Between running the MOM Podcasts network alongside Willam, cohosting the Race Chaser and Hot Goss shows, and touring the world, Alaska is back to releasing new original music with Red 4 Filth.
Following 2015's Anus, 2016's Poundcake, and 2019's Vagina - as well as collaborations like 2017's Access All Areas with The AAA Girls and 2018's Amethyst Journey with Jeremy Mikush - this is Alaska's fourth standalone studio album. Unlike her other projects, Red 4 Filth is daringly emotional and personal, even in songs disguised as high-energy club bangers. Overall, the album is also all about the trends, catchphrases, references, and musical styles that gained notoriety in the 2000s.
During an exclusive interview with Out, Alaska discussed her biggest music references from the 2000s, the evolution of her writing style on Red 4 Filth, and her collaborations with Ts Madison and Stephanie's Child on the new album.
Alaska's Red 4 Filth album is now available on all music streaming platforms.
Out: The theme of Red 4 Filth is the turn of the century and the 2000s. What are some of your biggest music references from that period of time?
Alaska: My first-ever cassette tape was Ace of Base. My cousin, Chad, got the tape and got a tape player for his birthday. So I was pissed and I threw a fit until it was my birthday. And then I got a tape player and the same tape, which was Ace of Base's "The Sign." I love Ace of Base. And I think my other first CDs were like No Doubt and Toni Braxton, just to give you an idea.
All great choices! What was your inspiration for making an album about the 2000s in 2022?
I don't know... mental illness? No, I just liked it. And it's sort of like why Lady Gaga decided to do a jazz album. It was like, she just felt like it. So that's what I feel like, I just felt like it.
And the 2000s are certainly back in fashion.
Oh, I know. I mean, people are wearing bucket hats and it's serious, it's not a joke. So I guess the time is right for it.
Over the years you've been known to reference the RuPaul's Drag Race universe and other drag performers in your original music. But the themes and lyrics on Red 4 Filth are more universal and mainstream than ever. Was this a natural progression of your music or was this something very intentional when you were making this album?
Well, we wanted to draw upon all of these sounds and feelings that were popular in the music of that time period. I mean, if you listen to songs from back then, it's all about love, it's all about relationships... whether it's friendship or romantic love or attraction. So we were like, 'Well, I've never really written anything like that. So let's try that. Let's do that.'
I know can be hard to pick favorites when you're releasing a new album, but I have to ask: do you have any favorite songs or music videos from Red 4 Filth?
My favorite one right now is "All That She Wants" because it's the only cover on the album and it's one of my favorite songs ever. So it's really cool to get that on the album. But I also love "Ask Me," which I think as of right now is the least popular song [from the album] on Spotify and I'm like, 'I don't care. I like it. It's my favorite.'
When did you decide that a cover of "All That She Wants" by Ace of Base belonged within the universe of Alaska? What was the choice to include it here and now?
I wanted to do a song that is sort of in everyone's brain a little bit already. It's like, that is such a popular song and is just known worldwide. And so I want that to be the sort of entry point. I want to sing it at people and they already know the words. I really look forward to that.
You started to release songs from Red 4 Filth about a year ago, and these singles built up a lot of traction for the album. Was this a strategic decision, or was writing and producing this album just a longer process in general?
We wanted to sort of edge people. We wanted it to be like a slow build-up to the release of the whole thing. And I think we definitely did that. I was like, here's a little taste and now here's another little one... and just introducing the world so that once the whole album comes out, you kind of already know what it feels like.
Songs like "Beautiful (night 4 a) Breakdown" and "Uh" are high-energy club bangers, but they actually have pretty emotional lyrics as well. What was your experience like writing and producing these kinds of songs?
From a performing standpoint, they're really fun to sing. They're really dramatic and vocally challenging for me. And so it's really fun to explore doing different things with my mouth hole, making different voices come out.
I think it just surprised me to hear how emotional and serious and endearing the lyrics to these songs were despite them having super high-energy beats.
