Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from disco-licious Italy, let me introduce you to the wonderful Hard Ton!
This Italian house music performer comes across like the bastard offspring of Divine and Sylvester (and with more than a little Leigh Bowery to satisfy your outlandish-costume-and-make-up needs.) Hard Ton makes a righteous, soulful noise that harks back to the original pioneers of sleazy, seedy Chicago house like Mr Fingers and Robert Owens. In a sea of anonymous dance-music acts that seem happy to bask in the hazy glow of their battered MacBooks, Hard Ton stands out not just for making authentically retro-sounding house, but for making a huge visual statement that reminds us that house was once the realm of the weirdos and the outcasts.
Hard Ton is actually a duo composed of Mauro Wawashi, a formidable producer and DJ in his own right, and vocalist/front person Max, here taking a break from his day job in various metal tribute acts to channel his inner disco diva, including wrapping himself up in the kind of glad rags that would make a hooker blush. Being quite the big guy, this in itself is a bit of a statement, and a beautiful act of plus-size body positivity. Not surprisingly, Hard Ton are fast gaining a hardcore following among the gay bear community.
To my shame, I have known Hard Ton for quite a while now (we even shared a label, Dissident, a few years back) but have failed to feature them on Dangerous Minds before. Let’s remedy that right away! With a new EP to promote and a current tour of the States for Pride season, I sent the formidable Max some questions to wrap his tongue, and brain, around.
The Niallist: Who and what is Hard Ton?
Hard Ton: A multi-sensorial experience: you can dance to me, you can watch me, you can touch me. Sometimes you can also bite me.
The Niallist: What inspires you musically?
Hard Ton: Acid house, disco music, pop. But I suppose I got inspired from everything I ear, it could be a techno track in an underground club, a metal song in a concert, or the shit played on the radio. Outside of music I find inspiration in pop culture, club culture, photography, fashion and art. Well, some fashion and some art. And definitely all the queens who stood up against the police at Stonewall back in 1969!
The Niallist: What can someone expect form a Hard Ton show?
Hard Ton: A ton of meat screaming like a real diva.
The Niallist: What is the strangest reaction you have had live?
Hard Ton: A guy kissed me in front of his girlfriend while I was singing, and I’m not talking about that kind of kiss that your mama would give you…
The Niallist: What is in the near future for Hard Ton?
Hard Ton: Our new E.P. has just been released [via Killekill Records - check it out here], and we are very proud of it. We’ve also just finished a remix for S’Express, and produced some tracks for Paul Parker. And of course we are working on new tracks. As for an album… is there really anyone who still buys CDs? Well, I do!
As another series of RuPaul’s Drag Race draws to a close (with its highest viewers yet), RuPaul’s position as a titan of queer culture is cemented.
It can’t be easy being the best known drag queen in the world, and fans of Drag Race will be familiar, by now, with Ru’s very Zen way of handling the spotlight, as well as handling other people.
Which is why this candid interview with Joan Rivers is so very refreshing. Ru really spills the T, from his often-overlooked background as a punk rocker and a go-go dancer, to his long term relationship and its “open” status, his mother (who sounds great!), his make-up tips, and his musings on gay culture and its relationship with the mainstream, which makes for some of the most interesting, and insightful, conversation here. You also get to find out RuPaul’s real name, which may come as a bit of a surprise if you don’t already know.
Of course, Joan Rivers is no minnow in the sea of gay culture herself, so it shouldn’t be surprising that when these too get together it’s a real treat. Both are fountains of knowledge, both queer and straight, and to see them kiki with so much mutual admiration is great. There’s simply no way they couldn’t be fans of each others’ work, which probably explains the openness and ease of this interview.
RuPaul in bed with Joan Rivers really is worth a watch:
Has Hedwig And The Angry Inch entered the annals of the ‘classic musical’ yet? If not, then why not?
I can’t think of another original musical from the last 10/15 years to have gained such a strong cult following and had so much niche AND crossover appeal (no mean feat considering the subject matter.) Shows with people throwing themselves around to Abba or Queen songs don’t count.
