"We are San Francisco's own all-dyke, all-out, in-your-face, blade-brandishing, gang castrating, dildo swingin', bullshit-detecting, aurally pornographic, neanderthal-pervert band of patriarchy-smashing snatchlickers."
Picture this, if you will...A lush green landscape, a deep peaceful woods and a safe secure camp ground. Now add three sound stages, over 35 different bands and over six thousand attendants. FEMALE attendants, that is. Now keep in mind that over half of these happy campers are lesbians all enjoying the serenity, the music and one another's company. This is the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.
Coincidently taking place on the same weekend as Woodstock '94, women of any sexual persuasion are free to be themselves. Since zero dress-code is ever enforced, no one has to worry about some patriarchal laws concerning public decency.
Not only is the MWMF a fabulous concert event, but it is also an informative one. Many workshops that include topics from dealing with harassment to star-gazing are held all weekend. Other activities for the weekend include dancing, crafts, sports, campfire poetry readings, theatre and even parades (one of which consists of only redheads). Sounds peaceful, doesn't it? Now add one more ingredient--TRIBE 8. Tribe 8, fronted by lead vocalist Lynn Breedlove, are by far the most ferocious performers to take the stage at MWMF shattering the silence and calm of the Michigan wilderness. Straight out of San Francisco, Tribe 8 have become a west coast favorite. My own feeble attempts to describe this band could not compare to that of the MWMF's program guide which reads like this:
"Tribe 8? Who ARE you? 'We are San Francisco's own all-dyke, all-out, in-your-face, blade-brandishing, gang castrating, dildo swingin', bullshit-detecting, aurally pornographic, neanderthal-pervert band of patriarchy-smashing snatchlickers.' Feminists in their own right and, according to their own "pro-sex" definition, they are on a musical mission to annihilate repression of any kind, including the kind that comes FROM their own kind. 'Fight for your right to stagedive, mosh, riot, sabotage, and generally fuck shit up to the head-banging beat of Tribe 8...and don't forget your steeltoes, all you naked punk rock hoes."
I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with singer, Lynn Breedlove, about not only censorship in the mainstream music scene, but also censorship in the Gay and Lesbian music scene. Here's what Lynn had to say...
Todd Wiese: I appreciate you letting me ask you these questions here. We're always looking out for unique bands and perspectives and how they feel about the censorship situation going on and what-not. First of all, I wanted to ask you: Why the name "Tribe 8"?
Lynn: It's a play on words. "Tribidism" is what people think lesbians do, which is humping on something to get-off.
TW: OK. Pretty straightforward. I guess it's like a pun then?
LB: Yeah. Well, it's also like a bunch of different suggestions. Y'know, I wanted to combine like futuristic concepts of like--y'know numbers are kind of more futuristic. Like, you'll be reduced to a number in the future. And the tribe thing is kind of prehistoric, but that's what I feel the dyke community is today. So, it has lots of implications for me.
TW: How did you guys get started?
LB: Just fooling around, jumping around, acting crazy. I just got clean about eight months earlier, so I had a lot of extra energy. Me and some friends got together and played at a party. We didn't really know what we were doing. We had never been in bands before. We never played instruments before. Except for our drummer, we were basically wingin' it. I think people are pretty starved for "punk rock dyke" music where you're just totally "out" and your whole -resondetra- is to yell about being a dyke. I don't think there was much of that up 'til then.
TW: I guess that leads into my next question: Who's idea was it to make your sexual orientation the "theme" of the band? To make it a totally "out" band?
LB: Well, ever since I came out, I haven't tried to make a big deal about hiding it. In fact, when I came out in high school in the '70's, I decided that I could weed-out the assholes by coming out. And people who didn't like me suddenly--well good! I didn't want to hang out with them either.
TW: Yeah, you can't really call them your friends if they can't accept you.
