The Sound Of Young Gay America.
Breaking down gender definitions song by song,
TFG are a New York trio out to confront
all your wildest preconceptions
If they are sex-pranksters, if they are Fugs in Village People drag, mischievous provocateurs with a subversive gender agenda, a harder than hard-core burn and more explicit action than a ‘Literotica’ short-story, then TFG have found their perfect visual foil in controversial underground cartoonist Mike Diana. The artwork for their June 2020 ‘Swallow Sperm’ album (Third Input Records) has all the outrageous naïf energy of street-art, grafitti and pornographic margin-doodles, exploding in euphoric brash vivid colours. Beyond Robert Crumb’s wildest imaginings, further out than Hunt Emerson, but less leather-fetishistic than Tom Of Finland, Mike’s creative depravity proved so offensive to the conservative-religious Right that in 1994 he was thrown in jail for four days without bail on obscenity charges, for publishing, advertising, and selling his ‘Boiled Angel’ ‘zine. Surely the first time artistic-censorship had led to incarceration since Manchester ‘Savoy Books’ publisher Dave Britton spent time for her majesty’s displeasure in Strangeways for the ‘Lord Horror’ novel?
‘TFG is a Pop grindcore comedy project first and foremost’ explains Kneepad Nikki. ‘I want people to laugh out loud when they hear this shit. However, TFG’s secondary purpose is to be a homophobe’s worst nightmare. We’re like the NWA of homosexuality. We take all the things that conservatives fear about Gay culture, and instead of downplaying them for societal approval, we amplify them beyond caricature. Then we shove them right up their ass.’
Where once there were sad Drag Queens living out their onstage Judy Garland Billie Holiday Torch Song dramas, or the divine Hi-NRG Disco of Sylvester or Divine cavorted in silver strobes, the New York-based TFG are more beyond definition. For people who like categories, the trio suggest Metal-Comedy, Twenty-First Century Pop-Grind or electro-Homocore. After all, TFG stands for Totally F**king Gay, and they crunch an autowreck of noise into toxic three-&-a-half minute songs. Talk-sing phrasing, almost Rap – but not Rap, talking blues, but not talking blues, Subterranean Homesick Blues, but not that either, something between the Pet Shop Boys “Left To My Own Devices” ‘I don’t like to compete or talk street street street’ and Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing”, mixing abrasive underground elements with guitar-based party tunes – if your idea of party is party-party! They consist of Nikki (voice, keys and dirty knees), Doc Octocock (guitars, keyboards, production and assplay) plus the talents of Joe Testículo (lead guitar and penis slide).
‘We never actually play live’ admits Nikki. ‘TFG has never played live. There are many reasons for this. The TFG keyboards and drums are all programmed or sampled. So only the rhythm guitars, lead guitars and vocals are ever ‘performed live’. But then again, Godflesh made quite a career out of playing live that way, and everyone loves them – myself included, so it could be possible. We get responses from people who like our music – and it ranges from rock/metal guys to electro/industrial girls and just other assorted freaks who enjoy the comedy aspect of what we do.’ In amongst colliding bass-lines that mash Punky chords with metallic harmonics, it’s possible to discern a thefted Ric Ocasek Cars keyboard trill, and there are brief lead/slide guitar squalls that evoke twisted mutations of Jimi at Woodstock. From the anthemic album title track to the monster beats of “Condoms Go On All Four Penises”, TFG bring gut-laugh joy to anyone who likes their sexual liberation served with guitar distortion.
So, if TFG were to play live, what would be your ideal venue? ‘I used to spend time at NYC clubs during the nineties – but I wouldn’t know what clubs to play now. If we’re talking a fantasy scenario, I would love to play the legendary ‘CBGB’s and the equally-legendary ‘Limelight’, if they were still around. Those two clubs were symbolic of underground hardcore, punk, metal and of free, sexy, hedonistic, dance music. So I would play CBGB’s-then hang out with Sick Of It All. The next night, we’d play ‘Limelight’ and hang out with RuPaul. That would be our big Two-Date US tour. I remember seeing bands like Primus play live and their audience was made up of people that would never otherwise hang out together, outside of being at a Primus show. So that’s what I’d hope for. All types of freaky people with no interest in rules, who’d jump in the mosh pit or just simply make out. We’re not an overly aggro band, but we do have loud guitars and occasional electro blast beats so anything could happen. Or, if you prefer to go full fantasy/time travel – the ultimate would be for TFG to play The Stonewall Inn in 1969 – the night of the riots. We would open our set with “Marathon Gay Sex For Manly Men” – and then the cops would raid the place.’
TFG was formed in 2003 by Kneepad Nikki (whose birth name is Mike Hymson, Jefe aka Johnny Chiba), who explains, ‘I needed an outlet to express admiration for the extreme side of Gay culture, to create an old school John Waters movie in sonic form.’ So, with ex-lover, P Nizlicka he fused his love of underground music with candid lyrics to record albums that were never officially released. ‘P Nizlicka was a great creative collaborator – and his abs were fantastic’ recalls Nikki. ‘I still get erect thinking about them/him. However, he made a lot of money and started voting Republican. That ended our relationship – both personal and professional.’
