If we put a clown in all these places and we hyper focus on, ‘Am I the weirdest thing in this location? Or can we just accept that like, like, shits like a bit fucked in Melbourne?’
The clown might not actually be the most fucked up thing here.
Art, photos, video is Cakeface
Interview by Cream Scene’s J Bird
NOISEY CAKEFACE MAKES A (cream) SCENE
It should be noted that J. Bird is located in Montreal, Canada and Jet(CAKEFACE) is based out of Melbourne, so there’s a 14 hour time difference. So, it was necessary for us to convene in an atmospheric bubble on some cosmo-temporal off ramp, outside the Kuiper Belt, where all your matter is rearranged to resemble a clown and everything that comes out of your mouth sounds like feedback-wash and wailing sad-boys.
The talk has been interpreted from its original language, stored to a particle-sized microchip and transmitted by laser beam to the Cream Scene HQ, somewhere under Antarctica.
CREAM SCENE: So, how are you?
Jet: Yeah, good. Um, Y’know. It’s the morning for me, so I’m just drinking my coffee.
CREAM SCENE: Very good. Very good. It’s good of you to meet so early. Am I catching you before at work or anything?
Jet: Yeah, before work. That’s all good. That’s fine.
CREAM SCENE: I don’t think it’s going to be too long. Like I said, we’re kind of just, it’s going to act as an addendum to the interview you already did with Katy. Do you know, Katy? She’s also in Australia, isn’t she?
Jet: Yeah, Katie and I have followed each other on Instagram for like, five or six years. We don’t hang out in real life or anything like that. It’s just one of those internet relationships. We live in Melbourne, in the same suburb and everything, just never seen each other out. It’s really weird.
CS: So hold on a second. You’ve been friends on Instagram for six years, you live in the same suburb, but have never spent time together in person. That is a bit odd.
Jet: This is classic Melbourne people. Like it’s like a thing.
CS: Anti social.
Jet: Yeah. A little bit of that.
CS: So I listened to both of your records. I was so happy to listen to them and be like, ‘Oh, good, this is very good music, and I’m definitely into it. A lot. What a relief.
Jet: So it wasn’t bad.
CS: I enjoyed it – genuinely. I’m really into noise music and stuff like that. I’m kind of curious as to how your music either relates to your performance art side of things. You also paint, no?
Jet: Yeah, I was exploring the visual medium while the noise was being created. Yeah, when I was developing that body of work, that was an interesting idea, because Melbourne was in lock down for so long, and we were so isolated. This project was this very insular experience. At the time I started this record label, I was surrounded by all these musicians, by all these boys who I thought were very brilliant and who were all very sad. All their projects had fallen over, like, one by one. Yeah. And it’s just how Melbourne’s music scene had been going. The first record is with two people making the noise together, and it’s just drums and guitars. And that’s my partner and my business partner, together, while my boss recorded it and I did visuals in the same room at the same time. That was a cathartic experience for all four of us because we’d just lived through this hectic lockdown, right? We were able to bring it all together and exude all of this stuff into this project . CAKEFACE is like this thing that doesn’t actually exist, it’s a fleeting idea.
CS: So it’s a little bit about ephemerality.
Jet: For the next record, I was like, okay, let’s make it bigger and better. I have even more sad boys – my partner again, my business partner, Christian, again, and two of the best punk musicians in Melbourne. Cody who’s just this synth wizard brought a modular synth in, and we were like, ‘Oh, crazy. Love this.’ So, there are these people, with whom I’ve had these lifelong connections, like, musical lifelong connections. I’m someone who doesn’t necessarily make music but has established all these connections with musicians, they all felt like they were in a very safe space to just be able to let go. So while, I’m not the person who was creating noise, I suppose I created the safest place for them to be able to make the noise. And then I was able to move all of the parts into a very cohesive noise record. I would say that it’s one of the most cohesive noise records – that second one. It’s like a really, really great listen.
Everybody, by the end of it, was like, ‘that’s a really awesome thing.’
