The first time I saw Lex Gore (aka Lex Adaptive) in person was when her band, Adaptive Reaction, played at a friend’s birthday party this summer.
I’d known about her the way we know about a lot of people these days: by seeing pop up online, posting on my friend’s Facebook updates.
I felt that one day our paths would eventually cross, but when she stepped on stage that night and started to sing, I knew I had to meet this girl, and it had to happen fast.
Not only did Adaptive Reaction put on a show that will be unforgettable to me, but there was something about Lex that made me want to learn more about her.
Who was this woman with the bright hair, massive voice – and I mean MASSIVE – and the stage presence to match? What was her story? What were her viewpoints? How did she choose to walk through the world?
I had to know, so I reached out to her and asked if we could do an interview. Over the course of an hour, I learned that Lex is an artist, an activist, a mother, and a wildly compassionate individual who is as fearless as the music she makes.
Q: Why don’t we just start out by having you tell me a bit about yourself?
Lex: I’m the daughter of a Hungarian refugee, a Holocaust survivor that escaped the Hungarian revolution and went to Montreal.
My mother was quite beautiful, so we’re finding out after her death in 2011 that aside from being on a Cohen album and hanging out with Mick Jagger and David Bowie, she was also casually dating Prince Charles – she really got a wedge in there. She was an aristocrat.
My dad’s a film producer who was just a working boy from Toronto so he saw that and was like, “That’s the one!” He said to her, “What do you want?” She said she wanted to marry a film producer, so he became a film producer. He’s won Emmys. He’s doing just fine.
I was the girl who traveled all over the world constantly, didn’t really have any kid friends, had a dog, constantly had to adapt to everything because one day we were in Luxembourg, the next day we were in the Middle East. As a result I became very weird.
I was homeschooled, surrounded by artists and every manner of eccentric person you can imagine, from the aristocrats to the rock stars.
That being said, when I became an adult I had no fucking idea what to do. It wasn’t so much a refusal to conform to society; it’s a complete inability. I don’t know how to be anything other than this.
So I went on the streets, became a heroin addict for 13 years, and a prostitute, and met a man who I married who made, like, eighty thousand dollars a year. I pursued my arts.
It became a really shitty marriage, and as of last year I’ve divorced him and am figuring out how to adult.
Q: So at what point did you realize that you weren’t growing up like normal kids?
When my friends were 40. Seriously. I’m still the kind of person that when I go to a party, I’m talking to the person who’s in their 60s, or I’m hanging out with the dog. I’m very awkward.
People do seem to be drawn to me, they want to talk to me, and by honing my stage persona – which is not really a persona, it’s who I am, but by presenting it more – I’ve been able to connect with people better.
That being said, I don’t understand how to be polite or proper, so when I hear somebody swearing or talking about weird shit, I know I can be myself. Dealing with situations where I’m dealing with people who aren’t safe, so to speak, who I can’t be myself with is absolutely nerve-wracking. I feel like I have to bite my fist.
What I’ve basically been doing my whole life is hustling. I would even hustle my teachers to get out of doing homework – never maliciously, but I to get by. It’s what I was taught to do, which is to schmooze and hustle.
And on the streets that worked out really well for me. Because I did hit rock bottom, but it was a higher rock bottom than most people. I still have my teeth, I ended up going to rehab, but not a lot of people escape the kind of addiction that I had, or the life, as they call it.
I was a pretty successful hooker, that being said. I don’t have any regrets about it, and if you’re in control of it, I think it can be completely empowering. But there is a lot of darkness in that world.
I’ve got this empathy that’s constant, ambient, and frankly fucking maddening. It’s torturous. So that’s what I sing about. |
Q: It’s obvious that you do channel so much in your singing. One song you’d written – you said it was for your kid —
Lex: — I always say that. The song is “Lullaby” and if you listen to it, it’s not appropriate for children at all.
Q: — It’s not, but if you listen to it, there is a strong message to it. And people in the audience were obviously relating to it.
Lex: “Lullaby” is almost generic. It’s a lot of stuff I’ve said before, but I feel like I need to say it again, and say it my way.
I feel like we’re not the customer, we’re the product and under the thumb of the government. We’re treated like sheep. We’re expected to completely submit, to have our attention directed to whatever sensationalist story is being played to us in that moment, and to know nothing except to work, sleep, and reproduce.
Our lives are completely pointless without art, without resistance, without our relationships, without the things that make us human.
So “Lullaby” pertains to that message that we hear all the time: stay asleep, watch TV, go to your job, be obedient, don’t fight back. Think about celebrities, think about consumerism, think about keeping up with the Joneses, think about how to make people like you.
And those are all really worthless things in the end.
Q: A lot of the control and the fear that people experience is very real, and there are people who want to break out of it, but they’re afraid. What would you tell them?
Lex: The only way to get out of that is to get angry. You can’t take down this colossus, but you can live every day in proving your courage and your passion.
Care. Volunteer. Help the world. Don’t just like something on Facebook. Organize things. Get your hands dirty. You can do real things in this world, change this world, but you need to get in there.
Every day there are opportunities to go against what you’re afraid of.
Q: In terms of your history with sex work, how did you move through the world at that time, and how do people react to that part of your story? Because it’s always so risky to come out with a story like that. You could be vilified or praised for your honesty.
Lex: I have this inherent ability to find something wonderful in just about anyone, unless you hurt kids or animals.
And I think [sex work] is a viable therapeutic service and I saw it as a way of helping people. A lot of them were elderly people who were widowed and just wanted to be around another human being. They wanted human contact.
A lot of it was vastly non-sexual and maybe I made more money because I provided what’s called a girlfriend experience with people where I viewed myself more as a therapist. It’s okay to be naked and talking to somebody about their fears. It’s a form of caring for somebody.
