new song: “The Sprawl”

Recording

Lyrics

Tough times, weak minds
I’m running through this city and I know it’s my time
Analog waves (carry the) information exchange
Visions that rush me at breakneck pace
Gotta fly below radar, run beneath the camera eye
Gonna tell the truth and run

Someone sits down to say grace
Someone fronts it to save face

Instrumentation

Except the vocals, this is all synthesizer, particularly employing the Kaossilator Pro+ (with and without an electric guitar’s distortion pedal). I also used one of Garageband’s arpeggiators (“Bass Wave Cycles”), and two of Garageband’s AI drummers (“Jasper” and “Max”). Garageband’s “Natural Vocal” and “Fuzz Vocal” filtered my voice.

Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale @ the Che Café – 24 January 2019

My performance with special guest Queen Mab playing the Kaossilator Pro. I’m using a seven-string guitar and trying new embellishments in the guitar parts, especially in the song “Voice in the Distance”:

embracing burlesque (part 1)

I’m fascinated by burlesque, particularly because it welcomes women of all sizes and all biological sexes. (It of course welcomes men too!). I’ll discuss burlesque in more detail in forthcoming posts.

To start, I’ll mention that I plan to develop a burlesque show. Between now and that time, I’m working to inject burlesque ideas into my one-woman punk show. So I created the stage persona “Miss Napalm Fatale”, and then renamed “Axis Evil” to “Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale”.

Below are two visual concepts I’m playing with as I develop this altered ego. The first satirizes the fact that I have a penis (and the fact that I’m more than okay with it):

The second portrays my distress (literally) at the state of American government:

how to be a rock star

Lesson One

Stop caring about what other people think of you.

Lesson Two

While nervousness proves a real, honest challenge, never let it show!

Lesson Three

Make it look easy.

Lesson Four

Be prepared! Strings break, equipment fails, batteries die, and sound systems and room acoustics often suck. Be prepared!

Lesson Five

The show must go on!  No matter how depressed or anxious you are, perform your absolute best!

See Also

this is transgender music

axis evil

Grrl on Grrl Podcast interviewed me!

Today my interview with Grrl on Grrl Podcast came out!  We discuss, among other things,

  • The science of gender identity
  • The music of Axis Evil
  • “Ladylike” behavior as a source of personal empowerment
  • Cultural appropriation
  • Psychosexuality
  • Model minorities

Big thanks to June Owatari of Grrl on Grrl Podcast for working so hard to put this together! The music presented during the interviews may be downloaded here.

 

two years and seven love songs (with lyrics)

Axis Evil, the musical arm of this outreach effort, turns two years old this Valentine’s Day. As the project music started out of romantic frustration (with the song “Talk”), I thought I’d post the seven love songs I have written in the last two years. Also, I intend to reference these as a group in later posts.

Recordings

Lyrics

Stunt Double (You Will Always Be My Friend)

A stunt-double in your epic tragedy
Driven by this deep, vacant irony
Walking that thin line
Between faith and absurdity
Between a vision and a thousand exits
But I’ll keep running alongside you
I’ll keep running alongside you
And you will always be my friend

Please read my letters
Please understand

You can drive from your fortress
You can drive from your distance
but just drive
please just drive
because you already drive my heart
and I’ll keep up alongside you
I’ll keep running alongside you
And you will always be my friend

Please read my letters
Please understand
Hold me accountable
Maybe even hold my hand

Please hold me accountable
and maybe even hold my hand

Nice Girl

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
Not infatuated, but I’ve got that feeling
Just enough to keep me in pursuit
Just enough to keep me in pursuit

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
It’s a relief, and a new anxiety
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is

She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I wonder what secrets she keeps
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out what’s in it for me

You Can Drive the World

I’m a gentle discontent
Ready for poise
Ready to please
Ready to gain advantage

I’m bold discontentment
Ready to light something big
And this world is not enough
So let’s make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

I’m gentle release
Disguised as pressure
Disguised as peace
Ready to gain advantage

I’m bold release
With no loss of composure
No loss of grace
And this world is not enough
So let’s make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

With no loss of grace
No loss of composure
You can drive the world

Talk

If I’m loving and kind, then why am I so pissed?
Acceptance would be much more noble
Moving on so much more mature
But instead I’m gonna throw… throw a lyrical fit:

You say I’m brave and nice
Why won’t you talk with me?
You say I’m honest
So why won’t you talk with me?

