So where do we begin this queer tale? Here are some highlights:
Glen was a performance art superstar at Los Angeles leather bars in the ’80s where he’d fire up a skillet live onstage while carrying on in a frock—right next to where guys were hooking up and, you know, fisting each other.
Glen’s album from this early period, Chicken & Biscuits, is a fearless and fearsome explosion of electronics that is one of the best albums ever recorded in my opinion. It’s ultra-scary cornpone drag queen music by way of the Forbidden Zone.
Maybe that’s what attracted RuPaul, who was Glen’s backup singer, pre-Supermodel Of The World.
Glen’s been an actor, and he’s not-so-secretly Canadian (born and raised in Manitoba).
But perhaps Glen Meadmore’s greatest legacy was to be the very first person to fuse punk rock and country music into a genre some call “Cowpunk.” It’s kind of a big deal—Glen was the originator who put these two great outlaw tastes together. It’s been a rip-roarin’ popular sound ever since.
Of course, when Glen serves up Cowpunk it’s got a thick frosting of LGBTQ lust on top like marshmallow fluff. YUM.
It’s Glen’s comeback after an extended break during Covid. Do not miss this show!
I first met Glen exactly seventeen years ago when we hosted him on The Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett & Sandra Bernhard—check it out:
Glen and I reconnected over dinner at The Kitchen, tucked behind the gay club Akbar over in Silverlake.
My hubby and I walk in and there’s Glen looking really handsome. I mean, as an O.G. punk he could be a broken down wreck by now. Not Glen. Look at the photo my husband Ryan Cameron took at the top of this post. Glen’s radiant, trim—and making me look like a wreck at age 50.
“I’ve never been a drinker,” Glen says as he thumbs the app on his smartphone. Nosy me sees dicks and buttcheeks on his screen. What’s happening, Glen?
“Oh, it’s just Grindr,” he says nonchalantly. I suppose this isn’t out of character for the man who supplied the best parts of the Hustler White soundtrack for Bruce LaBruce and Rick Castro. Now we’re all hustlers on the apps.
Are you going to jet out of here for a hookup?
“No—just checking in with some regulars,” Glen says as he turns off the phone and tucks it away. He turns his full attention to us, smiles and proceeds to give me just about the longest, warmest hug I’ve had in quite some time.
Before we can dig into the interview (and our delicious buttermilk fried chicken—very appropriate meal for the King of Kuntry), Glen’s old friend Jane Cantillon—TV producer, classic punk rocker, and singer of the Dick & Jane Family Orchestra—arrives with a small party and swoons with happiness in seeing her pal.
We invite Jane & Co. to sit next to us. She chimes in at various points (and shoves her phone with another punk performance art legend, Johanna Went, into Glen’s ear for a pretty exciting convo we get to eavesdrop on).
The wait staffed fusses over Glen. Ryan and I feel like we are dining with a superstar (we are). Glen’s a limo driver for celebrities and famous executives so he didn’t bat an eyelash at the attention.
It was a warm ‘n fuzzy Hollywood evening, and I’m proud to share the highlights with you below. All the responses are Glen’s except where noted.
Where did your interest in country music come from? What was that from growing up in Manitoba?
Well, my kokum, which is grandmother in Cree, was a big country fan. She took me to see Jim Reeves when I was four years old. So that was probably subconsciously an influence. And I always rebelled against country. I always thought it was corny and you know, not my thing.
But when I wanted to do something that was different I said, I’m going to do my slant on country. I’m going to make country weird. I’m going to make it loud. I’m going to make it all the things that people didn’t want country to be. So I did that and nobody else is doing what we do with country. Nobody. They’re always kind of Neo-traditional or something. And you know, I just I would rather mix genres. I think mixing genres is more interesting.
They say that are you the nastiest country singer of all time?
Oh really? I don’t know about that. [Jane Cantillon reaches over to our booth and presses her phone to Glen’s ear.] Hi Johanna! [Legendary legend Johanna Went calls in—you know, NBD…. Glen and Johanna chat for awhile and plan a visit up in Ventura. Can I go too?]
You lead an exciting lifestyle…
Very rarely do I see people when I go out. I think you’re a conduit you’re…
Yeah, you facilitate.
Why did you choose LA?
Did you have a crush on a guy here or something…?
No, actually. I just wondered what Los Angeles was. Because I would watch silent movies back in Canada and I would fantasize about looking at the palm trees in those movies and wonder, Do they really exist? It looked so glamorous. And I would fantasize about it whether it was like that in real life.