And all of those tracks will have the intention for having a performance outcome. And, at the time, when they were being made, I didn’t know what the performance outcome was going to be. And the noise, obviously, then determines the performance. The performance never determines the noise. That’s a part of it.
CS: Okay, so the dynamic is that the music informs your performance? And is that typically sort of, how do you say? I want to use the most obnoxious words, but I’m trying not to. Just on the fly, it’s improvised, or do you have some idea going in? You’ve heard the music before, so you have some idea what’s going on, so do you have an idea of how the performance is going to go?
Jet: Those performances, there was only one live performance. And then the rest are the video performances. All the video performances took this weird turn. When you’re editing a video performance, you kind of twist it into this weird space. They call them a mediated performance. It’s this the stupid academic term. The artist has another way, another layer of deflection. It’s like if a director is also starring in their own film. That’s another way of describing a mediated performance.
CS: The first piece that I watched, the track was called Innocence/Violence.
it’s a kind of a montage and you’re in a graveyard and then you’re in front of a grocery and then in front of some highway, and then there all those really close up bits of you pulling at your face. I wanted to know a little bit more about the juxtaposition between the CAKEFACE characters. The graveyard is grim and macabre and that seems in keeping with the CAKEFACE persona – there’s a certain grotesqueness to it. So I get that darker aspect, but what’s up with the juxtaposition between CAKEFACE and these seemingly mundane, everyday environments?
Jet: When we were making that noise piece, especially. I was like, there was all this tension after we did the previous track because the way that the tracks are listed is how they were recorded,-like Jelly is the first one that was done and after we did Obliterate Me, there was always like, tension in the room. I was like, how do we want to release this? What’s the vibe? Where are we at? And everyone was like, ‘I think we just need to eat some dip. And then we just need to think about okay, we had some dip.”
CS: Sorry, is it’s an Australian thing? What the hell is dip?
Jet: Like, hummus? You know dip?
CS: Oh, okay. Yeah, I’m familiar with dip. I thought maybe it was an obscure Aussie thing
Jet: Aussie specific dips (laughs). That was the energy of day. We were having this big gripe about capitalism and music, because everyone’s projects had been failing. And that was the outcome of that. So, then the performance piece – all of the places where CAKEFACE is: the power lines, this really destitute town, that’s like 20 minutes away from one of the wealthiest suburbs. The graveyard is like a 10 minute drive from where I live. It’s a historical graveyard – a place that we all just drive past. There’s all these little places in Melbourne that we all just kind of go around. What about if I put a clown in these locations? When I was doing these and doing the action of face pulling, which is another thing that happened to me as a kid because I’ve always had these cheeks which always felt like I was like, being literally physically oppressed.
It was a really good visual motif of visual oppression that I could extend to the extreme. Same thing with the train yard, the big train bridge in the video, this really, really nice thing, it’s just an old historical thing that we’ll just say, “oh, yeah, that’s just there.” But, people jump off it. Melbourne’s so weird. This is what I’m trying to say, these are all places where people just went for walks, right? If we put a clown in all these places and we hyper focus on, ‘Am I the weirdest thing in this location? Or can we just accept that like, like, shits like a bit fucked in Melbourne?’
The clown might not actually be the most fucked up thing here. Like, that’s the point of the CAKEFACE character-using her to highlight the absurdity of reality.
CS: Okay. So, these are all places that you kind of take for granted and you don’t pay any attention to and then you inject something like CAKEFACE into it. And it kind of re-contextualizes the space. Am I getting that?
Jet: Yeah, and I think, like, obviously it’s hyper specific to Melbourne, but, most towns and most Western societies, and most small towns or large towns, all have a space where they’re like, ‘oh, yeah, no, we all have that bridge or like, have, like, we’ll have that suburb that we just ignore… We have historical graveyard that we drive past.’.
CS: So as to make it more universal, something that everybody can sort of relate to.
