By Jason Lamphier
After self-releasing three records, starring in a sexed-up coffee-table book by gay-media magnate Bruno Gm�nder, and appearing in fashion shoots for Vibe and W, Ari Gold should be itching to conquer Top 40 radio Justin Timberlake-style. But the painfully attractive R&B crooner is content preserving his DIY reputation and serving his gay fan base. Gold sat down with Out to talk about the ups and downs of being a sex object, his beef with gay record executives, and his forthcoming Transport Systems, which he calls the "gayest record ever."
You�ve said presenting your sexuality in an unabashed fashion�as you do on the album jacket�makes gay men uncomfortable. What do you mean by that?
We still have a lot of issues. We still have gay men trying to learn how to desire each other and respect each other. A lot of times, if we objectify a man, then we don�t know how to also respect him. I don�t know why that is. I don�t know if that�s because we spent so much time in our childhoods desiring things that we can�t have or thinking that we can�t have them. At the same time, from the straight perspective, we get a bad rap. If straight people see us as oversexed that�s just a homophobic thing. That just comes from straight people being scared of gay sexuality, which is another way of saying homophobia. There�s sex everywhere�sex sells all products, all music. Everybody�s selling sex, but as soon as gay people start selling sex, [you hear] �They�re just oversexed� and �Why are they putting that in our face?� It�s very interesting. You get it from both sides, this sort of anti-sex. And you know gay men still have a lot of shame about their sexuality�and having sex with each other.
When you put yourself out there and present yourself in a sexual light, do you think it hinders your career as a musician? Do you think that is all gay men are going to see, that they won�t care about the lyrics or the music?
I think at this point in my career it�s important for me to focus on the music even though we�re talking about sexuality. I�m at a point where I really want to stress the music, especially because I just made something I�m so proud of, so I definitely want to figure out how to get the music out there in a bigger way than the image. I don�t like to say something has hindered me because I think that I�ve had a really interesting career. I think in a lot of ways I�ve broken ground. When I think about it, there really hasn�t been anyone, a pop artist-singer who has been out since the beginning of his career, who�s been singing songs that have to do with explicit gay content, who�s gotten as far as I have, who�s gotten a coffee-table book out in 25 countries around the world, who�s bumped Madonna out of the top spot [of the video countdown] on Logo. There hasn�t really been anyone who�s done that, and I made that choice to put the image out there like that. It was in part a marketing decision because gay men are obsessed with the male image, and I know I can play that. That was a surprise for me, because I grew up feeling like I was a skinny, Jewish boy who was too ethnic on camera, which was what I was told all my life. So to be sexy�to be a desired object�was a triumph for me personally.
So you think your image helps?
I think it helps. I did everything in such an alternative way. If I would have done things in a very safe way, if I would have listened to many of the music industry professionals and huge producers who told me to be in the closet, then maybe I would have been on MTV all the time, and maybe I would have had some huge mainstream career�but it would not have been the career I wanted. I make music for a reason. I have a story I need to tell. It�s not just for the sake of putting music out there or to become famous as possible. So it may have hindered me from gaining mainstream success, but it hasn�t hindered me from having the career that I�ve chosen to have�the one that I want�which is to be an out artist, who does sing about gay content and that�s something that hasn�t been done. There have been sacrifices made in order to be the first to do that because nobody at the major record labels was like �You�re an out artist that sings about being gay? Let�s give you a record deal! We can�t wait to promote you!� I thought they would. I really did. I thought �Gay rights. It�s post-AIDS. We�re in a place where people will want to do this and will want to make a difference in pop music.� I thought they would.