The pink elephant
What female artists don't say
By Maethelyiah Nash
The pink elephant is in the room staring at the surreality of 2020.
The independent music scene has literally been slaughtered by Covid and who knows what else Brexit has to do with what's left.
Musicians (both amateurs and professionals) use the media to entertain the public, from national magazines to international websites and blogs to thousands of playlists on sites like Mixcloud and some listening parties on Twitter or Facebook. Check out Tim Burgess from The Charlatans' Listening Party, it's good!
On the other hand, entire generations are en masse and wonder if they will ever set foot in a music venue again. Many venues are on the verge of closing forever, with some music sponsors relying on crowdfunding to keep their businesses going while others are doing their best to raise taxpayers' money that the current government don't fucking publish.
The technology in particular has everyone under control. We are becoming so dependent on the Internet and its many facets that a world without it is unimaginable.
I wrote the lyrics of "Kill U Later" * a year before Covid joined, and oh, if it wasn't a premonition. If you really want to kill us all, damn Covid, just pull the plug and we'll all just disappear and die (if we don't kill each other first!).
An Italian expression would define my introduction as “discovering warm water”. Yes, we all know this is happening, but in the middle of the aforementioned slaughterhouse, between blood and various parts of the body, there is still a rather large elephant that no one is talking about, and it is actually pink.
The pink elephant sits in the middle of the room and has been for years. There is far too much blood on the floor and blades and rifles and hooks dangling from the ceiling. The Pink Elephant has watched everyone trudge blindly, getting drawn into the rat race of all the things we take for granted, and now that things are so difficult, she decided it was time to take a few steps . All in all, what could possibly go wrong? In the worst case, she runs into a butcher. After all, not a bad thing if you enjoy eating meat as much as you enjoy sex with a cactus.
Have you ever wondered why most independent festival line-ups are mostly male musicians? What about most independent music magazines? What's on their covers? I'm not talking about mainstream pop magazines, of course, it's a completely different world that I'm not in.
Can you see the pink elephant now
And when you finally discover a female face, apart from the (great) Siouxsie and Debbie Harry, how many other female artists are there? If you're lucky enough to get a look at Dead Can Dance or Evanescence, they may be mainstream and that's an easy win.
Let me help you with a few examples: Alexa De Strange is confronted by an amazing soprano over stunning quality metal; Bad Pollyanna has been working for years to help girls empower themselves through beautiful songs. The front woman of Zeitgeist Zero is also a brilliant filmmaker. Do you like cabaret goth? Look up CaudaPavonis. Oh by the way, did you see how flexible Miss Blueberry from Two Witches is? I know there is a lot more! Why aren't they out there next to their male colleagues? Why do I only have social media to follow them and know they exist?
Bjork has been possibly the loudest artist to date to claim sexism has affected her musical career, and JK Rawlings appeared as Robert Galbraith when she suggested Harry Potter for release to appeal to a wider range of readers. But what about the many other girls who work twice as much as male musicians and are still silenced?
I was lucky enough (or had the curse) to be born invincible. Ask me kindly and you could get almost anything, try to silence me and your ears will bleed.
I loved ballet when i was a kid, but I never played with dolls. I preferred to spend Most of the time I disassembled radios and watched autopsies with a family friend.
I never believed in it male and feminine activities in themselveseven though i loved my heelsd dresses from a very early age, somehow I noticed gender gametime as a massive limitation of the child's abilities.
The first time I had to deal with sexism was when I submitted a musical score to a theater show in Rome when I was 18. My score was ignored. I resubmitted as a male applicant and it was selected. I thought of myself as Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh with a false beard … just like all other male pharaohs. So my first stage name was originally a male. I used the name Max until my tits got too big and that was the end of that.
At the time I was with a Roman band whose biography featured my male pseudonym as well as an alternate name chosen for me without my consent. There is still a live video on tape where you can hear someone in the public ask, "Thought the singer was an ugly guy?" At one point I felt like I was being asked for more than what I wanted to give the band, but even though we were on national TV, both of my nicknames were unceremoniously removed from the band's bio when I left. Sure, the Pink Elephant was already there, but things had to be kept quiet somehow. I quickly learned that as a woman you can give 99% and be taken for granted, but once you say no, you have to be deleted, just like when people block you on Facebook. Fair enough, I was happy to keep going too.
Since then, I noticed that the more voluptuous my appearance became, the more problems arose. The fact that I was the image of the famous Italian porn actress Jessica Rizzo didn't help at the time.
It got even more complicated when I got into a relationship with a bandmate. You share so much with your band that it becomes family and sometimes a little more can happen. However, after 14 fractures and brain injuries that handicapped me, I discovered that a certain relationship wasn't going to last. Disagreements are fine, that's what makes us all adults, but when you run into a sexist guy, you are considered some kind of property. "Mine or nobody else" are the last words I remember. Second Important Lesson: If you realize it is time to leave your abusive partner, don't make it known.
After months of rehab I picked up my little things and finally moved to the UK in 2001. I've worked with a couple of bands since between my inactive periods, Blooding Mask was my original project since 1992.
In 2009 I toured Europe with a British band to sing as a soprano. I was approached by two of their previous singers who warned me to be very careful. After a gig in Paris, one of the band members assumed that I would share bed and room with him. Of course it didn't happen. I locked him out and had to improvise my own transport home the next day. Déjà-vu. All of my pictures quickly disappeared from their pages and everyone moved on. Learned nothing new. Same old 99/1 story.