I know, it is really strange. It's strange not to be speaking loudly about makeup and nails and hair.
I really love "More Than Enough to Me," which I think has a very strong girl-group energy to it. Can you tell me more about this song?
Totally. It's like a friendship song. I think that friendships are kind of the most important kind of relationships there are, at least for me. And so I wanted to have a song that was a friendship song. Sometimes your friends can see you better than you can see yourself. So if you're having a hard time, that's what your friends are there for, to remind you that you're going to be all right.
"22" is a very earnest and reflective song. I don't think we've ever had an Alaska song sound anything like "22." What was the thought process behind including this song on Red 4 Filth?
Well, sort of that episode on Drag Race where RuPaul holds up the picture of us as a little child. 'What would you say to eight-year-old Daniel?' So I wanted to write a song that's like that, like a letter to my younger self. And yeah, it is really personal and it's really sweet and we cried a lot while we were writing it. It was like a therapy session. It was great.
If you don't mind me asking, what was going on when you were 22? Why was this age particularly special or traumatic or eventful?
22 was the age where I discovered drag and where it sort of set me on a trajectory that I wasn't expecting in my life. So the song is talking to myself before even discovering that. And I was sort of directionless and I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know where I belonged or what I was meant to be doing with my life. And then I turned 22 and I discovered this crazy thing called drag. And then I'm still doing that now, so it's sort of about that.
When "Wow" came out, some fans speculated that it was somewhat related to the production company behind RuPaul's Drag Race. Since we're doing a deep dive into the album, is there something you'd like to say or clarify about this speculation?
I think it's art and art is subjective. And I think it resonates with a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. And I think mainly it's about... I mean there are a lot of exes out there. So that song really speaks to a lot of people. I think it means a different thing for everybody.
You have two collaborations on this album. How was it working with Stephanie's Child on "Girlz Night"?
Oh my gosh, it was great. I love those girls. I mean, we got to basically just go out and drink champagne and get in a limo and go to a club... which sounds like it would be really fun, but that video was strangely stressful. It was literally the easiest setup. All we have to do is go have a party. And we literally were all just... not all of us, but I was having a beautiful night for a breakdown that night. But the great thing is that it goes back to that friendship song. It's like, sometimes when you're freaking out and you don't know what you're doing, you have people around you who know you, who remind you. And so, by the end of the night, we had such a good time.
"I Am Her (She Is Me)" is another one of my favorite songs on the album. Can you tell me about your collab with Ts Madison?
First of all, Ts Madison is a prophet and a poet and I'm obsessed with her. We originally just wanted her to come in and sing the hook. And then she came into the studio and she was like, 'I wrote a full verse. Here it is.' And it was so good. And I was like, 'Okay, well, we're throwing my second verse in the trash. This is now the second verse.' 'Cause she has an energy that's really, really inspiring and really infectious. And she's a really cool, cool person.
And Ts Madison was recently featured in the new Beyonce album, which is a pretty legendary coincidence, Alaska.
Beyonce and I have good taste.
How did you react when your collaborator was featured in the biggest album of the year?
I'm not surprised at all because Ts Madison is a f*cking icon, so I'm not surprised at all!
It's been three years since Vagina came out, and this is a very different album for you. What do you want listeners to walk away from after listening to Red 4 Filth in full? Do you want them to learn something new about the character of Alaska or the person behind Alaska? Do you want them to just have fun?
It's definitely to have fun and it's definitely to... I mean, what is the point of doing drag or doing art if you're not going to do things you haven't done before? This is definitely going into new territory for me, which is scary and exciting and cool. So I want to bring anyone listening along with me on that. I want people to feel inspired, that anus-thing is possible. And there's going to be a sort of Bible story of the origin of Alaska that I want to tell with the tour show, which will be set to all of this music. So I encourage everyone to come see the tour. I think it's going to be really cool and fun.
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