It was all so surreal. I was sitting on a bed at the Charlton Arms Hotel, speaking to Venus, lead singer of the Minneapolis-based dark glam band All The Pretty Horses, and wife Lynette.
It felt as though I was in someone’s dream, and in a way, I was. “This is my installation,” Venus explained, referring to the artwork that covered every square inch of the hotel room: walls and ceiling. Dominated by background hues of blues, the focal point of the artwork was nude transgender beings in an angelic state, suspended in air.
I have never been a student of art, but the moods and inner feelings of the artist were in plain view to me. The work was honest, and reveled the depths of who this person is. I first saw Venus perform in the spring of 2002 at Don Hills, and then again at the lgendary CBGBs in NYC, and understood why Siren Magazine referred to All The Pretty Horses as “the most visually arresting band you will ever see.”
For the next 40 minutes we spoke about life, career, and art.
Brie: As I do in every transgender-related interview, I have to start with the standard first question; do you prefer to by known as he, she, or does it matter?
Venus: Well … I’m a transgender person, I can never be fully a woman, and am no longer a man -- so I prefer something other than he or she. But, they don’t have anything, so Venus in fine.
B: Do you encounter difficulty being Venus 24/7?
V: When people see me, many times they are challenged to define their own gender and sexual identity – it makes many go to a place they’re afraid of. If referred to as he, she or drag, I don’t get upset. I calmly correct people when I have the opportunity, like this, through this interview. So, no, it’s not hard being me, but it’s all in the way you perceive things.
B: What are differences between how adults and kids react to you?
V: It’s funny, because boys – 10 or 12 years old would ask me, are you a boy or a girl? If I said boy they would become uncomfortable, again, because it challenged their own self-image. But, when I’d say, “I’m neither a boy or girl - I’m transgender,” they’re like oh, cool. Women seem to always be accepting, and men, those confident with themselves, never have a problem with me – they’ll often come over and hug me.
B: Tell me little bit about your art, what does it symbolize?
V: My art represents that life is a struggle, but if you’re at peace, you see more, experience more --- then you die.
B: Earlier we talked about the historical references to trans people, what’s your view of that?
V: In ancient times, Joseph wore techni-color - many men wore feminine clothes. Trans-people, especially in native cultures, were seen as spiritual beings – neither fully man nor woman. I try to capture that beauty, and the simplicity of that idea in my work.
B: You’ve been married for quite a while, and a documentary “Venus of Mars,” was made about that -- how does being trans affect your relationship?
V: We were married five years, and I had to come out. I feared I would loose her, and at the time I thought there were only two options for me: to be a cross-dresser or a transsexual; but I couldn’t hide from her or myself any longer.
B: Lynette, what were your thoughts as you found out?
Lynette: I was like, tell it to me slowly -- let me absorb it. I had the basic fears, if Venus is bisexual, then that means Venus is gay, and for any woman, that’s a concern.
V: In relationships, gender never mattered much to me. All that mattered was monogamy. There has to be trust to explore and discover the depths of who you are together.
L: I also had to rethink sexuality.
V: And, this isn’t about female sexuality, it’s trans sexuality – which is not worshipping, or mocking – but, it’s my sexuality,
B: Tell me about your music and your influences?
V: I grew up with punk, so I was greatly influenced by that style. And Bowie, not only his music, but his mindset – he broke all the rules. But, I have multiple interests in music. I enjoy opera and classic as well.
B: Do the stories and images of the ancients influence your music?
V: Yes. My music however is just another color of my art --it’s all my art, so it’s all intertwined. It’s like a dream, and within the dream I’m influenced by it all. The art process itself, for me, is instinctive -- it takes me where “it” wants to go. I may come back and reshape it, but it is created from that initial instinct, whether it’s music, drawing, painting, whatever.
B: You’ve built a fan base, and are making ends meet. What’s the bands future look like?
V: I love being an Indie band. We are blessed that we can continue to do what we do. So many bands financially can’t survive. I would take a major label deal, if it was the right deal, but don’t need a “deal.” I have no problem staying an Indie band forever.
B: How do you think ATPHs affects people in general?
V: We break down barriers. Our audience is so broad: young, old, straight, gay, whatever. And, it wasn’t preplanned, it just happened that way, but I’m glad.
B: Do you find people accepting?
V: For the most part yes, but once in a while we run into resistance – like the entire city of St. Cloud, Minnesota (chuckle). They have a history of anti-Semitism, racism and anti-ATPHs (LOL)
B: What’s the lifelong goal, for you personally?
V: Working as long as I’m breathing (smile). To actively engage in self-discovery, and to share my life’s experience -- my art is my life, it’s my religion.
See the photo gallery here
Watch Come On Death here
More Info: http://www.prettyhorses.net
(PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED in Music Express 2005) All Rights Reserved
Watch for the new album 10 Bones (2011)