2Q16 is a regular column by Rei Barker exploring the severely unexposed world of LBQTI music.
I started wondering about the things that have been documented so little, at least from a local perspective. The disparity between cishet and queer artists in terms of visibility and opportunities is large, but its 2016, and even though where we live in a world where queer humans are not treated well at all (Safe Schools, anyone?), it used to be worse. I spoke to Simona Castricum about her experiences in music.
RB: When did you start playing music/playing gigs/recording?
SC: I started playing live in 2002. I was going to this electro club called Meccanoid and there was a pretty good electro scene coming out of Melbourne at the time - so I started putting some tracks that Id been writing since the late 90s into something I could play, I played shows with my band Fluorescent and began djing a bit more. Our first show was at the Rob Roy with Midnight Juggernauts, put our first record in 2003 and did this big show with Cut Copy, but things didn't really jump off the way I hoped they might.
In what way?
For whatever reason - wed played shows with those people - but I couldn't make any friendships.
Wed just started playing so we were pretty crude live. I think perhaps I was trying a little too hard to fit in.
I guess we had a chance to impress but it fell short to go much further. Didnt stop me though, Naomi left the band and I continued on my own.
Looking at things through a queer lens, what was it like being involved then?
I started djing in 2000 at Q&A as a guest - a queer night on Thursdays at the Builders Arms - for a lot of queers in the late 90s/early 2000s it was like the centre of gravity that place. Pete Kung was one of the djs and was this legendary DJ who I learnt so much from - how to dj pop and dance music mostly. I was just coming out as genderqueer at the time - but back then that word didn't exist - so I didn't really know what I was doing. Most of the alternative/queer scene was centered around Collingwood/Fitzroy - it was pretty cheap to live there then - Brunswick felt like the badlands. South Yarra and St Kilda had kinda gentrified by then.
I was jumping between queer parties and cis-hetero clubs - i didn't fit in anywhere. Then weekends would be raves and/or clubs; the rave scene had jumped the shark around that point. Thered be a few queers at Hardware parties at Shed 14 down at Docklands or clubs like Teriyaki Anarki Saki, Centrifugal, Earthcore - but I didn't have any friends who were gender non-conforming or trans. Id go to raves dressed up, I was dressing femme - but because it wasn't evidently drag as most people would understand back then - people just gave me a lot of shit and abuse - like queer people; even partners and best friends. - but i just felt so alienated by what I looked like - it was pretty lonely. But I made one solid musical relationship that lasted through to now. Melissa Dor and I went on to start Ana Nicole together 15 years after we met in Geelong.
The Electroclash thing was just taking off by 2001 - and those clubs seemed to be less broey and were really femme DJ focussed - Toupee and Kiti were awesome. I got my first dj sets and live shows with Fluorescent at Meccanoid, this pretty crazy monthly club night that just went sideways every time - it was really good music and sexy people - awesome queer/straight mix. Then a new batch of queer clubs started to pop up - Witness Protection Program at Public Office then Trough Faggot Party started up at Geddes Lane - straight friendly became a new thing. Trough became John and I started a residency there for a short while. Geddes stunk like shit - it was perfect.
Id kinda retreated back into the closet by this time though, I still didn't think I could make music and be out as trans - there was just no peer group, I was so scared. I started playing at a rubber fetish party called Sinthetic at Abode in St Kilda and doing the artwork, it was fun - but it was mostly cis-hetero kink - I met a few queers through that and started to dress femme again - more latex and uniform fetish, but I didn't feel safe or confident presenting femme outside the club or at home. I played monthly for about three years and just learnt to play vinyl properly. But I remember meeting somebody at that club who had transitioned and it opened me up to what the possibilities were for me - I just didn't really understand what my choices were back then - I was just dysphoric and miserable. I didn't identity with drag, I didn't want my music to be mistaken for a drag show. It affected my music because I just couldn't deliver my music as myself, yet i was singing these songs about my dysphoria and wish to do something about it. There wasn't the space to find myself back then - not till the late 2000s. There was no peer group I could find - and without that you cant find your feet and get the confidence to become who you are.