San Francisco dancer and singer Saturn Rising drew on four years of experience in the Bay Area queer performance art scene when he toured around the US and internationally to Australia. His repertoire included backup dancing for electro-pop group Double Duchess and Crystal Castle’s Alice Glass. He recently launched his solo project Saturn Rising and is a a tour de force of music, dance, and experimental expression. His forthcoming debut EP hosts an avant garde moody, futuristic pop sound and includes collaborations with producers davOmakesbeats of Molly House Records, Demongay, Bokteen, with the support of Patrick Brown of Different Fur Studios. Saturn traveled and performed recently at Red Rattler in Sydney as part of Mardi Gras festival in Australia. I had the opportunity to photograph and interview him while he was “down under.”
You’ve recently toured Australia, how was that?
It felt transformative! Like crossing a threshold. It’s so magical sharing my music in a whole different life. I’m so thankful Swagger Like Us brought me along. We were there for two weeks, Melbourne and Sydney. I learned a lot about touring and I can’t wait to come back.
Do you have any queer Australian artists or performers that you really admire?
I was able see Bhenji Ra at Asia TOPA. Her show and the theatre itself was so beautiful, I was definitely inspired.
How do you find the queer scenes different from the countries you have toured?
Honestly, I don’t find a lot of difference. I think we all vibrate on a similar frequency so it always feels like home.
Seeing as so many queer people are connected inter-country online, do you think your music has a unifying quality that brings queers together on a global scale? I have found so many queer incredible artists via Instagram for example, have you found connecting and finding other queer people easier?
I think for queer people it’s nice to know we are not alone in pursuit of big lives. I admire each queer person, each trans kid living outwardly, so it definitely helped me see that more visually than anything.
How has that helped you build your fan base?
What has built my fan base is my close community and putting my name out there. I was welcomed with open arms into San Francisco’s party world and art scene. I took on every job from gogo dancing to hosting, then back up dancing and launching my own show, all as my visibility grew and opportunities opened up. I started to use social media more once I began to travel and meet other arts or supporters that i wanted to stay in contact with. I have a lot of emails and no email list just yet, but as we get closer to the album that will definitely get compiled. I’ve made a lot of my connections through IRL social interactions. However, my fan base and opportunities from them is growing through my Instagram (@kingsaturn). I’m learning to interact more and I love Insta-story because it’s more free form which gives way more opportunities to show natural interaction. I also love marketing and promotion as an art form. I research the places that I want to exist and how to reach out and go there. All the while making sure it feels natural to me. I have found a level of sustainability in my work. I work at an event space hosting catering gigs, and so I’m able to put more money into my shows. I also have great roommates who make sure it’s fairly easy for me to have a steady place to call home in the expensive / high living cost city that is San Francisco.
You’ve also just performed at SXSW, what a whirlwind tour! How was your experience there and was it your first time?
Austin was calm. I always have good time in Austin. It was my first time at SXSW and it was a great experience. It was cool, I just wish there were more inclusiveness. I wish a lot of the official promoters reached out to queer artists and had us on their bills. We want those opportunities to spread our music. Next year we want that sponsorship. I hope that my presence there said there needed to be more queer people at this festival.
I’m sure it did. Do you have a favorite track to perform?
I feel GHOST expresses how I want sound as an artist — the sound and the message. When I get to the end of my show it’s like I’m finally introducing myself to you and this is my ghost.
We’ve talked about the importance of holding spaces for queer black artists as a necessity. The dialogue is important and much needed in both the US and Australia. We discussed the film Moonlight and its influence on a global scale when you were in Melbourne a few weeks ago. What are the more invisible aspects of your life and experiences that you hope your music and performance will shine light on?
I hope that my music and performance shows the fight in-between the success and the struggle. People find black to be either weak or resiliant. I want to show the in-between moments. I think sonically the music is in-between the rage and the come down. The high before the storm. Black people don’t get to express how we feel, and I think Moonlight was illustrated and performed in a way that provoked thought on the black experience. The black gay male. There is so much is stripped from us. So many other people who believe we deserved the ramification of our oppression, so my radical expression needs to be a part of the celebration of loving ourselves.
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