Remember the Grunge Movement? Kurt Cobain, heroin, crossdressing, plaid shirts, shotguns, suicides, Courtney Love, and self-loathing? Well, as appealing as that all sounds, there are people who are sick and tired of it. In the shadow of the millennium, there are perverts who still think we can not only crossdress, but sing, dance, party, fuck, get kinky, and (gasp!) have a good time. Who the hell do they think they are, anyway? Why, they're the Impotent Sea Snakes, of course!
And who, you ask, are the Impotent Sea Snakes? Well, they're five really slippery fellows to try to connect with for an interview, that's who they are (although that's not what it says in their promo literature). But, ignoring the comedy of errors we committed trying to link up for a post-Portland concert interview, they're a five-piece drag queen band from Atlanta, Georgia, that sings deliciously naughty, pro-safe-sex songs and surrounds itself with deliciously naughty sexual performance artists.
An Impotent Sea Snakes show is like a rock-n-roll circus sideshow: strippers, S&M, fire eaters, stilt walkers, live sex, explosions, burning crosses and flags... and some kick-ass guitar sounds.
Whereas Little Johnny's black eyeliner might give his post-modern mom a headache, the lyrics of a typical ISS song are likely to give her a fucking hemorrhage... they're definitely for "mature adults only," as are their live performances.
But even adults have had some difficulty seeing their shows, due to Big Brother's deep concern for the moral fiber of the American concert-goer's mind. One city, famed for its morality and peace-loving nature (Los Angeles) threatened to close down the two venues which had scheduled Snake performances. Fans had to travel to suburban Silverlake to catch a show.
But more sexually sophisticated cities, such as Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco, welcomed the band enthusiastically, and more elaborate (and more X-rated) shows were enjoyed by attendees... without civil unrest or the destruction of mankind as we know it. Which is almost too bad, frankly.
These impudent Sea Snakes might have been able to slither in and out of L.A. without any trouble if it hadn't been for the amazing publicity that an appearance on HBO's Sex Bytes gave them, and the resulting high profile status they earned with the powers that be. The cable celebrity has resulted in more than just notice from disapproving moralists, though. "They estimated that 20 million people saw it," lead singer, 13, told me prior to the band's west coast appearances. This means that they can draw larger crowds now, but not everyone was convinced that the HBO presentation was in the band's best interest. "Half the band didn't want to do it, half of us did. There was a long, in-depth debate over it." For better or worse, they did it, and now more American's than ever have seen that you can make a guitar scream while casually wearing a corset and wig. But are they just posers cashing in on a fetish hook?
"I've been sneaking into my sister's closets for as long as I can remember and, ironically, Buck, my long-time musical companion, was doing the same thing with his sister," 13 assured me. And, according to the band's experience, crossdressing isn't that uncommon, simply back in people's closets, not being discussed. 13 discovered after a radio interview, that the DJ in charge had wanted to crossdress publicly for 15 years, but had not had the guts to try. After attending an Impotent Sea Snakes show he was inspired to give it a try, and has done so every weekend since.
Does that make them a "gay" band? Not according to 13, and the local audience supported his claim. Suit and tie professionals deafened themselves alongside leather boys, long-hairs, bondage freaks, straight transvestites, and flower-power hippie types. "I've never understood why anyone gives a shit what the other guy's doing in his bed. And it goes both ways. Why, when Melissa Etheridge comes out that she's a lesbian does she all of a sudden start selling albums? I've never gone out and bought an album because a person was or wasn't gay. I buy it because of the music." It's this attitude that makes the band playful concerning their sexual preferences, claiming a troupe member is gay at one show and straight at the next.
Yet some members of the gay community, most notably those who work hard to look "straight" have been critical, disapproving of the drag aspect and believing it makes a mockery of gayness.
"But no one is gayer than Ru Paul," 13 counters. On a recent trip to New York City the high priestess of drag gave the Snakes a guided tour of the city, including the sex club, The Vault. Apparently the club was a little different from the ones back in Atlanta, because what the Snakes saw shocked even them. "There was a woman older than my grandmother sitting with her legs way up in the air and guys were taking turns fingering her. There was all kinds of sex and homosexuality and bisexuality goin' on. Fuckin' was nothin' in this place," 13 confided excitedly.
Currently, distribution of the Impotent Sea Snakes' music has been limited, primarily done over the Internet or via direct mail from Masquerade Recordings, their label. Perhaps it's the subject matter that's putting off mainstream stores? Songs like "Chicks with Dicks," "Felching," and "Porn Star" are probably a little too rich for Tower Records just yet. But the goal of such songs is not to offend but to expand people's boundaries, according to 13. "If there's something that you want to try, forget what your mother or your father or your teacher or your preacher told you. Go ahead and try it."
But this return to the "if it feels good, do it" pre-plague mentality is not handed out mindlessly. It's handed out with condoms. "There's no reason to stop having sex," 13 explained passionately. "It's like driving a car in the rain. You're not going to stop doing it, you're just going to do it a little safer." It's about damn time someone pointed this out.
If you've got access to an internet account and are interested in learning more about the Impotent Sea Snakes and their pro-sex message and music, direct your browser to http://www.masq.com/iss.html. You'll find plenty of biographical info, photos, downloadable sounds and video files, as well as an order form for CD's, tapes, and T-shirts. This is the very site, by the way, that caught the attention of Sex Bytes, so check it out. If you're still living in the stone age, grab your slate and stylus and write to The Snake Pit, 695 North Avenue, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308-2856.
If you do contact the band, tell them I said hello... and to keep spare cell phone batteries nearby from now on.