CHRISTEENE’S BROWN REVOLUTION
By Zachary Teplin
CHRISTEENE is a seven year old creation, summoned by the inventive, intelligent, and otherworldly Paul Soileau. Having grown up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Soileau takes from the perverted and depraved image of homosexuality and exploits the homophobes’ idea of non-hetero sexuality with his volatile stage presence and his abrasive lyrics. CHRISTEENE’s debut album, Waste Up, Kneez Down, caught the attention of fashion designer Rick Owens, who regards her as his “Beyoncé.”
Now based in Austin, Texas, CHRISTEENE is busy writing her next album, which is expected to make new messes in our psyches where we never expected. Charming in grotesque ways, both CHRISTEENE and her bodily-host Paul Soileau prove that there’s plenty of boundaries yet to be crossed, and is one of very few artists today that really makes you wonder: “What will she do next?”
You have been making music for a long time now with CHRISTEENE. How did she come about?
Paul Soileau: CHRISTEENE is actually the first persona I’ve been able to fully instill original music into. The work, or persona, is an example of a perfect storm that was brewing inside of me about 7 years ago. My world was in a lot of chaos due to Hurricane Katrina, my directions were changing, and I had a strong desire to create a switchblade sort of persona that could help me to deal with things that were happening around me as well as answer some very strong creative callings within myself.
Zachary Teplin: You’ve had previous personas that were a bit more docile than CHRISTEENE…what were they about in comparison to CHRISTEENE?
PS: I have a tried and true persona named ‘Rebecca Havemeyer’ who has been goosing around the boards for about 11 years now. She’s a seasoned show clown, a burnt out Hollywood broad pushing that Jean Harlow kind of way but a bit broken in it who runs on winning ignorance and a heart of solid gold. With Rebecca Havemeyer, I use the ol’ tricks of the trade in taking songs that are already written while changing the lyrics to fit her needs. There’s a Christmas show every year here in Austin that I’ve been doing with sidekicks for 7 years now, and there is a lot of emceeing and fund raising and rabble rousing. Rebecca is a 100% good time gal, and she is much more in the cabaret way than CHRISTEENE. CHRISTEENE is in another world completely, and I would say that the only thing these two creatures share is the ability to connect to the crowd, climb inside of them, and leave them smiling in the end.
ZP: Do you practice any other art forms? Painting, photography?
PS: I fill my time with Theater when schedules allow. I’m a member of the Rude Mechs Theater Company here in Austin, and have had the pleasure of making some amazing work with them over the years. Film also finds it’s way into my life when the roads cross. There are a ton of amazing filmmakers in Austin…PJ Raval, my artistic partner with CHRISTEENE who produces and directs all the music videos with me being one of them, and if I can jump into a juicy role in front of a camera…I sure as hell will.
I like to paint. It ain’t pretty, but I like it. Crappy art is my favorite kind of art. It’s just about stimulating all the senses…especially when you are in a city like Austin that requires you to dig a little deeper to find that spark, unlike New York or London or LA where you are bombarded and stimulated by everything at every moment.
ZP: Where do CHRISTEENE’s dance moves come from? Is that your own choreography?
PS: My ‘Boyz’ and I choreograph everything ourselves. We are currently in the studio choreographing the new show that will start touring this July for all the new music off the upcoming album. It’s an amazing process and hella fun. Most of us have theater backgrounds, and we approach the work with tools that we’ve used over the years to create within a group of creatives. We are very vulnerable with each other which allows us to make asses of ourselves in front of each other to achieve the goals we’ve set for each song. We also watch a lot of videos from dance troupes, street performers, hell, even ‘Murder She Wrote’ to get that perfect stank kiss on it all.
ZP: Rick Owens is a big fan of yours, did you know he referred to you as his “Beyonce?”
PS: Good ol’ Rick. He brought us to Paris in 2011 for he and Michele Lamy’s “Spotlight” club and we’ve been stuck on each other ever since. He is my stanky Black Stallion and my champion. He cracks my mind open like no other.
ZP: Can you define “terrorist drag” for us?
PS: That’s a term I was attracted to early in the process of creating CHRISTEENE. Vaginal Davis was the horn from which that term fell into my ears, and it was the only thing that I could find that made sense with what was happening when people were constantly insisting I compartmentalize and ‘define’ the work I was exploring for them. I hate doing that, but ‘Drag Terrorist” seemed to please them and shut them up. It was a good suit to wear for a while.
ZP: How fully formed is CHRISTEENE’s persona? Over the past several years that she’s been in existence, what has changed? Does she have a sort of backstory? Does she have plans?
PS: CHRISTEENE is ever changing for me and has pretty much left the realm of being ‘human’. I think of CHRISTEENE as more of a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees… An immortal entity that is constantly evolving, or devolving, and has the power to go to outer fucking space if it wants to. The hair has gotten longer. The eyes have turned to an icy cold bleu. The voice has found it’s ugly bird. I don’t worry about a backstory…the origin is a mystery…a myth. I just listen to the beast and let it tell me where to go and what to do.
