Iconic performer Tom Rasmussen on using the awesome power of music to access their ‘transness’
Author and iconic performer Tom Rasmussen is taking the stage by storm with jaw-dropping new music as they perform as their authentic self.
Rasmussen made a name for themself for their vibrant personality, excellent drag performances and lovely falsetto voice. Now, they are moving into a new era of their storied career – creating intensely catchy music as a solo artist.
Their debut single, “Fantasy Island Obsession”, layered Rasmussen’s insane vocal talents over a catchy electronic beat. The ear-wig of a song was accompanied by an enthralling music video in which Rasmussen embodied a character called “Seth” as they explore and writhe around a metaphorical queer island that they inhabit with a white tree.
Their second single “Fabulous Opera”, which debuted on Tuesday (17 May), is just as catchy and is honestly perfect for a summer-time dance party at a queer club. Rasmussen was inspired to create the captivating song by street murals in New York City created during lockdown by performer Rose Wood.
They tell PinkNews that every interaction they’ve had with Wood has been like a “huge mind-blowing” moment, describing the performer as a “truly living legend”. Rasmussen recalls how they were seeking a way to describe a deep period within their life when Wood sent a picture of a piece inspired by a quote from poet Arthur Rimbaud: “From joy, I became a fabulous opera.”
“I was trying to write a song about what it feels like to stop being depressed because I’ve been in a long depression – not the worst depression, but like a long period of very extreme numbness,” Rasmussen explains.
“I was trying to describe in a song what it was like to sort of find mechanisms to escape that, and then Rose sent me this picture the night before.
“There was one that was, ‘From joy, I became a fabulous opera,’ and another which was, ‘1,000 dreams within me slowly burn.’
“I was just like, ‘Let’s try it.’”
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Rasmussen says they want to consider the listener of their music as their work is “written by a trans person” and wanted trans and queer people to have “space to interpret the music in their own way”.
Tom Rasmussen says they’ve always wanted to write their own music and perform after doing the “classic shadow career” where they performed other people’s hits as a sensational drag performer. They say it’s been “scary and nice” to branch into music given they also work as a journalist and author.
Rasmussen describes how such a writing style can be a bit restrictive as “you have to say the thing” whereas music can be used to “just communicate a mood”.
“There’s one song on the album where I just want any queer person to listen to this and feel invincible on the street,” Rasmussen says. “My other writing is like, ‘I want to talk about this particular experience and see how that relates to others.'”
They continued: “So in terms of writing the album, it felt like the most fulfilling and centred creative process I’ve ever been in.”
As a person working in the arts from a working-class background, Rasmussen explains that it sometimes feels like there are “100 circles that circle around your head” every day. They try to “pick as many circles as you can” every day whether it’s writing an article or doing a talk.
“But this was the first time I ever felt like all the circles were aligned,” Rasmussen says. “It was amazing.”
They tell PinkNews that they felt like their “whole 20s was a performance” as they took to the stage under their previous drag persona and even did online gigs throughout the pandemic.
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Rasmussen will be in the spotlight once again on 9 June at London’s The Pickle Factory, which they said marks the beginning of a new era for them as a glamorous artist.
“This is the first time I’ll ever perform without a wig, without an American accent and without all of that artifice that I’d use to access the real me – to give myself permission to be the edges of me that weren’t allowed to exist in the street,” Rasmussen says.
They add: “So this person who’s going to be on stage now is different. I think they’re much more sensitive, thoughtful and sincere.
“My whole 20s were about spring away from sincerity, and then the last couple of years, I’ve been like, ‘What would it feel like if I just let myself feel that emotion and talk about it and show the emotion compassion?'”
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They are “really excited to see what will come out” of their public performance as they have a lot of “faith” in their singing voice. Rasmussen says there is a lot of “power in my voice” and thinks their singing talent is their “access to my transness”.
“When I sing in this body that I’ve tried to change endless times and I can’t so I’m trying to understand that it’s OK – and when I sing, I sing in this range,” they say, playing notes on the keyboard, “and that’s very high for someone with essentially my body.”
“But that’s where I feel like something happens, and I feel really powerful,” they add.
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