When he's onstage, metal sex kitten Joe Axler (aka Joe Grindo) is in control—powering through complicated drum solos and validating his sexy masculinity with undeniable Meg White–esque appeal. In his bands Samothrace, Splatterhouse, and Theories, Joe's wicked talent and heartfelt passion shine through. Joe took time off of his busy tour schedule to chat with The Stranger.
You're on tour right now. What are your must-haves on tour, and what is currently in your beauty bag?
A man never tells.
How do you keep so fit on the road?
I keep a very strict food regimen and exercise schedule. Basically, three times a day, I go outside and take six deep breaths. I also sit underneath a fluorescent light for six hours a day—that is my daily sustenance. And yoga.
Who does your hair, and what are your ultimate hair tips and secrets?
My hair is very expensive to maintain. That's all I'm going to say.
Do you feel a kinship with other male musicians in the metal scene coming up around the same time as you?
I do. Since there are so few men in the metal scene, it always feels nice to run into another one on tour where we can share stories. I mean, it's a harsh world out there in the music scene; I constantly hear things like "Wow, you're a pretty good drummer, for a dude." Why can't I just be a "pretty good drummer"?!
How do you feel that creating music affects your life at home and romantic relationships?
I've had the same girlfriend for a long time; she's a real trouper, but I know that she is affected by the amount of time I am on tour. She knows that me being a male in the highly female-dominated metal scene means that I'm a commodity and constantly objectified.
Is there anyone coming up in the male metal scene whose fashion has impressed you?
Absolutely—there's a relatively unheard-of gentleman named Lars Ulrich who plays in a metal band called Metallica. Google them. I'm fascinated by how well he wears state-of-the-art fashion. He really is an inspiration.
Who are your current style gurus?
Jesus... and Kanye.
The fearlessly upbeat Daniel Enders of the noise outfit MTNS can often be spotted at gigs channeling his angst into a drum kit. MTNS just finished recording a collaboration with Arrington de Dionyso that will be released in the near future. (In the meantime, listen to MTNS at mountainss.bandcamp.com.) After chatting with Daniel, we were shocked to find that underneath that outrageously gorgeous mass of perfect brown curls, Daniel possess a wickedly adorable sense of humor. Not to be pigeonholed as a token male drummer, Daniel also enjoys shopping, astrology, and DJing around town with the fellas. Seattle musician Lisa Prank recently praised his improved technical abilities: "When I first saw Dan play, I thought he was just another pretty face in need of guitar lessons. But he must have gotten tips from Jenn Ghetto or something. He's gotten so much better! Wait, what instrument does he play again?"
I'm fascinated with male drummers. How on earth did you get into drumming? Did it take a while to figure out how to set up the drums?
It was tricky to figure out all those stands, and the hi-hat clutch was a bit baffling, but I think I have the hang of it now. I can't tune the damn things, though—I'm just a boy [
laughs]. I leave it up to the professionals
What's your go-to workout routine to keep that upper-body strength?
Lots of beer and whiskey help, and snacks. I usually eat pizza combos before and after I play. I noticed this new "dad bod" trend, and I think this is the perfect workout to keep up my fab DiCaprio flab.
Is there anyone in the male noise/heavy rock scene who inspires your fashion choices?
Being a male drummer must wreak havoc on your hair. What's your postshow hair-care ritual?
My split ends and hair knots have been nearly unmanageable lately, so I've been experimenting with new techniques to conquer this, like switching from shampoo to straight coconut oil. I also recommend putting your hair in braids before you go to sleep and letting your hair dry naturally after a shower if you're having trouble keeping your curls from going into the frizzy territory.
I heard Rabia Shaheen Qazi of Rose Windows contributed vocals to the new MTNS album, which I'm assuming means she also wrote most of the album for you. Did she also help out in the recording process?
We haven't recorded it yet, but that is the plan.
What summer hair trends are you looking forward to?
The end of the tiny top bun would be nice. I keep coming back to the idea of dyeing my hair and mustache fire-engine red... we'll see.
