Sin City or Bust

The Genitorturers have a wildly theatrical stage show -- so why bother buying their records?

The Genitorturers, with Godhead, Biaxadent, and Grendel Peabody's DownUnder, 1059 Old River Road, the Flats 8 p.m., Thursday, March 23. $12 Advance, $14 Day of Show, Ticketmaster 216-241-5555/ 330-945-9400
Gen, well-versed with the studded leather paddle.
Gen, well-versed with the studded leather paddle.
When they started their tour a couple of weeks ago in Florida, the Genitorturers, an industrial band known for a sexually explicit stage show, encountered what has come to be commonplace at its concerts -- groups of fundamentalist Christians huddling in prayer outside the venue. Well-versed in the politics of pissing off their detractors, the Genitorturers quickly made the naysayers disperse.

"We had a couple of little prayer circles outside the venue in Jacksonville, but we can shut that down quickly by doing a couple of scenes outside of the club," singer Gen says quite proudly via phone from her home in Tampa. "We do a lot in our show with concepts of authority, power, and control. We delve into some religious issues regarding the Catholic church in particular. We have one scene that is a type of crucifixion, and then we do a ball dance. We set up a cross and perform the ritual outside, and that tends to get the people who are harassing our crowd to leave."

For Gen, who grew up as a Protestant in New Mexico, rattling the cages of conservative Christians has became a mission ever since she moved to Florida to attend college. While she played in several punk bands in New Mexico, she took a new tack when she arrived in Orlando, which she describes as "repressive and sterile, kind of like living in The Truman Show." There, while a pre-med major and religious studies minor, Gen started the Genitorturers. The band was quickly signed to I.R.S. Records, which created a subsidiary especially for the group's debut, 1993's 120 Days of Genitorture. Because of its theatrical live show, which usually involves body piercing and scenes of dominance and submission, the band had started to develop a buzz. But once I.R.S. went under, the Genitorturers deal got tied up in legal disputes, and rumors of a breakup abounded.

"The scary thing for us was there was a period when we were stuck," Gen recalls. "We were trying to get out of our deal, and we were in this limbo land. It hurt us as a band, because we had developed some momentum. We were building a recording studio, learning how to work the gear, and writing songs. When we finally got free, we had the songs done and just recorded them in our studio and put them out ourselves. It gave us time to become self-sufficient and create our own records."

The group is still without a record contract, but has a distribution deal with Cleopatra Records, which has put the band's last two albums, 1998's Sin City and the recent remix album Machine Love, into record stores. While Machine Love features four remixes of old songs, it also includes four new songs (including a cover of the Divinyls' racy "I Touch Myself") that sound more electronica-oriented and less industrial. Still, it's hardly justification for buying records that pale in comparison to the band's live shows. (Since Peabody's DownUnder is one of the smaller shows on the tour, Gen says we won't see large props such as the eight-foot torture rack, the spanking machine, and the "big wheel of misfortune.")

"When we write a record, we develop a concept for the record," Gen explains. "Our goal is to bring that music to life onstage, like Alice Cooper would when he performed "Only Women Bleed.' We're taking people through the concept of the record. We bring people into that world, and now it's evolving into the "machine love' concept, and that involves new props that we interact with. Then, the next album will deal with the aftermath of Sin City and its fall. We're setting up the storyline, and now you get the middle portion where it's evolving."

But will that result in an album worth listening to? After all, concept albums aren't in vogue (and for good reason). Besides, artists such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails haven't let their extravagant live shows get in the way of moving product. So what's holding the Genitorturers back?

"The bottom line is that we are a great band musically, and we're proving ourselves even more on this record in terms of our songwriting," Gen maintains. "I think it's great for Manson and Trent to do what they've done. It opens a lot of doors for us, because we're even more extreme than they are. I'm really proud, because growing up, we had the idea of melding music and theater, and people have gravitated to that. Manson used to play in Florida all the time when we started. It's exciting to see someone blow up like that. The thing for us is that the money and the promotion behind making that happen is pretty great. In terms of competing with that, when it comes to distribution, it's hard for someone like us. We're putting on a show that is way beyond what most bands attempt to do at this level, productionwise and everything. It's a lot of hard work for us."

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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