I went to London. It didn’t click—didn’t click in London. And I said, Oh, on the way back I’ll stop in L.A. and see what it’s like. As we were landing, I could see silhouettes of palm trees in the dark. It was night. And I was looking out the window. Oh my god it really is palm trees! I was so excited. That was was it. I instantly wanted to be here forever after that. The palm trees are what made me stay here. I just fell in love with it. I instantly had chemistry like I had been here before. I felt at home. If you ever had that feeling…
You wrote it? And you were the singer?
And the bass player—sometimes guitar player. I started out playing in a blues cover band. Back when I was still in high school. And we played bars and stuff.
Was it like roadhouse-type situations? I’ve never been to Winnipeg, so I don’t know.
No, it wasn’t rough and tumble. Winnipeg—it’s a nice, easygoing place, although I heard it’s more sketchy now. But back in the day knows it was nice. Easy breezy. But it was cold. Freezing. 40º—60º below. That’s too intense. I never got into it. I wanted to be in the sun. Although I shun the sun now, I like to be around it.
Yeah, you have very good skin. And that’s usually a sign that people are staying out of the sun.
Oh, really? Well, thank you, you’re too kind.
It’s true though. You see people who spend a lot of time in the sun and they get their skin gets damaged in L.A. as the sun’s just too—
Too hot. The sun is not our friend. Not down here.
So what did you find when you came to California? Because then all of a sudden, you just sort of went off on your own tangent. What was the catalyst for that?
I found this bar called the One Way on Hoover—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it? It was a leather bar back in the day. They would play, like, weird music—not the typical gay disco. Like, you know, Cabaret Voltaire—the darker, weird underground stuff. Psychic TV. Very dark. Yeah. And Jane—all the weirdos would hang out. Right, Jane?
Jane: Oh my god. Leather-slash-punk rock-slash-art bar.
Glen: It was the place to be, right?
Jane: It was fucking cool. Yeah, I did a Christmas special there. I had Christmas trees coming off my breasts. And they were and then many lights and they were hanging low. And it was sexy. And I don’t know what else to say. It was it was a very fluid gay leather bar where they allowed art and music and fun, right? Yeah, it was late ’70s, early ’80s. It was so much a part of the art scene.
Glen: It was the catalyst behind everything that was was off-offbeat. I was introduced to Jim Van Tyne, who was the DJ. And he attracted all of that element. He’d do these parties called “the-o-re-ti-cal” parties. He’d have like, the strangest, weirdest, craziest performers that he could find. Like, Edith Massey would perform there and people like that.
Hanging out there I was getting the, you know, the stage fever and I said [to Jim], Do you think I could perform? And he said, sure. He didn’t know what I did. I said, I think I’m gonna do a drone and just sort of ramble or scream or do whatever on top of the drone. That was what I told him I wanted to do. And he said, Sure it sounds okay.
So one thing led to another and I went to his place—he had a synthesizer at his place. I did a backing track of my music, manually playing it on the synthesizer. And that was my first performance in L.A.
How was it received?
It went over well. It was actually a song called “Just A Girl.” And I had a custom made one-piece, top thing, and kind of semi-drag, I guess. And that’s what got the ball rolling. And after that, I started work on the first album, and I used sequencers. That’s when things started progressing. And I still didn’t know how to write a song or do anything. And Jim became my costumer, my manager, and collaborator on the shows.
Then I played the Limbo Lounge for, like, a year… or two years? Every week we would do a different show. It got the crowds. Finally—huge crowds would come to this club every week. And that was my peak in L.A., performing back in the ’80s.
How would you describe your music at that time?
Well, at the time I was doing shows—I don’t know if I had the first album finished by then, it was kind of done randomly. I would do things like backing tracks of me playing keyboards or just random little things. Sometimes it was musical. Sometimes I would be vacuuming the stage—I would have a vacuum and I would be in one of Jim’s costumes, vacuuming the stage. One time I was frying a hamburger in a skillet and making the sound of the sizzling beef. It was all random. And then it started getting more musical. And by the end of it, my album came out. And I was doing shows. Jim got me a show with Chris & Cosey at the Park Plaza. Wow, that was fun.
That reminds me, you were talking about Psychic TV earlier. Genesis P-Orridge said that certain people are necessary for the psychic hygiene of our species. People like Jimi Hendrix and Darby and Kurt Cobain. They’re like basically psychic cleaners that shake things up and turn over expectations, cleaning out the garbage in our brains…
Or putting more in [laughs]. Yeah, I love Genesis. Genesis is great.
Gen was a big supporter of yours, right?
We clicked instantly. I was a big fan of his—I knew who he was. And he saw me and said, Ooh, that looks good. He wanted us to be in his “Good Vibrations” video with me in drag. So I showed up in my pink sequined outfit. He was quite taken with my look.
