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In Pulse Radio Online (Australia), August 10 2013.
Terre Thaemlitz is the only person qualified to define Terre Thaemlitz, however having spoken and written on the topic of identity politics for decades, even that can be problematic. Terre has reached the widest audience through critically acclaimed deep house albums under the aliases DJ Sprinkles and Kami-Sakunobe House Explosion (K-S.H.E), and two DJ Sprinkles releases this year - a mix CD titled 'Where Dancefloors Stand Still', and a remix collection, 'Queerifications and Ruins'. Despite the appeal of the music, the real messages are to be found beneath the surface, in the accompanying texts or on her website, Comatonse.
Terre wants to have the conversations no-one else is willing to tackle. For Pulse Radio, we try to stick to issues surrounding "quality", technology, dancing and the modern music marketplace, however with Terre regularly bringing awareness to complex cultural relations and "non-dominant conversations".
Pulse: Hi Terre, you're coming to Australia for a DJ Sprinkles tour. Considering you work and identify in many other ways before as a DJ, telling friends about an upcoming DJ Sprinkles gig can end up taking a while. Could you help me by introducing yourself in around 150 words?
Terre Thaemlitz: Hmm... I'll be spinning deep house as DJ Sprinkles in Perth (9th), Sydney (10th) and Melbourne (16th). I'll also be performing "Soulnessless" as Terre Thaemlitz in Sydney (14th) and Melbourne (15th). I’ll be doing a special introductory reading to that show in Melbourne, too. My DJ sets are heavily influenced by '80s and early '90s deep house from New York - which is where I lived at the time, and worked as an unknown DJ in unpopular clubs like the infamous transsexual sex worker club Sally's II. I did win the Sally's II Grammy for Best DJ 1991, but was also fired a month later for refusing to play a Gloria Estefan record, so make of that what you will. Actually, what you should make of that is I don't take requests, so don't even bother. The "Soulnessless" show is more of a sit-down affair combining audio, video and audience discussion. It's an anti-spiritual look at how spirituality, superstition, and religiosity are perpetuated through audio marketplaces that insist upon judging audio in relation to "authenticity" and "soul." It does this in a roundabout way through discussions of gender cults, Japanese immigration issues, interviews with Catholic nuns about their use of electronic audio equipment, and other unlikely vectors. If you're into super-black humor and investigating sadness, it's your thing. And just to contextualize, it's also probably worth mentioning I am transgendered (non-op, anti-essentialist, MTFTMTFTM...), and pansexually Queer, and that factors heavily into my productions.
You started DJing because your flat mates insisted you make more use of your collection - quite an organic introduction. Am I right in suggesting you have seen DJing as an arm of your activist work? Most of your work is conceptual, how often and how well does this integrate with DJing?
Yeah, my roommates told me to either get rid of my records or do something with them - hoping I would sell them and open up space in the living room of our apartment - but instead I went out and bought two DJ turntables and a mixer... which also ended up in the living room. [laughs] I think they regretted saying anything.
I wouldn't brand DJ-ing as "activist work," simply because the term activism conjures a rather specific model of social organizing and protest. But it was definitely auxiliary to my involvement in direct action groups like ACT-UP NY (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). My first gigs were at ACT-UP benefits. And like I said before, in those days the links between club life and queer struggles were clear to everyone in the house. So the "conceptual side" - or, to put it a better way, the cultural relevance - of what we were doing was in active discussion. Even on the dance floor. Especially during drag shows, runway walks and things like that. I mean, there were a lot of things happening on the floor besides just dancing, and evenings had a momentum around various events. It was different from today's electronica club events with live music acts, because the "live acts" in a drag club were pantomime and lipsync. That was great for me, as someone who was critical of "true live performance." It was very much about referentiality - even if people used a kind of language of originality and "realness" to describe the top queens. I mean, that language of authenticity in the Ball scene can get pretty crippling. But no matter how flawless or real a queen was, they were always known as trans, and any notion of realness was totally tied to problems of the closet... what it meant to "pass" in straight society, both as an achievement and a kind of betrayal, etc. Yeah, that conceptual integration of intention and action is sorely missed. As you know, these days, I am far away from those contexts... in both time and space. But don't get me wrong, it was still boring most of the time. Boredom is good. It's another anti-spectacle, anti-performative strategy. Boredom and uneventfulness are part of passability - the idea of being transgendered, yet able to move in mainstream social arenas without drawing attention to one's transgenderism. Boredom sometimes has a relationship to safety.
