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WARGASM’s Milkie Way: “If The Choice Isn’t Presented To You, Do Whatever You Can To Make One. Be A Rebel And Be An Ally”

WARGASM’s Milkie Way reflects on her experiences on inequality in music and how we can all do something to redress the balance…

Girls and women make the music industry go ‘round. No matter what angle you look at it from, whether it’s those killing the game from the inside as bookers, managers, promoters, performers etc, or those who are consuming music as fans and being the lifeblood of the scene, women are an integral part. But still, despite playing such a vital role in all aspects of this music world in which we exist, the inequalities run deep. But there’s always a plus side: with inequality comes the opportunity to overcome, to thrive regardless of preconceptions and to spite those who expected anything less than greatness in the process. I want to share with you my experiences from both sides of the coin, in hopes that any girl or woman reading this can realise how much power they truly hold, and what you can do once you realise that power.

I moved from rural Ireland to London with practically no friends waiting for me on the other side. For a while I felt very isolated and the only thing that I was doing that really brought me any solace was going to gigs. I found myself alone in mosh pits nearly every night of the week. I never felt ashamed about going to these gigs alone and I’m glad I never second guessed myself, because it was there that I started befriending some wonderful like-minded people. My disposable camera would always be tightly within my clutches when I went to gigs. I took spontaneous shots from the mosh pit and it wasn’t until I’d got a good collection of images that I thought maybe I should do something with them. I never got the opportunity to go to many gigs where I grew up, so now I had the chance, I was really milking it. I went to so many gigs that a few people started to don me ‘that girl I saw in the pit’. And thus was the birth of Girl In The Pit.

With mosh pit culture being so strongly aligned with a lot of macho bullshit, being a 5”5’ girl in amongst all the chaos came with a fair amount of crap. I’ve had guys tell me I should stand to the side because I won’t be able to ‘handle the pit’ (*eyeroll*) only to come up to me after and say how surprised they were after actually seeing me go up against a hoard of huge sweaty men. I’ve had guys in pits make fun of me for wearing skirts or wearing pink, saying I look out of place or that I won’t last long. At the beginning these comments really got to me… and then I remembered that the second you’ve let yourself be discouraged or set back because of a man that you’ve already lost. Again, I say spite is my greatest motivator. I said fuck these dudes, this is the one place I feel the happiest I’m not letting anyone ruin that. Once that mindset was solidified, everything changed. I actually started getting some great opportunities from my photography - I was able to get a photo pass for Reading & Leeds where I ended up meeting the artist who would then, completely on a whim, take me out around the world as his session bassist. The coin was about to flip, all because of one drunken conversation at Reading Festival.

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My main networking advice is: never underestimate the power of chatting shit. I met this guy and we started talking about music, as you do. He asked if I play. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve played bass for five years, but never been in a band.’ He said, ‘Well, I need a bassist and you look cool, would you be interested in session work?’ and three weeks later I was playing my first show as a bassist. I had been very suddenly booted into the deep end. Luckily I have roots in musical theatre, so I was able to combine that with my bass skills to somewhat pull it off. But for a long time I felt like a fraud. I knew nothing about live gear, about monitors, mixes, sound checks, equipment and was constantly fearful of looking like the dumb girl who doesn’t know her stuff. I wanted to be taken seriously. So I did something I never do and I just shut my mouth for a few days and took in everything I could. Learnt what D.I box does, how to set up a live rig, how live sound works, how to play with IEM’s. The experience I gained on that first tour was invaluable. It also set me up to deal with a whole new genre of male bullshit. Cue the, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect you to be so good!’ and the ‘You don’t look like a bassist?!’ But in a way, I’m glad I came across people like that at that time because now, a year and a half later as a competent and experienced bassist, I can shut them down in no time. What exactly do you expect a bassist to look like mate, hm? Make people reassess their prejudices and expectations, it makes the world a little bit better for everyone. What really hit me on those tours was the amount of girls and women of all-ages, especially in the U.S., saying how much it meant to them to see a girl rocking it out on stage. I felt touched and impassioned. I knew I had to channel this into something, something loud and angry - enter the perks of WARGASM.

From Girl In The Pit I also met my bandmate Sam, and I ended up leaving my session work to create what is now WARGASM. We felt like there was a gap to be filled in the heavy music scene, if there’s a spot that I can wrestle my way into, it will be filled. With the support from Sam we spent a year building our sound, building a team, planning everything out and once we pressed go, everything suddenly went to 11. Even in the short amount of time that we’ve been touring, I’ve already had the unfortunately typical undermining comments. A sound engineer once tried to rearrange my pedal board 15 minutes before doors opened because he “knew it would sound better” with the excuse of “trust me lassie, I’ve been doing this a long time”. He then proceeded to make a comment about my tits just before we went on stage, and once again after we came off. I’ve had people, both male and female, approach me at merch and ask extremely inappropriate questions. It sucks a lot that these are things that we are expected to have to deal with, and I am guilty of just brushing it off with a laugh and saying it’s fine, but I can guarantee you that happens no more.

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Every passing year the air of revolution gets thicker and in 2020 on this International Women’s Day, and every day herein, I want anyone reading this to encourage themselves to be the change you want to see. Fight the battles that need to be fought, be strategic, and pay no mind to those trying to discourage you. Women’s and non-binary voices are more vital now than ever. Grab your chance to show everyone a piece of the world from your point of view, and if the choice isn’t presented to you, do whatever you can to make one. Be a rebel and be an ally. ‘Cause what better place than here, what better time than now?

Posted on March 8th 2020, 12:00pm
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