With two recent sold-out shows in London at The Waiting Room, Tsatsamis celebrated the release of his new EP, Our Shame. After a string of singles that showcase his ability as a singer and songwriter, he ventures into the always fun and tricky field of alternative pop music. In Tsatsamis' career to date as an independent artist, he has found consistent support from the likes of BBC Radio 1 Introducing and Spotify Editors. In addition, Tsatsamis recently supported Tom Rasmussen on their UK tour, and twst in London last December. He amazes his fans with his public presence, brilliant marketing sense for merch, and a killer sense of humour.
Our Shame is just a foretaste of the potential that Tsatsamis possesses; there is an obvious talent for both bangers and pop melancholy, but his charm also runs through his work and makes him different, in a good way. It's almost impossible not to think of George Michael when listening to his music; not just because of the influence the late singer may have had on Tsatsamis (for example in the song Faith), but because in gay heaven he's sure to be proud of Tsatsamis' work, as in another dimension this is exactly what George might have been singing about.
“I’ve had a few relationships break because of those internalised emotions [that comes along with shame], but I’ve had so many friendships forged on the foundation of a shared upbringing” explains the artist when asked about the title of the EP. And I think, in the gay world, this is where we find ourselves right now, working with our inner shadows to learn about new and healthy ways of finding love, but also expanding the concept to a much bigger and better sense of community. We may not be the generation to completely erase the emotions of self-loathing we sometimes feel, as we hope the next one will, but we've had a couple of decades to see how essential friendship is to just be happier.
He defines Our Shame as “7 tracks made over the past year and a half; about lust, embracing sexuality, fallacy and the ever-present shadow of gay shame”. In late 2023, the artist shone with his brilliant single Everybody Wants a Piece of You,  a heartfelt song that fits into the sad-gay-pop category. There is much of this idea of gay identity and desire embodied throughout the EP, as this song fits with this duality that jealousy and romance often bring and blur our experiences. But we also find bravery in the opening track Dive In, the complexity of communications in today's gay romance in Let Go and Background Noise, heartbreak in the already fan-favourite Misunderstood, sexual undertones and references in the second single Faith, or the mysterious Yves Klein Blue, a bridge for whose metaphor you'll have to read this interview.
“For gay men growing up and living in an adverse world, the effort to live coherently can be a struggle, because the internal life of unconscious and conscious feelings is significantly what makes the gay man different” writes Walt Odets in Out of the Shadows (Penguin Books, 2019), his approach to the psychology of gay men’s lives after years of practise and writing.  This EP made me immediately think about this book, as well as many others, because a lot of the world is still adverse for LGTBQI+ people. Somehow Tsatsamis offers his electro-pop proposal as a cultural object both to understand and take charge of his identity, and all the themes and moments on which we can reflect. And more importantly, he sounds completely unapologetic for it, generating a self-empowering effect that displaces the mental land in which our struggle has grown old, making room for hope and fun.
As he sings in the opener of the album “won't you come dive in deep, take this shame and wash it clean”, we know we’re in for a good time with him, learning more about his music in this interview.
Our Shame, your second EP, and probably the most awaited by your fans, is out now. What are your first feelings now that it is on the other side?
Relief (laughs). Also feeling proud, confident and assured. It’s been quite a journey making this new EP and I had a long period of not really knowing what direction I wanted to take it, or how I wanted to develop my sound. Then the visuals really delayed things too. But I feel like it all came together and then performing the two sold out shows really gave me this confidence that what I’m doing is resonating with other people. But primarily, relief. It built up to [a] stressful and anxious few months, but I’m back to sleeping through the night (laughs).
I can't help but ask you first about the title. It's such a simple phrase but so meaningful. Just reading it, being a gay man of a certain age, evokes a lot of feelings. And throughout the EP, in its different songs, you get into different corners of what makes Our Shame our shame. But I think it also works in a very positive way; traditionally the queer community has been known for re-appropriating certain terms and expressions and making them their own. What did you intend to portray with this EP?
