Edge Slayer and Jasmine Infiniti Talk Voices, Vockah Redu, and New Orleans

Plus, the premiere of Edge's video for "Keep It Pumpin'."

Jasmine Infiniti: So I thought I’d start with some background info, just so the girls can know who we’re talking to. Where are you from and where do you currently live?

Edge Slayer: I am originally from Alexandria, which is a really small podunk town in the middle of Louisiana. And where I live now is New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jasmine: And just to be clear, how do you identify?

Edge: I identify as a trans woman. She/her.

Jasmine: Do you feel your gender identity, or any other aspects of your identity, influence your music?

Edge: I really do. The way that my Edge Slayer journey started was, at first I was deejaying as this alias called Two-Piece Dark — because that’s all I could afford at the time. I was a total butch queen at the time, and I started developing this character Edge Slayer years before I had moved to New Orleans, but I’d never played it out. It used to be called Black Ranger and it was just like really, really sad emo songs about like being sad and not knowing why I was sad.

A few months into deejaying I decided, OK I’m going to DJ as Edge Slayer cause that’s a way better DJ name, and then I started writing music as Edge Slayer. My music at first, because I was still identifying as a butch queen at the time, was based around transformation — there were all these underlying themes about being trans that I didn’t even think about until retrospect happened. And then I started writing my first songs and I played my projects out before I release my self-titled EP.

All of the songs were basically kind of like a mix of R&B, which is kind of what I do now, but it’s not the same. I ended up not releasing any of those songs because probably two years into being Edge Slayer, I, you know, found out that I was a trans woman, or I was starting to live my truth because one of my best friends literally tried to kill herself and she went to the hospital, came back and she was like, “I’m trans.” And I was like, you know what bitch? Me too. That’s exactly how it happened. I feel like it directly affects my music because my transition not only shows me through my music, but it was also what inspired me to write the music.

Jasmine: Right. So it sounds like it’s kind of a duality, like your music inspired you to change too. They influenced each other in a way, which I would say I agree with that as well. I feel like my music, especially when I was creating it before looking back on it in retrospect, it was like Wow, there’s a lot of underlying issues that I didn’t even realize was so deeply affecting me. So, that’s really cool for you to share that. And I love the name. I feel like that embodies a lot just in the name — like, “slay those edges,” and, you know, like a warrior musically and culturally. 

My next question: Where do you draw musical inspiration from?

Edge: I would say I draw it from emotion. Most of my music is very emotionally based, and I feel like that’s a theme that’s been throughout my music no matter what name it was under. And then, I also do a lot of ritual work. Like, I do beaucoup ritual work — she lights candles for every phase of the moon, and I’m deep in meditational prayer a lot over things in my life. I feel like a lot of my musical inspiration is honestly divine.

Jasmine: That’s amazing. I love that. Your music does sound like that — it always kind of has a ethereal vibe to it. It’s a very magical, goddess vibe, which I’m here for. So, speaking to that, which one of your works or tracks or pieces of your art do you feel really represents this style or the direction you’re trying to take your style musically?

Edge: Hmm, that’s a really good question as well. I think that I would say “No Safe Space” is a really great representation of what I would say my style is, because I feel my music is very much centered around the beat but also, unlike most vocal performance artists, I feel like mine is more centered around this emotional connection to overtones. And I really think about overtones a lot in my music and, how I can create these sounds on top of sounds by mixing the sounds together that I’m making. So I feel like that’s something that I really played a lot with my first EP.

And then I feel like on my second EP release, even though it’s giving more hip hop, it’s giving kind of more nu metal and shit, the overtones are still there. And then all of the music that I write is… It’s very beautiful if it’s just acoustic. Say, if I were to just to sing any of my songs, they also work without any music. And I feel like that’s kind of like something that’s indicative of the style of music that I write.

Jasmine: Love that. So that kind of brings me to another question. Being a black trans woman, being a trans woman period — I know that oftentimes our voice isn’t heard enough, right? But also, how do you reconcile or find the strength in your voice? I know that they’ve been writing a lot of articles about Sophie and other trans artists who put all these effects on their voice and try to like play with the voice which can be kind of clock-y.

