In an industry dominated by men, normative sexuality and homophobia, Berlin-based artist Planningtorock is paving a way far away from the sexism and oppressive norms. When Jam Rostron sings “Let’s talk about gender, baby,” a dialogue is started. All Love’s Legal, set to be released in February, addresses a range of issues, from queer identity, misogyny to patriarchy. Schön! met up with Jam Rostron, and discovered that the ambition behind All Love’s Legal was simple: to initiate a discussion.
With the last Planningtorock album, W, dating back to 2011, Rostron clarifies that she has been setting out in a new direction since then. “On my last album, I’d attempted to deal with certain issues, but I did it in a more roundabout way. Certain things just didn’t happen or work for me.” In contrast with the more metaphorical content of past albums, All Love’s Legal is refreshingly honest and personal. It all started, she tells me, with Patriarchy Over and Out, a dance-track peppered with house influences. “For me, it was the clinch. It was the catalyst for the rest of the record.”
The tone is set for the album in the opening track Welcome, with a heart-clenching apostrophe booming out in Rostron’s signature vocals. With the lyric “Fall in love with whoever you want to,” a clearly political anthem, All Love’s Legal starts. Rostron describes a long process of reading and research before writing. She explains that she had initially considered doing an MA in Gender Studies, but decided that an album would be just as valid. “I’ve been reading a lot of queer theory, gender theory, texts that are re-evaluating where feminism is at, what feminism is about.” Whilst these discussions may have been explored extensively in academia, in literature and in art, music is a step behind. With this album, Rostron is opening up her music to a language which has scarcely been used in music. “People are becoming more informed about the idea of queerness, of queer and transgender identity. It feels very exciting that it’s not taboo anymore to talk about feminism, or to talk about gender. Before, there was never a space for it.”
In order to release this album, Rostron created her own Record Label, Human Level Recordings, with the purpose of crafting a space for queer voices in music, and thereby cutting out the patriarchical obstacles usually involved in the process (often, in the form of male producers). “I wanted to make it very clear that I didn’t want it to go through any filters. I wanted to be a part of all of the processes, because there are norms in all of them.” Touring with an all-female band, Rostron explains the tour has encountered “unfathomable kinds of prejudices, discrimination.” Cutting out the normative infrastructures with the purpose-built record label Human Level, Rostron has created the album in a safe space, specifically formed with the intention of having voices heard.
When it comes to deconstructing gendered norms on a personal level, P2R explains the album has taken her on a journey of ‘self-policing’, furrowing deep into the social constructs of gender. “I’ve been trying to make myself aware of every different element [of gendered constructs]. It involves a lot of questioning, a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding. It forges such clarity.” And quoting the lyric from Human Drama, she adds: “There’s just so much to unlearn.”
From a musical perspective, a range of influences can be pinpointed, from House to Pop. Rostron’s signature sonically-remastered, pitch altered voice, whereby inscribing a gender becomes quasi impossible, features prominently. “I wanted to queer my sonics,” she explains, “I wanted to push things more. I guess the obvious thing is the voice, the vocals, but it’s more than that. It’s really about exploring the whole thing, and questioning all the steps.”
The dance tracks on the record are numerous, with Public Love and Patriarchy Over and Out both bringing a club-like sound to the album. “I wanted it to be a lot more dance. It’s a great thing to do live, and it’s a great vehicle to carry the message.” Having been on a two-year tour with W, part of the excitement of recording new material was to be able to introduce more club-worthy tracks to the album. “If I do more dance music there’s a chance that I’ll be shoved in a club somewhere,” she explains, laughing. “I really love the punkiness of it. In a club, you’ve automatically got a cross of all kinds of different people, different economies, different backgrounds, everything. It’s very rare to find that anywhere else.”
With a record that encompasses the personal and the political, which breaches the gap between literature and music, which confronts sexuality and queer identity with dance and pop, Jam Rostron is on an exciting new path of musical exploration. Other than its ear-bending, soul-queering and mind-freeing lyrical content, Planningtorock’s third album is, quite simply, liberating.
All Love’s Legal is due for release early February.
Words / Patrick Clark
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