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xmag.com : June 2002: Ass Machine

Ass Machine

ON THE SIXTH DAY, GOD CREATED MAN, and from his rib was born Woman.

Nobody knows who the hell is to blame for ASS Machine.

Hailing from the humid "Leather Clubs" of San Francisco's notoriously gay Castro District, and counting among their diehard fans such notables as Camille Paglia and Sir Benjamin Chester, ASS Machine has churned out seven full-length albums for indie music label Silence = Freedom since their founding nine years ago. I first heard about the band from a friend, who called me drunk at four o'clock in the morning and screamed, "It's Cruisin':The Musical! You've got to see these guys!"

What is ASS Machine? That's hard to say. More of a phenomenon than a simple band, the Machine is made up of the stunningly handsome and frequently baby-oiled front man Hotboy; DAT-molester and Moog-
terrorist Bottom Feeder; and Honey Bucket,
an HIV-positive bass-manipulator. All are militantly homosexual in ways that normal people would find extremely unpleasant. Coming from the lunatic fringe of the gay S/M community, ASS Machine's lifestyle is a sweaty, leather-and-stud-packed Homo Utopia, stuffed to the brim with "glory-holes," "touch-parties," and unspeakable depravity. No Girls Allowed. They've done everything from produce pornographic videos to auction their jockstraps on eBay, and over the years, they've built a fanatical, almost political following among the S/M and leather scenes. Their music runs a disturbing steeplechase 'round industrial dance and grease-dripping disco, splashes through the pool of techno-metal, and then, when you thought the race was over, jumps the impossible hurdle of "Dark Show-Tunes."

Their lyrics are a monument to sexual periphery. Every song is a lesson, schooling the listener in Leather-Sex. In the song "Strong Man," Hotboy sings over a jolting House sound:

Pissing for you, yeah/

Give a little, drink a little, yeah/

Strong enough for you, yeah?/

Am I a man strong enough for you?


The Machine's bludgeoning heavy-metal hymn "Shit-Kiss" is a disquietingly tender ode to a boy who "writhes in my body-trash/hugging the filth." One of the band's numerous anti-woman anthems, "Cock Walk, Cunt Crawl," begins with the line:


Killing a woman's like killing a rock/

Only Man is human, take a look for the cock.


LEATHER SEX AND HARD S/M have been a part of the urban gay scene since the beginning. It's a bar-culture, populated by Bears, Boys, Bottoms and Tops, Slaves and Masters, Daddies, Jocks, Cow-Pokes, and Body-Builders; men sexually obsessed with "mansmells": body hair, fluids, and pain. There is no Playgirl for this crowd, no airbrushed photos of half-erect fashion models, no celebrity gossip. Magazines like International Leatherman, Power Player, and Hard Garbage report on the scene, filled with ads for "Bear Sex Party" videos and "The Perfect Exposure Sling." Every issue contains several pages of personal ads running the gamut from the tame "Slave Wanted" to the outrageous "Piss in my Shitter."

I CAUGHT UP WITH ASS MACHINE at Silverado, a notorious gay bar in downtown Portland, as they prepared for their upcoming show. Hotboy sauntered in the door clad from head to toe in brown polyester, his plentiful muscles rippling. I found it difficult to watch him move; he appeared cut from marble, statuesque, almost cartoonish in his beauty. I think of the things this man does behind closed doors, and my brain boggles. The average woman would gladly lick his chocolate brown Beatle Boots, but if the words he writes are any indication, it's he who does the licking...and it isn't chocolate. Hotboy is trailed closely by Bottom Feeder, a gaunt, unshaven "sub" in brown leathers. Feeder's half-grown beard is sprinkled with beads of moisture, and I cringe thinking of the possibilities. Honey Bucket is absent, supposedly "on a date."

After the introductions and a round of ice-breaking tequila shots, I wondered aloud how such a group might have ended up touring the country together.

"In 1993, the gay scene in San Francisco was nothing but a bunch of faggots," Hotboy explains. "We were strong. It made us sick, so we decided to form a band made up of guys we knew and write songs about our lives. Feeder had been DJing at the Stockade, a leather bar near my house, writing a lot of Hard Disco on an old Etonics-909 sampler. He was one of my sex partners, so we got together with a couple guys we knew played, did some shitting, some push-ups, and wrote some songs. The rest is history."

