The Pussy Rock Monologues

On one man's obsession with opera, MySpace, and NYC's female-fronted rock hopefuls

Chiara Barzini

published: August 08, 2006

When I first saw psychedelic punk-rock band Seasick play at Sin-é, I was hypnotized. Dressed in a sailor outfit, 26-year-old Persian-Latvian lead singer Jasmine Golestaneh sang a song called "Octopus" in a lulling, spooky voice, swinging trance-like as she declared, "Every day I am getting better/So they say I am getting better." Meanwhile, 20-year-old drummer prodigy Sam Levin and 26-year-old keyboard player Geoff Lee harmonized in the mangled sea. For once I thought I wouldn't mind being seasick and nauseated, marooned with no Dramamine in the midst of such magnetic maritime dizziness. It was such an explosive and intense experience that the few times I managed to break the spell, I noticed everyone else in the audience—a mix of surprised Lower East Side bar habituals and a hip-looking international crowd from Britain and France—was equally haunted. And who do we have to thank for such an exalted, vertiginous experience? A 43-year-old Georgian (the formerly Russian country, not the state) named Kisho Glunch who screams when he speaks (with a heavy Eastern European accent), looks like a Viking, and plans to change the way New York City experiences live music through his Pussy Rock Shows. A typical event features as many as 12 female-fronted bands (of the indie-punk-goth-garage-alternative persuasion) invading NYC venues like Continental, Snitch, Sin-é, Baggot Inn, Galapagos Art Space, Bowery Poetry Club, and Acme Underground, banding young hopefuls together in pursuit of rock industry recognition. "These girls should be taking the places of the Aguileras on MTV", Glunch says/screams. "Being underground now is shit, and they deserve so much more."

Through MySpace, he's gathered about 50 groups, often using the key words "PJ Harvey" in his searches. The ultimate goal is major-label interest, but barring that, Glunch is ready to start a Pussy Rock Show label and do it himself. Aside from promoting bands, he's also directing a documentary about the PRS experience, hoping to air it on Channel 13 or CUNY, certainly "not on one of those Brooklyn channels that nobody watches."

Glunch moved to America 11 years ago after a youth spent playing and booking concert halls in Georgia. He intended to start a band here himself, but instead got stuck in the obsessive world of vinyl and tape collecting. "All I wanted to do was collect records and go home and listen to them," he recalls. "When I first moved to Atlanta, Clash and Sex Pistol tapes were 99 cents!" He cites his subsequent obsession with 19th- and early-20th-century opera records for his female voice fixation: "Wagner and Strauss made me realize that women do the best singing. Female opera is so beautiful. I just fell in love with it. I like Led Zep, Sisters of Mercy, and the Clash. I have nothing against guys who rock, God bless them. I wish someone would help them with the Dick Rock shows. I would support that 100 percent. But my real concern is female-led bands. I truly believe it is the most important thing that's happening today."

The Pussy Rock concept came to him as a rather militant vision. "MTV and VH1 are these kinds of armies of the music world with soldiers and everything," he explains. "You have to fight to survive. One band can't make anything." So he's got a few recruits: an elder, generous Georgian named Tango who smiles a lot and doesn't mind standing behind a video camera for hours at a time filming obscure rock bands; a wild Canadian rock singer named Lisa Noto (whose band Psycho Syndrome plays songs Glunch wrote) who helps book appointments, answer e-mails, and assist with logistical nightmares; and Brian Haimes, a shy film editor.

Of course, Glunch has also built an irresistible army of bands earning $20 or less per show, often dead-broke but still screaming their hearts out and holding court from their MySpace pages. The Pervs are an inspiring and debaucherous '80s rock/new wave/heavy metal outfit led by ex-drum'n'bass luminary MC Linzee. Jungle Junkies are an utterly insane Brazilian metal band led by a self-described "Amazonian hooligan"; Bad Girlfriend prefer noisy and melodic indie rock. The industrial noise crew Nuclear Riot Party like to bang on scrap metal and trash cans, shout in megaphones, create their own instruments, and scream like devil worshippers. The dark and feminine Past Mistress creep under your skin with ghost stories; Some Candy proudly declare they're inspired by broken hearts, the Pixies, and lunar eclipses. Fantastic frontwomen abound at these shows, from Loki the Grump's theatrical, sardonic punk rock to Azkelt's belly-dancing sex-goddess-led mixture of tribal beats and Celtic harmonies. Options abound whether you're into gothic punk (Psycho Syndrome), emotional and lyrical complexity (White Widow), or raw, high-energy alt-rock (Angelic Bombs). Or, as Fire and Reason describe themselves, "PJ Harvey and Primal Scream in a three-way with Trent Reznor."

It goes without saying that there is absolutely no money involved in this yet, for Glunch or the bands. No problem. For his part, "Art and money are two very different things!" Glunch says. "I just saw (NYC music scene doc) Kill Your Idols. . . . I used to like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but that girl (Karen O), she just shits on everybody's head. She thinks they're the only band who made it, and doesn't care about anyone who hasn't. My concept is not killing musicians, but bringing life to music. What excites me are not established bands, but the idea that in the basement of your next-door neighbor's house there might be a really kickass band playing right now! Just yesterday on MySpace I found an amazing Staten Island band. The lead singer is a 16-year old girl, the guitarist 15, and the drummer maybe 12 or 13. This is much bigger than collecting bands and booking gigs. This is a war. I might not be a general, I don't have a cap or anything, but for now I am the one who is reaching out and creating a movement."

This sort of utopian talk doesn't necessarily energize club owners, of course. "These people are not interested in music anymore," Noto complains. "They're interested in money. That's the only thing. Continental and CBGB's should be happy to put up some real punk-rock shows, but it's not like that. They're pissed if you don't bring any people or make any money, and the next time they don't book you. Even if you're good."

"You know what it reminds me of?" Glunch shouts, interrupting. "Back in Georgia I was sitting in a philharmonic hall. It was huge—B.B. King played there. It was the '80s, and I was in a Communist country, and the owner of the hall told me, 'I don't give a fuck what you play. You can shit on the stage, I'll clean it. But I want to count the money at the end of it.' I ran away from that and came here, and it's exactly the same thing. I'm not blind—I pay bills, when I have money. But if you're dealing with art, you have to be willing to give."

Speaking of clashing with clubs, the moniker Pussy Rock has already been banned from Continental shows and had to be re-invented as "PRS Presents." Other sensitive New Yorkers probably cringe at the name as well. "My mother knows the word pussy," Glunch counters. "You know it, Lisa knows it, I know it, the lawyers know it, the police and everybody knows it. So why is everyone is so ashamed to talk about it? It's a great name!"

For future Pussy Rock affairs, see