The LGBT Creatives Series: An Interview With Terre Theamiltz

Terre Theamiltz (DJ Sprinkles, K-S.H.E., G.R.R.L.) on The Fox Is Black's LGBT Creatives Series

Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to say that it is with great happiness that I share our interview with audio producer and musician, Terre Theamiltz. I have been a big fan of Theamiltz’s work for years and, personally, think the work as K-S.H.E. and DJ Sprinkles is some of the most important musically for the LGBT community. Both of these projects broke down the music industry, the history of House music, and queer identities in a way that I feel has never been accomplished within the medium. Theamiltz’s work is absolutely fantastic and we are honored to feature this interview on The Fox Is Black’s LGBT Creatives Series.

Who are you, where are you, and what do you do?

I am a non-essentialist transgendered and pansexually queer socio-materialist feminist based in Kawasaki, Japan. I use various media including audio, video, graphics and text to generate culturally critical discourses and alternative histories around issues of gender, sexuality, class, economics, migration, race, ethnicity, etc. A large part of my work is thinking about how identities are constructed in relation to contexts, emerging as strategies for cultural change (as opposed to thinking of identity as an expression of “who we are inside”). I see identities as very dependent upon cultural and historical contexts, and try to deal openly with the hypocrisies and contradictions that are a part of everyone’s lives. There is no avoiding closets.

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What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a 30+ hour single album called, “Soulnessless.” The album is composed from an openly non-spiritual and anti-religious perspective that sees atheism not as a “solution” to religious organizing, but as an act of self-defense entwined with the hopelessnes of life amidst an unstoppable onslought of spiritual dogmas and superstitions. The impractical length of the album comes from thinking about what constitutes an “album” in the MP3 era. Album length has always related to media playback duration: vinyl albums were generally 36 minutes long because you can fit about 18 minutes of audio on a single side of a record before encountering significant loss of sound quality; CD albums were 74 minutes and then 80 minutes; and today we have the CD plus digital exclusive downloads, supporting podcasts, etc…. Meanwhile, as audio producers our advances and royalties are the same or dropping. For me, this combination of the demand to produce more and more media for less and less pay is a real labor crisis within fields of audio production. So, thinking about the MP3 as a format with it’s own playback limitations, I wanted to produce the world’s first true full-length MP3 album by using a single, maximum file size MP3 file. FAT32 system requirements currently limit files to a 4GB size on Mac and PC, and a 320kbps 4GB MP3 file is about 29 hours 40 minutes long. Then I also include supporting videos and texts… it’s a real sprawl of data. I actually petitioned the Guinness Book of World Records to create a category for “World’s Longest Album” – they declined, citing a “lack of public interest,” which is just all the more perfect for my type of work. [Laughs] The release format will be a MicroSD card.

When did you come out and what was the story?

I am someone who has always felt identities as things forced upon me. I was harassed as a fag and girly-boy since my first day of elementary school, so by the time I reached puberty and started to consciously think about these things for myself, I felt the question of identity was completely arbitrary. Nobody asked how I saw myself, and it socially made no difference what I said one way or another. I feel no internal compulsions around sexual or gender object choices – at least none that cannot be explained in relation to experiences and conditioning. To me, dressing as a male or female are both equally violent. And my “homosexual” identity is just one aspect of homophobic cultures that force binary divisiveness upon us. We all know the majority of same-gender sex around the world does not occur between two pride-filled “Gay-identified” or “Lesbian-identified” people. It never has. So I feel a lot of trepidation around the construction of these very culturally insular and divided identities of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” – particularly when people are fighting for the legislation of rights based on biological predisposition and other arguments of being “born this way” that all but eradicate our capacity for choices (including the choice to completely reverse our orientations over time, perhaps rotating several times throughout our lives). There is no fluidity or choice within the rhetoric of contemporary Humanist Democracy. And any argument that relies on DNA is ultimately about birthrights, which is a feudal stance. I feel no representation within this exclusionary legislative framework rooted in issues of “visibility.” In the end, this way of obtaining rights relies on the pity of the “dominant majority” toward those who “can’t help it” (historically speaking, first it was women, then people of color, then gays, then lesbians, and now transgendered people…), all of which only denies our struggles. It also reaffirms the systems of domination which only have to expand their definition of who is “human” under Humanism without actually challenging or transforming the relations of power themselves. I see US television shows in which we are always told it is a question between whether “homosexuality is a choice” (implying free will and curability), or if “homosexuality is not a choice” (implying biological predisposition). But both of these pop cultural stances distract us from a third possibility – that the absence of choice so many of us feel (straight or queer) emerges from an absence of free will within incredibly rigid and unforgiving homophobic and patriarchal cultural systems that condition us from day one. Even if one does believe in biological predisposition, when it comes to strategizing cultural change it seems more important to focus on socio-material process – the very thing we wish to change. The more refined and established lesbian and gay identities become under current patriarchal systems, the less room we have for perversion, deviance, defiance and uncommon views that do not conform to the dominant models of acceptable homosexuality. It is the destruction of queerness from within.

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How does being queer affect your work, if at all?

Queerness (distinct from “Gayness”) absolutely skews my world view and all I do, for better and worse.

In your mind, what should gay pride be and how would you celebrate it?

I always say Pride [TM] is like a lesson unlearned. It is about power sharing – a desire to place oneself safely within the systems of domination that brutalize us daily. I am not interested in power sharing. I am interested in divestments of power, and creating moments in which the functions of domination falter socially, economically, interpersonally, subjectively- if only for a moment. Pride is arrogant. Pride is boring. Pride is sneakily anti-social in that it prioritizes one over another, all the while touting the benefits of “community.” And, of course, today’s model of pride is completely market driven, inseparable from the “pink economy” through which we have come to reconcile our LGBT [TM] self images with capitalist process. Yes, there is stability and safety to be found in pride – and I get that so much of what happens in lesbian and gay communities, as well as in trans communities, is fundamentally driven by fear and a quest for safety – but the entire concept of “queer pride” just strikes me as a complete contradiction that only shows our capitulation to models of power shitting on us endlessly. We should be feeling rage and anger, not self-indulgent pride. I wish more queer and trans people could see how pride is just another closet.


June 28, 2011