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Perpetual Change — Leah B.

| Oct 24, 2011
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If this were a Monty Python skit, we could introduce it with the familiar line “and now for something completely different.” Well . . . it’s not; it’s TGForum’s Perpetual Change monthly music column. However, the “different” part is more than appropriate. Hang in there, an explanation is forthcoming.

This month’s featured artist is Leah B. from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What makes this installment just a tad “different” is that Leah is a lot more than a musician. For Leah, music is another tool used in her larger role of gender activist. She is the creator of a quarterly zine called — and Her Brain. Her other main endeavor, besides her music, is an artistic collective she calls Gender Edge.

Leah B. Has graciously consented to share her incredibly busy and active world with TGForum/Perpetual Change readers this month. We believe you’ll find her to be not only musically talented, but philosophically challenging as well.

TGForum: What musical influences do you claim, and, have you had any formal training?

Leah B.

Leah B: Any influence on the musical aspects I create comes from a source of devout inspiration. Several artists . . . all have occupied a large space in my brain because of the beautiful sincerity of their creative deliverance. The only formal training I have received was in regards to piano playing. This occurred during my childhood years. Otheriwse, I am self-taught.

TGF: What instruments do you play, and who performs with you live? What’s a typical live performance like?

LB: The main instruments I play are bass guitar, piano, and every one in awhile cello. If I have to utilize a role I would fall under the following as well: a vocalist, a reader, a spoken arts performer. There are two aspects to the music components I create. My solo project is entitled Fragmentation of Noted Weathering and is based upon lengthy, layered, and effects driven bass work with often very exposed emotive outpouring via improvised vocalizations or prepared poetry and prose.

My band is called EX. By V. and we are a two-piece experimental punk/metal/noise/prose/lo-fi project that utilizes a combination of percussion, bass guitar, and layered vocals. Lots of words, raw energy, screaming, and so forth!

Live performances also break down into two parts, the first being the solo aspects which are spoken word(ish)/poetic presentations entangled with vocal effects to create several layers of words, maybe some screams, and some wandering sort of industrial sounds. I also read from zines during the shows as well. The second part of live performances are shows with my band. That whole side of thing is much heavier and louder. My live performances, overall, I feel are wildly unpredictable. Each performance is different for me somehow, be it the feel of the venue, the audience, or my emotional state at the time of the show. It’s all extremely personal and some times I feel it’s one of the only ways I communicate with the world around me.

TGF: Your influences also appear to balance somewhat between the musical and the literary. How do you feel they complement each other?

LB: Literature gave me creative life. Everything I do now came from reading the works of others and then evolved into developing my own writing. Simply put, writing is my life and the source for anything that has occurred in a creative manner since I was a child. On really any level, no one, even family, ever read anything from me until I was around 19 or 20. It took me a long time to decide if I was ever going to release my own words. Music was totally secondary for a while, even when I began working on solo projects and pieces for my band. I would say they are both much more even now in terms of impact and importance. My musical meanderings came forth as a direct result of my written expression.

TGF: What type of venues do you perform at, and what kind of audience reaction do you get?

LB: Thus far, I have performed in art and activist spaces, punk driven venues, bookstores, music venue/bar type settings, random basements and living rooms, sidewalks, and backyards. My own little creed is sort of one space at a time, and mostly anywhere would have to be good enough for me to release some words.

Audience reactions are typically very positive. I have been so fortunate to receive a lot of compliments regarding my performances. Many very interesting, random conversations have occurred with really cool people following shows. That’s one of the nicest aspects of all this. I am extremely grateful to anyone who has taken the time to listen to or read what I offer creatively The support has been incredible.

TGF: What is your ultimate goal for the Gender Edge project and for your work with your zine?

LB: Honestly, while I’m on this earth, I want to do as much as I possibly can to display the punky, fiery, all-out-empowered side of what it means to be transgender or gender variant. That means being loud, opinionated, pissed, focused, driven, and not so proper about how ideas are conveyed. I am not waiting to be published and I am not waiting for a record contract. Too many ideas and not enough time. That’s why I make zines, that’s why I believe in a DYI approach. I hope through shows and zine production that in several years trans artists will be at the forefront of any queer creative movement. I’d love for gender questioning youth to be able to find approaches and collective like Gender Edge and be able to build their lives in a much earlier way. No more depressing scenarios about trans life. I want to take the ill out of all too common false portrayals of living life as a trans individual. It’s difficult at times, and we know that, but it’s so much more of a powerfully beautiful uniqueness that many have no idea bout. My hopes are that with Gender Edge some people will begin to find this awareness. .

TGF: I usually ask people how political they are, but from reading through some of your posted material, that question isn’t necessary. Instead, I’d like to aks you if you feel the greater GLBT community, the trans community in particular, has sort of slid into a kind of political apathy lately. Given what’s been going on in the country lately, GLBT issues don’t seem to be on too many people’s radar.

