CHRISTEENE and Gwendoline Christie Want You to Fix Your Dick
All aboard the MIDNITE FUKK TRAIN. On the cover of CHRISTEENE’s newest record, the self-described feral beast’s face is done up in crusty layers of false eyelashes and smeared with lipstick, bronzer, ash, and dirt, like the winner of a beauty pageant at the end of the world. The album opens with her sultry drawl delivering what could be the opening to a sermon at a sex party: “In the dark, we will all find each other. In the dark, no one will see us.” By the pounding, euphoric final track “FIX MY DICK,” you feel like you’ve ascended to a higher realm, where filth reigns and pleasure is the only higher power.
CHRISTEENE is the second self of Paul Soileau, the metamorphic performance artist and nightlife fixture, and MIDNITE FUKK TRAIN is her third album. Though songs like “Tropical Abortion” and “GUTT ITT” aren’t likely to top any mainstream charts, the art world has taken notice of Soileau’s evolving on-stage persona, from the prim Southern belle Rebecca Havemeyer to a radical, grimy “human pissoir.” Rick Owens counts CHRISTEENE as a muse, and Soileau has appeared in films by Steven Soderbergh and queer cinema pioneer PJ Raval. Another admirer of both Paul and CHRISTEENE is Gwendoline Christie, the shapeshifting actress who has worked on everything from pop culture juggernauts like Game of Thrones and Tim Burton’s Wednesday to arthouse gems like Flux Gourmet. Before she joins renegade electro-pop solo act Fever Ray on tour, CHRISTEENE sat down with Christie for a deep and dirty conversation on raw self-expression, corrupting high fashion, and conducting the FUKK TRAIN.
CHRISTEENE: Oh my God. I thought your hookup was under the table or something and hitting the button on accident. How convenient that the camera went off and then this recording button just started going wild. [Laughs] Gwendoline, the one thing I love about you is that people can’t quite put a finger on you. You are a shapeshifter. You do many different, wild expressions of yourself, and it’s very difficult to slap a label on you or put you in a little box and say, “Okay, Gwendoline’s this kind of person.” That’s a very important trait and a very beautiful trait that gets us through these fucking crazy days.
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: Thank you, I don’t think anybody has ever said that to me before. Certainly not in a positive way. In fact, in the past there have been people in my life that have said, with almost a sneer, “Oh, I forgot about all those other sections of your life.” If you can’t continue to have an evolution as a human being, that’s your choice and that’s fine. But maybe our lives are richer. And obviously I love Paul. And I love CHRISTEENE. The first time I ever saw CHRISTEENE you made total sense to me because it felt like the rawest, truest expression. I listened to your album today, I’ve seen you perform, and you blew my socks off. I didn’t expect the music to absolutely really get me going, really send me. I listened to the whole album and I loved it from the beginning. I got more and more excited to “Fix My Dick.” It’s “FIX MY DICK,” isn’t it?
CHRISTEENE: Yeah. “FIX MY DICK.”
CHRISTIE: “FIX MY DICK” is genuinely one of my favorite songs of all time. And all of my senses, my nerves and the hairs on my skin start to stand up on end and that heat of excitement comes over me. And it’s that strength of your performance. Your passion is 100 percent engaged. But what are you feeling when you make your music? Have you always wanted to make music? Do you feel like it’s your ultimate expression or is it just one you’re focused on right now?
CHRISTEENE: Music was the very first thing I heard that really started to allow me to live, it was kind of like that little shit kid who finds the Secret Garden. Or those kids who go to Narnia. They’re just living their crappy life at old grandma’s house and then they go through the wardrobe. Music was that experience that started cracking a light into a very dark kind of organic space. “Fix My Dick” was the first song I ever wrote.
CHRISTIE: Are you joking?
CHRISTEENE: No, I wrote it in 2009 and my friend produced it. It was this really ratchet, wonderful song. I just didn’t even have an identity, really. I always say I come from the woods or I come from the dirt. The music came first, it began to give me a voice in this very biblical way. And then this film director came along, PJ Raval, and we started making videos. And the videos became a realm for me and for PJ to create the mental and emotional landscape of CHRISTEENE. That’s when it really started to take shape. So film has also been an integral part of the music making process for me.
CHRISTIE: It’s such a fulfilled expression. I love that you’re funny. You take your art incredibly seriously, but you are unafraid to be humorous about it. And that is perfection to me because I feel like we get the full spectrum of human experience. I really want to know, as much as you feel comfortable, about the process of CHRISTEENE. When you and I have seen each other, I’ve seen you as Paul and I’ve seen you as CHRISTEENE. The first time I spent a whole evening with CHRISTEENE, it became very clear that it isn’t a character you are playing, it is a whole section of identity. Do you feel like CHRISTEENE is a part of you?