LB: Right. So, I could find out who my real friends were by being out. By not being out I didn't know who liked me for who I was and who didn't. So, being out for me has been like a natural thing. For the past 20 years I've lived in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been to like 15 fucking Gay Day Parades. I take my shirt off every time. Y'know, ever since the '70's, I've been running around the Gay Day parades with my shirt off.
LB: Any chance I can, I run around with my shirt off. So, the "out" thing, to me, is the best way to be. I've never grown up in a small town in Idaho or something, where it was really hard to be out. Fortunately there's a lot of acceptance about being queer in the Bay Area. So I didn't have a problem with it.
TW: Is it just a stereotype that San Francisco is like the 'gay capital' of America? Is it really how it's perceived--is that how it actually is?
LB: Oh, definitely. I hear that Houston or someplace in Texas...one of those big cities in Texas is supposed to be pretty good. And New York has a lot of queers. But, I think because San Francisco's small it's easier to form a community.
TW: It's more accepted there, I guess. For all of us male readers of THE ROC who weren't able to attend the Music Festival...I'm sure they're all interested in knowing what a Tribe 8 show is really like. Are you guys like an all-out thrash band or heavy metal band or...
LB: Well, I'll tell ya...We're punk-rock, thrash. We have lots of different influences, but pretty much we're punk-rock, hard-core, rock and roll.
TW: One thing I gotta know is: What's it like to see an all female mosh pit?
LB: It's totally inspiring.
TW: Do people really have steel-toed boots on and all that?
LB: Well, yeah. We're just punk-rockers like everyone else except we got tits.
TW: Cool. Great. Great. What are some of your songs about and what are the titles?
LB: One of our big hits is "Power Boy" which is about hating cops and how fucked up they are. Every punk rock band has to have a cop song. "Frat Pig" is about fraternity boys. One of their favorite rituals being gang-rape. Our recommended solution which is "Gang Castrate." That's like a pretty big all time favorite. Usually during that song I'll do some kind of theatrics like chop off the testicles of big rubber dick or chop off a rubber dick and wave it around and toss it to the crowd. The crowd usually eats it up, likes it a lot, and knows all the words.
TW: That's great.
LB: 'Cause everybody hates frat boys. And most of the women I know have had some experience with rape, so they're ready for a revenge song against rapists.
TW: Do you have a big following in San Francisco?
LB: Yeah, pretty big.
TW: That's cool. I hear at the Music Fest one of the workshops was called, "So you have a problem with Tribe 8."
LB: Yeah, we organized a workshop because we anticipated a lot of politically correct women who deal differently with their feminism than we do. And we know that they would not like us because: We're loud. We're angry.We're punk-rock. We cut off rubber dicks...
TW: So, you guys organized it?
LB: We organized it.
TW: Oh, ok. I thought someone else had a problem and someone else actually organized it as a protest or something.
LB: No. No. No. We anticipated there would be a problem and indeed people did show up with banners protesting Tribe 8 saying that we promote violence against women and children, which of course is preposterous. So, we announced from the stage at the Womyn's Festival when we played our show that we would have a workshop where people who didn't know what we were about or didn't like what they thought we were about to come and talk to us. And we had about 200 women attend and ask questions about, "why are we angry?" Well, we're angry because women have been raped and mutilated and oppressed for the last three thousand years. "Is anger Ok?" "Is violence ok?" Well, I'm only chopping off a rubber dick. I haven't actually castrated anybody yet. But, yes, I say violence is ok if somebody is raping you and you kill them, I say that's good.
TW: Yeah, especially if they deserve it.
LB: I promote violence against rapists not women and children. So, we all were able to come to some kind of understanding that the "peace love" thing was really great for women who need that and use that. And for us, anger and jumping up around and screaming and yelling and wielding knives and rubber dicks is what helps us feel better. But, we're all basically on the same track and that's the feminist track. So, we had a couple of workshops where women were able to talk to each other about different generations and how different generations do their feminist trip. Pretty fulfilling.
TW: So, has that subdued the protesters with the banners and all that or do they still come and protest the show?