Here is a rare treat for fans of Hedwig, it’s a taping of the original cast performing the show Off-Broadway in 1999, featuring what is very obviously a star-making turn for John Cameron Mitchell. The quality’s not all that bad, and of course the music is great. Which is important for a musical. Here’s a little more info via YouTube uploader Antoine Granger (and Wikipedia):
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The text is by John Cameron Mitchell, and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. The musical premiered in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of stage productions.
The story draws on Mitchell’s life as the son of a U.S. Army Major General who once commanded the U.S. sector of occupied West Berlin. The character of Hedwig was originally inspired by a German divorced U.S. Army wife who was a Mitchell family babysitter and moonlighted as a prostitute at her Junction City, Kansas trailer park home. The music is steeped in the androgynous 1970s glam rock era of David Bowie (who co-produced the Los Angeles production of the show), as well as the work of John Lennon and early punk godfathers Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on February 14, 1998. The theater was located in the ballroom of the Hotel Riverview, which once housed the surviving crew of the Titanic (a fact which figured in the original production). Originally directed and produced by Peter Askin, the play won a Village Voice Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. The Off-Broadway production ran for two years, and was remounted with various casts by the original creative team in Boston, Los Angeles, and London.
“Tear Me Down”
“The Origin of Love”
“The Angry Inch”
“Wig in a Box”
“Wicked Little Town”
“The Long Grift”
“Wicked Little Town (Reprise)”
This is the original cast performing on stage in 1999, awesome performance if you ask me. I took the liberty to do a small noise reduction over the original source. If you liked the show I strongly advise you to also check out the movie.
Latrice Royale onstage at The Castro Theatre, photo by Robby Sweeny.
NOTES FROM THE NIALLIST
If you have not seen Paris Is Burning, you’re just not doing it right. I’m talking Life, honey.
I’ve written about Paris Is Burning before, and referenced it in my recent ballroom piece for Boing Boing, but the truth is that the impact of this film on gay culture, and by extension culture at large, cannot be overestimated. That a film about underground drag culture and voguing resonated so strongly amongst gays should not be a surprise, but what is surprising is how far its influence has spread in “straight” circles. Its language and imagery are now common parlance, and it won a recent PBS “best documentary” poll by an overwhelming landslide.
Which is why I was so delighted to see Paris Is Burning get recent a Midnight Mass screening in San Francisco, hosted by the queens Peaches Christ and Latrice Royale. Barring stars of the film itself (most of whom have sadly passed) I could not think of a better pair to present it. Peaches Christ is a legendary San Francisco performer and the regular Midnight Mass movie hostess, and is so obsessed with films, ickiness and camp that her boy alter ego, Joshua Grannell, recently directed the future-cult-classic All About Evil, starring Natasha Lyonne, Mink Stole and Elvira. Latrice Royale, meanwhile, was a competitor on last year’s season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and through a combination of straight-talking and motherly warmth, went on to win the show’s “Miss Congeniality” prize, and has become one of the most popular contestants that Drag Race has ever seen.
I couldn’t waste this opportunity to ask two legends of drag about this legendary drag film, so I sent them both a set of questions to answer.
Peaches Christ and Latrice Royale
THE NIALLIST: When did you first discover Paris Is Burning?
LATRICE ROYALE: I believe it was 1995.. I know a little late, but again I was very new to the lifestyle at this time in my life.
PEACHES CHRIST: I was a junior in high school and the movie was such a huge indie hit in the urban markets that Miramax did a wide release, which meant it played at the local Maryland mall where I grew up. I remember going to see it with my closeted lesbian friend and my hands were literally shaking when I went to purchase a ticket—I was a closeted queen and was terrified someone would see me buying a ticket to the movie—that my secret would be revealed. I watched it wide-eyed and in awe and while there is clearly a tragic element to the film, especially ending with Venus’ murder, I found it to be inspiring, creative, loving, and it really showed me that there was a way people like “us” could find a family, create a world for ourselves, and that the world could be imaginative, unique, and FABULOUS. I went to see it three more times in the theatre and each time I did, my hands shook a little less when I bought a ticket.
TN: What kind of an impact has it had on your career, and how has it influenced you personally?
LR: Well from my own personal experience in life, I totally could relate to these young kids. As I was one of them. I was too scared to come out after being outed by my brother. But I did learn that you could rebuild your family with people to your liking.
