CHRISTEENE Continues Her Transgressive Queer Artistry With ‘Basura’

It’s only fitting that the release party for CHRISTEENE’s new album Basura (Spanish for “trash”) will be held at a space called The Museum of Human Achievement.

The queer artist sounds like a 12-year-old. She’s obsessed with buttholes and, according to urban legend, she was (literally) born from the dirt. And yet, she’s getting ready to share with the world the much awaited follow-up to her debut album, Waste Up Kneez Down, released in 2012. America, the land of opportunities.

Since her first album came out, CHRISTEENE has been busy touring the U.S. and Europe, both as a solo act accompanied by her two long-time back-up dancers T Gravel and Silky, and performing alongside musicians such as Faith No More, Peaches, and Justin Vivian Bond. Her music is a celebration of in-your-face sexuality and what-the-fuck attitude. She’s unapologetically queer and uses transgression as humor, and trash as politics. CHRISTEENE is “inflammatory enough to make a queer-studies major blush,” according to the New Yorker.

CHRISTEENE is known for her filthy live performances (walking on stage with balloons tied to a butt plug sticking up her ass is one scene that comes to mind) and for her raunchy videos, which take NSFW to an entire new level. In last year’s “Butt Muscle,” for example, CHRISTEENE holds a gun with with a 10-inch black dildo on it, and pisses on designer Rick Owens’ mouth before being penetrated by his long hair, while a nice fellow fists himself. Described by Dazed as an “anal liberation anthem,” the video was directed by Berlin-based filmmaker Matt Lambert and it was the first single off Basura.

After raising funds for the album on Indiegogoin 2016, CHRISTEENE took her time to come up with new material. When she was ready, she wanted to “make a chunk of shit at the same time because I had new things on my head.” So, to the delight of her fans and followers, among them Margaret Cho and Michael Stipe, her new album will be released worldwide on May 22, and it will be available digitally and on a special edition limited vinyl. Or, as she wrote on her Facebook page: “May 22 is when BASURA COMES DA FUKK OUT.”

CHRISTEENE is the creation of Austin-based artist Paul Soileau, but thankfully she was the one who showed up for our Skype interview. Sitting on the floor, in front of a stack of cardboard boxes, CHRISTEENE spoke with me in all of her trash gorgeousness glory: her fingerless gloves spelled “CUMM DUMP” and her Thompson Twins T-shirt looked like it hadn’t been washed in a while. Her nose was running, her lipstick was smeared, her hair a complete disaster. After a few failed Skype attempts (she admits she is not very good with technology), we had a nice little chat when she didn’t stop the interview mid-sentence to play with her cat, Tickles Pickles. She told me about recording the new album, what her favorite audience is, and why she enjoys pussy so much. (“A hole is a hole.”)

CHRISTEENE! Congratulations on Basura. Can we start talking about your inspiration for some of the tracks? I’m obsessed with “Hong Kong Superstore.”

Oh, that makes me excited. I have had this crap in my head for two years and I’ve never heard anybody say nothing. “Hong Kong Superstore” is about being on the road so much. Everybody has a little tank inside of them; you have one, and I have one. But when we are living our life those tanks get drained a lot; our energy and our insides get drained. So when we are on the road, and we are killing ourselves at the show, we get tired and we get really beat up, me and my dancer boys. When the show’s over there’s very few people who are there to hold us, to take care of us, and to help us fill up our tank again. One day we were walking around in Belgium somewhere and there was a crazy store called the Hong Kong Superstore. I said, “Oh my God, T Gravel! That sounds like a fun place I’d like to go.” The place where we go to take care of each other after the shows and to give each other love so that we can do the next show. So the Hong Kong Superstore is the place where people need to go. It’s where me and my boys go to refill each other up and to make each other make it another day. And it’s a special store that takes care of everything you need so you can get refilled again.

Who did you have in mind when you wrote “Train Cake”?

This was maybe three years ago. I was performing in Birmingham in the U.K. and these kids drove on a train for five hours or something to come see our show. They were all these dykes and they had this one little faggot with them, who was like their slave. And he was really cute. The faggot couldn’t kiss me or nothing, unless the dyke gave him permission. It was so cute! I had to ask permission to make out with her little faggot. These kids were so nice. They gave me a piece of cake from the train they took and I said, “Oh, this is so kind. I’d like to one day write a song called ‘Train Cake.’” So I did it for the kids, and I hope they see it. The content of the song is about what I learned touring with Peaches. She taught me a lot about the pussy, the joys of it all, and the playfulness and the nasty of getting down with the pussy. I like how Peaches approaches sexuality. She is very naughty, but playful and fun and rascal about it. I thought a lot about Peaches when I was writing that song; and the playfulness of it, and my own personal feelings of diving into that pussy whenever I can get the opportunity to do so.

Oh, I’ve never done it. Is it good?

A hole is a hole and you need to remember that! That’s the only way we’re going to survive as faggots and freaks: if we start to understand that a hole is a hole. And that song is about a hole is a hole, but it’s also about just the fun of it all, and calibrating all the holes. I have a good time with the pussy.

Well, better you than me.

I’ll do it for you!

Thank you.

I’ll do it for all the faggots!

You’ve been touring in Europe for the last few years. How was that?

It’s good! We had such a good time in Europe because in the United Kingdom (which, I don’t know, are they Europe anymore?) they are so good to us there, and they like to listen and talk about why we do what we do, and how we do what we do and the process of what we do, instead of just saying “oh, they put that thing up their butthole hahaha,” you know? It’s more fun. And they have money there from their government sometimes, and that helps all the artists be able to support each other. So I love going over there, because there’s more funding for the arts, we find, and it helps everybody help everybody out. I go there a lot. I’m going this July and I’m going to be in Europe until November.

