Local drag performer Dust is making queer art thrive in quarantine

Their new content aims to revolutionize drag music

Dust shares their journey of creating a studio album. Photo courtesy of Mac Jefferies Photography

By: Alex Masse, Staff Writer

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought much of the local art scene to a screeching halt, some have seen this as an opportunity. Local drag performer Dust is one such performer. They are taking this time to work on their first studio album. 

Dust began drag in June of 2016, doing two shows on their first night of what was supposed to be a one-off event. However, they enjoyed it a lot and continued to receive offers, so they kept to the craft. Within around six months of beginning drag, they had started their own show, Commercial Drag. Dust currently runs this show along with co-hosting Off Tune, an all-singing drag show. 

“As my drag evolved, so did my interests,” Dust said. “I really like singing in drag [ . . . ] I don’t want to lip sync, I want to sing live, be weird, and have fun.” This is why Off Tune was born. Dust has also produced three different drag musicals through Sleepy Queers Productions, which they also founded. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Dust took this fascination with musical drag to the next level. Their friend and fellow drag artist, Zit Poppinz, suggested they record an album. 

“They were like, ‘Yeah, you’ve always talked about wanting to do that,’” Dust recounts. 

At first, Dust only recorded a demo, though they soon realized they wanted to do more. This desire was only strengthened by a number of major life events. “I feel like now I’m genuinely ready to do this for real,” Dust said. They reached out to Josh Eastman at Vancouver’s Helm Studios, initially for a single studio track which soon evolved into an album. 

“This has happened to me a few times,” Dust said. “I think small, and the people around me are like ‘no, go bigger!’” 

They defined their personal relationship to the art form as “an opportunity to be expressive, and to create entertainment and bring community together.” 

Dust added, “As a nonbinary person, my drag persona lives in a genderless, ambiguous area, that is very open and expressive and supportive of all genders.”

They also said they wanted to add something new to the world of drag music, one currently dominated by “club bangers, that you want to pat your pussy to at the gay club.” Instead, they want to bring their own tastes to the medium.

“I don’t want to make that kind of music,” Dust said. “That’s not the kind of music I listen to. So, a lot of my music is pop-based. There’s going to be some ballads on there, there’s going to be some higher energy pop songs, but it’s not going to be a club album at all.” 

The album started as an entry to Revolverfest, but didn’t make it in. This, however, did not discourage them. “I don’t need to get in this year,” Dust said. “I can try again next year, you know?”

Meanwhile, Dust is hoping to complete a minimum of nine tracks and to use them as the “framework of a one-person musical show.” Dust is currently working with dramaturg Davey Calderon and director Dominique Wakeland to finish the foundation. 

It’s been a tumultuous year for the local drag scene, but Dust continues to persevere. The world of digital drag has been “really difficult on people.” Dust actually stopped running online shows due to them being “inequitable for everyone,” with some artists having more resources than others, such as higher-quality web cameras. 

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. Pride societies within Canada helped fund drag content during the pandemic, and networking has continued despite social distancing.

“It’s more powerful now, more than ever,” Dust said. “I’m excited to see what happens post-pandemic, with those relationships.” 

Dust is currently raising money for their studio album, and accepting e-transfers at fundraising@mommadust.ca.