PC: I kind of feel like there are two drag worlds- the one pre-Paris Is Burning and the one post-Paris Is Burning, because after the movie came out and was widely distributed, queers sought it out, understood it, embraced and appropriated its culture on all levels of queer culture. It’s effect on our language, style, dance, etc. can not be underestimated. Whether people know it or not, it changed queer culture and then of course popular culture because it’s my belief that most of the best parts of popular culture start with the queers.
TN: How do you feel time has treated the film?
LR: Knowing what I know now, and seeing how bullying is such the trend.. We need to have a world wide revival of this movie. So many are unaware of a crucial part of our history.
PC: I watch it today and am again- blown away by how much of everything we do and saw comes from this seminal film. It’s timeless.
TN: What would you say to younger queens who haven’t seen the film?
LR: Well as I stated earlier we need a revival!! Our youth should be aware of just how far we’ve come, while realizing we still have so much further to go. But with knowledge comes power, and hopefully our youth will learn that they too, have a voice.
PC: It’s a must see of course. Completely required viewing. I’m actually teaching a class in 2014 at the SF Art Institute that’s essentially “Drag In Cinema” and I’m building the course around this film.
Peaches Christ as Dorian Corey, photo by Nicole Fraser-Herron
TN: Who is your favourite character in Paris Is Burning?
LR: Pepper LaBeija LEGENDARY MUTHA!!
PC: I can’t choose one- seriously. I’m obsessed with Dorian Corey, Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Venus Xtravaganza, and Octavia St. Laurent. I love them all.
TN: Peaches, could you tell us about the process of getting Paris Is Burning to the big screen again?
PC: I’ve wanted to do a Peaches show around Paris Is Burning for years and years but really needed to do it the right way and create a show that felt authentic- so it took some time but I was able to seek out members of the West Coast ball scene who came on board to create the show with us. I reached out to Latrice because I really feel like she embodies the true spirit of the film—inspiring a new generation of queens to perform with style and grace, understanding their history while also serving it to audiences—making them eat it. I have been in touch with Jennie Livingston, the film’s director, and she’s been so supportive and WONDERFUL and we’ve been talking about how this Paris Is Burning zeitgeist will hopefully lead to more projects, more longevity, more celebration, and that this community’s legacy will live on forever.
TN: And finally, Latrice, how was the Paris Is Burning Midnight Mass screening?
LR: I must say the whole experience working with Peaches Christ was one thatI will never forget!!! So brilliant, and such an honor to be apart of more history in the making.
TN: History indeed!
To end, here’s another bit of history, the original 1991 TV trailer for Paris Is Burning, complete with that guy doing the voice-over:
For more info, and to view the picture gallery of images form the screening, visit PeachesChrist.com.
The clip is described by its creators, director PJ Raval and CHRISTEENE herself, aka artist Paul Soileau, as being the 7th installment of the CHRISTEENE video collection, where rabbits roam free across the sinister landscape of CHRISTEENE’s fuck fantasy.
Sinister is the word. There’s something almost primordially creepy about this video, which IS safe for work, but possibly not fit for human consumption. With “Big Shot,” CHRISTEENE has not only upped her own game, but that of the entire “online drag video” sub-genre.
I have to admit, I was terribly disappointed with Sharon Needles’ last music video ‘This Club Is A Haunted House’, and this is partly the reason why. Needles, the winner of the last season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, sold herself as being an edgy, outsider queen and, in her own words, “the future of drag”. Unfortunately her video was actually rather tame (and strangely, her music contains no trace of her favorite act My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult.) ‘This Club Is A Haunted House’ simply pales into insignificance when compared to the this disturbing clip, which musically manages the neat trick of sounding both retro and very current.
CHRISTEENE’s debut long-player Waste Up, Kneez Down is available now and comes highly recommended, being as musically exciting as it is creepy-as-hell.
If you’re a fan of drag or a follower of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo TV, then you’re probably aware of the Drag Stars at Sea Cruise organized by the show with Carnival Cruise Lines, and featuring many of the queens who have appeared over the past seasons.
Sounds like a fun time, right? Pay money to go on a luxury cruise, get to meet and hang out with your favorite drag queens, all in what is presumably a “safe space” for drag fans, fancy dressers, gender-benders and many on the queer spectrum.