If I’m loving and kind, then why not make amends?
I tried to reconnect
Tried to reach your point of view
But now I just don’t get it
Now I just don’t get it

You say I’m brave and nice
Why won’t you talk with me?
You say I’m honest
So why won’t you talk with me?

What is the point of love that goes nowhere?
What is the point of love that goes nowhere?

I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…

Waste

I’ve had better days
This one went completely apeshit
In shock about how much was wasted
In shock about how much was lost
I’ve had better days

Trying to turn the page
Turn the mind
Turn my imagination
Trying to turn the page and walk on by
But I can’t turn my heart

This hope seeks recognition
Connection, resolution
And it’s more about the love I want to give
Than that I want to receive

I’ve had better days

It’s when you pray for a better resolution
But don’t care what it is
And you’re appalled at how much was wasted
And desperate for what was lost
I’ve had better days

Trying to turn the tide
Turn the mind
Turn the outcome
Trying to turn this thing around
But I can’t turn my heart

This hope seeks recognition
Connection, resolution
And it’s more about the love I want to give
Than that I want to receive

Unrequited love is such a waste
Unrequited love is such a waste

I’ve had better days

Prayer (Say Nothing Again)

I just want to say nothing again
I just want to say everything again
But you won’t listen anyway
But you won’t get it anyway
So I’ll just say nothing again

I can’t let her go right now
So what the fuck do I do?
Trying to find a way to leave the situation
Trying to think of every way to get her attention

‘Cause I just want her to stop ignoring me
And if she’s not going to talk with me
I need you to explain what’s up
I need you to explain what’s up

I just want to say nothing again
I just want to say everything again
But you won’t listen anyway
But you won’t get it anyway
So I’ll just say nothing again

Maybe it’s slightly obsessive
But its probably real love
And I just want to share it with her
And I just want to spend time with her

So I’ll just give you the finger
And say nothing again
But I really want something new to happen
Really want you to explain it to me
Really want you to explain it to me

I just want to say everything again
I just want to say everything again
But will you listen? I know you get it
But will you listen? I know you get it

So I’ll just give you the finger
And say nothing again

Pearls To Swine

I gave you kindness and respect
You threw it back in my face
I cast you my pearls
You ground them into the floor
Now I just want to stop wasting time on you
Now I just want to stop loving you

But how can I walk away from how I feel?
How can I choose not to care?
How can love go so badly?
How can love go so badly?

This is not who I want to be
Stuck with feelings that go nowhere
Stuck in a tired pattern
Casting my pearls to swine
Now I just want to stop wasting time on you
Now I just want to stop loving you

But how can I walk away from how I feel?
How can I choose not to care?
How can love go so badly?
How can love go so badly?

This is not who I want to be
This is not who I want to be

“distorted and out of tune” – a troll (sort of) gets it

I received the following response from a troll regarding music [4] I released recently:

The music is “distorted” and dissonant—and would sound “out of tune” to many who lack musical sophistication. That is intentional. A compositional choice.

And the dissonance intentionally speaks to the experience of feeling “out of tune” as a transgender person. So our troll is correct in his surface interpretation of the music.

But he fails to see where the problem lies. I assume that his interpretation is that the transgender person is “sick” in some way, compared to some standard of wellness that he and most individuals presumably meet.

But the transgender person is actually fine biologically and psychologically, as I’ve demonstrated in my scientific articles [1, 2, and 3]. So the problem emits from living within an unsupportive and hostile environment. This experience causes sickness in all individuals—a feature of being human, not a trait specific to the transgender population.

I sing these songs today so that transgender folks among future generations need not feel “distorted and out of tune”.

About “Axis Evil”

I perform as “Axis Evil“, the musical arm of my outreach work. Please follow the feed on Facebook and Twitter.

Update 20 November 2017

I further discuss the dissonant and distorted features of my music as it pertains to the transgender experience in my March 2017 post “this is transgender music”, which goes into far more detail than this text does.

References

  1. the science of gender identity (part 1: genetics)
  2. the science of gender identity (part 2: brain anatomy)
  3. the science of gender identity (part 3: psychology)
  4. the music discussed above:

the one song I kept (artistic synthesis)

I’ve released two rock albums since transitioning. Moreover, these are the only albums I’ve ever released. I wrote all the songs for these albums post-transition… except one. Here I talk about that one and why I kept it.

The song is called “Voice in the Distance” and it appears on my debut album “City of God”.

