Photography: Abdi Taslimi
Until recently, we’ve known Seth Bogart as Hunx, lead singer of punk-rock outfit Hunx and his Punx, and after, when he used the moniker to craft pop-tinged anthems about sex, love and bondage. Now, the singer has shed his stage name for an even bigger persona: himself.
With a store, Wacky Wacko, on Sunset Boulevard, a self-titled new album and a touring variety act called The Seth Bogart Show, Bogart is combining his music, art, fashion and wit to create an experience that’s larger than life—a sexy version of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, with Bogart serving as a mix of Herman, Dot and a leather daddy, clad in mantyhose and a thong.
The record shows Bogart combining electronica and ’80s dance with New Order-inspired riffs and a punk attitude, topped with saccharine lyrics about lust and pop culture. Album opener, “Hollywood Squares,” is a Cyndi-Lauper style nostalgic pop hit, while “Lubed” is a dreamy electro-pop ode to slippery sex. “Sunday Boy” showcases Bogart’s new-wave influence, and “Eating Makeup,” featuring Kathleen Hanna, is a whiny twist on ridiculous beauty standards.
Throughout the album and across all mediums, Bogart has a clear aesthetic. His own blend of punk and pop, use of bold color and confident sexuality offer both an escape from the heaviness of everyday reality and a criticism of the vapid nature of popular culture. His art is an authentic reflection of his feelings; his personality alone, is full of character that has its signature splashed all over everything he creates—hanging out with Seth feels like landing a cameo on The Seth Bogart Show.
We recently caught up with the artist while he was getting ready for his New York premiere.
Tell me about The Seth Bogart Show.
I decided before putting out an album, I wanted it to be like a world you could walk into and experience, instead of just a live show or a record, because I’d never done that and I’d just gotten so burnt out from touring and doing music. It just feels like groundhog day, touring. I mean it’s fun, but I’ve been literally doing it for probably 20 years—I think I went on my first tour when I was 16 years old. So when I started thinking about this record, I was like, ‘I kinda want to make it a thing people come and visit, instead of me going and visiting people.’ I wish I was Miley Cyrus so I had all the money to do the kind of shit I want. Mine’s like the very on a budget version, but if I had it my way and I had a lot of money, I would have so many dancers and props and bull shit like that.
What inspires you?
I think the album was kind of like a mix of everything I’ve ever liked since childhood. When I was a kid, I would always perform for my grandma—like Prince and Tevin Campbell and TLC. So I guess it starts with that, and then it goes into all the punk music I was into in high school and then super mainstream pop, like Britney and—I don’t know if this is mainstream anymore—but Aqua, and all that kind of stuff. Art-wise, I was really inspired by Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
What do you want people to take away from your show?
I really just want to entertain people and give them an experience they couldn’t have otherwise.
Is there a particular theme that ties all your work together?
I think all of my work is just completely tied together, especially with the live show—I perform my music and use my art as stage props, then I show my videos while I’m playing, and my art is in them, plus there’s outfits that me and my friends made. It’s just a completely immersive experience.
Do you think you’re an artist who makes music or a musician who makes art?
I never really considered myself an artist or a musician, seriously. I would probably say I’m an artist, but I really just think of myself as a creative type, and I feel like I’m not really one thing. I actually wish I was, because sometimes I think then I could do that one thing better. But I just like so many different things—it’s hard to be boring and do one.
Your work is confidently sexual and homoerotic. Is that a conscious choice?
It just kind of comes out. Nothing on my records, but especially this one, is trying to be anything except me being myself. And I guess I’m sort of a perv. With my last band, it was such a straight world I got wrapped in, that I tried to make my shit so gay, just to creep people out. Other than that, it’s not really intentional. It’s just me talking about things I like—like lube.
Since punk has become more of a “straight world,” like you said, what made you want to be part of it?
I got into punk through Riot Grrrl. I just really liked that a lot of the music I liked wasn’t really about showing off how good you can play or anything. It was just about making noise and being loud and just doing things. I’ve always been way more attracted to the spirit of punk rather than the like, the technical part.
So punk is more like an attitude for you than it is any type of actual music?
To me, punk is women and gay guys. They’re the only people that can be punk anymore. And obviously trans people—that’s what punk is to me. All reporters want to ask me about is being gay, and all people want to write about is, ‘Oh my god, he’s gay!’ It’s so weird that it feels important and that it’s not just like the norm by now, because I think girls and gays are the only ones worth listening to. I’m not excluding men, but when I think of my favorites—they’re girls and gays. There’s definitely some interesting dudes out there, but mostly I don’t care. I’m just not listening.
What are you able to do with this project that you couldn’t do with previous projects?
I can fly places now, because it’s just me, and I also actually make some money. I get to change a lot onstage and make more videos, so that’s really freeing. Mostly, I just get to do whatever the fuck I want all the time. But it’s also weirdly lonely. My last band—I just love them all so much, and I miss that feeling of being with a group. But I’m kind of having fun on my own.
Yeah, you just released your “Nina Hagen-Diaz” video.
I just got weirdly obsessed with [German singer] Nina Hagen. I was just reading all this shit about her, and finding out what a weirdo she is, and it just kinda popped into my head—Nina Hagen-Daaz, like a good drag name or something. Her music, to this day when I listen to it, I’m just like, ‘What the fuck?’ How is that even possible?’ She’s such a weirdo. So the song is kind of just a love letter to her.
It seems like a lot of elements of pop culture are a reference point for your work. Why?
I’m like a teen girl stuck in an old man’s body. Also, the world is just so brutal that you kind of don’t want to know what’s really going on, and you just want to lose yourself in a shitty TV show or a tabloid.
Do you think art has always been a part of your performance?
I didn’t really take myself seriously doing art. I was so grossed out by it actually, just because the few art shows I had been to were boring as fuck—it was just like a white room. And art school is like a million dollars and seems boring to me. So I never really allowed myself to go there. I would design t-shirts and draw, but I never took it seriously. Only recently did I start actually thinking of myself as any sort of artist.
What does your creative process look like?
I often just don’t have a plan. It’s kind of just like, ‘Today I feel like painting,’ or ‘I’m going to draw,’ or ‘Today I’m going to do music,’ and then I just do it. It doesn’t always go well, but I find that it’s the best way to do authentic work.
I really want to have another big art installation show, and make a new record. I kind of want to just disappear for awhile and make stuff.