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Perpetual Change — Venus DeMars/All the Pretty Horses

| Jul 7, 2008
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Perpetual Change-TGs Making Music

In this edition of Pamela DeGroff’s Perpetual Change Pamela corners Venus DeMars, the leader of the band All The Pretty Horses, and asked her what’s been going on with the band’s lineup, and about Venus’s side project, House of Flowers. And we learn about a documentary film about ATPH that’s made the rounds of film festivals and is now available on DVD. Then there’s more in the Also This Month section on the Kinsey Sicks and TG rapper Katastrophe.

Venus DeMars/All the Pretty Horses

Longevity in the music business is a rare thing. Granted, there are bands such as The Rolling Stones ( and a handful of others…) who literally have generations of fans, but such an example is the classic exception to the rule. In the transgender music community, lasting more than a couple CD releases over two or three years is considered a long career.

Solo artists have an easier time re-inventing themselves if the need arises. Bands are a different story, however. Fans can be fickle, and any major personnel change handled incorrectly can put an act back into the rehearsal studio for an extended stay.

Venus DeMarsAll The Pretty Horses from Minneapolis is a band that understands a few things about longevity and what it takes to survive in the music business. They were first featured in this column in March 2001, and again in March of 2003. ATPH was originally organized in 1996 by a then performance artist, Venus DeMars.

ATPH releases included their self-titled debut in 1996; Queens And Angels (1998); Ruin (2000); Dolls With Balls (double live CD, 2002); and Creature (2002). They can also be found on the compilation CD Made In Minnesota 2.

Venus has also released solo work under her own name. Trashed And Broken Hearted in 2006, and a DVD/CD set entitled Venus Of Mars in 2003.

Going through many lineup changes throughout the years began to take a toll on the band after about ten years. The last formal member list from just a few years back was Venus (founder and lead vocals and guitar); Jendeen (drums); Tempest (bass); and dancers Shannon Blowtorch and MadKat. This lineup lasted for about a year.

“Towards the end, I was feeling pretty burned out,” Venus said. “I had been pushing the band concept…and had kept it going for so long by bringing in more musicians as musicians left. I never really felt I had a solid, complete band and…seemed that I was always playing catch-up with someone for half the time they were in the band, and only enjoyed having a band up to speed for a few short months before someone would leave, and I’d have to start all over again. This was wearing on me.”

Members Jendeen and Tempest did both eventually leave ATPH and went on to form the metal band Harsh Reality. The vision that Venus had for ATPH went more towards ’70s glam, with influences from punk and some of the newer, edgier underground acts.

Venus DeMars on stage.All of this occurred around the time sessions for Trashed And Broken Hearted began. Instead of that project becoming the next ATPH album, Venus finished the recording and released it as a solo project, then went into hibernation for a while.

“The hiatus was the best thing I could have done creative-wise,” she said. “It shook me up, forced me to get back to the music and writing the music itself. I formed the band House Of Flowers which was a challenge and gave me insights into working with new people again. I believe I would have taken much longer to get back to music again if I had not taken the hiatus.”

The Trashed… CD was well received and the side project band House Of Flowers morphed into Venus’s touring band. “I was slowly going back to the staging and rock theater I had developed with ATPH,” she said. “I decided I needed to make a full sweep of things and simply re-form ATPH with yet another lineup and get back to business.”

The current working group is: Venus (guitar, lead vocals); Raymond Breed (guitar(; Jazz Angel (drums); Le Freak (bass); and dancers Stacy-Sapphire, MadKat, Natalie; and Evil-Dawn.

Is that Venus or Grinder Girl?The aforementioned DVD/CD set, Venus Of Mars, released in 2003, is a project Venus is extremely proud of, and it has helped ATPH garner attention and reviews from sources the band previously didn’t have. The project was produced and filmed by Emily Goldberg, who is an award winning film maker (four Emmys and 3 CEN “Best Cultural Documentary” award) from Minneapolis. Goldberg got her start in public television and has filmed everthing from Venus to Jane Goodall.

The film explores the marriage of Venus and her wife, Lynette Reini-Grandell, who have been together for 25 years. Actual filming took place over a period of four years and a few months.

“The film maker proved to be very sensitive and gained our trust,” Venus said. “I also felt it was a way to gain some sense of self-definition as a trans person. I wanted people to know why I had made the decisions I did in my life without having to do it on an individual basis over and over again.

“(The reviews were )…all very supportive, even abroad. I feel mostly that’s because Emily told our story with some depth rather than just creating a sensational ‘rock-doc’.”

Venus Of Mars was premiered at the International Documentary Festival: Amsterdam. ATPH has previously toured Britain, but because of the film, Spain and other parts of Europe have been added to the band’s schedule, as well as New Zealand.

Venus and the new version of ATPH has started work on their next album, and are developing other plans for the future as well. “I’m working on a tour of the west coast, some regional work, and out east,” she said. “A more concerted tour will be worked on once the CD is released.”

(Author’s Note: ATPH music is available through the following outlets: iTunes.com; CDbaby.com; Amazon.com; venusdemars.com; myspace.com/atphvenus. The music is also available at select stores, or by special order via www.tinderboxmusic.com)

ALSO THIS MONTH…

KatastropheThe Kinsey Sicks long awaited (so they claim…) Sixth CD, Sicks! Sicks! Sicks!* will be released July 11th. Available at www.kinseysicks.com (*sorry for the bad alliteration.)

Someone we haven’t heard from for a while, (Sept. 2004 column) rapper Katastrophe, provided a few updates regarding his career. He is currently on the west coast presenting his first venture into multimedia called HomeMade SuperHero. He describes the largely autobiographical presentation as a “…three-section, interdisciplinary hip-hop performance combining music, spoken word, solo performance, dance, percussion, and film.” He has also finished recording his third album and is in the mixing phase right now. A fall release is planned.
(Check his website or email him at [email protected])


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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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