There’s a lot of different ways to say this unique performer’s name, but you might as well do what the stage direction says and scream it! And this week’s the perfect time, as you’ll be shouting into the New Year at Purgatory with [Unintelligible Screaming]! [Cover photo: Charlotte Chauvin]
Thotyssey: Hello, um, AAAAAA! Well, let’s start with that: what do friends call you in drag socially, and how do folks generally introduce you on the mic? And how do you introduce yourself?
[Unintelligible Screaming] “AAAAAA” is an acceptable pronunciation! My name’s a bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure moment–some people scream, some people read out the words. When I introduce myself on mic, I usually just ask the audience if anyone knows my name and have them do the work for me. A lot of people who know my real name bypass the question altogether and just call me that, and I want to take this moment to tell every single one of them that they’re cowards.
Lol! I recall at someone’s top surgery benefit at Icon you performed at a year or so ago, Pinwheel Pinwheel introduced you with an actual ear-busting, bloodcurdling scream. It was quite terrifying!
Oh my god, Eddie’s fundraiser? That was all the way back in 2019, when I was just getting started. Probably one of my first five or so performances. Literal infancy. She still screams my name the exact same way, though. Times change, but Pin’s loud mouth is forever.
So I see you’re in LA as of this moment… is that your Native Land?
Mostly yes. I lived in NYC when I was young, but my parents split when I was four and my mom hauled me out to Los Angeles. I was bicoastal for years, flying back and forth to visit my dad… but I definitely spent the huge majority of my childhood in California.
I came back to New York for college in 2012, and I’ve been there since. My most formative years as a queer and trans person came in Brooklyn, so I absolutely think of it as home… but it’s very hard to deny how painfully “from California” I look and act. It was something I didn’t like about myself back in the day because of complicated feelings about my hometown, but I’ve actually gotten more comfortable with it the deeper into my transition I’ve gone.
What inspired you to become a drag performer?
Being trans. Like, actually, that’s basically it. I was a seriously repressed teenager and early-20 something, still masquerading as a straight cis man, knowing all along I was a trans lesbian but too ashamed to genuinely contemplate what that feeling meant. I was introduced to drag very gradually, watching Drag Race and going out to local shows, and I had this strange sense that I belonged there… regardless of my presentation at the time.
I went to the last “Nightgowns” that Sasha Velour did at Bizarre Bushwick (RIP), and it was actually there standing in the audience, seeing a wider breadth of drag than ever before, that I finally came to terms with my queerness. It took me a while to discover precisely what that looked like, but I knew almost instantly that I wanted to get involved in the community and some day do drag.
My drag has, since my first performance, been a celebration of my transness above all else. For me, drag is an act of becoming, not of transformation… and the limitless scope of the medium is a beautiful parallel to the limitless nature of gender expression.
For an idea of what your drag is like now, what are some of your favorite numbers you like to do today?
It’s a little tricky to give a simple answer, because I definitely like to shapeshift a bit and perform whatever inspires me. But I aim for there to be a through line of ghostly, ethereal energy. I like to think that if I came back from the dead to haunt the stage, no one would notice a difference.
I love building atmosphere on stage above all else, and I’m obsessed with the use of lighting. I recently did “Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine and programmed a light show in time with the music, and that’s quickly become a favorite despite the sparse, whispered lyrics.
Lately I’ve been leaning heavily into the more aggressive drag king side of my work, performing bands like Slipknot and System of a Down. I’ve struggled a lot with vocal dysphoria, and there’s something powerfully affirming about reclaiming and queering what would typically be classified as heavily masculine vocals. Heavy metal king is not the direction I initially saw for my drag, but the name was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy I guess.
You’ve been quite active in Brooklyn drag these days, particularly at Purgatory where among other things you host a twice monthly showcase with Xaddy Addy: “Whoopsie Wendesdays.” That’s not a typo!
Whoopsie Wendesdays (yes, that’s Wendesdays not Wednesdays, we all thank Foster Just Foster’s spelling abilities for that branding) is a bi-weekly open stage show that I’m truly blessed to host with Xaddy Addy, one of my absolute favorite humans in drag. We feature a different special guest each time, Soo Intoit spins down in the bar, and everyone else is an open stage sign-up.
