Interview: In conversation with River Moon

Image by Travys Owen

Their name is River Moon (@saint.deepthroat if you’re nasty) and over the past few years they have been one of the most significant cultural visionaries of the zeitgeist, shaping the sound of their scene from the comfort of their bed. Moon doesn’t really know how to describe themself, but knows themself better than anyone else. Moon is a DJ and producer based in Cape Town, South Africa and their influence in the direction of the global underground, specifically the queer P.O.C underground, has been major. Having grown up in New York, Moon returned to their birthplace in Cape Town about four years ago. Since then, they have explored and in many ways driven the queer culture of their space, as well as internationally through projects with artists such as Lizzo producer Jesse Saint John and LSDXOXO. Musically informed by the sounds of queer club culture, they have coronated themselves the “Rave Princess,” and it is in the hedonism, pleasure and complete irreverence of the queer experience from where Moon draws their inspiration. 

Irreverence is an innate part of their persona. As a key administrative member of the Instagram account @Patiasfantasyworld, they have cultivated and contributed towards meme culture for the Black community based on the Black experience. These positional contexts have driven much of Moon’s work, and as a musician their output is very much the sound of queer futurity; that is, concerned with pushing the boundaries of and challenging the norms of the zeitgeist towards potential ideations of an alternate socio-cultural reality. It may sound serious, but the charm of Moon’s work lies in the wit with which they operate, utilising ironic humour as their weapon of choice for cultural re-constriction or, more accurately, domination. In fact, Moon’s command of the internet and their ability to articulate their truth through the medium of irony is remarkable. Their Twitter fanbase is immense, and their use of the platform is unrestrained to the point of them being banned 11 times. 

Significantly, the past year has been rather lucrative musically. 2020 saw the release of their EP Martyr, and over the past few months they have released a collection of singles that draw heavily from club kid culture and early 2000’s rave. Backlash following a particular Boiler Room set ignited a necessary discourse around the hierarchies within the DJ community, and in many ways Moon became an actual martyr as they challenged the conventions of a culture largely dictated by white, cis-gender men. All of this has been done, mostly, from their bedroom yet the influence that Moon holds over their community and by proxy the electronic music scene is undeniable. We spoke with the artist to find out more about what has inspired them, and how they have quickly established themselves as a trailblazing force across the globe. 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts? 

Because it’s the only thing I know how to do. I was never really book smart and because of my ADHD I was always bad at school, so I dropped out and decided to focus solely on music.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”? 

No. I just always knew. There wasn’t just one single moment. I think I tried to wish it away because my parents had other ideas for me so I always asked God to give me signs to continue. I ignored so many signs until I could not. So I just dove in head first and never looked back.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea? 

It depends. Every time is different. It’s kinda like when you’re painting. Sometimes you just pick up the brush and start putting paint to the canvas and sometimes you want to go out to a scene and paint that scene.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

I do everything on my bed or on the floor in my bedroom. So basically I just wake up, open Ableton, throw some ideas on it, save and quit, open it again in a month and finish the song. I hate recording studios. It’s sensory overload. I prefer working in my bedroom. I can get the same quality and sound from the comfort of my bed.

Your recent string singles have been moving more into full on dance territory, whereas Martyr had this sort of ethereal quality to it. What has informed this shift in style and who are your major influences right now?

I made Martyr during a very difficult time in my life. I still can’t listen to it because it embodies everything I went through at that time. Every song was really inspired by my emotions. Initially I wanted Martyr to have vocals on it. Every song had lyrics to it except the first one, but I haven’t found my voice yet. That’s why I put it out almost completely instrumental except the Tama Gucci track. I wanted the music to say everything and leave it up to the listener to interpret. Because of how experimental and somber that project was, I wanted this next one to be an antidote. It’s fun, it’s chaotic, it’s colourful, it’s bold, it’s abrasive, it’s sexy… I found my voice. I’m doing all the vocals on this new project… rapping, singing, screaming, harmonising. It’s the best thing I’ve made so far. I was inspired by all the music I listened to growing up. Martyr was inspired by moods and emotions rather than music itself. With this one you can hear I listened to M.I.A. and The Prodigy and Foxy Brown and Dipset and Deftones growing up. It’s pretty hot. 

So what’s on your current playlist? 

