Playback: Being Christeene in 2018
“I’m a collection of all the shit that you’re throwing around in this stratosphere of online media conversation.”
In an era when the seismic repercussions of sexual impropriety have brought down any number of celebrities, Christeene reaches her greasiest, stankiest, horniest summit by slinging references so hardcore even a night manager at Adult Megaplexxx might have to Google "Traincake."
The Austin drag miscreant, laying raunchy raps over unconventional electro production, isn't particularly suited for today's inoffensive social climate, but thrives in 2018 nonetheless. The Paul Soileau character's exquisitely realized sophomore LP, Basura, challenges boundaries with such verve that even the primal command "taste my fuck" suggests an invitation into a fascinating artistic domain. In advance of two hometown album release shows – tonight, Thursday, at Waterloo Records and Saturday at Museum of Human Achievement – "Playback" dialogued with Christeene about modern artistry, during which the singer appealed for increased vulnerability.
Austin Chronicle: Why more vulnerability?
Christeene: Being vulnerable with each other, especially between artists, leads to intimacy and understanding. That's something people are afraid of, so they create a wall to protect an ideal of themselves. Everyone is hiding behind their machines and creating identities for themselves that aren't true. So I try to be as vulnerable as I can onstage, with my music, and with other artists so I can learn from them.
AC: Waste Up, Kneez Down came out six years ago. Why is 2018 the right time for a new Christeene album?
C: That's when it knocked. I don't believe in rushing for the people. If they want it, they'll eat it when it's there. When you look for the right person to create with, that takes time. I've known [album collaborator/producer] Peter Stopschinski for many years, but I never thought to work with him until I thought to work with him.
AC: Stopschinski enjoys a varied career, but is best known as a composer. How did you corrupt him?
C: Oh, he's a corrupted floppy disk. Peter reminds me of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, except grown up and corrupted. I trust composers because they have the ability to reach into other rooms and find things I'm looking for. I wanted Christeene to go to outer space like Jason Voorhees. If he can do it, I can do it.
AC: But that was a low point of the Friday the 13th franchise.
C: It was the worst, but everybody went to see it because you want to know what's going to happen. Peter's my rocket ship. His brain is a yes-brain, so if I say, "Let's poop on a baking sheet, then take chains and drop it on the poop and record that sound and turn it into a beat," he'll say, "Okay," and then someone will clean it up later.
Graham Reynolds is a composer, too. He's always making those love songs for Richard Linklater movies, but he got dirty on this record. I take people out of their comfort zone. I'll let you keep the La-Z-Boy you're sittin' in, but you're gonna get dragged out of your backyard.
AC: Speaking of comfort zones, have your aggressively sexual themes made it difficult to navigate an increasingly sensitive culture?
C: I'm aware of what I'm saying and what it means. If you need to know what "I'm gonna work that goober 'til the baby squirts" means, I'll gladly explain it to you. It's not about Goober candy or a real baby.
This is a language I've created to explain the feelings I have inside of myself. Artists need that and it's dangerous when people want to shut it down and say, "I don't get this. It makes me feel uncomfortable and it needs to stop!" before they try to meet or understand the artist. That's rampant now.
People have power on social media platforms, but when I've reached out to have a conversation, they won't cooperate because if we come to an understanding, if we meet in the middle and relate to each other, they lose their megaphone. If you take away their reason to scream, you take away their identity and what do they have left? Eating fish sticks at home.
AC: Meanwhile, you're probably sensitive to many of the same issues.
C: Oh, I'm a dirty old billboard on a country road and everyone that drives by throws something from their personal experiences out the window and that billboard just keeps collecting. I'm a collection of all the shit that you're throwing around in this stratosphere of online media conversation. I am the monster you have made. If you see something in me you relate to or something that scares you, you've seen it before and you've probably served it to someone.
AC: The artistic progress between your two albums, in both lyrics and production, is stark. How might Christeene continue to evolve?
C: There's apocalyptic sounds in my head that I haven't heard in a room yet. I want to get lost more in my mind and find a way to make a sound for that. I want my show to grow too.
I dream of having a band onstage with me and my dancers. What would they look like? What would they play?
I love Pink Floyd and Roxy Music, and I love where your brain goes when you hear those beautiful grand soundscapes. I think of how much it would be fun to harness the energy of five people onstage and have it go into me like a Tesla coil and I fuckin' shoot that shit into you.
Then I think, "How the fuck am I going to do that?"
Sidewinder closed last Thursday, but operators are optimistic 715 Red River will soon host another music venue. The business suffered when, a week before South by Southwest, fire marshals dropped the long-held patio capacity of 239 to 49 based on new interpretations of what they considered an exit. Sidewinder partner John Wickham and Empire co-owner Stephen Sternschein are working to open a new music joint in the space, but need to finalize a lease before completing renovations to restore the outside capacity.
Antone's blows its top this summer, per tradition, with a month of stacked anniversary shows. The recently unveiled 43rd-year celebration, June 29-July 28, brings in Blues Brothers axeman/actor Matt "Guitar" Murphy, a fixture at the club's Guadalupe iteration, on July 7 for a Chicago night also featuring venerated harp-blowing frontman Billy Boy Arnold. Legendary UGK MC Bun B, hailing from Clifford Antone's hometown of Port Arthur, throws down July 13. Also look for Houston soulman Roy Head sharing a bill with fellow Doug Sahm compadres Flaco Jiménez and Augie Meyers on July 20, and teenage guitar sensation Christone "Kingfish" Ingram making his Antone's debut July 21. All tickets go on sale Friday.
The Young Mothers' set at Beerland last Saturday again verified that the multi-city sextet, combining free jazz, hip-hop, and grindcore, ranks among the most interesting and original acts in Texas – perhaps the entire planet. Starring local Norwegian bass god Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Austin guitar madman Jonathan Horne, who recently recovered from multiple hand surgeries, they hit the road next week for Canada, Scandinavia, and Western Europe to promote sophomore LP Morose, which arrives on ATX's Self Sabotage label June 22.
John Prine, America's greatest living songwriter not named Bob Dylan, tapes his eighth Austin City Limits episode on June 5, but the free ticket lottery goes up early next week. One day prior, the singing mailman delivers a free in-store at Waterloo Records. You just have to buy a copy of his respectable new LP, Tree of Forgiveness, to get a wristband.
Tickets for Christeene's Album Release Yard Partaay are on sale now.