'Midtown 120 Blues' opened with a brilliant monologue, first raising the notion that "house isn't as much a sound as a situation". In the four years since that album you have had more opportunities to DJ internationally. How have these experiences affected your understanding of this idea? Have you observed many interesting situations?
Well, I have always had very low expectations, even when I was a resident DJ in New York. But now I'm usually stepping into foreign situations I know very little about. I always try to be very open about the fact that I only DJ and perform out of economic necessity. And I've never drank or done drugs, so I've been observing club culture for my entire life through sober eyes - which can make it both brutal and boring. Of course, as a non-drinker, I don't find most club environments interesting. I am politically uninterested in the whole "stage vs. audience" paradigm, and how that still dictates the presentation of electronic music - especially since the kind of electronic music I'm invested in involves a rejection of traditional performativity. In '80s New York, you couldn't even see the DJ. These days everyone dances facing a front-and-center DJ booth, instead of dancing with each other. Then there's the fact most club sound systems have major EQ problems. And I find absolutely no aesthetic pleasure in gaudy colored lights and lasers. That visual language is so horrible. Give me a pitch black room any day - maybe with a simple mirror ball. And most European house culture I get brought into is predominantly White, straight, young and middle-class. It's rare to be invited to a queer party. Even rarer to meet with trans people. So it is what it is - and it is not what it is not - and my presence there does not transform it into something else. But regardless if the party is straight or queer, there are always unhappy people who keep asking me to play "harder" or "more danceable" stuff. Every time. That never changes over the years. And those people amaze me, because they are just grumpy and miserable. But rather than sitting down with a drink - or simply leaving - they will literally stand in front of the DJ booth for my entire set, frowning and moping, making sure I assume culpability for their misery. They stand for hours on end. I mean, I have to be there, because I'm working... but what's their excuse? If you ever come to one of my gigs, look for them. I guarantee you'll see them. In a way, they are my true audience, because we both see through the shit, and know the evening has nothing to do with coming away feeling impressed. I mean, we are in some kind of horrible feedback loop, thrusting pressure and discomfort upon one another. No disrespect to the rest of you, but those are my people. Although they don't realize it, they get me. [Laughs]
I had read that you DJ as work, though when I hear the records on 'Where Dancefloors Stand Still' and the pacing of the CD mixtape (which of course is natural to you, but fresh to others), it's an emotive experience that matches the inspiration concept of Japan's Fuzoku law that effectively prohibits dancefloors.
Probably the fact you can still relate to it emotively is just because I take my work seriously, that's all. Most people have this delusional notion that if you don't actually believe in heart and soul and authenticity and creativity and all that bullshit, then the results must be inherently sarcastic or vapid sounding. My whole uber-project, since the first Comatonse.000 release of "Raw Through a Straw" with its neo-expressionist piano ramblings, has been about debunking notions of talent and genius. It's been about showing how people are forced to build relationships and associations with dominant means of communication and representation, and in the absence of other "language," end up using dominant media in unconventional ways so as to express our own world views. In my case, as an utterly non-spiritual, anti-essentialist, socio-materialist who grew up embracing roller-disco and techno-pop, while actively rejecting rock as the heteronormative soundtrack to those who harassed me as a "fag," I do have very deep associations with "soul music" and disco. But my associations are rooted in gender and sexual crises, and not in spiritual affect. I realize spiritual affect is more important to most people, but for me it's inconsequential. So my catalog of releases is all about providing material proof to the fact someone can arrive at, and deploy, a "soulful" sound for completely other ends. And from that observation, hopefully prompt discussion of how this happens all the time, in many aspects of life, in cultures around the world, in all kinds of twisted ways. We all engage in hypocrisy and contradiction based on socio-material needs, perpetuating our identifications with systems that violate us. I mean, it's like someone joining a healing faith simply because they can't afford health insurance. They may be there every week, singing the songs, paying the tithes, and praying the prayers - but they are always aware they are only there because of a lack of better options. Others convince themselves their faith is the best option - or the only option. That's like people who feel "music from the heart" is the only option. And let's be honest, most music fans are fundamentalists in that sense. I am anti-fundamentalist.
