As David Bowie subdivided himself into widespread personalities, where one sought immortality, fame, success and another lived surrounded by controversy, erratic behaviour and alienation, Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, among many of his other personalities, served a purpose: expression of oneself in disguise of real human vulnerability. They were political statements, social interventions and calls for awareness, disruption of conformism and gender roles, questioning norms and opening a gateway for change. All of this and more made David Bowie the intergalactic cultural icon he is today and will remain until time ceases to exist. Unquestionably.

Alexander Geist, described as a Bowie Dietrich hybrid class act, is the alias of British-born queer performance artist La John Joseph. Currently embracing all these elements and more in a world that is lacking more queer icons. Combining '80s synth-pop glamour with a touch of Moroder and Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns sass, Alexander Geist cultivates his glamorous pop-star persona and following with the same fine and dignified Bowie-esque virtues. 2018 foresees a possible first-full length album and his latest single ‘Far Worse’ comes accompanied by a video collaboration between Geist and artists Ben Jackson and Fritz Schiffers. It will be released as a telephone call. Yes, a telephone call by Geist himself. Why? According to the artist, by releasing in different formats, it’s a way of exploring ideas of communication and what it means to be a musician in the digital age.

By collecting the different threads from legendary icons and floating between the spectrums, the artist, musician and novelist takes on the conceptions and notions of what is art, performance and being fabulous, albeit incisive and prevailing, beyond what Patsy Stone, Edina Monsoon, David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, Grace Jones, Liza Minnelli, Marlene, etc, taught all of us queer kids through the years, into the present and into his own way of interpretation. In a time where being vocal about social, economic and political issues is mandatory and rightful for the better good of a community that is misrepresented in a society of straight white male privilege, new symbols of queer representation are truly necessary.


In these times of political mayhem, it feels like a surreal dream we’re living in and this has been going on for long enough. I’m sure you have your thoughts when it comes to the current state and how it affects the queer community. How do you feel, lover?

Does this feel like a dream, lover? It's clearly a nightmare, but it seems so familiar, so maybe it's a recurring stupor? I met the amazing Barb Jungr after her show in London, and she told me how sorry she was for this generation because when she was young life felt so full of possibility, in the 1960s hope was viable. I told her that in my lifetime it has only been the Thatcher-Regan-Blair-Bush human centipede, of which this Trump-May fusion is truly the crapotheosis, and Obama only a partially preferable aberration. She looked so glad to have experienced the optimisms of the mid-Century. I'm not a jealous person, but I was envious then.

We've been in free-fall since the war in Iraq eroded almost all remaining faith in politics; the Russian circus and the car crash of Brexit are symptoms of a long-term illness. Of course queer people are pawns in this culture war between liberals and reactionaries, because of our increased visibility, but what's more disturbing is the rise of homonationalism and gay conservatives. Brexit could potentially have a very adverse effect on queer people, only I'm not sure where anyone is going to flee to now. The queer experience so often parallels (and intersects with) the experience of refugees. Why can't we ever act from empathy instead of this obsession with being "next level"?

You’re known for the unconventional and contra-norm. I am to assume, you as a performer, musician and novelist, aim and have the intent to constantly create a dialogue and reflection on issues that need immediate care and attention, in particular social, political and queer issues. What’s your next step?

I'm excited that I have the freedom to do what I want, that's for sure. This new single has been released as a phone call which is a strategy a more conventional artist might shrink from. More than anything I think I'm known for being a nuisance, and that's an identity I strongly prize! Terre Thaemlitz writes incisively on being an artist who resists categorisations as a way of exposing the power structures behind "success".

I think that by my constant flirtation with other genres and media I earn myself a lot of creative independence (if not massive financial rewards). It recently occurred to me that I mainly work in the medium of self-sabotage, but by questioning the limits of my practice as an artist I do hope that opens up a dialogue as to what the point of it all is anyway.