CHRISTEENE: Oh, they’re definitely a part. This is a strange conversation we’re having because you’re kind of talking to both of us.
CHRISTIE: I know, I like it.
CHRISTEENE: It’s really nice. It’s as though we’re sharing a vessel. When it’s time for CHRISTEENE to come out, then the other half stays home. I find it to be a very spiritual exchange. And I don’t mean that in a Catholic way.
CHRISTIE: No, I understand.
CHRISTEENE: It’s a very strange exchange that is very mysterious and it’s very unknown to me and I feel safe in it. I feel that there is danger involved, as all things have danger involved. I don’t pair myself with other people. I’m not a relationship person. So my relationship between myself, with CHRISTEENE, with Paul, it’s almost a relationship. I really embrace that.
CHRISTIE: It seems that the expression of CHRISTEENE has a form, but it doesn’t have a traditionally structured, narrow form. It’s not commodifying something. And I love that you allow it to unfold. I love that it feels like you are working off your intuition and you’re allowing that to roll out. I’ve always really loved Rick Owens. And Rick Owens does not dress people. And then it became “Rick Owens only dresses CHRISTEENE.” I remember seeing you out. I said, “Are you wearing Rick Owens?” You’re like, “Yeah, bitch. I’m wearing Rick Owens.” And you obviously look absolutely incredible. But it was more than that. It was about receiving and giving life to a garment. It takes a strong spirit to wear those clothes and to bring them to life and let energy flow through them. Are you very selective in your fashion choices? Do you feel like you can make anything sing? And can you also please recount the outfit that you wore to the Game of Thrones premiere?
CHRISTEENE: You just bulldozed me with some wonderful things but before I answer that question, I want to say, I find some sort of kinship with you because I see you doing the same thing in your films. I remember I went and saw that Peter Strickland film, In Fabric. It was shocking when your scene came up and the lady’s looking through the peephole and I see you getting your nunu eaten out. I didn’t even know it was you when the movie started. I didn’t know you were in it. We had kind of met, but I just went to see that movie for the fuck of it. I’d never heard of Peter Strickland. I’ve watched you in so many of your roles and you seem to be taking form in this strange, spiritual way. That’s something about you that I really get joyful about. And you are also a humorous as fuck person, which was a delight after the roughness of Game of Thrones. The first time I met you, the first thing I heard was your laugh blow out of your mouth, like a joyful boat horn. Before you became Brienne on Game of Thrones, no one had ever seen a woman like that and presented in that way that was so powerful. And then you come and laugh your ass off and you’re you, you’re Gwendoline. And I think that the ability to transform is a very important trait in these commodification-of-self times.
CHRISTIE: I love you, CHRISTEENE. That means so much to me. We can hide from what we think the impact of our work might be, because sometimes doing the work requires so much of ourselves that it can be too much to even think about how it lands. But you’re not answering the fashion question, nor are you recounting what the outfit was at the Game of Thrones premiere.
CHRISTEENE: I’m coming at you. So the Game of Thrones premiere—
CHRISTIE: It’s so major.
CHRISTEENE: It was that Radio City Music Hall, right?
CHRISTIE: Yeah. It was wild.
CHRISTEENE: I had never been there, which made it very exciting. And I went with our mutual friend, Justin Vivian Bond.
CHRISTIE: Glory gloriana.
CHRISTEENE: I really just love to pervert or corrupt an outfit that’s been made. It was an orange dress and I had a Chiffon skirt. I like to turn things upside down, so I always put my legs through the arm holes of the dress, because it allows for your butt to be exposed by the collar and it leaves a nice place for your taint to be exposed as well. And your legs cut the boot and then you cut a little hole in the skirt and put your arm through it. And you have yourself a really remarkable, strange, upside-down looking dress.
CHRISTIE: It was so amazing.
CHRISTEENE: People will go, “Oh, you wearing Rick?” And I’m like, “No bitch, I’m wearing an upside-down fucking dress.” And they are fascinated by that. And I think that’s fashion, right?
CHRISTEENE: You’re creating a look that expresses exactly how you feel, just the way the roles you do or the music you write. If you are a kid who goes to Catholic schools, you’re wearing a uniform. There’s a freedom that fashion gives you, and once you really start to understand that relationship it is quite beautiful. Rick Owens really offers a very beautiful collection of pieces that I think speak to a really strange group of people who have a lot of things to say. What I’m saying about fashion, do you feel that way?
