Mark Weigle hits a populist note on SoulSex
Not since Woody Guthrie rang out, “This land is your land, this land is my land” has a folk musician struck such a powerful populist note. Balladeer/rocker Mark Weigle taps the working-class queer contingent, the down-to-earth crowd, the guys and gals who work hard and play hard, who value respect, cooperation, responsibility and community. He’s a hero to the leather men and women, the bears, cowboys, sexual outlaws, people with HIV/AIDS, people who struggle and fail, people who succeed at all costs, people with a conscience, people who are aware. He’s a genuine storyteller, not just a writer of songs, leaning heavily toward sincerity, but not without abundant doses of irony – all intertwined with open queer sexuality.
“The powerful part, potentially, of two men making love is the emotional/soulful connection. You can still have that with rubbers on and no fluid exchange, if you just open yourselves to each other in that way. Bring your heart to it.”
Weigle will play an acoustic Pride concert on Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m. at Noe Valley Ministry (1020 Sanchez St.), a small but acoustically superior music venue that’s sure to be packed to its wooden rafters. The date also marks Mark’s 38th birthday, and for the occasion he is launching his double-CD project, SoulSex (Wrestling the Angel/Versatile), an exceptional package of thematic art and music, possibly the queerest album ever conceived.
He’s the old-school leader of the new queer music pack in the Bay Area and beyond, not just because he’s out, proud, highly visible, and rocks the good rock, but because his whole body of work is a seductive conceptual-art piece. With a poet’s heart, a preacher’s passion and delivery, and an outlaw constitution, Weigle is a lone queer rocker howling in the wilderness, calling out for justice, respect and honesty.
A combination of activism, sex and great music render a revolutionary aspect to SoulSex, comprised of “Versatile,” the more hard-rocking, sexual CD; and the quieter, more introspective “Wrestling the Angel” CD, the gentle, acoustic side of Weigle most of us know best. The combo packs a wallop, delving not just into sex, but the soul, the struggle to overcome obstacles, the quest for truth and identity, the courage to be out in an increasingly hostile world.
Inspired place Weigle spent about two years evolving the project in consultation with “a handful of muses.”
“I’d kind of run out of songs, and I’m not one of these two-songs-before-breakfast songwriters. I have to wait ’til the muse hits me, and I have to have space in my life.”
Since he runs his own one-man record label, he didn’t have a lot of that space.
His fourth CD, Different and the Same, a cover album, was conceived “partly to buy myself some time to refill the well and get back in the writing zone.” The singer was touring in Germany in 2002, doing his usual naughty repertoire, “and the sex songs were just fun! I didn’t have to worry about making people cry, or be sensitive, or whatever. I would sit on trains going through Europe on tour and come up with ‘Mr. Trucker Man.’” Eventually, he realized he had a record’s worth of material, and a thriving audience for it.
The softer side of the project, and of the man, is illustrated by “Little Boy,” a song exploring a man’s hurt inner-boy; “Lazy Mexican,” a sad but on-target parody of racism; and “White Scarves on Thursdays,” an ode to Las Madres De La Plaza De Mayo in Argentina, whose children were disappeared, “dragged screaming into cars, thrown from helicopters.” The songwriter’s heart can be felt in Weigle’s blistering attack on clerical hypocrisy in “Blessing,” and in his quest to embrace life, light and flight in the face of hopelessness and death, in “Why Not Fly.” These paeans to justice and dignity pack clout because their words are unsparing, even as they’re poetic and uplifting.
“The journey that ‘Little Boy’ is about is hopefully one we’re all on,” says Weigle. “On a basic level, it’s about me as a kid understanding instinctively that I have to squash my little queen, artsy kid, which a lot of us do; then reclaiming that sweet, sensitive, artsy, loving kid that I was; and integrating that with being an adult man, a sexual man and a powerful man. It’s been a long process.”
Another song, “Victim,” touches on hurtful events. “When I was about 15, I absolutely knew what I wanted, which was to be with a gay man with a mustache.” Then he read a story in his local paper about a kid his age “who had been busted in the back of a van with this guy in his 30s. I remember thinking, that’s exactly my fantasy! That’s what I wanted, to be snuggled up with this man in the back of a van on a snowy morning. I just imagined what that kid went through.”
Weigle defends the seemingly stereotypical portrayal of a Mexican in “Lazy Mexican” by pointing out the song’s ironic intent. “If we can’t talk about things like that, how are we ever supposed to shine a light on it and try to rid ourselves of it?” The song was inspired by his roommate for two years, a Mexican man from Michoacán who’d just come to the States “who would go into tirades about how ‘Americans think we’re these little ceramic guys’ even as he’s working three jobs, studying English at night, working his ass off. Still, he’d get called lazy by slobs.”
What are the Mothers of the Disappeared doing on a “queer” album?
“Well, my lover of eight years is from Argentina, Daniel Felitti, and I got to go to Argentina and saw the Mothers of the Disappeared. Plus I have a lot of problems with our society here in the US, our Kulture with a K. I’m really attracted to Central and South American culture, I think it’s much more real, down-to-earth and laid-back, I’m attracted to that.”
The real goldmine for guys attempting to marry spirit and sex is found in the “Versatile” CD, with its emphasis on the real nitty-gritty of gay life. It traverses happily and erotically through a list of positions and styles, body parts and kinky propositions. But the core is Weigle’s compassion and insight, emphasized in the title song, “SoulSex,” in two versions, one louder and more insistent, the other softer and more supplicating. Weigle says the song acknowledges his older gay brothers “who talk about the intensity of body-fluid exchange back in the ’70s heyday, where it was like you grew up alone thinking you’re the only queer in the world. Then you meet your tribe, and it’s like this incredible festival of fuckin’ and suckin’ and the sacredness of coming inside each other. That was hard for a lot of guys to let go of. AIDS came along, so basically what I’m saying in “SoulSex” is that body fluids is not what’s it’s really about. It’s not the sacred part. The powerful part, potentially, of two men making love is the emotional/soulful connection. You can still have that with rubbers on and no fluid exchange, if you just open yourselves to each other in that way. Bring your heart to it.”
This article appeared in print in the Bay Area Reporter‘s Pride Issue in June, 2005.