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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: GENRE-BENDING MUSICIAN DORIAN ELECTRA ON “MY AGENDA”, GETTING POLITICAL, QUEER REPRESENTATION, AND COLLABS WITH PUSSY RIOT & LADY GAGA

<span style=font size 8pt><em>The Untitled Magazine INNOVATE ISSUE photography by Indira Cesarine<em><span>

The Untitled Magazine caught up with androgynous rising superstar Dorian Electra for our INNOVATE Issue to discuss their musical inspirations, recent collaborations, and the release of their deluxe edition of My Agenda, which dropped on November 5th. My Agenda features 12 new tracks including collaborations with Danny Brown, S3RL, and The Joker. Dorian has collaborated in the past with a number of celebrated artists including Rebecca Black and Pussy Riot. Read the interview below, and check out the full feature and photoshoot in The Untitled Magazine‘s latest print edition, The “INNOVATE” Issue, out now.

<em><span style=font size 10pt>The Untitled Magazine INNOVATE Issue featuring Dorian Electra Photography by Indira Cesarine<span><em>

Critics have found so many ways to describe your genre-bending music. How would you describe it in your own words?
I like to combine all the kinds of music I like to listen to even when I think it might not easily go together. I like the challenge. 

What made you decide to pursue music as a career?
When I graduated college I was making educational music videos and ended up getting hired by a company to make a series of original pop songs and music videos about the history of sexuality and gender. I eventually stopped making explicitly “educational” music, but I still deeply appreciate the power of music to open people’s minds to new ideas, and that’s probably the thing that excites me the most about it.

You are definitely a leader right now in the world of experimental music. What inspires your one-of-a-kind style?
I have ADHD and part of how that manifests for me is that I get very easily bored of things. I like constant and changing stimuli, things that break out of predictable patterns, but also just as often fall into a familiar, satisfying formula. I like music that’s accessible, but not always predictable.

You are unapologetically queer, both with your music and the causes you advocate for. Did you face any opposition starting out because of your queerness or direct style?
I’ve been really lucky to receive a lot of support from people online for my music, my videos and myself as an artist. I’m an independent, and that is made possible by everyone who supports me through streaming my music, buying my merch, coming to my shows, etc. In the beginning I felt a bit insecure that I didn’t “fit in” with the idea of a traditional “high femme” popstar but the support I got was extrememly validating to me both personally and professionally.

Are there any particular artists that inform your androgynous style? What inspires your innovative looks both on stage and in your videos?
My brain can’t help but think about fashion in the same way it thinks about making music. Mixing and remixing different styles and trying to jam together the most seemingly incongruous things because it’s interesting or just funny to me. I really like to combine looks from various eras of fashion, especially from when men’s clothing used to be much more flamboyant. The history of fashion is so fascinating because it always ties in the history of class, gender, race, war, sexuality, politics, technology, economics, etc. I also like wearing stuff that looks cool [laughs]

<em><span style=font size 10pt>The Untitled Magazine INNOVATE Issue featuring Dorian Electra Photography by Indira Cesarine<span><em>

Your music has always been political, but you really upped the commentary with your sophomore album, My Agenda. What informed your decision to amp up the politics with your music and what issues do you feel strongest about?
I think we are living in an increasingly politicized world and we are also living in an era of intense and growing political polarization. In 2019 I started getting obsessed with incel culture online, researching how people got sucked into the alt-right pipeline and understanding the “culture wars” today in the age of the internet. My previous album had been focused a lot on gender, and there was a natural bridge to the themes of My Agenda in terms of my interest in the concept of  “masculinity” at large and how many people today feel that traditional masculinity is “under attack” because of feminism, “political correctness,” etc. 

I believe it’s absolutely important to understand the roots of why people believe what they believe. Especially when we disagree with those ideas or when those ideas are hateful. If we want to change people’s ideas and the way they view the world, we must begin from a place of understanding and empathy even when faced with hate. We have to understand the cultural, historical and economic conditions that lead people to believe what they do. Only with this lens can we ever hope to reach those people and really communicate or change them. Right now, a lot of the left broadly speaking is engaged in a lot of behavior that is unfortunately only further alienating and pushing people further to the right. It’s hard to see a way out of it, but I think talking about it is probably the right place to start. 

What role does gender, or lack thereof, play in writing your music?
I definitely think about gender a lot personally especially in relation to my voice. I didn’t do it intentionally but somehow over the past few years I’ve developed a series of characters in my mind that each have different voices. There’s like my “Gregorian monk chant” voice, my whiny emo boy, scratchy sad metal guy, cute baby voice, bad Britney Spears impersonator, bad attempt at opera, me trying to do an impression of “Dorian Electra” when I can’t figure what other voice to do, and lots more that I don’t even consciously have a name for. It really helps me to envision embodying a vague fictional person somehow and be able to get outside of myself when making music. It helps me feel freer to explore various vibes rather than being stuck with some idea of “I always have to sound like ‘myself’” or something, when “myself” is always changing. I definitely experience voice dysphoria sometimes. I like my vocals to be very produced, but I think they’re actually less produced than some people might assume when listening to it. I somehow started doing all this weird formant-shifting and other things with my voice that now I do without thinking, and it can make it sound even more digital sometimes.