Edge: Oh, yes. I mean, that is definitely think about kind of all the time where I just got to the point where I feel like my voice empowers me as a woman. I feel like, you know, badass bitches have deep voices and it’s fine. I tried with vocal training, everything, it just never really worked for me, and I think it’s something to do with my soft palate — literally the way that I’m made. I feel like I use a lot of vocal effects over my voice [because] I kind of didn’t want it to be recognizable, because when you’re growing up and envisioning yourself as this beautiful woman, you’re not thinking of this really deep voice coming out of your mouth. It’s something I struggled with for so long, and now I feel like it’s just so much more empowering to hear my own voice. I really like listening to myself.

After putting the self-titled EP out, people were like, “Oh, my god, I love the sound of your voice,” and, “This is so beautiful.” I started to become more comfortable. So I feel like my new EP is going to sound more or less non-vocal effected. I feel kind of moved towards putting effects on my voice as far as reverb goes or echo — something that is not going to change my voice and feminize it. And I feel like that’s a lot of that on my last EP. I’m still going to do it whenever I want to, but I definitely feel more confident with my natural voice.

Jasmine: Right, period. I want to know more about what it’s like being a part of the music scene in New Orleans. What’s the social climate? What’s the musical climate? Are you appreciated there for what you do? Do you feel like you’re creating the culture and the scene musically there?

Edge: I definitely don’t feel like I’m creating the culture here because there’s such a rich culture in New Orleans. I feel like there are so many spiritual roots here that I’m connected to because my family’s Creole. I have family that’s from here, and other parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the South. I love my community here. I feel so accepted here by people who I don’t even fucking know. I feel like it’s so supportive. And it was definitely hard to break into the New Orleans scene, and I feel like I’m still breaking into it, you know what I mean?

I feel like bitches know about me. Bitches like me. But you know, New Orleans is a very tough city to do any sort of music and art, because if you’re doing art here, it better be good. You know what I mean? It’s a smaller city, but in ways, I feel like it’s tougher than even a place like New York, because the timeline of news cycles is slower here. Like in New York, you mess up, you have next week and people are like, “OK, we’re over it, we’re moving forward.” You know? And I think here it’s like, you can make one mistake that could follow you for years. Or you have a bad concert and now people are like, “Oh well, I don’t know,” because there’s this level of doubt. But I feel like that’s a smaller percentage but it’s kind of sad when it does happen, and I’ve definitely seen it happen to artists. I do feel supported, but also it’s took a lot of work.

Sometimes I stop and think about all of the shows that I’ve played and all of the music and art that I’ve created, I’m like, “Oh, my god, bitch, you’ve done so much in the past two, three years of this project.” Because I was just a little basic bitch trying to work a job and be a butch queen, and buy Fenty Beauty. I wasn’t really thinking about being an impactful artist, you know? It took me a really long time to be like, You can be an artist. You deserve being here. You are wonderful.

Jasmine: These are definitely, I would say, some of the obstacles trans people face. Especially black trans people. It’s first having the ability to believe in yourself. We’re taught from such a young age, that we can’t do this, and we can’t do that. Even just subvertly receiving those messages. But it’s amazing when we can break out of it, and hopefully people hearing about you will help them.

Edge: I can definitely say that it’s very interesting that we’re at this point and in this timeline you’re interviewing me about me dropping my music. Right? Because you are totally one of the people who I saw and was just like, Oh, my god. I did not know that black, non-light skinned women could be a DJ. Being a DJ when I first started felt so hard and I felt so hopeless. Because I felt very talented but I also didn’t really know what to do and no one was teaching me what to do either. You know, if you hang out with some dude, try to get some answers, you find out once you kind of reach a certain level with your education, as far as production, you’re just kind of like, Oh wait, all these people suck. And they’re like just, like, aping an artistic form because they don’t want you to find out that people suck.

