Your band Steel Train are active LGBT allies. What are some of the ways you guys are participating in the fight for equal civil rights for homosexuals?
The biggest way is to just be extremely vocal about it. It’s such a privilege to
play for large audiences and it would be a massive waste if we didn’t use
whatever venue we have to discuss the issues that we are passionate about, in order to create a positive impact.
We’re all straight men, and in a way, that gives us a really important voice on gay rights. I believe that we are at a moment in time where none of us — gay, straight, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, black, white, green etc., etc. — have the luxury of keeping quiet anymore. No matter what your orientation, everyone in this country and in the world should be appalled by the way homosexuals are treated like second-class citizens.
One thing that we are most concerned with [is] helping people understand that it’s not a gay issue; it’s a human rights issue. A few months ago we made a benefit shirt that says, “Steel Train and I believe in human rights” and Gay Rights = Human Rights.” We wanted to make it as simple and clear as possible. White shirt, big black writing. I believe it’s the duty of anyone who reaches people to stand up and be very clear about this.
Can you tell us about the companion record you put out this year and why it’s important to you?
Yes! That was probably the most exciting project I’ve ever been a part of. I had the idea years ago, but we were in the shackles of a record label and it wasn’t possible to execute. When we got out of our contract and decided to put this record out ourselves, it was one of the first things that we set out to do.
I mostly listen to only female artists. Not sure why, it’s just always been that way since I was a kid and first heard Mazzy Star. So when I was writing this record, I was obviously extremely inspired by all my favorite female artists. So, the thought behind it all was, “How cool would it be for the people who like our band to hear our songs re-imaged by the very artists that inspired them to be written in the first place? Like an alternate universe version of our record?”
What we ended up with was our entire 12 song record re-recorded, and in some cases almost re-written, by all of our favorite female artists: Tegan and Sara, Rachael Cantu, Anna Wornaker, Scarlett Johansson, Holly Miranda, etc. Everyone that we asked to be a part of it went so over and beyond. I feel extremely proud of that project.
There’s also a sense of community there that can get lost in modern music. Almost like it was also our way of saying, These are the artists we love, and are honored to have be a part of our record.” Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve been able to hear our music from a distance and actually have a non-cloudy opinion, which was massively liberating.