You’re 6’8″, correct?
Yeah, true. Or 6’7″.
That’s monumental drag…
Genesis filmed us, although none of it made it into the video, but that’s how we met. And then I brought along a cassette of my first album and gave it to him. And he loved it. And he wanted to do a remix or a different take on “Do Me Baby.” And so he kept in touch. Took a while—like a couple of years—but finally he did it. And I believe Alex Fergusson, from Alternative TV—later Psychic TV—he played guitar. And Genesis put it out. He made his own version of it. I did a re-recording of it. So it’s not the same version that’s on the album. So he only has a bit of my vocals and that’s about it.
I always wondered if the character you played in the “Do Me” video inspired Marge Simpson…
You never know…
Drag was different then…
Drag was actually still a novelty. It wasn’t, like, commonplace like it is now. Then it was still a way to get attention. It was rare. That’s why I did drag. Initially, it was to get attention.
It was because I wanted to be the most outrageous. I wanted some unusual look.
And when it turned into more of a drag show, that’s when I cut it off—when it got to be to be draggy. I didn’t want to be that. But all these years later, that’s how people remember me—doing drag. Isn’t it funny, the things people glom on to? That was never like a big thing in my life. But people all of a sudden, people glommed on to it.
We love drag queens.
I guess. Yeah.
Speaking of attention and transgression, you have a John Wayne Gacy painting on the front of your album, Hot Horny & Born Again. So how did the serial killer thing sneak in there?
Well, like I say, I always wanted to be different. I always wanted to do something that nobody was doing, you know? That I thought was something that would get attention. Why not put a serial killer painting on the cover? [Laughs]
I don’t think about things, you know? Had I thought about it, I might not have done it. My mind is so scattered and rambled that I don’t take responsibility for my actions at that time. I thought it’d be good for shock value, something that would get attention. And turns out, I like the image.
It’s actually one of Gacy’s better creations.
Yeah, I think so. It actually looks like me. But it’s a weird painting because, on the original canvas, or wherever he painted it on, there’s something underneath the painting like it’s like a floor plan of all these rooms. And so I’m wondering, What is that? It’s weird when you think of his story. The boys. Because the older it gets, the more the floor plan shows through in the painting. It’s showing through the painted flowers, you can actually see it seeping through. Weird.
You did this thing with with Vaginal Davis—Pedro, Muriel and Esther? PME?
Yeah, Vag initially she wanted me because I had just bought a guitar. She wanted me to play guitar behind her while she did her spoken word poetry. And I said, Well, that’s nice, but why don’t we just get a whole band? And she called up people that she knew—found a band. And that was PME. Then, as soon as I met Dean and Adam, who were the original musicians that we played with, I said I want to play my music with a band instead of sequences. I’m tired of doing sequences. I’d rather have a live set. So that’s how the country bands started.
That must have felt really good to get out in front of a band.
Right? Because I started music with a band. It was at the point where I wanted to do more music. I wanted to be more music-based and not just costume-based. I wanted to be known for my songs. That was it. Instead of just being a gimmick.
I think you must be one of the only people that I’ve ever heard of who’s gone from sequencers and drag performance art to—flash forward—working with Steve Albini.
Mark Freitas is the guy that brought Steve Albini into the picture. He wanted to record PME on CD, so he brought Steve to produce. And so we worked with Steve Then when I came to do my album with the country band, I asked him. Actually he offered, you know, said we could do it with him. Country Songs for Little Hustlers.
It sounds so great!
I was very happy. We were on tour. So we recorded and mixed it in two days, and everything was one-take. It just came together. I didn’t have any songs. I had to come up with songs before we went because I didn’t have anything. So I just quickly wrote this thing. It came together really fast.
Dolly Parton says that she writes a song every single morning while she has her cup of coffee. Every day she writes a song…
I believe it. Some people just have a knack. I don’t.
What’s the last song you’ve written?
Will you be doing any new songs at Oracle Tavern?
I have no new songs. I have not written a song in twenty years. I’m—I’m an oldies act. I admit it. I have no shame in it. Because I don’t believe in putting out stuff that I’m not inspired to write. And if there’s no inspiration, I don’t write anything. You hear too many bands that ruin their legacy, but putting out stuff that’s uninspired. You know what I mean? I’m not like that. I’ll just play the old stuff. Nobody’s heard it anyway. It’s new to them.
Don’t miss Glen Meadmore at Oracle Tavern on October 14, 2022:
Starts 8pm / $10 / 21+
Read about Glen’s concert co-stars:
Read more about Sean Carnage Fridays:
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