Stop by Alterna-Queer at Pride Toronto to get a taste of Toronto’s West End queer scene with the city’s most vile vixens: the House of Filth. They’re loud, rude, and like to roll around in gutters and sit on cakes. They are the queens who do things other queens haven’t dreamed up even in their darkest nightmares. They’ll host – and hopefully give us a show! – in between performances from their hand-picked cast of misfits, including Toronto’s hardcore/electro/dub band Above Top Secret, Montreal’s neo-soul kawaii hip-hop duo Hua Li, and trans Iranian rap superstar Säye Skye.

Hosted by House of Filth, and featuring…
Above Top Secret
Säye Skye
hey dw
Hua Li 化力
R. Flex
Blip†or
MDL CHLD

Read below for an exclusive Q&A with some of the performers set to take stage this year.

Hua Li

Hua Li – Photo by Stacy Lee

Hua Li’s hazy R&B and revolutionary rap cuts to the bone and shakes your frail ass to the ground. Following the underground success of her 2013 mixtape, The Bound Feat, Hua Li released her Za Zhong EP with producer Gloze in 2015. She is also an active DJ, having held residencies at Montreal’s Royal Phoenix Bar, Notre Dames des Quilles and Korova Thursdays. Subversive and sexy, Hua Li is Canada’s only half-Chinese, half-militant, half-rapper.

What are you most looking forward to performing at Pride Toronto this year, and why is it important to you to play events like this?

My friends and I in Montreal always refer to Pride Toronto as “gay Christmas” because it is just so large scale and extravagant compared to the somewhat fractured season of Fiérte (corporate pride) and it’s off-shoots and competitors we have here. I always enjoy the sense of very global community and the energetic, sexy vibrations when I go to Pride Toronto, so it’s a dream to get to officially perform this year.

Can you describe your musical style, and inspiration behind creating it?

Think golden-era rap bitches like Ladybug or Jean Grae over lush, hazy, futuristic production. Hua Li started as a side project for me and quickly overtook everything else in my musical life when I realized that what started out as an outrageous rap persona to pull out at sweaty queer dance parties had seeped into every last nook of my being. At first, all I really wanted to be was a beautiful hook girl, like Ashanti, so when I get on stage and I’m rapping, I have these moments of like, “oh wow, look I’m really doing it! I’m a queerish, Chinese-y rapper/ singer, who’da ever thought!”

What can people expect at your show, and where can fans hear some of your music to get ready for it?

My lyrics deal with tough subject matter, but the beats are fun to dance to! I’m militant but I want to party! Hua Li is full of contradictions, and I think that’s what makes what we do pretty Alterna Queer. My music is on all the streaming services, so search Hua Li in your favourite one and enjoy 🙂

Who do you cite as your musical and/or life influences for your work?

What is really cool for me about this upcoming show at Pride Toronto, is that the queens in House of Filth will be hosting the evening. Honestly, Igby Lizzard and her longtime hometown sister Connie Lingua picked me up as a little girl many years ago and dumped me headfirst into the sticky, juicy and spellbinding world of queer babyhood – now I’m kind of grown up! Reuniting with Igby will be tearful for me, for sure – an IRL life influence. Not to mention Igby’s co-house-mother Judy Virago, whom I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing in years, as well as their daughter Champagnea Enemea… all these bitches are amazing, and we are about to give you life, death and rebirth on the Pride stage.

Any recently released or forthcoming music on the horizon?

My producer Gloze (Alexander Thibault) and I have been working on our first full-length for this project over the past year and it is finally ready! The album will be called Dynasty, so expect twelve sizzling, authoritarian sex jams by the end of the 2018. We will wet your appetite with all sorts of fresh tunes at our show on the 22nd.

Hua Li is playing Alterna Queer at South Stage show on Friday June 22. 8:30 pm 

Säye Skye 

Saye Skye – Instil Image Co (David Todon) 

Säye Skye – Performer, Rapper, Poet, Spoken Word Artist, Entertainer

What are you most looking forward to performing at Pride Toronto this year, and why is it important to you to play events like this?

I’m bringing different elements to pride Toronto this year by having a pianist and an opera singer on stage who both are really talented in what they do. I think that combined with my Persian flows and rhythms will give the audience a unique experience, something they have never seen or heard before. Coming from Tehran, Iran where being yourself, expressing your identity and exploring your sexuality is absolutely dangerous and almost impossible, these kinds of platforms give an artist like me the space to release the frustration and show my people that there is still hope, they might not get it from inside the country but they can at least imagine anything is possible and they shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to love their very special selves.

Can you describe your musical style, and inspiration behind creating it?

My music is a combination of futuristic sounds, electronic influenced vibes, social justice taboo breaking concepts with queer mentality I personally call it Trans-Rap because it takes you on a journey with closed eyes and open ears through a transgender soul. From child labour to drug abuse issues, from BDSM to acid attacks I write about everything that I read or hear and think “oh wait a second someone gotta say something about this: basically I crush the elephant in the room.

What can people expect at your show, and where can fans hear some of your music to get ready for it?

I think people will be surprised at least that’s what I usually get from my audience, anytime I have a show people feel the energy that’s real and raw and rapping in Farsi makes it even more intriguing and exciting! But having the pleasure to work with an international opera singer and piano player makes me feel really good about the show already! Most of the songs I’ll be playing at Pride are unreleased songs (I know super VIP right!!) but they can listen to my songs on youtube and spotify or itunes under my name @SäyeSkye. I would highly recommend fans to watch TNE my music video I shot in Germany in  minus 15, It’s pretty dope directed by me and my amazing German producer Gynt.

Who do you cite as your musical and/or life influences for your work?

