Exclusive Interview: Bright Light Bright Light takes us on a guided tour of his new album Fun City “for queer people pop music has always been a kind of safe haven”

The Welsh-born New York City-dwelling queer prince of indie electro pop, Bright Light Bright Light, aka Rod Thomas, is about to unleash his latest album, Fun City. The Queer Review’s James Derek Dwyer calls it, “a slick, heartfelt dance floor masterpiece that wears its purple influences as proudly as its star-studded features”. And for an independent artist who’s already collaborated in the studio multiple times with Sir Elton John (as well as opening for him over fifty times on tour), plus every member of the Scissor Sisters, Fun City’s list of guest stars still manages to impress. He’s assembled a glittering musical community of LGBTQ+/ally artists including the trans icon, actor, writer and cabaret legend Justin Vivian Bond, Brooklyn’s finest queer pop duo The Illustrious Blacks, mustachioed musical genius Jake Shears, British pop royalty in the form of Erasure’s Andy Bell and Montreal’s all-womxn queer trio Caveboy.

Named WINQ magazine’s 2016 Musician of the Year, Bright Light Bright Light was the first-ever unsigned artist to perform on the UK’s Graham Norton Show, where he was joined on stage by his friend Elton John to sing their US Dance Chart hit All In The Name, from BLBL’s Choreography album. The singer-songwriter-producer, who has his own record label, YSKWN!, has opened shows on tour for the likes of Erasure, Scissor Sisters, Ellie Goulding and Cher, and shared bills with a certain Kylie Minogue. He’s remixed tracks by Bananarama, Erasure, Dannii Minogue, Caveboy and Lent, and music Bible NME have called him “The boy Robyn in all but name”.

In non-Covid times, when he’s not in the studio or performing on stage, Bright Light Bright Light can be found spinning the decks at Alan Cumming’s East Village queer bar Club Cumming with his Time Out New York endorsed Romy & Michele’s Saturday Afternoon Tea Dance, a party that travels with him when he tours. Thomas says that Fun City “is written for and about the LGBTQ+ community”.

Bright Light Bright Light by warrenpiece.

Ahead of the album’s release on Friday September 18th, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann had an extensive exclusive chat with Rod Thomas about the liberation he felt when he started using the name Bright Light Bright Light, his experience of doing virtual DJ sets, what he’s learned from night after night of watching Cher and Elton John perform on tour, what he admires about artist Keith Haring, and he takes us on an insightful guided tour through every track on Fun City, what inspired him to write each song and tales about collaborating with all the featured artists.

James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: Before we talk about the new album, take us back a few decades and tell us how the performer in you first manifested growing up in South Wales?

Bright Light Bright Light: “When you grew up in Wales you have to do these things in school every year called an eisteddfod. Everyone in the school does poetry readings or songs, some kind of performance, and so I’d always be singing in that and I was also in the school choir. So I think it’s just always sort of been there in the background as one of those things that I did, but I don’t think I was very confident in doing it back then. When I was about 17 I started doing an open mic night in Swansea and that was the first time I’d really done something properly in public, rather than just in front my friends. And it kind of went from there. But from where I am now I find it really hard to consciously place a point where I decided to be a performer, it just sort of feels like so long ago now, but it’s always been there. I don’t know, maybe that’s my age showing!”

Bright Light Bright Light – This Was My House

So there wasn’t a lightbulb moment, it was something that just gradually expanded?

“Yeah, my career has been somewhat accidental in a way. I never moved to London to be a musician, I just thought it was something I’d always do alongside my job. My intention was to do music PR for bands and I got a job at a record label in London. I didn’t quite get to the creative side though so I quit. Then I tried to get a job in an art gallery but didn’t manage it, so I started busking on the London Underground and found a way to pay the bills doing that, along with some bar work. Then I used what I’d learned at the label to set up my own label. So there was never that, “this is what I’m going to do now moment”, I was kind of just doing it really, which is perhaps a bit unusual.”

You initially released music under your own name, but did creating Bright Light Bright Light liberate you to do something different in some ways, away from just yourself?

