To shred or not to shred - Jenny's story
Back in the mid-90s, Black Lürxx had a very cool thing: an international Fan Club called the "Lürxx Gang". It was comprised of people from our live gig mailing list and people who we found in the pen pal section of Metal Edge - if they seemed like they might dig our music judging by the bands they liked, we'd get in touch & many ended up not only joining the Lürxx Gand but also turning into "pen pals" and in some cases even friends. Jenny was one of the latter and thanks to the magic of social media we actually reconnected recently - it was awesome to see where life had taken her! She was always a guitar nut and she followed that passion and made it her job - she became a guitar tech and luthier. And she actually moved out to L.A. a couple of years after we left where she ended up hanging out in the exact same scene that we had been part of - it's a small world! We remembered the scene back then as pretty macho and wondered what her experiences as a female fan and guitarist were like. So we asked her!
Jenny and one of her killer axes! :)
We remember the metal scene of the 90s being very macho and generally only accepting women in certain roles (e.g. managers, photographers) but being often quite unaccepting of female musicians outside of “chick bands”. Mixed bands were super rare. A lot of band ads you’d see would put for example “sorry no girls”. On the Hollywood glam rock scene at the time when we were there, there was one band that had a female bass player and one all-girl band and that was it for active female representation. Has this changed in any way? Did you ever experience sexism as a female metal fan and guitarist?
As fan, I was never made to feel like I should not be into the bands I was or like I didn’t belong. Truthfully, it was the opposite. Sure, there was and always will be males who see females at a rock or metal show and assume she is just there to screw guys who look a certain way, do drugs, party, whatever. But when guys into those genres meet females who are truly into the music because they love it and ‘know their shit’ when it comes to the bands, they love it and lots of respect given. I will say though that I did encounter quite a few posers of both biological genders who WERE mainly into the music to play dress up, party and get laid, haha. But those people are usually very obvious. I think it also depends how a female presents herself…that’s not to shame women who feel beautiful and/or love dressing a certain way, but no matter what you’re wearing, if you’re at shows throwing yourself all over anything with a dick, chances are you’re not going to be treated like a lady. I never really had that problem and it got easier the longer I was in the scene. Hahaha I am straight edge and have always been strictly monogamous and also not afraid to shut people down if they are treating me disrespectfully, so most people knew what I was about pretty quickly. The handful of guys who did treat me poorly were almost invariably the types who got upset when they got turned down and realized I did not fit their ‘metal chick’ party slut stereotype. I know several females who are the same as me.
As far as being a female musician….I never really experienced sexism or people talking like it was a ‘man thing’ I DO feel women are held to a lower talent standard sometimes- as if it is expected that they are just not capable of being as talented as men and it can be harder to be prove their musicianship- particularly if a female is attractive. I think there will always be haters saying a talented female is ‘only’ popular because she’s hot. I do think it’s much more acceptable for women to play rock and metal now thanks to bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Delain who featured women with talent who could put on an amazing performance and gain international popularity without dressing like skanks. It was very inspiring and I have noticed a lot more females at metal shows over the years who are actual fans, not party girls. It’s great to see.
You became a luthier/guitar tech - was that a very male-dominated field at the time? Did you feel that some people had an issue with it (“what?! a chick guitar tech?!”)? Has there been any change over the years?
Oh, it is still a field with more males than females, but in regards to building/luthiery, since it is such a highly skilled trade and a person’s crafting skill can’t be denied or chalked up to their looks, female luthiers tend to be very respected. No one becomes a master builder or creates custom instruments people will pay thousands for if they are producing garbage or flawed work. While it’s not the same as building a guitar, a lot of the most respected and famed pickup winders ever are females, such as Abigail Ybarra and Maricela Juarez. People swear by their work. I do find sexism in regards to being a tech, however. I think it has more to do with the fact that in general, doing repair work has historically been seen as a ‘male’ job. It isn’t that people aren’t willing to accept and respect a female doing the work- it’s more that it has been ingrained in society that men are the ‘fixers’, so it is confusing to see a contradiction to that. Only a handful of people were ever rude to me or demanded that I no work on their gear in favor of my male coworkers. Most people were at first baffled to see a female in the shop, but got over and were like “Hey, you make my guitar play great and I don’t care who you are”. As my reputation grew, people came up to me saying it was cool that a female was competent in the field and it was good to see. I think in most cases, people can get over their prejudices given a little time and seeing for themselves. One of my besties who is a lovely transwoman also does repair (she is who got me into the field, in fact). While she has had to face a whole other set of biases in addition to the female factor, she has customers who have remained loyal to her for decades. It's still a male dominated profession, but I do think women in the shop continues to become more acceptable.
What are some of your favourite guitar models and why?
Favorite models? Oh wow…well, though I have matured and grown as a musician and no longer all about speed and wanking, my taste in guitars has remained much the same. I have always loved odd shapes, pointy guitars and obnoxious finishes The original BC Rich Ironbird and Stealth have remained favorites (I don’t care for the look or feel of the modern ones), BC Rich mid 80s USA necks are still the best I’ve ever played…same for old USA Peaveys. For more modern guitars, I like my ESP Flying A-II Takamizawa signature; it balances great, plays great and is like having a V shape that is actually comfortable to play sitting down. I will say though that my tastes have broadened over the years, thanks largely to my luthier work and getting the chance to work with instruments and sounds outside my own preferences. In particularly, I have come to like semi-hollowbody guitars, as well as Telecasters (although I will never like round radius necks! Ugh!) I would like to get a semi-hollow with a Bigsby eventually. I need to have a least one guitar that is classy and not an eyesore, after all!
That's a BC Rich Ironbird (and an awesome finish!)
Who is your favourite guitarist? To shred or not to shred?
Favorite guitarists….I would say Criss Oliva and Vito Bratta. As far as shred or not to shred, hahaha Well, now that I’ve matured and a player and expanded my listening, I have to say that a lot of shredding now makes me think of people who talk constantly but never actually say anything. Don’t get me wrong, fast playing can be amazing- BUT it has to actually convey feeling and dynamic to impress me anymore. Most of those kids you see wanking away on YouTube or all afternoon at Guitar Center could not write a proper song or probably even manage to gel with a band.