TEAR DOWN THE WALLS


Psychotica go beyond gender-bending to break new musical barriers
by Kelly Barbieri

The first time I saw Psychotica, it was during the opening of a new night at the NYC club Coney Island High. The end was called Corruption, and a more befitting name could not be found. It seems that a strange thing has happened in New York City, as of late. Boys are looking like girls, and vice-verce and, unlike the '80's, ones actual preference is not an issue-straight, gay or inbetween, all are welcome to join in this thing called rock and roll and musicians are being judged solely by their talent, not their genitals.

This became all the more clear when recently Miss Guy and the Toilet Boys, a band made up completely of drag queens, opened up for Rancid during one of their New York dates at the Roseland Ballroom. Another barrier had been broken down, and where a band like Miss Guys's only a short time ago would have been dismissed as a novelty act, they are now being taken seriously not only by the fans, but by their peers.

And out of this, or more likely, because of it, comes Psychotica. The band was spawned in a club masterminded by front-man Pat Briggs along with (designer) Michael Schmidt, which was christened Squeezebox.

"The shit that goes on in that club, to this day, is just beyond me," Briggs giggles. "Everybody I know had changed sexual orientation in every direction, and all directions at once."

But the club was more than just a place where one could spy nasty nocturnal hijinks. It was a place for those people that "the scene" had no room for; gays, women and just about anyone who didn't fit into the MTV cock-rock set, and two, was bored to death by grunge...

"I don't think that anyone is actually turning on grunge...but I think that they are trying things that are different. Really, I can't explain why they are so receptive to us. It's not like flashy entertainment is anything new, or we're musical geniuses or something. I think that we are giving them something that has been absent for a long time. Kids want to go see a big, incredible fiasco! They want to go someplace that, for an hour and a half, they can just go into fantasy-land. Grunge is about reality, I think that we have enough of that already. We have to deal with that shit every day. From a performance standpoint, I feel the same way. For me, it's an hour and a half o going into some other realm.

So let's drift, ladies and gentlemen, into a realm of fantasy for a moment. Let go all the hang-ups and give yourself over to the fabulousness that is Psychotica...

I heard that your planning to do something specially outrageous for your show in Florida...

Pat Briggs: Well, we decided that: A) Because minors are involved, and B) because it's during daytime, the show should take a more artistic approach. There are rumors that things are being done solely for shock value, which is totally ridiculous. With us, always, what you see has to do with the contents of the song. What we do on stage is basically the oldest form of theater.

But these days, that is shocking...

Briggs: I guess it is. It's just so weird because we keep getting bombarded with this "shocking" clichés, and I just don't get it.

How are the Metallica fans treating you?

Briggs: The Metallica fans have welcomed us with open arms. I'm totally shocked.

Were you scared going on stage and not knowing what the crowd's reaction was going to be?

Briggs: Fuck yeah! Are you kidding me?? But I'm really bold, you know. I'll do it anyhow, even if I think that I'm going to get massacred. I thought that because it's Lollapalooza, there will be a certain percentage of kids that will get it, but being that Metallica was headlining there was the risk... but, I was 100% wrong! Even the staunch Metallica fans have been buying our record at the gig, It's sold out everyday. It's just one of those things; you can never second guess the audience.

Are people getting your message?

Briggs: I don't know. I choose not to be all that cerebral about it. I mean, I'm not all that cerebral anyhow... The reasons that we're up there doing what we're doing are strictly for entertainment purposes. There aren't any major underlining schemes.

So, you're not trying to overthrow the government, or anything?

Briggs: No, nothing like that. It's like, these people pay forty dollars a ticket to come and see the show, I think that if they see anyone making an effort to entertain them, they appreciate it. Metallica may not be a band that sticks by us for the next twenty years, but they have been very gracious. We've not had one negative thing happen while we've been on stage.

How about the other bands?

Briggs: Yeah, they have been awesome.

How different is it from your first appearance with Lollapalooza last year?

Briggs: That was totally different. It was on the small stage, that was fun, but this is unbelievable. You know what? Sometimes I feel like I'm dreaming!