Luckily for Nikki, he rebounded into multi-instrumentalist producer Doc Octocock. Doc explains how ‘Nikki visited my studio when I was producing a Gangster Rap project which shall remain nameless. Let’s just say that some very well-known gangbangers are also assbangers! Anyway, Nikki had a lot of song ideas and I offered to let him record at Octocock Audio.’ Although musically and sonically more advanced than their predecessors, these new pieces were never released either. Nikki says, ‘I had a ton of material but no idea what to do with it. Doc suggested we start a record label together. I knew nothing of the homocore scene – and didn’t think there was an audience for weird music with funny, offensive pro-Gay lyrics. Ultimately, I balked at the label idea due to lack of money and health problems. I have lyme disease and I’m not in the best of health.’ When Nikki’s not creating music, he’s bouncing from doctor to doctor in hopes that some day he’ll regain his health.
The missing piece of the puzzle showed up in the form of Joe Testículo. ‘Joe walked into a laundromat near my house one night,’ says Nikki. ‘He was wearing a tank top and daisy dukes. He walked right up to the first washing machine and got undressed. It was about 9pm and this place was far from empty. He put his clothes in the machine and sat down butt naked until they were washed and dried.’ I recall a TV-ad storyboarding the same scenario. He continues… ‘he was very quiet and completely focused on his phone. I could tell he was on Grindr so I didn’t bother him. When his clothes were ready he quickly dressed and left. I chased him out into the parking lot and asked him to play lead guitar on my new album.’
With the line-up now firmed they cut TFG’s self-titled album during the summer of 2015. Bagels were eaten, dicks were sucked, and quasi-hits created. The lead single, “Marathon Gay Sex For Manly Men” was recorded first, followed by nine other homoerotic hymns. Once the album was completed it was released through the newly-formed Third Input Records – alongside the entire TFG back catalogue! Joe explains, ‘I saw potential audiences for TFG that Nikki was unable to see, queercore, grindcore, electronic music, even (shock-broadcaster) Howard Stern fans. There are also similarities between TFG and Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary movie ‘Brüno’ (2009), which made millions of dollars for its studio and star. We’re not aiming that high, but the money coming in from downloads and streaming should cover our lube and condom bills for the year.’
The second album – ‘Swallow Sperm’, follows last year’s “G.O.P (Gag On Penis)” EP, a hybrid of new wave, hard noise rock, pro-sex propaganda, pansexual lust and insult comedy cum together in a celebration of queer sonic rebellion. And it’s trailered by the title track issued as first taster single. A funny, dirty and catchy song, flaunting relentless Velvets industrial strength pulse with oblique guitar-Frippery, on drum-machines that vary from hip-hop to blast beats. It celebrates politics, pleasure and penis in a way that would make John Waters proud, there’s even some melody tucked in there somewhere.
Meantime, Joe is a friend of controversial artist, Mike Diana, who created three different original art-pieces for the album’s physical release. As the first of six seven-inch singles lined-up from the CD, each has Mike’s Risograph digital artwork that, when put together, forms a mega-yuge bigly poster, erupting with rude crude energy and vigorous exuberance. “Marilyn Manson I Will Suck Your Dick” is a fist-pumping anthem with catchy post-punk/goth guitar riffs over shifting drums – ‘Manson is Jesus, I am Satan’, ending with an extended, swirling, gravity-defying psychedelic solo powerful enough to summon the ghost of Jimmy Page. Wait, Page isn’t dead? “Someday There Will Be No Gender” – the fourth single, is a defiant declaration that the old rules no longer apply, ‘I am a liberal, because I have a brain.’ Boys can play with dolls, girls can ride BMX-bikes and trans-folks can pee wherever they damn well please. As time goes on, rigid definitions that describe and govern behaviour become obsolete. Don’t bother explaining yourself – just being yourself is enough.
As Nikki explains, the album’s fifth single, “Put Your Balls On My Goatee” was originally going to be the title of the record. ‘Lyrically, I was thinking about that old ‘Barney The Purple Dinosaur’ song that goes ‘I love you and you love me’. Naturally I thought the next line should be ‘so put your balls on my goatee’. It all snowballed from there. Ultimately, Joe convinced me we should go with ‘Swallow Sperm’ – and he had good reasons. But I still have fond memories of working on that song with Doc. He had an idea for a funky intro drumbeat, and I wasn’t convinced… until he started jerking me off. The song has a little bit of a throwback TFG sound to it, ‘homophobic hetero’s need to relax.’ There are three different short solo sections that brim with cannabis-fuelled intensity. There’s no overall lyrical theme, it travels from horny Rappers (Tupac) to horny Mafioso before closing with inevitable pickle metaphors. It’s all fun and games’
Would TFG do ‘America’s Got Talent’? ‘TFG on ‘America’s Got Talent? Damn, I don’t know. Maybe as an intentional shit-show performance. Just have Doc and Joe play dissonant chords and feedback and have me recite some bad Jim Morrison-eque poetry as I strip down to a G-string. I couldn’t imagine going on a talent show like that for real – and trying to win it! So we would just try to bomb, go out in a blaze of glory, and be the performance that everyone talked about the next day. If Stern was still judging on America’s Got Talent, Joe would force me to do it whether I wanted to or not!’
