch out against the sky like headstones, their windows boarded up and covered with fluorescent graffiti. Homeless teenagers wander the streets of downtown Tampa and neighboring Ybor City, sporting bad punk rock haircuts and limping around on leather-wrapped crutches, clutching hand-made volumes of poetry to their chests—by the time they're 30, most of them will only have one to two teeth left, while the impromptu corner poetry readings will have given way to crazed rants about Satan to the morning crowds pouring through the business districts on foot. Tampa, Florida, where every Saturday night, a large parade float blasting disco music moves down the dirty streets covered in bright lights and streamers, carrying the most beautiful cross-dressers this side of Jerry Springer, decked out in silver evening gowns and go-go boots. Tampa, Florida, is where I met and married my first husband, pre-nervous breakdown (his, not mine, I think)—it's also home to the wildly-depraved S&M stage show/musical group, the Genitorturers.
Since dropping out of medical school in '93, frontwoman Gen and her musical minions (guitarist Chains, bassist Evil D and Racci on drums) have released three albums and toured and tortured audiences worldwide. Their newest album, Machine Love, features remixes of past Genitorturers' songs by Skinny Puppy alumnus David Ogilvie and KMFDM. I spoke to Gen from her home in Tampa, where she was getting ready to leave for the Machine Love tour.
[Holly Day] What do you think it is about Florida that brings out the extremes in people?
[Gen] Well, a lot of things. One is because it has a very transient population, in terms of there's a lot of people that here that are from other places, and then there are a lot of elderly people—I always call it Old People California—so the younger people who live here tend to feel a little bit more shut down in terms of their ideas and creativity, especially in a place like Orlando, where I started the band. Disney literally owns the city of Orlando. It was such a culture shock for me to move from a place like New Mexico, where there're artists everywhere, to Orlando, where the only culture is plastic Mickey Mouses, I kind of felt the need to do something to kind of shake people up a bit.
[Holly] How did the Machine Love album come about?
[Gen] It started of as a proposal from Cleopatra for us to do a remix album, because they had different artists wanted to do remixes of our songs. My thoughts on it, really, were that if we were going to put out a CD, we had to give our listeners something new as well as remixes of old songs. I don't know about you, but some remix albums you get them, and there are three remixes of the same song, and I'm kind of bored with that. So what I wanted to do was to pick remixes of the songs that I thought were the best and then put in some new songs, which all fit into this machine love concept, kind of like these electronic love songs.
[Holly] What are you holding on the cover of Machine Love?
[Gen] It's a machine that a group of local artists (Experimental Skeleton) in Tampa built for me. We call it the RoboCock. But it comes to life, I guess you could say—it's mechanized, and it lights up, and it's pretty cool.
[Holly] You're obviously a strong woman in touch with your sexuality. Do you actively consider yourself a feminist?
[Gen] In a way, yes, because obviously I believe femininity is strength, and I present that on stage. I also delve into the element of role reversal, and playing with sexuality. For one thing, I sometimes come out on stage with huge metal boobs with tubes coming out of the "nipples" and play the role of a seductress and a life giver. But then I "change" my sex later by putting on this big machine cock, and then work that into these roles of authority and power. I like to do a lot with metaphor and imagery in our shows that also reflect on society, and I think that a woman up on stage welding this huge, mechanized penis is somewhat threatening to a lot of members of the crowd, and I think it causes them to think about why, why they'd be threatened by a gigantic, spinning penis—especially a lot of the men. The term "feminist," I think, has developed this odd connotation, especially right now, but in terms of fighting for what I believe in, I think I'm definitely a sexual freedom fighter.
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