Exclusive Interview: queer pop musician Aish Divine on his throbbing new track BBC “we can’t discuss sexuality without discussing porn’s role in how we understand, consume & express it”

Get those eggplant emojis ready. New York based queer pop singer, writer and composer Aish Divine has just unleashed his throbbing BBC. The video for this pulsating new track has already racked up nearly a quarter of a million views on YouTube in just a few weeks and marks the second offering from his forthcoming album The Sex Issue, following Common Questions in July. The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann caught up with Aish Divine to ask some deeply probing questions about his BBC, the Godzilla and news bulletin inspired music video for the track, the impact of porn on how we understand and express sexuality, what we can expect from the upcoming album and why he loves Pose.

Aish Divine. Photograph by Joe Martinez Jr.

James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: Not wanting to be too forward here, but please could you give me a detailed description of your BBC?

Aish Divine: “Sure! Well, BBC goes deep and delivers a deeply satisfying climax, exactly as I wanted the song and video to do. It’s the second single off my upcoming album, The Sex Issue, which is a confessional about modern love and sexuality. We really can’t discuss sexuality without discussing porn’s role in how we understand, consume, and express it. BBC is not about the venerable news corporation. It stands for Big Brown Cock, a popular porn category. Categories objectify and categories in porn objectify sexuality. The song observes how the BBC porn category is ridiculous, objectifying and empowering, all at once.”

Aish Divine.

How does it reflect your own personal experience of being objectified or fetishized on the dating scene or online and on apps, which your last track Common Questions also addressed more generally?

“Beyond being a straight up dance bop, Common Questions is the truth about online dating for everyone, whatever gender, orientation, type of relationship you’re looking for. It’s about kissing the many frogs to find the one. Objectification is just one of the many experiences that come with online dating, where you’re only as good as your pic.”

Aish Divine – “Common Questions” (Official Music Video)

BBC on the other hand is about the role of porn in our relationship with sex, and how it enables us to dissociate and objectify sexuality. The BBC category in particular adds another layer to objectification; race. Pop culture, portrayals of porn and if you really go back, colonial exoticism, have created a very specific idea of what it is like to have sex with a brown person. As a brown male, there’s an unsaid, unwritten expectation of who I’ll be in bed, and usually it’s the aggressive, macho top. That’s objectifying. But on the same note, it’s empowering when the stereotype entitles you to be the object of desire. Who doesn’t want to be desired? BBC is the observation of this paradox, and me, giving zero fucks about the objectification or empowerment my brownness brings to my sexuality. Musically BBC is a relentless banger with a fresh sound. It blurs rap, qawwali, pop and electronic music. It is set to a classic North Indian “qawwali” beat I made with dhols, a family of South Asian membranophone, and features the distinctive-sounding shehnai, an oboe like instrument played only at Islamic and Hindu weddings. Members of the Oakland Gospel Interfaith choir joined me on the choruses. No point doing what’s been done before!”

Aish Divine – “BBC” (Official Music Video)

I love the video, which has already racked up over quarter of a million views on YouTube and been nominated for a Webby Award. Tell us about the concept behind it and what it was like to shoot. Presumably you shot it before everything shut down?

“Yep, the production was pre-pandemic. We shot the video in October 2019 in Brooklyn. I wanted the video to be an aesthetic parallel to the song and writing. Funny, chaotic, not literal, not explicit, but still gets the point across. At the time I was really into pre-1980s Japanese cinema, and Godzilla is of course a classic. I loved the theatre, diorama and overacting in the 1954 Godzilla. So, when Aubrey Smyth who directed BBC and I first met, I told her about how I wanted the frenetic, over the top energy of Godzilla in the video. We were thinking hard about what could represent the BBC that the song’s about and it was right under our nose: Godzilla. An object of fear and fascination through the decades, just as the BBC has been. Aubrey describes the video as, ‘News cycle panic and pandemonium meets high brow dick jokes and low fi television broadcasts through the decades!'”

Aish Divine. Photograph by Alastair Gee.

It’s quite a different sound from some of your previous work. Does BBC give us a good flavour of what we can expect from your upcoming album?

“Yes! Sonically, thematically and emotionally. Like BBC, the upcoming album The Sex Issue, is percussive, poppier, more electronic and very unconventional for a pop album. The album brings a host of chamber instruments like the gamelan, santur, shehnai, xylophone, marimba, timpani which you rarely, if ever, hear on a pop record. Like BBC’s chaotic energy, the rest of the record has an extreme emotional palette with deep sadness, anger, humour and euphoria. Thematically The Sex Issue is an album about modern love. It gets into sexuality, race, abuse, power, gender, polygamy, open relationships, infidelity, hedonism, loneliness, remorse, and redemption. It is very different from Mother which was a strings and electronic album about heartbreak and loss.”

Aish Divine.

Which musical artists do you most admire and are there any who directly influence your work? 

“So many. Nina Simone, Anohni, Tchaikovsky, Prince, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Asha Bhosle, and Björk are perpetual inspirations because they paved the path I walk now. David Bowie is the patron saint of the music I make, and people often say, they hear him in my work, which is at once a flattering, humbling and intimidating comparison.”

Aish Divine. Photograph by Daniel Villarreal.

Lastly, what’s your favourite LGBTQ+ film, TV series, music, artwork, play, musical or person? Someone or something that’s made an impact on you and resonated with you throughout the years. Or it could be something current.

Pose. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed each time I’ve watched it. To see a gorgeous, revered, well-funded, mainstream production casting mostly trans people of colour about a time when all LGBTQ+ people were second class citizens is simply heartwarming. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we have come quite far from just 10 years ago. I gave Dominique the biggest hug when I first met her. She is the embodiment of courage, grace and of course, beauty. The sorrow and beauty of Tchaikovsky’s work has also influenced me deeply.”

By James Kleinmann

Stream BBC and Common Questions on Spotify. The Sex Issue is coming soon, and previous albums Mother and Ma Mixtape are out on all digital platforms now.

Follow Aish Divine on Instagram @AishDivine and on Twitter @AishDivine, and head to the official website for his online store, mailing list and more.

Aish Divine’s BBC – Single artwork.

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