lifeblood: listlogs: 2007v10n003-news

ig-news-digest        friday, january 19 2007        volume 10 : number 003

today's subjects:
  [ig-news] amy interview from  [sherlyn koo <sherlyn@pixelop]


date: fri, 19 jan 2007 12:36:06 +1100
from: sherlyn koo <>
subject: [ig-news] amy interview from

hi folks,

here's an interview with amy from  you can read it online at:


- ---begin forwarded article---      
interview with amy ray
by shauna swartz, contributing writer
january 16, 2007

for over two decades, amy ray has been working in the music industry, both as a
performer (as one half of the indigo girls and as a solo artist) and as an
executive. in 1990, she founded daemon records, a nonprofit business that is run
by a staff of artists, "to help break down the barriers within the music
community, while providing an opportunity for musicians to create and control
their own recordings." she recently spoke with about what it's
like for queer artists in the music industry. i'm sure artists on your label can count on there being no
heterosexism, but what can queer artists expect at the standard major label?
amy ray: labels themselves at this point are not as much of a problem as - well,
i don't know which comes first, the chicken or the egg? - but the media is still
such a hassle. there's so much homophobia still and so much sexism in who's
covered and how they're covered and what's the bias in the presentation.

labels do a lot of market research: ways that they track what people buy and
what tv shows they watch. it's all numbers, because they're trying to make
money. there isn't really a motivating factor that has anything to do with good
will. it's not that they're not nice people. it's just that that's what they're
doing; it's the bottom line.

the homophobia in the industry is something you come up against in trying to get
radio play, or getting written about constantly with a certain bias in every
single thing that people write. and that really hasn't changed much over time.
the only difference is there's a bigger audience that's not afraid to come out
and see gay people play. it's easier to be out; there's no doubt about it.
because it's politically incorrect in most places in the media to say anything
negative about gay people, but they just do it in a more subtle way.

we are able to be out because we know there's an audience that's going to
support us, and that's what you need. you need allies. but for as much as people
think there's some kind of a crazy trend for gay woman artists to cash in on
that audience, it doesn't outweigh the amount of bias against you in radio and

ae: is that bias against you just as a woman? would you say that the sexism is
worse than the homophobia, if you can even compare?
ar: well, they're so connected. i think sexism and homophobia are of the same
piece. a woman who is out and more feminine and sort of plays that up is
probably having an easier time than women who are really butch or masculine.
there's still a convention where you have to play a certain side of yourself up
in order to be accepted in some ways. but emily [saliers, also of the indigo
girls] and i don't do that.  on some levels it's definitely worked against us,
and on other levels it's definitely worked in our favor.

ae: what do you mean when you say that in the media homophobia comes out in more
subtle ways now?
ar: it's hard to quantify it, but when someone writes a review about a gay
female singer, a big part of the review is the fact that the singer is gay, and
another part is probably going to be about their audience being gay. it's just
this slightly derogatory thing, because it's not like they're saying it because
it's special and celebrated. they're saying it as if it's a qualifier. if you
read a lot of the coverage in magazines on gay women artists, you start noticing
a trend. there's a slight derogatoriness and not a complete willingness to take
the music seriously on its own merit.

that's also because a lot of gay artists are political, and we want to talk
about gay rights because there's a movement going on. when you're an activist,
you can't complain if people mention that when they write about you.

but when people write about zack de la rocha from rage against the machine, it
was always that he's tough and profound and cutting-edge. he's a man talking
about the zapatistas, and he's chicano, and it was so celebrated. there was
never anything negative about it. but if a woman does the same thing, it's like,
she's earnest, she wears her heart on her sleeve, she's gay, and her audience is
- - men wouldn't feel comfortable in the audience. or like a joke: "surprisingly
enough, there were 10 guys there." you know, that kind of thing. or the writer
feels like they have to point out that they were a minority in the audience.

if i was going to write about rage against the machine, i wouldn't say i was up
in the mosh pit and i was in the minority of all these burly, drunk frat boys
who didn't know what they were saying. i wouldn't say that even if that's the
way i felt. i would be inclined to talk about the music. so that's the struggle
i think a lot of gay artists feel.

i think the other struggle is kind of like being a black rock artist: only one
is going to get covered. if there are five black people playing rock music,
they're not going to cover all five of them. so, of you're gay and you come out
with a record at the same time as melissa etheridge, k.d. lang, girlyman - only
one of you is going to get a review. and only one straight woman. the rest of it
is all going to be straight, white guys.

it's the same thing in radio. they have this weird thing that they can't play
more than a certain number of gay artists or a certain number of women, because
they think it trends their station a little too far one way. we were talking
about the next indigo girls single being this song called "pendulum swinger,"
and it's a feminist anthem or whatever. emily wrote it; it's very political,
very outspokenly feminist.

ae: new ground for you guys.
ar: [laughs.] but there's a major hesitation for it to become a single, even at
hollywood records, which is full of liberal people. it's like, "i don't know. "
they don't want to say it out loud to us, but it's this little grumbling about
how it's a feminist song. it's like, "guys, use it to your advantage. are you
idiots?" since bush has got a 30 percent approval rating right now, i guess that
means at least 70 percent of the people would like it.

my label [daemon] never had an intention to be lgbt-specific.  there's a lot of
great queer music that does not get recognized and put out, and so just by
default, a lot of artists ended up with us  because they had no other place to
go, and i'm very proud of the artists. we have straight artists too, but they're
sort of queer too, because they have to have this perspective to be on our
label. because if you didn't have a very subversive perspective, you wouldn't
really want to be on the label.

we had a couple of queer artists who actually told me they didn't want to do gay
press, and i said, "you can't be on the label and not do gay press." [laughs.]
that's not going to happen with me. i'm not going to force anybody, but it just
seems silly to me. so even people that are queer and really out, they get scared
even to do gay press because they think it will pigeonhole them. sometimes i'm
like, "you better do gay press because that's all you're gonna get."

it's all fear, though. you have to remember that. people are just scared. it's
not always a moral dilemma. it's usually just, "i'm scared of what people are
going to say about me. when people hear my music, i don't want them to only
think about the fact that i'm gay." but you can't control that.

it's either people that live in areas where they don't get to experience how
positive it can be and how you don't need to be scared - they don't get that
support - or it's people who are older. because if you're in your early 20s and
starting a band, i'm not sure that even occurs to you anymore. i hope it
doesn't, anyway.

ae: i'm biased, but hopefully being in queer press is a way to get that kind of
feeling of support.
ar: i think so, too.

for more on amy ray and her record label, visit

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