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Arts + CultureMusic'Queer, fluid, and Asian': Bézier's invigorating electronic frequencies

‘Queer, fluid, and Asian’: Bézier’s invigorating electronic frequencies

On eve of 'Undulate' release, the producer speaks about making music, anti-Asian violence, and queer representation

Robert Yang, who records as Bézier, is known here in San Francisco as an early member of queer dance music collective Honey Soundsystem, and a terrific live performer who casts a deep spell over club crowds. But the DJ and producer, who now resides in Berlin, spent years constructing riveting music of their own that’s just starting to see the light day. Working under various labels and monikers—bathhouse-oriented project Bodyzone, “gritty yet playful” label miv. (short for mémoire involontaire), and the propulsive, identity-forward Piece of Work— has allowed them to explore disparate forms, from boisterous bangers to quiet, breakbeat oriented techno, uncut dancefloor pummel to freestyle energy with Detroit synths and Miami bass.

Throughout, they have emphasized their relationship to electronic music as a queer, Asian American person, leading to fascinating connections and an unearthing of personal history. (2019’s affecting “府城” EP was recorded on their grandmother’s property in Tainan, Taiwan, as Yang explored the changing landscape they recalled from their youth.) Throughout, Bézier has kept up a fascination with analog sounds and that retro-futuristic sweet spot of music history when disco, goth, electronic experiment, and gay influence all met on the dancefloor for a long night out.

Under Yang’s miv. label, their captivation continues with crisp electronic forms that range from move-your-body oscillations to left-field techno grippers. “Continuum” EP was released this past March and the upcoming “Undulate” is, Yang promises “a fresh take on the disco-influenced, synth-laden euphoria of Bézier’s world” is slated for a late April release.

Recently we caught up with Yang via email to talk about the his musical output and current events.

48HILLS Bézier, we appreciate your taking the time to do this. By the frequency of releases, you’ve been keeping busy for more than just the past year. Pandemic or not, it seems you made a conscious decision to get things out at a steady pace for a while now. Could you talk about that productivity, and how it pertains to the upcoming releases as well?

BÉZIER Thanks for speaking with me. Over the past few years (between 2016 and 2019) I finished around five hours of music. It may look like I’m being prolific but this has been in the works for a while. I spent the last two years splitting hairs over how I could divvy up the collection. One label I started, Bodyzone, refers to the gay sauna in Detroit. Here, I pay respects to the originators of the Midwest sound. Another label ‘miv.’ is my main platform to organize Bézier’s output. Piece of Work allows me to experiment on ideas relevant to all things queer and Asian as I release music instilled with some kind of meaning. Now that I’m in my 40s, I thought, If I didn’t release the music now, then when?

48HILLS Your release Heirloom as 羅伯特 on your Piece of Work label at the end of last year was inspiring in the way it channeled your Asian heritage into such a pronounced electronic expression. Considering that and your long history in San Francisco, how you are dealing with news of the horrible anti-Asian violence in the US? And how do you think the nightlife community can fight back?

BÉZIER I am definitely processing. It’s terrible news to hear about anti-Asian violence and I do feel a sense of powerlessness from this. Even prior to the attacks I have been wracking my brain trying to understand how we move from humiliating situations at the club to being treated as equals in any given interaction. My position on this though is that anti-Asian sentiment and violence stems from unresolved justice for Black Americans. There is a double duty for AAPI and queers to defend and speak up when it comes to protecting Black individuals. Our success against bigotry and violence depends on having this view. 

There are well-organized AAPI resources and spaces out there but often it seems queer, non-binary, and trans members of the community are left out of these dialogues. The opportunities to access expertise to build mental toolsets and success strategies for action diminish if you’re queer, low-income, or out of the mainstream scope. I’ve noticed that many of the responses, outside of my echo chamber, did not go into too much depth about the lives of sex workers or defending them. Only a few organizations really made a commitment to protecting the most vulnerable individuals, like the Chinese Cultural Center in SF or Red Canary Song. Seeing all this I am constantly reminded that our deviancy shuts us out of dialogue concerning safety and justice. 

Those of us who are conscious of all these aspects can do more to cultivate Black and Brown voices, particularly of the queer and trans variety. We need to build more support systems, unhook dependency on cis-het advocacy models and create more runway to express and examine these tensions. AAPI organizations fighting against hate need to start using language that is inclusive and more in-depth. Pertaining to nightlife, helping to establish more queer Brown and Black run labels, as well as our own venues and spaces, will help. The more we can disarm fixations on patriarchal, hyper-masculine constructs the better we can move past a general shyness towards outspokenness and action.  

48HILLS How does your queer identity inform the making of these records?

BÉZIER There hasn’t been enough representation in the scene to reflect who I am or what I value. It’s one thing to get yourself out in front, everyone sees you and it’s clear who you are. Yet, I’m performing and following the rules to fit into the lowest rung of the pecking order. Owning your output is the first step to creating the world you need.

Queer, fluid, and Asian are the nodes I triangulate on. I don’t want to hear more about diversity quotas at festivals or open and read another article about queer dancefloors only to see more invalidation of non-white players in the scene. We’re given an opportunity to tackle this head-on right now and we shouldn’t squander this moment. 

48HILLS How has it been to make records in Berlin during the pandemic? Has it been difficult to stay energized when the clubs are closed?

BÉZIER Throughout the pandemic, I was working on a remix and had the hardest time getting motivated. Thanks to the band I was remixing, with follow-ups and motivation, they constantly pushed me at several points to reach a finish line. I was able to rebuild the pieces and get something to them I was very happy with. I have a partner I work with now so that has been good for getting feedback and ideas out. Hopefully, we can have some new releases in time for 2022. 

Bezier’s “Undulate” EP on miv. drops April 22. You can get it here.

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.
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