With programs like Queer As Folk and Cutting It portraying Manchester as yuppie heaven complete with City Centre loft apartments and the coke and champagne lifestyle we need a true voice. That voice within the Mass Marketing of Manchester is the gay political punk rocker Stephen Nancy.
Stephen Nancy has been rebelling against the capitalist trappings of Manchester's Gay Village since he came here from Liverpool. After a small sojourn to London in which record execs told him to tone down the politics a touch while still releasing the homophobic rants of Eminem et all, he's back stronger than ever with the dual voice of the "No Apologies" EP and the "Culture Sucks" Fanzine.
Q: If we could start back at the beginning and with something we've talked about a few times before. It was the Riot Girl scene that really spoke out to you. Was that the beginning of your musical journey?
A: It wasn't the first thing I got into. I got into Britpop and through Britpop I got into grunge and through Grunge I got into Riot Girl. There are a few gay bands like Pansy Division in America who say they talk about gay issues, but they're not from a political perspective. They're all from the perspective of we shag alot and we suck dick...with the Riot Girl bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney a lot of gay issues came up because a lot of them are gay themselves.
It might not be from the same perspective as I'm coming from, as someone who has been through homophobia, they're speaking through someone who's been through sexism. Feminism and gay rights are so intertwined anyway and they're always aimed at by the same people anyway - the religious right and the macho culture which always takes the piss out of women and gays.
Q: To me Britpop did bring with it some great bands if you were looking for a simple pop songs. But for you where did the lyrical messages come from in that era?
A: There were a few bands there, like one of the first bands from Britpop I got into were Echobelly whose first album was really feminist and an anti-racist view stand. And I think I got into it from that point of view and always picked the female bands because they tended to have more to say for themselves. Even someone like Sleeper whose singles were crap, when you bought an album there were a few political songs tucked away in there.
I think if you're trying to start a band from a gay point of view I think you always get into the female bands because you could like an Oasis record, but then two days later you'd read an interview with Liam Gallagher going "Robbie Williams you're a poof" and "Kylie Minogue you're a lesbian" as if its something offensive.
There's about a much room for women as there is for gay people in rock and I don't think gay people have got it worse than women in music - I think we've got it just as bad. Rock Music is just designed for men to masturbate with their guitars!!!
It's not designed for people with a real left-wing stance or if it is a left-wing stance - its a fake left-wing stance. Its so easy to whinge on about politics when you're a rich white straight man, but when the boots actually on the other foot and you're going through it I think you actually have a lot more to say.
Q: Did you find that growing up gay in a working class area of Liverpool as opposed to say a middle class upbringing you found that the macho culture was too much to bare?
A: As far as my family goes they've always been really supportive, but the area which I live in was Heighton in Liverpool and there are just some really really horrible people that live there. Especially from the macho perspective you only had to wear a top that wasn't made by Adidas and you were a queer, if your hair was a bit long you're a queer and that's the sort of stuff that goes on there.
Another point of view with the band is that we really try and get across is the working class point of view. I used to hate working class culture a lot because I'm from it and it's so homophobic, but to be honest when you meet people from middle class and upper class backgrounds the homophobia comes through in different ways. Whereas if you're from a working class background you'll get spat on and called a faggot, there's much more chance in a middle class background of you being disowned because of the family shame. For me its equally homophobic in each cultural background, but in working class culture it manifests itself in a much more violent way.
Q: And then moving to Manchester was there the sense that you moved from Liverpool to be accepted and then you went out on the scene and just felt that the scene wasn't right for you either?
A: The thing was when I lived in Liverpool there was so little gay culture and I always was against the gay scene because I could see what it was then - but it's easy to be against something when its not available to you. So when I came to Manchester and there was the big Gay Village, no matter how anti-gay scene I was I'd never really experienced it properly, and it took me about two months of going there and thinking this isn't nearly as bad as I thought it was.
