the book

On January 27, 2000, I interviewed David Vincent--a.k.a. Evil D--of Genitorturers, a group popular with followers of fetishism, bondage, and sadomasochism. Genitorturers invite audience members to participate in their live show, during which people don't just engage in sex acts, they are also pierced, cut, whipped, crucified, have their eyes sewn shut--a whole catalog of horrors. I was going to refuse the interview because I'd decided that the band was just a cynical novelty act, but then I listened to the music. To my absolute shock, most of it is very good. Sin City [Cleopatra], for example, is a terrific CD. This actually made me less enthusiastic about doing the interview. Since these were fine musicians, they did what they did for reasons other than cheap sensationalism. They liked it, basically.
     The articles I'd read about Genitorturers highlighted the S&M; but treated it with a breeziness and complacency that I found dishonest. Nobody ever expressed discomfort or asked why a band would make extreme pain a part of their show. I wasn't going to ask either; I didn't know how Vincent would react, and this area of sexuality scares and saddens me. I'd had to turn down the offer of a Genitorturers' live video because I couldn't have watched it even if I'd wanted. My squeamishness has made me turn down a lot of opportunities in life. I once met a beautiful South African woman of Indian extraction. She was smart, funny, friendly, and so attractive that my chest hurt when I was near her. I don't know where I got the audacity, but I asked her out for a drink, and she accepted. The evening went like a dream until the subject of previous relationships came up.
     "My last boyfriend was just wonderful," she said in her clipped, upper-crust British accent. "He absolutely adored me. He told me that I'd ruined him for anybody else."
     "Why is that?" I asked.
     "Because I used to dress up in a leather bustier, crotchless panties, and stiletto heels and whip him as he jumped in and out of a tub of cold water. Oh, Tom! You should see your face!"
     And she laughed a tinkling, delighted laugh. The thing is, she should have seen her own face. I'll never forget it as long as I live.
     David Vincent spoke to me for almost an hour. The excerpts below represent some of the most gruelingly intimate moments I've experienced as a music journalist. Although Evil D was civilized and considerate, my "issues" had me shaking the entire time.

