Whether he's including explicitly gay lyrics on his self-titled debut album in 2000, or running naked through the streets of New York for his latest music video, "Play My F**k'n Record," Sir Ari Gold has never shied away from courting controversy. His fearless attitude and undeniable talent have earned the musician numerous accolades over the past decade, including the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts' Visionary Award and an official knighthood from one of the oldest civil rights organizations in existence, the Imperial Court of New York. With his sixth studio album, Play My F**k'n Remix, out today, the openly gay singer-songwriter shares his inspiration, talks about being an out artist, and doing whatever it takes to get folks to play his, ahem, record.
The Advocate: What inspired you to revisit this specific collection of songs for a remix album?
Sir Ari Gold: When I got down to it, I realized dance music has such an important place in the history of gay rights. It's been the soundtrack of our freedom. My own coming out and coming of age happened in the clubs and on the dance floor. So this album plays tribute to all of that. It's sort of a "best of" collection, but I call it a remix retrospective because it pays respect to the past with an ear to the future. It's a combination of some new and old remixes, plus a couple of new tracks too.
You were the singing voice of BaNee on Jem and the Holograms. How did you become involved in that show?
I was already a humongous fan of Jem before I got the part. I sang professionally since I was 6 years old, and I did a lot of work for the people who wrote many of those songs on Jem. They knew what a fan I was, so when there was an opportunity for the voice of a child, they called me and I played and 8-year-old Vietnamese girl. [Laughs] It really has been one of my career highlights, though, because I'm still a huge Jem fan.
Samantha Newark, the speaking voice of Jem, has said she'd love to collaborate with you on a future project. Any chance of the two of you teaming up in the future?
Of course! I'd love to do anything with her. We need to do some sort of reunion of the singing voices from the show soon.
While filming the video for "Play My F**k'n Record," you ran around the streets of New York City naked. What motivated you to bare it all in the Big Apple?
Yes, I was fully naked for parts of it -- which is illegal, so I'm lucky I didn't get arrested. [Laughs] But it's camp, and I feel like camp has been co-opted by heterosexuals, and I think gay people need to reclaim our camp roots. Also, it came out of the impetus of the song, which is [that] I want people to play my fucking record. It's sort of poking fun at that feeling of desperation that many of us independent gay artists feel. A good group of us are just as talented as the mainstream artists out there, and our work doesn't get the attention that it should. So the video is sort of a calling card for all independent LGBT artists.
Were you nervous before you started shooting the video?
I really wasn't. Of course, there were people walking on the streets who were giggling and others snapping pictures with their iPhones, but it was actually very liberating and it was like I was on a high afterwards. I felt completely free.
So you can now cross "running through the streets of New York naked" off your bucket list.
Yes! Also, another first I did for the video was getting dressed up in full drag. So that's another thing I'm willing to do to get people to play my fucking record.
Well, I guess you could say voicing BaNee on Jem was a sort of vocal drag.
[Laughs] Absolutely! It's funny, because I actually did the voices of many girls when I was younger, before my voice changed, but this was the first time I officially had done the full getup.
As an out artist, do you ever worry that the LGBT community might be losing a part of its identity as we become more integrated into mainstream society?
I can only speak from my own life experience, but for me, being gay is such a unique perspective. I'm not one of those people who think that being gay is simply about who I fuck. For me, being gay had everything to do with Jem and the Holograms, wanting to play with dolls, and loving divas. There are a lot of cultural aspects that are a part of it, including dance music and clubs. All of those things have become traditions that I feel strongly about carrying on. I can't control what stories are told in the end. All I can do is tell my story and hope people play my fucking record.
How has the message of your music changed since your first album?
On my first album, I was very conscious of using male pronouns and the content being about my life as a gay man. But when I look back now, that first album was very puppy-love, bubblegum gay man, and my last album was grown-ass gay man. So I have grown up, for sure, and my music today explores more grown-up, darker, and nuanced themes.
What have been some of the unexpected obstacles you've faced as an out artist over the course of your career?
The most surprising obstacle has been resistance and lack of support, in some areas, of the gay community. However, I've also had a career because of our community. So I'm very grateful to those who have supported me, but there have been some surprising times when they haven't. That's shocking to me because there still aren't many openly gay artists singing about gay life in pop music.
Being an out artist since 2000, you've undoubtedly inspired others to do the same. Has anyone told you your music inspired them to embrace their sexuality?
Yes. I have a box full of letters from fans that I keep in my house, and hearing how my music has impacted others is one of the most gratifying aspects of doing what I do. When I come up against challenges in my life or career, those types of responses from fans are like little gifts and remind me that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
See Sir Ari Gold stripped and remixed in the official music video for "Play My F**k'n Record" below.
For all the latest news about Ari Gold, visit the pioneering artist's official website, www.arigold.com.