Sure, his glorious blond-streaked curls and big blue eyes peeking out from underneath chic statement glasses make him an 11 on the 1-to-10 babe-o-meter, but don't write him off as just a pretty face! Kenneth Piekarski is the man behind avant-pop solo project Slashed Tires—an unconventional Seattle noise outfit that continues to wow the world, in part because this indie siren actually writes all the songs himself. Kenneth is working on a full-length Slashed Tires album that might be out this fall (but he always says that). Check out his work at slashedtires.com. Very much the male counterpart to the sexy/experimental sister group the Shaggs, Kenneth shakes things up by slipping a trombone into the mix. Women may listen to Slashed Tires for the clever, intricate noise music, but men tend to love him for his independent spirit of male empowerment.
Do you have a background in dance?
I'm self-taught, but my earliest memory of dancing was when I was 12 and at the reception for my father's first remarriage. There were those times at the roller arena in Richland, Washington, when I would roller-dance to TLC's "Waterfalls."
What is the future of men in rock?
I don't know. It used to be that a man could roll out of bed, put on some grungy clothes, barely rehearse, get drunk, and then get onstage and everyone would listen to him play really important rock music! But now, everyone's so "critical"—I'm just trying to live my life and have fun!
Can you share some of your hair secrets with us?
You know I'm a Virgo, right? (Pisces moon/Libra rising, ladies!) So my nightly hair ritual is this: Right before I go to bed, I fill my orca whale–patterned pillowcase with quartz crystals, burn some sage, and then go into the bathroom and rub scorpion oil into my hair for about 15 minutes.
How on earth did you learn to play an instrument?
Well, I learned how to play trumpet while doing time in the Pasco public school system, but I learned how to play guitar a few years ago. Basically, I would just close my eyes, play indiscriminate notes loudly, and imagine myself onstage in front of all those kids at that Cap Hill venue Cairo. I don't want to even go into what those after-parties were like.
Who is your favorite Muppet?
Electronic music is already complex enough, but a man making a name for himself in that mystifying genre? Color us impressed... and totally crushing. Frankie Crescioni (aka Bankie Phones, listen at soundcloud.com/bankiephonesmortalkombat3) is an actually talented male DJ who knows his way around an animated GIF (igotthemethdudesinsideme.com). We're also loving his quirky, playful fashion sense—a Garfield T-shirt and jeans? Swoon! He's like the guy version of Grimes, but with better hair. Male music writer Dave Segal has said of Frankie's set: "Mr. Phones has a playful, exceptionally vibrant way with 'primordial dankwave,' 'Wi†çh Høü$£,' 'pre-post-dubstep,' and other half-jokey subgenres that will make your hips clownishly smile." Our hips are smiling, all right!
It's rare to see men in the world of electronic music—do you feel like you have to work harder to be respected in your field?
Well, considering that most electronic music is made by multinational brands or by artists pretending to be multinational brands, I'd say it's harder to get respected. And by respected, I mean paid. But there are some good folks in the city who look past my masculinity and just listen.
There's nothing sexier than a male DJ commanding a crowd from behind the turntables. Who are your current style inspirations?
Like most cis-male diabetic half Puerto Ricans, I draw my style points from Ron Morelli, who taught the world the importance of jamming the box heavy.
Your girlfriend, Samantha Fonteyne, is an electronic-music aficionado—does her taste influence you? Does she give you pointers?
I'm not a scientist, but from what I understand, women have stronger senses and are able to detect tonal imperfections and irregular rhythmic phrases more quickly than others. Her senses are more developed and attuned to the dimensions of "reality" that people inhabit, so when she says to play a monophonic synth line in a certain way, you best believe I listen.
How do you juggle your DJ life with your home life? With a 4-year-old dog to take care of, that must get overwhelming.
Much like most facets of being alive, it's a fortuitous struggle. But Oliver is at that age where he's discovering his own interests.
Who are some male electronic musicians you grew up idolizing?
Alec Empire taught me that being a shirtless man is cool. Gerald Donald reminded me that the cold void of space can be the foundation of alienating funk.
DJing usually means pretty late nights. Can you dish on some beauty secrets that keep you looking fresh on little sleep?
