Nervous Gender Gerardo Velazquez photo by Louis Jacinto

Eastside Punks Episode 4: Nervous Gender

Although Nervous Gender found a home in Hollywood’s original punk scene and their popularity in San Francisco’s punk scene was so strong that many have mistaken them for a “Bay Area” band, their origins actually began in Los Angeles’s eastside.

The group formed at the final performance of The Snappers, a very short-lived East L.A.-based band featuring Jesse “Fixx” Amezquita and Robert Becerra—both of the eastside’s legendary Stains—Gerardo Velázquez, and Michael Ochoa. Fed up after a disastrous Snappers performance, Ochoa and Velázquez decided to start a new band with one of the show’s attendees, U.K. expat Edward Stapleton. Co-conspirator Phranc was soon added to the lineup and Nervous Gender made swift work of attacking every taboo, stereotype, and preconceived notion about religion, sexuality, and punk rock they came across…and made their points using—GASP!—synthesizers to create a racket that often sent the most ardent Black Flag fan scrambling in piss-panted fear for the nearest exit.

Over the course of their initial run, the band endured several lineup changes, incarnations, and periods of inactivity before breaking up after Velázquez’s death in 1992. The band remained inactive until 2007, when Ochoa, Stapleton, and Joe Zinnato (who had been a member before their 1992 breakup and maintains Nervous Gender’s archive) and Tammy Fraser, reactivated the band for several years, and released the Gestalt single in 2010. The band’s legacy continues to evolve—the majority of Nervous Gender’s members remain active and work together in the studio, and Stapleton continues solo as Nervous Gender Reloaded.

More than forty years since Ochoa, Stapleton, and Velázquez met at that Snappers gig, Nervous Gender’s reputation has changed from one of confusion and derision to one that, rightfully, fetes them as pioneers of both what’s become known as synth-punk and the LGBTQIA community’s musical counterculture. Contemporary listens to their 1981 album, Music from Hell, their tracks on the legendary Live at Target compilation, and assorted other recordings still make it clear they were a whole different breed of pissed off. Their withering brand of music has influenced many across the fringes of numerous pigeonholes, from punk to goth to industrial and beyond, and still sounds as uncompromising and way ahead of its time as when they first formed.

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Eastside Punks is a film series about Los Angeles’s other punk scene, one whose existence has developed parallel to, and occasionally intersected with, but remains largely marginalized from L.A.’s greater musical underground. Blending live footage and interviews with multiple generations of musicians, artists, writers, and scenesters, Eastside Punks taps into stories from the scene’s history: from its beginnings in East L.A.’s art and music underground of the 1970s to the rise and fall of its premier club, The Vex, and the bands that called it home; how its 1980s rebirth as a wholly underground scene based in backyards and advertised on flyers and traded cassette tapes led to the celebrated Chicano Groove music scene of the late 1990s; and how it remains a vibrant subculture where Chicano rasquachismo meets punk DIY to create one of the few remaining corners of punk’s true underground. 

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If you haven’t seen them already, here are the first three episodes of Eastside Punks.