Monsters and Dust

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In July 2009, I caught up with my old friend and housemate Michael O'Neill, JD Samson and Ginger Brooks Takahashi of MEN in the green room of Berlin nightclub in Chicago's Boystown, just a few days into their first United States tour. The three were kind enough to take a minute for to talk about being on the road, finding a queer community, and establishing an identity as a band and as artists. Kinder still, they even stayed to sit for a few photographs under the steady hand of Mr. David Robert Elliott. Here's what we got....

Aay Preston-Myint for Monsters and Dust

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M&D: You guys are just coming from Europe and kicking off your United States tour...let's warm up by saying how that's going so far.

MO: It's going really great. Europe was awesome. We were there for six weeks and it was good to go there first. We handn't played a show, ever, before we went there, so it was good as a sort of warm-up tour, to learn how to play our songs, and after six weeks, we're ready to do it.

JD: We had a really good response, we felt warmly welcomed and everything was really easy to get used to.

M&D: I also wanted to ask about this new iteration of MEN....I know that it comes out of other things that you all have done separately and together. How did you arrive at this configuration?

JD: Well, myself and Johanna (Fateman) were doing a DJ project called MEN, and then at the same time myself and Ginger and Michael and our friend Emily Roysdon were doing another project called Hirsute, and we were just writing songs without really knowing what was going to happen with it. We (Hirsute) were supposed to have a show in New York, and then we didn't do it, so we put that on hold for a little while. Then Johanna got pregnant and didn't really want to tour, so then we just merged everything and now MEN is a band, and it's got a lot of different variations, but right now the live project is the three of us and sometimes Emily.

M&D: Tell me a little bit about your current vision for MEN. I know you do a really performative show, so maybe you could talk about how not only music, but performance, is key to you, and about the politcal and radical potential for performance that you see in the band.

JD: I think all of us are involved in the art scene, and we all know each other through that, so there's no way we couldn't think of the performance as an art form. That's important to all of us and we try to really infect the rock stage with different performance elements, even if it's just in costume or mood. It is really interesting to try and go on tour to rock clubs and bring this art/stage element.

GBT: I think it's mostly about the intent of what we want to do, and what we expect, and the kind of relations we want to have with people. So I don't think it's necessary to distinguish what is art or what is performance from what is music.