By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
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Don't expect to see bleached-blonde bimbos in black-leather microskirts bouncing their curves across the TV screen if Nomeansno ever makes a video. This Vancouver hard-core outfit just may be the world's first all-male feminist three-piece.
For somewhere near seven years, the Wright brothers, drummer Rob and bassist John, along with guitarist Andy Kerr, have put their feelings about sexual equality to music and shouted that message out to audiences across Canada and the U.S.
"We started out with quite a feminist bent in our music, and it still is," says Rob Wright in an interview before the group's gig last Sunday at Hollywood Alley. "We're a very anti-cock-rock kind of band, or an anti-male-bullshit kind of band. We try to acknowledge the 51 percent of the population, rather than using them or ignoring them--namely the women."
The band borrowed the name Nomeansno from an anti-rape slogan to make its statement clear. The group supports women's rights because its members feel women shouldn't fight the battle alone, says Wright-- especially when men are responsible for most of the problems confronting their female counterparts today.
"The hatred towards women that leads to rape and incest and child molesting . . . these are serious, serious problems in our society, many societies, and it's a man's problem," he says. "Women are the victims, but it's a man's problem. And in that bent, our music tries to bring that out and make men face that sort of thing, 'cuz a lot of men need to face it."
With a loud, hard and intense barrage of sound, Nomeansno seeks to break down sexual stereotypes and encourage equality. Songs like "Big Dick," from the group's most recent album Wrong, speak out about the problems caused by male hormones.
"What we're talking about is basic re-education," says Wright. "People have to start developing a new attitude. I think the seeds have been sown. It's just a matter of time."
But Wright is well-aware that such progress doesn't come quickly. "We don't expect to change the world," he says. "But you can communicate your thoughts and feelings onstage and you can get people sort of riled up a little bit."
"The kids come to the show, and they hear music that has a different attitude, that has a different viewpoint. We're not there to preach at them, but to us it's common sense."
Nomeansno is also willing and able to whip up a crowd with its music. At Hollywood Alley, the Wrights' close-knit rhythm section generated a strong, fast-forward momentum. Their snappy bass lines and equally quick drum licks inspired more than a few thrashers to get out of control. "That's why we've always been associated with the hard-core scene--it's because we're very aggressive on stage," Rob Wright says. "But we're trying to channel that aggressiveness in a positive way."
The band hopes to break down gender stereotypes with its mix of compassionate lyrics and vigorous music and also demonstrate that sensitivity and strength aren't mutually exclusive. "There's a woman in every man and a man in every woman, and there's no way around that," Wright says. "I think boys, from the day they're born, are taught to suppress any sort of femininity that they have."
Not that the group advocates men sacrificing their masculinity. "Men are still going to be that force-- aggressive, energetic, ambitious, sort of forward-thinking," Wright says. "I mean, this is the drive that the male energy has. But then, to go along with that, you have the sort of more earthly, the mother, nurturing, caring aspect of humanity, too. And the blending of the two is how you can have a productive and vital society that's not so self-destructive."
Wright says one of the group's earlier songs, "No Sex," discusses breaking down the idea of men and women as opposites. "It's basically about just being trapped in your gender, and that when you strip away the surface, you find that people have a lot more in common."
"I'd just like to see, someday, the sexes come a little closer together as far as just dealing on a human, person-to-person level. I don't know when, but it seems to be the direction you have to go. I mean, the other male death-trip is just going to end in disaster."
The "male death-trip" Wright mentions includes the massive military stockpiles the U.S. maintains, he says. But the drummer says he's also talking about the continuous abuse of women everywhere. Violence against women is as dangerous to the world as any nuclear weapon, Wright says.
"In this city, hundreds of women are being beaten, as we speak. I mean, we're sitting within miles of women who are being abused at this moment, every day, all day, every week, every month of the year . . . and raped. That's just a sickness, a poison that's going to destroy this society in the long run."
"There's a woman in every man and a man in every woman, and there's no way around that."
Violence against women is as dangerous to the world as any nuclear weapon, Wright says.