Fast forward to 2010, I remember the Danse Society reforming while watching a live video on YouTube. At the time, I was working on an e-magazine that never happened because my life was changing pretty quickly and I wasn't doing very well. However, I reached out to their Facebook page to interview them shortly after interviewing Wayne Hussey as he was rebuilding his career. I was quickly informed that the Reformation was not going to take place as Steve Rawlings (the original singer) cut off all communication with the band after they recorded the music for a new album. I was given the opportunity to listen to the instrumentals because my profile showed that I was a singer, and yes, why not? I've been a long time fan so I took the idea really happily.
And what a ride it has been since then!
A singer replacing a male was a very controversial idea at the time, but the facts show that the concept has gained momentum in the long run. Also, the recent incarnation of Jodie Whittaker as Dr. Who even shows the mainstream, the same leap of faith. I've seen men on points in ballet. 007 reverberates with the demolition of what may be the last man-only role, so maybe it wasn't a bad idea after all! In a moment of optimism, I want to believe that gender equality will become a reality.
Back to my time at The Danse Society, as the whole band agreed at the time, no male vocalist could have matched Steve's style, and we all went for a whole skin change (cue title for the new album).
Change of Skin was well received by critics, as was the Scarey Tales successor. The truth is that unlike any singer, I was never a competitor to Steve's legacy, but an addition to what he left behind.
I wrote all of the Change of Skin and ScareyTales songs with the band. I have very fond memories of her, especially when we shot the videos with very limited technology; I edited them with my old Imac. I also ran the website, social media channels, mail order business and of course singing too. It was a small team and we all did everything we could and that was part of our happily subscribed agreement.
Recently, however, it was brought to my attention that an article on the history of my band in a national magazine defined me as just an anonymous friend in stockings that destroyed the band.
There are so many bands whose singers have replaced the original one, like in 1919, but mine was the only name that was missing from this whole issue. Just like the band in Paris, here's another attempt to wipe me out. There is nothing new to learn here either.
I've been in the band for almost 10 years now, exactly three years longer than Steve. I co-wrote 4 albums and an EP. Just like me, the keyboardist of the Danse Society, David Whitaker, was never a charter member, but his socks aren't exactly what he remembers (bless him, he's a true gentleman and friend!).
Disagreements are fine. For more serious disputes, the court is the right place to settle. Decent men do that. Everything else that follows has nothing to do with decency and equality.
There are still online interviews showing childish objectifications of my ass by the same people who are now so desperate for approval for any abuse they share about me on social media. I was the one who was accused of sexualized the remake of a song called The Seduction, as if such a title could possibly imply something other than its literal meaning, but even when I was wearing a thick band t-shirt to make sure that I was completely covered I was still told that my tits looked "too big" when I went out on stage. Can I not win?
I remember being approached by someone who wanted to join our band. He pursued me with exaggerated compliments that I would not have believed even after drinking a whole case of wine. After politely declining this offer, he got so bitter that he still leaves dozens of unsolicited nasty comments on social media and YouTube, with the deceptive idea that his opinion has some relevance to my life.
I have seen statement I must have been a slut when I was a kid to be where I am today;; I was body embarrassed, I had racist and sexist comments, and I even received death threats the first time I replaced Steve. On a gig in London, I was the only member of the band who didn't get a handshake from the headliner, who preferred to look badly at me and walk away when it came my turn. I've even been accused of taking legal action when the registers clearly state who started what and when.
But … well … you know … "Yoko Ono broke the Beatles!" someone shouted from behind and suddenly everyone turned into biography experts, a bit like Google "How to Get Rid of a Cold" and your research is triggering hundreds of cancers waiting to kill you in the next few days, be it Because, you wrap your head in aluminum foil.
As you've probably noticed, the modern versions of witch burning inserts are now social media sites. Their so-called community standards allow harassment and abuse to flow freely like beer at Oktoberfest, and make all sorts of sociopathic guards feel powerful behind their sticky keyboards. Everything is fine until a targeted teenager loses his life, a few posts with a few crying faces follow, then the whole circus starts all over again.
Why is this happening? I have no idea I'm not a psychiatrist.
Nothing changes what I am and what I do unless I want to and not just because I'm no longer a teenager. I always make music and love it, but sometimes the Pink Elephant also deserves some fresh air, especially when things smell a little too strong, other silences are taken as approval.
Can you deny that when a male musician who resists abuse is tough and when a woman does, she is just labeled a diva? When I do, some have called me a fat Italian biatch in hopes of silencing me. As you can imagine, that didn't work.
Fortunately, our supporters are no less interested in boundaries and routines, or if I have a penis of a vagina, they follow us because we embrace all generations and are not afraid to try new sounds and evolve. In one of the first post-reform interviews with Paul Nash (the only remaining founding member) it was found that no one in the band is interested in posing as what was back in the 80s.
10 years later we are now celebrating the 40th anniversary of the music of the Danse Society. Perhaps the best reason to follow us was a gentleman who announced a few days ago on BBC Radio York that he loved us because we embraced the past, present and future. Apparently he saw us support Toyah at Scarborough Market Hall this February.
Of course my experience has been pretty extreme and luckily the majority of the musicians are absolutely great and I'm still a very good friend with most of my ex-bandmates.
There the Pink Elephant has now left the room on its bloody legs. She was eventually noticed and retrieved with a promise that girls would express themselves through their music.
I will always encourage younger female artists to focus on honing their own skills and choosing musicians who are wonderful to work with, who are not afraid of a vulva, and who treat everyone equally without the need for hospitalization or a lawyer .
I honestly wish for them to find bandmates like mine and for the gigs to start again soon.
* Track from The Danse Society 7th Studio album "Sailing Mirrors".