I’m a full supporter of change of directions. I’m curious to know why ‘Far Worse’ leaned towards gabber and vocal pitching techniques, and why you parted ways (at least for now?) with the refurbished 80’s inspired sound you can practically call your own.

When I first started performing I had two showgirl dancers onstage with me, called the Crystal Tits, and we called the performance, "The Berlin Floorshow", it was a super-glam Weimar throwback. I've also presented the music with a full live band, and with a "plastic" band of performers miming on their instruments and lip-synching the backing vocals, and of course with artist Ming Wong playing me onstage alongside myself! I haven't ever been static for very long with performance, and I thought it was time to take that energy into the sound too. I don't want to ever be just one thing, mutability is my obsession.

I love gabber, and happy hardcore because it reminds me of where I grew up, and for me, it’s full of associations with bad drugs and lower-class culture. At this particular cultural moment, we are awash with posh kids aping working-class style, and it's really embarrassing. Ben and I are really are the dregs of society so this is something of a celebration of the desolated communities we come from. Class has always been very central to my work, because looking as I do, people always read me as being born to the haute bourgeois. I've always loved toying with that, sabotaging people's presumptions of social class, as with gender.

‘Far Worse’ also visually diverges from what you’ve presented so far in your videos. How would you dissect it for the layman?

I think the layman has the best point of view, so they can dissect it for themselves, lover. The best thing about pop music is that you can connect to everyone from Turner Prize winners to twinks in Vermont, and all for different reasons. I like that this video is so enigmatic, and so I wouldn't want to break the spell.

The video was shot in Berlin, also during Folsom, Europe’s biggest fetish festival. You captured these elements in collaboration with Ben Jackson and Fritz Schiffers. How did you three envision and manage the concept/idea and turned it into reality and its pertinence? Is there beauty in aggression?

The entire process of making this video was so different to any of the previous releases. I wanted to let myself be used as a product, as a pop star in the work of an auteur (which I think Fritz is). Usually I am incredibly controlling, I costume the videos, I storyboard them, I cast them, I co-design the make-up and am involved with the lighting, and editing. In short, I'm a total control freak. With 'Far Worse', I literally put myself in the hands of Fritz and Tim Heyduck (the stylist) and let them do whatever they wanted. I wanted to know how it feels to be Britney Spears, dressed up, made up, wheeled out onto the mark, and told: "ACTION".

Is there beauty in aggression? I don't know, I'm not sold on that, maybe that's going a little too far down the Schopenhauer line. There's certainly a lot of aggression in beauty though, it's not a quiet thing.

You reckon we still have a long way to go until some sort of queer Utopia is upon us? What’s missing? What needs to be adjusted?

Seeing as Utopia is an idea we've been working on since the early 16th century (and we haven't got all that far) I'd say it's probably quite a way off still, yes. Though Hasenheide in July comes pretty close I'd say.

How has places like Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro or Hong Kong, where you were able to start and work on projects, influenced your creativity and hunger for conceptualisation? You seem quite the travelling type.

I'd say it's the travel to the destination, as much as the destination itself that makes you re-think things. As I've been around the world a couple of times now, I can't help but marvel at how small it is. You might think that life and people vary wildly between say Paris and São Paulo, but really when you move between locales constantly you see how similar people are the whole world over. Of course, there are linguistic, cultural, and religious differences, but as Penny Arcade says, "people are more alike than not."

Travel makes a mockery of national borders, racial hierarchies, and Euro-American cultural imperialism. When you're faced with Mayan ruins, or Kyoto's temples, or Rio's architecture it really comes home to you that the global West has nothing more special to offer the world than good PR.

Will 2018 be a season of creative change for you? Or are you gathering more tricks up your sleeve? A debut album sounds exciting…

Every year I start with clear plans as to what I would like to do and when, but it never pans out like that! I know that I'm going to tour, 'Any Instant Whatsoever' (the dance piece I made last year) across the UK in the Fall, and that I would like to deliver at least one more music video before the end of the year, but really lover, to quote Vicomte de Valmont, "It's beyond my control."