The music industry has long been dominated by white men. To open space for other voices, Denver musicians Elinor Saragoussi and Jacob Cohen, aka Rooster Jake, compiled and self-published New Angles: Perspectives of Women, Queer and Gender Non-Binary Members of the Greater Music Community. The project, which comprises fifteen essays by women, queer and gender non-binary members of music communities around the world, will be launched at an album release show, on November 24, for Saragoussi's band, Florea. Westword caught up with Cohen and Saragoussi to discuss the project.
Westword: What is your background in the Denver music scene?
Elinor Saragoussi: I grew up in Denver and began playing classical music at a young age. When I was about sixteen, I started attending shows at DIY venues such as Rhinoceropolis — R.I.P. It wasn't until my early twenties that I mustered the courage to begin playing in bands. Performing with projects such as Strawberry Runners and Hair Cult, I was able to see the bands' perspective of both DIY venues and clubs, which was not always a very comforting view. I currently play with two bands: Florea, and Baby Tony and the Teenies.
Jacob Cohen: I came up in St. Louis, Missouri — in South City, as we call it. I co-created a noisy hip-hop crew there called Barely Free. Most recently, we produced a series of EPs called “Three Pounds of Flax.” I moved to Denver in 2014 to be closer to some friends and dive into more music. I co-created a psychedelic project called Utajahs with two of my besties, and have since joined another homie’s project, called Glitter Pills; both have albums released in 2017. I know all these amazing people, most of whom happen to appreciate going to DIY shows. A few of those folks lived at Lonely House and went on to start BackSpace. I hosted a monthly event there called MOLTING that had some very bright moments. A few others lived at and therefore cared for a spot called Juice Church. I started playing shows with a rapper from St. Louis named Ciej. We went to other spots like **** ****, Rhino and Orange Grove, but those are all mostly gone now. Stupid landlords.
How did you get involved with New Angles, and what is your role in producing the zine/booklet?
Saragoussi: Rooster initially asked me to do the illustrations for New Angles, but as the project began to take shape and I realized how much this issue hit close to home, we decided to team up and divide more of the work. I helped format, print, bind and illustrate the zine.
Cohen: The idea for New Angles has been in my head since I started going to shows. I asked Eli if she would help with the art, and we immediately decided to go into it together, whatever it took. My role with it has included asking people to send in perspectives, compiling those submissions, giving editorial and design input and paying my half to have it published. Eli was the creative and physical engine that produced a wonderful end result. There's a metaphor in there somewhere for DIY music scenes.
What made you want to publish New Angles?
Saragoussi: As a female musician, I have certainly struggled, but I know that there are many other minority folks within the music community who have struggled more, and I felt that New Angles would be a good chance to give voice to some of those people. If anything, I hope that this project can open up a dialogue about how we can create a more nourishing and safe space for those who have been repressed, and how we can all come together as a community and fight the bigger evils.
Cohen: White guys like myself gain and retain clout more easily than everyone else combined. I thought, who cares what I have to say about any of that? We need to hear every other perspective we can first. We need to listen to these perspectives and make a real effort to contribute to diversity in the local music scene. The redistribution of the stories themselves is the intended goal.
How many copies are being published? How did you finance it?
Saragoussi: We have made a first run of 45 zines. All of the costs were covered out of our own pockets.
Cohen: We personally financed the first run and are hoping to sell out and use the money to produce more. The contributors all shared what they had to say for free, and we don't have a profitable model.
What's your take on the music scene in Denver and music in general, as it relates to gender and sexual orientation?
Saragoussi: After all of the DIY venue closures this past year, I've been pretty discouraged about the Denver music scene. Those spaces — somewhat — allowed for minority folks to feel comfortable performing their craft, something that clubs don't always provide. I feel like Denver is still trying to figure out how to support all the different types of musicians that live here.
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What do you have planned for November 24 at Syntax Physic Opera?
Saragoussi: The event on November 24 is going to be a big celebration full of wonderful, inspiring folks, evocative music and, of course, the cozy ambience that any evening at Syntax always brings. As New Angles was taking shape, Rooster and I had been struggling to find a fitting way to release the zine. We wanted music to be part of the event, but weren't sure how to go about creating an event that made sense. When the Florea album-release show came together, I realized this would be a great opportunity to release New Angles and reach a new audience within an already exciting event.
Cohen: Thanks to all the people who contributed and the friends and family who have opened my mind up to New Angles! See ya when I’m lookin' at ya, Denver!
New Angles and Florea album-release show, 9 p.m. Friday, November 24, Syntax Physic Opera, 554 South Broadway, $7.