Jet: Yeah. And I think keeping the noise as instrumentals, that was universal as well.
CS: Yeah, brilliant idea. That of brings me to the live performance, First Birthday. The band doesn’t play live, correct?
Jet: Yeah, no.
CS: So this is where the project focuses almost solely on you. So, would you like to elaborate on the performance? What was what was your intention?
Jet: So, the First Birthday performance was literally the first birthday of CAKEFACE. The First Birthday improvised noise piece, I gave the boys this idea of , imagine you’re at a child’s birthday party and you don’t want a be there. And then they were like, ‘Oh, perfect.’ and then they like made this amazing sound and the performance you know, coming out of giant cake, I always thought that that would be funny.
CS: It was funny.
Jet: I wanted another element where people would be involved with CAKEFACE because I felt like this project had been still so isolating. Like people hadn’t met CAKEFACE yet. This has been the first thing where people were able to meet her. It was like over 100 people at this birthday party. It was a full on birthday party. My friends, my family were there. It was intense. And I made them all these little cakes and stuff and I had that big dress and that was partly like the performance artist Leigh Bowery-He’s born in Melbourne and then he moved to London. He’s one of the original London club kids. He’s credited for basically making Boy George, Boy George. And then he died. And that’s very sad. But anyway, he’s really cool. But this over the top grandiose, like, being fat and like, just being like, huge. And anyway, that’s like the Sad Baby element. Boy George and Leigh Bowery
Unfortunately, the audio isn’t great in the recording. But the audio in the room was just super loud. And the First Birthday recording made everyone really, really uncomfortable. Which is the intention that I wanted. Like, why would you want to be at a 27 year olds first birthday. That’s crazy. That was dystopic, like moment for the audience. And there was a lot of artists in the room that were like really into it, who like got what I was trying to do. My friends and family who are not artists are like, ‘What?’, So noise really got people into it. And it really helped.
CS: Especially if you’re not familiar with the genre at all and you’re suddenly accosted by it can be pretty jarring.
Jet: Yeah. And I felt like it was like, like 10 minutes for like a first performance is like a real solid, you know, first go of it. Yeah. Yeah, it was good.
CS: I wanted to say that. That although there is something obviously uncomfortable about the performance in general-the CAKEFACE character with the music, but the last three minutes of the piece, where you’re handing out cupcakes after you just smashed one into your mouth, this kind of gross display, but then you’re just so sweet-handing out cupcakes. And there it seemed there was an authentically kind of innocent, playful, sweet, childish quality to that.
Jet: I get really, really bad stage fright. That’s why CAKEFACE exists. My mentor before had been like, ‘so CAKEFACE exists for this reason, so you remember your performances.’. I had no idea what happened after that performance until I saw the video and I was like, ‘I gave people the cupcakes?’ I didn’t know.
CS: It was darling.
Jet: I remember putting the cupcake in my mouth. And then being like, ‘Oh my god!’, I could barely breathe by end of it. Because I couldn’t get it down. It was so much cupcake. And then blacking out at the end of it.(laughs) I don’t remember anything. But I remember everything up until that point and I don’t really [remember] handing anything out. And then I remember looking back at the table and I was like, ‘Wow, people really liked the cupcakes’!’ And then when everyone started yelling at me, because I had almost set myself on fire- I leaned over I and missed blowing out one of the candles. And everyone was like ‘WAHWAHWAHWAH!’ I was like ‘Oh, thanks.’ They do care about me.
It would have been fun. It really would have gone up in flames. It would have been Interesting.
CS: It would have been absolutely a spectacle.
CAKEFACE’s FIRST BIRTHDAY live performance
CS: Now, you said that as far as the playing is concerned, that’s not so much what you do, but you are involved in the arranging and editing of the albums. Can you talk to me a little bit about your approach there?