First, it makes more sense to look at the songs I left behind, rather than the one I kept. I wanted a musical reset since the emotional upheaval that accompanied my transition drove the construction of “City of God”. I developed a new sound at that time and wanted to leave my old sound behind, just like I was developing a new (public) identity and leaving my old one behind.

ASIDE: The intersection of my transgender experience and several songs on both my albums “City of God” and “Light Me Up and Love the Bomb” is explored in the post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

So that explains why I did not keep most of my old songs. But what about “Voice in the Distance”? Why did I retain and promote it?

First and foremost, I thought it was the best song I had written pre-transition and worth preserving in an artistic sense. Moreover, it anticipated the sound I was to develop post-transition. So musically it belonged with my newer material.

Second, I did not have any subconscious association between that song and masculinity. My other pre-transition songs were written for all guy bands.

Finally, “Voice in the Distance” is a spiritual song—but not “in your face” about it—that really transcends gender. I relied on every ounce of spirituality I held to survive my transition, and so spirituality belonged on the debut album. Even the debut album’s name “City of God” is spiritual. So in that way “Voice in the Distance” looked forward in time, even though I wrote it about nine years prior to writing “Talk”, my first post-transition song.

Transition requires a life trajectory of constant evolution. This provides a wellspring of artistic material and artistic synthesis.

BTW: “Voice in the Distance” is one of my favorite pieces to perform live. First and foremost, I’m good at performing it, as I’ve played it often and had it for so many years. Also, people like it! More importantly, I enjoy playing it. The tune is complicated enough to satisfy my intellect and simple enough (for my guitar/voice skill) to perform effortlessly.

new album!

Just released a new album today:

The cover photo was taken of graffiti in Kashmir. Three of the songs explore my evolving feminine sexuality. The other two are sitar instrumentals.

Three of the songs on this album are described in my post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

 

this is “transgender” music

I identify my music as “transgender” in that it emits from my experience as a transgender person. Sometimes directly—I occasionally write songs specifically about transgender issues—but usually less directly. Here I deconstruct this musical identity in my work, and provide example songs to illustrate.

My primary goal as a musician is to strengthen the transgender community. The target audience is anyone who will listen. We can strengthen our community in two ways:  Uplifting each other and telling our stories to the world. Both are required and my music does that. I aim to become a significant voice in the transgender community.

Writing Songs Directly About Transgender Issues

We (all musicians) usually write protest songs about specific issues. In my case I’ve written two that directly respond to a situation our community faces:

“Stand”

I wrote this in response to the passage of North Carolina’s HB2 restricting where my compatriots and I can use the bathroom. The song is livid, and you can hear it in the dissonance I employ in the song’s construction. But it is also about resistance; about standing up and demanding recognition and acceptance for whom one is. This has become my “transgender anthem”; I broadcast it (online) every Coming-Out Day and every Day of Empowerment.

“Smelly Cunt”

More specific to transgender women:  While most feminists support us, there is a vocal subset of feminists that really look down on transgender women. They quip that we can never be “real” women because we have never woken up with a “smelly vagina” (for those of us that do not have vaginas).

But their argument is actually more sophisticated and somewhat reasonable:  They argue that anyone raised as a boy is more acculturated to “move among masculine power” than anyone reared as a girl. Given that we live in a patriarchal society, this acculturation is a real advantage they say. It probably is. Moreover, they regard this division as a “caste system” in which boundaries may never be crossed. Less defendable is their assertion that transgender women “just want attention”.

“Smelly Cunt” responds to this. I argue in the song that I experience the same fear of rape, and the same exclusion from equal pay and the “old boy’s network” that all women do. Therefore, I’m a woman because I experience the oppression women face. I also make it clear that the boundaries between sexes and between genders are not biologically and socially rigid; therefore sex/gender is not a “caste”. Finally, I make it clear that I’m not living a feminine life simply to get attention.

Writing Songs that Indirectly Draw From My Transgender Experience

Hormones

The hormones I take dramatically impact my emotions. Feelings like love, anger, and sadness are more intense than I’ve ever experienced before. Writing music is a good, healthy outlet for expressing and processing these enhanced feelings. Furthermore, the hormones destabilized my already tenuous mood, so there is more emotional “dynamic range” in the music I produce now than in the past.