Xeno, one of the managers at Purgatory and really the creative visionary of the venue, approached me about doing it months ago. Launching it in the winter, I was nervous that people wouldn’t come out, but we’ve very quickly built up a little family. We have a group of core performers who come to basically every show, and I’ve started seeing them all hanging out with each other around the scene. We’re still building the show up, but the reception has already been beyond what I hoped for… and it seriously warms my heart.
You actually do lots of stuff at that venue now!
I’m an in-house producer at Purgatory, which basically amounts to “I do whatever I want and for some reason they trust me, keep letting me, and give my shows extra financial support.” I have a first Saturday slot, which I alternate between “Audio-Visual Anomaly,” an experimental performance and video art centered show that I’ve been producing with Sally Mistaken, and “T4T,” a mutual aid fundraiser show.
For my third Friday slots, I’ve recently started producing blended punk and drag shows, mixing a drag set into a night of otherwise live bands. I produced a drag show for BK Transcore’s “Haunted Punk House Show” back in October, and I immediately fell in love with the mixed media show concept.
We as a broader community of queer performers tend to build illusory walls between our “scenes,” and I love knocking them down. There’s sometimes skepticism from one side or the other, but it all complements so naturally… and everyone ends up having a great time. My current goal, with help from the rest of the Purgatory team and our friends at BKTC, is to continue consolidating the drag and queer music scenes to fully transform Purgatory into a queer punk bar.
Punk and drag make for perfect bedfellows.
They really do! It’s easy to lose sight with the increasing visibility of commercially viable drag (like, even Dragula has a $100,000 prize these days), but doing drag is on the most basic level a profoundly punk act–an open rebellion against an oppressively rigged system. It’s wonderful to see big drag performers making a name for themselves and being given unprecedentedly huge career opportunities… but the more of the innate DIY spirit I see in our spaces, the happier I am.
Working alongside the trans punks has been huge for my development as a performer, and I feel like I’ve figured out what I’m trying to accomplish with my drag more than ever before with their help. Huge shout out to The Dilators, whose cover of System of a Down’s “Deer Dance” was a major influence in deciding to use drag to embrace and celebrate the genderfucky nature of my trans voice. We as queer people have so much to learn from each other, and the fewer walls that exist between us, the more we get to do that.
The Dilators will be on the bill for Purgatory’s New Year’s Eve party that you’re hosting. Tell us more!
We’re throwing an apocalypse themed party called “End Times,” and there’s not much we don’t have going on. I produced the drag show for the night, and I’m beyond excited to ring in the new year 11:30pm to midnight with Chevy Lace, Samara Slaughter, Tiresias, and X-Emma. We’ve got a killer lineup of bands and noise artists (featuring, among others, The Dilators) going until late night, DJ Gay Panic on the beats, flash tattoos, tarot readings, professional photography, tooth gems, and whatever else the team decides to throw in there. I’m hosting the whole 4-plus hour show upstairs, so if you like hearing me scream into a microphone, you’re in luck. It’s gonna be a pretty big moment for the venue, and I don’t know the last time I was so excited for a show. Early bird discount tickets are available now, make sure to grab them while you can!
And I see there’s a gig on Avenue A on the way as well?
The New Year’s Eve party is kicking off a huge production week for me. On January 2nd, I’m hosting and performing in “Techno in Drag,” a self-explanatory show I’ve been cooking up with my boy / goto DJ / perpetual savior of my shows TK the Kid at Heaven Can Wait.
What else is coming up for you?
January 4th is the post-holiday return of “Whoopsie Wendesdays” with co-host Xaddy Addy, special guest Evangeline, and DJ Soo Intoit (sign-ups begin when I first post the flyer, so keep an eye out if you’d like to join us). “Audio-Visual Anomaly” returns to Purgatory on January 7th; lineup TBA, but it’s shaping up to be a phenomenal show. After that mad dash I have a short break, but I’m planning a really special punk and drag show for January 20th! Tickets and RSVPs to all of my shows will be available via my Instagram bio as they’re announced.
Other than that: fuck the police, revolution now, and give me more transfem drag kings.
Werk! Lastly: if you do New Years resolutions, what might yours be this year?
Spend less time on Instagram (if you want to be my friend in 2023 you have to text me your funny pictures–I’m getting off that hell app), continue to build the collaborative queer art spaces I want to see and be a part of… and, again, burn it all down.
Thank you, AAAAAA!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for [Unintelligible Screaming’s] upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.