Clean meth, Pilates.
How did you learn how to record your own music? Some of that gear can be pretty complicated!
Fortunately, there's this website called Wikihow.com where you can ask questions and get answers. Once I figure out how to set up the internet, I'm going to be all over it.
Classical music has been a traditionally difficult area for men to break into, especially when it comes to the ultra-challenging realm of composing. Barret Anspach is so good-looking, he could have forgone school altogether to focus on modeling, but he got into the Juilliard School and is now a real-deal composer who not only writes his own arrangements but can actually play the viola! He's also one-fourth of the orchestral Seattle dream-pop boy group Night Cadet in which he cowrites the band's songs. Phew! Night Cadet are in the process of working on a top-secret full-length album, and Barret is writing a ballet score that will be choreographed by Price Suddarth for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's upcoming season. And sorry, folks—he's got a boyfriend!
What on earth inspired you to seek out classical music, of all things?
I find that classical music is kind of like mustache wax: It's exceptionally difficult to pull off and very few people truly appreciate it. And no, I don't use mustache wax.
It must have been a struggle to learn how to read music—that's practically math! Did you have any tricks for tackling that?
Counting on fingers (or toes!) plus lots of guessing gets the job done.
As a male composer, have you felt like you had to work harder to be respected?
I think society is at a point now where men are slowly becoming more accepted—even praised—for their musical talents and not just for their good looks or baking abilities.
What male musicians do you look up to?
The only one worth mentioning here is my beautiful and supportive boyfriend, Seth Garrison.
What are your workout routines for keeping your hand and elbow strength up while playing?
Picking up books and then setting them back down.
Your bandmates in Night Cadet are all boys. What's it like being in an all-boy band? Nonstop underwear pillow fights?
How did you come to choose the viola as an instrument? Most men don't even know what that is!
I picked the viola because there's lots of time to figure out what I'm supposed to do between my whole notes.
Any facial hair–grooming secrets you can share with us?
Wait, seriously, I've already told you: not using mustache wax.
Hiphop heartthrob Tilson keeps us guessing. Formerly of the genre-spanning rap/pop/rock/indie boy group the Saturday Knights, Tilson pulled a Beyoncé and went on to form Tilson XOXO, a project he masterminds as a male frontman with a voice of pure gold—and a body to match! Tilson knows how to keep a crowd mesmerized and has a fierce sense of style both onstage and off (he's got a passion for shoes, and it shows!). While there aren't any Tilson XOXO shows scheduled at the moment, you can watch his live KEXP performance on YouTube or check out Inferno every Saturday, where he may or may not be hosting. You'd think his focus on making music and keeping fit would be enough, but Tilson even bottles his own delicious ginger ale called Books & Bridges, which you can order at Westward. And have you seen him laugh? With a smile like that, we don't need to know your last name!
As a man in hiphop has it been difficult for people to take you seriously?
People maybe don't take me seriously—maybe I started it because I
only take them seriously. Please try to keep your eyes above my waist.
You have to look extra fierce up there—describe your stage look.
Up to now, it's been "Classic Hollywood," but that's about to change to "Future Porn."
Who are some other male rappers or musicians who have inspired you?
T and I, also L, there's S and O, can't forget N. Other than that, all rappers and musicians keep me inspired.
You're known for those thighs—what do you do to keep your signature gams so shapely?
Everything I can do... I do. Ladies, watch and learn; fellas, watch and learn: I stand up, walk, and sit down. Kick at stuff for no reason. I host Inferno at Barboza. I'm starting a practice called colga—cold-icy yoga. CrossFit classes will be my next thing.
What do you look for in footwear?
Me, in it.
Do you have bodyguards?
I have a general mistrust of the general public. But if you're reading this and want to find me, I'm at Westward or Caffe Vita, or maybe Bourbon and Bones.
What's your skin-care ritual?
Blue-corn mask, squirrel and dragonfly milk, velvet washcloths.
What summer fashion trends are you looking forward to?
Sheer cloaks. Lace bombers. Satin and linen pants.