Sexuality

To my complete surprise, my sexuality evolved post-transition. Prior to that, I spent my whole life chasing women. Now I chase both women and men. I don’t know if this is due to taking estrogen or due to cultural forces, but the cause doesn’t really matter to me because I’m having a good time. Anyway, I’ve used music to explore psychosexual aspects of my life post-transition:

“Fuck Me, Kim Jong-Un”:

This is the first song I assume a first person sexualized feminine identity in—I’m not speaking as Emily but as a feminine sexual object. However, there is a role in the song for my male voice and the fact that I have a penis, making this song distinctly transgender in delivery. Basically, I mockingly adopt the Victorian stereotype of a woman who throws herself sexually toward powerful men—the stereotype of not being able to resist such men. In this case I throw myself in the song at Kim Jong-Un, while making fun of him in much sexualized terms. The fact that I’m biologically male increases the insult since I imagine North Korea is rather homophobic (just an assumption). The mix of speaking as biologically male and as a (Victorian-stereotyped) woman in the song is a uniquely transgender way to operate.

“You Can Drive the World”

Here I experiment with stereotypically feminine power in romantic relationships, about gaining advantage over a partner in the bedroom through submission and poise. But more generally it is about my realization that I’m happy with letting a partner be the (kindly) dominant figure in the relationship as long as I hold some power in the bedroom. So in that way it is about accepting a feminine role in the patriarchy. I detest the patriarchy, but part of my transition from man to woman involved experiencing the power of the patriarchy over me for the first time—and that experience validated my success in becoming a woman.

Despite this connection to the loss of male privilege, the particular partner I envisioned when I wrote this song is a woman, a very brave and strong one. She heads her household with poise against significant obstacles, and I’d join that household in a heartbeat. I fell in love with her; this is a love song.

The final aspect of this song that emerges from my transgender experience is that now that I am “out”, I’ve come out in other ways:  I’m not afraid to speak my mind about my sexuality (or most anything for that matter). So I blatantly—and kindly—state in the song that “my agenda is to fuck (her)”.

Romance

Dating has been extremely difficult post-transition. A woman I deeply loved turned me down because I became a woman (I’m not sure if that was the only reason). Several guys who expressed interest in me as a transgender woman ended up being too chickenshit to meet me in public, so I didn’t waste my time worrying about them. I’m proud of who I am and will not accept a partner who won’t introduce me to their mother. But this frustration has been intense, and I wrote seven songs to express it:

Complexity

My harmonies and counterpoint are complicated. I also favor intricate percussion. Some of this is to satisfy my intellect, but mostly it reflects that transgender life is emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually complex. Gender dysphoria of any type is a complicated experience; it is hard to describe and process. So I write music that is harder to process intellectually than standard punk, metal, and hardcore music.

Dissonance and Tension

Gender dysphoria is mental dissonance and extreme tension. So my music is dissonant and tense.

Unstable Harmonies

Reflecting on the fact that mental illness rates are high for the transgender community, as demonstrated by my own instability, I choose harmonies that are unstable. A technical example of this is that I rarely use power chords (first and fifth note of the scale played in the low register of a guitar). Instead I use parallel fourths in the same register (first and fourth note of the scale). This is more “gritty” and less harmonically stable, particularly because the root of the scale is unclear:  Is the root the lower pitch note, or is it the higher pitch note with the 5th in the bass (an inverted power chord)? This uncertainty reflects how I often feel.

My cover of Rush’s “Animate” demonstrates my decision to reduce the harmonic stability from that in original arrangement. The chorus of the original recording does not use low-register parallel fourths. I do:

I repeat this method during the verse guitar part in my cover of “Poker Face”.

Covering Female-Identified Artists

Despite my masculine voice and masculine vocal range, I make a point to cover female-identified artists to express solidarity and respect. Women must constantly uplift each other in a patriarchal society, so I’m uplifting Madonna and Lady Gaga by covering their songs. This is an assertion of my womanhood, which I constantly feel I must do to survive living in a society that directs me to live as a man.


Punk and Hardcore

As a transgender woman, I’ve found the most support among musicians playing punk rock, metal, and hardcore. I perform and compose other forms of music as well, but “punk” is my community. “Punk” is my home.

Axis Evil featuring Napalm

“Napalm Fatale” is my current stage name, and “Axis Evil” is my previous one. I selected the latter to make fun of George W. Bush, and to mock those who consider transgender an evil thing. Because it is hard to abandon a brand once you’ve established it, I call the whole operation “Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale”. Please check out my albums “City of God” and “Light Me Up and Love the Bomb” at napalmfatale.bandcamp.com, and my website at axisevil.com. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @napalmfatale.

The best way you can support the continued production of Gender Punk 360 is to purchase an Axis Evil digital album!