Impose Magazine // The Mallgoth Episode with Suzy X

the-mallgoth-episode-with-suzy-x

Thanks to Eric and Edwina for inviting me as a guest in this week’s episode of Audio Imposition! Above is a photo of me reading from my 8th grade diary zine, AKA, Vol. 2 of The Mallgoth Chronicles. You can listen here and get a gist of the show below:

On the show we discussed Tarot cards, casual racism, the Girl Scouts, the revolutionary power of friendship, we had dramatic diary readings from Chronicles of an 8th Grade Mallgoth, The Greatest Band Ever,  the formative nature of Sailor Moon (new series on Hulu July 5th, btw), the Bechdel test, how much we love Downtown Boys, and we play a lot of mallgoth music.

The ~Mallgoth Playlist~ goes as follows:
  1. Kittie, “Charlotte”
  2. Pailhead, “Man Should Surrender”
  3. Marilyn Manson, “Tourniquet”
  4. AFI “Days Of The Phoenix”
  5. White Lung, “Snake Jaw”
  6. Hive Bent, “Relics of the Formstone Empire”
  7. Bleed the Pigs, “Stuck”
  8. Downtown Boys, “Maldito”
  9. Ovlov “There’s My Dini!”
  10. Tsunami Bomb, “Lemonade”

Wonder Twins of the Working Class: Downtown Boys’ Victoria Ruiz and Joey De Francesco

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(Crossposted from Impose Magazine, 6/16/2014)

“Hello, delighted to serve!”

It was three years ago that Victoria Ruiz was ordered to chirp this line like some cultish mantra while employed as a customer service representative at The Renaissance Hotel in Providence. It was there she met her partner in crime, room service extraordinaire and labor organizer Joey De Francesco.

“Part of the whole hotel experience is that [customers] are not supposed to interact with the labor,” says De Francesco. “The front desk was where they put all the more presentable white people. But behind the front desk they would hide everyone else. In the housekeeping manual, they tell the workers, who are 95% Dominican women, that they’re supposed to be invisible. Not actual [people], but some magical ghost that cleans up after you. The hotel is a small microcosm of how larger society works under capitalism.”

Predictably, Ruiz and De Francesco both quit their jobs, in pursuit of organizing hotel workers and eventually minimum wage workers in Providence. De Francesco scored YouTube fame after quitting his hotel job on camera, and with the help of his radical marching band, the What Cheer? Brigade. Together Ruiz and De Francesco would subsequently deploy two of the most explosive acts in the United States: raucous party punk sextet Downtown Boys and the art-cumbia mayhem of Malportado Kids (or, badly-behaved kids).

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White Lung: Unapologetic Canadian Hardcore

(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 6/11/2014)

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Name: White Lung

Where They’re From:  Vancouver, British Columbia

When They Started: 2007

Genre: Punk/post-hardcore

For fans of: Hole, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Nü Sensae

Sounds like: A giant cauldron full of boiling, green resentment

Is there really that much reason behind Canada’s reputation for breeding the most timid, non-confrontational people in the world? Especially while movements like Idle No More clash with the contentiously austere government of Stephen Harper? Every now and then the supposedly temperate country purges itself of its angst not only through political movements, but in bad ass, angry-as-all-hell musicians. Following the radical punk legacy of Vancouver bands like D.O.A. and Submission Hold, at the forefront of the current Canadian wave of rage is Vancouver’s White Lung.

Given how long it’s been since aggressive, unforgiving women in music have met favorable recognition by both music critics and radio stations, listening to White Lung is much like that first gasp of air when surfacing from a warm, muddy decade of sexist repression. Since their 2010 debut, It’s the Evil, the band has been circulated widely on CBC radio, honored at Canadian Music Week Indie Awards, and racked up tour dates from Europe to Australia. And yet throughout their ascension into international stardom, they remain true to their feminist fury, most especially in their third upcoming LP, Deep Fantasy.

