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Middle America can be hell for the touring rock band especially one from the big city. But when New York City's Theo and the Skyscrapers began their first U.S. tour last month, it's like they never left the Big Apple. Even Utah felt like home. That much was confirmed recently when Skyscrapers vocalist Theo Kogan spoke to New Times on the horn at a Starbucks in Walla Walla, Washington.
"Salt Lake City was great!" she says. "Toward the end of the set, some redneck came in and started to dance like a lunatic. I had to say, 'Dude, stop pushing the girls around.' And he actually listened."
Maybe that's because the two guitar-wielding guys standing next to her on stage are a good six-foot-five inches tall. Then again, the tattoo-laden Kogan ain't exactly the girly-girl type. She was, after all, the voice of the Lunachicks, NYC's vulgar, art-damaged answer to the riot grrrl movement. Since that band dissolved several years ago, the Skyscrapers are Kogan's primary weapon of musical destruction well, hers and ex-Toilet Boy Sean Pierce's. Like the Lunachicks, the Skyscrapers pile on the hard-rock riffs as much as the mascara. But this time around, Kogan and Pierce pull out all the new-wave stops, from the synth-colored rawk of their songwriting to the laser-light spectacle of their live shows. Yes, Toilet Boys fans, it's only light, not the full-on pyrotechnic display you're used to. After the Great White club fire tragedy, the Toilet Boys put a lid on the flame-shooting antics; the band itself was extinguished soon after.
"The Great White thing kind of destroyed whatever kind of fun the Toilet Boys were having with their fire show," Kogan says. "Once that happened, it was pretty much over."
Their loss, her gain. Though Kogan and Pierce had already been making music while the Boys were together working on tracks for Kogan's solo album, Theo, which came out in 2002 the Skyscrapers didn't pop up until 2005. Why the wait? Kogan was purposely taking her time; she didn't want to just throw together any group of musicians not after spending a decade and a half with such a tight-knit band like the Lunachicks. That group didn't break up so much as it fizzled out.
"The Lunachicks worked and worked and worked, and it was just time, you know?" Kogan says. "People are still asking all the time if we are going to play again. I really don't know. It might happen, it might not. We never said that we actually broke up, though we kind of did. It's just that I'm not a fan of the reunion thing like when the Ramones broke up 50 times and kept getting back together."
Besides, it wasn't like Kogan had any trouble keeping busy, what with all her acting work. Just a few of Kogan's roles: starring in the film High Times' Pot Luck, playing small parts in films like Rock Star and Zoolander, appearing on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and doing voiceover work for the claymation gross-out Live Freaky! Die Freaky! By the time Kogan settled down with her new band, she was ready to make the commitment; nowadays, it's all Skyscrapers, all the time. The band released its self-titled debut album this past March. The CD comes with a separate DVD of three music videos, shot by audio-visual guru Rob Roth. Showing off the band's artier tendencies, the videos are rife with apocalyptic imagery and general confusion. And it's only financial limitations that prevent the Skyscrapers from taking their full production on the road.
"If we had the means if we could get video screens and a projector we'd do it at every show," Kogan says. "Now, we have a really intense light show. It's a very visual experience. People sometimes walk away looking hypnotized. It's more drama and theatrical effects at this point."
Of course, there may be some Lunachicks fans who aren't ready to embrace Kogan's new musical direction. Take, for instance, a recent post on the Skyscrapers' message board (from "annfettmen"), which we'll quote verbatim:
"i was so happy to find out that you started a new band, intill i heard the music. it sounds like some ready for MTV bulshit. i'm sure all the teeny bopper sheep will eat that shit up. but is that the route you really want to take?"
Thankfully, Kogan says, such "fans" are the exception, not the rule. Though Kogan hasn't responded on the message board, she does have a few words for her new friend.
"Honey, this is all DIY," Kogan says. "We have a tiny label. We're riding on the seat of our pants. [What she said] is hysterical. All the bands that a lot of these kids like are on MTV anyway. The Sex Pistols were on a major label. Do your homework."
But not even an armed mob of disgruntled ex-fans could disturb Kogan as much as a single, demented pervert Dino, the former drummer of the late G.G. Allin's band. In Hated, the posthumous documentary about Allin, Dino can be seen explaining how he's "telepathically connected to the Lunachicks." There's even a shot of Dino holding his stiff member above a Lunachicks album cover (as well as an anecdote about how Dino "exposed his schween" to a young girl). Not sure how Kogan would respond, New Times tossed out the question anyway. Her discomfort could be felt through the phone lines.