For me, music is a means of opening discussion about our subjugation under, and internalization of, ideological systems of domination. And for me it's a necessary conversation - it's the conversation. And I realize it's not the dominant conversation. It's not a conversation most people care to engage in. And it's not a conversation you just walk up to a stranger and jump into. In fact, I guess I feel like people who post my tracks on YouTube and SoundCloud are doing just that - jumping into the middle of a one-side conversation with a stranger.... a crap 96kbps one-sided conversation from which I, as a non-member of those websites, am explicitly excluded based on corporate policies that prohibit contact or comments from non-registered users. So for me it's all wrong.
So what would be "right"?
I think it's appropriate to listen to house music in a dance club. But not in the usual way of making the night all about celebrating some cathartic, once-in-a-lifetime moment. It's more about how a DJ set - as a moment - resonates with past memories, and might re-resonate those past actions in ways that lead to future organization and activity once the night is over. I mean, I'm always thinking very specifically about a moment in the '80s and '90s when New York house culture was inseparable from the AIDS Crisis, which was also about multi-layered struggles of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality. I really see today's clubs as mausoleums. It's a place for mourning, reflection and anger. It's a kind of non-escapist pause for regrouping the next day. I know a few people of my generation and older get it. I sometimes see them there.
On that level, I'm really okay if people don't dance. I mean, from the start of my DJ career I've been used to people not dancing because they didn't like what I was playing, or whatever.
Dancers standing still is great, when by choice! That sort of brings us back to Japan and fuzoku…
But of course, this is not to say I'm okay with the fuzoku laws in Japan that prohibit dancing in venues without a proper dancehall permit, and stop dancing in licensed clubs at 1:00am. But, just like most people only want to relate to dance music via affect, so do they insist upon discussing the fuzoku issue in relation to a "universal right to dance." Again, people are not interested in having the real conversation we need to have, which is about the fuzoku morality code's regulation of sex work and other issues that neo-liberal middle class kids don't want to dirty their hands with. To the contrary, they want to distance themselves from those issues by insisting they are upright, moral citizens who just want to get their dance on. But the fuzoku relates to real issues of consequence for people living in poverty, and (speaking of "morality codes") it's really unethical for people to politically rally around liberating restrictions on dance, while not taking any responsibility for how the aftermath of their "dance revolution" will likely be a renewal of restrictions on sex work and other aspects of the fueihou code. Crackdowns on bath houses and other places have already sent sex work further underground, with less monitoring of worker's conditions and health status. For example, as bath houses are increasingly shut down, the sex industry has been shifting towards freelance sex workers - mostly house wives and female students - who meet strangers alone at hotels and places like that. The result has been an increase in violence and attacks on these women. Again, this may seem off topic to people who just want to party, but there are those of us who understand the socio-material - and legislative - links between dance culture and struggles to control one's body. The fact that these issues don't register for 99% of the world does not make them irrelevant. To the contrary, it increases their urgency. But few people care. They simply don't care. That's the ugly, self-serving side of dance culture, and of music. Everybody's talking about community blah-blah, but when it comes to actual social responsibility they don't even bother to run away. They just turn their face away and keep on dancing. Fucking brutal.
How do you feel about the breadth of information and media available for people to follow alternative cultures, ideologies and artistic pursuits in our modern highly networked society?
I think the ways in which we are "networked" are far less diverse, and far more homogenized, than people like to acknowledge. I remember how search engines worked when HyperText and the World Wide Web were new, and it was so different from today. The results were way more precise and relevant because there was less irrelevant garbage out there. Then, by the mid-90s, corporate ranking and advertising had taken over online information - both in design and implementation. The internet experiences of anyone who got online after that point in history was radically different, because liberal corporate rhetoric about "democratization" had clearly drowned out more radical online voices. The notion of "access" to information became almost exclusively one of Western consumer access - even for those living in non-Western countries. And more recently everything is a kind of white noise blur of robotically duplicated reposts, retweets, etc.
