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Hedwig Fans: Meet Tits of Clay

Hedwig Fans: Meet Tits of Clay

Tits of Clay
Tracy Ketcher

Listen to 'Blank Generation,' an exclusive track from the Hedwig and the Angry Inch house band's Belasco EP

jerryportwood

From left: Peter Yanowitz, Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock & Justin Craig | Photo by Tracy Ketcher

Musicians Matt Duncan and Justin Craig have been playing music together since their high school days in Kentucky. But it wasn't until Hedwig and the Angry Inch co-creator Stephen Trask, who was a fan from hearing them in the Lexington music scene, chose them to perform in the Broadway revival of the rock musical that they knew what it felt like to have over a thousand screaming fans at your feet. "It's the weirdest thing," Duncan explains. "You're always playing a character when you're on stage. But with a theater show, there's a division with the audience. You don't see people filing in. We are changing into our costumes, and then we go on stage and there's suddenly a thousand people there."

So what does it feel like to have so many people clapping and singing along, but have no idea who you are beyond a funny Eastern European-sounding name? "I moved here for the job," Duncan says. "They gave me blue hair during rehearsals, and this has been my New York version of myself. It came into being last year and has been me ever since."

Duncan, who plays multiple instruments but loves his bass above all, says he and the rest of his band mates -- Craig (guitar and keyboards), Tim Mislock (guitar), and Peter Yanowitz (drums) -- figured that after Neil Patrick Harris's popular performance in Hedwig's signature blond wig and glittery platform boots in the spring of 2014, that their time playing backup would be over. Now it's a year later since Harris was on stage, and the band has since played for five other Hedwigs (currently Taye Diggs is starring in the role).

Next month, the Hedwig band, known as the Angry Inch while on stage, is releasing an EP of cover songs under their separate off-stage band name, Tits of Clay (another sly Hedwig lyric reference). The five-song EP, titled Belasco for the historic theater in which they perform most nights of the week, includes rocks songs by Devo ("Uncontrollable Urge"), Wreckless Eric ("Whole Wide World"), and Lou Reed ("Satellite of Love"). (Out has the pleasure of debuting their cover of Richard Hell's "Blank Generation" below.)

Despite playing the same "eight or nine" songs every night during Hedwig -- and sometimes "spacing out" for a bit -- Duncan says he hasn't grown tired of the Hedwig songbook. "It's not that different from going on tour," he says. "Except it's easier: You're at home and don't have to worry about road B.S." --like sleeping in vans and eating at fast food joints -- "and can focus on the music. As a band, we are so in tune with one another."

So far, Tits of Clay has played less than a dozen gigs at local clubs, with an assortment of guest stars, including Harris and Tony winner Lena Hall joining them, but have enjoyed taking turns singing songs and not having a frontman. "It's where I started out," Duncan explains. "In the punk scene in Kentucky in the early 2000s, for what it was, so in a certain way, it's a return to form."

So does Duncan have a favorite Hedwig? "I am kind of a sucker for Michael C. Hall," he confesses. "I loved his voice, and it was interesting watching his process -- it was so different than everyone else -- who came from an entertainer point of view. He came at it as an actor, and every aspect was a puzzle to him. I noticed the more in touch with the character he was, the better his jokes were." Hall also sings vocals on the cover of a nearly unrecognizable version of Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine" on the EP.

So far, Duncan and the rest of the guys haven't experienced the rabid fan stalking of Hedheads (as the super fans are known) that plagues original Hedwig John Cameron Mitchell and others. "I don't think there's been that crossover," Duncan says, laughing. "We are having fun. We never thought all this would happen and are now in an unimagined future. This oddball Broadway show has been great. I wouldn't mind doing something else up there."

Pre-order "Blank Generation" and Belasco on iTunes. Listen to "Blank Generation" below:

Advocate Channel - HuluOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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