“Yes! I think when you go by a first name, last name identity people tend to presume it’s a man plus guitar, or a woman plus piano, you know, that’s the default assumption that your synapses make, which I’m guilty of as well. I think whenever I see a name like Sam Smith you do presume that means an acoustic singer-songwriter. So I wanted to sidestep that, and because I had been working on electronic production and DJing and remixing, I thought that it would make sense to have them all tied together with some kind of name. And when I started going by Bright Light Bright Light it felt like everything made a lot more sense and, yes, it did feel liberating to be able to present myself as I wanted to, in a more confident way which felt less about me as a person and more about me as an artist. It meant I could have fun with it and it was a little bit more fluid. It’s also an easy way to help separate professional criticism from personal criticism. When it comes to reviews or the bitching shit online they can attack your public persona and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that it attacks you as a person, whereas if it’s your actual name, then it just feels very personal.”

Bright Light Bright Light by warrenpiece.

You’re a solo artist of course, but with this new album, Fun City, on pretty much every track you’ve collaborated with someone vocally and created this real sense of chosen musical family and community which I love. Although it is quite a diverse collection of people, there’s still a cohesive sound. Could you talk about your guiding principles as you were going about deciding who you wanted to collaborate with?

“Because the album is written for and about the LGBTQ+ community, I wanted to find as many inspiring voices within that very broad umbrella as I could to add their story and their voice and their talents to the record. I had a very long list to begin with, featuring everyone from longterm heroes of mine to new musical discoveries and people that I thought really needed amplification of their voices or of their platforms, as well as people that would obviously amplify mine. The idea was to try and make it as representative as I could given the extreme limitations of being an independent artist, and factors like people’s schedules and time constraints, where they lived and their comfort levels. So it was a journey, but it was a really cool journey and whilst there were a few people that weren’t able to be part of it, or didn’t want to be part of the record, it ended up making it a somewhat nicer record. A lot of the collaborations that I’ve done in the past have been through friendships or they’ve been through genuine connections and I’ve managed to stay at the very least email friends with everybody that I’ve collaborated with. It’s been the same for this record, which is amazing because it’s about how you create and how you maintain community in times of trial. I really feel like on a very personal level that it did help me make a community of these wonderful artists and become better friends with some of them as well. I wanted trans representation on the record and Justin Vivian Bond is just one of the most wonderful performers in the whole world. And I definitely wanted Black representation, and The Illustrious Blacks are on there who are these completely inspiring performers in Brooklyn who are just fearless, and endlessly creative, they’re so, so fantastic. Kaye isn’t queer herself, but she’s a huge ally and I thought she was an important voice as a really powerful Asian American activist and musician. And then there’s the classics like Andy Bell, Jake Shears, and Sam Sparro. Big Dipper I think is just a bundle of joy and makes me so happy. Niki Haris and Donna DeLory are part of a huge movement, bringing AIDS awareness, and the conversation about stigma into the mainstream with Madonna. Caveboy are my favourite musical discovery, who I just love so much. Brendan Maclean, I think he’s bonkers and so much fun, he just doesn’t give a fuck and that energy is really needed in the queer community, he’s just unapologetically queer. Mark Gatiss is one of my favourite writers, directors, and actors of all time, and is also a really good friend of mine now. I thought of this cameo for him on the record which make my heart very happy and I actually wrote that song after doing the score for his talking heads television piece Queers, and it was sort of inspired by one of the pieces in that collection.”

Bright Light Bright Light by warrenpiece.

You mentioned times of trial, and I’m sure that you’d already written this album before the pandemic struck, but do you think it has a different resonance given the times we’re now in?

“Everything that’s happened this year has been so wild, and it was sort of in the fabric of the album anyway. We’d already scheduled the single This Was My House to go out at the end of March and so that ended up happening to be two weeks after lockdown started. Then there was a big conversation around the queer community having forgotten who fought for our rights and I’d already included the speech by Sylvia Rivera on the record, it had been mastered and everything was there in place, when there was a renewed recognition of her efforts. There were a lot of themes on the record that seemed to have become more part of the public discourse again which is the intention of the record anyway.”

I know you’d been living in Brooklyn since moving to New York from the UK, but you moved over to Manhattan in 2018, and although it’s only across the East River it does feel pretty different doesn’t it? I wondered if that had got your creative juices flowing in a different way, did you find new inspiration?