The dissonant squalor of Hole’s 1991 debut Pretty on the Inside comes to mind as White Lung’s stepping stone, from which they elevate themselves to the post-hardcore punk heights of AFI’s The Art of Drowning. Reflecting on a vast array of complicated issues like drug addiction, dysmorphia and sexual power struggles, vocalist Mish Way delivers every word with a scalding conviction, tapering off each verse with a bitter twang. Even when she’s at her most despondent, as in “Face Down” or “Just For You,” there’s still a hint of deep vitriol in Way’s voice that guarantees her vengeance, someday.  Anne-Marie Vassiliou bolsters Way’s temper with a ceaseless, calculated battering of thrashy beats. Meanwhile Kenneth William threads each song together with shrill, metallic tendrils of post-hardcore guitar stylings, in a similarly angular vein as the iconic J. Clark of Pretty Girls Make Graves, but beefed up by dense layers of distortion and bass. If White Lung’s new noise is any indication of how the rest of the decade will go, I welcome it with open arms and steel-toe boots.

Deep Fantasy will be available in its entirety on June 16 via Domino Recording Co.

Album Review: White Lung, Deep Fantasy, 2014

(Crossposted from Rolling Stone, 6/10/2014)

Vancouver’s White Lung barreled into punk fans’ hearts with 2010′s It’s the Evil, followed by 2012′s venomous Sorry. They’re as furiously formidable as ever on their third LP. Mish Way’s damning yowls offer profound ruminations on sex and body image, while guitarist Kenneth William’s swift, discordant lashes resurrect the finer aspects of 2000s-era post-hardcore; drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou holds down a steady velocity, pelting listeners with relentless rounds of thrash. At times, the songs bleed together almost to the point of indistinction, but crystal-clear production makes this thunderous album well worth seeking out, even for those who wouldn’t be caught dead near a circle pit. (3.5/5 stars)

Set Your Ringtone to Princess Nokia’s Cyber R&B

Photo Credit: Alberto Vargas

Photo Credit: Alberto Vargas

Crossposted from MTV Iggy:

Name: Princess Nokia

Where She’s From:  New York, NY

When She Started: 2010

Genre:  Electronic/Alt R&B

For fans of: Mykki BlancoAzealia BanksZebra KatzHatsune Miku

Sounds like: The soundtrack to The Fifth Element 2: Lost in the Harlem Galaxy

Formerly known as the Versace-clad, take-no-shit earth girl Wavy Spice, NYC artist and club goddess Destiny Nicole Frasqueri has fashioned a more cosmic alter ego: Princess Nokia. Like a cyber-archangel, Princess Nokia seems to be dispatched from the 22nd century, delivering food for thought in the form of techno-laden R&B. Produced with the help of NYC producer OWWWLS, Princess Nokia’s latest LP, Metallic Butterfly, is an experimental, but well-rounded collage of sounds both old and new. Though its feel is futuristic — as in, post-apocalyptic Neo Tokyo — the album rocket launches itself deeply into the past, spanning three decades worth of pop culture references, including sound clips from Dragon Ball Z and 1982 film The Dark Crystal. In other words, Metallic Butterfly is basically a musical manifestation of Tumblr — for the socially conscious and easily distracted “Real ’90s Kids.”

If you’ve been living off the grid for the last 10 years, you might miss the references. In the Game of Thrones-inspired song “Dragons,” Princess Nokia plays the role of Daenerys Targaryen, purring serenely to her lover Khal Drogo against soft blasts of drum and bass. In “Cybiko” she descends from her divine stance in the clouds and emerges as a typical 2000s teen who regales her Xanga readers with the “Confessions of a Cyber-Girl.” And in “Nokia,” she elevates her pitch to a thin moan, matching that of her Harlem pop predecessor, Lumidee.  A generic 1999 Nokia ringtone chirps in the background, interrupting her flow — but no worry, the Princess anticipates this call. “I’m bored,” she says, “But I’m watching Taina. Whatchu up to?”