There were just so many times where I didn’t even know until, honestly, following you online that black people made house music. You are honestly the one who taught a bitch. I just didn’t care. I was just like, Oh, my god, house music is so boring, techno is so boring. It’s all so white.  And I’m so thankful that you are in this world. I’m a direct influence of transwomen like you. You show me that somebody cares about our music.

Jasmine: Well, this isn’t about me, but thank you. [Laughs.] It’s totally about you and you’ve been just as inspirational to me as well, and to so many people that I know — including my daughter Bambi [Infiniti]! So I know obviously Big Freedia, and bounce music are big in New Orleans. Does that influence your DJ sets? 

Edge: Yeah, I definitely play a lot of bounce. I got my start deejaying for bounce artists. So all the girls who were giving a bitch a shot were the bounce girls.

I love bounce, and it’s funny because I can’t really be in the bounce community now because it’s messy, girl. If any girl wants to book me with higher rates — because that might happen, fingers crossed — like, let me know. But, you know, the girls are kind of messy. But, I mean, I live for the mess and love the mess. That’s what makes it really fabulous. But, also being a bounce DJ, you are not the star, and I wanted to be the star. You know what I mean? You really can’t be anything but kind of the left arm of the bounce performer. I feel like that’s one of the reasons why it was not really cute for me, because I feel like I was always making somebody mad by having a fabulous transition and doing too much. That’s not what you’re supposed to do if you’re the DJ for the artist. 

That’s why I just DJ dance parties. I just had this weird Mardi Gras moment last weekend, where I met my favorite bounce producer at a gig. I had a moment  — you know when you’re using a controller and sometimes they just act funny? All the music got cut off. But everybody was super nice and didn’t care because my set was fire anyway and, you know, everybody was just waiting for me to turn it on. Then I turned it on and I was basically having a panic attack for the rest of this thing, just because I’m a perfectionist. It was just like a little private party too, so, it wasn’t this major performance, but it was just, you know, something that was stressful.

And then this person was like, “Oh, my god, I like love like your deejaying, that set was killing it, you are fire.” And I was just like, “Oh, OK, thank you, the trade.” I was just like, this trade is just trying to be nice to me, or whatever. And it was a bounce producer that I’m obsessed with called Vockah Redu. He’s like the godfather of bounce music too. Like, he was behind it all, is one of the major players of it, travels all over the world. If you’ve heard bounce beats, you’ve definitely heard Vockah Redu.

But, it was just kind of so funny. I was like, Oh, this trade is trying to be nice to me, he’s trying to say I’m good, or whatever. And then I was just floored. Like, Oh, my god, you stupid bitch. I mean, it doesn’t matter because it was still cool. It was very validating. I’ve even made edits and mixes where I’ve used Vockah repeats.

Jasmine: Yeah, that’s pretty iconic. I guess a good thing to end on is asking, what kind of advice would you give to other black trans women out there trying to get into music?

Edge: I would definitely say do the shit that you think is lame because everybody’s gonna think it’s cool. If you’re doubting yourself and you’re like, I don’t know if my art’s good, trust and believe that it’s really good. trans women are so fucking introspective — we think so often. We meticulate over the way that we present and I feel like that’s what makes trans people these fears, and these people who are seen as holy in this way. If you are trans, you have an internal narrative, and a lot of people don’t have an internal narrative. I feel like the best advice I could give any bitch is don’t try to fit in, just be yourself. And keep being yourself, because that’s really the only thing that I’ve found out is true about the music industry, is that if you continue to be yourself and you don’t change, people will start to pay attention. And then once people pay attention, continue to be yourself.

Jasmine: It’s been a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much for asking me to interview you.

Edge: Oh my gosh, thank you so much! This has been uplifting.

Jasmine: It’s so important to have black trans women talking with black trans women. I think that that needs to happen more instead of just this kind of gaze that we get, you know, with everyone else talking to us about ourselves. We can talk to each other, about each other. So, yeah. Keep up the good work. Can’t wait to hear more of what you create.

EDGESLAYER is a multi disciplinary visual and music artist based in New Orleans.