How about in relation to music?
In relation to electronic audio culture, the overwhelming majority of search hits are shop advertisements, or illegal file sharing sites - many of which are click-through fakes. What little actual information is out there gets lost in the noise and click-throughs. For example, about my own projects, maybe Fact posts something, then RA posts a blurb on Fact's post, then spider-bots repost the RA blurb literally thousands of times under different guises... So the majority of "networking" going on is robotic and utterly disconnected from human activity or engagement. Statistics on website hits and views are utterly meaningless. The deceptive and unreal quantity of search hits obscures an incredible lack of diversity in actual information. And most of that core information is ultimately hosted on "shopping mall" tier websites like Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube and Vimeo. "Underground," personally developed and hosted websites - like my own website - are as out of fashion as Mom & Pop shops. Very few people visit them. Even fewer buy from them. Nobody worries about how the centralization of content into those "shopping mall" tier sites might be counter to the development and support of the diverse networks people dream of. "Alternative culture" advocates who would normally boycott shopping malls or fast food restaurants are enthusiastically embracing these multi-billion dollar corporate web sites. So the rhetoric of freedom and choice that gets ascribed to today's highly networked society is utter bullshit, in my opinion. It becomes incredibly difficult to actually track down accurate and real information originating from, and speaking to, those non-dominant social contexts... People have given up, and are happy to have everything centralized. It's all about globalization's classic seduction of convenience. To be blunt, it's lazy.
Meanwhile, people upload my projects into those shopping mall archive sites without thinking twice. I mentioned YouTube and SoundCloud earlier. People don't think about how there might actually be a reason behind my not using any of those sites.
Interesting, there’s definitely a lack of awareness and understanding around this idea.
I actually wish people would remove their uploads of my tracks from YouTube and SoundCloud. Not because I want to enforce claims of authorship, or worry about lost royalties, but because my projects were not intended for such broad and indiscriminate distribution. I strongly believe that, in the face of today's dominant internet strategies which emphasize populism, there is a real necessity to cultivate offline forms of digital culture. This means sharing information in more controlled and precise ways than generic upload-archiving, such as through hard formats or direct and encrypted file transfer between known persons. People become so indoctrinated in dominant cultural nonsense about information's value only being determined by the breadth of its distribution, that we have culturally lost skills for understanding secrets, and their protective power. This is even happening in queer and transgendered communities, which historically rely on strategies that step in and out of closets - including today, in most of the world.
To the generations or cultures that are now rooted online, uploading and "spreading the word" will always be seen as a service.
Someone may think they're a fan showing support for my work by uploading it into YouTube or SoundCloud, and they might even think far ahead enough to write something like, "Dear Artist, please let me know if you want this taken down." Yet they never think so far as to realize YouTube and similar sites will not allow non-registered users such as myself to contact the uploaders directly. Nor will those sites' support staff or copyright claim staff forward a friendly message from a non-registered user such as myself to their registered user/uploader. In practice, all of those companies that everyone thinks have redefined global democracy are insisting that all people must register with their service - even if only to ask for content to be removed. If not, the only option is to file an official takedown request based on copyright infringement. But my reasons for wanting the takedown are not about copyright. I don't want to have YouTube send some nasty legal letter to the uploader, maybe suspending their account, yet ultimately pinning their company's nasty attitude on me. YouTube knows this kind of aggressive removal is a PR disaster, which is why they try to downplay their responsibility in content removal by replacing removed videos with a statement like, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Terre Thaemlitz." YouTube and the rest are such corporate zombies that they can't imagine there being any other basis for someone wanting content removed, and they refuse to implement any other interfaces for communication between their users and someone like myself. I know, because I've argued with them about it. So once a video is removed, that nasty message about me flexing my copyright muscles is what appears in all the archived fan blogs and press reviews who linked into those videos over the years, which, again, I had nothing to do with putting online in the first place. It's horrible. At least it is for me. It really makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Meanwhile, the uploaders - who are by this time pissed off by aggressive messages from YouTube's legal department - write me angry emails about what an ass I am for having the video removed - and it's only at that point that we are at last in direct contact, and I can attempt to converse with them. Nice to meet you. I really wish uploaders would think about what it means for them to choose to express their interest in my work by placing it in corporate-run archives whose very policies prohibit any sociable interaction between them and I. Is that acceptable to them? Is that their preferred model of information sharing? Maybe it's even their idea of revolution? They should take the time to think this shit through and re-evaluate their actions. I've said it a million times, and I'll say it again: there is an enormous difference between randomly posting shit online, and personally handing a data disc to a friend whose intentions you trust. Randomly uploading things for anyone, anywhere - including homophobes, transphobes and religious fundamentalists - does not make them the all-giving sweethearts they imagine themselves to be.