Kelela. Always Kelela. She’s my favourite artist. Also, Janet Jackson! I think I’m Janet’s child. I’ve always been really inspired by her and I reference her a lot. Azealia Banks is my favourite rapper. I’m obsessed with LSDXOXO’s new EP. Literally my favourite project of the year. Shygirl, M.I.A., Britney, Arca… I love everyone.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Yes! I love Dirty Bird. He’s this house music producer that makes the coolest sounding grooves. I love Estoc. She produced some tracks on my LP, she’s incredible. Another collaborator I love is Bapari! We have a couple of remixes together. This rapper named Shug, she’s always been a favourite of mine. Rose Bonica is this artist from Cape Town who makes the coolest sounding electronic music. I also really adore Himera.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage. 

I’ve never really performed on a mic before so I don’t know. I’m a former DJ and that’s way different than performing on a mic. I only started recording and releasing songs with my vocals on it this year so I’m really excited to explore that. I’ve always wanted to be on a stage, but I was never really confident. I didn’t think I found my voice yet. With this new project I definitely found my voice and I cannot wait to do a festival run next year. I’m already getting offers to perform all around the world so I’m manifesting more of that.

You recently faced some ridiculous backlash following a Boiler Room in Cape Town. Could you talk us through the hierarchies present in the city’s electronic music scene, and how you’re breaking through that space to create your own? 

First of all, I don’t give a fuck about anyone who had anything to say about that situation because I already made it clear why I did what I did. Everyone who chose to ignore that and call me untalented or whatever can’t do what I do. I’ve been to some of these people’s shows and they can’t even get the crowd lit. No shade, when I am on the decks, nobody leaves the dancefloor for the entire set. It was a bunch of purists who were mad they didn’t get booked, that’s it. As for creating my own space, I’m done with DJing. I will only DJ for things I care about now. I’m a fucking rockstar… I do not want to share a community with a bunch of lame ass dudebros who don’t get pussy and brag about their technical skills but can’t keep the crowd jumping. You guys are weirdos and y’all fucking suck. Worry about why you were playing plague raves instead. I’m respected by people I grew up listening to, so I definitely don’t care about being a real DJ. I’m real in these streets, bitch. 

Patia’s Fantasy World is back! Could you give our readers some context on the account, and talk about how meme culture becomes an effective tool for social discourse?

I co-run @Patiasfantasyworld with my sisters Patia and Laina aka Mistervacation. PFW started as a finsta of Patia posting nasty ass things she would see in and around New York City and at parties. It was named something completely different. A lot of her friends started posting on there and started posting memes and so it turned into this little meme account with like 200 followers. She would always laugh at the stupid shit me and Laina posted and we would always share memes and crazy things we find on the internet with each other… I think by the time Laina and I joined she wanted it to only be the three of us because there was just something about our sense of humor and voices that brought the best content… By the time we joined we had just over 5000 followers. Today it’s at some crazy amount. None of us expected this or that our page can become a vehicle to help our direct community. We’ve done so many cool things with this page while all 3 of us were separated because of this pandemic. To us, memes just say so much in one little frame. A meme is a meme, but a meme is everything. 

 What can we expect from the PFW collective soon?

Once all 3 of us are back in the same city, it’s over. We’re planning so many amazing things that I can’t speak of right now, but PFW is building a legacy. We’re a meme page, but we’re also 3 individuals who do incredible things! Patia just finished school for coding so she can make apps now and she just walked fucking Mugler, Laina is dropping her first single and going to medical school in a couple weeks, I’m releasing an album and going on tour next year… We tryna go to the Met Gala, period. Wearing Hood By Air. The sky’s the limit.  What can we expect from the PFW collective soon? 

What gets your creative juices flowing? 

Sex, drugs and rock & roll! I think I’m a little bit of a hedonist. Anything in that realm really inspires me. I love taboo topics. I’m always talking about crazy shit.

Any side projects you’re working on? What can we expect from you this year? 

I have many side projects I can’t really talk about yet. I’m producing for some amazing artists! I can’t wait to see that come out. Fingers crossed. I’m finishing an EP and an LP for this year so I can tour it next year. Getting ready to spread my wings and fly.

Famous last words?

I’m the muthafuckin rave princess.

Listen to River Moon’s latest single, Hard below and download their music here.

Follow River Moon:
Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud