Back in 2009, only a few Austin locals had ever heard of Christeene, the self-described “drag terrorist” who performs raunchy sexual raps in mangy wigs, torn pillowcases, thigh-high boots and lipstick smeared across their gold tooth. Yeah, at the time Christeene had an online music video for “Fix My Dick,” but it looked like it was shot in a shack with two rando backup dancers dressed in nothing but trucker’s caps and panties. It looked cheap and scary, but anyone who saw it agreed — it was unforgettable.
Now, nine years later, this Austin, Texas, local has toured the world, and the new Christeene album, sophomore effort Basura, is fiercely intelligent, joyously debaucherous and perfect for tearing off your clothes and having sweaty butt sex on your front lawn at 3 in the morning.
Keep in mind, Christeene first emerged on the scene back in 2009, three years before Sharon Needles brought her phantasmagoric drag to the runway of RuPaul’s Drag Race and seven years before the Boulet Brothers unveiled Dragula, their series searching for the filthiest, most horrific (and glamorous) drag supermonster. While other queens had done scuzzy, gross-out drag before, Christeene elevated the genre to a whole new level, setting it to original music for stage shows that were jaw-dropping and filthy.
You really have to see a Christeene live stage show — complete with two backup dancers — to really appreciate all that is this punk rock performer. They each wear torn, tight clothes, booty shorts and stained, stanky panties, the likes of which are stripped off or tossed into the audience throughout the set. Christeene and those sweaty, hairy dancers crawl on each other, doing a low-rent, molesty version of Cirque du Soleil. Occasionally Christeene will flash a dick, eat fudge out of a backup dancer’s buttcheeks or sit on the face of someone who dared stand near the front of the stage.
It may sound like shock for shock’s sake, but listening to Christeene’s lyrics, you begin to understand the other side of the story: Christeene wants to shock you out of your complacency and comfort, to amaze, titillate and confuse you; to make you question why you’re just standing there shocked, recording it on your phone or getting ready to leave in disgust when you should be dancing, expressing your own beautifully messed-up self or shocked by the truly disgusting cruelty happening in the world around us. Stop judging — start actually feeling and living.
The new Christeene album is called Basura (the Spanish word for trash) because it’s a meeting place where we all dump parts of ourselves and then forget about them every day. She sees the album as a treasury of that trash, cooked up and served back to us all in a buffet of our lives.
The first Christeene album, Waste Up Kneez Down, was a song collection created over many years, comprised of raunchy rhymes for cracking up Christeene’s barista co-workers, and there wasn’t so much of a cohesive album in mind. (It’s still worth listening to, especially for the slamming sex tune “39 34 39,” the heartbreak anthem “Tears From My Pussy” and the surprisingly political “African Mayonnaise.”)
This new Christeene album doubles down on that raunchy brand of electric sex, bringing in a few new producers to create a cohesive project that’s darker and more nuanced than Waste Up, Kneez Down. It still sees toilet tramping as a way to heaven, but the album’s raw sex is now part of a larger, more complex world where a hard penis can be a weapon of self-destruction, and your stinkiest, most shameful parts are also the most real and honest places inside you.
Hornet sat down to discuss the new Christeene album with its creator.
HORNET: In what ways do you think Basura is different from Waste Up, Kneez Down?
CHRISTEENE: I think I feel much more … I understand this world around me a little bit more. I feel like I want to feel the music more and the instruments more, and I want my voice in there more adeptfully (if that’s a word), and I like that it’s a little more personal but colorful.
In a way, I think it just was a situation where I could sit down and make it all at the same time instead of shitting out song by song, but it was also an exploration of a different way to do a album. I don’t know if I like doing albums. I think I might rather drop little shit bombs on y’all all the time so you don’t know what’s coming.
But this one I like. I wanted to make this baby, and I like it, and it just feels … I don’t know how to classify it for myself. I think I’d rather y’all do it for me.
Is there any particular song or track that you feel is particularly personal to you?
There’s a song called “Whip Slide” on the album that’s very personal and dark, and that shit crept up on me and started talking to me one night a long time ago in New York City. And I said, “What the fuck?!??” I had dreams in my head at night when I slept, and then I woke up and wrote all of the darkness in my head.
It’s some creature in there like in that Poltergeist movie when the little lady Tangina looks at the family and says, “I don’t know what’s out there, but it was strong enough to punch a hole in this world and take your daughter with it.” And that’s kind of how I feel like that song was for me. It punched a hole in my head and it took something from me and I realized it lives in my head. So there’s a demon in my head, and I think “Whip Slide” is that demon, and I need Tangina to come get it out.
(Editor’s note: Here’s some lyrics from “Whip Slide”: “Tell mama how it goes / greezy tang in mah headspace / lay it downe low / hide ya kids in uh safe place / oooo u know better run / whip slide / breakin mah crack wide open little fingers on uh whip slide / crackin them bones / pitts drippin sumthin so sweet / smell me that stank tongue / tearin at tha young meat.”)
When other queer artists talk about their work and its political or social importance, many talk about Trump. But we know queer life — and just life in general — is a lot bigger than that asshole. What do you think the most marginalized people really need, or what should artists be doing for the most marginalized parts of our community?
I think it’s about vulnerability with each other, almost privately in a way. The public eats us up so much, and the social media platforms are so phony, and it’s another identity on top of an artistic identity, which is yourself. I like to send little notes to other artists on the media, like the machines where you can message each other, like on Instagram. I like to send a note to someone I like, another artist, and say, “Hello, I like your work, maybe one day we can work together and I think what you’re doing is special.”
And they always write back immediately most of the time, and I think in a way to help marginalized people, artists who have not much platform or who might be in a dark place, I think it’s reaching out to each other as artists privately, away from the public, not making selfies with each other to say, “Look who I’m with, ha ha ha ha.”
Or to privately let each other know that you are watching each other, that you’re interested in each other and that you hope to find each other in this fucked-up world and build more of a real relationship with each other, rather than a computer relationship and pictures.
And I think that’s the start of helping anyone. It’s just, “Let’s just talk and figure out how we can share each others’ experiences, share each others’ fears or ignorance on things.”
A long time ago there were people who seemed to be upset with Christeene because they thought she was either transphobic or supposed to be a trans character, or classist, or that it was supposed to be a homeless or mentally ill character. Do you still get those criticisms? And, if so, how do you respond to them?
I’m sure I still get that criticism. I don’t read criticism on the machine really anymore, because you go insane, and there’s a lot of people out there to criticize. I am a piece of something that is exploring itself. I am out here opening myself up, sharing what’s inside of me as a person who’s processing personal things. I don’t think there’s one way to be trans.
I was born from the wreckage of the pop world, and of everything that was being shoved at me and into me. I come from the dirt in the wood, and then the first place I crawled onto was the street, and the vulnerability of my identity is that I don’t live in a house the way that most people do in this world and have their families and these normal things. I feel like more of a mythological creature of sorts.
Am I a trans? Am I homeless? Am I male? Am I female? Am I Catholic? Am I Buddhist? Like, if you want to fucking try to do a checklist on what I am, fuck you.
I’m a fucking creature that has a human mom that came from the woods, and yes, sometimes I’m living in other people’s apartments, sometimes I’m living under a bridge. Sometimes I’m living in a very nice house in Paris. I don’t belong anywhere. And I’m sure as fuck not making money off of living or trying to be, or turn a coin off of somebody else.
So I think if you can look at all the different places I’ve been, and all the different approaches I take, there’s not one way for me to sit here and say, “Oh yes, I’m homeless, and I make music.” I’ve never even mentioned homelessness, or used the word trans in any of my discussions of who I am.
I am Christeene. I’m a creature walking in your world, and your world’s fucked up, and all I’m doing is showing you how fucked up your world is.
Here is the NSFW video of Christeene’s “Butt Muscle,” the first single off of Basura:
Your album is unapologetically smutty. It embraces sexuality in a way that’s very raw. But sometimes over-sexualized images of LGBTQ people are used to demonize us as sexual deviants. Are you worried your music will contribute to that sort of propaganda by vilifying queer people as monsters?
I don’t care how they use my work. I don’t care if they’re gonna hold me up on a billboard and say, “Look, they need to be exorcized, because they fuck buttholes and look what they listen to.” That’s been going on since the dawn of time. Anyone’s gonna take anything and use it to their advantage to prove their point. It’s called hijacking. Like, I don’t care. Use me, please. All press is good press. I have no PR. I’m paying for this. I’m trying to find money to pay for this shit. Like, hello, use it. I don’t care.
And if you’re gonna take the time to look at my shit, paste it on a billboard, then you have to stare at it that long and it’s gonna rot your brain, too. If those preachers who are screaming at them kids — them kids can take care of that shit. If they see me on a billboard, they’re not gonna look at that and go, “Why is Christeene helping these people to persecute me?” They’re gonna be like, “Fuck yeah, that’s my family.”
I would hope, ’cause that’s how I feel when I feel persecuted. I look up there and I see the people on those signs that they’re saying “This person, look at this person, they’re gonna go to hell.” That’s the person I wanna go to hell with, and that’s the person I wanna be with. Thank you for showing me someone else I need to go talk to and hang out with. So I am not worried at all that my work or images could be used on a platform of hatred by these fuckheads to try to prove a point to the world that we are ugly, nasty people, or that we’ve fucked people because also, keep in mind, straight people eat shit and fuck butt, too.
This is true. This is true.
So fuck them, that’s just crap that I put the garage door down on, ’cause I don’t have time.
Where are you having your album release party?
Well in Austin we’re gonna do it at the place called The Museum of Human Achievement, and that’s a real place. It’s old Austin warehouse shit, and there’s a man named Zack Trigger who runs it, and he makes it a residency for artists. So there’s all these artists living in the walls like rats, and then the space is open for everybody and anybody who wants to share their whatever with Austin. And it’s old-school style. It’s the kind of spaces we don’t have anymore in Austin, ’cause Austin’s getting rid of ’em a lot, you know.
So, we’re doing a yard party in May, which is gonna be hot as fuck, and we’re gonna have Fish Fry and we’re gonna have me, and Hey Jellie’s gonna perform and another band called Toxic Water, which is local and fucked up like that industrial fucked up shit with the pyramids and the eyeball on top kind of fucking old industrial shit. New World Order crap pray. They’re gonna open and then me and my boys, Itzy Gravel and Chubby Dee and Dog Alpha all here, and we’re going to do our show. And that’s on May 26. It’s a Saturday. Six o’clock it starts, and then the band starts at eight o’clock, nine o’clock, 10 o’clock.