How do you think you would have responded to today's internet in your youth?
Who knows. I think the struggle for information - and, specifically, having to actually assume social risks in one's pursuit of uncovering restricted, censored or unpopular information, and to live with those consequences - has a tremendous impact on how we relate to it. It affects how we utilize and expand upon those media histories. I admit, on a cathartic level, I probably would have loved today's online access to tons of free music and videos. But I have to assume that access would have also made me numb to the privilege of having easy access to certain types of information - maybe like how kids of my generation who grew up in New York City were numb to the idea of kids like me in the Midwestern US getting beaten up for listening to "fag music" that those big city kids could readily hear on college radio stations. I mean, that's a simple example of how media's value is really contextual - rooted in access, experience and situations. Time and generation are also a part of that. I have the impression most young people today relate to music with far less material consequence and risk, simply because of ease of access. I suspect these days you are more likely to be harassed for the brand of MP3 player you use, rather than what's actually on it - which is about class issues, like some kid getting shit because their parents couldn't afford the latest iPod. The sexual and gender struggles that framed my identification with electronic music, then, must be happening elsewhere in youth cultures... because, for sure, it's a fact that there are still lots of people out there - young and old - being discriminated against, disowned, bashed, and worse because of their struggles with issues of gender and sexuality. I mean, who knows how I would have responded to today's internet as a youth. If my classmates back then had net access, they were absolutely the types to launch a massive cyber-bully campaign to get me to commit suicide. [Laughs.] Seriously, though, they would have. But holy shit, access to all that net porn would have certainly made life so much more bearable! Back then, we had nobody to turn to but Jesus - which is easy enough to see through the bullshit and grow out of. Today there are quite a lot of LGBT figures in mainstream culture, who gain their visibility because they're pretty in tune with standard neo-liberal family culture. It must be harder for a youth to understand the cultural problems offered by those figures, and to outgrow the allure of dominant LGBT culture. I wonder if I would have been seduced by that.
Soulnessless' key Canto, the 29 hour MP3 piece titled "Meditations on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album" actively critiques the notion of "The medium is the message". I think this relates to your point about it mattering more what device or technology you use than the content it holds, the Mp3 player mattering more than its content, or perhaps vinyl purists judging digital DJs over sound quality, irrespective of the music being played. This also reminds me of a response you touched on in a recent interview. You mentioned the qualities of "low-quality", noting Chicago House as a prominent example, but more importantly the social associations and complex class issues inherent in the concept of quality. Would you care to elaborate on these ideas?
Sorry, I can't tell if you're suggesting I'm critiquing the notion of "The medium is the message," or if you're saying I'm critically endorsing it?
I wouldn't suggest you were supporting or opposing it overtly on a for/against dichotomy, but like a lot of your work the critique involves drawing attention to the issue, rephrasing and reframing it, then of course developing your case with considerable detail in the annotations, which readers can look for if they're interested.
Yes, I absolutely believe formats - mediums - carry cultural meanings and histories along with them, and those associations do count as content. In this way, even if a producer tries to ignore those meanings, and say they are simply making "music for music's sake," their projects still come chock full of unintended baggage that comes with any social production of media. "The medium has a message."
