Sissy Misfit’s music bridges the gap between underground punk and electronic music and pop sounds. The artist just released her debut album, Exxxoskeleton, which she says is “an expression and statement of power of one’s self expression in its purest form through hard hitting beats and bass.” She has recently extended her self expression in the fashion industry, with a recent collaboration with Rick Owens and Doc Martens. The artist finds the fashion and music world are deeply intertwined for her.
Growing up with a strong music influence from her parents, Sissy Misfit has spent much of her life engrossed in the art. One driving factor in her creations is her DIY mentality. From printing out flyers to burning CDs, this hands-on approach has fuelled her success. Sissy Misfit founded Cehennem, a community for queer underground electronic musicians to perform and relish in the soul connection that music has to offer. Her events have transformed into a space for all trans and queer people.
Focusing on the album’s 10 tracks for four years, Sissy Misfit says she doesn’t know if she’s ever truly ready to release her music, but despite that, Exxxoskeleton is out for all to hear, and she is already looking toward performing it in the near future.
You just released your debut album, Exxxoskeleton. Congratulations! So far, what has the response been like from fans and other individuals within the industry?
It has been so nice honestly! I am really grateful that I have had the privilege of being able to create and share this piece of work with the world, it has been a long time in the making with so much passion. Seeing people rocking to the beats fills my heart with joy!
How does the release of this album impact the next steps in your music career?
I actually don’t know! I am an overachiever so I give myself a lot of huge tasks and my ambitions sometimes crush me under a lot of expectations I have for myself. I want to take my time to focus on the live shows I have planned for this album as well as a couple of visual works I am editing right now. But I’m always working on something in the background. One part of me wants to rush and release the next album but I know that’s not right, it doesn’t feel right. I want to breathe and let the natural flow of things lead me to a way.
You spent roughly four years on this album, both recording in your bedroom and occasionally the studio, taking breaks so you could listen to and enjoy your tracks. What were some of the benefits of a slower process to production? Did you change many songs along the way and how did you know when you were done with the project?
To be really honest I don’t think I ever feel ready. Even right now post-release I listen to some of the songs on the album and can pinpoint what could have been better and what I could do more or less. That process is a never ending one for me. I just wanted to move on to my other projects. I found a time during the making of the album where I was like okay, I have listened to these songs so much that I’m losing interest in their dynamic slowly, like four years is too much to focus on 10 songs.
You mention your inspiration comes from a variety of musicians — Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, Yoko Ono — as well as Japanese cyberpunk and gore films. Are there any other forms of influence that you can pinpoint as essential to your work and Exxxoskeleton specifically?
Where I come from and who I am inspires me a lot. My past is blurry to me. I don’t remember the whole of it. There have been a lot of things and moments I have locked somewhere in my mind, good or bad. Being retrospective on my own experiences creates new memories and stories in my head which I associate with certain sounds and images and there comes writing the songs driven by these flashbacks sometimes. My work always feels so self-referential in its core and autobiographical in a sense.
Do you have a primary message or story you are telling with this album? If so, what?
There is no definitive story or message attached to this album. It is an expression and statement of power of one’s self expression in its purest form through hard hitting beats and bass.
Is there any one person or experience that really motivated you to start making music?
I think music has been my destiny all along. But I also grew up in a house with two music nerd parents in their own respective ways even though no one in my family is a practicing musician or something.
My mum used to show me her pictures as a teen trying to recreate the 80s Madonna look and she used to tell me how she secretly listened to the local radio station all the time because music, specifically western pop and rock was deemed a sin in the religious and strict house she grew up in rural Turkey. I was always so moved by how much passion she had for music and pop culture.
My dad is also big on music but he is mostly into Turkish, Middle Eastern and World Music of all kinds. So these two worlds were on a constant blast in our house. Being exposed to so much music growing up must have done something to me. I would gather around the girls in my elementary school and make us form an imaginary girl band, hold my pencil case like a microphone and imagine the school garden as our stage. They lowkey hated me.
It seems like the underground music scene is a big part of your life? Can you explain what underground really is? How has participating in the underground music scene influenced your debut album as well as your previous EPs and singles?
