It’s Pride! Throughout June, HollywoodLife is running The Sound Of Pride, a month-long feature where members of the LGBTQ+ community pick songs that should be on your Pride 2022 playlist. Today, Kid Congo Powers shares his picks for the season’s soundtrack. Dubbed “the most outside insider of all of punk rock,” Kid Congo has witnessed, documented, contributed, and celebrated some of the most influential music of the past four decades – all while being one of the coolest cats in the room.
Kid Congo’s renown stems from his work alongside Jeffrey Lee Pierce in The Gun Club, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and The Cramps (whose music was featured on Stranger Things 4). But that just scratches the surface of the man’s life and career. He will continue to scratch that itch with Some New Kind of Kick, his long-awaited, highly-anticipated memoir. Out on Oct. 18 via Hachette books, Some New Kind of Kick (pre-order here) details his “experiences as a young, queer Mexican-American in 1970s Los Angeles through his rise in the glam rock and punk rock scenes.”
“The desire to do anything, music or writing, for example, is to share something alternative from the norm with people,” Kid Congo tells HollywoodLife when asked if he felt a grand obligation to share his story as queer punk youth. “Yes, the desire as an adult to reflect and tell my story of a young queer, a young Chicano, a young music fanatic, a troubled dreamer, who ventures into the world and floats around and makes things seem like a thing to tell. The gay punk has always been there, many times leading the way. I learn a lot through identification, so I hope some younger or older will identify and find a bit of illumination. Or at least a laugh.”
Some New Kind Of Kick arrives on Oct. 18. In the meantime, here are Kid Congo Powers’ picks for your June 2022 Pride Playlist.
Jackie Shane’s “Any Other Way”
Kid Congo Powers: First, I have picked the great African American trans singer Jackie Shane’s “Any Other Way,” an amazing and absorbing soul music ballad originally released in 1962. Jackie was a pioneer who performed and lived as a woman in the mid-sixties. I love this song, lyrically in the same vein as (lesbian) Dusty Springfield’s “I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore,” about the heartbreak and humiliation of breaking up a love affair and everyone talking about it in hushed tones. Here, Jackie stands tall, and what might be double meaning or plain-speaking, she sings:
“Here you come again / And you say that you’re my friend / But I know why you’re here / She wants to know how I feel / Tell her that I am happy / Tell her that I am gay / Tell her I wouldn’t have it / Any other way.”
The Screamers, “Peer Pressure”
Second is “Peer Pressure” by synth-punk band The Screamers. Recorded as a demo in 1977, this is a rare audio release only recently officially put out by Superior Viaduct Records. The Screamers were fronted by the absolutely charismatic queer performer Tomato Du Plenty. In the Punk music explosion of 1977 in Los Angeles, the wildly innovative band was revered with a Beatle-mania fervor by misfits making up the scene. Maybe because Tomata and The Screamers’ entourage was made up of drag performers who were off, off-Broadway (CBGB), Theater Of The Absurd, San Francisco’s The Cockettes, and Seattle’s Ze Whiz Kidz; they knew a thing or two about non-conformity when adapted to punk rock. Tomato Du Plenty was a role model queerdo for the likes of myself. How thrilled us young gays were when The Screamers sang the inclusive lyric:
“Everywhere I look, I get pressure from my peers / Some of them are straight, and some of them are queers / Some of them are black, some of them are white / Some of them are wrong, some of them are right.”
HollywoodLife One of the best parts of Pride month is the rediscovery of the unsung heroes. Is there a member of the LGBTQ+ community that you would like to get some more mainstream love?
Kid: I will say to the two artists above, Jackie Shane and Tomato Du Plenty of The Screamers. Never in the mainstream, but every bit, or more important than most who are. To be contemporary, how about wonderful Mark Eitzel?
We’re all eagerly awaiting Some New Kind Of Kick. You’ve said you’ve been working on this for a while. How does it feel to have it done?
It feels great and, to be truthful, a bit scary that it will be out there in October. A bit unbelievable after many years of tinkering away at it.
Has the process of writing this memoir changed your relationship with these memories/your history? Have certain experiences become more important in your story since writing the book, or maybe you’ve realized certain things ‘weren’t so bad’ after the years removed?
Actually, I realized some of my memories were much worse than I remembered them when I jotted them down. I would literally jump out of my seat sometimes. To your question, the focus shifted several times during the years I wrote, and even more in the editing process. I wanted to tell the story and my long close personal, and musical friendship with Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the Gun Club.
As someone born in Arizona, your video for “He Walked In” was a perfect visual matchup to the song. Do you have any more visual projects coming up?
Thanks. I love that video by filmmaker David Fenster. It was made at the height of the strict pandemic lockdown. The beautiful open land and scenery and isolation reflected the mood of the time and song.
My band, The Wolfmanhattan Project, just finished a video with fab artist Jasmine Hirst for a song called “Silky Narcotic,” out sometime in the near or far future.
In that vein, what about new music? You released the Swing From The Sean DeLear a year ago. “He Walked In” is a fabulous piece of artwork, so I was curious if you will follow in that trance state of rock? Or are you itching to scream and shout?
I am a creature of whim, so it’s hard to say what will come next. Actually not that hard, as I have a live album called Live in St Kilda in Australia with Harry Howard and The NDE as my band, a new album called Summer Forever and Ever with my project with Mick Collins of The Gories and Dirtbombs and Bob Bert (Pussy Galore, Sonic Youth etc..) called The Wolfmanhattan Project, a single with my solo Tucson band of Subsonics cover versions, and a mainly instrumental guitar album called Tucson Safari with French/Tucson guitarist Naim Amour, all in the can and ready to be released starting this fall. All on In The Red Records. A bit of everything in the pipeline.
I read that your first time with a guitar was after Lydia Lunch told you to play “Rock And Roll All Nite” by Kiss. So, the final question is: have you finally learned that song?
Kid: I will forever refuse to learn it.