Miranda’s interview with grind frontwoman Marissa Martinez

By on 20 April 2010

Marissa Martinez is the vocalist and guitarist in Cretin (pronounced ‘Cree-tin’, for us Brits) and released their first disc of short, sharp shocking grind ‘Freakery’ on Relapse in 2006. In September 2007 a certain Dan Martinez took control of their life and thus led to the events that lead to where Marissa is today, and to our telephone call on a cold, windy November evening in 2009 (10:30pm UK time, just after lunch Marissa time).

DISCO

Marissa had got into music through her father. “He was a guitarist for a classic rock/disco band back in the 1970’s called ‘Underground Railroad’. They did a few tours but never released anything. I inherited my dad’s guitar, he died when I was five from drink-driving. He was my grandparents favourite and I replaced him in their hearts when he died.” This complicated things for the young Dan, who was already finding he was different from other ‘boys’.

“I never saw myself in the mirror, I did not know what I looked like, there was this separation there and I thought I looked gross. Initially it hit me when I was 11 or 12, I was in elementary school and I saw the girls starting to develop physically and emotionally, and then there was fashion: these things really got to me, I felt I understood them.”

“It came to a point of weird conflict: I didn’t know what being transgender was, so to me it wasn’t an option. It became a private thing, in mom’s clothes when my parents were away. At the time, I was religious. I remember going to sleep and praying to wake up a woman the next day. I was utterly terrified of this meaning I was going to hell. Then, I started burying feelings and hiding behind being a guy.”

Talking with Marissa, her feelings for her late father are touching, she talks of him with great fondness, and this is reflected in how she describes her father’s relationship with her mother. “Mom was never a partier, my dad was her high-school love and she got pregnant by him and became a mother at 21. She’s not as wild as I am!”

GRIND

Yet you then got into pretty wild music? “I was initially a skateboarder and my friend who was also a skater ended up with a drum kit and in ’88-’89 we got into Metallica, and then another friend got into guitar in a Joe Satriani or Steve Vai kind of way.”

“Grind came from my friend who was into Carcass. He was playing with jazz musicians, playing this stoner funk, but then he wanted to do jazz metal and he was ‘can I jam with you?!’ He got me into Death Metal, I didn’t get it at first, especially the vocals, it then occurred to me it was the most brutal most badass form of metal – it was so extreme! It helped me to hide: Death Metal was to me the essence of what a man was. As a kid I wasn’t effeminate, but I was not macho and yes I was picked on. Metal gave me a ‘costume’, this took me over the top and then no-one would fuck with me anymore.”

DEATH METAL

As someone who throws herself into everything she does, she took guitar lessons and learned theory but found them ultimately restrictive. “I was into theory and technique but it mucked up my ability how to do a song, with Cretin we wanted to do something original, but it became hard work, it wasn’t until I forgot all this stuff and started writing from the hip rather than the brain it started hanging together.”

She adopts a similar attitude to the gear she uses. Her influences are Death Metal and Grind, the bands she was listening to had rough-and-ready ethos. “You know, these guys recorded with crap, hey they couldn’t afford decent gear, and you know it adds a charm to the music. Relapse gave us money for a mixing board and mikes and we ended up recording in a garage to get that sound.”

FREAKERY

And so in 2006 along came “Freakery” and the semi-autobiographical “Daddy’s Little Girl”, which did more than hint at the turmoil Dan was going through. “So, I hit my thirties and though: what am I doing? I was running out of goals, of things to do to make me a better man than what my father was, I have my career, my band, I realised I was now an adult and time was running out.”

“My career had come along with my relationship, at that time I was working as a bouncer and wanted to do the right thing with the girl I was with and so I went to college. I did a degree over a couple of years and I ended up working at LucasArts as a compatibility tester of video games against different graphics cards and PC systems.”

Marissa and her partner were in marriage guidance counselling, the counsellor had told her that she had to go and get gender specialist therapy as they just could not help her work with her gender dysphoria.

THERAPY?

She was cautious starting her transition. “I had a slow build up, I mean I had my career and I didn’t feel I could jump into it. I do things in a very genuine way. With music, I have to have a band and I have to do things all the way! This was a process, and with going through therapy and whatnot every two months or so something would change, e.g. my hair, wearing panties, etc. I went through a period of androgyny and then I was on hormones the effect of this was I felt I was not a guy anymore. At work one day I found myself in a male restroom and somebody else came in and I totally freaked out! My whole perspective had changed.”

“Then there was a three day weekend and spent it ‘full-time’ hanging out with a work friend of mine, then the day before we have to go back to work, my friend could not believe I was going to go back to work without makeup. So, I went into work, I saw my reflection in a mirror and I realised I could not do this any more, I called HR and spoke with them, and they were excited for me! I thought: I am self-sufficient, I have my career: my marriage is gonna go but this was stagnating anyway because I was not living as the person I need to be.”

MELTDOWN

I have come into contact with a number of trans-people who seem to go into a kind of meltdown and become scared and hide themselves away, becoming fixated on their transition and not even managing to hold down a job. “Yeah you get girls like that over here too, they live their live in fear. Fear of getting read, fear of getting raped, fear of other people, fixated on their own transition. My own personal take on it is that they seem to be people with very low self-esteem.”

Well, that’s one way of putting it. There is always a danger that your transition is seen as an end in itself, rather than process. Marissa’s own process began in September 2007 and in the year since completing her twelve month real life test, she has had 11 hours of feminising facial surgery, breast augmentation and in August this year genital reconstruction surgery. That’s a hell of a lot for anyone to go through. “I am still healing from GRS, it’s three months next week. Nothing hurts like GRS.”

PARTY

This girl has in just twelve months has three lots of incredibly complex, physically demanding and incredibly painful surgery. So, post-transition, what has changed? “

Well, I used to be very logical but now I am led by my emotions and I am trying to refine my hobbies and interests outside of my transition. I am not a computer geek anymore nor am I so focussed on writing music. I’m still into metal but I’m not so caught up in the violence and gore, I still enjoy the attitude but I’m a lot more ‘party’ about it. I have become more social and outgoing and more willing to try new things. I used to be this person that was scary, that people would avoid, now you know there’s so much intrigue, I’m asked to do interviews all the time, people are curious.”

GOTH

“I have been talking to Emilie Autumn by email, she added Cretin on MySpace and I emailed her saying how I’m in Cretin and you found my band’s MySpace. At the time I was looking for female role models and idols and I fell in love with her music immediately. I focussed on her music a lot in my transition and I got to meet her, she was totally supportive and happy for me, and she was touched to have been one of my first female role models.”

“Going from ignored and socially introverted to being more aware or approachable is very different: it is a paradigm shift. The attention is very validating, when someone comes up to you in a bar and starts hitting on you, it’s self-affirming.” Does this happen a lot? “Ha – well, now I’m learning to be more choosy, like girls do when they go though puberty!”

FETISH

Well, there’s no doubt she’s enjoying the attention, and Marissa has achieved another ambition having modelled for Marquis/Von Gutenberg. “I have always been into latex fetish-wear and in October I did my first Latex Fetish photo-shoot, and suddenly here I am entering into that world! It was so much fun, I had three different outfits, someone to do my hair and make up and then they set me up in front of the camera! It was the best fucking thing ever!”

Marissa’s MySpace

Cretin’s MySpace

About Miranda Yardley

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