“Yeah, I did. I wrote the whole album in Manhattan, apart from one song that I wrote in LA, You Make It So Easy Don’t You. I actually started writing the album the week that I moved to Manhattan, so I Used To Be Cool, Touchy, Sensation, and It’s Alright It’s Okay were all written within the first couple of weeks of me moving. It just feels so different here, you know you’re in the middle of stuff and you really do feel the history of the East Village around you; old businesses that have shut down, new business that have opened, and the general population of the area is very queer forward or at the very least very liberal and very pro-Black Lives Matter and pro-human rights, so it does feel like being in the hub of where things happen, or where people really care. It’s a lot busier and there’s always sort of like hubbub on the streets, it felt so nice to be somewhere where you constantly walk past somebody that made you smile or laugh or think. I live very close to Club Cumming where I DJ, and close to a lot of iconic landmarks like Katz’s Deli. I love seeing movie locations or locations Madonna has used in her videos or photographs. One block from Club Cumming is the apartment that Bette Midler’s character lived in in Beaches, which is cool!”

“It was just fun to really feel part of the fabric of the city and it did make me think a lot more about what it is to live in a city, and your relationship to it, and that’s what inspired the loose theme of the album Fun City I guess. Some people have said it’s a very American theme, and it’s about New York, but that’s completely missing the point. It’s not about New York, it’s about where you choose to live, your city and how you make that yours in spite of the problems that come with it. I happen to live in New York, Lana Del Rey happens to live in LA, other musicians happen to live in London, but that doesn’t mean that everything they write is about that one specific place. I think the only struggle I’ve had to date is making people realise it’s not about New York. I mean even the album cover doesn’t look like New York and it’s designed not to so that people didn’t think it’s just about New York, because it’s not. I love it here, but it’s not the only place in the world.”

The album cover and all the singles artwork is really beautiful, love the colours, and yes there’s a palm tree on the album cover so it’s definitely not New York! Why did you want to go with illustrations and who did you choose to do them?

“I wanted it because I think there’s a freedom with illustration which means that you can dream a little bit bigger with the landscapes and the colour scheme of the artwork. So I was very aware that for me to do anything like this with me actually in a photo studio would have cost a phenomenal amount of money, and because there are so many guests as well, there was almost no chance that we could be in the same place at the same time to have photoshoots for all the different single covers. So, in my mind, it was problem solving and also liberating to sort of think of how I can be more creative with the art direction, and allow it to have a life beyond a physical location because that’s the whole ethos of the album as well. So I found this this illustrator on Instagram, FULALEO, he does these incredible fake album covers. I just emailed him and asked if he’d like to be involved and sent him all of the demos and we just sort of talked about everything and went through the songs, what they meant, and I gave him some image references and some photographs that he could illustrate from, and it was really amazing. I love his work so much. He’s a Colombian guy living in in Melbourne, and it was really important for me with this record to work only with people who are either from the LGBTQ+ community, or people that didn’t live somewhere that they were born in, because my identity as a queer immigrant is very important to me and I wanted to employ people that don’t always get a shot, and maybe get discriminated against. I think his artwork is absolutely phenomenal. I’m really proud of what he’s done.”

It’s it’s really beautiful, I love all the artwork that I’ve seen so far. As well as writing most of the album in the East Village you also recorded the vocals there, but not in a usual studio setting right?

“Yes, I recorded the vocals on the dance floor of Bedlam, a queer bar in the East Village, because it just felt to me like a cool opportunity to really seep the vocals in queer heritage. Seeing as I was singing about queer themes it seemed fun to have the vocals actually recorded in a queer space. Regardless of whether it was at a queer space or not though recording it in a bar like that, on a dance floor where I normally perform, was a really good way to get the feeling of performing to a room. I found that really helpful because being in a studio can feeling quite sterile or stiff, so it made it a lot more fun, and a lot more possible to get the performance that I would give on a stage because there’s always a difference between studio vocals, which are clean and great, but then when I perform the songs live, I change them to be more projectful and to have a bit more energy, and I wanted to try and capture that on the record.”