CHRISTIE: It makes total sense to me. When I was growing up, I was obsessed with fashion and design because that seemed to me like the easiest form of transformation. Transformation out of a world that felt quite constricted and limited. You could create an image that would resonate and refract light forever and inspire a feeling in people with just one moment that came from a garment and the impact that would have on the person wearing it. The energy that they would produce, how it would change their body, their mindset—I just love that it offered up different portals of experience. The fashion community was the first community really to embrace me and give me a home and make me feel totally accepted. I think there’s exquisite beauty in fashion. I believe it is about dreams.
CHRISTEENE: Oh, I like that. There are no rules in dreams and there are no genders. You can really design and decorate yourself as you see yourself.
CHRISTIE: I think you’re right.
CHRISTEENE: And I think it’s a beautiful relationship. You are married to fashion, right?
CHRISTIE: I am indeed. I believe it’s about offering up something else, an alternative to what a more limited human experience might be. I felt celebrated just for being a freak. And so one thing that had been shouted at me as an insult became a reason to love me. And that is a marriage I am in for life.
CHRISTIE: What are people’s reactions to CHRISTEENE?
CHRISTEENE: In New York, they don’t give a fuck. I take the subway, I can just walk around the city and no one really gives a fuck. I love New York so fucking much. It’s very different when I’m in Austin, Texas, where I’ve lived. There, it’s not so easy to just slip into fashion and enjoy the world, you actually have to accept the dangers of it too. But it’s important to go out there with the brightness and to kind of jolt people out of the haze or the day that they’re in and let them see that color and fluidity.
CHRISTIE: What I really truly love about CHRISTEENE is that CHRISTEENE is a blazing shot of blisteringly bright light shooting across the darkness of that sky. And CHRISTEENE is expressive and creative and multifaceted, multidimensional and wild, but also has a conscience and is kind, and that’s truly inspiring for people. Your album is truly brilliant and I think it would be inspiring for people to open the darkest recesses of their minds to get experimental, to move their bodies and to potentially have the greatest sex of their lives.
CHRISTEENE: I hope so. Good God. We need that too. Lord knows I do it. I always say the ones screaming the most about sex are getting the least amount of it.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, always.
CHRISTEENE: Bring it to it all.
CHRISTIE: I want to see on the billboards: CHRISTEENE, the MIDNITE FUKK TRAIN, the soundtrack to the greatest sex of your life.
CHRISTEENE: Well, every car on the train is a different experience. There’s lots of sexual experiences in every little car on that train, that’s how it was in my mind. And I love that.
CHRISTIE: And that train’s going fast, it feels.
CHRISTEENE: Very fast.
CHRISTIE: Yes. What do you want to do next? What does CHRISTEENE want to do next? What does Paul want to do next?
CHRISTEENE: I really want community, I really want to spend time with our family out there and not just blaze through the map to get that music out there. So I’m very much looking at thoughtful drops in places that really mean something to me, that have given something to me over the years. And also trying to make these shows very accessible financially because we’re all broke. And then as my other half Paul, that is a very soft and curious and quiet place that I very much enjoy being back in New York. I’ve never given much time to designing and decorating and dressing that person. I’m on a patient journey in both directions to really just understand this expression, be it in a wig as a persona, but really also mainly as myself, really starting to understand who is making this and how I choose to be behind it all. Because it’s very easy to get lost in these creations.
CHRISTIE: It’s never structured that you go through times where it’s very intense and then you rest where you can. And then, now I have to take some time. And I had a system of underground tunnels built and an entire complex built underneath the ground, and it has a digital simulation of the sky and weather and it is a perfect environment. And I go there alone and I relax with digital sheep.
CHRISTEENE: Wait, you really built this?
CHRISTEENE: You have a room underground?
CHRISTIE: No, I have a system of tunnels leading to a complex.
CHRISTEENE: In real physical life or in your brain?
CHRISTIE: What’s the difference?
CHRISTEENE: Either way, you have to keep those sheep alive.
CHRISTIE: My darling CHRISTEENE, is there anything else you would like to talk about?
CHRISTEENE: No, I’m just thrilled that we were able to do this. I’m thrilled to know that you are out there in the world just really tearing it all to pieces in the most beautiful way. And I’m very happy that you are in my life and that we found each other and are having this conversation right now.
CHRISTIE: Me too. Honestly, I feel like I found a kindred spirit.
CHRISTEENE: We have a lot of trouble to get into.
CHRISTIE: Oh, so much. I’m coming to New York soon. Get your matches, we’re going to burn down some buildings.
CHRISTEENE: Yeah. Pick your car on the FUKK TRAIN and let’s go.
CHRISTIE: Oh, I can’t wait. I want to go into all the carriages on the FUKK TRAIN.
CHRISTEENE: That’s why I like you, you’re going to ride every carriage on the train.
CHRISTIE: I want to drive the train.
CHRISTEENE: I’d love that.
CHRISTIE: I love you.