     David Vincent: Back when I was a little kid growing up, and I used to go see bands, I was really just blown away by some of the different things that I saw live and how I was just entertained live. And then for a period there, especially in the eighties, it kind of just... I guess image and showmanship and everything else kind of went down the drain in favor of people just kind of standing around and looking miserable and having bad drug habits. And I'm listening to it, and it actually sounded bad. And I'm thinking, "Well, why would I want to come see this when I can buy a record, and I can hear better versions of these, and especially if I'm just going to look and see people just standing there on stage looking really disinterested? Which I guess was kind of a fashion thing at the time, to look kind of bugged and downtrodden and disinterested.
     I like being excited. I like going out on stage, watching people be spellbound as they're watching what's going on, listening to the grooves. And people come up afterwards and say, "Man, what a great show. I really enjoyed myself. I had a great time." And I'm thinking, "Great. I had a good time too." It really makes me feel I had an even better time when people come up and say that. We try to do a lot. We have a pretty reputable stage show that goes along with the band. Have you ever seen us before?
     No, I haven't.
     Oh, boy! Well, you're in for a treat! You've gotta come see us on this tour.
     Well, um, the thing is... I guess, I guess we can segue into that. I want to come back a little later to the organic versus the studio.
     But now that you've brought this up... Okay, this is a bass magazine, so we won't have enough room to get too much into it, but just on a personal level, I've heard a lot about the show, and from what I've heard, to me it would be something that I don't think I'd really want to see.
     Oh no!
     You know, in terms of sewing eyes shut and sewing mouths shut--
     --and crucifixions and all that--
     Well, but--
     --it's something that would, I think, give me nightmares, actually.
     [Laughs.] Well, look: It's all in good fun, number one. Number two, it's not so much a circus sideshow, as it were. There's actually a story line. It's almost more of a Vaudeville kind of thing.
     See, this is what I've read, and what I would, what I would sort of say, and-- Okay, I mean, this is strictly a journalistic question.
     It's not meant to be, you know, combative or anything, but it would seem to me, just from reading a straight description of all that, that if you have to get to the point--to make a social commentary or [to create] art--where you're actually doing that, it would seem that, that you've sort of admitted that people can't, people can't sort of use their imaginations anymore. You know what I mean? If you're actually doing it, then how much of a commentary is it, really, because it seems like you're sort of hitting people over the head with a two-by-four.
     Well, um... And that's a good question. That's a fair question. Um, and I would say this: I don't think there is ever a reason to do something unless you're going to really do it. Okay? That's one part of it. Number two is, I'm an old Alice Cooper fan; I've always been into show, and into grandiose, and into larger-than-life, and into just completely being entertained. The list of bands that I like has a lot to do with that--over and above the music, not in place of the music, not to outshine the music, not to have a gimmick just because the music can't stand alone. None of those reasons.
     You know, Alice Cooper got a lot of flack for that back then because they were saying, "Oh, well, the show has overtaken it," but I can sit down and think of all the different songs that I've heard on the radio over the years by him. I can think of all the B sides that in my opinion were probably even better than the songs that got played on the radio. I guess the point being that we try to entertain. Now mind you, I'm a musician. And the musicians in the band are separate from the show, apart from our singer. Our singer basically is, uh... She kind of directs the show almost like a ringmaster at a circus, and we play music.
     Well, okay. All of that is very-- It's a great explanation, and I accept it. But didn't Alice Cooper mime things rather than actually perform them?
     Alice Cooper did mime some things. Back in the older days, he performed a little more than he mimed. And then he got it down to a point where yes, there was more miming going on. But this is something that our singer takes very seriously. And she wants to... I mean, there are props, and there are... You know, professional wrestling has gotten really big lately, and it seems like it just gets bigger every week. I've seen matches on there where people are just bleeding all over the place. And it's not fake blood. But are they bleeding because somebody actually hit them with something, or are they bleeding because they took a little blade and did the gimmick? But the value of that, the entertainment value of that is it fills... It sells them out in the largest stadiums in the world every night.
     But on the other hand... Okay, I understand... From what I've read, the singer is performing... Like you said, she takes it seriously, and there's a whole sort of, I guess you would call it a milieu, that she belongs to. The show would be addressing people who are also interested in that aspect. But what about... Wouldn't you be broadening your audience if you took--you know, just as a journalistic question--if you took certain elements out of the show? Wouldn't you be appealing more to a broader, more lucrative market?
     Perhaps. Would it be important enough to me to take those elements out if it were my, if it were up to me? I think the show is really important, and I'm personally entertained by it because I never know what's going to happen from night to night sometimes.
     It's very interactive, isn't it?
     It is interactive with the audience. People come to the show early and interview with some of our stage performers to actually see whether or not they can take part in things. There's a... You know, this is a bass magazine, and I don't know how much of this will-- We're, we're just talking, anyway.
     I don't think... There are people that are involved in a certain lifestyle, and this is kind of a lifestyle game for them. This is something that [our singer and my wife] Gen has been into ever since I met her. So it's part entertainment, it's part interactivity, and it's part making people feel a part of things. If it's up to me, to gain five fans would I remove certain things from the show that make other people happy? Absolutely not. That's akin to selling out.
     And that's not something you would want to do?
     I mean, there's selling out, and there's selling out.
     Okay, well, here's the thing: If somebody said, "Hey, you have a choice between playing such-and-such club that holds five hundred people or playing such-and-such arena that this many people are going to stay in, but you have to remove this one thing... You know, that would probably be a discussion. But on principle... That opportunity hasn't presented itself, and-- You know, Alice Cooper's at the point where, you know, he doesn't hit women anymore. [Pause.] That almost came across weird.
     [Laughing.] No, I understand.
     In other words, he doesn't have violence or blood on stage anymore because he doesn't want his kids to see that. He doesn't want his kids to grow up and say, "Hey, Daddy, you're teaching us this, but then you're up there doing that."
     Okay, let me ask you one more question about the show, and then we'll go back to the bass.
     When I hear someone like Diamanda Galàs, and it's just her and her microphone, and she's singing in such a way that it's like the voice of this totally tormented demon coming out of her--
     Sure. I know. I'm very familiar with her.
     And it's only her and her voice. And it seems to me that it has as much of an impact as the sort of-- Okay, it's not a circus sideshow, you said. It's very serious. But I just wondered: Do you ever think about that aspect, to just go from a completely musical aspect and get the same impact, strictly from music and not from the show? Because you say yourself in previous interviews that people have dismissed you as a novelty band, a gimmick band because of the notoriety of the show. So I was just wondering if as a musician you ever feel tempted to just ditch the whole show aspect and just go up there in black like [Galás] does and just blow everyone away strictly with the music.
     Well, we have done various appearances here and there, just as like an unplugged thing, which we've taken-- I mean, our drummer had a couple of cans, I had an acoustic bass, the guitar player had an acoustic guitar, and we just went out and did that. Just did a few songs at various clubs and got a good response. But it's not so much-- And that's fun to do as well, just strictly from a musician's standpoint. I have all the respect in the world for Diamanda Galàs. It makes the hair stand up on my arms too. What she's doing is very different from what we're doing. We have-- I mean, outside of the band, we have a lot of people that we work with. We have a lot of fun doing what we do, so it's not something that we're interested in just walking away from just for the sake of walking away from it. I don't really know how else to say it.
     I mean, I have respect for all these different things. We enjoy entertaining people. People are just-- You know, when they come see us, yeah, we've had people get sick and leave. So? That becomes even more entertaining. People look around and, "Oh, that person-- Wow!" It just amps everything up.
     Okay. I see.
     Is that fair enough?
     That's perfect. That's a perfect explanation. It's completely understood.
     But I do like Diamanda Galás a lot.
     To be honest with you, I listen to her a lot. Like, on long trips in the car.
     Yeah, it's completely understood. I completely understand your point of view. I was just curious.

