Death, doo-wop & angel wings: The art of Amir Coyle

Amir Coyle comes to Los Angeles tonight and if you are a fan of out-there music and performance—and I mean the soul-rending serious shit like Diamanda Galas—you owe it to yourself to check him out.

Like many underground performers, Coyle walks a tightrope above the chaos that is modern expression.

In one hand he carries flowers. In the other—a dagger.

Will Amir Coyle stay on the rope or fall into the pit?

“[My] live performances now range from being more like theatrical stage productions to more straight forward musical performances with a light show and several characters telling a story through the songs accented by ballet and hip hop dancing, experimental performance segments, string players and my own collective-conscious visions of sexual deviation and fetish,” says Coyle.

Amir Coyle gives me those same shivery “from beyond” goosebumps that I get from Kenneth Anger and Diamanda Galás. It’s as if an ancient chthonic force has been chopped and channeled into a sleek, chrome sex machine.

“If I had to contextualize [my music], I feel it’s closest resemblance would be somewhere between doo-wop music and experimental pop,” explains Coyle.

Here’s a nothings-off limit conversation with this amazing young artist…

How old are you and where do you live now?
I am 22 years old and live in San Francisco, California.

How would you describe your musical and artistic aesthetic to a stranger?
Initially when I began performing under my real name as a solo artist my motivations were almost completely different than they are now. My earlier performance “Burial” was written as an intended metaphysical prayer for my mother who had at the time been battling cancer for five years. That performance was just as important sonically as it was visually. The music was entirely orchestrated using my voice and the in the visual aspect I was basically dancing with my spirits and cutting away at myself to let them out then burying them in the ground.

“Burial” was very gratifying in that it helped me to heal and deal with the pain I was in due to the situation as well as connect with others going through similar issues they maybe didn’t have the means to express or possibly even felt they were alone with. For me it was the result of being in complete and utter shock and searching for a way to move forward.

In a lot of ways that performance really shaped the place I am at now and gave me the guts or nerve to do the types of performances I do now. I still compose all my music primarily using my voice to create the full structures via choral orchestrations, throating, beat boxing and all sorts of other manipulations headlined by balladry lyrical leads.

The lyrical content deals with my feelings about dealing with mortality, the euphoria and darkness of life, gaining strength and reaching up towards a place of heaven. It’s all done so to appeal in a universal way to hopefully just about anyone.

What’s the earliest sound you remember? And the earliest voice?
The earliest sound I can remember would be the beating of my palms on a Japanese taiko drum given to me by an old Japanese women who lived in my apartment complex when I was a little boy. I don’t know why she gave it to me, especially since we lived on the top floor and were constantly getting noise complaints from all the other neighbors most likely because of me. Not sure on the earliest voice, maybe it was my mother saying thank you for the drum but then wishing I didn’t like it so we wouldn’t have had to keep it.

Were you an artist as a child?
I have been an artist almost literally my entire life. I think the age of five would be the most honest point to say I began pursuing artist endeavor. At that age and until I was a teenager I mostly practiced painting and writing. However, I was always most interested in and inspired by musicians and actors. Mainly male singers and male actors who took on more risky roles. I always wanted to be a singer, one with integrity and good looks to match the type of male singers I was fanatical about growing up. I was always into the flamboyant, sensitive type of males singers who had the authenticity and charisma to get away with doing things that other people would look foolish or fraudulent trying to attempt. In my first ever performance of any kind I portrayed the role of Prince in a middle school rendition of “Purple Rain” put on by the only openly gay male teacher I ever had. I think I really disappointed him because I not only shaved my head days before the show but also was too nervous to kiss a girl on stage or properly lip synch the title song after said act.

Who are your favorite artists and music makers now?
My favorite artists range from pro wrestlers to ballet dancers to experimental performers to old school male crooning singers to mainstream hip hop artists to opera singers. To be specific and completely honest I am completely in awe of Antony Hegarty, David Blaine, Freddy Ruppert, John Frusciante and Randy Orton all for probably completely different seeming reasons. I just have a lot of respect for people who aren’t afraid to put themselves on the line in one way or another yet still maintain some kind of palatable composure. Later this month I will be performing as part of a multidisciplinary art exhibition Black Lab in San Francisco and there are a lot of artists involved that I feel very honored to be performing alongside including performance artist Terrance Graven and the painter Josh Hagler.

A wise man once said “Narcissism is a must for a successful artist.” What do you think about this?
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that statement or if it even really matters how I feel about it. I used to be opposed to being narcissistic, but loving yourself can be just as hard to deal with as hating yourself.

What feelings and emotions do you want people to leave your show with?
I’d really like people to leave my show with whatever array of feelings my performance produces for them. Hopefully more times than not it will be some kind of positive feeling or at least a progressive feeling. I’d hope the audience recognizes I am giving them me in the only form that is really me. Wether I’ve been able to fill you with love and inspiration or anger and confusion I just hope it sticks with you and you don’t forget me any time soon.

What makes life difficult for you and what makes life sublime?
The prison that is my need to constantly “set the mood” and the idea that I absolutely need to perform and give to people to feel alive.

Download Amir Coyle’s latest album, Live at The Wail

Watch Amir Coyle’s “projection of Heaven”

See more full-length Amir Coyle HD videos

Don’t miss Amir Coyle at Xenia Shin‘s birthday party/mass marriage

Peter’s Pool Boys & Sean Carnage presents…

Amir Coyle

Starts 9:30pm / $5 / all-ages

Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd., in Historic Filipinotown

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