I’m going to ask you to take us on a guided tour of Fun City, track by track if that’s Okay with you?

“Sure, that’s fine by me!”

So the opening track, Touchy is very sexy, it made me think back to being single and having a few snogs on a night out; it really made me want to be back on a dance floor again!

“In my mind it was like a sort of drag king Moulin Rouge number, where the velvet curtains would pull back and you’d have all these drag kings performing and being very raunchy and seductive. I really wanted to do a video like that with one of my favourite drag kings in London, Adam All. I wanted drag kings to represent gay men through history going from the 1920s and into like the Parisian backstreets with the sailor outfits and then on to Fire Island. For me, Touchy is a welcome to the dance floor, slut-forward anthem I suppose!

Slut-forward, great phrase, I shall be using that! And then, I Used To Be Cool has kind of an 80s vibe to it and it’s the only track where you don’t have someone else collaborating with you vocally isn’t it?

“Yes, that’s right, I Used To Be Cool is kind of a fantasy delusional moment. Maybe you had this growing up as well? When you first realised that you liked guys, every time you see a guy that you find attractive you wonder are they gay or not, do they notice me? And you kind of slip into this dream world and you overthink all of these situations and you kind of have conversations in your head and you play both parts. It’s about that, those brief moments, where you lose your cool and start going way too far with the tangent, but you kind of love it at the same time, and it’s kind of delicious in a way to have that delusion!”

Bright Light Bright Light ‘I Used To Be Cool’

The video for I Used To Be Cool has already had over 200,000 views on YouTube. It starts with that lovely nod to Desperately Seeking Susan, and the video itself is a kind of 80s movie homage and reflects some of those themes you were talking about, what was the concept?

“The concept behind it was to play around with that sort of fantasy and delusion, and also tapping into that elite culture of the gay male lifestyle which I don’t have access to. So in the video there’s this gorgeous handsome stud that lives in a really expensive house, that I could never afford, who just has that lifestyle that you’re always on the periphery of. And it’s me needing a weekend job, and I go and get one and it happens to be this really hot guy’s house and we flipped it a bit so that the Latino guy is the owner of the house versus being pool boy, because there’s so often that racist stereotype that the Latino immigrant is the subservient person. Three of us were not Americans in that video and we had a lot of fun playing with American stereotypes and as you say Desperately Seeking Susan as well as Fast Times and Ridgemont High motifs. It was great to make a video that wasn’t as serious as some of the other things on the record.”

Sensation is next, with Jake Shears who you’ve collaborated with before. I noticed that you got a thank you in his autobiography, Boys Keep Swinging, which is a fantastic book.

“I did yeah, which was amazing!”

Bright Light Bright Light & Jake Shears ‘Sensation’ (Official Audio)

I think your voices really complement each other well, and since you had collaborated with him before what did you want to get out of working with him again vocally?

“More of a duet style I guess, because he kind of just did backing vocals really on the last collaboration, and I felt like it would be nice to have something where we could play off one another more. The song is about finding your community and the euphoria of being surrounded by people that you relate to, and so because the Scissor Sisters are so important to queer artists, and to me specifically as a queer artist back in the day, I thought that he would be the perfect person to be a ray of hope on the record. I think he’s just an incredibly important figure for a lot of queer people in modern times.”

Good at Goodbyes; I was excited to see Andy Bell’s name on there when I saw the list of who you’d collaborated with, and “hauntingly beautiful” was my two word reaction when I first heard the track. I also love how the lyrics of the song kind of contradict the title, because the lyric is ‘I’ve never been good at goodbyes‘.

“When you’re a hopeless romantic, which I feel taps into that Shirley Valentine, Bird Cage era of queer interest, where you know that there’s a lover who you need to get rid of but you’re just not ready to say goodbye and you kind of love the drama slipping back into the romance of it all and getting carried away and crying into a martini, but you’re also feeling kind of bored doing it. I feel like a lot of my friends in the LGBTQ+ world do still hold on to little moments from past relationships, glamorise them a little bit. And in movies that I’ve seen that’s definitely frequently been the gay character’s trait, so I wanted to play around with that a little bit. Andy’s voice is so timeless and so sentimental so I thought he’d be perfect for it.”

