Sometimes, when you’re a gay kid in the middle of nowhere, you can’t survive without a rock and roll freak. Whether it’s Madonna or Lady Gaga or Marilyn Manson on Boy George, an outlandish artist can embody the power of being different, of being strange.
I’d like to introduce the newest member of the Rock and Roll Freak Show. Meet Garek, whose vicious pop-rock music and artfully degenerate style could be blowing up very soon.
A Logo colleague showed me Garek’s debut video “Save the Queen,” and it instantly got my attention. The music carries the industrial torch of Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Garbage, and the video cops the sexed-up androgyny of Gaga, Adam Lambert, and burlesque.
But for all these influences, there’s something distinctive about what Garek’s doing. The song “Save the Queen” fuses crunchy rock verses with a shout-along chorus you can sing with your friends. That makes it more accessible than your typical Marilyn Manson track, but the dark, power-hungry lyrics keep it menacing. Garek’s EP Take the King, which arrives next month, pushes that industrial-accessible balance even further. There’s a track called “Cavity” that’s built on angry screams, but still has a hummable melody. “Leper” is a fierce retort to homophobia, unleashing queer anger over an incredible beat.
And speaking of “queer anger:” Industrial music has always had gay energy, but Garek is actually gay. That adds authenticity to his gender-bending, hard-and-softness, and it makes his work more fascinating.
Buzzing with interest, I called Garek yesterday to talk about his music and his journey to rock freakdom.
On the phone, Garek (who was born Garrett Kotecki in small-town Wisconsin) has a Midwesterner’s good manners. Performing, he says, releases his wild side: “I was not a tortured kid. I had a pretty decent upbringing, aside from the fact that I was a kid who liked art and music while everyone else like tractors. But I remember being on stage for the first time [in a middle school rock band] and completely leaving my body. I don’t know how to describe it. It was the first time that I had ever really felt close to God. So I’ve been chasing that ever since.”
In high school, an older friend introduced Garek to artists like Marilyn Manson and Alanis Morissette, and he was instantly hooked. That’s partly why he makes industrial music: “There’s this darkness to it, but it doesn’t have to be so serious like death metal,” he says. “There can be this sarcasm to it, too, which I really appreciate.”
At this early phase in his career, Garek, who also has experience as a boy-lesque dancer, is still sorting out his artistic identity, but he’s very clear about being openly gay in the rock universe.
“I feel like rock and roll has always been a fucking place for homos,” he says. “The books are littered with a bunch of queers who have made amazing rock and roll music. Anyone who says ’Fags can’t rock’ or ’Rock and roll is for beer drinking, pussy-pounding heteros,’ I feel like they’re completely missing the point. Rock and roll is the rebellion from that sort of structure, those sorts of rules.”
Mark Blankenship has written about music and gay culture for The New York Times, Out, and many others. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship