Before there were lesbians in pop, country and Christian radio; before Tegan and Sara were a household name; and before Beth Ditto became a fashion icon gracing various magazine covers and palling around with top models, there was Bitch and Animal, the artsty, queercore duo who got a boost touring with Ani DiFranco, singing their feminist/lesbian anthem “Pussy Manifesto.”
Clearly, these two were not destined to be “mainstream.” And back then, sadly, the idea of radical queers ever doing so seemed almost impossible.
When the duo broke up, Bitch went on to release albums with Kill Rock Stars and then her founded her own Short Story Records. She remained on our radar with other releases, an appearance in the film Short Bus, and of course, her much-publicized relationship with The L Word’s Daniela Sea. (The couple’s demise is largely the topic of Bitch’s latest album, Blasted.)
But where is Animal, the radial percussionist / strange noise maker with the mohawk and funky sunglasses? Since Bitch and Animal’s last album, Sour Juice and Rhyme, was released in 2003, Animal Prufrock hadn’t left the music scene. In fact, s/he works as the musical director of CASA in San Francisco, helping kids make their own original music. And this month, Animal released a much-anticipated first solo album, congratulations; thank you + I’m sorry, on DiFranco’s Righetous Babe Records.
The album, which was recorded over a two-year period, was certainly a longtime coming for old Bitch and Animal fans. We recently caught up with Animal, the self-proclaimed “bipolar cosmic tranny” to get the scoop on what s/he’s been up to.
AfterEllen.com: Music is clearly a big part of your life, but why a new album now? Was a solo album always the idea, or was it a sudden decision to get back to recording?
Animal Prufrock: I’ve been recording since I was a kid, my dad set me up with MIDI in the eighties so I have been digitally recording for over 25 years now. I record whenever I sit down to practice. It’s integral to my life. This particular solo record was a journey that took place over the last several years. And over the last two years, I did several sessions at Ani’s studio and then would bring back the tracks to my home studio. And then back and forth. I wasn’t concerned with the timing, just wanted to make something I was proud of. I feel very proud of this as a piece of recording art, which is very different than performance art.
AE: How is congratulations; thank you + I’m sorry different from Bitch and Animal albums?
AP: This is a collection of songs about love in a lot of forms, I think I am showing my vulnerable side a bit more on this record, and like I said, a lot of time was spent on the recordings, where Bitch and I only spent about a week in the studio on our records, which I think is why they don’t quite capture the depth of the work that we did live.
AE: Do you keep in touch with Bitch? Any plans for future collaborations?
AP: Sure, she comes over to pleasure me at least once a week. Just kidding! Bitch is one of many people who I have collaborated with in my life. Life and art making are ever changing organic processes. I am always open to possibilities as long as I feel loved and respected in the process but I actually have a cue of projects right now so I need to get those done first!
AE: In what ways have you changed as an artist since your Bitch and Animal days?
AP: I am always growing and changing, yet my spirit has always been me. I think the clearest change is my attention to detail in the recording process and embracing at times the click track which I used to utterly reject!
AE: Earlier on, it seemed it was less common for outspoken queers in music. Bitch and Animal was among a somewhat small group of artists who fit that category. How do you think things have changed since, for better or worse?
AP: Well it seems like queer is becoming less queer which has its up sides and downs. I’ve heard from a number of queers, who are a generation younger than I, express a discomfort identifying with the word “lesbian.” I heard a preference in what I imagine is perceived as a freedom in the word “queer.” For me, I am both/and. I am gurl and boi. I am he and she. I am lesbian and gay and really queer. I am butch dyke and tranny. So inadvertently, and intentionally, I am still pushing the envelope.
AE: How do you explain your music to say, you parents? And how about to hardcore music fans?
AP: I never have explained my music to my parents. I played in our living room growing up, right in front of them! This record is really diverse. Spanning musical theater to hip-hop and a bunch in between. I’m inspired by a wide range of music and the sounds of life, from windshield wipers to click of heels on wet pavement.
AE: What does your dream tour lineup look like?
AP: I can tell you my dream band members for my band allora and we only tour Italy. The dream band (if I could afford them) would be Toshi Regan on drums, Ani on bass, and Jen Leigh on electric guitar. I’m the lead singer and play some keyboards and djembe.
AE: Finish this sentence: Working with Ani DiFranco is ….
AP: Working with Ani is like being Luke Skywalker and getting to work with Yoda! She is a Zen mistress of recording and finds the gems in my creative spew. have learned and laughed so much with her. I am very lucky to have her both as a mentor and dearest friend. I love her infinity.
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