Best Rock 'n' Roll Whipcracker - 2013
Hether Fortune of Wax Idols
No one in the Bay Area music scene metes out painful pleasure, or pleasurable pain, like Heather Fedewa, aka Hether Fortune. She's best known as the leader of Wax Idols, an all-female rock band that explores the fine line between noirish pop and ear-shattering punk. But when she's not recording or touring, Fortune beats men for money as a professional dominatrix. It's an outlet for her long-running interest in the aesthetics of sadomasochism. And, as she discovered a few years ago, Fortune simply enjoys dispensing hurt. "I like the more theatrical and pain-based aspects of it," she says, explaining that while sex can be a part of a dominatrix's job, it isn't for her.
That taste for discomfort extends to Fortune's notoriously unguarded Twitter presence, where the 25-year-old Midwest transplant issues often-barbed missives about herself, other musicians, and more or less anyone she disagrees with. "So fuck Savages & the media horse they rode in on & fuck you if you can't see it," went one recent Tweet, referring to a new British band with which hers has lately been compared. "There. Have a nice day. Gonna go have hate sex now. Bye."
Her Twitter flaming also targets publications, like this one, that have sometimes issued negative critiques of her bands' shows. But whether you agree with her or disagree with her, it's difficult not to be fascinated by Fortune. She can come across as self-obsessed, maybe solipsistic. But in talking to her, one gets the sense that even her self-regard is utterly sincere. And in a music culture where so much seems posed, rehearsed, and edited, her unguarded persona, however flawed, feels refreshing. "I've always been very outspoken, I've always had a big mouth, and I'm not ashamed of that," she says. It gets her into trouble — but, as she sees it, "more often than not it's their problem, not mine."
This year, Fortune has been Tweeting about a lesser-known side of her personality: the romantic one. After a brief period of flirtation, mostly long-distance, she abruptly married Tim Gick of the goth-pop band TV Ghost last winter, in an impromptu ceremony at a Reno chapel. "It was actually really beautiful," she says of the wedding. "They have a drive-through option, which we didn't take, because my dress was too nice to not be seen fully." Viewed via the pinhole lens of Twitter, it almost seemed like Fortune's nuptials were some kind of prank, a mockery of traditional committed relationships. They weren't. "We're really in love," she says. "I've never been so happy."
Lest her new-found romance concern fans of Fortune's harder side, rest assured she's still very much the fire-breathing rock frontwoman. Wax Idols, Twitter, and her work as a dominatrix are outlets for a person fascinated by the relationship between pleasure and pain, and comfortable on either side of it. She's also articulate and understanding — if not exactly apologetic — about the targets of some of her rants, like concert reviewers from a certain San Francisco alt-weekly. "Nothing that I do is fake," she says, her blood rising. "If I throw a guitar, it's because I'm fucking pissed. And you don't have to like it, but don't accuse me of being phony."