De antro con Zemmoa + LA ENTREVISTA

Donna Summer playing at Sofia Moreno's apartment in Pilsen
It was late April in Chicago and the entire world was collapsing as islands of opulence exerted their methods of social control across entire populations of traumatized and heartbroken mortals. Chicago had just broken a new record: 1,000 people had been shot between January and April 2016, a 400 person increase juxtaposed to the same time period in 2015. This in combination with interpersonal and personal miasma meant that I would dance that weekend. I needed an escape. I needed to get lit. I arrived at Sofia Moreno’s apartment in Pilsen for breakfast at about 2:00PM with some angst, some journalistic prospects and a desire to connect to the brilliant, artistic resilience of those of us who live in one of the many purgatories of capitalism, Chicago. Me and Sebby were greeted with besos en la mejilla, conchas, and a panic-inducing cafecito. Cafecote. There was disco already playing on vinyl: Donna Summer. Zemmoa picked the record. Zemmoa was Sofia Moreno's guest of honor. Sofia Moreno. Perhaps the most controversial anomaly in the Chicago art scene. And the most essential. She is one of the chief architects of s+s project, a curatorial practice creating direct cultural exchange and dialogue between artists in Mexico City and Xicago. Don't be skeptical about the pre-hispanic, Indigenous art that adorns many of s+s project's promotional imagery.

Sofia Moreno as A$$ Pussy @ TRQPITECA. Photo by Zé Garcia Puga
Sofia Moreno- a grotesque and bewitching survivor of European commanded genocide- is aware of her Indigenous, Mayan ancestry. s+s project is the reason Zemmoa is in Chicago and showcasing at the idiosyncratic TRQPITECA. As I sip my coffee, Zemmoa grooms her nails, and talks about her conflicted origins, her present resentments, and her uncertain future. It is remarkable how beautiful Zemmoa looks without makeup, in baggy clothes, disheveled. Zemmoa and Sofia Moreno just woke up. Its 2PM. Zemmoa begins our interview by calling Mexico City home but explains that she was born in the “city of the eternal spring,” Cuernavaca. She lives in the Coyoacan neighborhood of DF and was neighbors with Frida Kahlo at one point: “we used to be friends”. Not even 5 minutes into cafecito & chill with Zemmoa and her pedigree begins to show: “my grandmother played piano for Frida Kahlo once. Music has always been in my family.” She isn't joking this time, she comes from a strong lineage of classically trained musicians. Zemmoa abruptly changes pace, her body movement tense and her explanations become terse. Zemmoa is on the run. Not from the law, mind you. Zemmoa is on the run from a supreme power. Zemmoa is on the run from love, from heartbreak. In a span of 1 hour, Zemmoa returns to speaking about the man that broke her heart a few times, her face in sincere anguish each time. “I’m tired of Mexico. I fell in love. Typical. This güey stopped seeing the light inside of me so I began to question myself and I had to escape.” I usually self destruct, but when you’re Zemmoa and a güey breaks your heart, you go on tour. But Zemmoa won’t just play anywhere. Her performances are methodical, precise. She explains her DIY approach but makes clear divergences from a “play anywhere, anytime” punk praxis. We delve deeper. Zemmoa speaks on recurring feelings of self doubt and emptiness. I sense self hatred, the same self destruction that propels each and every one of us to the depths of a disfigured sense of self worth. “I feel without love, self love or otherwise. I am crazy and this is how I feel, abandoned.” Self deprecating tendencies are the reason behind Zemmoa’s search for optimism: NNVAV (Nada Nos Va a Vencer), also the name of her most recent album. It is a nostalgic record indebted to 80s synth pop that simultaneously pays homage to the sounds of that era while addressing the current landscape of 21st Century pop. It is one 2015's most underrated albums in the Club Fonograma scene.

Zemmoa has valid reasons to hate and want to conquer the pop underground. Zemmoa resents life because of the tribulations she has undergone as a gender non conforming trans person in Mexico, a country that routinely murders its origins: its indigenous ancestors and its womn. She seems to be channeling some total destrucción vibes and talks at length about the intrinsic human desire to search for meaning and happiness beyond the current suffocating paradigms of everyday misery. Very early on our conversations became deep cuts and I realized these were fresh wounds for Zemmoa so I had to change course. Zemmoa had just met me and here I was pressing for more intimate, jarring details- I had to back off and asked her about Mexico’s underground music scene. “I am very much part of the underground,” she explains. “But what has changed is that now I am part of the global underground. A lot of friends tell me to simply believe it, that I have made it. But I think the moment I believe it, I will lose my humility."

Zemmoa @ TRQPITECA. Photo by Zé Garcia Puga

We talk about record deals and her artistic process. “I am very DIY, all my videos I direct myself, with the help of friends. This is out of necessity, everything costs so much money so I have to do it myself." We talked about her search for a disquera: "record labels in Mexico were not ready for a persona like me so que chinguen a su madre. I started my own.” She is apparently good friends with Julieta Venegas and asked me to say hi to Javiera Mena on her behalf in the coming days during our exclusive interview in LA. We turn the conversation towards her first album and the #LaEdadDeAcuarioTour (her first tour) which showcased in Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Milan, Barcelona, New York, Los Angeles, Tijuana, Guadalajara, Leon, Aguascalientes and Mexico City. We talk about DF nightlife, los antros: “the Patrick Miller is a must, my song ‘Te Enterraré El Tacon’ is a classic there.”

As violence against trans womn and gender non conforming people continues to not make (inter)national headlines, it should be noted that Sofia Moreno and Zemmoa are brown trans womn from Mexico. On April 22nd 2016, their alchemy was devoted to a night of mischief, mystery, and dance. TRQPITECA was the showcase for MALA NOCHE (co curated by Jonathan Summer of s+s project) which also featured performances by Sofia Moreno (A$$ PUSSY) and BONBON. We got lit until closing time, courtesy of CQQCHIFRUIT and La Spacer- seminal figures in Xicago’s queer underground nightlife. La Spacer took us through cybernetic reggaetón wormholes whereas CQQCHIFRUIT reminded us of some of the origins behind the likes of "El Fondo Del Barro" and Adrianigual: Alaska y Los Pegamoides. TRQPITECA's MALA NOCHE- a space curated by queer and trans brown womn- and its collusion with incomprehensible and magnificent ways of self liberation felt like a zenith in Chicago's measurable tradition as a fulcrum of underground self expression. To me, it seemed like the next battlefield was to take such elated degrees of nightlife to the streets, to the illegal warehouses, and conflictual spaces where our fullest potential for dangerous liberation could manifest into a weaponized turn up. Sonically, the cutting edge was already here.

La Spacer & CQQCHIFRUIT @ TRQPITECA. Photo by Zé Garcia Puga.