Apocalyptic Dreamer, Queer Outsider & Artistic Genius
Yamantaka//Sonic Titan cofounder Alaska B considers their work to be on the “outside” which is precisely where their success is. What’s art without politics?Alaska is well aware that their work is also an ideal platform for issues dear to all of us, including our prevailing culture surrounding the way Indigenous peoples are treated. “Canadian reservations still don’t have clean water and we have no justice for Coulten Boushie, Tina Fontaine, and every missing and murdered Indigenous woman,” she said, adding her desire to see justice for murdered trans women and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
Now based in Toronto, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s third album, DIRT is out and also available on limited edition white vinyl. The music draws from Haudenosaunee and Buddhist themes, and members are Chinese-Canadian, Filipino-Canadian, Japanese-
Canadian and First Nations, giving them their Indigenous North American sound. Their work has been featured in a dizzying array of mediums including the soundtrack for the video game Severed, which won ‘Best Musical Score’ at the Canadian Video Game
Awards, several documentary film scores, and back in 2012 they performed a full-length drag-rock-opera during Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s Rhubarb Festival.
HELKIO: In the July interview with CBC, you said you are “no stranger to being the only queer, woman, or person of colour in the room”, how has being an ‘outsider’ influenced your work?
ALASKA B.: It has definitely provided me with an ambivalence
towards the expectations of others, imbuing my work with a sense of irreverence.
What advice would you give a young queer woman of colour who is just starting out in the music scene?
Grow a thick skin and play as many shows as you can, be personable but always stand your ground. Make yourself the best for yourself, and don’t wait for validation from others, because if and when it eventually comes, the high doesn’t last very long. The
work is what makes it worth it.
You’ve had an impressive list of tour dates. Looking back, what has been the most challenging part of this tour?
Staying sane in a cramped minivan dragging a trailer, while trying to get enough sleep on floors in houses and single hotel rooms. Especially getting enough sleep to drive. Sometimes I would drive 2+ hours at night after the shows just to save $100 on hotels and shorten our next day drive. The trick is to get a late checkout
and find a place with a hot tub for the next morning. If you hit the tub at the normal checkout time, it will almost always be empty.
What do you know now that you wish someone had told you before you started?
Do it your way. You should still be respectful of others, but a healthy amount of irreverence keeps things interesting. If you ever get too comfortable, shake it up!
Originally published in SummerPlay Magazine, 2018