LB: They did come and protest the show. And that was the same show at which we told them where the workshop would be. Most of them did not come to the workshop. Only like two women came to the workshop and admitted that they had carried banners. But with those women we were able to talk and come to some kind of understanding. The people in the band are all incest survivors like the women who were protesting us and who didn't understand what we were about. We're incest survivors. We're rape survivors. We're all kinds of trauma survivors. We're not promoting rape or incest. We're not trying to trigger people who've had ritual abuse. That's what a lot of the women were worried about. They said, "Oh, cutting off rubber dicks makes us have flashbacks and we're ritual abuse survivors." So, that's what a lot of the hoo-hah was about. And we're just trying to explain that. We're not trying to upset people. A lot of women feel empowered by this ritual of cutting off the rubber dick. That makes them feel better. If something upsets you, don't look. And the women that are into it and think it's cool and makes them feel better about stuff, they should go.
TW: Yeah, a lot of people who don't understand a lot of heavy music, they can't comprehend why they would be expressing their anger in certain ways, they automatically think that they're advocating the lyrics that they have and the acts they do on stage. If you take the time to listen to a lot of music out there you'll find out where the band's really coming from. I guess that's what this workshop has helped these people realize.
TW: Well, that's great. I was reading the little bi-line in the MWMF program guide, which was definitely the most fiercest promo of any band in there. But, I saw something about: you are on a musical mission to fight repression from any type of sources, even your own kind. What exactly do you mean by repression from your "own kind"?
LB: Well, the kind of censorship or attempted censorship that was going on at the festival were people stood at the entrance of the gate to the audience area with these signs saying, "You don't want to see this show. You're gonna get upset. It's really gonna upset you. Go away. Stop. Go back if you're an incest survivor"...all this crap. And to me that's like not letting people think for themselves. That's censorship. And that's repression. Censorship is repression.
TW: Has there been any other type of censorship incidents from other venues besides the Music Festival?
LS: Yeah, actually in Hamburg we did a song. We were touring with MDC and we weren't actually supposed to play this gig, but MDC swooped us up there and let us grab their instruments and just play the song totally transitioning without anybody realizing that we weren't supposed to be playing. So we played about four songs before they made us get off the stage. It was pretty great!
TW: So, the venue itself booted you off?
LB: Yeah, in Hamburg. I forget what it was called. The Factory or something. Anyway, we played this song where Dave MDC, the singer from MDC, his girlfriend, who is this professional dominatrix, got up on stage in her little mini-skirt get-up and like whipped us. Y'know, like a joke: And the song is "Pro-SM." The song is about being a submissive and their fascination with the dominatrix. And some women after the show got all upset and said, "You're promoting violence against women and you're telling men to go home and beat their wives." I"m like, "No, this is about consensual role-playing games. If you don't like my art, don't watch. It's about my life and my experience. If you are going to tell me what kind of art to do, it's not art anymore, it's a commercial product." So, immediately she went out and formed a boycott. So when we tried to get a gig at that place or in Hamburg the next year, we couldn't get one because German separatists and feminists and PC types were boycotting us. So that was good publicity. I'm all for boycotts and I'm for people waving signs and shit. I think it's great.
TW: Helps your career! How about any incidents here in the U.S.?
LB: Other than Michigan. Michigan was our second encounter with a loud feminist anti-Tribe 8 voice. The only really conservative or orthodox feminists that I'd ever experienced running up against was in Germany. So, most everywhere in America I think people are pretty mellow and laid back.
TW: So you haven't had any trouble with any fundamentalist groups or anything like that?
LB: No way.
TW: That's good. Are there any type of anti-gay legislation going on in California or San Francisco right now? 'Cause I know there's one that just got defeated here in Cincinnati, Issue 3, which was going to make it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians at the work place and where they live and even in public restaurants they could be booted out. It's something similar to the Colorado thing. So, I was happy that was thrown out of court. They put it on the ballot. In fact they got a lot of funding from the family values organization in Colorado. And when they put it on the ballot, the voters actually passed it. And then Equality Cincinnati took it to court and got it thrown out of court. Of course, they're going to appeal it again. So, it's going round and round. I was wondering if there is anything similar going on in San Francisco or California?
