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“How Saul Williams found courage: ‘Prince and Bowie liberated me as an artist to be queer'”

Saul Williams at Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 2012

by Scott Timberg

“Saul Williams is a rapper, spoken-word poet, actor and activist. A song from this year’s album, ‘MartyrLoserKing,’ digs into complex issues of sexuality: ‘Think Like They Book Say’ looks at the meeting of two characters, one dressed in ‘Purple satin bra and tights,’ the other in ‘red and purple light.’ As the song goes on, the ambiguity of the whole thing becomes clearer. The female character ‘was once a he.’

Williams – who is dropping this new video for the song just before a tour of Europe — spoke to Salon from Los Angeles; the interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The key issue of the song seems to be fluidity of sexuality, how complex it can be… When did you get interested in that?

It’s been pretty much on my radar from the time I started writing… Before that really.

I have this book called ‘Said the Shotgun to the Head,’ all about imagining the idea of the messiah as a woman – and what that does to society if we deconstruct all of the patriarchal myths. And where that would lead us and leave us, beyond our constant stepping into warfare violence and all of that… Would it lead us somewhere different?

It’s something that has made a lot of sense to me since I was a kid… I told my parents I wanted to be an actor when I was eight. My parents were old-school and my dad was like, ‘You can’t be an actor unless you tap.’ The old-school Broadway approach. So I took my first tap class, and I came home and said, ‘I hate it, and I’m the only guy in the class. I feel like a faggot.’ My little eight-year-old, I-learned-this-word-in-school self.

And my dad was like, ‘Look, you need to reassess what you’re telling me you love in life and what you want to do – acting, performing. You need to make peace with life and gender and all of this stuff now.'”

Read the full interview @ Salon

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