Musical duos that come to the table with their own distinct visions always seem to make some of the most musical music around. The most recent pairing to hit the charts in RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Alaska and longtime collaborator, the luminously creative Jeremy Mikush. Their folk songs and cabaret shows are things of legend, but once they ventured into the woods of the Russian River Valley, “Amethyst Journey” was the result. I sat down for a chat with Alaska and Jeremy and we alternated from conversations about artistic direction, the direction of drag today, and an extremely cerebral conversation about relationships between every kind of people.
Alaska and Jeremy, you have been working together for quite some time, but what made you want to show the world what you have been doing publicly with your divinely creative new album “Amethyst Journey?
Alaska-We really just thought it was about time! It has never really been a secret that we were making music together, we have been doing cabaret shows in New York City for five years now. We thought it would be fun and that it was about time to go into a studio and put it down!
Jeremy-Oh my goodness, I am so glad that we did it! My public confession is that this is the first time I was able to put a complete project out into the world like this, so it’s a total game changer for me. Alaska asked me to tour and to start playing over five years ago and I was in the middle of drowning in a dissertation at UCLA and getting a PHD in musicology. The portal literally opened up and all this knowledge and love of GLBT music and opera and everything that I was studying, I was able to put all of it into music. As roommates we were always having a great time and would have a glass of wine and start playing Fleetwood Mac or psychedelic rock. We have always been playing music for the love of it, so now the universe said it was finally time for us to show everyone what kind of shenanigans and delight we could make together!
Your music has a very distinct Stevie Nicks/:Lindsey Buckingham meets Kiki & Herb sensibility!
Jeremy-Yes I like that! Alaska always steered towards productions like that and I liked that she was in such a “Radical Faeiries” style performance at this fabulous cabaret style place. I know John Cameron Mitchell and people like that, and I love them so hard. It means so much that people would compare us to people like that, they are such trailblazers.
(Photo credit-Magnus Hastings)
One of the best things about your music is that it is very cohesive and it really tells a story, much in the same way a theater piece would. What made you decide to go in the drection of having it tell a full and complete story?
Alaska-We like doing that, we are such weird storytellers. It’s really somewhat similar to when we are putting together a cabaret show. We start with the puzzle pieces that we know. We like this song, we have to put this somewhere, and then we finish the puzzle giving it a through line and a journey.
Jeremy-My part is definitely about giving people some kind of narrative, loosely or otherwise, and is being generous to those people who are listening to you and paying attention and are interested in your creative work. The question for me as someone who has not done drag in the spotlight is “who wants to even try to pull something off like a queer concept album”? I love Casey Spooner, many of my friends are in the underground scene. We are telling queer stories and putting pieces together of what it means to be queer right now. For us, it is like, we have always been attracted to questions like “Where is the queer Sgt Pepper or the queer Dark Side of the Moon album”? We are such magical queer people, we need to start opening up the space to find out what our unique queernesses are, we have so many witchy queernesses, the album for my part is to open that up and make almost a subset genre of sorts.
Many people don’t have nearly as much passion as the two of you have and don’t really put the work in so to spea, for that you should be commended for.
Jeremy-Thank you so much. I just love Alaska with all my heart and it’s from years of traveling meeting people and I just put this little gem of a relationship into my pocket, almost like little crystals. You pick up little crystals along the way and put them on the table and it’s almost like the stories, people and situations that you love right there in front of you. I am very grateful that it comes across this way, having the little crystal gems, showing where we have been and how we can connect with the audience.
Queer music is so important you us all; Jeremy where do you see drag as a culture coming from that?
Jeremy-To be fairly concise, I like to call drag queens “witch doctor sex clowns”. They are like four corners to a compass almost. Drag is one of the last vestiges of urban shahmanisn. The more unique and deeply you can sense and express yourself, the better. I have been close enough to enough Drag Race girls to be a litmus test and a fly on the wall or a spider in the corner if you will. There are some that use it as a platform for the wonderful uniqueness of their soul, and then there are others, and the critique is that it is nothing derivative. You call a drag queen derivative and they almost turn to dust like a vampire (laughs). That is not drag; you are being a performer. Drag encompasses all of that, it’s an untouchable magical form. Those that try to put it into a category, well it just slops away. Then you are left with what is really unique about someone and their creaivity.
Alaska, when you see music that other artists put out that does not read as just as passionate or authentic as you may do it, how does that feel?
I do think that any drag queen that puts music out, it’s a good thing for everyone. I know the producers that work with these queens and I know how much vision they have and how much work they put into it. It’s very vulnerable to put their neck out to put an album out or a music video. I think it is good for everyone that we’re doing it.
Wigstock just happened to tremendous success! What do you think that now that drag has almost gone mainstream, with trans people and other artists taking the stage during this monumental show. What do you think of the state of drag culture currently?Alaska-I think that is what Wigstock was always about; it was not ever just an event for gay culture. It was for the people of the city and for everyone. It was a great intersectionality of all cultures. I was just watching a few clips from the movie Wigstock and it was almost as though they had a better perspective on drag and the intersection than we do now. I don’t know how we sort of have lost our way and started questioning and say you had to be a certain kind of person to do drag. No, drag is for everybody.
Jeremy-That is my segue into allowing Alaska to be this glorious goddess that she is. Go out and read Blossom of Bone by Randy Conner. Read that book, there are historical references and we have been dressing up as whatever gender we choose forever. Usually those people are witches and shamans and people wanted to find out what would make them glow and give them power. Everyone all over the world was doing it. They had their own gods and community and were also the first people to go out and be killed after the Roman and Greek empires. My historical perspective is that dressing up and finding that magical multifacetedness of yourself will be an empowering force for you. No matter what gender or what kind of people or who who you want to cuddle with, it’s about finding that out. Start with yourself and the ripples then go out and you find your molecules, bodies and organisms of your chosen family. That is how the world ascends and how we break open this thing and become a whole new human race.
Alaska what does Jeremy bring out of you that no one else is able to?
Alaska-Jeremy is the closest friend I think I have ever had and we have been friends for fiteeen years. We have the ability to bring out truth from one another. The power of friendship is that this is someone I can say anything to and he can say anything to me and we will stay there for one another. I am so grateful to have this person in my life and in this world.
Jeremy-For me it is the same thing. I am in my mid thirties, and you see people come and go and change. The real truth is that we wonder how strong our commitments and bonds really are. To have Justin who chose to manifest their creativity into the form of Alaksa, our relationship is built on ups and downs and understanding how we are transforming as adult queer people. So much of the time when we were roommates was about being the most honest with this person; you can’t do that with everyone that you know. Sometimes you can’t all the time with any people; it is really difficult. The person who I have been able to be the most honest with for the longest amount of time is Justin. Our relationship is based on the adventures that we have had, the experiences, and all the culture and familial support that we bring to each other. It is really a radical experiment in wanting to have the best relationship we can have. It’s also about knowing if we each need a break also. At the end of the day I think of it it as this beautiful celtic nod to the people you love and sometimes you are touching that thread and that loop, and other times there is noting between you. You trust the universe that whatever is planned is planned and whatever is choice you can have really long fruitful relationships because you go there and have courage. It’s based on love. I love her so much and am thrilled we can do this now when so much of our community needs love, compassion and courage.
“Amethyst Journey” is available currently on iTunes