We all make subconscious judgments based on a person’s gender, age, race or other innate qualities. Born in Flamez is the musical project that aims to make us painfully aware of that fact by creating a fluidity in their own identity, gender and genre. The result is an electronic music performance that is equal parts emotional, thought-provoking and danceable. We got to know this interesting project, along with their point of view on working in Berlin, technology and the notion of impossible love.
You identify yourself as trans-human. What is your definition of a trans-human, and how and when did you know you were one?
Funny you say that. Actually, I distinguish between the project and me. The project is trans-human, it’s a joint venture between me and the machines I use, which also use me. I am only trans-human in the way that I am a part of a network assembly when I write emails or communicate through social media, for example.
When was this project born, and what were your reasons for starting it?
It started in 2014. Back then, I was a bass music DJ who only listened to classical music at home. I longed a bit for a shift of gears and I also had been wanting to work with vocals for a while. At some point, I suddenly started writing songs – I have a classical singing education. So Born in Flamez kind of just jumped on to me, or needed to get out.
You are sending quite a clear political message of breaking the conformities of gender and race. Why these specifically? Are there other conformities you want to break as well, such as sexual preference or age?
All conformities need to be broken! No features of anybody should determine the way he/she/they is treated. I feel like ageism is the one taboo nobody really speaks about yet. It definitely should be tackled more.
In your personal utopia, where we are no longer defined by gender or race, what would we be defined by?
Do we need to be defined by something? Why? What are the perks of being defined from the outside? Can we not define ourselves? My utopia is a fluid ongoing process of redefining ourselves, learning from each other, caring about each other and treating each other with understanding and compassion.
In what way do you feel like technology has improved your ideal of post-human and post-gender?
I see technology as something very human. We are making our tools but in a way, they also make us, or at the very least shape us. Which then defines the way we work and with that the way we make new tools, like a vicious circle. Technology can change the world beneficially and also the other way around. It depends on us and we depend on it. It’s like Hegel’s master/slave discourse; we need each other and have always relied on each other. I’d love to see technology shape and change gender performance. I wonder though if that will happen, because right now, apparently, we already gender AI. Take Emily Howell, for example, an algorithm creating beautiful classical music in the style of Bach. Why exactly is an algorithm female?
How do you translate your political message through your music and performance? 
A lot of people are very stunned when they see me for the first time, many seem to just assume that people who make music are necessarily male. You wouldn’t believe how many emails I receive that start with “hey dude”, or “hey mate”. I’m always stunned by this seemingly natural assumption. And I’ve noticed that at a lot of my performances people are questioning my gender like a riddle they want to solve. I have started to look more flamboyantly female in the last couple of months because, right now, I feel like expressing that side of me. Before that, I had leant towards a more androgynous look. I think a non-binary body is quite puzzling to people in general. My visuals also play with chimaeras and identity, and the lyrics I used to write tackled political questions of identity and ideology. The new record is more personal and introspective though, but as Plannigtorock once sang: “the personal is so political…”
Your music also defies the boundaries of genre. How would you describe your music to someone who can’t hear?
Most of all my music is very emotional. It brings together a lot of musical influences and it’s also constantly changing shape but it’s always very narrative. I think you could envision a cerebral short film while listening to something like Symphony of Tinder Hacks. And it moves you in ways that a lot of electronic music, which is just meant for just one purpose, doesn’t. Even my instrumentals are emotional rides through different feelings. Maybe some of them are cathartic in a way.
Do you have a favourite location to play or a certain context in which you’d like your music to be heard?
My favourite contexts right now are politically-minded queer communities. I love the exchange with the audience and it feels like I’m in the right place. Also, I love playing festival slots; that hits the sweet spot right between concert and club.
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You also do a lot of musical collaborations. With whom would your dream collaboration be?
Bjork; period.
At the moment, you are based in Berlin, which has a reputation of great creative, sexual and political freedom. Do you feel like the city inspires you or does it rather make it harder to address these issues of inequality in the rest of the world?
I have and am still living a sheltered and privileged life in Europe, and this creates a certain freedom to work. Berlin definitely provides a safe space for making the kind of art I am interested in. But it can also be boring at times. I actually wrote a lot of the music on this record in Mexico City and around, a city of crass antagonisms with a vibrant queer community and a lot of contradictions.
The creative industries are often a bit more ahead when it comes to opposing sexism or racism, however, the gender gap in the electronic music industry is still significantly large. Why do you think that is?
Because we still live in a patriarchal system and the men in power don’t seem to readily give it up.
Your latest album, Impossible Love, questions our current society with its constant use of Tinder and increasing trend of non-commitment on the one side, and its heteronormative ideals and family values on the other side. Furthermore, you mention the queer concept of free love. Where does that stand on the scale from Tinder to family values?
I think it’s all over the place, a fluid melting polyamorous creature with many genders and limbs.
This current dualist idea of love is not working, and you mention that questioning it will open up the space for a new way of navigating our love. Do you have an ideal outcome in mind?
Love shouldn’t be connected to possession. In a lot of nuclear heteronormative types of relations, to love somebody means to possess their bodies. I think this is a concept that is prone to failure. If you love somebody, you also have to let them go.
How did you translate this concept into the music for Impossible Love?
There’s a dualism to the lyrics, you can read: “I will lever let you go” in a romantic fashion, but it could also be a scary/stalker type of thing to say. Fear Anger Love tackles the ideas of the individualism of being in love, and the nuclear family being the driving force of capitalism. If you take care of your family or have a crush on someone, you stop thinking about the rest of the world. But I also am currently very much in love with my partner because we manage to redefine our love again and again and much of the lyrics fell right out of me when I took the microphone. I am in love but what does that mean for the world? Nothing. Musically, even the most pop-like of tunes have a kind of scary undercurrent and tell vexed tales that are torn between different poles, trying to navigate the binary but always landing somewhere in between.
What can we expect from you in the next years?
I think the concept that I started to work on with Impossible Love will stay with me for a bit. I’ve planned a multidisciplinary performance piece under the same name and a concept album that will be the soundtrack for it. Right now, I am working on developing my live show further because I have a lot of upcoming tour dates and few new exciting things to integrate into my live show. Pamm Hong from London will accompany me on a few dates with her stunning visual work. I am very much looking forward to that.
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