Apart from its constant throwbacks to the internet and television, Metallic Butterfly is aesthetically and conceptually complex, flitting between long-dormant genres like acid jazz and trip hop, and occasionally venturing into the territory of classic Afro-Caribbean music. It’s the latter that truly rounds the album out, making it less of a nostalgic gimmick and more of a deep cultural inquiry. Backed by the chants of indigenous people, the magical realism of “Young Girls” is a testament to her profound respect for women of color, who she describes as patrons of the earth. Meanwhile songs like “Bikini Weather Corazon En Afrika” and “Yaya” well with cultural orgullo, grounded by the sturdy bounce of the Dominican dem bow, uplifted by the swift pace of African drums, and then brought back home with basic trap beats. Calling out “Yaya,” or the Taino word for “Great Spirit,” she evokes a deep, mystical reverence in her voice — much in the style of 1960s soul-singing santera La Lupe in “Guaguanco Bembe” — and tailors it to fit within her cyber world, where people still honor their roots with their eyes set on the future.

Samsaya Sees the World with Her Heart

Photo Credit: Emily Winiker

Photo Credit: Emily Winiker

Crossposted from MTV Iggy

Born in India and raised in Norway, Samsaya is a powerhouse of talent. She went from spitting verse to neighborhood kids in an Oslo youth center, to taking over as a VJ on Norway’s Topp 10, to penning pop songs featured in Levi’s ads and the 2008 Oscar-nominated film The Wrestler. Slated for release summer 2014, her upcoming album Bombay Calling! was produced by Roc Nation-producer Fred Ball. And just before our meeting with the Desi diva, international label BMG Chrysalis welcomed her into the family.

Much like her music, her real life presence is profoundly electric. Decked out in fantastic colors, she arrives at the MTV Iggy office wearing a green monster-print blouse, a bright red coat, and shredded jeans. Over her left eye is an expertly-drawn heart, filled in with a warm crimson. She swears she’s been jet lagged and sleep-deprived all week from traveling, but it’s impossible to tell from her bubbly disposition. “You know I asked a man today if this place had WiFi?” She says. “But I had no idea that Americans pronounced it ‘why-fy,’ so I said, ‘Do you have wifey?’ And he gave me this really bold look and said, ‘Ooh yeah, I see you’ and I thought ‘Omigosh, what did I say wrong here?’”

Samsaya is arguably no stranger to the Wild Wild West; schooled by Public Enemy and the ’90s television series Yo! MTV Raps as a kid, she’s got the flow of a Brooklyn-bred freestyle champ. And yet surprisingly, she has remained one of Norway’s best-kept secrets for over a decade, dominating Norwegian radio and television, yet never having played the United States until her performance at SXSW last month. “People told me I’d be lucky if I even got decent sound on stage,” she says, “But it was really magical. I was scheduled for only two to three shows, but it became ten shows. And at my last show, I noticed people in the audience from [previous shows] who brought their friends! It felt weird but, the US suddenly started to feel like my home.”

Home is a running theme in Samsaya’s work, and in her life. As a child, she often struggled with fitting in as an Indian girl in a sea of blond children, speaking to what many immigrants undergo in the process of adapting to their new surroundings. “I always felt like an alien growing up in Oslo,” she says, “It was so important for me to look like the other kids, but I was obviously so different. I would even call my hair dark blond. I didn’t even want to be Indian. I told everyone to call me Sam.”

This cultural discomfort was only exacerbated by her relationship with her parents, who were much more strict than her friends’ parents. “They never let me go anywhere with my Norwegian friends,” she says, “I was mad and frustrated, but [instead of] going out, I made my own world in my bedroom, where I’d listen to music and record my own stuff on tape. I think I really related to rap music because I could connect to the outsider feeling of it. It made me feel tough. I want my music to feel like that– like something you can wear as protection.”

At the age of 16, she finally gained her parents’ trust and started performing with a hip-hop group at her local youth center. But she nearly lost it entirely after inviting her mother to what turned out to be a catastrophic, hot MESS of a performance. “Everybody started fighting,” she says, “Somebody almost got stabbed. Then someone set off fireworks inside the hall and the cops came. My mother brought her friends, all kindergarten teachers. They all told her, ‘I’m so sorry about your daughter.’ My auntie even called me and said, ‘If you wanted money, you could’ve told us. But this… Cabaret dancing!’ I didn’t even know what cabaret dancing was, I had to ask a friend.”

