10 DEEP QUESTIONS WITH THE ILLUSTRIOUS BLACKS
August 8, 2022
March 30, 2023
The Illustrious Blacks are coming to Toronto for a shimmering free show under a bridge that you cannot miss! We asked them a few questions to help you get to know them just a bit better.
Self-proclaimed Afro-Electro-Disco-Space-Punks, DJ/Music Duo The Illustrious Blacks are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Part DJ set, part dance performance, part Studio 54, party Berlin underground, this NY couple know how to put on a SHOW!
Brooklynites Monstah Black and Manchildblack are DJs, but also produce their own music. They are a celebration of Black queerness, powerful self-expression and instant party starters. We once had the pleasure of opening for them at the 519 Greenspace during Pride in Toronto in 2019 and got to witness the magic that happens when they hit a stage.
Aiming to create space, inclusive, joyful spaces wherever they go, we are huge fans of everything they do.
Ahead of their performance at the Bentway Block Party (opening for our girl Priyanka!) on August 14, we asked the alien superstars a few very serious questions.
Yohomo: What is the most exciting and/or satisfying gig you've played recently and why?
Monstah Black: It has to be our most recent show at House Of Yes in Brooklyn, New York! At HOY, the resident dancers, aerialists, lighting, sound and aesthetics are spectacular and perfectly compliment what we do and our message: Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Love and Be You!
Manchildblack: I agree! I would also add the Ministry of Sound in London. The energy in the room for Ministry of Pride was palpable and it was a dream to play in such an iconic venue.
Your sets are part DJ/performance/concert/fashion show... how do you mentally prepare to give ALL THAT to an audience.
Monstah: I try to focus days and hours before on significant words or emotions. Sometimes I'm inspired by current affairs to help fuel the direction of topics to metaphorically address during the set.
Manchild: I take a lot of naps.
Can you talk a bit about your relationships with house music? We're thinking in light of these where it's being pushed to the mainstream...
Monstah: I was introduced to house music in clubs and Warehouses in Virginia while in undergrad. Those events became a safe haven to explore experimental movement and gender bending costuming.
Manchild: We should also note that the two of us met dancing under a disco ball in a club to a DJ that was spinning House Music. So House has been a thread throughout our entire romantic relationship, but also our professional relationship as The Illustrious Blacks. The fact that we are performing together around the world to the sounds of House Music is truly full circle.
Ok straight up, do you like "Break My Soul"?
Manchild: Ahhhh...the song that has launched a million and one think pieces and editorials. Absolutely, we do!!! More importantly, we love that she is celebrating and helping to expose the Black LGBTQ+ innovators of House Music past and present who have been unsung. Hoping that this invites people to dig deeper into a culture and a sound that has been relevant to many people around the globe for decades.
You also produce your own music, and we're wondering where do you do this? Home studio situation? What does that look like?
Monstah: As far as dance music goes, some of our ideas are developed with Logic before taken to another producer and sound engineer who then polishes up the sounds we’ve chosen. With my more experimental projects, I create them with Serato Studio and Logic before sending them out to get mastered. Those projects are generally used by choreographers or for experimental video projects.
Manchild: We've worked and continue to work with some amazing producers that understand our sound, our message and who we are. Lately, we've had the pleasure of working with Seven Davis Jr., Soul Clap, KDA, Tedd Patterson, Eric Kupper, Kenny Summit and our long time collaborator W. Andrew Raposo.
What y'all wear is also such a big part of The Illustrious Blacks... how to you shop? where do you shop? do yo have help or do you find the garments yourselves?
Monstah: We both love fashion! Our style choices are similar, but there tends to be a more experimental element involved that I have to convince Manchild will work. That looks like me executing the idea to give him a clear idea of how effective it is.
Manchild: Actually, I have been bringing more experimental ideas to the table as well...thank you very much! Films, art and history inspire us greatly. We love to pay homage to what came before and turn it on its head. The great thing about being AfroElectroDiscoSpacePunks is that it's pretty broad in what it can sound and look like. Fortunately, we've been able to work with some incredible designers that speak our language aesthetically.
Name 2 mega musical influences each.
Monstah: Prince and Michael Jackson. Prince because of his unapologetic sound and androgyny in his early years. Michael because of his dancing and the passion behind his vocals.
Manchild: Stevie Wonder and Fela Kuti. Stevie because he's fucking STEVIE WONDER...I mean...what more needs to be said. Fela because of how he used his music as a weapon against the oppressors of his people. If you can make people dance and simultaneously give them a message, it's incredibly powerful.
Have you felt a new wave of love and folks who follow you after your features on Tidal and BET?
Manchild: Actually, yes! It's always humbling when people enjoy your work, understand your purpose and use their platforms to acknowledge what you do. We're honored that you're interviewing us right now.
Touring the way that ya'll do, is there a sense of the disappearance of queer spaces globally? We're seeing that and feeling that when we travel... not to say we don't find places to dance... but where the gay bars at?
Manchild: Agreed! We've observed that not only are there less spaces, but also less LGBTQ+ neighborhoods. As far as spaces for LGBTQ+ people of color, it's even worse. It feels like because there appears to be more global acceptance and protections under the law in many cities around the world, some feel that there's less of a need for 'safe spaces.' We disagree and feel that it's an unfortunate by-product of change.
Touring the way that ya'll do, when you get home to your place, what do you like to do/eat/drink to unwind and come back to earth?
Monstah: We like to get lost in cinema. Pizza and movies are our guilty pleasure.
Manchild: I take a lot of naps.
Catch the Illustrious Blacks at the Bentway Block Party on August 14th! We curated a large portion of the way with DJs Ace Dillinger, John Caffery and Valeroo - hosted by our boo, Bombae!