Get to Know: DJ Rose Knapp's debut - deconstructing gender through electro
Not So Popular chat with Brooklyn based electronic music producer Rose Knapp off the back of her new LP 'Transceptual Deafconstruction'. We take a look at how music has the political and artistic potential and power to experiment with our perceptions, challenge Western categorisations and breakdown gender binaries.
Not So Popular: Hello Rose! Your sound is completely unique, and you've described the this debut as based on Greco-Roman origins of binary assumptions, can you tell us how this plays out (quite literally) in 'transceptual deafconstruction'?
Rose Knapp: Well, I mainly based the set around using tracks that question the assumption of arguments that are commonly heard against transgender people and non-binary people, from the perspective of someone who considers themselves both a transgender and gender-fluid person.
We commonly hear things against these communities in the West along the lines of 'it's an obvious natural fact that there are strictly men and there are strictly women, end of story' without considering cultures other than our own which challenge this assumption. Even if you separate sex and gender (and even the notion of biological sex is coming into question in contemporary science), there have still been cultures around the world and since ancient times that have recognised gender nonconformity as 'natural.'
In India, for example, hijra people have existed forever and are what we in the West would only very recently start to recognise as legitimate and call transgender or nonbinary. So to keep things somewhat short and concise (haha!) this set tries to challenge the Western notion of thinking, which loves to scientifically categorise everything into separate boxes, that has its roots in Aristotelian logic, if you have A you cannot have ≠A. While this mode of thinking can be practically useful in say science or logic, that doesn't make it any more true than non-Western ways of thinking about things, especially culturally.
NSP: There's a real exploratory message in your work clearly - and it seems that the deconstruction of these gender/sexual binaries have found power and/or purpose in electronic music for you? What are your thoughts on this as a medium to express socio-political stand points? Or rather, how does the potential to mix sounds and tracks reflect upon what we are creating?
RK: I think there's definitely power/socio-political purpose in creating electronic mixes, although it's obviously quite a bit subtler than more lyrically based genres like hip-hop. So even if the tracks that get played aren't socially conscious rapping or spoken word poetry, I think there's still purpose - especially as the tracks that are getting played at a club or party shouldn't only be a pop or house track with the theme of how a guy wants to do a sexy girl - haha! Nothing wrong with those types of songs, but I think electronic music still has more potential. Since there's often little in the way of lyrics in electronic music the titles of the tracks also can become more important too, especially if the person listening is listening online as opposed to at a club.
NSP: Back to the debut - you call it 'a mix that is designed to be both dance oriented and more introspective'. I'm interested to find out more on what you mean by introspective in this context?
RK: By introspective I mean that music can be just like any other art form, a thing that occasionally makes you stop and think, or maybe just connects with you on some other level. I’m definitely not against music that’s purely for dance and going out and having a good time, I love that type of music too, but I also think that music can be just as artistic as other mediums while still engaging with us in other ways too. I don’t think music is going to give us utopia anytime soon haha - but it still has the power to possibly give us a taste of briefly being in another’s shoes or to challenge currently accepted norms in society.
NSP: Finally, as your sound is unique to a lot of what we hear nowadays, can you share with us how you developed in and some of your biggest influences?
RK: I developed my sound mainly through initially being a house and techno lover, and once I started producing and mixing later on I really came to love the very unique sounds found in UK grime, and the wide diversity and more explicit experimental focus of genres under the label of trip-hop and industrial. So my productions and mixes are usually syntheses of these wide groups of influences, which can be chaotic sometimes, but I still generally like to make my mixes danceable.
Oh! and probably some of my biggest influences have been producers like Fatima Al Qadiri and Holly Herndon, who have often blurred the boundaries between what's usually considered dance music and what's usually considered conceptual, political, or listening music. I also think it's important that they're primarily producers as opposed to DJ's since it seems that although the DJ scenes are slowly becoming a bit more equal as far as women getting into it professionally, things still seem very masculine dominated on the whole as far as actually producing electronic music.
Rose Knapp is an experimental poet, novelist, multimedia artist, and electronic music producer. Musically she works mainly in the intersection of grime, trip-hop, industrial, and collage. She has had her self-released debut LP featured recently in Stray Landings. This mix is designed to be both dance oriented and more introspective based around the historical Greco-Roman origins of binary either/or assumptions in the West.