Only it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Carnival Cruise Lines have just issued a “statement” (read: warning) that public displays of drag are not going to be tolerated on the ship, and could cost anyone who offends their conservative sensibility to be kicked off the cruise with no refund. Nice!
In order to ensure a fun and memorable time for everyone, we want to take a few moments to make you aware of certain policies and conduct expectations so as to avoid any potential disappointment during your cruise.
Carnival attracts a number of families with children, and for this reason; we strive to present a family friendly atmosphere. It is important to us that all guests are comfortable with every aspect of the cruise. Although we realize this group consists solely of adults, we nonetheless expect all guests to recognize that minors are on board and, refrain from engaging in inappropriate conduct in public areas.
Arrangements have been made for drag performance in the main theater featuring stars form Logo TV. These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag while in the theater. Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performance or in public at any time during the cruise.
It seems the company has not got its priorities in order. Why book a “drag” cruise, only then to tell passengers that dressing in drag, even inside the performance auditorium, is not acceptable? At the risk of offending minors? What does this really say about the company’s attitude to men in women’s clothing?
Sounds awfully like discrimination to me, not to mention that the line “all guests are comfortable with every aspect of the cruise” is an outright lie, if the company are willing to ban ALL forms of drag by passengers on a bloody DRAG RACE AT SEA CRUISE.
I was so excited to be a part of the Drag Stars at Sea Cruise and to meet so many of you in person and enjoy our time at sea together. It is so disheartening to myself and I know you too, to receive an email from Carnival Cruise Lines only a few days before that is, well, you can read it and decide for yourself. I, personally say let your freak flag fly. We should never be told how to dress, how to act and certainly ever be told not to be ourselves. Just know that we will still enjoy ourselves and party, even if it’s like 1920.
There’s more at NewNowNext. We’ll see how this pans out, but already it’s looking really bad for the company.
When it comes to alt-culture icons, they don’t come much bigger or more fabulous than Divine, who was born Glenn Harris Milstead 67 years ago today.
I shouldn’t need to explain to the readers of Dangerous Minds how important a figure Divine was, not just to gay people, drag queens or the plus-sized, but to freaks, misfits and outcasts anywhere and everywhere. I mean, you just gotta love Divine. Anyone who flaunts their flaws that proudly and boldly, turns them into cornerstones of their appearance in fact, should be held up as an inspiration to everyone.
Divine’s legacy has gotten stronger since Milstead’s death in 1988, and in a strange way Divine has come to represent a time when society was both more conservative, but oddly more liberal. What film star would gulp down real, live dog shit on screen these days and be called a hero? I think we need Divine now more than ever, so it’s no surprise to me how truly iconic she has become in recent years.
As today is Divine’s birthday, I contacted Lotti Pharriss Knowles, the producer of the upcoming feature documentary I Am Divine, to discuss the incredible performer, and to get the scoop on their film, which promises to be the definitive document of Divine’s life.
THE NIALLIST: How did this project come about in the first place?
LOTTI PHARRISS KNOWLES: Our director, Jeffrey Schwarz, has been kind of obsessed with Divine and John Waters since he was introduced to their films in college. Many years later Jeffrey interviewed Waters for SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY, and many other Dreamlanders for the doc YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT: THE LONG JOURNEY OF HAIRSPRAY, and became inspired to make a definitive documentary about the immortal star that is Divine.
TN: How is the Kickstarter going? And when is the finished film due?
LPK: Kickstarter is going great—we made our goal of $40,000 earlier this week! But that goal was the bare minimum we needed to raise to help finish this film, so we are setting a new, “unofficial” goal of $50K to see how far we can get by Friday at midnight when the campaign ends.
We don’t have a specific due date, but we are applying to festivals where, if accepted, we’d premiere early next year. So time is definitely of the essence to make sure we polish the edit, get the soundtrack and graphics completed, and legally clear all the photos and footage we’ve included. And none of that comes cheap!
TN: What personally attracts you to the character of Divine?
LPK: I’ve always been an oddball and attracted to others who are, especially people who are fearless about being different. No one embodies that spirit of the in-your-face punk misfit more than Divine. I also love that while Divine was completely subversive, you always felt a tender heart beating underneath the wild persona—I think that combination is ultimately why Divine’s fans love him so fervently.
TN: Divine’s legacy has gotten stronger since her death - why do you think that is?
