'I explained to him what my feelings were during the making of [“Cry is for The Flies”], about my guilt for leaving Mexico even though I felt mistreated by the music scene there' -- Teri Gender Bender
No matter how many times female musicians save us (Aretha), shock us (Gaga) or scare us (Diamanda), there’s still a vocal disbelief that such creatures can even exist. Combine that with an inhospitable cultural climate, and it takes a vibrant, unapologetic voice to kick against the pricks. That’s where Teri Gender Bender, frontwoman and founder of indie punk band Le Butcherettes, comes in. With her history of brazen stage antics (think making out with a bloody pig’s head while dressed as a ’50s housewife), passionate lyrics and almost feral voice, Teri Gender Bender reminds listeners of the transcendent power of women to cut through the shock and stereotypes in order to make powerful music.
ABQ Free Press spoke by phone with Gender Bender about touring with Melvins, kidnappings, poetry and the deadliness of garlic.
Us: Le Butcherettes is touring again with the Melvins, right? How’s it going?
Her: Before ever touring with them, we had the chance to bond because I played shows with Jello Biafra, and [Melvins frontman] King Buzzo was there. He had no idea who Le Butcherettes were; then he saw us play. He approached us and asked us to tour with them. Being a huge Melvins fan, I was blown away. They’re down-to-earth people. They’ve helped us with things that they don’t have to – loading in or having their crew help us soundcheck. That’s amazing because I started in Mexico, where I didn’t have the same experience with my native bands. There, it’s like they try to make your journey as a musician hard as hell.
Us: You have this mischievous joy on your face when you play live. What’s it like when you perform?
Her: I feel like everything is possible. My father passed away a while ago. He was a big music fan, so when I play I feel closer to him. I feel like death doesn’t exist when you’re playing music even though at the same time, when you release music, it’s like you’re killing part of yourself. But it takes shape into something else [so] that people interpret it differently, and you feed off of peoples’ energy; it’s a two-way street. <(Coughing on the line)>
Us: Are you okay?
Her: Yeah, I’m okay. It’s a nice ritual. Every culture has it. I think that’s what humanity shares in common: death, music and taxes.
Us: No, I was asking because I heard you coughing. Do you have a cold?
Her: Oh, no. I thought you meant okay mentally. <(Laughs)> It’s just allergies. But yeah, all’s good.
Us: The real reason I asked was I watched your interview in December with Consequence Of Sound, where you said you nearly choked to death on garlic. So when you were coughing, I thought, “Is she okay?”
Her:<(Laughter)> Yeah, that was horrible, but otherwise I’m still doing okay. At the beginning of this tour, I got sick, but this time I cut the pieces of garlic really tiny so that they wouldn’t get stuck in my throat.
Us: Good. Back to the questions. What was it like working with Henry Rollins on “Moment of Guilt/The Gold Chair Ate the Fireman” for “Cry is for the Flies”?
Her: That album was recorded three years ago, but then Omar Rodríguez-López [The Mars Volta, Antemasque, and Le Butcherettes’ producer] invited me to start a new band [Bosnian Rainbows], so I put my record on pause. When I came back to it later, I thought, “This needs a spoken word piece,” and Henry is perfect for that. I was told that he supports Le Butcherettes because he saw us open for Iggy & The Stooges, so I reached out to him.
I explained to him what my feelings were during the making of [“Cry is for The Flies”], about my guilt for leaving Mexico even though I felt mistreated by the music scene there. He came up with “Moment of Guilt,” this amazing story about Death approaching a man who refuses to feel guilt, refuses to even be touched by it. It’s an empowering message and good closure for me.
Us: What about the new album that’s out in September? What can listeners expect?
Her: It’s based on experiences that I’ve seen – for example, through the eyes of my mother as a woman growing up in Mexico. She was kidnapped when she was 17. Lots of horrible kidnappings happened in my family but all survived. Unfortunately there are so many cases where people don’t, but they died with the will to live. Don’t get me wrong: Mexico is a beautiful country. It’s just a shame that it’s in the hands of pigs. Nothing is ever enough for them.
Us: I know you’re also a poet. Tell me more about your book, “El Caparazón Perdido (The Missing Carcass).”
Her: It was only available in this Mexican bookstore called Porrua. Unfortunately, all the copies just sold out, but people can order it online. My second book is already finished. It’s abstract, based on those dreams where you wake up in the middle of the night and think, “I have to write this down before I forget it.”
It’s cool that you brought up my poetry. It doesn’t happen much, so that’s awesome.
Us: Have you read “The Verging Cities” by Natalie Scenters-Zapico? She’s a borderland poet from El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. It’s terrific. Could I share it with you?
Her: Are you kidding me? Of course! That would be amazing.
— M. Brianna Stallings
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