In my own works, I try to incorporate a medium's associative meanings within the larger project. It is an active part of the content of a piece. Personally, content is always what I'm most interested in. "Music for music's sake" is by definition masturbatory, and in that way I find no need to present that sort of work to an audience. That's why "Meditation on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album" is accompanied by a 65 page PDF of text and images... and the larger "Soulnessless" project which that piece is a part of has over 165 pages of English annotations and images. In making that 30 hour piano solo, it was very important to me that it not simply stand as some kind of technical or academic exercise about maximum MP3 file length under FAT32 operating systems. I made sure it worked in tandem with the text and images in a way that necessitated the recording's length, and dealt with ideas that someone could actually think about for the duration.
In exploring the length possibilities of MP3s, you’ve utilised the format for a much greater experience. Do you have a preferred format?
I'm not a purist of any format. Yes, I have a huge vinyl collection, and I also release vinyl. But I know, from the mastering and manufacture side, that vinyl is an incredibly limited format - both spectrally and with regard to stereo depth. As a producer, the gap in sound quality between my digital masters and vinyl releases can be very disappointing to me. So there are definitely times when I would recommend that people buy a CD over vinyl. "Midtown 120 Blues" is an example. There are a lot of things happening in the stereo field and lower frequencies that vinyl cannot support. Many of those things are also not supported by a lot of club sound systems, which - believe it or not - are often mono and not stereo, especially in the bass frequencies. So the reason a vinyl record might sound better than digital in a club can also be because of the limitations of the club sound system - the sound system and vinyl are similarly debilitated to work with each other. But were that sound to be compared with CD playback on a true stereo system, I have no doubt people would understand my preference for CD when it comes to my own tracks. Still, that doesn't mean I think people should only buy digital, or anything purist like that. Everything has it's plus and minus - again, based on context, the kind of sound system where it will be played, etc.
So quality is always contextual. This reminds me of a really interesting quote from you, essentially defending and clarifying the term low quality…
The thing I said about low quality audio had to do with a journalist referring to corporate dance music as "low-quality dance music," which invokes a value system in which high class=good and low class=bad. And even though they flipped the economics of it, by associating low-quality music with big money, the high class=good/low class=bad value system itself is one in the service of most all dominant cultures. It's like someone calling George W. Bush "low class," when in fact all of his ignorance and corruption is unquestionably inseparable from his being of the "upper class." That kind of flip, which at first seems generous and sensitive - like we agree in secret, between you and I, that corporate music is low-quality - stops us from actually speaking about how corporate music is in fact the sound of money and power. By dominant standards, it is absolutely "high-quality" and "high class." I find more radical potential in stating the obvious and identifying shittiness as a byproduct of cultural power - to insist upon this association between shit and wealth. That is where an actual ideological flip takes place - by opening the "lower class" as a space for moral interpretations and cultural values other than negative, yet resisting conventional desires to identify all things "good" with language appealing to the "upper."
This is important, since capitalism teaches us to blame people living in poverty for their own circumstances. We get so brainwashed that many impoverished working class people resent those on welfare as lazy. Most people living below poverty level in the US actually think they're middle class. I grew up thinking I was middle class, too, until I had a high school sociology class where we were asked to plot our families on a chart based on total income and the number of family members. I was totally shocked to discover I was from a lower class family. I mean, we were not destitute, but we were firmly planted in the lower class. I was so confused that I actually disputed it with the teacher, who bluntly said, "Sorry, your family's poor." Overcoming my knee-jerk denial and shame was my coming into class consciousness. It meant that I had to reassess all the "good" in my life as being part of a lower class experience, despite having been raised to believe those very things were what defined me as unquestionably middle class. Then a lot of other stuff in my life started making much more sense, like heating our suburban home with fire wood during winters wasn't just being folksy, but it was because we couldn't afford the gas bill. It was suddenly all so obvious. [Laughs] Overcoming that kind of life-long alienation from one's class status is not an easy thing to do. Considering most people in the world are lower class, it makes sense to question or refuse language that insists all that is "good" is not "low." For me it's not about finding pride. It's more about debunking pride as a weapon of domination.
The point on quality and an ideological flip is a useful message, because many people are unaware of the cultural symbols that represent quality to them, let alone the multiple cultures in play when discussing quality. We should usually talk of cultures in the plural, because most cultural products or traits one identifies are uniquely viewed through the lens of their own culture.
