RPM talks to queer-post-punk-electronic musicians and promoters Brad Charles and Hansen Ashley about throwing a hundred year party for Navajos, and how to rock it Discotays style.
The Discotays are a duo from New Mexico and Utah now located on the Navajo reservation. Often described as “fun dance music” or “electro punk”, they create music using a drum machine, guitars, keyboards and laptops. Brad Charles (Navajo) and Hansen Ashley (Navajo/Zuni) like to make lo-fi, no-wave/post punk music and just put on the first Indie/Electronic music showcase for the Navajo Nation Fair.
RPM: What was cool about this past weekend's Indie/electronic showcase The Discotays put on for the Navajo Nation's 100 year fair?
DT: It's the first of its kind ever. Well, there is usually festivals that are aimed towards metal or country (music) on the rez - never electronic/indie music. And the fact that it was sponsored by the Northern Navajo Fair Board was quite impressive. We heard later in the night that the Navajo Nation fair wants to have the same festival at their fair next year with all the same performers and more.
RPM: How long have you been together? How did you meet?
DT: We have been together as a band for almost three years now, but known each other for over five years.We met years ago in Tucson when Hansen was still a youngster. I (Brad) was living in Tucson at the time, moved back to the reservation and went to a mutual friends and got reaquainted with Hansen.
RPM: How and why did you start The Discotays?
DT: We started using just one keyboard, and (both) felt like there was a lack of visibility of queer artists on the reservation. We wanted to make music that we loved, enjoyed, responded well to. A lot of D.I.Y. influence also.
RPM: What do each of you contribute?
DT: Hansen is a great artist - he paints. Also we both make bags out of vintage fabrics, recycled fabrics, vintage buttons, and quilts as well. Hansen does all the art for covers and also silk-screens t-shirts. I usually help with sewing CD covers and the inserts. Hansen does all the programming and making beats. We both write lyrics together and come up with melodies. Right now we are sharing vocal duties, but Hansen does the other stuff, playing the keyboards, guitar, it varies though from show to show... sometimes we do songs where I play some guitar or some keyboard.
RPM: What would be The Discotays' dream project?
BC: Supporting and working with other artists, working with other musicians we really enjoy. Art projects on the reservation, like art installations, etc. Open up an infoshop on the reservation targeting the queer youth. Plus start a label of some sort to get the music that we love on the reservation out into the world.
RPM: We love that song with the heavy lyrics but still a really catchy dance beat.
BC: Yeah its called Death. It is about all these stars that are gay, or died of AIDS. Sylvester, Rock Hudson, Perkins, Robert Reed, Freddie Mercury, Steve Rubell. It's just off of a demo. Not on any album yet. That is what is nice. That it is so dance-able. I get chills at times when we perform that song.