A QUEER artist of mixed roots from Gibraltar and Andalucia spoke out about his latest single ahead of the release of an EP later this year.
Saint Torrente said his ballad Adam talks about the devastation following the loss of intense love accompanied by a guitar and piano.
‘Adam’ marks a brave break in the music of this artist who left Gibraltar at the age of 18 to study music and has made his way onto the queer stages of London and Madrid.
Have you always been clear about what you wanted to do and who you wanted to be?
Yes, yes, I think so. At Goldsmiths (University of London) I studied pop music as an art form at all levels: academic studies, composition, production and performance. I always say that I presented my thesis in heels, it was like: “Okay, let’s show the class what it’s like to stay focused while walking in heels.” Also, when I was in London, I got involved in the cabaret scene and started meeting people. Then little by little I started doing my own work. It happened in a very natural way. I just wanted to perform, I was happy to perform anywhere I was invited to. I was surrounded by a lot of bands and a lot of instrumentalists and in the end I ended up doing something different in the scene because I was singing to my own music instead of doing covers, but also using elements of drag performance in the music, like lip syncing.
In ‘Adam’ you can see an important evolution in your music. Has it been consistent with your personal evolution?
Yes, I think that’s a testament to the fact that I’ve always really been a ‘do-it-yourselfer’, so things have evolved for me as I’ve learned. When I started, the sound of my productions was rougher, looser, the result of trying to make things as cheap as possible because, after all, I’m the only one financing everything. Now I feel that my sound is more emotional, more educated, but I also think that the quality has improved because now I know much more because of everything I’ve learned since then. After the pandemic years and feeling so cooped up, I notice that people are really engaged and ready to explore again. Maybe that’s why I chose this moment to release my music, now I really feel ready to engage with the outside world, interact with people and connect with them again.
Shangay, one of the main Spanish LGTBIQ newspapers, has recently published a review of ‘Adam’. Are you afraid that labels may take precedence over your music?
This was a concern I had before, but I think my work is heavily influenced by the culture I come from, the drag scene, and a legacy of queer people. For me LGTBIQ has never been a problem at all. The name Saint Torrente came from my last name, Torrente, and I wanted to put ‘Saint’ before it because it was a way for me to honour being queer and say out loud that I feel blessed to be queer.
What is your definition of queer?
Someone who breaks the hegemonic norms of sex and gender, but I understand that each queer person will have their definition.
About Adam’s inspiration, you quote a poem by Elaine Khan : “I’ve heard that love makes people soft, but I’ve never been more ruthless”…
This new project is actually directly inspired by that quote. There’s kind of a dynamic for me about how to be a queer artist. In general, we are used to seeing queer artists as drag queens, as people who hide behind a mask. I was curious as to what the artist would be like after being aware of that shell and breaking it. It requires a kind of acknowledgment of vulnerability, as it does in any relationship, when you say to someone something like, “I could love you and you could hurt me,” but you have to give in and accept that as a possibility. I explored this feeling of a queer artist who looks at the risks you have to take to feel love, to feel connected, or to feel integrated with the world.
A queer movement that demonstrates its strength and feelings beyond the merely aesthetic is becoming more and more consolidated. Do you consider yourself part of it?
I would like to think so. I think of documentaries like ‘Paris is Burning‘, which reflects the fact that we dress up and that it should be something fun and silly, but it’s also about the price you have to pay to have the right to enjoy yourself. It shows the beginnings of the queer performance scene, which already showed that the risks we take in everyday life allow us to build this space where we can have fun, be free, enjoy that freedom and take it very seriously. If I can be a small part of that legacy, I will be very satisfied.
Getting back to your next project. Will the rest of the EP follow Adam’s line or will it also include dance tracks?
For me this EP is a study in ballad writing, melodrama and the emotion of really deep, intense and sad songwriting. My last EP had a lot to do with dance and a kind of wild expression. In this work I wanted to capture a very succinct concept and explore the ballad in all the ways in which it can be expressed. As for the video, it’s the first time I’ve put together a whole team and made a video on that scale. I worked with my best friends, Imogen and Jeremy Franklin. We worked non-stop, trying to make sure everything came across well. It was a group effort and I am very proud of the team we put together as do-it-yourself artists.
Has growing up in Gibraltar influenced your work?
I am very lucky to have grown up in Gibraltar, to have had the opportunity to participate in local theatre and to work alongside Christopher Cortes in his choirs as a teenager. Cortes and Julian Felice have been my mentors. Personally I am also very honored to be a Gibraltarian and to be in the midst of all these different cultures. I am also half Spanish, I feel half Andalusian and half Gibraltarian, so I understand something about what it is to exist in the middle, which I think is very valuable for me as a queer artist, a kind of recognition of uncertainty and of the nuances that I am very honored to have.
Do you feel that your art is recognized by your community?
Somehow, yes. I was recently on a GBC Radio show and was very happy to have been so warmly received by the hosts and to feel that they understood what I was doing. Gibraltar can be a conservative place at times and I’ve had feedback from people who didn’t understand my work at all, but I think they are entitled to those views. I also don’t pretend that it is going to be to everyone’s liking, but all I can do is work from my perspective.
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