Jet: Yeah, so I get all of the files and then I sit in Reaper for literally days, and then I create a notebook,- ‘1 minute to 1 minute 10s Really good sound.’ because if I touch anything in the Reaper file, my boyfriend (who’s also a master audio engineer) will kill me. So I don’t, touch anything. But sometimes I do. And it’s usually fine. He isn’t there. But I try and sit with the piece as like a full 15 minute long piece. And then sort out what the performance element is going to be afterwards. How long that performance should be and what that performance should be, whether it should be a live piece, or whether it should just be a video piece or just something for Instagram or something like that. And from there I think a couple of pieces, like in the Loss of Faith one I think the end of the improvisations period is actually the beginning of it. In the editing process, we completely switched it.
CS: Oh, so you’re, you’re like cutting up the actual songs and flipping them around?
CS: Oh, that’s interesting. Okay. Because it sounds pretty seamless.
Jet: That’s what I’m saying. I was like, ‘My boyfriend’s pretty good.’ I feel like a Rick Rubin type in the end because I’ve been in music since I was like 16. So, I know what I like…, ‘people pay for my opinion.’ That’s me.(Laughs) But, in the end it is my art and people trust that I’m going to do right by them. I’m not going to put anything in there that makes them sound bad. The Obliterate Me track is like, I can tell you right now, that’s the most comp.[sic] of all.
CS: It’s a devastating track. Yeah, really beautiful.
Jet: The problem with improvised noise music is like, they can never do it again. This is the real issue. The group of dudes who worked on the Get’s A Life project, how do we make that happen again? You can’t. It’s sort of like a genie in a bottle moment, that whole entire 15 minute thing. You would still be able to listen to it and be like, that’s devastating and amazing-Frankie screaming his a little heart out, like, you can hear, this guy’s been through it .
CS: It was bloody anguished – verging on the maniacal
Jet: Yeah, I’ll send you his other band. He’s great. He’s one of my best friends. And like, the reason I got him on the project is we both come from the same small country town in Victoria. We both get it and I was like, ‘I just want you to say these words over and over again. ‘ He was like, ‘okay’. And then the First Birthday one, I was like, ‘Imagine you’re at a kid’s birthday. And you hate being there blah, blah, blah, right?’
CS: You’re not giving yourself enough credit here, you say you break down the tracks and stuff afterwards, but if you’re creating the prompts, and kind of giving the sense of atmosphere that you want them to convey, there’s a certain amount of orchestration there, I would say, no?
Jet: I will say that, yeah, I’ll say that I’m like, the puppeteer. The guys had all these different ideas, so they really hated the 15 Minute cut off after about two songs. They could just keep on doing this forever. And I was like, ‘No’, the point is that you balls-to-the-wall it for 15 minutes. I can’t have you doing this for 30 minutes. Like, slam it out for 15 minutes. I think that that’s why the tracks were so successful as well. And I think that being the puppeteer, there’s a lot of responsibility as well because that was like… it’s a room full of dudes. It’s like a lot of ego.
CS: Yeah, I’m sure.
Jet: I’ve worked in music. I recently walked away from music. I’ve worked in metal, and doom and all those kinds of scenes, so I’ve worked with egos, so I get it. It’s definitely a bit different.
CS: That’s interesting that you that you brought up that you’re working in metal and doom because I was gonna say your music was described to me as being noise. And I would say that first record is more a noise record. It’s a lot darker. But there’s a lot of ambient and sludge and doom and all of those things were very present in it as well.
Jet: The doom boys will forever live within my heart. I have a real soft spot for the sludge. I think that first project, In Colour, with the two piece (guitar and drums) that was interesting because that was the same thing with the prompts, but with colours. I was linking colours with emotions, like, ‘the colour grey represents nature or birth and like, all these things, try and make the sound growth with your guitar.’ They’re looking at me and being like, ‘Jet, like…’ (laughs). So that’s why with the next project, it was more situations which helped because he writes songs about situations, rather than just a vibe, or blue being like, ‘I’m feeling a bit weird and sad.’