LPK: Well, we always seem to truly idolized those who leave us too soon: Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Divine. They go out when they’re still young and beautiful, and they’re forever trapped in time… There’s something sentimental about that, because the fans are left to fill in the blanks of what might have happened had they lived longer. I also think there are always those new fans coming along, the next generation of folks seeing the Waters movies for the first time, and responding to those characteristics I mentioned. There are always going to be misfits and outsiders, and so there will always be a need for a role model like Divine.
Divine in Melbourne, Autralia in 1984, pic by Andrew Curtis
TN: Where do you think Glenn Harris Milstead would be today if he hadn’t died?
LPK: I think he’d be an accomplished actor with a wide variety of roles under his belt. He had so much talent, and was just about to enjoy a breakout role out of drag on “Married With Children” when he passed away. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have seen Divine live to play Edna Turnblad again in the Broadway musical??
TN: Indeed it would!! Do you think modern society/culture could produce another Divine? And who do you think is closest to that mantle now?
LPK: I think it’s possible but tough, because since the 1970s we’ve already kind of seen it all and done it all in our culture, and no one could truly have the shock value that Divine and the Waters movies did at the time that they were made. There is no one even close to Divine who exists now, but I see shades of Divine’s legacy in people from Lady Gaga to Sharon Needles [check out The Niallist’s interview with Sharon Needles here], Sacha Baron Cohen to the “Jackass” crew—I think Divine paved the way for them and others like them.
TN: What’s your favorite Divine song?
LPK: Maybe a cliche, but I gotta go with “You Think You’re A Man.” It’s classic, catchy, and totally fuck you. I love it.
TN: I have to admit I am a huge fan of Divine’s music, from “Born To Be Cheap” to the Bobby O-produced classics, all the way up to the Stock, Aitken and Waterman productions. For a complete non-singer, Divine really knew how to belt out a song, and by compensating for the vocal weaknesses with pure attitude made for a very compelling performer. I also like the music because it’s overtly gay but takes no prisoners, it’s very “fuck you” which “gay” music hasn’t been for a long time. My favorite Divine track is probably “I’m So Beautiful”, which actually IS beautiful, as well as cheap, nasty, funny, filthy, and funky as hell. Anyway, what is your favorite of Divine’s many looks?
LPK: God, there are so many… But I have to pick the one-armed green leopard print mini-dress from “Female Trouble,” just ‘cause I love how she STRUTS down the avenue in Baltimore in it, and the (real!) reactions from people on the street. That’s the spirit of DIVINE in her purest form!
TN: Thanks Lotti!
In the meantime, here’s a PSA on body image and self-esteem from the I Am Divine camp, featuring John Waters, Mink Stole, Sharon Needles and Latrice Royale, all set to the wonderful tune of “I’m So Beautiful”.
Or to be more precise, here’s a very awkward interview with an out-of-drag Glenn Harris Milstead on the British music television show The Tube, from 1983, which is followed by an excellent performance by Divine of her club hit “Shake It Up.”
While it’s understandable that straight-laced, square TV presenters might not know what to make of Divine (whose very raison d’être was to make people laugh by overturning preconceptions of gender and beauty), you would expect the producers of a supposedly hip, youth-oriented TV show like The Tube to be a bit more switched on.
Instead we get an interview by the bumbling Muriel Grey in which she suggests that Divine is insecure, repulsive, and somehow an affront to women. The hapless Grey comes across as the dullest of squares in this clip, which I guess is a danger to be considered when you go up against a glamor icon like Divine, but unfortunately Grey has previous form in conducting cringe-worthy interviews.
Thankfully, Milstead takes it all in his rather large stride, and reacts with the grace befitting a true star:
From one queen to another, and yet more birthday greetings! And what better way to follow up that last post? Happy birthday to Lady Miss Kier.
Also a fierce ruler of wigs and wedges, Kier and Lady Bunny are linked by both working with DJ Dimtry, Bunny with Shazork (as seen in the last clip I posted), and Kier, of course, with the incomparable Deee-Lite.
While they may be the band she is most closely associated with (and that’s no shame, as they are one of the greatest dance bands of all time) keep in mind that Kier is still going very strong, rocking a combination DJing-with-live-vocals set that I was lucky enough to catch a couple of months ago at Pussy Faggot. She tore the roof off the sucker, and boy can she still wail.
