April 26th, 2014 by MRR
Birthed from the late ’70s/early ’80s Austin punk scene, by way of East Texas and, before that, Arkansas (where he was born), Gary Floyd has gracefully and deservedly become a legend and pioneer of queer punk and hardcore. With fearless grit and honesty he was the outspoken lead singer of THE DICKS at a time (and place) when people hadn’t “quite seen the likes of someone like him before.” He is a prolific musician, working artist, and a damn sweetheart, and his work undoubtedly remains a huge influence and powerhouse of inspiration to today’s younger punk shitheads and fags like me. What the Dicks did was political, earnest, emotional, gay as the day is long, bluesy, a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll. Gary Floyd’s music has never reflected what others were doing at the time but only what he wanted to do, which is always a bit fresh coming from his direction. From New Orleans, I emailed him in San Francisco (where he’s been living for upwards of 25 years) with a few questions I was itchin’ to ask. So, without further ado, here’s a quickie with Gary Floyd, one of my personal heroes.
Intro and interview by Jojo ()
Can you give us some insight on what it was like in Texas during the early years of the Dicks? Not just the political climate and attitudes of the general public, but the punks as well?
Times were different…no internet, so music was new and albums and CDs coming out were something special. People talked to each other face-to-face rather than online. It was a more personable time. Live music made you feel like you really were at a party…every night. Texas was a place of rednecks but in Austin and Houston the punks were alive and new moving and doing stuff, putting on show, starting bands. It was a new era and everybody was invited to join in.
Did you have any hesitations on being so outspoken at that time or did you all truly not give a fuck?
I was loud and happy to be letting people know, “Hey, I am a big ol’ fat queer, what the hell are you?” I did give a fuck and I spoke out about it, but not in an oppressed or sad way, more in a party, happy and very defiant way.
I did give a fuck and I spoke out about it. I was loud and happy to be letting people know, “Hey, I am a big ol’ fat queer, what the hell are you?”
What was the gay/queer community like then? Was there much crossover with punks?
No, not much crossover at all, they hated me for being different. They would spend hours getting ready to go out to the bars or months in the gym to be that perfect image of something they thought might make them equal and free, so when I showed up in torn or old clothes, bleached hair and not conforming to what they were so working towards, they fucking hated me.
What or who inspired you that gave you such a fierce rage at the time before the Dicks really came to fruition? What sparked the fire?
That same conforming to the norm made me sick. Reagan was the leader and people were following like sheep. Wars all over; not Vietnam but non-ending small wars everywhere. Nobody gave a shit. It made me really mad — sheep! Seeing the oppressed queers going along with the norm — being right wing, even — really sickened me. The great acceptance made me mad.
Tell us about some of the cruising and local gay hot spots going on in Texas then. Any good stories or places that we’ll never see the likes of again because of the damn internet?
Every bathroom on UT campus was going strong, glory holes the size of cake pans, bookstores and parks, all super active. The same redneck that might yell “fag” at you on the street was sticking his ass up to the glory holes in many different places.
Lately there’s been a bit of a rift between young queer punks who are incredibly politically correct and others that use “offensive” language freely. As someone who didn’t bat an eye to self-censorship and harsh language, do you have any thoughts on these tensions?
Fuck ’em, what about that? The super defensive politically-correct today are usually good-job market-all money makers tomorrow. A waste of my time, uptight and frigid.
Recently in mainstream media we’ve been seeing a lot of political acceptance and public activism in the greater gay community. Do you have any of our own personal “Gary Floyd” advice for the young faggot punks who, regardless, may still be feeling the burn? Advice more specific than “it gets better?”
Really, always be honest to yourself. Be open spirited and less catty with others. It’s so easy to slip into a non-stop catty, smart mouthed lifestyle if you are not mindful of what you are doing. Queers can build a real thick skin that can seem to protect you from the mean old world, but then turn around and use it on you… but good karma is there as well, and it also comes back in multi-folds. So easy to be mean, but so sweet to reach out and be kind.
How’s San Francisco treating you? Ever miss Texas and the South?
I love my friends down there but I love SF too. I love the weather here; me and the super heat are not friends. SF is changing so much, though. A city of money, rents are stupid but people somehow pay them. Many things that brought me here and kept me here are gone. So who knows, I might be a Southern belle again someday.
Still make it to the bookstore?
No, not in a long time, I’m a married man now, but memories…oh, boy… I’ve never been more settled or happy, but I am old now, so what can I say?
What’s some music you have been listening to lately that’s really been scratching that itch?
Very little new stuff. Mostly punk rock online radio. Stig Stench from Austin is my favorite, but also bluegrass and hillbilly stuff.
Any last words to the true believers?
Mindful, calm and honest aren’t all that bad.