Then you’re coming to U.S. in 2019.

That’s my plan. If I’m still alive and if everything’s working then I want to come home and we’ll do a spring/summer U.S. Tour.

What’s your favorite public?

I like the crowd that I don’t belong in. I like it when the room is very mixed, and when the people in the room have never seen me and don’t know what they are looking at. If they stick around, and if they can make it through the first two or three songs, and they can hold on until I start talking to them, they will stay. They always stay. And they start to get that little shit grin on their face and that’s my best! I want to make this music for the people who need to hear something different, and that need to get an old dead fish slapped across their face. I like playing for the people who I know and the people in my yard, but I get a lot of satisfaction playing for people who somehow I crept into their yard and I snuck in and they are there, and it’s exciting.

I was looking at your social media feeds and I saw a lot of straight girls who adore you and write “OMG, I love you!” or “You are the best!” It’s very cute.

I’m like, what the fuck? I love it! I love it because, if they are feeling something from this music and from me and my boys, then I’m happy. But even if they hate me and send me dead animals in the mail, or something, and say, “you need to go to hell,” I’d love that! Because it’s making them think about something. If you’re not thinking, and if you are not angry or happy, then something’s wrong. I think that Pink Floyd called that “comfortably numb.”

How did you get to work with Rick Owens? It’s funny because some of his stuff can cost a trillion dollars, and your clothes don’t look very expensive. How does that work?

[Laughs] Well that’s good. That’s how we get along, there’s no competition. He is so kind, him and Michèle [Lamy, Owen’s wife and creative partner.] They brought me and my boys to Paris a long time ago to perform. I think it was 2011.

At his fashion show?

A party. They used to throw a party in Paris at the Spotlight Club. And they brought us there for that. And then I said, who are these people? I didn’t know who they were. But I thought, I want these people to be my friends forever! And I kept scratching and pooping in his yard, we kept talking and now we’re good friends. I’ve never met people like them. They’re kind, they care about me and my boys and other artists, and they like the idea of family, and taking care of each other. And they’re crazy, they think differently than a lot of people I know, and they’re generous. They make fucking clothes that look like I-don’t-know-what, and cost like who-the-fuck-what? I think all I wanna do is keep them in my little pocket and work with them whenever I can. Like we did for the “Butt Muscle” video.

That’s a fantastic video! How did that come about?

I wrote to Rick and asked, “When are we going to make a baby together?” He said, “I’ve got this other friend Matt Lambert who wants to make something, too. Why don’t we all make something together?” I said, “Well, let’s do a video or song.” We were all just digging in the toilet at the same time. So we all created the video together and we all brought all of our own ideas to the table. It was very collaborative and nice.

What’s the next single coming out?

“Night Window.” It’s that last song in the album. It’s angry! Really angry.

Why so angry?

People say, “Oh, that’s aggressive, it’s mean,” but I think it sounds hot. I like to go to those places, and on this album I wanted to go more to those heavy, warehouse, banging, industrial kinds of zones in my head. I wrote “Night Window” on the Peaches tour. When you go to a motel late at night and there’s no one in the little booth to pay, they have a little window with a sign that says “night window.” I saw this nasty, nasty motel when we were in California somewhere. And I thought, who the fuck has been going to this night window at night, and to pay for what? And it looked real fine to me. I just think right now with the way the world is, and with my excitement for the album I wanted to just shout a hard mean punch with “Night Window” to celebrate the album coming out. Then we’ll get real stupid with “TSSP [Turn Stare Shake Pose]” and all.

Did you become more aggressive after the election of Donald Trump?

I’m trying to find the best way to express the many feelings I have inside of me. I don’t think there’s one way to do that, and I think that many of those songs are part of that anger. “Top Kill,” the second song on the album, is very much about the world we’re in right now. I like to make those mean aggressive songs for you. So when you go out to that show, I imagine you’ve got some heat inside of you, and some anger with this world. I want to, at least, paint you a song and a place where you can just walk in there and unload. Those songs for me make me want to unload. They don’t make me want to go pick up a gun and shoot someone in the head, or fucking hurt other people, like everybody’s doing in this fucking country now. I want to just give you a channel to let it out, and to release that energy onto me. Give it to me and I’ll do something with it up on that stage.

Tell me about your style. Who does your make-up? Your hair? How much do you spend?

[Laughs] You used the word “style” I just put shit on, and I feel beautiful. My friend Nathan Rapport made these gloves for me, my friend Kerry gave me this T-shirt. And I wear this all the time. I wear the same things all the time. I wear my pillowcase dresses. My dresses are made from pillowcases and then I just wear some boots. It’s whatever works and I like to just make it work. And then the rest I just put it on and go get on stage. I like the stage. The music is my make-up, the rest of the shit I just put it on.

Are your eyes naturally blue?

Yaasss! They used to be not so blue when I first found y’all. I’ve changed over the years. My hair got longer and my eyes kept getting more blue. And I don’t know why that is. I think it’s from being around y’all, and being up on the stage. Something happened and I started to change. If my hair and my eyes do different things, I can’t do anything about it. I just let it happen. They kept getting more and more blue over the years and now they’re stuck like this. I don’t question it.

And your tattoo?

That’s a bee. It doesn’t have a stinger on it because when they sting, they die. And I don’t want to die, although I might put it on it, eventually.

But then she’s going to die!

Well, you know

Basura is available now out. CHRISTEENE’s European summer/fall tour kicks off at the Milkshake Festival in Amsterdam on July 28. Visit christeenemusic.com for dates.

Images by Michael Sharkey and Eli Schmidt


Muri Assunção

Muri Assunção is a Brazilian-born, New York City-based writer covering the arts, culture, Latinx issues and the LGBTQ universe.

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