Jane Booker recreates the Ohio Players’ Classic Album Cover ‘Honey’
photo (c) Rachel White/offwhite photography
So, what should people know about Jane Booker?
My father was in the Navy and my parents met as language teachers. Consequently I have lived all around the East Coast, a couple of years in Iceland, have been to Spain, France, every country in the U.K. and exchanged in Germany. I came to Seattle for college and to be submerged in a different culture. What I found here was a completely different, much more open and progressive community from anywhere else I had lived. I had no family on the West Coast, so I was very free. The beginning of my freshman year I joined a fraternity and became rather an important member, holding several house positions including VP.
I have been wearing female clothes and have dreamed about being a woman secretly my whole life, but I never wanted to own up to it. Music was always my outlet; I feel confident when I play music.
For about a year and a half, I threw out all hopes of people knowing me as a woman though the thoughts lingered as they always had. I still played guitar or piano and sang, however, my music was fading. One night I was playing piano- as I did almost every time there was a party – and this very pretty, tall, blonde, big blue-eyed dream sits down on the piano bench and listened there for hours, saying nothing, just watching contently.
That is how I met the girlfriend who turned me from an Engineering major to English, who re-taught me love and music, helped me appreciate my family and upbringing and who begrudgingly saw me through my coming out as a woman. I will not go into personal details, but I will say that the breakup was very hard on both of us. Given my very masculine facade, it was difficult for her to accept me as transgendered – it was difficult for me even and I’ve known myself my whole life. Around this time is when I became somewhat of a hermit, failing classes, drinking excessively – never wanting to leave my room because I did not want to change into men’s clothing or be seen by anyone in what I had on. My family was upset by the lack of communication, I dropped out of the fraternity and eventually dropped out of college. Every blue moon I would get a call from my ex-girlfriend but the love we once had become stale and bitter. I was out of hope, lonely and losing my mind.
Enter The Mama Rags. I was looking to start a solo project and I messaged a drummer I knew. He said they were looking for a bassist, I all but came out of the womb playing bass. Presto, I’m a real musician again. After feeling the guys out for a few months, I decided to tell them I’m transgendered. Naturally they were a little shocked, but it all boiled down to – if you’re gonna do this, you’re gonna do it right and we’re helping. The guys in the group and all of our awesome friends have been really supportive and I am infinitely grateful to have such talented, passionate and understanding people in my life.
So in summation: Coming to WA felt really weird. I smoked pot for the first time and then all the time. I worked on bicycles instead of going to class. I met my crazy, sorority girlfriend playing the piano. I wanted her to be my girlfriend, but my girlfriend was not down to be a lesbian. Transgendered was a dream that I suppressed yet experimented with my whole life. I finally came out and people were supportive but confused. Being able to perform music as a woman has been greatly enabling, and it helps that my band members are more supportive of me than I am.
Who were some early influences (musically or otherwise) whose use of gender fluidity as expression influenced you?
That’s actually pretty tough to answer, but I suppose Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. They were all very dramatic and somewhat fluid in gender. Jim Morrison, though very phallic oriented, was known to many of his close friends to be a very warm person inside and to have been very romantic. Janis Joplin was a very powerful, very masculine blues singer. Hendrix wore great, flowing outfits with lots of color and his music was far less gendered than his blues and rock predecessors. Bob Dylan and James Taylor also make the list of artists I knew early on whose music comes from a less gendered speaker.
Mick (Jagger) and Bowie don’t make the list because I knew hardly anything about them.
Much of the soundtrack to my gender obscurity comes from The Who – albums like Tommy and songs like “I’m a Boy.” For those who don’t know, “I’m a Boy” is a song about a boy who has to wear a wig and fit in with other girls (let’s face it….Pete is…a little different from the other boys. Still the kid’s alright).
“Pictures of Lily” is also part of my Who trans-repertoire. I think Lily was an inspiration for Pete. I was also named Peter and I don’t think the name really lends itself to be masculine. I would never say Pete Townshend is trans… but (Lily) s/he’s trans. If it’s any description of my life, my favorite band (besides the Mama Rags) is The Who and yet I have to look up how to spell Townshend and Entwistle and Daltrey. Moon, luckily enough, is easy to spell correctly.
I definitely hear the influence of the Who and Janis’ bands in the Mama Rags.
Do you remember the first time a piece of music spoke to you and made you think music would one day be a big part of your life?
I remember in Kindergarten I was listening to Led Zeppelin and No Doubt and I thought, I could do this, wonder if it makes any money. First time I really cared about music, however, was listening to John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things album. I played saxophone at the time, but the entire rhythm section is solid and the album did help inspire me to play bass.
For what it’s worth, I was huge on jazz and big bands growing up. I didn’t really get into rock and roll until my freshman year of high school. That’s when I started to listen to Jethro Tull, Yes, The Kinks, Zeppelin and The Who. Up until then, I was obsessed with Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Glen Miller and Louis Armstrong, which turned into a love for Motown and funk (James Brown, Parliament, Four Tops (and pretty much everything with a James Jamerson bass line). My father was a cellist and a classical music nut, so I’ve also heard a lot of that and have been to many symphonies. Music has always been just a really big part of my life.
The name Jane is the third most popular female name used in pop music, What about Jane spoke to you and made you feel it expresses your true self?
It’s a strong, classic name and plus I love the song “Jane Says.”
What else is happening band wise?
The Mama Rags have just released our first EP (Hectic Electric) on Itunes, Spotify and all other mainstream digital media on June 20th and we had an amazing show to celebrate our EP release. Not much new going on in my life, though I am looking for a job and flipping bicycles in the mean time. Oh I’m also making steps towards finishing my English degree at UW (I dropped out about 20 credits shy). And we as a band, are moving to L.A. to hopefully broaden our selection of recording professionals with whom to collaborate.
And lastly, many other women will be envious that you are in the midst of rightfully acquiring a whole new wardrobe; Who are you style icons?
I’ve had a lot of fun building my wardrobe. My top three fashion icons are of course associated with the band. The singer’s wife Jess, the drummer’s girlfriend Maiah and the guitarist’s’ sister Jorgi have all been influential with my outfits.