Ask anyone from the '90s music scene about Diggie Diamond, and you'll get quite a reaction: shock, fear, awe, reverence, gagging noises. You might even be regaled with tales of a few dozen legendary gigs fraught with seared retinas, scorched lungs, ruptured eardrums and flagrant displays of genitalia. As the lead singer of the local group Foreskin 500, Diamond pranced his way through an insane mangling of punk and disco, oozing makeup and musk like a Kabuki-painted satyr. His stage show was an extravaganza of orgone energy, a sluice of sleaze that sent people slipping and sliding like seasick epileptics all over the dance floor.
And now, it's time to lubricate that booty all over again: The International Male cometh.
"We're just trying to be a fun party band. That's the main thing," says Diamond of the International Male, his first serious music project since Foreskin 500's demise in 1997. "We want to look cool, and we are succeeding."
The International Male
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Diamond is a tall, gangly guy with bulging features and the kind of impish, beatific grin you might smack off the face of an angel. He giggles like the satanic clone of Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. His fashion sense is off the meter; he's been known to sport everything from feather boas to codpieces to navy uniforms -- often all at the same time. And along with bandmate Roman Pietrs, for the last eight months he's been pumping up New York City's sagging electroclash scene with a white-hot enema of soul and style.
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"We thought about costumes and imagery when the International Male first started," Diamond explains. "That stuff is important. We have these flight suits that we wear with thick welding goggles. We dress sexy."
Diamond's knack for exhibitionism first surfaced in the ninth grade, when he formed a riotous punk band called the Letches in his native Boulder. After interviewing the Warlock Pinchers for his school newspaper, he struck up a friendship with the Pinchers' Mark Brooks. The two bands played together a few times, and soon Brooks asked Diamond to join his new side project, Foreskin 500. Initially just a duo with Diamond on vocals and Brooks playing everything else, the group eventually rounded out its lineup with Dave Kerr and Dave Moore. When the Pinchers broke up in 1992, Foreskin 500 hit the ground running.
"We started touring pretty much immediately after that. Most bands were pretty boring at the time, and we felt it would be cool to put on a whole arena rock show in little clubs and bars," says Diamond. "We found a bunch of lights and stuff in some catalogues; the first thing we bought were these rotating siren things. I can't remember where we got them from, but we had to lie and say we were a rape-prevention team. They wouldn't sell them to us otherwise."
The outfit's notoriety as an orgiastic live act soon skyrocketed. "There was this one show in Rhode Island where we got in trouble for being naked," recalls Diamond. "Some college girl actually claimed she threw up because we were naked. I think that's when I started getting naked for every show. I thought it was kind of cool to make the little guy angry."
Um, the little guy?
"I mean the club owner," he quickly clarifies.
After touring heavily on a couple of well-received albums -- 1993's Moustache Ride and 1994's Manpussy -- the group signed to Priority Records, a massive indie label known mostly for its stable of hardcore rap artists. But after only one Foreskin album -- 1996's groove-pounding opus Starbent but Superfreaked -- Priority dropped its entire roster of rock bands, Foreskin included. "They were trying to sell us to some other record label for a lot of money," says Diamond. "They owned us. The way it ended up, we basically couldn't use our own name for three years. So it was kind of a forced breakup."
After Foreskin 500's dissolution, Diamond relocated to New York City. "I had no plan whatsoever," he says with a laugh. "I just thought it would be cool to move here. But New York is huge; I kept getting lost."
He soon became reacquainted with Pietrs, a New York native who had attended the University of Colorado years earlier. "When I first met Roman, he was in a rock band in Boulder called Für," Diamond says. "After he moved back to New York, he was a roller-disco dancer in an off-Broadway play called The Donkey Show. He went to London to do that for a little while. When he came back, we realized we were both bored, and we both had Casio keyboards. We would practice during our lunch breaks from work. We called it lunch rock.
"I was getting super-excited about electroclash back then," Diamond continues. "It was really pure for its time, I think, that hollow, empty, electronic sound."
Electroclash -- spearheaded in New York by Fischerspooner but represented around the world by acts like Peaches, Adult and Chicks on Speed -- is a loose-knit genre of theatrical, digitized dance pop. While the music ranges from raw and punky to slick and rococo, it's all presented with a flourish of art and fashion that favors image over substance. Although "electroclash" was a buzzword just a few months ago, it now seems headed for the scrap heap of obsolete, media-contrived categories like Brit pop and electronica.
"We didn't get accepted into the whole electroclash scene. I think we formed a bit too late," admits Diamond. "Plus, we put more rock and roll in the delivery. I think we're really accessible to the rock scene as well as the electroclash scene; we can pretty much swing both ways -- which is okay. Producing straight-up electroclash is a little bit too difficult for us, anyway."