Here’s a clip of the Lady in action. Remember, there ain’t no party like Miss Kier Party!
We couldn’t let the occasion of Lady Bunny’s birthday pass without doing a post to mark it (even if it was yesterday.) She ain’t no spring chicken, but she’s as rulin’ as ever.
And here’s the proof, some seldom-seen footage of Lady Bunny performing in 1986, filmed by New York nightlife chronicler, and friend of DM, Nelson Sullivan. The “psychedelic disco” act is called SHAZORK and also features Sister Dimension and DJ Dmitry (later of Deee-Lite.) Who knew Bunny could sing this well? And I love Sister Dimension’s smurf-like outfit!
You may remember a few months ago I posted about Joyce D’Vision, the world’s first drag queen tribute band to Joy Division (of which I am a member) and our adventures on UK primetime TV with the comedian Harry Hill.
Well, we have finally managed to wrangle Joyce herself into the studio to record some vocals, and the first fruits of this labor are cover versions of “She’s Lost Control” and “Isolation.” Both are iconic, classic tracks, that have been covered before (by Siobhán Fahey, Grace Jones and Wino & Conny Ochs, as featured in yesterday’s Roadburn post) but I like to think we have put our own unique spin on them.
While some people find the idea of Joyce D’Vision highly offensive, to me it’s as Northern English as Eccles cakes and Boddington’s bitter. People in Manchester have a sly, sometimes wicked sense of humor, and they are not above taking the complete mickey out of themselves and the stultifying, retro-based “Madchester” culture industry that seems to have a stranglehold on this town (check the blog Fuc251 for proof.) Unfortunately Joy Division are very much a part of this frozen-in-amber, Manchester music-heritage industry, which goes against the iconoclasm inherent in the band, and is ironic as they were sorely under-appreciated in this town when they did exist.
And that’s where we come in. It’s all in the best possible taste, darling, with hints of Vic & Bob, The League of Gentlemen, Kenny Everett and Frank Sidebottom (a legendary Manc comic who famously covered “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on a Casio). We’re not doing this because we hate Joy Division, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Joy Division have helped us get through as much teen angst as the next wrist cutter, but the band’s hallowed status doesn’t mean they are above a bit of fun poking. Every religion needs its satirists. Because let’s face it, if what we’re doing is somehow ruining your teen dreams or memories of a JD goth paradise, then those dreams and memories were not very solid in the first place.
I am well aware of Ian Curtis’ mental health problems (duh!) and I’m 100% convinced he had that same sly, piss-taking, Manc sense of humor as everyone else who grew up within the city’s grey-and-redbrick confines. I think he would have had a giggle or two at a bearded drag queen singing his songs.
Joyce D’Vision with Harry Hill on the set of TV Burp
But more to the actual point, I wonder what Peter Hook thinks?
If you’re not aware, original JD/New Order bassist Hook has formed a new band with jobbing Manchester musicians called The Light, whose purpose is to cover the work of Joy Division. He’s the only original member, and now the band are embarking on a tour playing “Unknown Pleasures” in full.
Originally Hooky himself was on vocal duties, but after he shamefully forgot the words at an infamous Manchester show a couple of years ago, he has brought in Rowetta (ex-Happy Mondays and Britain’s Got Talent) to sing instead. Not to mention some of his celebrity-fan pals when they have the chance - The Light have performed JD tracks with Billy Corgan, Moby and Perry Farrell on vocals, among others. They sing from a lyrics book open at the front of the stage.
So is what we are doing with Joyce D’Vision really any worse than what Peter Hook is doing with The Light? In a sense, both are karaoke, but only one has an actual on-stage lyrics sheet. And it’s not the band with the drag queens. Which of the two acts, Joyce D’Vision or The Light, are going to do more to shatter your teen-goth memories of Joy Division?
I don’t doubt that The Light has got something to do with New Order reforming recently without Hook and his iconic bass sound, a massive “fuck you” statement in his general direction. A lot of people in Manchester are happy they did this, but there’s also many people wondering if New Order can properly function without Hook on bass. I’m not sure, but either way, I do wonder now what Barney and Steve (original JD members, remember) and Gillian (a HUGE drag inspiration for our band) make of Joyce D’Vision?