     Well, I think I've asked pretty much what I wanted to ask.
     Great. We're really excited about our new material, and we're really excited about sharing it with people. And that's, that's about it.
     That's about it. Okay.
     That's about it for me. Hey: Beyond the interview, I'd sort of like to go back to what we were talking about before. What I do with this band is I'm a musician, and I'm a composer, and I'm a song writer. Okay? Um, that is my focus. That has always been my focus. I don't participate in the stage show myself per se. Um, some of the wild parties afterwards? Uh, I'd be lying if I said I didn't participate in those. But when I'm on stage, and when I'm in the studio recording, and when we're rehearsing, I'm all about music. I'm serious, I'm passionate, and that is my main focus.
     Well, that's all one can say, really. It's a strange area, really. Aaaaaaaaaaaah... To be a perfectly fair and objective person, I should go and see [your] live show. To be the best journalist I can, I should go off and see it. You know, I just... I have a weak sort of tolerance for the infliction of pain. I can't deal with it. I'd be one of those people everyone would be laughing at, fighting my way out of the crowd, you know. So it's kind of a conundrum because I would like to see your show, you know.
     Well, maybe we can figure something out. Maybe we'll have you... I don't know. Maybe you can stop by for a sound check, and we'll run through several songs for you. I'd love to have you come out, whether it's for a show or-- Hey, dude, I can completely respect all the things you've said about that, and I wouldn't want to force the issue and make you feel like, "Oh, you know--"
     See, that's the only problem I have with the whole area is that... I made up my mind a long time ago... I've interviewed people with some pretty outrageous public personas, and I could always tell that... The ones I really respected were the ones that if I said, "This is shocking to me," they said, "Of course it is!" You know? "Of course! It's meant to be shocking. I perfectly understand why you feel that way." Then I knew that they had their heads on straight. When they said, "Well, what's shocking about it?" then I knew that it was an area that I didn't want to get into with them because if somebody says, "I can't understand why you're shocked by this particular infliction of this or that," then that's not somebody I could really deal with.
     But when somebody says, "Of course I understand you're shocked..." So you know, I would definitely love to see a sound check, if that was possible. Yeah, I'd be into that.
     That's cool. They're usually later in the day anyway. We usually don't even wake up until two in the afternoon, so sound checks are usually four, five or six, somewhere in there, so...
     That'll be really cool
     So, hey, man... Um, it was great talking to you.
     Yeah, it was great. You did a very, a very impressive job, if I may say so myself.
     Well, cool. Just trying to... Like, a lot of the interviews that Gen does, everybody wants to ask about the show. It's the sensationalism; it's the whole National Enquirer aspect to the music. I try to tell her, "You know, talk about the record." And she's like, "Well, they don't wanna talk about it." "Well, make them talk about it." Don't walk down that path with them.
     It's kind of a double-edged sword. For the number of people that we draw-- Bands that sell twenty times the number of records that we do can't draw as much as we do. I understand that the show is a good part of our drawing power, and I also understand that the show is the main reason why in some areas people will, will just refuse to work with us. It's not because we're bad people. I mean, I'm regular, nice guy. [Laughs.] But at the same time, we have fanatic fans that are just, just crazy about us.

back to top

home | the book | shopping | revenge | sex | war | rock | murder
journalism | god | nick | road | prediction
things I felt like writing | links | contact