I almost listen to everything around me, any sound can be used in a song if the place and time is right. I’m a spiritual soul so nature is a great source but I get different ideas from Hitchcock touch, old Persian instruments, African tribal drums and Asian musical discipline, experimental underground and electronic trap is what I’m into these days. Visually I love  Björk and I think my style is also very different and new for a lot of people. I have respect for Kendrick Lamar, I listen to Eminem and some might say “how does it work?!” but I think I explored his talent in flows and turned that into something very politically and socially correct from my point of view. I always try to see the good and do something with the energy that comes from it. But the ultimate inspiration comes from people, their struggles and the fact that their pain might end up to a tumor if someone like me doesn’t talk about it. And then it becomes a remedy for my own pain as well.

Any recently released or forthcoming music on the horizon?

I have a couple of shows coming up in Toronto at Exiled festival happening on july 28 at Harbourfront centre , also I’m planning a trip to go to Kabul, Afghanistan to shoot a music video for my song about child labour in September. Getting the crew ready; it’s a lot of risks and organization. But the best place to know about all of this would be my instagram page @SäyeSkye. Check out my new music video for TNE

Saye Skye is playing Alterna Queer at South Stage show on June 22.  9 pm 

R. Flex

R. Flex – Photo Credit – Setti Kidane

After the success of his EP launch, Ryan Anthony Robinson, otherwise known as R. Flex, delivers IN & OUT. Noted by his peers for its unique sound , R. Flex delivers a well-versed world where electronica marries R&B. Featuring production from A-Fos and Zlender, R. Flex employs his songwriting and vocals to storytelling heights. Tales of voyeurism, role playing, and infidelity haunt the EP in ways that are simultaneously personal and anthemic. Starting his music career first interrupting Noise Level’s creations in 2014, he’s gone on to release two mixtapes, collaborated with a myriad of artists (A-Fos, Zlender, Tush, James Bailey, Staasia Daniels, Positive Journey, Noise Level, Ian Doig-Phaneuf, Worldcatcher, and Jale O’Haara) and has begun to carve out a name for himself within the indie r&b scene in Toronto.

What are you most looking forward to performing at Pride Toronto this year, and why is it important to you to play events like this?

I’m really looking forward to performing my EP “In & Out” at Pride Toronto. I sing about public sex and passionate crimes like it’s no one’s business. Well, no one’s business except yours.
 
Can you describe your musical style, and inspiration behind creating it?

My music style is R&B and electronica served with back rolls and sweet melodies. Get into it! The inspiration behind it was a show I hosted called Rainbow Radio back at Western University. I played songs from the BIPOC community and got inspired! I was like I wanna do that, too!

What can people expect at your show, and where can fans hear some of your music to get ready for it?

Folks can expect me running around and playing with trash while giving you some serious vocals. By the end of the performance, I want to turn the stage into a queer object where audiences can imagine how’d they play with it. Check The Flex on Spotify, AppleMusic, & Soundcloud to get ready for it!

IG:  instagram.com/r_flexmusic
FB:  https://m.facebook.com/rflexmusic/
TW:  twitter.com/r_flexmusic
Music:  https://song.link/album/ca/i/1356605307

Who do you cite as your musical and/or life influences for your work?

Kelela, Tinashe, FKA Twigs, Janet, & Le1f. But I’m gonna give you some Luther Vandross/Jacksoul tones and then flex em on you.

Any recently released or forthcoming music on the horizon?

My EP “In & Out” came out March 9th. Check The Flex in the late summer/early fall for some
forthcoming material.

Check R. Flex on June 22nd at 8PM at the Alterna Queer Stage at Carlton & Church.

MDL CHLD

MDL CHLD

MDL CHLD has an older brother and younger sister.

What are you most looking forward to performing at Pride Toronto this year, and why is it important to you to play events like this?

It’s my first time performing at Pride so I’m really excited to show everyone what we’ve pulled together. I always enjoy sharing my platform with other artists so for my Friday night performance I’ve pulled together diverse dancers, 2 Deaf performers, a female vocalist, and on Sunday I have a Deaf painter creating a really unique image in front of my ASL Interpreted Music Videos. I’m looking forward to providing an accessible showcase for both hearing and Deaf viewers.

Can you describe your musical style, and inspiration behind creating it?

My musical style is a mix between hip-hop, dance and pop; it’s kind of like a mix of Eminem, Die Antwoord, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. I easily find inspiration and I like to run with whatever ideas jump into my crazy head. I’m so grateful I have a team that allows me to pull it all together in a unique yet socially acceptable approach. I think most of my music is mainstream enough that anybody can easily listen to it but it definitely stands out on it’s own.

What can people expect at your show, and where can fans hear some of your music to get ready for it?

People can expect to have a great time! We have some incredible dancers, 2 Deaf performers that will be putting all of my music into ASL, I’ve got a killer female vocalist joining me for 2 tracks, we’ve got free stuff, interactive experiences.. it’s gonna be a blast! All of my music can be found on streaming platforms like Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, etc.. and it’s all free on my website as well:www.MDLCHLD.com

Who do you cite as your musical and/or life influences for your work?

I couldn’t choose just one person – I think my entire life and all of my experiences have shaped my music. My mom listened to Celine Dion growing up, my brother was a huge rap fan, my sister and I loved Destiny’s Child and all the other 90’s big names, my Dad got me hooked on I Saw The Sign…. everything inspires and influences me!

Any recently released or forthcoming music on the horizon?

My latest EPs are MEOW and Retrospect, they’re both available online, and I’m playing 6 new songs from my newest LP that should be out in the fall.

My performance is on Friday, June 22nd – Alterna-Queer – Church Street South Stage   7pm

Check out the Alterna Queer Facebook Event Page for more details.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.