Artist of the day: The Genitorturers
Everything about Gen, the statuesque, leather-clad blond who leads Tampa metal veterans the Genitorturers, exudes complete confidence.
But ask her to name an all-time favorite onstage memory, and she finds herself without an answer.
“Oh, god. Really?” she laughs, sitting at the bar of the Boneyard in Ybor City. “I might need a drink for that.”
Indeed. When you’re talking about the Genitorturers’ two-plus decades of live shows, where do you begin? The piercings? The paddlings? The overt S&M vibe that has made the Genitorturers industrial-rock heroes to fans around the globe?
The Genitorturers have been playing Tampa long enough to have played the Ritz back before it was the Masquerade. That makes the Ritz Ybor a perfect venue for the Genitorturers to kick off a new North American tour Friday night. The show doubles as a release party for their new CD, Blackheart Revolution, which dropped Tuesday. (Click here to listen to the song Kabangin' All Night from the album.)
“It just continues to evolve,” Gen says, Jim Beam and Diet Coke firmly in hand. “We’ve developed characters in the show, and as the band has evolved, my character has evolved. There’s elements of where we came from, and you can see the evolution and progression of where we are. It’s an ongoing story.”
The daughter of New Mexican Shriners who found her punk-rock voice at Orlando’s Rollins College — she studied pre-med — Gen co-founded the Genitorturers in 1986, and has been the driving force behind the band as it’s played Lollapalooza and opened for Motley Crue and Social Distortion, among many others.
Gen has since become part of a decades-long legacy of singers, from the Plasmatics’ Wendy O. Williams to Lady Gaga, whose raw, pinup-like sexuality comes in a dark, dramatic frame.
“I’d always had this vision in my head of where I wanted it to go,” she said. “If something was provocative — thought-provoking, sexually provoking, musically provoking — I wanted to explore that as a frontperson. A lot of that in our society has to do with sexual taboos. Also, music, to me, is very visceral and passionate. It just seems like that’s a natural blend.”
Offstage, Gen has been married to another Tampa music icon, Morbid Angel singer David “Evil D” Vincent, since 1995. They live in Seminole Heights — Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe is a new favorite hotspot — and collaborate frequently; Vincent plays bass with the Genitorturers on tour.
Having two singers in one band works well — for the most part. “He respects that it is my band,” she said. “I do have veto power. I call it a benevolent dictatorship.”
That doesn’t mean Vincent has been afraid to push Gen in the studio. On Revolution, a new track that Vincent produced, he kept urging her to scream louder, louder, LOUDER. She finally nailed the note, but only after screaming so loud she had to visit a doctor. “He said, 'Are you an opera singer? I don’t know how you did this,’” she said.
Gen was an early Bay-area adopter of Twitter, signing up for the service in November 2008 — two months before Ashton Kutcher. It’s given her an outlet for her thoughts on American Idol, her famous friends and her “insane fetish for waffles.”
On the whole, though, Gen feels the two-way technological mirror of the Internet has hurt music scenes like Tampa’s over the past two decades. “You can interact,” she said, “but it’s safe interaction. It’s very removed, and it’s very safe. You can say whatever you want on the Internet, but there’s no repercussions, like you’re face to face with someone. That’s what it took to create these types of music that everyone loves — punk, hardcore, metal.”
Safe and removed are not words one would associate with the Genitorturers. So when they get involved with their fans, they do so in a big way. For example: In the past, the band has auctioned off something called “The Evening of Torture” — use your imagination — on eBay. Because eBay rules prohibit sales of “services that are illegal or sexual in nature,” the band had to get creative.
“I would have a famous prop or something that I would use on tour — like, I had this paddle that I used on tour with Danzig and KMFDM,” Gen says. “They’re bidding on the item, but you could choose your choice of delivery. You could have it sent to you, if you just want the item. But if you so choose, your delivery could include two VIP tickets to any show of your choice, dinner with the band, then going onstage (for me) to deliver your item, to get your paddling.”
In 2011, Gen and company will celebrate 25 years of the Genitorturers. In the meantime, they’ll keep looking for new ways to keep their fans involved with the music — like a Miami-to-Grand Cayman cruise in May, dubbed the Devils and Dolls Hard Rocking Cruise.
“How many times can you get up onstage and play the same song over and over?” Gen said. “I’ve found that what keeps me excited about music and entertainment is the fact that I’m always finding new ways to entertain myself onstage. It’s like a playground. The spontaneity of incorporating audience members is always very interesting. You never know what’s going to happen.
"That’s one of the things about people who aren’t in tune with the nuances of the Genitorturers — they don’t really understand the fun factor until they come to a show. Then people walk away, and they’re like, 'I get this.’”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*