Being in Dirty White Fever’s company is a pleasure to say the least. Oozing charisma and character Dominic and Leon have me sold from the very beginning. Having read Dominic’s views beforehand on Feminism I was dying to get his opinion on many of the issues that occur with both male and female musicians and to see his ideas on bringing gender equality to the forefront of the music industry. These are two guys who have a lot to offer the music industry not only in their creative, diverse songwriting that conveys a multitude of genres but with a loveable head on their shoulders that puts many to shame.
Firstly I’d just like to say I don’t think I’ve ever come across a male with as good grasp on feminism before. I think you have as good of an idea that’s humanly possible by someone who is not directly affected by it and that’s pretty damn cool.
Thanks, though they are definitely out there, though mostly in professional fields from my own experience. It affects men at a younger age through their education, or lack of. If women had stronger work rights it would change the way young boys are brought up in many respects. That being said, Fathers would have to take up shared parental leave on a more serious basis than that exists now.
How differently do you feel male and female musicians are represented in the music industry?
I suppose I’d start with the fact that I think musicians period are badly represented in the industry. The current climate in which we exist, especially in the UK is not one of fairness for any creed, colour or gender and that needs to change. That being said, it depends on what side of the industry you are looking at. If we go with mainstream pop culture, women are being subjected to intensely degrading conditions on a seemingly regular basis, most of the time for the visual gratification of men; look at Miley Cyrus performing with Robin Thicke on national TV. Those images of so-called ‘empowerment’ are not good for the younger generations to accept as right or normal.
If you look at the darker side of things, you can stretch back probably way before Ike Turner was beating on Tina right up to the present day with Kesha being denied a case for sexual assault by Dr Luke…and that’s just the tiny amount of abuse that ends up in the newspapers. Many of the ‘smaller’ problems I don’t think I would be able to see for myself because I’ve never been in that situation.
On the other hand, I’m seeing far more all female groups and girls of all ages in bands than I have at any point in my musical career. The underground is teeming if you know where to look.
What do you think the music industry can do to better represent them?
Once again, I think it depends on which flank of the beast you wish to address.
With the higher echelons, way up on high, there needs to be a greater respect for pop stars who don’t wish to flash every ounce of flesh bar a few inches here and there, in fact it is up to the industry to intentionally move away from that. “Yes but we only do it because it’s what sells…” that is a lazy arguments. It only sells because that is what is sold en masse to the general populous. They view it and the cycle worsens, it perpetuates it.
A girl or boy of four or five knows no better when they turn on the TV to watch after school kids shows or Saturday morning shenanigans only to see their favourite singers gyrating over a pile of money whilst fingering the exhaust of a Ferrari. They deem that normal and grow up with that as a goal, an idea of how they should be, or for young boys, how girls should be. Its terrifying what children think nowadays…slightly off topic.
The lower echelons, and I could be drastically wrong here, but all I see is everyone getting bent over the barrel left right and centre, indiscriminate fire into the crowds.
“The tension you can create from calling out someone’s ‘throw away’ remark is huge, and most of the time within my group of friends, it’s not coming from a misogynistic scafflad, it’s from someone that just is not aware that the remarks that society deem vaguely acceptable are far from tolerable. Once again, its that perpetual cycle that keeps us stuck on this patriarchal rut.”
Do you feel as a male musician that you have to give off a certain impression?
Myself no. Not at this point in my life. Once upon a time, yes of course, and sometimes I feel that in day to day life, but as a musician I’ve started to give less onus to what people think as it only leads down a dark path.
I think it affects many musicians though; it’s a very male based community and many bands especially when on tour are out on the warpath. Its hard not to be primal when you live in a van with X amount of other stinkfisted dudes, drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle for breakfast and using wetwipes for your weekly wash.
You get any group of guys in a room together, and all it takes is one person to make some sort of leering comment and that’s it, the whole room forgets its manners and respect. I’m guilty of it, though I make huge effort to check myself. Only recently have I started calling people out on it, and it’s terrifying. That is a problem.
The tension you can create from calling out someone’s ‘throw away’ remark is huge, and most of the time within my group of friends, it’s not coming from a misogynistic scafflad, it’s from someone that just is not aware that the remarks that society deem vaguely acceptable are far from tolerable. Once again, its that perpetual cycle that keeps us stuck on this patriarchal rut.
Is showing a vulnerability on stage something you’re comfortable with?