You Make It So Easy Don’t You is with Sam Sparrow and his voice sounds fantastic, it really melts on the ear.

“Yeah, I didn’t know him at the time and we recorded that track at a studio somewhere near Silver Lake in LA , just down the road from where he lives. I thought this would be a good song for him because his vocals are so sun-drenched, those gorgeous golden tones. The song’s title is actually a line from Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns, where she’s berating a victimised woman. I thought that was a really cool line, so I just played around with it a bit.”

Oh, I’d missed that reference, and love that movie and her performance in it. How doesn’t? Well, that’s added a new perspective to the track, so I’ll enjoy listening to it again thinking about that. And then It’s Alright, It’s Okay with the Caveboy, who is not a boy actually, it’s a group of queer womxn, and the song is partly about gender identity isn’t it?

“Yes, and I wanted three queer women on it because the song is about gender identity and misgendering and dead naming, the gender abuse that the queer community suffers from all the time. It was really important to me that it was non-males on this song, and I love their voices, I love their performance.”

Bright Light Bright Light & Caveboy ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’

“You know, I feel like it’s mind blowing to still have to scream about respecting other people’s identities in 2020, but here we are. And that’s what the song is about, it’s for everybody that needs a reminder that you don’t have to defend your identity to anybody else.”

This Was My House, which was the first single off the album.

“The song is about LGBTQ+ safe spaces and how precarious their life is, and how much in danger they are, and when it came out all those physical spaces were shut down which was just extremely weird.”

Then there’s Never Be Lonely featuring Kaye; quite sexy lyrics at the opening, then there’s a shift.

“Yeah, in a way it is sexy, but it’s more generally about finding that kind of connection that hasn’t really existed and just not needing to be so isolated, finding your place in the world; whether that’s a lover or a friend or something in between. You know, there are these little amazing connections that can really pull you out of your solitude-ridden orbits and bring you back into the world. I wanted to try something really different with that track, it’s not really produced like anything I’ve done before, and I got some live brass sections recorded for it.”

These Dreams opens with an archive audio clip of a famous speech by the legendary trailblazing Latinx activist Sylvia Rivera. I loved that because it was so unexpected, and it just gave me chills when I first heard it.

“Yeah, it’s really unexpected and because we’ve just done this live virtual show at Club Cumming, I’ve had the experience of performing it and listening to that quote is really arresting, it’s such an amazing speech and hearing that all the time when working on the record it’s still so moving. It’s crazy to think that she was booed when she was making that speech, and also how shitty people are and how shit it is that it’s still necessary to keep using that speech, in that I can’t believe we haven’t moved on. It’s just really incredible to me that there’s still the need for awareness raising and eye opening at this point in time.”

I think it’s the passion in her voice that just transcends the decades, and it doesn’t even feel like it’s an archive bit of audio because it’s so immediate isn’t it? I’m glad you included that, and The Illustrious Blacks are featured on that track which you wrote with Scott Hoffman aka Babydaddy, didn’t you?

“Yes, I wrote both It’s Alright, It’s OK and These Dreams with Babydaddy, which happen to be the two most political tracks on the record. When we got together we wanted to make a dance record and it reminded me of the nights at the queer club Ghetto in London. So we made the songs throbbing dance floor numbers which kind of align themselves with Confessions on a Dance Floor, or Fischerspooner, or records that came out in the Electroclash days, and the old Scissor Sister records as well, like their first album, and we wanted to make something that was very queer, and I think hopefully we did that with these songs. Scott’s amazing.”

Love Song features Big Dipper, and my one word review of the song is “delicious”.

“I have lots of friends in the queer community who are very sex positive and very fluid with their relationships, which is a huge part of our culture and I just wanted to touch upon that. And Big Dipper is on the track, as you say, who’s just this amazingly carefree person who has so much energy and sass, I love him. I wanted to be fun and frisky for a while. I love his energy and again it’s not like any other song that I’ve written and produced before. It’s a bit slinkier and naughtier, like the backroom of Ghetto!”

Next to you, that’s with Mark Gatiss who brings real drama to it.