After 3 months you could see the people for what they are. It's got nothing to do with being gay - half the people on Canal Street are straight people there to have a gawp at you and the other half are gay people who are there to take the piss out of you because they have more money that you. It's kind of like this idea that you're better than straight people if you wear better clothes than them - there's so much hetrophobia going on there and it's just not on. All my friends are straight and when we were going out it got to the point where weren't allowed in clubs, but there would be a bunch of silly queens who would just stand around bitching at everyone.
Q: Was the band formed before you went on the scene or was it a reaction to what you saw while you were on the gay scene?
A: I'd been in a band in Liverpool, but we never got to the gigging stage - and we were called Sassy of all f**king things!!! The lyrics were more naive versions of what I write now and I'd come to Manchester with the idea of trying to get the band together and the irony of moving to Manchester and going on the gay scene was that it distracted me for about 3 months.
I'm always getting things off the internet and all the statistics stated that violence against gay people has gone up - it hasn't gone down at all!!! You can say that gay people are more visible now and they've got their own pubs and clubs, but what these statistic suggested to me was that the more visible gay people are the more they are actually hated. If you buy into that whole thing that you're equal in society and you're obviously not then people can just go and walk all over you. In the 70's at least people wouldn't accept being treated like shit, but now people just lay back and accept it. I'm against that as much as I am about macho culture!!!
Q: Would you agree then that you there is no outside of the system, that capitalism swallows us all up and the only way to fight it is from the inside?
A: I think it's hidden behind the so called success of people who make it to the top. I think feminism is in the same situation as gay rights is in - its in a sorry state of affairs. But I think because people like the Spice Girls say look we've made shit loads of money therefore this is a good thing. Since when did having money be on a par with being safe on the streets. It's easy for rich women, rich black people, rich gay people to say that were more equal when they have a big mansion to hide behind and never see what's really going on.
The sad thing is that I thought Feminism and Gay Rights was meant to be against capitalism because that's the exact way of thinking that keeps gay people down. Were better because we've got more money is exactly the same as were better because were white or were better because were straight.
They've bought into that whole thing of "we can be like you if we want to" - who wants to be like something. We should be fighting for the right to be different rather than imitating something. People are trying to fit into the idea of mainstream culture too much despite the fact that the reason we were rallying against it in the first place is the right to be different.
Q: In Manchester everyone seemed to appreciate the irony of your poster campaign with the slogans like "Keep This Sicko Out", but in London you came up against a very insular scene which didn't understand what you were about. I believe there was one label that said they liked what you were doing but on the other hand told you to tone it down. Tell us a bit more about the whole London experience?
A: When I first went down there I looked up queer punk london on the internet just to see what I came up with and Fosca were the only band that I can honestly say were brilliant. As for the rest of the feminist and riot girl bands we tried to get in contact with - if their lyrics were brilliant, their music would be really namby pamby. Then when the band had brilliant music the lyrics were just so embarrassing you just had to walk out.
The reason that we played with Fosca was it was two different perspectives on the gay thing. Fosca are a synth pop band who write really romantic songs and were a punk band that write really angry songs but the principles are essentially the same. Too many people think that gay people in bands are either like the Pet Shop Boys or angry band who get beat up all the time which is essentially what you could say we are - but its important to show the diversity there is when there isn't a scene to network in.
In America they have labels like Mister Lady who are set up discover left-wing feminist and gay political bands, but in Britain there is nothing like that at all. I think there's a lot be said for bands who never make it and they go on for years and years, because most bands have to get to the two year mark and if they haven't got a record deal they just split up. The reason I started a band was to say something and to put some meaning into the music. We'd really like to have a small record deal because as far as were concerned a major one is never going to happen.
I'd rather still be playing the Roadhouse in ten years and not have to compromise rather than being playing the M.E.N Arena and be singing about my girlfriend. I found it really odd that record labels would tell us to tone it down and it was what are you talking about - do you consider swearing f**k or do consider swearing when I say queer. You can say queer in a derogatory sense like say Eminem, but if you turn round and say queer in an oppressed sense it's not acceptable.