I don’t know if I can give a definitive answer to what underground is. To me it was connecting to people who had a very strong passion about independent art, wanting to create a sense of community and coming together for the rituals of night time activities that would feed everyone’s souls with music. I am a proud bar queen. I come from doing shows to merely 6 people in small corner pubs of Turkey and loving every single second of it. There was so much soul to it. I remember all those years with the biggest love in my heart. I have always been truly so DIY, from printing and handing out flyers on the streets to people, to burning CDs in my room, to dropping it to music stores and radios in Istanbul. Girl, I’ve done it all and I would do it again without hesitation. That dynamic is a driving force in my music. It shapes the way I produce and perform. It is about creating the sonic atmosphere and connection with the actual people who are music lovers rather than to just create a persona who only ever exists online or on huge platforms.
Do you feel you could go more mainstream if you ever wanted to? Is that something you would be interested in?
I am not interested in being a mainstream star. It's not something that would make me happy or I desire. You see, that is what some people take from me. The glitter and the glam and huge music videos and a pop girl persona with a 2010s aesthetic. That is all a fantasy I wanted to create. I am not actually really aiming for charts at all. I could do it if I wanted to. I have no doubt. I just care too much about my vision to ever cater to someone else’s norms in order to make it bigger or more known. Also, I am very protective about my privacy, so I don’t see it as an aspiration to be mainstream, no.
My goal for success in terms of material stats, if we are to talk about it, would just be enough exposure to be able to perform on every stage all over the world from the smallest pub to the electronic music festivals until the day I die. Nothing more.
Your music defies any one genre, blending electronic, industrial, punk and pop music. How do you navigate these different styles of music and the worlds they exist in? Do you ever feel pressure to conform to one sound, and how do you navigate that?
No, not at all. The other projects I am working on producing right now don't sound that similar to Exxxoskeleton or any of my previous works. They all have some kind of consistency within themselves, but I just like experimenting and playing around. I don’t make pre-made decisions about it when I sit down on my laptop and start creating sounds on my Serum really. I let myself in the flow of the moment.
While your songs tend to have a hard, electronic sound to them, you are also sure to incorporate pop. You shared that you have a deep love for pop music. What is it about this genre that draws you to it?
I am not a fan of all pop. I am just a fan of a very specific type of pop music and visuals that put femininity, camp, experimentation and playful vanity to its core. That kind of pop is an arena. It is an arena open to be filled with endless creativity and homage. Understanding that kind of pop is to understand the power of strong references that bend the line between what is real and what is fantasy. I am amazed by how much it can actually alter predominantly male driven subjects and artefacts into exciting and shimmery blasts of expression.
What advice would you give to a musician who is just getting started, especially someone who creates from a place of different inspiration and a variety of genres like yourself?
Just make music for yourself. Authenticity is a rare gem especially in today’s world. Once you give yourself the chance to fully realise who you are, that's when the beauty of creation starts, I believe. Influences are cool of course but they should always be in the very background not the main characters in your world.
On another note, you have recently been recognised for your style and collaborated with Rick Owens. How do you blend expression through fashion and music? Are they similar for you?
Music is really visual to me. The artists that have inspired me the most have always been big style icons in their own ways as well. Growing up in Istanbul, expressing myself with what I wear and how I wear it, was one of the only ways to reclaim my identity as well. Because as much as the sound [is a statment], the look is a statement as well, in a minimal or maximal way.
In addition to creating your own music and performing, you organise Cehennem events, a live platform for trans+ electronic artists. Could you tell us more about Cehennem — what it is, how it came to be and who else is a part of it?
When I moved here in 2020, I failed to find a platform that wasn’t rooted in celebrating clout and would be in benefit of trans musicians. There were some really cool events and platforms, but almost none of them were really open or centred around producers and performers. It was post-Covid so understandably the scene was really DJ and rave focused. So, it started from a need of wanting to create a space for that, where trans people who produce electronic music can come all together and showcase their music live, celebrate the moment and share their craft. It started really small but then it became bigger and bigger and became a welcoming showcase night for all trans and queer people. I do all the shows myself with the help of some of my friends. Trashedbaby has recently joined me as a resident to help me organise things as the event got bigger. I organise the annual Istanbul show with BasicDisarm, and each summer it is the biggest show of the year with 450+ attendees.