LB: Actually in San Francisco I think they finally passed the "Domestic Partners" bill, which I think is about people who are employed by the state and city governments who are living together can get benefits for their partner like medical and the kind of benefits most people get for their spouse. And the thing that passed it and kinda pushed it through I think was a lot of older people, like senior citizens, who don't get married for one reason or another. They had a big part in voting it in. But, we've been trying to pass it for years and finally got it. I think it's a big step for queers. It's kind of an example to maybe--similar legislation might start to spread through other parts of peoples' lives besides just people that work for the government.
TW: Well, I think they should just let gays get married. Y'know, make it legal for homosexual marriages. I mean, that would solve all the controversy, in my opinion.
LB: Oh, I think they should decriminalize drugs too! I just really don't have a lot of hope of that happening anytime soon.
TW: That would be a long time no matter how logical it would be.
LB: America is totally fucking too puritanical to ever let queers get anywhere as far as getting married. Americans came from England predominately. People who formed the government came from England. The first settlers were total Puritans and we still have that same mind set today.
TW: Right, pretty backwards. How do you feel about the censorship in the music industry today with the record labeling and all that? Do you have any labels on your records?
LB: Yeah, on our six song EP we put "rated-X" on it ourselves in hopes that it would entice young people to buy it. Any attempt to make things inaccessible to children only encourages them. Y'know, drugs, alcohol, sex industry...it just makes it look juicier. It makes kids do it.
TW: Kinda like if you tell someone they can't do something, they're automatically going to go out and do it.
LB: Cigarettes, you name it. So, yeah! I want kids to buy our fucking records. So, I hope they do fucking censor it. I'm always encouraging younger people to suddenly subvert, y'know. "Don't pay. Sneak in the back. Sneak in some beers. Y'know, whatever. Fuck the system!
TW: Are there a lot of gay and lesbian bands? Cause, I mean, you're one of the few that I've actually heard of except for others listed in the Music Festival program. Are there a lot in San Francisco? None that I know of around here, of course.
LB: Yeah, let's see...There is this new band that's up and coming--younger dykes called Miss Fister (sp?). They just got together in the last year. There's lots of dyke bands sprouting up in San Francisco who are totally "out" dykes. I don't know if that's since Tribe 8's existence--if we inspired people to do that. I mean there's always been dyke bands and fag bands, but people haven't necessarily been out about it, because it hasn't necessarily sold. But, being queer is suddenly popular and big labels think it sells. In fact, I heard somewhere that 4 Non Blondes were told first, when they first signed with that big label that they're with, that they didn't want 4 Non-Blondes to come out as dykes.
TW: Oh, I didn't even know they were!
LB: They're dykes, yeah.
TW: Oh, wow!
LB: And then suddenly they started to realize that it was cool to be dykes and after they got some hit songs on the radio, they said, "Ok, NOW you can come out."
TW: "Yeah, NOW you can be yourselves."
LB: Now Linda Perry is all over the place saying she's a dyke. Whereas before she kept it very quiet. And everyone in San Francisco knows she's a dyke. We all know her ex-lovers. We've all been "pal"ing around with her for years. But, we all thought it was kinda strange that she never mentioned for the first year after they signed that they were dykes. So, anyway it's a matter of who's out and who's in and who makes it their total function in their lyrics and everything to be out.
TW: Do you have any advice for any other aspiring gay and lesbian bands?
LB: Yeah! Get in their face! Be OUT OUT OUT! Be who you are. I mean, heterosexuals have been telling us for fucking how many years who they're fucking, how they're fucking, how they're doing, who they're in love with? Use pronouns. Use "he" and "she". Make sure that people know that if you're a chick, you're singing about a chick. If you're a dude, you're singing about a dude. I think the more the mainstream, straights and gays alike, hear queer music, the more they're going to start to accept that we exist and that we're o.k. and that we are not the enemy and we're not evil and we're not monsters. We're just people.
