Trans/NB Compilation for a Cause: An Interview With Mia Malone


Author: Kate Watanabe

Mia Malone is the founder of Seattle punk band Death Spa and the newest curator of the long-running compilation series Ball of Wax. In the 70th volume, Mia highlights Washington’s transgender and non-binary musicians in an eclectic and powerful compilation. I spoke to Mia about her experience curating a compilation, finding support in the Seattle music scene, and schlocky horror films.

Kate: So, tell me about the Ball of Wax project.

Mia: Ball of Wax is my friend and bassist Levi’s long-running compilation project. He picks a theme for every release and finds artists that fit the bill. He’s done 70 now and the themes are all varied and interesting.

Kate: How did you become involved with the project?

Mia: Levi and I have been in a band together for a year or so and I told him my idea for this compilation. I didn’t even think about Ball of Wax initially. He loved the idea and suggested we put it out as a Ball of Wax release.

Kate: Had you wanted to create a compilation of trans and non-binary bands?

Mia: So, I got transphobed out of a job by my former employer. It was the first job that I had ever really liked and I thought that I was going to work there forever. I suddenly found myself with no job and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about what was important to me and realized that I really wanted to do what I could to raise the visibility of trans people. I figured that the more you see trans people in different everyday social roles, the less people will want to kill us. It didn’t take long for me to marry trans visibility with music and that’s how the comp came to be.

Kate: That’s a great way to make something good out of an awful situation

Mia: It is! Selfishly, I hope it will raise my band’s visibility a little bit too.

Kate: How did you find and select the bands on the compilation?

Mia: Most of them I didn’t know, it was kind of a weird process because it is specifically trans and non-binary so general queerness didn’t cut it. I Googled trans artists from Washington state and I’d find a list or a festival lineup then contact everybody I could find. Me and Levi each knew 2 or 3 of the bands that ended up on the comp. Pretty much everyone who submitted a song ended up on the album because all the songs ended up being really awesome. We really lucked out with the pool of artists that we got submissions from.

Kate: Something I noticed while listening through it was that a lot of the bands made punk or rock music and I wondered why you think so many trans and non-binary bands gravitate towards punk music.

Mia: Who knows. My best guess is that we’re all angry as f***.  I don’t even know how it’s possible to be trans and not super furious and playing aggressive music is a good way of processing all of it. I only came out a year ago and I’ve been playing aggressive music my whole life. So I obviously had that rage in me even if I didn’t know where it was coming from.

Kate: That makes sense! Another question about the bands: do you have a favorite band name on the compilation?

Mia: Gender Envy, Day Soul Exquisite, and Miscomings. I think Death Spa is a really great name even though that’s my own band. Rainbow Coalition Death Cult is another really fun name.

Kate: How did you come up with the name Death Spa?

Mia: Death Spa comes from an 80’s slasher movie about a killer spa! I’m a big fan of schlocky 70’s-80’s horror movies.

Kate: Do you have some favorites or recommendations?

Mia: I just watched a movie called The Black Room which was this 80’s movie about this piece of s*** husband who rents this room from a creepy dude and his sister, who decorate the black room and set it up with wine so the husband can bring women to f*** behind his wife’s back. He tells his wife about it all like it’s a fantasy, but she gets upset because he wants him to treat her like he does the women in his “fantasies”. It turns out the villain is anemic and rents the black room to men who bring in sex workers and drain them of their blood so he can keep living. It was a blast! I saw another movie called Fatal Games recently that had a trans twist at the end. I probably should have been offended by it but I just found it funny.

Kate: Thanks for the recommendations!! Back to the compilation, I was wondering if there were any trans or non-binary musicians who were influential on your own music with Death Spa?

Mia: I’m influenced by 70’s and 80’s horror soundtrack music, mostly synth stuff. Wendy Carlos wrote some music for The Shining that definitely influenced me.  Also, G.L.O.S..S.  gave me a lot of confidence when I was struggling with my not-super-femme screaming voice.

Kate: Have you experienced a sense of community among local trans artists?

Mia: I’ve only been out for a year and every show Death Spa has played with so far has had a trans or non-binary person in it which has been cool. We played with Kitty Junk and this solo act called Marbits that both have/are trans women and there was definitely a sense of camaraderie that night.

Kate: I’m wondering if there’s anything that people going to shows or musicians can do to make other trans artists feel safer and supported?

Mia: Be nice

Kate: Which local artists do you think deserve more recognition?

Mia: Miscomings is one of my favorite bands in Seattle, they kick off the compilation. They’re weird and confrontational and also super catchy. Marbits is a ukulele player with pretty songs and an adorable stage presence. The Djime track is super cool. We played with 9 to 5 Hyperfuck. They’re a rad digital hardcore band and sound even more abrasive live. Also, check out Death Spa!

Kate: So I’ve heard about the upcoming show at the Southgate roller rink, what will it be like playing at a roller rink?

Mia: It’s amazing! The bands are set up in the middle of the floor and everyone roller skates around the bands while they’re playing. They pay and treat bands really well. The show is a fundraiser for Rainbow Railroad, so the more people who come to this show the more we can help trans people get out of Tennessee and Florida and support our local trans artists. You’ll also get a free CD with every ticket. Come skate and help trans people escape their horrible fates in bad states!

Ball of Wax Volume 70 releases on February 2nd and will have a release show at Southgate Roller Rink featuring 4 bands from the compilation: Miscomings, Seaside Tryst, Mia’s own Death Spa, and Gender Envy.

KATE WATANABE | Mosaic | KXSU Music and Promotions Director

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