Well, no kidding! You got signed without ever playing a gig, right?

Briggs: Yeah. The A&R person was walking by Squeezebox while we were practicing for our first show, and came in saying that he wanted to sign us. Now, I've been in the music business for thirteen years, so I was like, "Yeah right!" I had my club, things were going really well for me... I would have been perfectly fine if none of that had happened, which is probably why I did it. I was just totally not trying. Everybody was just doing it to have a good time and make some music for our friends.

Would you say that your stage persona and actual personality are close?

Briggs: Yeah. What I do during the show is a lot of different facets of my personality come to life. It's also people who I wish I were. I'm such a psycho, split-personality person anyhow. One minute I can be all quiet and withdrawn, the next I can be a loud mouth who is bouncing off the walls. On stage, I can be all of those things.

Does the fact that you're playing during the day hinder the show?

Briggs: No, not at all. It just helps people to see me better. As much as I love playing in the dark clubs, you do loose a lot. It's a completely different art form. There's a lot more illusion in a dark club. I've been performing since I was eight years old so I can venture into all the realms at once that come my way. I probably won't get too many opportunities to do this in the daytime anyway, even if the band becomes huge. It's been a challenge and a good one.

I've read things that herald the band as the future of rock and roll. What are your thoughts on that?

Briggs: I don't know about that. It's like I said, my ambition is not to change that face of music, although we'd like to see that happen. I think that it's more like we want to be the people to light the fire under somebody who is incredibly brilliant. Someone who would be able to pick up what we start and go with it. I don't really think that I'm the one. I want to be the catalyst. I want someone to thin, "Hmmmm... that seems like a lot of fun, let's venture there." 'Cause it is fun! I never felt so rewarded musically as I do with this band.

What of your prior bands?

Briggs: Psychotica is the first place where I've actually been able to really be myself and first time that I had a band who is confident enough in themselves to take the chances with me. In the '80s, it was totally oppressive. The bands were just not willing to go there. The people that are with me now are just incredible, as people and as musicians. We are going really far as a unit, whereas before, I was always living under the fear that any moment the jig would be up.

That must've sucked! But you're much happier now in Psychotica.

Briggs: Totally! We get along. It's really amazing that we do! I mean, we're so Spinal Tap in every other way, you would almost expect the band to be fighting with each other, but it's the only thing we don't do. We have this incredible way or torturing each other though...if somebody is being an asshole, the rest of the members will... It's never an actual fight, it's very subliminal torture from all the other members. For hours! Then you really wish you'd never been an asshole! But it works really, really well. There are never any loud voices.

Has your instant popularity brought you together?

Briggs: Well, yeah, we think that if we don't stick together, we really will be fucked!

Is New York City the next Seattle?

Briggs:Absolutely. Which is unfortunate because I know that once it does explode, it's going to loose a lot. It always happens that way. I have not seen anything creatively and musically like what's going on there right now. When we started Squeezebox, it was to create a space for our kind of people to go. What ended up happening is that it created a bridge for all of these hybrid communities. The rocker scene, punk, gay; they all came together and started working together.

How did you feel when you saw that happening?

Briggs: I thought it was the most fun I ever had in my life! I've watched people go from being fledgling vocalist to completely dominating. It's like watching the next phase of rock and roll - very exciting.

You seem to be trying to create a kind of asexual persona onstage. Is there any deeper message behind this?

Briggs: I do and I don't. There are certain facets of my life that I like to talk about, because it could serve as a kind of preventive medicine to others. Then there are some things that I prefer not to share. I don't want to glamorize any of the things that I've done. My gender is not an issue. I don't think that gender should be an issue in rock a all. There are drag queens that are incredible performers, and I think that they are starting to be recognized for that now, instead of being novelty acts. That's why it's so incredible that I'm playing Lollapalooza. I've gone from selling myself on the street to get something to eat, to performing in front of all these people. There are times when I'm on stage and it's just really too much, I almost start crying. I mean, I'm here to say that there are a lot of really rotten choices you can make. But I'm here to say that if you have made those choices, it is possible for you to break out of it. I am living proof that you can live through it.








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