FIGHTMASTER on Embracing Queer Love and Reclaiming ‘Violence’
FIGHTMASTER sits down with us to discuss their first solo project Violence, a body of work that discusses identity in the context of the ever-changing world we live in.
Musicians and writers alike use their lyrics to make sense of the world around them. One of FIGHTMASTER’s many goals within this EP has been to re-examine the way that the word violence has been used historically against members of the Queer community. They remind me that violence is also resistance. It is also being unequivocally comfortable in Queer love as a form of protest to an oppressive system, a core theme of the project. As the singer, musician, producer, and writer on the EP, they were able to follow such a direction without question. When making this album, they were unpacking their rage whilst falling in love, which makes for two incredibly strong opposing forces that are assumed to not get along. But FIGHTMASTER doesn’t see it this way…
Queer love and lust and art and rage are all a part of how we enact violence back on the oppressive system. When we are proud of ourselves, they feel scared.
Such confidence is what made for the building blocks of this project, knowing that they wouldn’t be catering to the expectation of any heteronormative standards as that’s not who they intend to cater to.
With FIGHTMASTER taking the lead on vocals, plus electric, bass, and slide guitars and co-producer Riley Geare on drums, percussion, and synth – the result is a combination of folk, funk and vintage rock music all working in harmony to pull the vision together. Vocally, you can hear their influences push to the forefront. Tracy Chapman, Fleetwood Mac and Joan Jett are just a few to have left an impact on FIGHTMASTER, and it’s noticeable in how they deliver each line, channelling both fragility and grit throughout the EP. The funk basslines on tracks like ‘Bad Man‘ and ‘Hot Shame‘ make for a powerful opener and midpoint amidst the themes at play, allowing listeners to bask in both the project’s production as well as its purpose.
A recognisable voice, FIGHTMASTER is known for their music previously released with Mike Aviles from TWIN. Most notably, their appearance on Grey’s Anatomy as the first non-binary doctor to grace the show garnered attention and praise far and wide. “Getting to make art from so many different angles is a really creatively fulfilling way to live.” In many ways, it’s allowed FIGHTMASTER to take the reins on their own. “I am at a point in my life where that kind of creative responsibility is really exciting.”
Read our full interview with the artist below, and listen to their new EP Violence,out now.
Tell me about the first track you recorded for this new EP and where you found your initial inspiration for the project. Did you start the process knowing that an EP of this kind would be the result?
It’s hard to remember which track came first because they all feel like a chapter in a story now. I was falling in love when I wrote this EP, and simultaneously I was sorting through a lot of rage about the anti-trans rhetoric in America and the physical violence enacted on the Queer community here. So the project became a reclaiming of the word “Violence” through the lens of Queer lust and love.
How does being a producer allow you to influence your music more? As opposed to just writing.
To me being a producer means being in charge of the direction of the tone and sound of the song. When I bring a song into the studio, I can hear a version of the finished product in my head. I am not bringing in bones, I am bringing in a body. My co-producer, Riley Geare, and I sit in the studio and play with ideas until we have fully dressed that body.
How has this differed from your experience being in a band with Mike Aviles in TWIN?
I love Mike! TWIN is so much fun to be a part of and I think you can hear that in the music. For FIGHTMASTER, I get to take full responsibility for every tiny decision that leads to the final product and I am at a point in my life where that kind of creative responsibility is really exciting.
The project became a reclaiming of the word “Violence” through the lens of Queer lust and love.
I read that you felt ‘an intense urge to create something that was entirely your own’ immediately after filming a season on Grey’s Anatomy and after spending sixteen weeks in the writer’s room for A24/Netflix’s Survival of the Thickest. How would you say acting influences and affects your creative output in the music space? Does it influence the music despite how different the environments are?
Getting to make art from so many different angles is a really creatively fulfilling way to live. I find that when I get done with one project, like writing a season of television, I start to miss acting. When I get done with a day of shooting, I want to go home and write music. I got to direct a stage show recently and that really got my brain moving in an entirely different way. Creativity gets fostered when you give it different formats to express itself.
Your identity intersects with your work, never one without the other. How would you say this has influenced you both as an artist and creative, being able to be honest in all aspects of your work, and in a time where it is more discussed than it was even a decade ago within popular media?
All of the projects I work on, whether it is writing or acting or music or advocacy, contribute to a larger life goal of creating art I want to be around and creating a culture I want to exist in. I want to be surrounded by Queer people who make/enjoy Queer art. It’s my mission to make that my reality.
“Violence” is the EP’s title and final track. What was the thought process behind this song becoming the title of the project?
I want Queer people to embrace a culture of resistance. I have no interest in becoming “normal” or in making my art more palatable for heteronormative audiences. I wanted Queer people to hear these songs and know that they were for them. I think that stance feels violent or separatist in a world in which you are supposed to cater your existence to the dominant culture. And that’s ok. I am violent in this way. I love my community.
How would you say you have reclaimed the word “violence” in this body of work within the context of Queer joy opposed to Queer suppression? Especially when we consider how this body of work is themed around love and sex beyond gender roles.
There are different forms of violence. When violence is used against the Queer community it is in an effort to establish dominance over us and separate us from ourselves. Queer love and lust and art and rage are all a part of how we enact violence back on the oppressive system. When we are proud of ourselves, they feel scared. To value each other’s existence so much that we never become bystanders to each other’s oppression, that is a form of violence that exists at the core of my being.
Is there a particular song or lyric from the EP that you think sums up this body of work best?
“Kiss me softly now and remember the way that it feels to be devoured without the threat of pain.” With ‘Bad Man,’ I wanted to remind my audience that the masculinity they are attracted to does not have to be attached to structural domination and cultural toxicity. It’s a lot more fun over here. “Aren’t you glad you came?”
I want Queer people to embrace a culture of resistance. I have no interest in becoming “normal”