Plack Blague grew out of Lincoln, Nebraska with the goal of creating dance music you couldn’t actually dance to—“anti-dance” music, as lead vocalist Raws Schlesinger described it. The underground queer project saw Raws and founding band member Sexma Sheeen performing the most obnoxious songs they could produce in the sexiest way possible, featuring electro-pop samples they’d heavily chop until there was no rhythm left. Set against painful guitar solos, Raws said he’d “blabber gay nonsense and sexual exclamations” through a distorted microphone, wearing a black mask, boots and gloves. “It was always bizarre, smelled bad and looked even better.”
The band’s original name is a play on words after the most devastating pandemic in human history: the Black Death, which was caused by the Bubonic Plague. Raws said he always thought of his project and stage presence as “a train wreck you can’t stop looking at,” much like disasters, but wanted a moniker that was equally shocking and humorous. The word, “Blague,” translates directly to “Joke” in French, “which is a reflection to never take yourself or life too seriously,” Raws said, his live performances offering a tongue-in-cheek celebration of oddities.
After establishing themselves as Nebraska’s most outside outsider, Raws decided to make his character even more sexual, elevating his stage look to embrace classic BDSM silhouettes—the look he’s known for today. As his outfits got skimpier and more recognizable, Plack Blague’s “anti-dance” music eventually became something people learned to dance to, as the band slowly developed a cult-like following over nearly a decade. “People were starting to notice the spectacle of the group’s rare live performances,” Raws said. “The shows started getting bigger and audiences began to really eat it up.”
In late 2011, when Plack Blague lost Sexma Sheeen, Raws decided it was time for the band to up the ante, writing industrial-based dance songs that were more accessible, but still aggressive and unapologetic. The band’s breakout album, Heavy Leather!, carved out a niche space in queer culture, with provocative song titles like “Peeping Tom Of Finland” and “Cruising.” High camp and high concept, Raws’ full-length work helped establish himself as an industrial powerhouse, and eventually recruited longtime collaborator Loren Macias to join Plack Blague’s journey.
With a more developed sound and fresh blood on board, Raws said he started designing an even bigger stage show with a barrage of strobing lights and “more leather than my body could handle.” He cites alt icons as stage style inspiration, from Rob Halford of Judas Priest to Glenn Hughes of the Village People. Their leather looks "screamed gay to the gays, but rock 'n' roll to everybody else, and I find that hilarious," Raws said. "I love how people can be naive to such a look, while others are jerking off to it." The frontman's signature outfit, which still stands today, became towering leather boots, a studded thong, leather jacket, gloves, robber mask and police cap—his identity completely disguised.
The band’s follow-up EP, titled Leather Band, spawned one of Plack Blague’s biggest underground hits to date, called “Boyz Club,” about sleazy eroticism and dirty sexual perversions. Unlike their previous work, this track successfully found the soft spot between shocking punk energy a more contemporary electro-pop undertones. Though Raws' deep, distorted vocals still sounded like Lucifer, the production made for something you could genuinely move to, especially after a strong cocktail and hit of poppers. Complete with a demonic DIY music video, where Raws performs in his sexy leather daddy get-up, Plack Blague’s queer cult thickened, and they began playing shows with LGBTQ pillars, like Mykki Blanco, Ssion and Big Freedia.
“I really feel like people, especially queers of all ages, are seeking a release from the normalcy of a mundane, uninteresting society and the underground is the best place to let loose, be yourself and be part of a community that accepts queers, weirdos and other people that can’t find themselves fitting into the basic everyday world,” Raws said, highlighting how Plack Blague shows have become authentic safe spaces for LGBTQ outsiders. “The shows are always sweaty, always loud, chaotic and in-your-face gay—dance music for weirdos that like it hard and heavy.”
Plack Blague’s newest album, Night Trax, speaks to this subversive rally, as Raws’ lyrics center on all things leather, cruising, anonymous sex and late-night partying. “It’s a homoerotic soundtrack to the perfect night” he said, delivering a sadistic collection of throbbing electronic tracks and a title that pokes fun at the ‘80s music video television show, Night Tracks. While there’s nostalgic elements of the distant decade on Plack Blague’s LP, the project is still steeped in dark, droning production—balance encapsulated on its opener and lead single, “Just Another Man of the Street.”
The fetishistic track “pays homage to the old-school gay man,” Raws said, with sleazy lyrics about picking up men on the streets for sex and the excitement of anonymous physical interactions—something that’s abandoned in the digital age. “It’s all about a good time getting off and being unapologetic about it,” he said. “In today’s world of Internet dating apps, the act of cruising seems to be fading away.”
Plack Blague’s music video, premiering today on OUT, outlines this conversation, with shots of Raws getting ready to go out cruising in Lincoln. Directed by Nebraska-based horror filmmaker Dustin Ferguson, the visual was inspired by Sid Vicious’ “Something Else” and offers an amusing take on lo-fi erotica. “I’m this weird leather hooded guy dancing around the alleys cruising guys with a constant smile on my face,” Raws said, underlining the video’s dark and sexy, but undeniably hilarious treatment.
There's a devilish charge to Plack Blague's thrashing sound on Night Trax, with lyrics delivered like satanic chants. But the content of Raws' messaging is relatable and tactful, collectively speaking to the sexual queer experience. "I need a man on man distraction," Raws asserts with an earnest attitude on album highlight, "Man on Man," after admitting he's "lusting for sin" on the masochistic cut, "Destroy the Identity." The entire project is as boldly sexual as your favorite pop stars, but packaged in a sonic dungeon, where sludgy synths and dense bass lines are incessant floggers to your evening of escapism.
“I’m never trying to be a gay stereotype,” he said. “I want young queers to feel empowered by [Plack] Blague. I’m the outsider—the freak of queer culture [and] I want my weirdness to rub off on others. Plack Blague is for queers who don’t relate to queer culture, queers who feel outcasted by it, queers who listen to weird music, queers who like weird art and queers who want more interesting [things] out of life.”