ZP: A lot of CHRISTEENE’s character seems to deal with destitution. If CHRISTEENE hit the jackpot, what would her life be like? Would she keep wearing pillow cases and smeared lipstick? Do you think there’s anything that would cause her to clean up her act?
PS: CHRISTEENE will never clean up the act. It is what it is. I find it to be the purest piece of meat that most people have ever chewed on… They just have to have the courage to get through the front door of the wrecked building first and then find a table… I’ll take care of the rest.
ZP: I saw you perform at Michael Sharkey’s studio last year, which was amazing. Everyone assumes a place like New York City will have anybody do anything, but are venues generally receptive to having you perform?
PS: Most people are fine with it. The ones who have a problem with it or run a ‘clean’ generic joint are the ones I want to play for the most because they need some wreckin’ in their lives. But overall, we have had the good fortune of performing in places from SoHo Theater in London to Glastonbury Fest to a shitty ass parking lot behind Akbar in LA. It’s a cray cray world.
ZP: Are you a fan of Tim and Eric? I ask because I see some of that humor in your music videos.
PS: Eric Wareheim has been to a couple of my shows in LA, which makes me super stanked and happy. Apparently I was in the black wig and busted up after a set and didn’t really engage with him after the show the way I had hoped to. I think I kind of grunted and growled and strolled past. That happens a lot when I’m CHRISTEENE, especially after a show. It’s a kind of possession and I tend to leave myself, Paul, at home, so when I try to reconnect with these fine folks after a chance meeting, I have to go through the process of reintroducing myself because it was all CHRISTEENE at that chance first meeting. And CHRISTEENE can be a helluva wild card, socially. I love Tim and Eric’s work. They are fucked up as all hell.
ZP: Your songs are pretty outrageous, but beyond the shock of singing about anal sex, and “african mayonnaise,” there is purpose. Looking at the lyrics of “Bustin’ Brown,” you talk a lot about anal sex, both homosexually and heterosexually. You call out rappers like Jay Z and Little Wayne for not knowing how to correctly have anal sex, and you refer to it in very non-romantic terms. I’m wondering what the agenda was for that particular song, and what comments you were making by comparing anal sex between men vs. between a man and woman.
PS: I was really fed up with the ‘no homo’ crap that was pouring out from Jay Z and Lil Wayne’s mouthes at the time. I was also really fed up with being persecuted for being a queer and for having ass sex when most every straight couple I knew as well as most every piece of straight porn I saw was literally tearing into ass sex like bandits getting away with the bank money. I was imagining how poorly and painfully these straight men were trying to fuck their girlfriends’ asses because they had never had the experience of what it’s like to take something up their own asses. So they didn’t know the rhythms, the easing in, the taking time and taking care before you hit the hot time on it. I wrote “Bustin’ Brown” in response to that.
ZP: There’s a real discomfort with talking about anal sex, and I think that has a lot to do with shit as a material. People tend to think shit is not sexy and it’s dirty, and that vaginal secretions are arousing. Sometimes I think the the biggest mental obstacle for homophobes is that they can’t get their head around the idea of romance, and making love, when it involves shit. Do you think Bustin Brown, or your music in general, contributes to this sort of conversation?
PS: Well, first off, for some shit is sexy and good, and for some, vaginal secretions are not arousing at all. I think people just can’t get their head around the fact that there are millions of ways of fucking and connecting with folks that will never be found in the boring ass sextbooks we were handed as kids (if we were even fortunate enough to GET a sextbook). I think the work I’m making with CHRISTEENE causes people to question a lot of rules and regulations they have made for themselves based off of the mess they were fed growing up.
ZP: What’s up with the chickens?
PS: Chickenz are everyyyyyyything.
ZP: What are your plans for CHRISTEENE?
PS: I’m just finishing up my second album with CHRISTEENE. I’m in love with it and the direction it’s taking. My producer is a local Austin composer, mastermind named Peter Stopschinski. He is tha’ shit. I’ve also collaborated with composer Graham Reynolds in Austin as well as musician Thomas Suire from the band Infecticide in Paris, France for this new album. I’ll be touring with my Boyz: T Gravel, Dawg Elf and Chubby D, in the UK / EU from July to October, and then I’ll finally do a proper fucking US tour in 2017. I’m stanked. All the fans out there helped us raise the money needed to create this album and make more videos (with PJ Raval) and I can’t thank them enough for their belief in this mess. It’s super inspiring.
ZP: How is the music available to the public? Where can we get more of Christeene? And how can we see her in the flesh?
PS: You can go to christeenemusic.com and order the music, the shirts, the spirit animals. All you need to live a ‘better’ life. If you wanna see CHRISTEENE in the flesh get your ass off your goddamned computer and get into a club or theater when we are in town and see something live for a change. And leave your fucking phone off while you’re doing it or I will take it, lick it, and shove it in my very dirty underthings.