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Interview: LOUD and PROUD – Queer Music Festival

Interview: LOUD and PROUD – Queer Music Festival

Kiki Van Newtown / Friday 15th February, 2019 11:35AM

This weekend Auckland's Audio Foundation will become LOUD and PROUD with the arrival of a queer music festival celebrating experimental musicians. Featuring Whaea and the Rumble, Ragged Veins, and Kraus among the bevy of extreme talent on this lineup, this festival looks set to redraw the intersecting lines of queerness and music. Kiki Van Newtown (Hex) caught up with the team behind the dream – organisers Ary Jansen, Alexandra Stone and Aaliyah Zionov – for a Q and A.

LOUD and PROUD – Queer Music Festival
Friday 15th February – Audio Foundation, Auckland (starts 4:00pm, door sales only)

Featuring... Amamelia, Ary & the Jansens, Baby Zionov, DJ Sweat, Kraus, Linda T, Ragged Veins, Sean Martin-Buss, Sun Girl, Whaea & the Rumble, Xanas

Congrats on the great festival lineup! How did the idea come about for LOUD and PROUD Queer Music Festival?

Alexandra: Thanks, it's very exciting. When I first entered into the Auckland experimental scene a few years back, what I found was an incredibly supportive community full of queer people just like me who are completely disconnected from the mainstream gay establishment. It isn't that there are a handful of queer folk who make experimental music, but rather there is an overwhelmingly high amount of us in this scene, to the point that I started to wonder why our incredible artists aren't celebrated within the greater queer community and why so many of us had this complete disconnect from it. With this year’s Pride, the community came together and said no to police violence. Stemming from that, a multitude of businesses and state institutions pulled out, and what was left were the people. Because of corporations and police no longer having a stranglehold on the Pride festival, for the first time ever, many of us felt like we could finally participate and have a place at the table.

Ary: I know that us 3, and many more of our politically minded queer, trans and QPOC friends have never felt any sense of connection with Pride, it never really felt like it was for us – just for mainstream gays who felt like they’d already won their rights. This year’s Pride Board really enabled space for people who don’t fit into the gaystream by making open calls for diverse community events and lowering their registration fees so we could afford to take part. We started talking about putting a music event together featuring queer musicians who don’t make the type of music that garners mainstream success, and Audio Foundation was the perfect place for it. I’m really excited, it feels like there’s finally a space for us.

In the write up for LOUD and PROUD you talk about being marginalised in two ways when bringing one's queer identity to experimental creative practice. What could the experimental scene – and the music scene at large – do more of to foster inclusive communities?

Ary: More events like this! Once people see that there’s a space for them to be creative in a safe space with like minded people they really begin to come out of their shells. Several of the musicians playing on Friday have barely played outside of their bedrooms because it’s so hard to be confident about what you do when it feels like there’s no space for it. That said I think that organisations like Breaking Boundaries do an incredible job of fostering queer musicians with their open mic nights, it’s just that some of us don’t make music suited to that format, so we need more formats!

What's your take on marginal identity feeding into creativity? Do they go hand in hand for you and performers you know?

Alexandra: In my opinion it stifles it. Marginalisation comes with a lot of artistic inspiration, mostly because art is one of the most cathartic endeavours there is; there's nothing like getting up on stage and screaming about how pissed off you are at how the world treats you. However, when you're constantly under duress, be it from your daily struggles, mental illness, or anything else, you can't really make art. For me at least I'll get ideas when I'm going through my worst, but it's not until I'm better that I can shape those ideas into something coherent and worthwhile. Being trapped in an extended depressive episode is antithetical to creating art, and I firmly believe that if people were no longer marginalised we would be seeing so much more incredible art.

Aaliyah: Yeah, being marginalised can actually really hurt creativity if you’re going through it basically alone. I mean, being marginal means there just physically aren’t as many people who understand where you’re coming from, and those people are way harder to find. And then when you’re aiming stuff towards a general audience, your identity becomes kind of the elephant in the room, and it always threatens to overshadow the art. People will either dismiss it immediately or glorify it a little too much without criticising it, neither of which give you much room to grow. So music is a really social thing at the end of the day. Basically every important genre and style in music can trace its origins to oppressed people making music on the outskirts of society, but it’s never individuals being creative in a vacuum. It’s communities of people in similar positions – musically and socially – feeding off each other and evolving together. What we’re hoping is that this event can help nurture that sort of thing here.

Over the last few months we've seen with Auckland Pride how multitudinous queer identity is. And it's also really highlighted how a large (rich white male) part of the queer community really just wants us all to shut up and assimilate into the white capitalist hetero / homo-patriarchy. How has the experimental music community responded to this?

Aaliyah: This event kinda is the experimental music community responding to that! I don’t think this sort of event would have been possible without the support of the current Pride Board, who have been absolute heroes in their steadfast commitment to pushing Pride forward politically, aesthetically, and culturally. For years, the dominant attitude in the queer community has been set by the most powerful and comfortable among us, who want to say that the liberation struggle is basically over Aaliyah and if you’re still being oppressed or marginalised, that’s your problem, so stop making the “normal gays” look bad. It’s really exciting to be part of this big shift, where the whole community is having these really fiery conversations about what it actually means to be queer.

Ary: Audio Foundation is the home of experimental music in Auckland, and they’ve always been incredibly supportive of our projects and of anything else that sits outside of the mainstream. We were delighted when they said they were happy to host Loud & Proud there. I think that marginalised people will always be welcome in the local experimental music scene, it’s a lovely place to be.

What's the most fun thing about creating experimental sounds?

Aaliyah: Alienating everyone around you! Nah, I dunno, there’s just something really satisfying about being able to turn ugly sounds into something you like to hear.

Alexandra: Hitting an open E with max sustain and staring into the middle distance until I’m about to start drooling, then hitting a different string and repeating.

Ary: The freedom to try things out without fearing judgement, there’s a whole playground of sounds out there.

If your daily life had a soundtrack what music would this include?

Aaliyah: I want my life to be soundtracked like classic Looney Tunes, where they had a whole orchestra punctuating every movement from the tiniest footstep to the biggest explosion. I just wanna feel my “Bugs Bunny getting in drag to fuck with Elmer Fudd” fantasy on a daily basis. And Carl Stalling, the guy who composed those soundtracks, is kind of an experimental music icon. There’s a CD called The Carl Stalling Project where you can hear them without the dialogue, sound effects, or the cartoon to give context – it’s some of the most mindbendingly complicated music I’ve ever heard.

Ary: What I listen to on the bus everyday, at the moment i’ve been listening to 'Stand By Me' by Ben E. King over and over again while crying happy sad gay tears about how dope the pride march was on saturday. My music taste isn’t actually that “experimental,” I like music across many genres so long as it moves me.

Alexandra: I’ve been playing a lot of Yo-Kai Watch lately and those games have an insanely good soundtrack that combines catchy neighbourhood style tunes with eerie electronics to create this real mundane-paranormal vibe. Definitely something like that or the Goosebumps theme, friendly and fun but just a wee bit spooky too.

LOUD and PROUD – Queer Music Festival kicks off at 4pm today at Auckland's Audio Foundation, for more info head along to the event page here.


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Fri 15th Feb 8:00pm
Audio Foundation, Auckland