Against Me!’s New Wave: Another Excerpt From ‘Tranny’ By Laura Jane Grace

Against Me!’s New Wave: Another Excerpt From ‘Tranny’ By Laura Jane Grace

In Laura Jane Grace’s debut memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, the provocative transgender advocate and lead singer of punk rock band Against Me! provides a searing account of her search for identity and her true self.

Below, enjoy yet another enticing and exclusive excerpt from the book. Read our first excerpt from about the birth of Against Me! hereYou can order a copy of Tranny here

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Taking Butch [Vig]’s advice, I wrote as many songs as I could for the new record. In total, I entered our recording session with 30 songs, 10 of which would make the album. “The Ocean” made the cut, but barely. The label hated it, but I insisted we keep it. It would sneak onto the very end as the album’s last song. We spent the fall in Los Angeles, recording at Paramount Studios, which had no relation to the movie studio but was still right down the street from it.

The band stayed at an extended-stay furnished apartment complex called the Oakwoods, the same place Nirvana stayed while recording Nevermind, and the spot where just two years prior Rick James was found dead of cardiac failure. I’d always wanted to attend the Sunday pool parties there, but given that the complex seemed to consist of aspiring actors and porn stars, I figured I’d be better off avoiding them. We each had our own studio apartment and were spread out across the complex. It was comfortable and clean, the first time I found myself actually enjoying myself in Los Angeles.

There was a dry-erase board hanging on the wall of our rehearsal space with a list of bands occupying the other rooms written on it. We were in studio 3. The two studios below us were blocked off for a band: “Guns and Roses.” Ten-year-old me was doing somersaults.

October 9, 2006—Los Angeles, CA

I haven’t been able to get Heather out of my head. I have fallen in love and it’s horrible, the absolute worst thing that could happen to me right now. I want to be focused on the band, on the album we’re making. Heather is a distraction. She makes me think about marriage and having kids. It’s so completely out of control. I’m guessing that if I were to bring any of this stuff up it would scare her off.

We talked for over an hour tonight. I hate the way I speak. I hate the sound of my voice, my phrasing and my tone. It’s not me. I feel detached from it, like I’m playing a character. I don’t know how to say what I’m really feeling. I don’t think I should say what I’m really thinking, that I’ve never liked the name given to me, that I’ve never felt comfortable in this body. The only time I’m happy is when I am on stage. I don’t like the person that I have become. I don’t like the way that I treat other people.

I slept until 1:40 PM today. I don’t remember what time I went to sleep. I don’t remember how I got back to my apartment. My mental state is slipping. I have to do something.

I need coffee.

October 18, 2006— Los Angeles, CA

Third day of tracking and I’ve yet to record an actual note of music. The first day was spent dealing with some kind of signal phase issue, the second day was all drums. Warren must have tried out 20 different snares, one of them being “Big Red,” the snare drum used on the Guns N’ Roses songs “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry.” We are all in agreement that we love this studio, that we love all the people working on the album, that we love having this many resources available to us. It makes us laugh to think though that anyone has ever commented that any of our past albums have sounded too “overproduced.”

They take you out to dinner and tell you it’s going to be an amazing album. They’ve got “a five- star Rolling Stone review feeling.” They make a toast to the producer they’ve always dreamed of working with, to the band, and to the future. You want to believe, ’cause wouldn’t it be fun?

Remember, there’s no such thing as a free meal. Heather fl ew in a couple nights ago. We’ve decided to move in together, get a place in Gainesville. We plan on starting to look for a place in December, when I’m done with the album. I’m nervous and scared, but it’s good. I feel like every day there’s amazing progression in our relationship. We’ve talked about exes, a subject I usually avoid. She asked me a couple things about my marriage. She said some things about her past relationships. Nothing I can’t handle.

October 26, 2006— Los Angeles, CA

The studio day is over before you know it. You’re buzzed inside in the morning, stepping out of the sunshine and then you’re buzzed out at night walking out into darkness.

