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Rock Stars at the End of the World

Buffalo native Anne Hanavan to play Artists & Models

Part art instillation, part video project, but mostly punk band, New York City’s Transgendered Jesus seems to be a perfect fit for Artists & Models. Led by artist, filmmaker, lead vocalist, and Buffalo native Anne Hanavan, this band of experimental artists is not afraid to push boundaries with their chaotic and spontaneous live show. Depending on the night, the group has anywhere from six to eight people on stage, including Hanavan’s husband, saxophonist, and playwright Paul Korzinski; guitarist and filmmaker Ian Wilson; two bassists, George Scherer and Jasmine Hirst; drummer Bobby Budimerovich; and vocalist Giorgio Handman.

This might seem like a pretty large crew of artists for the nearly two-year-old band, but once you get a taste of the Transgendered Jesus live show, complete with custom video projections, costumes, and nude models—Hanavan herself has been known to perform topless from time to time—you’ll understand the need for this creative team. AV talked to the 44-year-old punk rocker this week about her newly found musical career and the creative process behind the band.

AV: I’m sure your band’s name gets some interesting responses. Where did it come from?

Hanavan: A transgendered friend of mine had posted a crazy link on Facebook to some transgendered Jesus site, and I thought it was fantastic. It summed up everything I’m about: making your own choices, believing whatever you want to believe, and that nothing has to be black and white.

AV: Why did you get into punk rock at this point in your artistic career?

Hanavan: Because of my reputation in filmmaking, I was lucky enough to book some shows before anyone had ever heard what we sounded like. Our first gig was with Laurie Anderson [American experimental musician and performance artist, wife of Lou Reed]. People trusted enough in my prior work, so it gave me this opportunity to deliver something new. I wanted this to be more than just a band, though. I want people to see images and react to images. Sometimes these images are a bit intense. Some might be intensely beautiful and others intensely disturbing.

AV: Your live performances are unique. How do you decide how far to go on a given night?

Hanavan: Nothing is ever decided ahead of time, nobody knows what is going to happen, and that is the thrill of it, the spontaneity. It’s really us reacting to the crowd. I’ve been to shows where I get the feeling like “Oh my god, they do this exact same thing every night.” When I started the band, some people were involved in other projects and I told them, “This isn’t going to be an every weekend thing,” I want our performances to be special. The events that we have chosen to participate in are ones where we know the audience is going to be amazing and into what we are doing. At the same time we have this ability to adapt and react. That is my motto: Adapt and react to whatever is going on.

AV: So when you decide to perform topless, is that spontaneous?

Hanavan: What I’m going to wear for the show is something I’ll decide on the day of. The topless thing, I don’t even really know why that is an issue. A big thing for us right now, especially since we’ve all been doing other experimental work, is dealing with the bullshit of censorship. I’ve dealt with all different reactions to my film work, and it makes me feel like the art world is too censored at the moment. We are very anti-censorship.

AV: Describe your sound in once sentence.

Hanavan: It’s a theatrical circus with a rock-and-roll edge. [Bassist] George Scherer and I begin the writing process together, but then everybody in the band brings something to the table that makes our sound complete.

AV: Who influences your music?

Hanavan: When we started off, we didn’t have any of our own songs. We were playing music from friends of mine that had passed away or moved on. The first person I reached out to was Mark Freeland’s girlfriend/wife [Carla Levorchik]. Since Mark is not around, I thought, “Who better to give a voice to than Mark Freeland?” He influenced me in so many ways. Another big influence is Dean Johnson, who was a huge force in the New York City nightlife since the 1980s, before he passed away a few years ago. He had an amazing band called Dean and the Weenies, and then later the Velvet Mafia, and I think Dean still needs a voice, too. After that I contacted Bob Weider and John Walters from the Fems, because I knew that Bob wasn’t doing the Fems anymore. So we started doing one of their songs because I thought that they deserved another life. Then I was challenged by Walters to write my own stuff. He told me I was missing out on the best part of being in a band, so we started doing that. We still do the Fems song, though, and I want to do the Mark Freeland songs for Buffalo too.

—cory perla

Read more about Artists & Models in this week's cover story.

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