"Quality" becomes a point of intercultural tension, when people are unaware of the influence of their own cultural traits. You note the importance of interpersonal awareness: the fireplace had a certain quality, until class awareness changed your lens.
Yeah, I think in the West - and especially in the US - we are set up to fetishize poverty in relation to kitsch. Kitsch is the ideological vehicle for identifying positive values in poverty, while using that dominant language whereby all things "good" cannot be "low." And it's always expressing our internalization of mainstream class bias. I mean, we often describe something kitschy as "so bad it's good." We apply that expression to schlock films, music, books, etc. It's taboo to embrace the "low," so we convince ourselves it is okay to obtain pleasure from something "bad" so long as we agree that thing is simply a reified object which embodies the "worst" qualities of "low culture." And in doing so, we preserve our sense of "good taste," and our ability to judge "quality" when we see or hear it. I mean, that's the sad thing about it. It's preserving the authority and right to judge from a standard classist vantage point. And that kind of passing judgement is so critical to online culture. It's all people do in comment fields. People make super harsh, didactic judgements founded in nothing but egotism. I think complicating our relationships to kitsch is an important aspect of class consciousness. I think Warhol was tackling this stuff early on, but the irony of selling "low culture" to rich people got lost as time went on. And now his legacy is a Warhol foundation that will sue you if you sample an image by Warhol, even if that image is of a Coca-Cola or Brillo logo that Warhol reproduced without permission. So you have to keep changing your cultural lens, the minute your eyes adjust.
Are there any future projects or opportunities you'd like to share?
I think the theme for my next electroacoustic album is going to be on the ethics of non-reproduction (not having children), and furthering some of my previous critiques of family and clan structures. It's not a direct follow-up to "Lovebomb" or "Soulnessless," but it would be in that electroacoustic vein of production, and it would expand on some critiques of family and clan that were introduced in the "Soulnessless: Annotations" text. As a joke, I started using the working titles "Childbomb" and "Childnessless." [Laughs] Anyway, I'm not exactly sure how it will come together yet, because it's really in the preliminary stages, but one of my influences is Beatriz Preciado's work on pharmacology and gender - in specific, her argument about how the advent of the birth control pill has triggered a paradigm shift in gender relations by rupturing the historical function of women under patriarchy as birthing machines. I don't know if this was news outside of Japan, but just a couple of years ago it was a big scandal here when the Health Minister was talking about Japan's declining population rate, and said it was women's responsibility to have more kids because on a core level they were "birthing machines" ("umu kikai"). Of course, the idea of expanding Japan's population by increasing the immigration of foreigners never enters the old-guard Japanese political mind. Anyway, Beatriz has her first book in English coming out in a few months - a translation of "Testo Junkie" - and I'm super excited about that. She has a kind of interesting notion of people rising up and seizing control of pharmacological processes in order to induce cultural revolutions. It's a bit too optimistic for me, but for some reason I always find her super engaging - maybe because her logic is so beautifully crafted, yet so impossible to implement, and she still comes at it with such energy. I look at her like a kind of mad scientist. Another sub-theme of the album will be the problems arising through the ongoing reconciliation between mainstream LGBT cultures and neo-liberal family values. I've been thinking of trying to investigate those issues through critiques coming from "taboo" vectors, like critiques of queer family coming from some people at NAMBLA. I think it could be interesting to investigate unlikely sources in that direction, similar to the deep research I did into Catholicism during the making of "Soulnessless." But nothing is fixed, and I'm mostly brain farting at this point.
I suppose you’ve been busier lately, how’s your work/life balance at the moment?
For 2014, I decided not to take any work outside of Japan until May. So hopefully that will give me time to start working on that project. I also have some ideas for some new house projects, and other stuff. After doing so many remixes for others, and touring, I'm ready to work on some of my own, self-determined stuff again. I'm ready to start now, but I really have no down time until January.
I wish you the best for your time down under and in your future projects. Thank you very much for the interview, it's been fascinating and a pleasure!
Thanks, Tristan. See you there!
DJ Sprinkles Australian tour dates: