Amethyst Journey, the new album from Alaska Thunderfuck, the season two winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, is a radical departure from the techno-infused dance music she’s most known and celebrated for. It's described as a “folk music-based lullaby written for the people of earth.” Alaska sits down with LGBTQ&A to talk about what went into creating her new sound, not knowing if she’s performing her new music in drag, and why crafting the visual presentation of the album has been so challenging.
Alaska also discusses racism in the drag community and why doing drag makes her feel manly.
Read highlights from the interview here, or listen to the full podcast interview on the audio player below.
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Jeffrey Masters: You’ve been on RuPaul’s Drag Race twice. You’ve been a runner-up and have also won. Did winning feel different after the fact, or is it really all about the exposure and what you do with that?
Alaska Thunderfuck: I mean, it'll mess with your head. It’s like The Lord of the Rings. I was completely Gollum. I was obsessed with wanting to win and just like there was so much pressure on myself. I felt like everyone was expecting me to win. I should've just gone in and been fierce and had a good time and I probably would have won anyway.
Are you saying you didn’t enjoy it?
I was putting so much pressure on myself. No. I could have had a really nice time with my sisters … but I was so focused on winning that it kind of soured the experience. And then all of that came out when I had the tantrum heard around the world. I think it would have been more fun if I just had more fun.
What about after you won? Did that change things?
For me, the experience isn't that different, not winning and winning. For other people, I think it means more than, but the experience of having both, it's kinda the same.
There's a big conversation right now about racism and how different queens of color are being treated. Is that something drag queens are talking about amongst themselves?
Yes. I was really grateful that The Vixen, especially, was on season 10 because she was having conversations about race. You can't ignore it, especially in the drag community, in the Drag Race world. These conversations are being had and it's a thing.
If queens are talking about it, are they talking about ways to combat it?
I wish I knew. I wish I knew more, and as a thin white person, I don't know that it's my place to say, but I will say that it's really good that the conversations are being had because that's how you shed light on it.
You have a new album coming out, Amethyst Journey. On the cover of it, you’re not in drag. Are you performing it in drag?
Am I in drag? That's an interesting interpretation. It's a question because visually presenting for this album has been really confronting for me. At what point am I in drag, because what's real and what's fake?
I am wearing makeup on the album cover. I am wearing hair on the album. I'm wearing a dress. So, where is the line? And I don't know the answer.
It's very difficult to explain what drag is. You don’t have to wear a wig. You don’t have to wear a dress.
I know. It’s ephemeral and it’s magic.
You just need to hint at femininity.
You know, we were filming the music video for “Aliens” and I was sort of freaking out. I was feeling like Frankenstein. I wanted this visually to be more exposed and more vulnerable. We were getting ready and putting on our makeup, and at a certain point I was like, “It's too much.” So I wiped it all off and I was like, “Let’s go. Let's go do it.” And that felt more right. It still felt really exposed, really vulnerable because drag is such armor. This project, visually and even musically, I'm really raw. But as an artist, aren't you supposed to do that? You're supposed to be scared.
Compared to your other music like “Anus” and “Stun,” this is a pretty big departure. How do you describe the new stuff?
OK. Normal Alaska music is like sativa and this album is like indica. It’s not like, “I want to get turned up and go crazy and get wasted at the club.” It’s like, “I want to put it in my ears and light incense and draw a bath and meditate and sit still with it.”
You’ve said that as you've gotten older, the people you've been attracted to have expanded in terms of genders. How do you identify?
I don't know. As a person.
A lot of people have come out as pansexual recently and I didn’t know if you considered yourself as pan.
I don't know. I mean I, as I get older I'm more open to the idea of … I have a partner right now and I'm very happy with him. In another world, as I get older, I could see myself with a woman and building a life together. It's less about parts. I love hearts, not parts.
Do you like the queer label? I don’t want to be obsessed with labels, but I’m curious.
I like queer. I like that. Queer is definitely … definitely the Q.
How has doing drag affected how you experience your own gender and masculinity?
It’s always been that I feel more masculine in drag than I do out of it. I only get called “ma’am” out of drag and I only get called “sir” in drag. I think it’s cultural, somewhat. Really, drag is like, "Oh, I'm putting on women's clothing,” but it’s just clothing. The people who assign it as being for women is the culture and society. So when I'm diving into that, I can't go to a store and buy girls' clothes because they don't fit my body. I'm a giant person. I can't go and buy women's shoes in a shoe store. I don't even go in the shoe section because it just breaks my heart because the shoes are so beautiful, but they don't fit me.
Everything has to be made for me. That makes me feel manly cause I'm like, “Oh. If I put on women’s clothes, they’re tiny and don’t fit.” I’m bulging out of them like the Hulk. Yeah. It’s been a part of the journey.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Click here to subscribe and listen to the full podcast interview on LGBTQ&A.