CS: That’s something else that I noticed, especially on that first one (In Colour), that it was very sparse. Was there a reason that you chose to use the two instruments or have that sort of restrained instrumentation? Or was that more of a circumstantial sort of thing?
Jet: That was totally circumstantial, actually. I think that was during a lockdown. And I could only get away with it because it was a workplace. It was with my partner. And it was half illegal.
CS: Would you care to divulge a little more of that?
Jet: Yeah. So during Melbourne’s COVID lockdowns you couldn’t go any more than five kilometres from your house, And the studio is six kilometres from my house, by my workplace. So, I was allowed to go there. We were doing work. So it was all good.
CS: So you found a loophole, essentially,
Jet: We were loopholing loopholes upon loopholes. And this project as well was the my final project for Uni-my third year of Uni. And Gets a Life was for my honours year at Uni, which is like my fourth year. So, the third year Uni one was during lockdown. And then Gets a Life was not during lockdown. So I had more opportunity to bring more people in. And so many of the people who worked at the studio saw how successful the In Colour thing was so they just wanted to be involved in the next one. And the synth guy just really likes noise. He enjoys it. He’s a part of this big noise synth group in Melbourne. They all get together and play together.
CS: You said that you’ve been in the music scene for quite a while. And that you have a history with the more extreme types of music, but what was it about noise? What made you decide that this was a good pairing between CAKEFACE, the persona(s), the art project, and this particular kind of super-abrasive music?
Jet: I’ll start with how I got into it as far as I remember. We have this TV show called Rage, which is a music show that starts in the middle of the night and it goes ‘til the very early morning. You wake up at like, 5am when you’re a kid. And then you somehow, know what Tool is at the age of 12. And like, that’s me. That’s kind of how I got into extreme music at a really young age. And my connection between CAKEFACE and the noise works –I didn’t really see that there was any other music type that would suit her. There’s this, thing about clowns as well, always using, you know that-(sings),‘doo doo dooty dittle loot do do do’ . And I was like, Oh, maybe I could do something with that and then flip it on its head and make it spooky. Then I’d seen so many people do it recently, I was like, I can’t do that. And then the other thing that I’d seen in Melbourne and around was people do lip syncs and stuff in the drag persona. I’m not against doing lip syncs or anything, but it’s not really where I’m at, in my drag persona-in My CAKEFACE drag life. But I’m really interested in the idea of bringing all these people together to make a CAKEFACE real. And the way I always think about making people real, is by having community. And the way that I always thought about community, especially in music, is fans, It’s by mosh pits, by groupies by all these things. It’s by going outside and seeing a person wearing a band shirt being like, ‘I also like that thing.’ You know what I mean? I want it to be, in a way, a part of that thing that I’ve been doing over 10 years. And I thought that CAKEFACE can handle it as well. I think that CAKEFACE can handle the noise. There is a weird level of responsibility to having all of those musicians art on the back of CAKEFACE. I was like, ‘Hey! CAKEFACE can do it’
CS: I was reading your interview with Katy (Creamscener par excellence) and you said that uncomfortable is kind of a goal of CAKEFACE. But is there also, especially the pairing with the music, a kind of simmering anger there as well. Is there an aggressiveness to CAKEFACE?
Jet: Clown , for sure. She’s like always angry. Like the other two, I would say the Milf character, isn’t very angry, like the Prissy one isn’t very angry either. I think that clowns are inherently angry.(laughs)
CS: They’re repressing something.
Jet: Yeah, exactly. I think that the uncomfortable element is like to clown in the street. Whenever I go to a gig as dressed as the Clown, I’m standing on the main road and everyone’s honking…
CS: Oh, you get done up at home before you go. That’s fantastic.