So sex work, if you’re empowered and you’re intelligent and you actually care about real people and take the emphasis off the sexuality – and sexuality is natural so there’s no reason to stigmatize it – it’s just a form of therapy and it’s just a form of caring for people who obviously have such a lack of care in their lives that they have to pay a stranger to show them affection.
Which I think is really sad. People are all detached from each other and are all trying to reach out to each other to find some human contact. The internet is like that, too, but it’s so mutated at this point.
They say you can only have about 100 relationships at a time, but I don’t think it’s like that. With the internet, we have more relationships but less substance. Now people think meeting other people is like going through an Ikea Catalogue. We’re more detached than ever.
Q: This might be a big question, but why is sex work still so taboo?
Lex: Because the scariest thing in the whole world is female sexuality. It’s been our one weapon to wield, and it terrifies the church, it terrifies big money, because they know how much power we hold.
That’s why I say, no matter who you are, own your sexuality. It’s the most human thing in the world. Don’t let anyone control it. Don’t give in to shame-based marketing. Don’t let anyone embarrass you or make you apologize for anything that you are.
Q: Did you ever think, along the way, that you wanted to get on a more traditional path?
Lex: I tried. I got married in 2005. I tried really hard to be the housewife and found myself so depressed that I was close to being institutionalized.
I don’t think normal works for me. I worked at coffee shops, I worked at pet stores. My longest jobs were in animal shelters and in the end I had a problem taking money for it, which is weird, so I ended up volunteering more than I worked.
I’ve always had problems with money. I need it, but I don’t like it. It creeps me out, it’s uncomfortable for me, and I’m really, really stupid at math (laughs).
But to an extent I am normal. I’m a mom. I make my kid lunches. I take her to the park. She’s got little play dates.
But I was raised with Morticia and Gomez. My parents were madly in love and everything was beautiful, even in hard times, so maybe I got taught a fantasy standard through them.
Because it was awfully surreal, looking back. We just traveled all the time. I kind of want to give that to my kid.
Q: What do you think is the most rebellious thing a person could do today?
Lex: I think that the biggest form of rebellion is not something that’s quantifiable. But being what you are and being someone who strikes out at any opportunity for what’s right, that’s rebellion.
I think strong people look out for themselves, but the strongest people look out for everybody.
Q: What is creating such an important act?
Lex: It’s not important, it’s necessary. Typically, when I’m making music or writing or drawing, it’s not something I can control. It’s the same line running through my head over and over again and I can’t stop it. It needs to come out. Creating is a compulsion. It’s what we are. My orientation is a compulsive creator.
Q: So you’ve always been creative.
Lex: Yeah, in every way, shape, or form. But I pretty well have tried every outlet, and I stick with music and writing. It’s not necessarily what I’m the best at, but it’s the most satisfying. It’s what I like for most. Visual art is just for me. I’ve never attempted it commercially.
I think artists are some of the most under-valued members of society, because people expect us to work for free, or for exposure. You post a picture of a cat and it gets a hundred likes. You post something you worked on for years, you get four likes.
Likes are the currency now. It’s a little ego stroke to keep you going. Somebody might share it if you’re lucky. It might go viral, like a baby farting.
So the expectation to actually survive off your gifts is skewed. It’s considered to be a pipe dream, and for those of us trying to survive off the art we we’re compelled to make, the art we were born to make, it’s often very thankless and disappointing.
Because I’ve seen people putting out absolute gold.
Q: How have your philosophies informed your parenting?
Lex: Probably the same way my mom raised me, which is that you have to give kids room to tell you who they are and then influence them gently.
I’m not going to be browbeating my ideals. They get simplified. Be compassionate. Fight for what’s right. Question authority. But also do it in your own way.
She might be a really gentle, introverted person. She might be into math. She might be a cellist. She might be a banker.
I have no idea, but I want her to respect herself and not succumb to the shame that’s directed at women that tells them their only validity is based on their looks. Basically, I’m just going to teach her to be a strong woman to think for herself.
Q: What’s been your biggest worry about the future?
Lex: Being on the streets again, point blank. Going back to drugs and having no future. So my biggest fear I suppose is being alone, losing my daughter, going to prison.
And that’s why my heart really screams for homeless people when I pass them by. I haven’t been where they’ve been to an extent because I was young and able-bodied and kind of cute. I got a lot farther.
But when you’re that guy who reeks of piss and you’re not pretty and people don’t care anymore, when you’re literally like an invisible entity and people react with disgust if they react at all, well, those are humans. They once were loved, so that I think is everyone’s biggest fear, and that can happen.
The fact that some of us are one paycheque away from being homeless, that’s something to chew on. The fact that I’m standing a soap box screaming about it probably does nothing for anyone but myself, but maybe someone will read this and find they aren’t the only ones who feel this way.
I think as a species, our biggest fear is to be alone and forgotten and to have nobody care for us. And that’s when you see lonely humans trying to reach out on the internet.
People end up on the streets because they can’t afford – emotionally, mentally, financially – to stay on top of things because it’s overwhelming.
When you deprive someone of doing anything they love and just expect them to robotically work away their lives, of course many people are going to be like, “fuck this, I can’t deal with it anymore,” and they just break.
And that’s my fear, just breaking. And some days suicide is something I mull over. I think, “Yeah, I can just rest and I won’t have to think about anything anymore.”
And it’s that thinking that’s everything I think about it: it’s the cruelty that’s allowed to go on. It’s the fact that we’re worked so hard that we’ll actually consider suicide to get some rest.
What kind of world is that? And I’m one of the privileged ones. I live in Canada. But human suffering is universal.
We’re all in this together.