With his poly-sexual rap, Houston Bernard challenges gay orthodoxy
I visited the Apocalypse Lounge, a new divey joint on East Third Street in Alphabet City, to catch the last set of “The Houston Bernard Show.” Shirtless and with his skintight pants unzipped to reveal some boy bush, Bernard was spraying the crowd with sex talk like a cocky pubescent kid trapped in a man’s body, a la John Leguizamo cross-bred with P.T. Barnum’s boundless energy.
Whether rapping about the drag-queen love affair he left back in San Fran (“He looks good as a girl”), smelling pussy or getting playful with one of his fans onstage, Bernard is an entertainer. There is no downtime in his act, and the audience gets a candid earful while Bernard talks, sings, dances, screams and wails on his guitar about how much fun it is to “do it.” He loves everything about sex—gender, preference, orientation be damned.
The guy extols his love of pussy, yet this self-described “BiPorno ElectroPunk Rapper” has an ad for m4mUSA.com on the inside sleeve of his recently released sophomore album, “Whores Have More Fun.” The not-so-subliminal “9×6” reference is what Bernard loves to rap about the most—what he does with, what gets done to and who gets his cock.
Each track on “Whores” is unique with a gleeful looting of genres and artists all over the map that, well, dick-slaps the listener upside the head with Bernard’s contagious musical lyricism. Produced by Kaz Gamble, whose own group Cooler Kids spawned the surprise club hit “All Around the World” (Punk Debutante) in 2003, “Whores” may be the getting-ready-to-go-out disc for the Ashton Kutcher generation; the album, like Bernard’s sexuality, is fluid with styles.
With its sharp beats and explicit intent—“Shove it in your mouth/Pump it in your ass”—the first track, “Ride It Cowboy,” kick-starts the vibe, with a reminiscence of Marianne Faithful’s 2003 underground dance floor hit “Sex with Strangers.” “Str8 Actin” drives home Bernard’s deep roots in Dean Johnson’s Homocorps Queer Music Showcase at CBGB’s, and borrows heavily from Johnson’s style with his band Velvet Mafia—“I’m a Str8 actin huge dick faggot, I’ll fuck you in your mouth”—with his own lady back-ups innocently chirping the chorus, “fuck you in your mouth.”
Cut to the techno-rap “U Smell So Nice” along with the following lyrics: “I got a big cock and it weighs a lot / It’s kinda wide so it fills your box / I don’t lie I tell the truth / It’s my job to teach the youth.” The title single “Whores Have More Fun” is Bernard’s valentine to his electro peers, and takes from Radiohead’s “OK Computer” with its computer-generated chorus about the pleasures of fellatio and cunnilingus.
On “Lick Suck Dick Fuck” Bernard stylistically introduces Rage Against the Machine to Dr. Dre and Lenny Bruce:
You feel that lump? That’s my cock and balls
See my semen squirt like Niagara Falls
Viagra stalls and I don’t need it
Show me the clitoris and I’ll beg to eat it
Feed it with a plate full of cum
I’ll stroke on that vagina ’til the walls go numb
Fuck you with my thumb, I’m not like other guys
When we’re done I’ll lick the cream from your thighs.
What comes across unmistakably is Bernard’s blinding ambition and his methods and madness raise some questions about his artistic pedigree. Describing his album tour as a combination of musical performances and promoting gay rights and the First Amendment invites the inevitable question about the state of his queer consciousness.
“A friend of mine used to joke that people who claimed to be bisexual were either confused or greedy,” I said. “In both straight and gay circles, how do you respond to critics of your bi argument?”
Bernard responded somewhat predictably that “everyone is basically bi, or in a gray area with differences for every individual,” adding, “I’m more of whateversexual. Everyone is sexy and I’m more attracted to personalities at this point.”
I pressed the question.
“Are you playing both sides of a fence in order to draw crowds and sell records, or do you generally feel that ‘a hole is a hole’
and you’re just not that discriminating?”
“Yeah, a warm hole is nice, but so is a stimulating conversation, or a good personality dynamic,” Bernard responded. “The way I look at it, I write about what I experience—backrooms at favorite bars, orgies with friends in L.A.—wooo!—or a love affair with a drag queen. The only way I believe I can succeed is to be honest with friends, my family and myself and do what my soul tells me. Not that I don’t consider a bit of business, it would be self-destructive not to keep survival on the top of your mind.”
“How much material can you mine from your sex life? Isn’t there a point where is might get redundant?” I asked.
“I have been writing musique since I was three years old,” Bernard replied. “I like music that communicates with people. I like to challenge myself, keep things new and interesting. I’ll stop writing when I have nothing new or interesting to say. I got lotsa tricks, baby.”
Readers can e-mail Bernard via his Web site, houstonbernard.com where they can purchase “Whores Have More Fun,” also available at CDbaby.com.