"Shitting" is something ASS Machine mentions in its lyrics often, and I had been quite curious as to what it was exactly. It seemed hard to believe that it wasn't some esoteric homosexual code-word or a
flagrant misdirection of some kind. No such luck.

"Shitting is a thing that guys do when they're gay," Bottom Feeder says. "They may deny it to your face, but believe me, they do it. To me, it's always been a combination of certain Eastern meditation techniques and good old-fashioned American elbow grease. First you squat down low to the ground with your legs at a 90-degree angle, concentrating on the Earth underneath you. Then you visualize yourself empty, you know, devoid of any substance at all. Then you relax your sphincter muscles until your bowels release. It's usually done on the floor, but it can be done anywhere."

A perfect explanation. Hotboy elaborated. "Shitting is a really personal thing. Everybody does it for different reasons. I do it to sort of gain control of my body from a gay perspective, you know what I mean?"

I don't. In fact, ASS Machine seem cut from an entirely
different sexual cloth, as if they popped through a dimensional portal somewhere and were forced to adapt to our customs as best as they could. Other than "shitting," ASS Machine is keen to tell you about "pitting," where one man licks the sweat from another's armpit; and perhaps most unsettling of all, "oil and soil," which is better left to the imagination.

"We do what we like," says Hotboy, "and we like to fuck other men. Sometimes we do it in ways you wouldn't understand. That's what we do; that's what we're about."


THE MEN BEHIND THE MACHINE are no strangers to controversy. Over the years they have been banned from every major radio market, blacklisted by nearly all of the nationwide motel chains, and publicly demonized by everyone from militant AIDS awareness group Project Action to 80's anti-music
stalwarts the Parent's Music Resource Center (PMRC). Pat Robertson has come out against them on the 700 Club, calling ASS Machine "the most immoral band in the world." Senator Joseph Lieberman, Al Gore's vice-presidential running mate and old-school censorship advocate, has campaigned to have the Machine's music legally classified as obscenity. In a recent speech before the Senate Subcommittee on Popular Culture, Lieberman, foaming slightly at the mouth, referred to the band as "the fucking Antichrist."

"Lieberman's an idiot," Bottom Feeder says offhandedly, stirring his drink. "Of all the people in the world, whose idea was
it to have a scrawny little feminine Jew act as our judge and jury? Now, Jesse Ventura, on
the other hand, he can discipline me whenever he wants!"

Also riding shotgun on the Bash
the ASS Machine Train are several high-profile feminist and women's-rights organizations. There is even an Anti-ASS Machine band called Outraged, made up of a ragtag group of transgender feminist musicians who take issue with ASS Machine's attitude toward the fairer sex. One of their songs is "Glass Machine," the story of an extremely masculine steel worker who gazes in the looking-glass and discovers his "inner-equality-treater," becomes a vegetarian, and renounces his former "anti-vaginal" lifestyle. Keith Jameson, Outraged's lead singer, spoke to me in a noticeably tense telephone interview.

"ASS Machine's music is a form of rape," he said in a strange, high-pitched voice. "When someone says they don't like women, that's just like rape. It's thought-rape."

Hotboy chuckles when I tell him about Outraged. "Yeah, that's funny. Rape. I've got no problem telling people how I feel about women, because I fucking hate women. They're weak, stupid, ugly, whining creatures. I'm a homosexual. I'm into masculinity. I believe that Man is God's greatest creation. Strong, muscular, hairy, dominating, hard-cocked Man."

Bottom Feeder goes even further. "If women were eliminated, think about what that would mean. No more weak femininity. No more soft bodies, flowery perfumes, or stinking, bleeding vaginas. If we wiped them out, all that would be left is men. I like that. I support that. I am definitely a misogynist."

This sort of brutal honesty does not sit well with the mainstream gay community. Local activist and director of Project Unity Reggie Carlson is one of the majority of "average" gays who take offense to the band's all-or-nothing attitude. He reluctantly spoke with me over drinks at Starkey's, a low-key gay lounge in Southeast Portland.

"I'm not saying these guys shouldn't be allowed to do their own thing, as long as they obey the law. It just makes me uncomfortable that they don't equate the Gay Struggle with the Feminist Struggle, when we're all fighting for the same thing; equal treatment and recognition from the White Male Patriarchy."

Hotboy's venomous response to Carlson startles me. "Do I look like a fucking weakling to you?" he bellows, knocking over his chair and flexing his massive chest until cords pop out of his neck. "Do you think I have trouble taking care of myself?"

