By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Tim Carroll is wearing a faux snakeskin codpiece as he says this, and nothing else above the knees. He looks into the mirror, pivoting on white vinyl, high-heeled nurse's boots, and squints, as if what he sees will help him choose between the famous Stones lyric and the Bowie quote.
"I think I'm the Stones," he says, finally. He flashes a jagged smile. "It's rock and roll, and I like it."
Tim Carroll is in a backroom of the Church, a studio art space in south Minneapolis, where his band, Faggot, is about to play a word-of-mouth concert on the night of May 26. The singer is a naked, pink tower of a man, with the beginnings of a gut and a salt-and-pepper buzz cut. He absently sings a Madonna song—"It's all an illusion/There's too much confusion"—and announces that he's a few months older than Madonna. Then he slaps his tummy. "I'm getting really fat," he says.
"Yeah, you are," says Jon Nielsen. The bearded drummer is a couple of decades younger than Carroll. So are the other two members of Faggot, frenetic guitarist Jason Wade and cool bassist Saira Huff, who have the lion-haired, pierced look of hardcore punk lifers. Everyone in Faggot plays in other bands except Carroll. "This was his first band, at 46," says Wade. "He's 48 now."
Carroll is eager to tell his story to City Pages, and as band members apply glitter and permanent marker, the frontman lobs random bits of information at this reporter.
"I was raised Catholic in Cleveland, Ohio," he begins. "We were nine generations of plumbers."
"Which is why he has the butt crack," says Wade, spanking him.
In the next 15 minutes, Carroll fires off the following "verifiable facts":
• "I slapped Belinda Carlisle in the face before she was a Go-Go. She deserved it, though."
• "I don't have AIDS. I've tried. I've used IV drugs and sucked every AIDS homo I know. I don't get AIDS."
• "Our song 'You're Gay, You're Dead' is a true story. One morning in 2001, I woke up, and my lover of 17 years was dead on the couch."
• "See this scar right here? I took a razor blade to my arm one night. I was so high on meth, I thought the aliens were in there. I knew it. I was going to save the world."
The stories keep coming, and at least one requires a note of qualification here—Henry Rollins is on the record as saying he's never had a homosexual experience. As for the bouts of self-destruction and the tragic incident he mentions—
"That explains this," Carroll says, gesturing to his outfit. "Jon, do you think James would be pissed about the song ["You're Gay, You're Dead"]? I used to. But I'm sure he's laughing. He was such an egotist, he would have laughed."
Faggot take the stage of the deconsecrated chapel wearing very little and looking slightly like The Muppet Show band. Wade has whitened his mutton chop sideburns. Huff has reddened her skin and shredded her fishnets. Carroll has the word "faggot" written across his chest, with an arrow pointing to his crotch. "This is my song to America," he announces. "I love you, America. I was raised Irish Catholic in Cleveland, Ohio. Thank you." He has red makeup across his eyes, which makes him look like a Lakota warrior.
Then Faggot lunge forward with the song "Fuck You, Amerika!" and any hints of Muppetry evaporate. Wade and Huff relax into a Ramones stance, smiling at each other as they summon a monstrous, sensuous rock throb that assumes the shape of classic hairball rock, but with a skuzzy texture all its own—"heavy" rather than "metal," as Rollins once described Black Flag. Nielsen is a blur of arms, his long curls puffing into a near-Afro one minute into the song.
I have to admit, I've avoided seeing Faggot up to this show because of their name. Some classic punk bands such as the Buzzcocks and the Dicks were open about their homosexuality, and queercore has more recently made a genre of it. The word "punk" itself was once homophobic slang. Today, though, simply calling your band "Faggot" signals transgression for its own sake, artiness, or worse, a gag. Yet Carroll's hilarious provocation is no joke. Grabbing his crotch, flailing like a surfer in a wind tunnel, he preens like some bogey nelly queen, the spirit of Stonewall come back to haunt the age of gay marriage. He's fearless, which endears him to strangers in the audience.
"I've gotta go fuck my groupies," he growls after the first song, hugging and kissing the tank-topped young rockers at the front of the stage.
Behind the band, the group's only "dancer" tonight (sometimes they have up to nine) begins grabbing and lifting up the male musicians. He's Michael Gaughan (pronounced "gone") of the bands NOW and Brother and Sister, and is better known in hip-hop circles as battle champion Ice-Rod. During the next song, as he prances around in near nudity, I can't help thinking that Ice-Rod would call this guy a "faggot."