I stopped after the first vocal take through “The Ocean” and asked Butch and everyone else in the control room if the lyric to the second verse was too weird. Should I change it?

“If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman. My mother once told me she would have named me Laura.”

I made a joke about being really high when it was written and tried to explain that the lyrics were just stream of consciousness, that I don’t really mean anything by them.

Zero response. Nothing. No feedback, complimentary or critical. Butch finally says, “No it’s cool, go with it.”

We could hear Fiona Apple’s voice coming down the hallway through the cracked door of the room she was rehearsing in. I wish I had a voice like hers. I wish our room was more soundproof so no one walking by could hear me sing. I wish we weren’t listening to the new Killers album like a bunch of fucking dorks as we pulled up to park outside the space they are practicing in.

Lying in bed next to Heather, I find myself so very painfully self- aware. I shouldn’t be with her. I need to be alone right now.

November 16, 2006— Los Angeles, CA

Seymour Stein is a dinosaur, a living breathing music industry dinosaur. I must admit I first heard his name through a Belle & Sebastian song. He started Sire Records. He signed Madonna and the Ramones among so many other world- changing bands. The music history of the label he built is a big reason why we wanted to be a part of Sire Records.

We were doing overdubs on the song “White People For Peace” when a voice comes on the intercom announcing that Seymour Stein was here to see us. Was this a joke? Sure enough, Seymour slowly walks into the control room and introduces himself. He shakes our hands and we exchange introductions.

“Can I hear some songs?” he asks, breaking the awkward silence.

“Sure. Let’s just finish up these overdubs first,” says Butch.

I did my best to finish up the overdubs but was nervous with Seymour standing right beside me listening to me play. I’m not sure if I nailed the part but Butch let it go after a couple more takes and asked the engineer to put it on stun volume for playback.

“Johnny Ramone would have either loved it or hated it!” Seymour says after the song finishes.

“It’s an upper and a downer at the same time,” adds Butch.

“Sounds like a speedball,” says Seymour.

December 14, 2006— Los Angeles, CA

The Sire Records team came into the studio today. They listened to the eight songs that we had ready to play them rough mixes of. The songs played, they gave us a thumbs up, told us it sounded great, and then left quickly. All except for A&R. A&R had suggestions. The idea was proposed that we edit the length of “Thrash Unreal” to make it shorter. Some lyric changes, written by A&R, are suggested, as are vocal harmonies. Listening to A&R talk makes me want to punch a hole in a wall.

I don’t want their personal touch on our music. I’m at the end of my rope with compromising.

You’re always a baby band in the major label world until you’re a has- been, unless you blow up. Everyone makes me feel like I’m just an asshole they just put up with.

I said my ex-wife’s name last night while Heather and I were having sex. Heather didn’t say anything. I’m hoping she maybe didn’t hear it but how could she not? I wasn’t thinking about my ex-wife at the time. I was there, mentally present with Heather, it just happened. What the fuck is wrong with me?

December 20, 2006— Los Angeles, CA

I left the studio tonight with a CD of 14 rough mixes, the songs that will become our fourth full- length album. I am alone in celebrating the last day of tracking; the rest of the band left back for Florida a couple days ago. Just me, a pint of Guinness, and cable TV. The future is uncertain, but my time spent here in L.A. will always remain a happy memory. Thank you, Butch.

Goodbye, Los Angeles. Goodbye, Oakwoods Apartments.

We’ve been offered a $400,000 publishing advance by Warner/Chappell publishing. The lawyer says it’s “unheard of for a young band to get offered that much.” I asked the manager how many albums we would have to sell to recoup. We would have to sell 450,000, just shy of gold.

I don’t trust the manager or the lawyer. They’re just looking to get paid. They’d leave me high and dry if the band were to fall apart. I’m going to turn down the advance.

I’m flying to south Florida in the morning to spend Christmas with my mom and brother.

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