Bottom Feeder diffuses the situation. "What Hots means is that we have absolutely nothing in common with those people. We would never allow
ourselves to be victims of any kind of discrimination. We're men. Strong, capable men. Men stand up for themselves. Those activist people, the women and the faggots, they're weaklings. They're born victims."

ASS Machine's unflinching misogyny and Social Darwinism go hand in hand, but Hotboy shows little interest. "People should mind their own business. If anything, they're begging for a fight."


ASS Machine's live performance has gained a well-deserved reputation for degenerating into chaotic violence as often as it does group sex or sadomasochistic revelry. Over the last nine years, they've been prosecuted in Virginia and Maryland for obscenity, in Oklahoma for public indecency, and in Iowa for inciting a riot. Protesters have gone as far as firebombing auditoriums in order to prevent the band from playing. Every member has endured at least one
broken bone as a consequence of playing a live show, culminating in the infamous San Francisco Homo-Coming Riot of February 21st, 1999, where Bottom Feeder lost three teeth and the feeling in his right foot.

"I got attacked by this gang of lesbians," he says. "They were beating me with clubs, and I kept thinking, 'What the hell are they so upset about? Why do they care?,' then I blacked out."

The band was burned-out. "Back in the 90's we played discos, rock clubs, you name it," Hotboy says. "It was hell. Every night we had to deal with psychotic feminists chaining themselves to the doors of the club. People slashed our tires, broke the windows on our van. Every third show turned into a riot. It was a wide-awake nightmare. Something had to give."

What 'gave,' surprisingly, was Feeder's burgeoning interest in the Internet. He was convinced that electronic communication was the answer to the band's problems. He tinkered and experimented for several months, and in August
of 1999, convinced that their fans were ready, ASS Machine opened "The Machine Shop."

"Machine Shop is our way of being able to play to our fans without the
hassle," says Bottom Feeder, the band's designated 'Shop Steward.'

"Now, in order to see ASS Machine live," Feeder says, "you have to be on
the list."

In the Machine Shop, fans are notified of upcoming shows via encrypted email. Through a method pioneered by the early-nineties LA rave community, the show's location isn't disclosed until a few hours before the band takes the stage. New fans are given passwords and put through a relentless screening process before being given the keys to the kingdom. By weeding out the haters, ASS Machine is guaranteed an audience of fans instead of those who would
disrupt the night's festivities.

Tonight's venue is "The Underground Railroad," an infamous in-crowd Leather hangout in the sub-basement of an auto-parts plant on Swan Island. About two hundred men are scheduled to attend, and each must present a
bar-coded invitation in order to be admitted. I am considered a guest of the band and, with their blessing, I'm ushered through a series of checkpoints.
My camera, notepad, and pens are confiscated, and
I'm subjected to an exceptionally thorough strip-search before I am permitted to enter the main chamber.

"Every show since Machine Shop has been super-cool," say Hotboy. "No women, no weaklings, no trouble. It's better this way. We'll never play in public again."


A FOG MACHINE fills the small, dimly lit club. The place reeks like an unattended locker room; honestly earned man-sweat and rank fart-smells permeate the air. The majority of the men are squatting on their haunches as if waiting for a signal, and they are rewarded as the DAT blips on, beginning the opening strains of "Shitter." ASS Machine takes the stage with a mandate unlike any musical performers I have ever seen, stalking to their positions with a palpable menace. Bottom Feeder's keyboard roars to life with a dozen notes at once, and Hotboy roughly caresses his microphone, leaning into the yellow spot which flashes on, a foot in front of him. He is a prince among men, unattached, uninhibited, and untouchable. His chest gleams with oil.

What better life, than the life of a Shitter? comes the opening line, reverberating through the dank air alongside the incredible density of Feeder's music, and it's a question I find myself unable to answer. The audience trumpets a sloppy organic cheer, emptying their bowels on the black plastic tarpaulins that litter the floor.

This is ASS Machine at their best, a swaggering homosexual cyborg of a band, pistons working in perfect time, all systems oiled and primed to crush the opposition. The primitive stench of fresh male sweat and steaming shit combine with the careening beat, a sensual ambuscade, attacking me and pumping blood through my veins. Watching this display of unbridled masculinity makes me feel stronger, more powerful, and more virile than I have in years.

Give me the life, give me the life of a Shitter!

And there isn't a woman in sight.




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