You’ve been teasing a deluxe edition of your album My Agenda over the last few months with various remixes. What details can you share with us about the deluxe edition coming out in November?
12 new tracks. A ton of features from some of my favorite artists I’ve been stoked to work with like Danny Brown, S3RL, the Joker and more.

The trippy “Ram It Down” video got a lot of attention for it’s parodying of Alex Jones’ infamous “they’re turning the frogs gay” conspiracy theory. What made you decide to take him on with that video?
Memes are very powerful. They both reflect and shape culture, the way we think, politics, and the world in a very real way. (See: 2016 US presidential election). One of the reasons this particular Alex Jones clip was so viral was because of how ridiculous it sounds: “I don’t like em puttin’ chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay.” Sounds like another anti-gay conspiracy theory (because there are many). But it turns out there is some truth to the statement. The chemical in question is called Atrazine. Google it. I did a whole podcast about it with Joshua Citarella and a TikTok.

<em>The Untitled Magazine INNOVATE Issue featuring Dorian Electra Photography by Indira Cesarine<em>

On the subject of your music videos, do you think about the concepts for them during your songwriting process? How do you go about matching visuals to your songs?
Yes. I’m usually thinking about the visuals and a music video concept as I’m writing the song in the studio. I think in very visual terms, especially when it comes to the mood, feeling or concept behind a song. The whole package of all of it together is really what excites me most. If there’s not an interesting concept I am usually bored.

“Camp” is often the best way to describe a lot of your music videos. Since that word has such a storied history in the queer community, what does it mean to you, and how do you utilize it?
For me personally, camp is something like whimsical self-awareness. Sometimes self-awareness can be paralyzing for an artist or lead to excess self-consciousness. Camp is self-aware yet unafraid to be absolutely ridiculous and deathly serious at the same time. To me, it’s about embracing extremes and contradictions, and rejoicing in the ambiguity of meaning, simultaneous irony and sincerity, but to what degree may be unknown.   

You’ve collaborated a couple times now with Rebecca Black, like on your song “Edgelord” and her remix of “Friday.” How did the two of you meet?
We met on the internet, the best place in the world to meet. 

What about Pussy Riot, another repeat collaborator of yours?
Nadya has also become one of my close friends and is somebody who has been so incredibly inspiring to me in terms of how she blends her act and activism.

The Village People are a band I don’t think anyone saw coming as collaborators of yours. How did that partnership come about? Do you plan to work together again in the future?
It was my creative partner Weston Allen’s idea initially and I thought there’s no way it would ever work out, it would simply be too perfect. The Village People… that’s a dream collab. Still can’t believe it’s real sometimes. 

With the pandemic postponing your My Agenda tour, how have you managed to stay creative during the pandemic?
I really enjoyed doing a bunch of DJ sets on Zoom early in the pandemic, and it was really fun to figure out new ways to connect with fans. The novelty of that eventually did wear off but it was really fun to get to try out new music and experiment with stuff in a really fun and low stakes way. I started doing a bunch of cover songs initially for some livestream shows on Twitch and making videos for them, and now I’m addicted to doing covers.

What can we look forward to from your world tour kicking off in 2022?
I can’t wait to perform the songs from My Agenda on stage. There’s a lot really intense energy in this album and i’m really looking forward to feeling that with a big crowd! I’ll also be playing songs from my first album Flamboyant … and definitely teasing some new ones!

<em>The Untitled Magazine INNOVATE Issue featuring Dorian Electra Photography by Indira Cesarine<em>

This is our “INNOVATE” issue, and the kind of experimental music you make fits that word perfectly. How do you stay “experimental” without repeating yourself?
Always trying to surprise myself and honestly, make myself laugh. If I’m laughing in the studio then that’s a good sign that maaaaybe we’re onto something good. Part of humor comes from the element of surprise. I always want to be surprised by something new. 

Do you have any words of wisdom you live by as a creative?
Trying to foster a community of artists supporting each other will usually be better for everyone’s art and career than trying to work in a vacuum. 

Any other upcoming projects can you share with us?
Keep your eyes out for Lady Gaga’s Chromatica remix album, and My Agenda World Tour 2022 tickets are on sale now!

To view the full feature and cover pick up a copy of The INNOVATE Issue – available now from our online boutique.

Dorian Electra @DorianElectra
Photography by Indira Cesarine @indiracesarine for @theuntitledmagazine
Stylist Brooke Llewellyn @stylistbrooke
Make-up by Nick Lennon –  Exclusive Artists, Laura @itsnicklennon 
Hair by Gregg Lennon Jr. @gregglennonjr
Photographed on location at Sofitel Los Angeles @sofitellosangeles 

Where Art, Fashion & Culture Collide

THE UNTITLED MAGAZINE

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