I recently became acquainted with Alexander, a recent Berlin transplant, and was instantly impressed by his outfit, his worldliness, his knowledge of old-timey things and his overall charm. Then I found out he sings, too, and was excited to have some new material for Expatriarch Radio – I included “Tough Luck” on my latest episode:
In advance of his performance this Thursday, the 14th of April, for Südblock’s Space Disco / Future Pop Night, I asked Alexander about lions, gender, the silver screen and his upcoming projects…
On the cover of your release, the Dandylioness EP, you’re holding the head of a lion. What significance does the animal hold for you?
I’m a Leo, I love lions, I love cats in general – I like to be surrounded by powerful beings of all species. It’s actually a Victorian lion skin that was at the photographer’s studio, hidden away in a cupboard. Socrates Mitsios, who shot the images, was actually terrified of it and couldn’t bear to even touch it, it just really spooked him I guess. I however loved it and struck up a very meaningful relationship with it, over the course of the eight hours it took to shoot the artwork. It was a really trippy experience.
When I saw that shot it confirmed the title of the EP (Dandlylioness) for me, because it expressed this poetic sort of strength in delicate things that I was trying to capture in the lyrics. It’s a very whimsical picture, it reminds me of an Alma-Tadema painting almost, but there’s something regal to that.
If “Alexander” were preceded by an article in German, would it be “der”, “das” or “die”? How does the concept of gender fit into your art, or life in general?
I think gendered articles and pronouns are tiresome, it’s like constantly being squeezed into a corner with every sentence. My friend Theo (Adams) came up with the great idea to say “tree” instead of he or she – isn’t that great? As in, “Tree looks great in that Ryan Trecartin video but tree still owes me five euros, and tree’d better cough up SOON.” My own attitude to gender is basically, “must we?” I feel like I’m humoring the less capable by playing along, so I don’t.
My artistic output is always about gender in one way or another, from lyrical references to adopting a somewhat satirical, pose on stage. Stage shows require you to be a little Heideggerian I think, you chose one thing to be to the exclusion of all other things, and become it. Onstage I have a specific gender but offstage I have many.
Your vocal delivery, and some of the songs’ compositional style, seem to have a Broadway influence. Do you have any stage acting experience?
I never trained in drama, I wasn’t interested in acting, I only ever wanted to be myself, a role which to everybody else seemed like such a production but to me was perfectly reasonable. I can’t say I care for Broadway or the West End. I love film musicals, but stage musicals I have a horror of. I don’t want to hear people who can sing like that — I want to hear people with real voices, like Judy Garland and Justin Bond and Ethel Merman and Maria Callas.
I guess I was erroneously using “Broadway” as a catch-all term for “musical theater”. But speaking of film, you’re definitely a fan of the “golden age” of Hollywood. Can you share a scene from one of your favorite films?
Yes, I love classic cinema, Dietrich in Morocco and Bogart in The Big Sleep are particular favourites. But I especially I love Joan Crawford, though it’s really hard to pick just one moment of hers to share. I’m particularly fond of the end scene in Humoresque in which she walks along the beach in a black sequin evening gown, before throwing herself into the sea, but then I also love her turn as the scheming shop girl in The Women, it’s all too difficult! So I suppose I ought to share this with you, it’s a montage of Joan’s best slaps:
She does have an impressive variety of techniques in her slap arsenal. What can we expect from you in the future? Four songs is clearly not enough to satiate the world’s lust for Alexander…
Yes, the world is a very lusty place isn’t it? I appreciate that, and am happy to say that I’m over halfway to making a full record. It’s a long process, especially when you collaborate with people in different countries but I’m really happy with the songs I have now. I’ve been working on tracks with Snax and Mary Ocher here in Berlin, and David Turpin in Dublin, so the sound of the album will be much more diverse than the EP.