Time will tell. For now, here are our first two tracks:
I still don’t really know what to make of this - it’s a 10 minute music video-cum-short film for the British band Spiritualized, trailing their upcoming album Sweet Heart Sweet Light which is released on Fat Possum Records next week. Directed by AG Rojas, who has also worked with Jack White, Gil Scott-Heron and Earl Sweatshirt, the video follows a day in the life of a drag queen prostitute raising two young children. It doesn’t end very well.
The violent and sexual clip has already caused a bit of a stir since it was released last month. Stereogum seem all in favour of “Hey Jane”:
[It’s about] a transwoman who attempts to raise kids while turning tricks, stripping, and — in one unforgettable long tracking shot — getting into an absolutely brutal fight. There’s probably a term paper to be written about the video’s treatment of race, class, gender, sexuality, and violence. This is a good one, folks.
While on Collapse Board, Lucy Cage writes a scathing review of the Sweet Heart, Sweet Light album (definitely worth a read in its own right) and points out that:
‘Hey Jane’ wears its NSFW like a smug little badge … I don’t like what it appears to be saying about people. I don’t like that said whiney, white, self-pitying, copyist, imagination-free, privilege-flaunting cisman from England [Jason Pierce of Spiritualized] has used this story and these characters from waaaaaaaaaaay outside his experience, knowledge or culture as entertainment, however much Art has given him a hall pass to do so.
To be fair on Pierce, some of this heat needs to be taken by the director Rojas. The video is definitely slick and very well made but does it tell us anything we already didn’t know, or even desperately need to? Is it shock or titillation?
Hats off to the main actors though, who do a great job. The prostitute is played by Tyra Sanchez, winner of the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race—easily one of the best reality tv shows ever and I’m totally serious, if you have not seen this you are missing out—she does a great job.
Musically the song is pretty much what you’d expect from Spiritualized, who have been doing this kind of laidback-but-overwrought white-psych-soul thing for over 20 years now. I have to admit a bit of a soft spot for these guys though, who I used to love back in the mid-Ninteties before I delved further into their pool of influences while also gravitating towards more electronic music. The Spiritualized sound, which has barely changed in all these years, is like big, warm, fuzzy blanket. You know where it is coming from and you know where it’s going; it is inherently safe.
And that’s something this video tries very hard not to be:
My Dangerous Minds colleague, Niall O’Conghaile conducted this rather fab interview with the one and only Christeene, the legendary “drag terrorist” and “sexually infused sewer of live rap and vile shamelessness”, who is more than “capable of adapting amazingly well to all styles of music”. Very little is known about Christeene, who has famously seduced and outraged in equal measure an unforgettable career across the U.S.A., leaving broken hearts, devoted followers, and used bodies behind her. Now in an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Christeene tells us all we need to know.
Who is Christeene and where does she come from / how did you meet her?
I met CHRISTEENE in the dirty backyard of a shit shack coffee shop here in Austin called Bouldin Creek during a queer gathering called camp camp. CHRISTEENE was wearing, only, a very messy black rabbit fur coat and a pair of pink junked out high heeled boots. It was love at first sight.
What would you say are the main differences between Paul and Christeene?
I’ll say that the differences are fewer and fewer these days, but the raunch and stank sexuality of CHRISTEENE is something that shifts when it comes back to me. There is a more gentle southern fella on the inside that carries a knife I’d say.
Does Christeene get on with Rebecca Havemeyer?
Only via snail mail, internet, and very brief encounters. They don’t do tea together or anything, but I’m sure it would be a helluva conversation if they did.
Christeene provokes some very strong reactions, good and bad, in both the LGBT press and the mainstream. How do you feel about those reactions? Is there anyone who gets it very well and anyone who gets it completely wrong?
I think that the reactions that come from this work are so very important and need to be heard. All of them. When it all first started with PJ Raval and myself releasing the video for ‘Fix My Dick’, there were a ton of negative comments…especially from this one person who I think of as a kind of internet comment bully….this lone typist who throws verbal missiles from the safety of their stank couch, ya know? This person was so very upset on so many levels…I was called racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, and the next Shirley Q Liquor. Wowee! This is rough..I’m thinking. I’ve never experienced this kind of an attack before and it’s personal. It’s angry. It’s throwing labels at me. But at the same time it’s fuckin gorgeous and necessary. The stew has been stirred and hot sauce has been thrown in. Good. Very good.