Jet: Yeah, ‘cuz most of the time, like, my art is in galleries, right? So, I felt like my art isn’t at the drag bars, my art is in art galleries next to like, really, really nice pottery. And I’m getting done up in clown drag, and then go into my art show with the hoity-toities, and being like, ‘yeah. Here I am’ . It’s fun. It makes sense to do it. It’s one of those things where I think art isn’t just the thing on the wall, the art is also the persona. So, the noise element of the whole thing, I really like it when people find out about it. Because not many people know about it unless they go in for a Google. And then they find out about it and they’re like, this was ‘really good.’ And I’m like, ‘yeah, I know’(laughs). Yeah, we worked really hard on it. Every single thing that CAKEFACE does has a lot of effort put behind it. And I think that that’s another thing that I want people to take away from it. You know what I mean? There’s always intention. There’s always effort. And even if it makes you uncomfortable, or, or you feel like there’s anger or something there, that’s fine. You should feel that. That’s right.
CS: What connection does your visual artwork outside of the performance half of things have to the music of CAKEFACE?
Jet: So, the visual element that is being created when the noise is being created is just to so I keep focus in the room. Not that I have any focus issues, I think it’s more so afterwards, in the editing process, that I also remember the feeling that I had in the room. Sometimes that’s better-just being able to visualize it rather than just notes.
CS: Okay, so but as far as your visual arts practice, what you’re displaying in galleries, is there any connection there or is that completely divorced?
Jet: Completely different because the gallery like the gallery . Well, some of the galleries won’t mind the noise, but depends on the gallery. When I had my big final show, which is all the works-It was like 60 or something. It was like crazy. I was able to play the noise pieces over and over again on a loop. Which was cool.
CS: And that went over well with the crowd?
Jet: Yeah. Yeah they were okay. (laughs)
CS: I don’t want to keep you much longer. But, I guess this is the stock question but , what do you have planned for the future? What’s going on with performance, the music and the artwork?
Jet: I’ll just keep on plodding along and won’t stop making stuff. So just keep on following me on Instagram and I’ll keep on dropping stuff. I’m collaborating with a few more photographers to be able to, again, bridge that sense of community – open that up a bit. And working on a really weird performance which hopefully will come out in August
CS: Something particularly weird ?
Jet: You know Antony and the Johnsons?
CS: Yes. I was listening to them just earlier this afternoon.
Jet: Yeah, so it’s a performance to Hitler In My heart. This is like CAKEFACE does drag but it’s Antony and The Johnsons’ Hitler in my heart.(laughs) I was like, yeah, how do we make people uncomfortable? This is where we are going. Like, making costumes and stuff for it.
CS: I find it interesting now, having spoken to you, and you talking about community and working with new photographers now to try and reach that aspect of the artistic community and then reaching out to musicians and bringing them together, that you’re sort of acting as this wilful, voluntary magnet, a lodestone really, for the larger artistic community. I think that’s beautiful and highly commendable. Also, props on maintaining that smile for that whole 15 minute video, where you’re playing, I guess it’s the MILF character.(Loss Of Faith)
Jet: Thank you!
CS: My face hurt for you.
Jet: Yeah, it was bad. It sucked. (laughs)
CS: I hope that you did that just that in one take and nothing else.
Jet: Yeah it was only one take.
CS: Well, it was an absolute delight meeting you, sincerely. Love the work. We appreciate you taking the time.
Jet: Awesome. Okay. Enjoy your night.
CS: You too. I mean, your day. Later, Jet.
About Jet Krusec
Cakeface is the performance persona of Melbourne-based emerging queer artist Jet Krusec. Krusec is a 2022 graduate from ACU with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) focusing her thesis and creative outcome on performance personas. Cakeface has been showcased in group shows at The Fitzroy Art Collective, Brunswick Street Gallery, Craft Victoria’s Craft Contemporary festival and in her first solo show at Off The Kerb.
About The Interviewer
J. Bird is a multidisciplinary artist from Montreal Quebec, Canada working in literature, music and drawing. They are primarily interested in exploring the uncontextualized, the ephemeral and questions dealing with the concepts of reality and phenomenology in day to day existence. You can hear their music, if you have the stomach for it, on Bandcamp, see their drawings on Instagram, read their crap right here and, soon, on their blog.