“Mark’s an incredible person. One of the talking heads pieces on his TV series, Queers, was played by Rebecca Front. She played this woman who was married off to a closeted gay man, and the piece was about their relationship and her loneliness within that, and their eventual Platonic friendship. I think that’s something that a lot of women had back in the 50s to 80s, and a lot of men do as well. A lot of men are in sexless or loveless relationships that turn to eventual companionship, and I wanted to touch upon that idea of loneliness in the queer community because it’s really common. So the song is written about two people that don’t belong together romantically, but somehow they are still entwined, and that level of loneliness and realising it’s not who you want to be with, but also still caring about them in some way so you don’t want to hurt them. It’s a very complex situation that I do see a lot, but I guess that’s changed now that people are more open to having open relationships or multiple partners, but for a lot of people that’s also not what they want. So some people find themselves stuck in this limbo of loneliness in companionship, which is a sort of deafening and really interesting situation.”

There are so many highlights on the album, but my favourite track is the last one. I just keep going back to this one, Saying Goodbye Is Exhausting with Justin Vivian Bond. It’s really powerful and has a rather mournful cabaret sort of vibe to it.

“It’s was inspired sonically by the movie Querelle, the imagery in that I thought was really inspiring and it just so happens after we recorded it, Viv said to me, ‘Oh, it really reminds me of Querelle‘ which we hadn’t discussed at all before. I told them that I was actually trying to clear a sample of dialogue from the film to finish the album with and Viv was just like, “Oh my God, are you serious?!’ I played them the sample that was going to end the song and they were like, ‘Wow’.” The song is about a friend of mine who died two years ago, and how LGBTQ+ people always have to say premature goodbyes to friends, family and companions, whether that’s the Holocaust, the AIDS crisis, transphobia, homophobia, or suicide relating to abuse. It’s just such a tragedy that kind of glosses over the LGBTQ+ experience, I really needed that to be part of the record, and it was really hard to make but I’m really proud of it.”

It’s beautiful. You’ve been recording music for over a decade now, what is the draw of pop music for you as a medium for your creative energies?

“I think it is probably quite an implicit draw, I don’t even think about it anymore. You know it’s such a big part of my life. My capacity for discovering new pop music is definitely more limited than it used to be say ten years ago, but I do still love listening to music all the time. I listen mostly to film scores these days versus pop music, but I feel like outside of myself, for queer people pop music has always been a kind of safe haven, that’s been a very safe space for people and an inspiring world where you can see that at least somewhere things are fine.”

Absolutely, that just makes me think of all those weekend nights at G-A-Y when I was in my late teens and early twenties and just arriving in the LGBTQ+ world, dancing to the final track of the night, which was usually Kylie! You mentioned that you listen to a lot of movie scores now and of course we know from your last album Choreography, and so much of your work, that you’re a movie lover. Aside from your scoring work on Mark Gatiss’ Queers, what are some of the other screen projects you’ve been involved with recently?

“Not being on tour so much I’ve been able to do some of that work. Tyler Jensen, who has directed all the music videos for this album, made an amazing documentary Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street which used one of my songs. Then I made two songs for a film which is doing the festival rounds at the moment, Death Drop Gorgeous, it’s been winning a few awards which is fab, and Todd Verow’s Goodbye Seventies which is about to start the festival rounds as well, I’ve done a little bit of music for that. I’ve done a few other commissions which should be coming out next year I think. It’s been really nice to do composition work that isn’t just pop music, alongside the album itself. I’m very drawn to soundtracks to movies so my long term goal is to work more in the moving image format.”

You’re marking the launch of Fun City with a TV special style virtual show which people can pay to watch online can’t they?