What the International Male is adept at creating is "electro-booty bass retard rock." In fact, Diamond and Pietrs bill themselves as the undisputed masters of the form. Using fossilized beats, Atari-esque melodies and knuckle-dragging samples, they sound like Morlocks cobbling together tribal drums out of the wreckage of a time machine. On "Hotel Chelsea," a cut from the group's four-song demo, a Devo-meets-Falco rhythm is overlaid with the verse, "They know that we are global pop stars/They want to see our fancy sports cars." Elsewhere on the disc, a tune built out of a rusty Erector set anchors the quatrain, "Big fat robot with big fat head/I come to your house to destroy your bed/Big fat robot makes a big fat mess/I take all of your records and I rub them on my chest." Appropriately, the song is called "Messy Robots."
"The philosophy behind electro-booty bass retard rock is to not take ourselves too seriously," explains Diamond. "There are already too many serious bands out there. We want to have fun, and we want to explore retarded ways to make music."
So is the International Male succeeding in opening up new vistas of retardation?
"We certainly are," Diamond replies with pride. "When we first started putting our equipment together, we wanted to set up tables with all kinds of stupid things. We wanted to have blenders making smoothies so that we could sample the sound through our keyboards. Sometimes when we play shows, I'll be making farting sounds into my Casio, and Roman will be screaming, 'Party! Party!' into his, then we'll play the sounds back on the keyboards. That can get pretty retarded."
Lyrics from some of the group's other tracks are equally imbecilic: On the track "Party Song," Diamond declares with acronymic glee, "P is for the panties that are flying through the air/A is for the air, there are a lot of panties there/R means we will rock you every day and every night/T is for temptation, we're a very sexy ride/Y? Because we love you, and we love the booty groove/Party, party, party!/Party, party, party!"
"We just sing about whatever comes to mind," he says. "Girls. Butts. Robots. We also have the International Male theme song, where we sing about all our favorite International Males: Siegfried and Roy, Erik Estrada, David Hasselhoff.
And what are the qualifications for International Malehood?
"You have to be internationally known," Diamond responds, a bit cryptically. "You have to be a lot like David Hasselhoff. I'll admit that David Hasselhoff's Night Rocker album is one of our biggest influences."
Diamond isn't afraid to flaunt his transatlantic allegiance when it comes to other influences, either. "Yello had a pretty big effect on us," says Diamond, referring to the quirky, German electro-pop duo. "And Kraftwerk, too." As for homegrown heroes, Diamond cites both the Misfits and Afrika Bambaataa -- which makes a weird sort of sense, considering the International Male's mix of numskull hooks and blip-heavy beats.
Although primitive technology's limitations can hinder many electronic bands, the International Male embraces the unevolved Casio keyboard. "You can carry them on the subway," says Diamond. "Our first real show was back in January, and we went straight to the club after we got off work. We couldn't get a cab, so we wound up riding the subway. It was right in the middle of rush hour. People were pissed, because we had these big suitcases, and we were hitting them with our keyboard stands. We thought about actually playing there in the subway, but then we were like, nah, let's just play clubs."
Besides gigging steadily around New York -- where they're honing their aesthetic and choreographing their dance of world domination -- the International Male recently contributed to Chicken Dance 2003, a compilation of bands doing versions of the perennial wedding favorite. With its spleen-thwacking bass line and sublimely dumb emceeing, the International Male rendition mimics the cyborg R&B vibe of old-school groups like Midnight Star and Newcleus. "'The Chicken Dance' is probably our only real heavy-hitting rap song," says Diamond.
He and Pietrs are also putting the finishing touches on their home-recorded debut album, becoming better songwriters in the process. "We can actually make real songs now," Diamond says. Eurobeast is due out sometime this fall; after that the twosome hopes to hit the road in earnest and fully live up to the title of International Male.
"We really want to play in Europe. I think we'd kick their ass," Diamond declares. "We would demolish Europe. The International Male is becoming kind of a machine. We've also been partying quite a bit lately, hanging out in cool places, thinking about going to Europe. You know, trying to be international."
Asked about the vacuity of such a party-centric lifestyle, Diamond pauses for a second, growing almost thoughtful. "When the electroclash movement was just kicking in -- that empty, hollow sound -- it was during kind of a weird year out here," he says. "It was a little after September 11 when I first heard electroclash, and it just seemed to fit. New York was really dead; people were fleeing here left and right. But as that sound caught on, people got used to it and stared partying a little more.
"As far as our own stuff goes," he continues, "We want to give people happy things. We're trying to get people out of their houses a little bit more, get them dancing. It's all in the music. It's irresistible."
With Diamond's many years of experience figuring out exactly how to punch an audience's buttons, that's no idle boast. But amid all the noise, stench, flesh and dizzying kinesis of a live Diggie Diamond performance, remember one thing: No puking on the dance floor.
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