Alexander is on the cover of this month’s Siegessäule, Berlin’s biggest queer magazine. The print version has a profile on our morose disco-soul singer showing off his upholstered eyebrows, photographed by Paula Winkler, and the website features an extended interview with Jan Noll. For those of you who don’t sprechen Deutsch, we’ve got the original English version, further below.
This all coincides with Alexander’s appearance at Siegessäule‘s Queer Noises Festival last Wednesday at SchwuZ where he closed out the night and arguably stole the show. Here’s some fan footage of his hits “Figure it Out” and “Bad Language”, not quite synchronized but nonetheless charming:
Alexander’s next Berlin performance is this Friday, September 16 at Kotti Shop with the dazzling Swedish chanteuse Molly Nilsson as well as Samanta.
Jan Noll of Siegessäule: In your biography I read something about New York, Berlin, London and Dublin. Can you tell me a little bit about your way around the world that led to finally to Berlin?
Alexander: You know, lover, I’ve lived in many places and have found a lot of inspiration in them all. My mother is an international diplomat, so travel is very important to me, and finding new people to connect to really helps soothe homesickness. I came to Berlin last September and have been here on and off since then. Obviously I travel a lot for shows, but I have been based here for almost a year. I came to Berlin for a show at The Schwules Museum and loved what I found here, the international community, and the quality of life the city allows you. When you live in New York or London it’s hard to find time for yourself because the frantic nature of being in those cities overwhelms you. Berlin has given me a lot of clarity and a lot of focus, though probably I work harder here than I ever have!
Please tell me me little bit about your access to music. When did you start?
I started to make this record two years ago, in New York, after a chance meeting at an ice cream parlour with a music producer. He liked my look, it was a very Lana Turner moment. We started writing together, and when I moved back to Europe I started performing the songs live, it really took on a life of its own. The momentum gathered very quickly, and through performances and internet buzz I met other producers and writers who I have been collaborating with, here, in London and in Dublin.
Even though music seems to be the center of your art, there’s a lot more: your expressive persona, show, imagery, a whole concept. Would you describe yourself as as audiovisual artist?
I think of myself as a performance artist primarily: Laurie Anderson said that the great thing about performance art is that you can do anything you want to do, and I really embrace that philosophy. It’s very liberating, and so if I want to have both showgirls onstage and classical instruments playing at the same time, then I do. I’m not worried that it might be too much, or that it will confuse people, I have a lot of faith in the audience’s intelligence. All of my training in theatre and showbusiness watching footage of the Cockettes and Karen Finley, and going to see people like Justin Vivian Bond and Penny Arcade perform live. I got my training in a very direct way, outside of theatre school, for which I am very grateful. I am never concerned with doing things the right way. I don’t care for technically precise voices or anyone else’s idea of perfection.
What are the things that inspire you?
Joan Crawford mainly, and Joan of Arc.
You seem to be inspired a lot from the aura of the 20ies. Is this the reason why Berlin seemed a perfect homebase for you? Why did you descide to move to Berlin and when did you arrive here?
It’s more than just the 1920s, I love the Edwardian period, and the golden age of Hollywood too. The early part of the Twentieth Century it is totally fascinating to me. Society changed so rapidly, cinema was born, art changed at an unprecedented rate, technology redefined the world – for better and for worse. In a lot of ways the lives we live now were shaped then, culturally through things like Du Champ’s ready-mades, and politically by the after affects of the world wars. The era is so profoundly tragic but also achingly beautiful, the aesthetics of art deco and early Hollywood cinema are to my mind some of the most innovative and captivating looks ever showcased. I came to Berlin not directly because of its history, though many of the influences on my music are German – Dietrich, Fritz Lang, Otto Dix, Nina Hagen, Bertolt Brecht. Rather I came to Berlin because its contemporary called to me, as much as its past. It feels like the centre of something, it is a city which is defining world culture again.
You call your musical style “morose disco soul”. Isn’t that a kind of antagonism – morose and disco? Tell me a little bit more about the idea behind that musical concept.
You know, I am often accused of being antagonistic! I appreciate the tension between “disco” and “morose”. I think opposites inform each other, and I enjoy contradiction of what they represent. The whole idea of making lyrical dance music seems totally bizarre to people who expect dance music to be sparse, repetitive and empty – but why should it be so? Dancing is a powerful thing, people should think with their bodies and dance in their minds. Everything I am presenting is a little incongruous, because it’s a compendium of many things I love, and its entirely uncensored because I don’t care about being cool. David Bowie and Noel Coward, Giorgio Moroder and Busby Berkeley, Evelyn Waugh and Christian Schad, all of these influences which are apparently unrelated somehow all come together in what I do. It’s like a magic trick, and I think that’s why people like it so much, because it is such a collage of unexpected references. There is nothing new under the sun, only new ways to combine old artefacts. My concept is purely to make dance music which is beautiful, intelligent and elegant that is also entertaining onstage, music that makes people think, music you can fuck to. I’m very lucky that people find it so.
You’re releasing your second EP For Your Consideration produced by David Turpin in October. What can we expect?
Four very epic songs, about the end of a relationship. They are much more orchestral than the previous EP, “Dandylioness”, a lot more emotionally dense, but there’s one really, insatiably catchy song in there – it’s called “Transparent” and I think it’s probably the best I’ve ever written. It’s a very luxurious set of songs.
At the Queer Noises Festival you’re performing with the dancers the Crystal Tits. Tell me a little bit about the things that you’re planning for this show.
Yes we will have two dancers, Anna Natt our choreographer, and Ryan Lawrence who has danced with FischerSpooner and SSION, in addition to Evelyn, Anna, and Giorgio playing violin, sax and flute – so it’s going to be a real live spectacle. I’d love to tell you more about it, but lover, I am so enraptured by the magic of surprise that I think it would be an injustice to give too much away. So, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!