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The primary aim of Outreach Ethnomusicology is to share fieldwork research. Below is a list of items that are included for view by members of the community. 

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Interview on the subject of Androgyny in Rock Music

Alexis: So tell me about your nightclub here, like who plays there?

Price: We have live gigs there and DJs, it’s a very glamorous, androgynous place, glitter rock place. So we have people like Peaches and Nicky Wire, who have played there live.

Alexis: Have you encountered much homophobia?

Price: Well, London’s pretty open, but lots of places aren’t- that’s why I left South Wales to come here- I just didn’t fit in. It’s very macho, they’re into sports and rugby and drinking; it’s very manly. And lots of people come from great distances every month to come to our club night. We’ve had people from as far as Norway, Denmark, and Ireland, who feel they don’t fit in where they live come and visit us.

Alexis: Wow, that’s impressive!

Price: Yes, it is.

Alexis: Do you think the Manics made androgyny acceptable in South Wales, has it changed at all?

Price: I don’t think it’s changed that much. They made being from Wales cool, and a bunch of bands came from Wales right after them. But they are sort of seen as something novel in Wales and are only just tolerated. I mean, Nicky Wire can walk around in his fur coats and dresses, but no one else can.

Alexis: Ah. Well, what about metal? Isn’t it really big in South Wales? And Metal can be quite androgynous- you know bands like Poison. How do they reckon with that?

Price: Metal is an interesting one, metal borrows a lot from gay culture, but they wouldn’t admit it. Like Axl Rose wearing assless chaps, that’s a very homosexual look, but they would deny it. They take gay culture and try as hard as they can to make it macho and hetero. And another example, do you know all those guys with holes in their jeans?

Alexis: (Nods)

Price: Well, in Prison when a guy has ripped trousers like that, you know he’s one of the guys who gives oral sex. So that’s where they get that ripped look from.

Alexis: I didn’t know that…

Price: Yeah…

Alexis: So, you’ve been writing for a while, 15 years?

Price: Oh, more than 20! I started writing for the local paper when I was in secondary school. And then when I came here to London for university, I was studying French and philosophy, and I was going to France for my course, and Melody Maker asked me to write about what was going on over there. So I did and then I wrote for Melody Maker for 9 years. Now I have a weekly Sunday column in The Independent.

Alexis: So you’ve been around for a while! I was gonna ask if you noticed any trends in androgyny and sexuality in rock during that time. I guess I also mean trends in public reactions and stuff…

Price: Well, I got started at the end of the 80s when metal was giving way to other things- grunge in the US, which was a very blokey thing, with the lumberjack look, people were growing beards again. In the UK, it was the same- the early 90s were quite macho, with the exception of the Manics and Suede who were feminine in a way that no one had been since the Smiths, (and they were 10 years earlier.) Then you had riot grrrl in the US, which we had too in the UK. And various alternative indie scenes, and dance club scenes, so even though people think of the 90s as quite macho with Nirvana and Oasis on the one side and the Spice Girls on the other, there was still a lot of sexual deviance going on. Well, and Kurt Cobain exemplifies this- he wasn’t always manly either, he wore eyeliner.

Alexis: He dressed in drag sometimes too, didn’t he?

Price: Yeah, he did. Though he was an exception, most of grunge was very stripped down- a pulling off of the makeup of metal and the whole 80s scene, whereas bands like the manics were still putting it on. And the late 90s were very open, you had the whole emo scene, which allowed men to be sensitive, which really shouldn’t be a feminine thing, but it is. Now, I think we’ve kind of come full circle and we’re very macho again. Lots of bands are just skinny white boys that make lots of noise, and they’re very macho about it, very hetero.

Alexis: You mentioned riot grrrl in the UK, what was it like here? I’ve read more about it in the US

Price: Well, Huggy Bear was the main band here, they followed Bikini Kill in the US, and never really had a hit. There were lots of riot grrrl bands, but they weren’t very good.

Alexis: Maybe they weren’t really aiming for that?

Price: Yeah, they weren’t. You only have to be as good as what you want to get across. It was an equalizing movement, because they didn’t have to be virtuosic, they took the blokey guitar solos and power chords and made them their own, which is very feminist.

Alexis: Just curious, do you think an androgynous sound exists?

Price: What do you mean?

Alexis: Well, with non-vocal music, say classical, people talk about male and female elements of the music, so it makes sense that there is something in between those. I dunno, some writers that I’ve been reading have argued for an androgynous sound, but they don’t really say what that sound might be.

Price: Yeah, I guess so. In the 90s there was a movement called shoe-rock, that bands like “My Bloody Valentine” were a part of. They took the power chords and macho things out of rock, and can be described as being sort of womb-like. But I would be uncomfortable labelling a sound as masculine, feminine, or androgynous.

Alexis: What was that? Shoe-rock?

Price: Yeah. Shoe-rock… but on the other hand, I’d like to see people in the music press expressing strong opinions like that… I’m actually talking about this at a panel discussion later, but Id like to hear a band being labelled as sounding androgynous even if I disagreed, because it would be refreshing to read a strong opinion.

Alexis: It hard for me to hear lots of sounds as androgynous, I dunno, I guess so many sounds have been reclaimed by everyone that it’s hard for me to hear them as gendered, except for electronica, it sounds very androgynous to me… what do you think about electronica?

Price: It’s often very machine, very un-human, very robotic, un-sexual, I quite like that though.

Alexis: What do you think about Peaches, as a woman in electronica, who manages to be very sexual?

Price: I have so much respect for Peaches, I just love her. She has the nerve to be in your face about sex, in a way that’s sometimes quite scary, really. And then she goes and does things like poses for an album cover with a fake beard. She’s great, she’s played at our club before. But she’s never going to be mainstream or get radio play, she’s a bit too blunt.

Alexis: Sort of to switch topics a little, what do you think about homosexuality and rap or hip hop? I know of a small scene in San Francisco, but no one mainstream. It’s just odd that a genre which has spawned so many sub-scenes doesn’t have a place of a gay sub-scene.

Price: Well, there’re reasons for that. Minority groups or people who are economically down tend to have very conservative views. I’m not excusing it though. I think maybe Outkast would be one exception, but beyond them, it needs to develop more in the underground, before it will ever become mainstream and that will take a while.

Alexis: Is there much of a gay underground hip hop scene here in London?

Price: Yes, a small one. But like I said, it needs to develop even more, beyond what it already is, if it wants to become mainstream.

Alexis: ah, I see. Oh, and I have to ask… what do you think of the new Manics album? And what’s their direction for the future?

Price: It’s hard for me to rank their albums because I like them all, and I like this one too. “Underdogs” is a good track, I like their single, and also the title track. “Imperial bodybags”- I was glad to hear that one, because they are really going to be lyrically relevant and say something. It’s nice to hear, many bands aren’t as literate today, and are afraid of saying bold things like that, but they never were.

Alexis: Why do you think they never broke America?

Price: Well, there’s no shame in it really; they tried, but America wasn’t ready, America was into grunge at the time. And the Americans that were into Brit-pop wanted a very specific style- a very literate, university style. Well, the Manics are very literate too, but their sound is very American, maybe too American for those who were into Brit Pop; they just wanted Blur. And the Manics were pushed very heavily by record companies in LA, but maybe the people who would have liked them weren’t in LA, their potential fans could have been elsewhere. But I think it’s okay, and they’re fine with it. Lots of bands burn out trying to conquer America- they go on 18 month tours and then they come home and break up. It’s okay for the Manics to be an only British phenomenon. I mean, there’s a lot of musicians like the Manics, such as Bowie, or T. Rex, the Cure, or Suede who haven’t really cracked America. They might have one or two hits over there but it’s not like it is over here, they don’t have the fanatical audiences over there.

Alexis: Heh, that’s funny, because I knew about the Manics before coming to Britain, but I had no idea they were as big as they are, the fan culture kind of took me by surprise. It’s a pity it’s not in America, because I would have probably really enjoyed it as a teenager.

Price: How did you hear about them over there?

Alexis: They were recommended by a friend who was really into Brit pop, and I sort of liked their name, silly reason I guess, but I went to every record store in my area and only came up with their best of, but I liked that a lot… Well, I guess we’re mostly out of time.

Thank you so much for this, you’re a big help, and it was great meeting you, I guess I’m sort of a fan of yours too.

Price: I’m really flattered by that. And it’s no problem, I like talking about this stuff anyways.