I don’t really know what I feel on stage. I rarely feel vulnerable. It’s mostly a blur of hair, Leon upside down on the occasion and a sea of bemused looking faces. Its hard to voice opinions onstage that are of a political nature. We played a new song the other day, and its about the way some men see women as nothing but playthings for their own amusement and pleasure. I think I introduced the song with something like…”this one’s for the guys, check your privilege” and the silence cut like a knife, not that I expected any retort to that. A lot of people don’t want a message, they just want you to roll around and give them a show.
I suppose some of my lyrics can be quite vulnerable, but as I said before, I’ve just given up caring when I’m playing musician…its all make believe.
Have you seen an improvement of female musicians being shown in gig and festival line-ups?
There are so many festivals now it’s hard to comment. In the larger festivals, no, but who wants to go and stand in a field with thousands of pissed up cattle all holding their over priced meals in their bowels, braying at the latest Killers single? Smaller festivals are nicer, friendlier and I’d imagine more equally based.
Gig wise, there are more girls in bands than ever before, it’s really refreshing. But, just because you’re in an all girl band, it doesn’t mean you’re any good. Girls can suck as much as guys at writing and performing songs and no one wants those people around…they seem to do quite well though on both side of the fence. People seem to love mediocre, still.
What is the ratio of male/female like at your gigs?
I think at times its fairly balanced, but we do have an unintentional technical edge to us I suppose, which can bring the musical geeks out of the woodwork; they predominantly tend to be bearded guys so that stereotype seems to hold true. I don’t know why it would really matter…if you like the music you like the music…I can’t see why there would be hostility against women at any gigs, though as we know, it does happen.
What’s influenced your musical style the most?
Our mutual love for hiphop and the fact that there are no rules or styles in mind when we write… We get in a room, one of us starts playing, if a riff or beat is right we get a phone out and record it well enough so I can structure it and that’s it. Most songs come into fruition in a very short amount of time and we rarely work on them. They just appear and we usually stick to their organic form, with a few minor tweeks here and there. There are a couple we’ve been trying to structure for years, but they are just too out there for people to hear, ha.
What’s the strangest heckle you’ve had at a gig?
Ah man, I know there are one or two gems, but I don’t retain that kind of information in an easily accessible compartment. It’ll probably come to me later at about three in the morning.
One I’ll never forget, though this was back when I was in Bad for Lazarus; we were playing in Glasgow and rocked up to soundcheck fairly late, we may have even been stupid enough to drive from Brighton to Scotland. Anyway, we started soundchecking whilst people waited for us, and these three massive dudes almost beat the shit out of us because after half a song we walked off. They thought they’d been ripped off and we weren’t going to do a whole set. I couldn’t dictate most of their heckles as their accents were thicker than sheeps gut, but that is one that I can never forget.
What’s the best gig you’ve played?
We headlined the Green Party fundraiser just before last year’s elections and that weirdly went off. The venue was rammed and we went down a storm, though nothing too rock’n’roll happened, it was an older audience than we normally play to, but their response was very warming.
Although saying that, the first time we played in Paris, that is a true rock’n’roll story…you can read all about it HERE
Dream festival to play?
I’m not really a festival freak, so there aren’t that many on my radar. Something like Burning man for the weirdness or Primavera for all the awesome bands that you’d get to see…or an ATP, if that ever happens again.
What do you think men can do to support feminism the best?
We need to accept the change that needs to happen, and we need to educate ourselves and others constantly. I’m still learning about the struggles women face on a daily basis, but I have to seek it out myself. Only when we start being more open about the problems we face and where they come from will we be able to work at fixing it. There is a lot of men bashing from women that can do more harm than many realise, and although it will never be on the scale of our opposite sex, the blows to confidence in personality, in the bedroom, in the kitchen or as a father can have a really detrimental effect. We are sensitive to some strange elements and most of us are all little kids at heart.
Feminism is about equality, and that word really needs underlining on both sides of the fence. For every inch of progress made, someone from either camp can undo it with one foul comment or remark. We need to take out our frustrations constructively. Much of the work needs to be done in our court, but not all of it. Mutual respect and education are the only things that can save us from oblivion.
Is there anything you think people can do to help all men and women understand and support feminism?
Take your stubbornness and tie a concrete slab round its feet and launch it off a pier. Our refusal to learn and understand about the suffering of another is what prevents us from seeing past our own little sphere. This applies to Feminism, Nationalism, Zionism, Trustafarianism… any form of ism, good or bad. If you can’t see both sides of the coin little magpie, how do you know which one is shinier?
We need to educate our young men at the earliest possible age about the rights of young girls who will one day grow into women, stood side by side with men who learnt boundaries and respect by their teachers and parents from the moment it mattered.
You can listen to Dirty White Fever here…
Words and photos by Kelly Chard.
We Can Do It x