When I was 15 years old I bought a GG Allin album and got so freaked out by it I threw it away. I waited until my family was asleep and set my feet to taking whispery falls through the living room and out to the trash cans on the back patio, where I tossed that filthy disc for good. Allin was too much for me. My pop-punk brain wasn’t ready for such nastiness. I revisited Allin’s oeuvre a couple years later and found it to be idiotic and cartoonish provocation of the worst kind, but for one night, the shit-slinging dude messed me up in a major way.
And then when I was seventeen years old I bought a Man is the Bastard album and got so freaked out by it I almost threw it away. I’d already experienced my fair share of powerviolence and grind and other similarly extreme punk offshoots, but Man is the Bastard’s bass-heavy malevolence and cultish minimalism fingered some sensitive, sublime trigger in my gut, and my initial listen was a fraught, frightening affair. I wanted the record out of my life for good, but I was old enough or wise enough or dumb enough to grasp that the fear was what made the music so important.
I realize now that I needed Allin out of earshot not because he was scary, but because he was empty. And I also know I needed to work through my initial aversion to Man is the Bastard not because I wanted to prove something to myself, but because MITB had something to teach me.
Extreme music cut from the Allin cloth still does nothing for me. If I’m looking for filth to wind me up and break me down, I’ll turn to de Sade or Bataille or Dennis Cooper. But fucked up noise melting out of the Bastard mold is still essential, because there are sounds, beats, squeals and grunts that can tunnel into parts of me that no transgressive literature or pornography can access.
This time travel has a point: when I heard Seattle’s Same-Sex Dictator for the first time last year, I was visited by that rare sensation that had attended my first encounters with Allin and Man is the Bastard. I wasn’t so sure I wanted S-SD’s music in my iTunes. The duo’s sick blend of powerviolence, sludge, black metal and everything in between made me feel like a creep, a slithering, slimy body trapped in a too-small bedroom trapped in a cramped universe. Which is to say Same-Sex Dictator was stabbing at that same part of me that had been manipulated so skillfully by Man is the Bastard. This wasn’t Allin’s cheap brand of nihilism; S-SD was (and is) channeling the same kind of transcendent malevolence that MITB had such a weird way with.
Same-Sex Dictator’s new split 7-inch with Death Crisis, which you can hear in its entirety below, might be the most sinister offering yet from this bass-and-drums pair. I won’t spoil it for you. Just listen and get spooked.
The band is currently on tour through the western U.S. (with two Portland shows coming up next week) and I managed to catch up with bassist Lee Cizek via email to ask him a few questions about this music that scares me so much. Also food. I asked him about food.
WW: What is a Same-Sex Dictator?
Lee Cizek: It's a not very clever combination of words that carry controversy, yet imply none when grouped together. Literally, the explanation is simple...as a man I could be talking about any number of other male authoritarian political figures in history. If I were Eve Libertine, I assume it would refer to Margaret Thatcher. Not very complex, but I enjoy how loaded the name sounds to people.
Have you figured out a way to scream in such a way that you do not destroy your voice?
I suppose I must have since I can deal with screaming every night on the road. Not to mention that I do an entirely different vocal style in another band without much trouble. No idea when that all came about. Through a lot of practice and just enough beer I suppose.
I keep describing your band as “powerviolence” to people, but that is actually fairly inaccurate, now that I think about it. You seem to be incorporating as many “extreme” styles as you can, and the sound that results is pretty wild and ranging. Has it always been thus for S-SD?
The band started as a three piece and when we had guitar our music existed in more of a post-hardcore-meets-Neurosis area. After he left, we never had this conscious decision to go in any particular direction; I started using a bunch of pedals to fill out the sound, and songs that were mathy before now sounded straight prog rock. Also, since I became the only person in the band coming up with the riffs, it started reflecting my background more as a guitar player playing bass. I felt like the first year of the band paid decent homage to music I was into in my youth, and now it was time to focus on things that influence me now, which, surprise surprise, are a lot darker and heavier. Since then, it's just been about reconciling our influences in a way that doesn't seem convoluted. Well, not always...
What are you guys eating while on tour?
Ugh. You know, that's just none of your business.
Is Same-Sex Dictator the most popular/successful band you have been in?
That certainly is a question! I don't know if success and popularity are words I want to throw around here. What I will say is this is a band that has received more support than any other I've been in. People have put out our records, given us lots of positive feedback, bought our merch when we toured. Hell, the fact that we have toured multiple times and not come back severely in debt, wanting to quit music and become hedge fund managers is good sign. We have friends in other bands from all over the country that we have played with, they support us and us them. That's a type of success I suppose.
What’s the best show you’ve played on this tour so far? The worst?
Fort Worth was probably the best so far. We played at 1919 Hemphill, which is apparently the longest running DIY venue in Texas. All the bands were rad, lots of nice people. It was a needed good time after the soul shattering ordeal that is driving into Texas.
Worst show? The first few days of this tour were rough for sure. Nothing disastrous though.
What’s the best band you’ve played with in the last week?
Kingdom Of Magic is always great. Good dude that we have hung out with on the road before and finally got to play with. Both Collick and Downpour from Ft. Worth were awesome. Zebulon Kosted in Missoula played an entirely improv doom set with people who had never met before. It sounded ready-made for disaster but was actually a great set.
Man is the Bastard seems to have influenced your sound quite a bit. Do you get that a lot? Is it a comparison that rankles? Am I way wrong?
We do get that a lot. We actually got to open for Bastard Noise a few years ago when the almost full MITB lineup got back together. I wouldn't say it's obnoxious or off base; any bass and drum-centric band with hardcore/grind and prog influences in the mix are inviting that. It's preferable to being told we remind someone of Big Business. Or the fucking White Stripes (yes this happened, from an adult). Our only thing, and we've joked about this at length before, is we have probably spent about 10 hours of our collective lifetimes listening to that band. I like their aesthetic, their influence, they are amazing people, but as far as the music, there were other bands I was way more into from that scene growing up.
Seattle seems to have a pretty solid scene of folks into extreme and loud and fucked up music. More so than other cities I’ve lived in, at least. Have you found this to be the case? Am I way wrong again?
Seattle does seem to have a good base of messed-up, noisy music for sure. We have a few yearly noise and psychedelic showcases that always draw a good crowd. Maybe it's a reflection of the awful weather here. At any rate I'm not really prepared to stack us against other cities. Our thing has always been less about people into fucked up music and more about fucked up people into music.
What is the best powerviolence album of all time?
Gasp, Drome Triler of Puzzle Zoo People.
SEE IT: Same-Sex Dictator plays Plan B on Tuesday, August 21 with Sluagh and Worthless Eaters. 8pm. Cover. 21+.