Today, it’s hard to tell that Samsaya ever felt a sense of discord with her identity or her heritage. Influenced by the consciousness-raising hip hop she grew up with and jolted by the deep booming thumps of Indian drums, her latest single “Stereotype,” is a rallying cry for cultural pride that cannot be contained by any boxes or labels. “I don’t need to be black or white,” she sings, “I’m not down with the stereotype.” In the video, she seems to well with pride as she sashays down a dirt road in Goa, about 1400 miles south of her original birthplace of Hamirpur.

With a small film crew and her husband in tow, Samsaya says that the final product of the video deviated from its original concept. “I [had] a long discussion with the American producer of the video. He wanted to shoot it at a fancy hotel, but that would be wrong for me. I just wanted to take the camera and go for a drive. We found this old truck stop with a big parking lot and all these colorful trucks, and I said, ‘This is perfect!’ [The director] was nervous though, he was worried somebody would come at us.”

Being the only Hindi speaker of the bunch, Samsaya found she’d both quell her director’s anxiety and feel more comfortable if she got the locals involved. They initially thought she was filming a Bollywood movie. “I explained to them that we were filming a music video and that they could join in,” she says. “I told them, ‘balle balle!’ Or, ‘come join me in a dance!’ Most people stood around and didn’t know what to do until this one old guy smiled and said, ‘Eyyy!’ And suddenly people loosened up and joined in! It was like a wave, one came in, then two, and then everyone was dancing!”

The experience was a turning point for her, personally and politically. “It’s not good to stay in your head and judge people. It’s better to just try and talk to them first. And I’m not just talking about others; I’m talking about myself too. That song, my music, is all about seeing with your heart.”

On memoirs of the marginalized

“People really like hearing about how sad it is to be marginalized.” -Fabian Romero, in his recent interview with Nia King.

I’ve been listening to Fabian Romero’s silky smooth voice, discussing how the sob stories of marginalized folks are paradoxically used to make more fortunate people feel better about themselves. It seems like the voices of the marginalized are often amplified more so when they can generate this kind of feel-good sympathy. Because of this, in my opinion, we don’t get varied perspectives coming from certain marginalized communities.

When growing up, everything I ever read by and about Latinas centered shame and repression and suffering and exploitation. As if that’s all our lives amounted to, as if we couldn’t be funny or happy or complex through it all. One reason I published my pre-teen diaries as a blog/zine series was because I wanted to fill this huge void in the legacy of Latina memoir; the lack of lighthearted, humorous, and goofy narratives about young women. I think the same goes for many other marginalized groups.

Young white women feature in so many movies/books about ~rebelling against the norm~ and wearing cute clothes and listening to good music, while young women of color more often feature in movies/books about rape, war, teen pregnancy, crime and/or poverty. There is some crossover with white authors like Dorothy Allison or Laurie Halse Anderson, but overall there is comparatively a huge lack in representations of women of color that don’t center some kind of degradation or trauma.

Of course, being marginalized often comes with trauma— in fact it’s almost inevitable. But I HATE that, especially as a Latina survivor, trauma is all I’m expected to share with people. I’ve dealt with shame and suffering growing up— at the hands of men, at the hands of white people and even at the hands of my own. But I am not my trauma; I’ve had good times, great times growing up as a nerdy Latina art kid. Girls of color need more of those stories too. We too can be the weird alternative kids, kids who are precocious and moody and goofy and disoriented and don’t fit in.

One reason I love Junot Diaz is because he writes real deep stuff about being part of a diaspora, but is also SUCH a DORK in the way he betrays his devout interest in sci-fi and other things people think are limited to the scope of white Americans. I’ve argued with some white Americans who say they can’t take him seriously because of these admissions. Why should it be so unsettling that immigrants, people of color have lives and interests that mirror your own? I once had a 6 hour conversation with an undocumented woman who survived a war in Mexico— but most of what we talked about were embarrassing dating stories and our favorite bands. I’m just curious as to why girls of color, even the survivors and refugees, are rarely allowed to acknowledge the sides of themselves that are not addled by tragedy. They definitely exist. And they deserve to be published.