TW: Just like everybody else.
LB: Well, we're not just like everybody else, but we're fucking people. (laughs)
TW: You got any tour plans coming up or album releases. What record label are you on?
LB: Well, we've been on Out-Punk, which is a very small independent label, which is owned by one of my favorite fags, Matt Wobensmith. And he just put out a compilation of all queer bands called "OutPunk Dance Party" that we're on. And we've done quite a few records with him. And now we are getting ready to record for Alternative Tentacles our first full-length.
TW: Oh, wonderful! Jello Biafra's label.
LB: Right. So, hopefully we will be getting even better distribution on his label.
TW: That's great news! Do you have any tour plans coming up? Do you play mostly around San Francisco?
LB: We just got done touring the U.S. this summer. We're gonna be pretty much concentrating on recording in October. If we do any tours it might be like a little Southwest one week (tour).
TW: Not coming to Cincinnati anytime soon, I guess?
LB: Well, probably not until next year. We usually only tour a couple of months out of the year.
TW: "Cause we set up at a lot of shows, and if you ever came down here, I'd be honored to set up at one of yours. We set up these information booths and we hand out our newspaper. We spend a lot of time getting signatures on our petition to get the warning labels off the records. Mainly because so many people now, mainly kids, that can't even go into Musicland or K Mart and buy their favorite record, because they either have to be 18 to purchase it with an ID. Or y'know at K-Mart and WalMart and places like that, they're not even available.
LB: The patriarchy and people in government and straight white men that run the show they totally know where it's at. They know they gotta keep the all ages shows venues totally closed down. They're running around all the time trying to close down the all ages shows. Y'know, in some states it's totally intense. It's totally harsh. You have to have a group of people that's totally committed that's willing to put the energy to find a space and then it gets closed down and then you gotta find another space and keep running around to stay one step ahead of them. They know that if kids are out there listening to fucking alternative music, that those kids are the future and the future is the fucking revolution. It's the same old shit about rock & roll that they've been bitching about since Elvis. It's the revolution that they're afraid of.
TW: That's one thing Jello said. This whole censorship trying to protect our children is just one big smokescreen to shut off our access to information itself. With all these laws that certain bands from overseas can't even get visas depending on what type of music they play. So they can't even come here and play it. They just know that the kids know what's going on. They just don't want them to find out about it.
LB: The thing about censorship is: well, yeah, they want to start by saying, protect our children," but once you start, you never stop. That's a precedent to continue censoring people until it's in everybody's fucking back yard. And then by that time it's too late. Nobody can open their mouths anymore. I'm totally scared of that shit.
TW: It seems like the more they give freedom to the developing countries overseas--Berlin wall comes down, all those communist countries are dismantled and people are dancing in the streets--the more they take away freedom from us over here. Kinda like a role reversal on a global level.
LB: Now that the Cold War is over, they gotta have someone under their thumb.
TW: Was there any closing comments you wanted to say to our readers? Any extra advice or closing statements or anything?
LB: Do the revolution on an underground, grassroots anarchist level. Everybody keep doing 'zines. Keep doing "indie" labels and "indie" music. Do stuff yourself! I think that's really the key to the revolution. If we let the system, like big labels or media whoever these people are with money and power, if we accept their help and stuff, we're just gonna let them dilute what we're saying. So, eventually it's gonna totally water down everything that the revolution is about. And we're gonna take two steps forward and one step back all the time. I think it's really important that we continue to network the way we've been doing and passing information around without their help.
TW: Yeah, 'cause we're not gonna get it.
I'd like to thank Lynn Breedlove for this most informative and entertaining interview. I wish her and Tribe 8 all the luck in the world. And when Tribe 8 hits Cincinnati, you know I'll be there.
2377 San Jose St.
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