Thomas Curry talks to Planningtorock aka Jam Rostron, as she chooses some of her fave tracks for Wonderland.
You’ve mentioned before that you weren’t quite happy with the last album and that you felt like you hadn’t gone far enough, why is that?
With the last record I was anxious that writing about issues or topics that were a too political would isolate people or cut them out in some way. I was more poetic in my language – I didn’t want to be too direct. Whilst I was really happy with how the record turned out, I hit a bit of a low point after I finished touring where I began to question what making music was about. There was suddenly this void between how I felt, what I was doing with my life and what I wanted to do creatively. Ultimately I decided, who cares, I mean what’s the worst that could happen if I wrote about patriarchy and people started to disagree with what I was saying. It would have provoked discussion, that’s what art is supposed to do. I sat and wrote for hours and felt like I’d really achieved something. The album isn’t directed at any one person in particular, rather it takes issue with the constructs that alienate people in today’s society.
What has the feedback been like?
It’s been bloody amazing actually! People were really ready to talk about these issues and seem to have enjoyed listening to the records so it’s been brilliant. It’s the best feeling when you speak to friends, fans and journalists about it and they really get what I wanted this music to be about.
Artists like Lily Allen have been criticised by some for her feminist agenda – do you think your music shares something with hers?
To be honest I’m not really sure. I produce music for myself and the friends that surround me. I want it to provoke discussion and help both myself and others learn something in the process so any music that achieves that is a good thing.
Do you think there’s a danger with 4th generation feminists and that the momentum could slow down as the novelty wears off?
It depends on who’s talking about it. Personally I find it really exciting that feminism is getting shook up – that it’s not only middle class, western, white women who are having the monopoly on feminism. There’s a whole new dialogue about how feminism relates to class status, economic status, geographical status, everything, whether they’re abled or a person with a disability. Feminism is a continuum, there is no end goal. As with most issues I definitely think there’s an ebb and flow process but the most important thing is that it’s being talked about in any circle no matter how big.
With such a spotlight on Russia at the moment is your music in any way a protest song against regimes like Russia’s?
Yeah, ‘Public Love’ for example is one track off the album, it’s a direct reaction to the illegalisation of public displays of affection between people of the same gender. The changes in Russia are very frightening, but it’s not just Russia, it goes beyond that.
Would you boycott performing in certain countries if you disagreed with their laws and attitudes towards sexuality?
It’s an interesting question. The biggest feeling my friends and I have is, yeah of course it’s scary to go there and of course you think about rejecting it outright, but you have to consider your audience. I have a lot of Russian fans and I’d want to support them. I’d post something on Facebook or Twitter and find out what the fans wanted.
Do you have a reciprocal relationship with your fans?
Definitely! It’s something that’s growing all the time. I can be quite shy so it’s great to interact with fans and get their support.
Do you read a lot of feminist literature?
Definitely! There’s this handbook written by a feminist group in Malmö Sweden that I read a lot – it’s called Do The Right Thing. Another good one is Normal Life by a trans activist, writer and teacher Dean Spade. He’s a close friend of mine. Then there’s Tandra Mahanti, she writes a lot about third world feminism and the economics that sit behind feminist thinking. I’m like a sponge right now there’s so much I want to learn and understand! Bloggers too, I read hundreds of blogs!
Have you ever thought about self-publishing?
Ha, I don’t think I’m a writer! Lyrics are hard enough for me and that’s only a few lines. I love video, music and storytelling so I would love to make a funny queer comedy TV series. A retelling of Twin Peaks perhaps!
Disco has always been tied up with American gay culture, was that the reason for choosing dance and funk?
Absolutely, disco comes from queer black roots – historically it’s very but it’s also a fantastic sonic medium. I tried to think about who’s listening to this? Where can we experience it? After W I got invited to DJ a lot which was a totally new experience for me. I love the way a dance floor can erase barriers between class, race, gender, sexuality, politics. It’s the perfect space for the type of themes I wanted to talk about.
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
I do like Public Love it really gets me going when I’m coming to the studio. Human Drama was such a breakthrough for me though – it unashamedly discussed sexuality and queerness and just feels really good when I hear it.
What’s next now that you have your own imprint, Human Level?
It’s fantastic. I tend to work more with female or queer producers – we just have such a natural synergy. I met Roxy Moe a few years ago – she’s wonderful – so I’m looking forward to releasing some of her material soon.
Check out Planningtorock’s fave songs, in no particular order, here.