The Bloodhound Gang once serenaded their favourite Porn-star with “The Ballad Of Chasey Lain” (1999), what Porn-star would TFG eulogise? ‘It’s funny you mention Bloodhound Gang. Where the hell are those dudes? I always loved bands who mix humour and music. From S.O.D. (Stormtroopers Of Death) to The Bloodhound Gang to Steel Panther. So if we were to serenade porn stars I would choose two. TFG is all about being interested in and open to everything. So for a Gay male porn star I would serenade Conner Habib. He actually has a podcast that I listen to. He’s funny, smart, good-looking. He needs a song about him. And for a female porn star – you notice that no female porn stars are ever called straight or gay. Only male porn stars have to be broken down into categories and stay in their lane. That’s the kind of thing TFG is against… haha! I’ll choose Joanna Angel. She’s a NY/NJ person who came from the punk scene. She popularized the whole punk/emo/indie/goth women with tattoos movement in porn. It didn’t really exist before her. And I’ve heard her on many podcasts and she’s funny, smart and good-looking, too. Maybe I should do one song and write about both of them. Or write a positive song about sex workers in general and name-drop both of them in it. You’ve really given me a good idea, Andy. I’ll have to give you twenty cents out of the eventual dollar I’ll make.’
‘In closing, TFG is proud to be pro-LGBTQ+, pro-sex, and pro-pleasure. We take your orgasm as seriously as you do. The only things we don’t like are the GOP (Republican Party) and your new boyfriend. We’re sorry, but he’s all wrong for you, girl.’
Through to the serious message, because every good story has a moral. In the Trumpelstiltskin era, the artistic marriage of TFG and Mike Diana seems more timely than ever. If you love LGBTQ+ and hate the Right, then ‘Swallow Sperm’ could well be your album of the year. My friend Dave Britton in Manchester was jailed for publishing the supposedly obscene ‘Lord Horror’ novel. And Mike Diana deserves your support. We enjoy living in our liberal tolerant bubble but there’s a lot of weirdy-beardy whiskery old guys, and smart-suited tele-hypocrites with hotlines to antique deities out there who think that because nomadic tribes four-thousand years ago stoned ‘sexual deviants’ that sets a useful precedent for doing so now. Be reassured that, from bathhouse to mosh-pit, TFG has got you covered.
BY ANDREW DARLINGTON
Band contact: [email protected]
‘Swallow Sperm’ Full Album: http://www.tfg.world/swallowsperm_full.html
Six singles and music videos…
(1) ‘Swallow Sperm’ – out 13 December 2019
(2) ‘Condoms Go On All Four Penises’ –17 January 2020
(3) ‘I Don’t Know Anyone Who Is Straight’ – out 21 February 2020
(4) ‘Someday There Will Be No Gender’ – out 27 March 2020
(5) ‘Put Your Balls On My Goatee’ – out 24 April 2020
(6) ‘Marilyn Manson I Will Suck Your Dick’ – out 22 May 2020
ABOUT ARTIST MIKE DIANA
‘Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana’ from cult director Frank Henenlotter (Basketcase, Frankenhooker), has been in the pipeline for over two years, and is available on Amazon Prime:
Mike was on probation for three years, terms included fines of $3000, no contact with minors, 1280-hours of community service, maintain full time employment, see a psychiatrist and take journalism courses at his own expense; AND no drawing for his own personal use… his home was subject to unannounced searches by local police to make sure he was complying. On 4 June 1996, a ruling issued by Largo, Florida, Circuit Judge Douglas Baird declared Mike Diana’s zines, ‘Boiled Angel’ no.7 and #ATE as obscene. The judge emphasized that he personally found Diana’s comics ‘patently offensive’, and stated, ‘the evident goal of the appellant’s publication is to portray shocking and graphic pictures of sexual conduct so it will be noticed. If the message is about victimization and that horrible things are happening in our society, as the appellant alleges, the appellant SHOULD HAVE created a vehicle to send his message that was not obscene.’ Mike Diana was served with another two-year’s of probation, including $2000 in fines, and the same probationary terms. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) has estimated that over $56,000 has been spent on Mike’s case to date. ‘It’s futile that Mike’s case is appealed to the State court as the State of Florida’s history of overturning is nil,’ stated Susan Alston from the CBLDF
‘Swallow Sperm’ Artwork: https://www.tfg.world/swallowsperm_art.html