Danny Denial Slams Tokenizers and Gatekeepers in “White tears fake queers”
A filmmaker as well as a musician, Danny Denial’s music often ventures into the cinematic. With Danny’s vitriolic growl and sternum-shaking bass, his latest single, “White tears fake queers.” would fit right in on David Lynch’s goth-grunge Lost Highway soundtrack. He aims his venom at those who see him as an amusement or and experiment, at the fake people who try to commodify his queerness. The song’s moody vibe carries into the video – all lipstick, blacklight and mascaraed queers screaming into microphones. On the eve of the video’s release, I got to interview Danny about the song, his influences, and the impressive cast of collaborators on the new song.
Tell me a little about your musical origin story. How did you get started in music? What led to you making your first couple albums as Danny Denial?
I guess to a lot of people I seemingly came out of nowhere in 2015/2016 as “Danny Denial”. Prior to that I was in L.A. trying to be a filmmaker and working in film production offices and failing at everything. It was the darkest point of my life and it was solely music that got me out of that place (and out of L.A.). My first full-length “Goodbye” was misread as a suicide letter by some of the first reviews I got, but it was really a eulogy for a life left behind and about starting over. I’ve definitely moved away from that narrative with the following albums and have been writing more about the present, about identity and the human condition.
Who are your big inspirations, musical or otherwise?
I’m most inspired by filmmakers like Gregg Araki, David Lynch, those weirdo auteurs that approach storytelling in a way that’s very punk. My entire discography is filled with Araki references. Musically, I’ve always been most influenced by powerful, divisive, unapologetic frontwomen. The pre-chorus of “White tears fake queers” is a nod to lyrics by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!. My next single “I’m not your type” with DoNormaal has a beat entirely built around Courtney Love’s guttural screams. I have Betty Davis tattooed on my arm, and she’s tied into the visuals for this album. Bjork is a triple-scorpio and shares my birthday and I’ve always heavily identified with her energy.
You have a lot of collaborators from other bands on projects on “White tears fake queers.” What did you like about bringing different folks in to make the song? How did it all come together?
I really hate making music as a solo musician. It’s so lonely and frustrating, especially as someone who identifies as a performer but not an instrumentalist. Being I had a really long list of Seattle bands and musicians I’ve always wanted to collaborate with. The bands on “White tears fake queers” are bands I stan personally, and it happened so seamlessly. We had Jeff Tapia of Rat Queen singing the hook with a scream I would kill for, Slow Elk laying down a heavy bass lead, Dirty Dirty bringing the drums and backing vocals, and Natasha Lumba of Razor Clam glazing it with her signature synth line. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better team.
Talk to me about what inspired this song – what were you feeling when you wrote it?
It was almost a year ago. I was angry and pissed-off. Because I was feeling confident and affirmed as an artist for the first time, but also used and exploited. Wanted, but rejected. Heard, but not on my terms. It was confusing in so many ways… I wrote “White tears fake queers” to multiple people, multiple groups, to fake musicians and fake friends and fake gatekeepers and fake record labels, as a black queer person feeling like a tote bag being passed around at a party. It becomes so performative and alienating and the line “Do I really exist?” just came to me in a conversation with my teenage self. It’s more or less a reminder that just because “queerness” is “marketable” in 2019 doesn’t mean discrimination is over. It doesn’t mean all these doors open up or that anyone has a seat at the table, because I don’t. It doesn’t mean trans people aren’t being killed every day, because they are. It’s lip service. It’s fake.
What’ve you got coming up next, in terms of music, videos, shows or anything else?
This single is part of a series of seven singles, all coming from my third and final solo record. And I’m partnering with Leo Ramos who did my last visual album DETHHEADS U.S.A. on this 30-minute short film called CONDiTiONER that’s connected to all of that, which will hopefully be out next summer! I’m really aiming to get myself back into film in a more substantial way, and focusing on my band Dark Smith. It definitely feels like the end of an era for me, with the culmination of this project and the start of a new decade, and I’m excited for what’s next.
I’m not surprised by Danny’s Courtney Love reference – he shares with her a scathing wit. Where Hole used punk to shred misogyny, he uses it to lambast the queerphobia of “fake musicians and fake friends and fake gatekeepers and fake record labels.” The team of talent he’s gathered to make the song just adds to its power. It’s cathartic music that’s a pleasure to witness. You can listen to him on Spotify or Bandcamp. “White tears fake queers is also available on 7-inch, which you can pre-order here.