LB: I don’t believe that the queer community has found any political apathy. I’m constantly surrounded by the work and idea of numerous queer/trans activists from all over the country. In this country’s popular media, it’s always difficult to sustain a prolonged fixation within the attention span of the general public and within each persons priorities of relevance. Personally, I believe the transgender community is in the midst of a highly profound political and social movement. The work is occurring, the bravery has been in place, and it’s simply a matter of when and how soon the changes manifest themselves.

TGF: How important are outward oriented community events, sush as pride parades, concerts, etc.?

LB: A show of strength and numbers displayed to any societal majorities is always important, especially within marginalized communities. Obviously, my biased approach focuses on how important I feel it is to see more trans artists in the punk/hardcore scene and putting on shows helps to dissolve a lack of integration. Reason being, these are highly political music scenes, and I think it’s vitally important to consistently spread the ideas of empowered gender variance within these environments.

TGF: If you had one thing to say to the transgender community as a whole, what would it be?

LB: Thank you so much for being who you are on so many levels! This community is so honest, so creative, and so weathered by numerous experiences that learning from everyone is simply unavoidable. Keep pushing, keep evolving

TGF: What kind of advice would you offer to musicians, trans or not, who are just starting out?

LB: I’m certainly no expert by any means, however, I can say that all this is a lot of hard work. I may limit myself to some privileges, due to personal policial reasons, that may make it easier, but committing to music/performance brings along with it a heavy amount of discomfort, nervousness, vulnerability, pressure, and all-out sacrifice. Yet the balancing out of everything occurs when you see others reacting to or thinking about your creations. To me, that outweighs any difficulty quite easily. Recognition to some degree keeps the cycle of creatively in constant motion. My only real advice to those aspiring folks would be to be totally and utterly sincere, then watch what happens.

TGF: Any future plans you can share at this time?

LB: Gender Edge was included in this year’s Baltimore Independent Music and Arts Festival. To me it’s really nice to see transgender artistic activism being included in large city wide festivals such as this.

My band just sort of self-released an album of lo-fi excerpts comprised of live recordings. I’m working on collaborating with several queer/trans activists collectives in Philadelphia, and I’m helping out with an upcoming trans genre DVD/zine project.

TGF: Anything you want to say in closing?

LB: Sure. Thanks for taking the time to construct this interview. A massive thank you to all members and allies of the Gender Edge collective for your support and creative efforts.

ALSO THIS MONTH

Coco Peru

Coco Peru will be celebrating 20 years of performing as Coco with four shows in New York City, November 3, 4, 5, and 6 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. This is an all new Coco show which she calls There Comes A Time. (The Laurie Beechman Theatre is located inside the West Bank Café, 407 West 42nd St., NYC; tickets available at www.SpinCycleNYC.com, or by calling 212-352-3101)

Calpernia Addams has a new YouTube video that is very different. This one features Cal playing an authentic Appalachian mountain dulcimer. She never ceases to amaze, and entertain.

Lady Gaga is set to release a Blu-ray/DVD of her Monster Ball Tour gig at Madison Square Garden. Scheduled for release on November 21st, the special edition package includes the 17 tune Born This Way album along with the remix albums, along with the DVD.

AND OF COURSE, NEW DANCE MUSIC

Former Pussycat Doll Jessica Sutta’s new single Show Me has been re-released as a re-mix disc, featuring mixes by Alex Gaudino & Jason Rooney, Dave Aude, Jump Smokers, and Ralphi Rosario. (On Facebook and Twitter.)

Wynter Gordon’s Buy My Love remix disc is also out now. This features remixes by Jealous Much?, Loud Manners vs. Bass Monkeys, Chuckie, and Crazibiza, along with others.

AND SOMETHING WORTH PAYING ATTENTION TO

Lalah Hathaway Where It All Begins

There’s only one word to really, truthfully describe what this project is like . . . romantic. Okay, so it’s not totally dance music. Sue me. This is incredible R&B/Soul old school music at its best. Hathaway is the daughter of the late soul music legend Donny Hathaway. Her career spans two decades as both a solo artist and as a performer with acts as diverse as George Benson, Take 6, Marcus Miller, Kirk Whalum, Grover Washington and most recently, Prince.

What dance moments the project does have are found on Strong Woman and If You Want To. But, overall, listen to this project if you’re looking for some romantic, mood setting music. Where It All Begins, the title cut, is one of the best R&B moments on the project, along with This Could Be Love. One real surprise is the almost light-rock feel of Wrong Way. The project closes with what honestly is the only R&B type lullaby I’ve ever heard, Dreamland. Excellent stuff here. (Hathaway and John Burk are listed as executive producers. You’ll have to read the CD insert for musician, writer, and single song producer credits.


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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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