You’ve definitely hit the nail on the head. There were a bunch of variations of the name - most involving the word shame in some way - but I settled on Our Shame because of its romanticism and simplicity. It reclaims the word, rather than being its victim as so many of us are. Whilst it can be destructive, it can also be beautifully compounding. I’ve had a few relationships break because of those internalised emotions, but I’ve had so many friendships forged on the foundation of a shared upbringing. I guess I just wanted to translate both sides of that. From Faith, which is about feeling sexually empowered (and empowered by your queerness), to Misunderstanding and Everybody Wants a Piece of You which is laced with internalised homophobia and anger.
We already had the chance to listen to a couple of songs from the EP at the end of last year. I think the song Everybody Wants a Piece of You has been a milestone in your career. It's such a great song that speaks to a commonplace of gay identity and desire: silenced heartbreak, but also touches a little bit on the idea that sometimes love and envy go hand in hand in some relationships between guys. It's a stunning song, with an amazing melody and structure, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for this song and how you reacted to its success?
I remember wanting to write a song like it for a while; this knot of envy, lust, idolising and self-deprecation. The main title came first and then everything clicked around it. It’s also the simplest song I’ve ever written (and produced) and seems to be the one people always come back to. So that fact it’s been so successful has been quite affirming and a big lesson to myself.
I had struggled with the production and mixing for months (it was meant to come out before summer in 2023 but I never got it right in time). For some reason I thought it needed to be this big pop song, with a really compressed commercial sound. I kept on adding things to it, tried to get someone else to mix it. It might have worked for some artists, but every new version felt at odds with the project and the meaning of the song - which beneath it all, was this vast loneliness. A few people close to me kept on saying nothing had ever trumped the demo, which was basically unmixed, and I’d made and recorded in a few hours. After 9 months and about 20 versions and mixes, I just went back to a slightly tighter version of the original demo. I guess what I’m saying is, its success has made me trust my gut more; to go with the feeling and focus on good songwriting above anything else.
Being an independent artist with limited resources, I wonder how difficult it is for you to position yourself beyond a gay singer. We see more and more queerbaiting in the media lately, and although you address a very specific narrative, in your experience, have you found that your message gets a bit lost along the way?
I feel like you’re reading my mind with this interview. Positioning myself beyond a gay singer is absolutely something I’m very conscious of. I actually feel incredibly lucky because the queer community are the best fans ever. They’re so genuinely passionate and people reviewing and sharing the song off their own back has made my music travel so far with  a literally tiny budget. But sadly, I think the industry can pigeonhole queer artists a bit and project or compare our careers to other artists based more on our sexuality than our music. There’s less of us, so it’s a natural inclination but I think we need to consciously work more against it and see us in the bigger picture. I also don’t help myself though, considering that half my branding is about sucking cock.
Dive In is an interesting opening for the EP: a song about the sexual desire of what seems to be a closeted or bisexual man. There's a narrative about imagining what the next encounter will bring and how it can't come sooner (no pun intended). On the bridge you sing "I'll lose my mind / I'll fuck my pride / I'll lose my mind / I'll lose my mind". Being LGTBQI sometimes means neglecting your desire for such an important part of our lives, and when we get to live it freely it kind of feels uncontrollable. How did you come up with this song?
This whole song came pretty quickly once I’d pinned down that the main concept of the project would be about desire and shame. It’s also a direct nod to the final track Misunderstanding, where I also explicitly mention shame and relay some other themes and events, but from a different perspective. Dive In is me standing on the that other side of shame, above its vast sea, saying I’d rather fuck this person and deal with the consequences- knowing it’s at the cost of my own pride and self-respect.
Faith is a fantastic pop song, and this might seem like a reference already mentioned, but in some moments of the song your voice sounds beautiful, and also a bit like George Michael's. Listening to some of the other songs one can imagine how a young George Michael would have dealt with different issues being gay than the ones he sadly had to deal with. Which is to say that things seem to be progressing slowly. The whole EP has such a British-queer flavour but brought up in these times. Have you been inspired by George Michael and other queer pop figures?
Yeah massively. I mean the title is obviously a huge nod to George and the opening of the verses are again a nod to Madonna. The synth in the chorus was massively driven by Sophie’s philosophy that things can always be bigger, brighter and louder. Obviously still nothing compared to her, but up until that song all my production and music has felt within my comfort zone. I was in the middle of a long few months of writer’s block and Faith was me consciously trying to step outside of my box by taking direct inspiration from those icons.
What was it like shooting the video for Faith?