The work being done here is an uncontrollable expression of something very heavy inside of me…it’s not created to merely shock, to splash dick and ass in your face for a laugh. It’s made to make you fuckin think about the state of things…the state of our interwoven communities in the LGBTQIA world and beyond.
CHRISTEENE is an electrically charged dangerous product of our times with a heart of gold, and is used as a very striking yet approachable communicator to the masses. Many fuckin amazing people understand this and attach themselves to the explosion that is taking place onstage with all they’ve got. Those people are wonderful. They offer solid criticism and conversation on what’s being delivered. But the attackers are just as important, and the conversations that come from them, if they have the brains to discuss their anger, are even more wonderful and exciting. Overall, though, the best is the smiling faces from people having the time of their lives with this shit…as we are.
Who are Christeene’s main inspirations? In terms of drag/performance and also musically?
CHRISTEENE is really nspired by the lineage of Drag in performance. The superstars of our day that keep the Drag street in good repair. I have to say that if there is one lady out there that blows my mind, it’s Lady Bunny. Complete adaptation to the times and an impressive hold on the social network. I admire that a lot. But what mostly inspires this work to come out of me is when I think of how I can contribute to all of the amazing forms of Artistic Drag that are out there now and have come before me. It is a beautiful and very historic art form, and I want to explore it and take it to a new level.
It feels like Christeene is an all-round multimedia experience, not just a singer, but a performer/video artist. How do you think she integrates into the performance, video and high art worlds?
I’ll have to say that because of the brilliance of PJ Raval, the work of CHRISTEENE has had the privilege of being put into video and showcased around the world. PJ and I started working together about 3 years ago and our relationship takes the same direction of exploring this new and dangerous creature that is CHRISTEENE with excitement and no restraint. Our videos have been granted access to film fests and art galleries around the world, causing so many people to experience our work who wouldn’t necessarily find themselves in the same room with such stank shit. And in terms of the live shows…they are raw, angry, intimate and real…real as you can get. It’s new, and it burns.
So what exactly is “African Mayonnaise”?
All I can say about African Mayonnaise is that it is a very strange state of mind/experience that we found ourselves in when we were performing at Folsom Street Fair in San Fran back in 2009 I think it was? A very gooood state of mind/experience.
And what exactly is this “new celebrity” and “new America” that Christeene epitomises?
CHRISTEENE isn’t necessarily epitomizing celebrity or America…CHRISTEENE is serving the new breed and brand of it. If this is what these people have become (the current state of things)...if this current state of things is what people have allowed into their living rooms and their states of mind, then this is what these people are going to fuckin get now. Eat it up and hold it in, fuckers.
The video for “African Mayonnaise” is, em, interesting - are there any out takes that didn’t make it in? And who was scarier, the Church of Scientology people who forcibly ejected you form their offices, or the Christians who harassed you on the street at the end?
PJ Raval had sooooo much footage in the end, and our god sent editor, Victoria Chalk was amazingly able to put it all together. She’s the absolute SHIT. There is so much fuckin material that didn’t make it into the video we could make a film out of it. Outtakes? Oh yeah. And by far, the Church of Scientology what the most dangerous place I’ve ever set foot in.
How is Austin at this time of year?
Weather is wonderful, and people are smiling because the devil summer hasn’t hit yet.
Tell us a bit about the Christeene shows coming up at SXSW…
We just performed a show called ‘Get off the Internet” which was created by Alyx Vesey, an amazing writer who gets our shit in all the best ways, and by Homoground and it was fuckin gorgeous. So many amazing bands and people up in the yard of a bar called Cheer Up Charlies here in Austin. And our Showcase was a stank hit as well.
The last thing we’ll kick in the puss is gaybigaygay..and if you are in Austin on Sunday the 18th, you’d be a damned fool to miss this event.
What does the near future hold for Christeene?
A ton of travel with my Boyz, T Gravel, C Baby, JJ Booya and PJ Raval I hope.
And now just a question from me - any plans to come to the UK??
The minute we find a plane that can hold our stank azzesssssssss…we therrrrr. Hold your breath, Hawt Man.