“Yeah, so obviously there’s no live touring this year, and truly I don’t know what it’s going be like next year. The life of this album was very much supposed to be part of a live experience and touring around and working with queer charities, with queer performers, local drag acts and DJs to bring the album to life and to amplify their voices within their communities and hopefully on a more national platform too. But as that wasn’t going to be possible, I spoke to the Club Cumming family and asked them if I could record a sort of TV special style live performance there and they they were super welcoming and accommodating. So I used the space to do a Cher show-esque performance were there’s a costume change for each song, and I’ve got a ton of guests. A lot of the album featured artists have recorded virtual live performances with me and some other people have done virtual stuff. So it was all very socially distanced, which was weird, but really nice to be in a queer space performing and doing something to present the album in whatever way is possible right now given all the limitations. It was really fun to do and I’m really thrilled with the guests that are involved in it, not just the musical guests, but some of the other people that pop up as you’ll see. They are really some of my favourite people in culture and some of them are really inspiring voices, whether you know them already or not. I really hope it’s something that sparks little conversations here and there.”

You mentioned Cher there, having gone on tour with her and Elton John, and watched them perform live so many times is there anything you’ve kind of imbued as a performer yourself from that experience?

“Definitely the professionalism of being able to perform even if you’re not feeling great. I’ve seen Elton when’s he’s been sick doing certain shows and he’s gone on stage, and watching him perform I could not have believed that he had even a inkling of a headache, let alone, you know, bronchitis which he had a couple of the nights. And just the joy that they still exude and still get from performing the live shows is really inspiring and very hope-inducing to think that that far down the line you can still really enjoy what you do. Not many people have that with their work.”

Yeah, because let’s face it they do it because they still love it. Someone like Tina Turner, you can’t blame her, said that she’d worked hard enough all those years and so she retired.

“It must be a weird thing to stop doing what you’re known for and what you’re good at. What would you do? You don’t want to do nothing. So, yeah, what’s the alternative?”

We have to mention your virtual DJ sets, because back in March when the lockdown began here in New York I watched some of your live DJ sets streamed on social media and it really helped me get through those tough early weeks. We turned the lounge into a dance floor! So you’ve definitely given us a lot by doing them, but what’s the experience been like for you and what have you personally got out of doing it?

“It’s been a very up and down experience. It was really great at the start and it was a lifeline to have that interaction with people, and just to have something to do each week. When quarantine first kicked in it was really lonely, not just for me but for a lot of other people, with not seeing friends and nobody really know what was safe and that kind of separation and isolation was really intense. So it did help me a lot and I know it helped a lot of people. I’ve actually seen lots of people making friends from the comments, which is lovely, and it made a community which is all that I ever try and do. It definitely changed when things started opening up and it’s not as populated now, but that’s a good thing for the rest of the world. It was rewarding, but also a bit depressing to still be alone doing it. While you can see the comments, it really highlighted the fact that it’s not the same as being in a room with people, and month after month it did make me really intensely miss being around friends dancing and seeing people in real life. There is no substitute for being in a place with people that you care about.”

Bright Light Bright Light with Sylvester’s Someone Like You, artwork designed by Keith Haring. Photograph courtesy of Bright Light Bright Light.

I’ve got one one final question for you; what’s your favourite LGBTQ+ film, TV series, play, musical, book, music, or artwork. Or it could be a person. Something or someone that has had a big impact on you and really resonated with you over the years, and why?

“Keith Haring. The singularity of is work, the playfulness, the colours, the fun, the political awareness, the messages, the delivery, the execution: it’s completely perfect. Every time I see his work I can’t stop looking at it, I love it so much and it was so bold and so gorgeous. And he’s another figure gone way too soon that was loved by a lot of people that I care about. His artwork for Sylvester’s Someone Like You is amazing. I love everything about his work and I think he’s just incredible. I could go to exhibition after exhibition of his work and never ever get bored.”

By James Kleinmann

Bright Light Bright LIght’s latest album, Fun City, is released Friday September 18th, head here to stream or purchase via your preferred platform or order from your local record store.

Friday September 18th at 8pm: celebrate the release of Bright Light Bright Light’s new album with ‘Greetings From Fun City‘ a “TV Special live show” livestream broadcast filmed at New York’s Club Cumming. Filmed socially distanced, special guests appear virtually. The show will be broadcast four times across four timezones at 8pm local time in Australia (AEST ), United Kingdom (BST), US East Coast (EDT) & US West Coast (PDT). For more details or to purchase a ticket head here.

For more on Bright Light Bright Light head to his official website BrightLightx2.com and follow him on Instagram @BrightLightx2 and Twitter @BrightLightx2.

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