Fucking fun. It was the first time when I was in a video made with a big team and also other cast members, so it took the pressure off massively. Also the first time dancing or moving my body in that way but it unlocked a part of me that - ironically - I always knew was there but had been ashamed to present to the world. This video and the whole EP has been such a transformative process. And I’ve got to shoutout Ruby Harris who directed and produced the whole video, along with the team behind it. [It] wouldn’t have happened without them.
Both Let Go, Misunderstanding and Background Noise explore romantic issues. In some ways, both share different but related experiences about communication with the other person. And, perhaps, deepening these ideas, there is a subtext about how difficult and distant young relationships seem to be nowadays. Why was it important for you to talk about these things in your songs?
I love this interpretation - I wish I could say it was intentional (laughs). All three of them are definitely about some level of communication. Let Go for example is essentially an argument, whereas Background Noise is a conversation I’m inventing with this other person because I’m not getting anything back from them (laughs). But you’re right, communicating with someone intimately and honestly is hard enough without feeling like who you are and who you love is somehow wrong. For queer people, we have to navigate lust and love, alongside those overwhelming feelings [of] shame. And then of course dating and hook up apps add even more complications.
Too many times something hasn’t worked out with someone because we couldn’t be completely comfortable and honest with each other. Maybe they couldn’t be intimate or kept me a secret because of personal or family life; there was always that shadow of shame, either the cause or effect, that stuck.
Is there still a queer night scene in London to perform live? With legendary venues like G.A.Y, or more recently The Glory, are we losing spaces not only to meet other people but also to dance, sing and enjoy ourselves in a safe environment?
There’s definitely loads of great venues, but for performing I’m not so sure. I mean small venues generally are at such constant risk in London generally. That being said, there’s a bunch of great new nights and venues that have started in the last year like my friend’s night Serve. Also seeing the success (or soon to be success) of places opening like La Camionera gives me a lot of hope for wider queer night life in the future.
"Santa's Little Cocksucker", "I love Paul Mescal and Poppers", "I like Tom Aspaul and assplay" or the iconics "I Love Björk and bareback" and "I like Kylie Minogue and sucking cock" are some of the amazing t-shirts you wear at some of your shows. When are you launching your own line? What's coming up for next season?
I think my own line needs to happen imminently to be honest. As you may have seen from the headline shows, “i love tsatsamis and tsucking cock” made its debut and will definitely be the flagship piece. Also - setting the record straight - I didn’t actually come up with the Kylie or Björk one (but they set the tone and inspired the whole thing).
I wanted to know a bit more about your approach to the production of the EP - did you know the musical direction you wanted to convey here, or did it come more naturally? How do you normally start working on a song?
I knew I wanted to go a bit harder into the dance side of things; higher tempo, harder beats. I love contrast in music and was inspired to have more pop, atmospheric vocal melodies, that contrasted over driving beats. That was the initial concept and then the rest came from that. As I got writing more into the project, I realised I wanted to push myself lyrically to be more vulnerable and candid with my lyrics. Not hide behind ambiguity or unnecessary poeticism.
I wish the musical direction came more naturally but I think how long it took would say otherwise (laughs). My songs tend to start with production first. I start with a beat and then play around with melody ideas and chords, then fit lyrics around it. It’s a lot of trial and error, waiting for something to stick. It also means that a lot never even reaches the finished demo phase - staying as a 16-bar loop with some mumblings over the top.
You have recently played two sold out live shows at The Waiting Room in London last week. How did they go down?
They were so fucking fun. It was my first time ever doing a headline show and after a year of doing a bunch of support slots, the energy of the crowd was just insane. Hearing people sing the lyrics back to you and excited to hear certain songs is really affirming. I worked with an incredible MD and drummer, which really lifted the whole show and gave me so much energy performing. And, of course, I got to do the mother of all t-shirt reveals which I’d had planned for about half a year. It all felt correct.
Yves Klein Blue. It's such a beautiful concept song. It works as an interlude but, again, it underlines much more related to the idea of Our Shame. Do you think this kind of blue will disappear in the future?
This song is about cumming so I hope not!
(Laughs) Finally, what’s the next chapter for Tsatsamis?
More shows, more music, more concept.
Thank you so much for taking your time for this talk. All the best with new EP!
Thank you for having me! Kisses.