Q: So what did you think of the whole idea of an openly gay popstar like Will Young being forced to sing love songs about the perfect lady?
A: When you're openly gay like Will Young and you're singing songs about girls its just sad. Even if he just referred to it in a different way like "I love you" rather than "I love her". But it is funny how it was never mentioned throughout the whole Pop Idol thing and as soon as he's made it in some way its like "shit I better get this out of the way now".
At the end of day what people want of popstars like that is celibacy. If he was a straight men because he's aimed at young girls and few gay men who think he's funky if he had a girlfriend that would damage his career more than if he came out as being gay. It's ok for him to be gay as long as he doesn't have a relationship.
The Times and the Daily Mail think he's great. I read this article when he came out - Will Young is great because he's come out as being gay. But he says he's not at all interested in gay activism or gay rights. So the Daily Mail applauded it and that's basically saying that it's ok to be gay as long as you don't give a shit about your status in society. How can you do a politics degree and then get involved in the music industry?
At least the popstars in the 80s if you look at Frankie Goes to Hollywood or even Culture Club - people who were very overtly gay especially Frankie who got to number 1 with a song which was blatantly about gay sex. I think pop in the 80s took guts and music now has got no guts whatsoever - it's manufactured and packaged like cereals and is just so afraid to be different.
Q: I think the media has always contradicted itself. Even this week when Anna Kournakova got knocked out of Wimbledon most tabloids printed a picture playing to the stereotypical male fantasies of Lesbians. The next day there was outrage about the Lesbian Sperm Bank. Do you think its scary that the general public reads this daily but doesn't seem to pick up on the mess of contradictions?
A: The thing is its very safe because there's such a difference between real lesbian life and the media concept of it. Its all right to show affection or have sex with another woman if halfway through you're going to turn round to the fella and say do you wanna join in John!!!
But when it comes down to the real thing people are absolutely terrified of it. The concept of it that the media are constantly pushing these lesbian images to turn men on - they're never lesbians involved, they're just bimbo's bent over the garage winking for the camera. When it comes to real lesbian issues people are still horrified over it or there wouldn't be such an issue with this lesbian sperm bank.
Q: With this mass-media consumption you've started off the "Culture Sucks" fanzine with the idea of voicing an alternative opinion - a voice that doesn't get written about in the tabloid papers or televised. For people across Manchester who haven't picked up a copy, tell us a bit about it?
A: I think there's a lot to be said for fanzines. We printed up 150 originally about a month ago and all of them have gone so that to me means that were getting our opinions across to people. For us the reason we did it was that we were away from Manchester for a while and we realized there is more than one way to get your opinions across.
No mainstream paper is going to cover what were covering so if only 70 or 80 people actually notice of what were saying we've done our job. Its the same with journalism - you don't have to have a column in NME to get your point across. If more people joined bands or wrote fanzines there would be a real chance of a musical revolution happening, but the way things are going people are pandering too much to the industry. People are prepared to rebel to a point because the media likes semi-rebellion - it likes bands that half say something but still pander to the stereotypes of four white lads being in a band.
Q: I guess each band were speaking to has a slightly different take on the New Wave Of New Angry scene. What does it mean to you?
A: The biggest irony of the whole punk scene is that it was meant to be against capitalism and against TV Culture and now you get these compilations that are advertised in-between Coronation Street. Johnny Rotten was on Richard & Judy lately saying how the queen is good for the economy - its like nice one mate!!!
I think the New Wave Of New Angry is good to show what's going on and bring the attention to the bands which aren't having any attention brought to them. Like I said before, the only problem with it is when it kicks off the semi-angry bands would be the ones that get picked up and said - this is the New Wave Of New Angry.
"No Apologies" EP is out Now
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