A scene sharing its name with a slang term for male prostitutes, has long been one of the dumbest things about punk. Men could dress up in fetish gear, spit on each together, wrap their sweaty bodies around each other in the mosh pit—but god forbid they kiss. (Women, as usual, made better records and were ignored.)
Queercore changed that. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, bands like Fifth Column, Tribe 8, Vaginal Davis’s Black Fag, and Pansy Division—comparatively diverse in gender and race and identity—opted out of the scenes that hadn’t exactly welcomed them. They turned to a network of zines and house-show circuits across America and Canada for community, compiling their efforts into epochal compilations like There’s a Faggot in the Pit and There’s a Dyke in the Pit. And then, like a classic punk single, queercore’s original wave ended barely after it began.
It was around this time (1998) that Limp Wrist sashayed into the pit. Sparked by queer Latinx rabble-rouser Martin Sorrondeguy after the end of Los Crudos, Limp Wrist became instantly infamous for harnessing—while wearing harnesses, or Leigh Bowery-esque drag, or not much at all—punk’s flamboyant sneer and hardcore’s go-all-night stamina, without all the macho bullshit. Tracks like “I Love Hardcore Boys/I Love Boys Hardcore” became self-explanatory anthems.
Last month, Limp Wrist returned with Facades, their first album in nine years. Laced with reads of both straight and queer culture, Facades boasts a top side of 90-second broadsides and, surprisingly, a selection of sleazy house tracks underneath. Released around right the same time was Into the Shroud, the gorgeous second album from the dream-pop band Flesh World, which—despite a drastically different sound than Limp Wrist—shares a member in Scott Moore, not to mention lyrical nods to queer figures. Moore started as the drummer in Limp Wrist, switched to guitar in 2004, and in 2012 started Flesh World with Jess Scott of the slept-on Slumberland band Brilliant Colors. (As if he’s not busy enough, Moore also just released Slow Motion Pictures, an EP of hallucinogenic acid tracks, under his own name.)
To discuss queers, punks, and queer punk, we called Moore at his San Francisco apartment, where he said the air smells like a campfire as the forests of northern California tragically burn.
Pitchfork: So let’s start at the beginning. How did you first meet Martin and join Limp Wrist?
Scott Moore: I grew up in very rural town in Pennsylvania [Emporium]. I never would have made it without two things: I was introduced to punk by a teacher when I was senior in high school. And I was a fag. Being a fag gives you the desire—and not only the desire but the necessity—to go somewhere where you feel like you can be yourself. Even if you don’t know what that self is yet, you just know that you’re never going to find it there.
A few of us had started following hardcore, and in like 1996 we saw an ad in HeartAttack Magazine that said Los Crudos was booking a summer tour and had Martin’s phone number. My friend called and set him up with a show at a Grange Hall outside of town. On the night of the show, Martin needed to make a call and so I gave him a ride to my friend’s house to use the phone. That was the first time I met him. I made the band spaghetti. The next day, Los Crudos played the Cleveland hardcore fest—and that very day Martin came out on stage. I was 19 and sort of trying to get my own footing in terms of figuring out my sexuality, and I wrote him a letter. I really looked up to him.
So your identities as a queer man and a musician have been tied together from the start. And Limp Wrist couldn’t have been more upfront about being queer.
At the beginning, our lyrics were very tongue in cheek, poking fun at the male-dominated hardcore scene. It started out as: “This is what it’s like to be a fag in the hardcore scene.” Then it sort of changed to: “This is what it’s like to be a punk fag in a gay world.”
What is that like?
Well, in terms of the industry, we’ve literally done nothing differently over the years. Martin puts out our records in the U.S. We do it all ourselves. We haven’t really established that much of a relationship with the internet-focused generation who are like, “We demand that you answer us right away.” We’re like, “…that’s not gonna happen.” [Laughs]
You communicate in other ways.
The thing about being a queer man is that, unless you are a shut-in, you’re forced into situations where you are in the same room with people who might not understand where you’re coming from. Limp Wrist facilitates a conversation.
I never know what to expect from our shows, and I’m honestly humbled every time that there are kids who’ve never seen us play before and are stoked. In the last few years, there have been so many trans and non-binary folks in the crowd. We played in Olympia, Washington, and Gary, Indiana, and there were trans kids there. These aren’t major hub cities. To see these young trans kids coming to our shows and feeling like it’s their space is really great.
Just like punk, queer culture hasn’t always been welcoming to some. Not just trans folks, but even women.
We make a point of paying homage to women who forged their place as queer women in the scene way before men did—waybefore men did. But I do often wonder, are there people who look at our imagery and think, “This is not for me.”
The Facades cover, for example, which puts the male body rather confrontationally front and center.[Laughs] We were actually getting ready to play a show after the trans march in San Francisco, three years ago. We were just putting on our outfits, like we do, doing our little dress rehearsal in our apartment. The photo is on the stoop outside our old apartment. We were about halfway done writing the record and Martin set a camera up on a box and did the timer thing and there you go. We were like, “OK, we definitely have to finish this record now.”
Of course, Limp Wrist has been taking it all off onstage for almost 20 years now. What does that feel like as you age?
That’s a good question…Well, you know, as you get older, the body changes. But it almost feels like, if I have too many clothes on, is it even Limp Wrist?
Speaking of taking it off, you just DJed an underground sex party in Brooklyn.
It was wonderful. The organizers really go out of their way to support inclusion. There’s this old school idea of: “We can’t have somebody who’s not a ‘man’ in our man’s space.” But there’s a whole younger generation of kids who aren’t so tied to that idea.
Anyway, they really wanted a rock’n’roll punk thing, so I played “Dirt” by the Stooges and Nation of Ulysses.
The punk fags in a gay world!
One of the most inspiring people I ever met was Will Munro [the artist and Toronto promoter whose legendary party Vazaleen helped launch the careers of Peaches, the Hidden Cameras, and more]. He passed away seven years ago. There was something so exciting about the crowds and the vibe that he attracted, that mixture of punks and weirdos and fags. It was an ideal world, to me—so many factions of people together to cooperate and communicate and also just party and dance.
That desire to cooperate and communicate definitely comes through in Flesh World, too. It’s a far more romantic sound, of course.
It’s a whole other language. With Limp Wrist, I’m playing guitar to communicate rage. But rage is not the only emotion.
How did you and Jess Scott meet?
Her band Brilliant Colors played a couple shows with Limp Wrist. And I remember we were riding bikes down Market Street talking about the Jesus and Mary Chain.
San Francisco was a different city then, I imagine.[Sighs] The same thing that’s happening in cities all over America is happening here. I can’t imagine some poor queer punk kid of 18 looking at San Francisco and feeling like, economically, they can just pick up and move to a new city. But people continue to throw parties like Kosmetik at the Stud, one of the first queer bars in the city, which recently collectivized. It’s an interesting party for people who can stay out late. And you can see more and more things happening in smaller communities.
Do you miss the old city?
Jess and I are both interested in our lineages and histories. We anchor ourselves to it and make ourselves a part of it. We’re a little Genet and a little G.B. Jones and a little Kenneth Anger. It feels important to me that Dark Entries, who put out the new Flesh World album, is a San Francisco label. They also put out contemporary music from the Bay Area like Bézier and Group Rhoda. She’s dreamy. But then also someone like Patrick Cowley. It puts us in a lineage. But I’m not nostalgic for my own past. I want to explore new ways of communicating.
The beautiful thing about being a fag is that you can do whatever the fuck you want.