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Q&A with Leon Markcus

Q&A with Leon Markcus: Hello from Hot City

Leon Markcus takes us on a dive into another side of this pink dot with a re-release of his EP: ‘Welcome to Hot City’. Behind the EP’s bubblegum beats and cherry-hued melodies, he tackles the discrimination he faced and describes how he found his confidence and self-acceptance at the end of his journey. So, brew up a nice cup of tea as Tropika Club gets real with Leon Markcus.

*The interview below has been edited for clarity.

Q: Your music and your music videos are always creative and different. For example, your ‘Hot City’ (featuring Bilal Hassani) is filmed in a vertical format on YouTube, while your ‘SXW’ is filmed in an extended landscape format. What is the inspiration behind your creative genius?

A: Thank you! I’m really humbled that you enjoyed the content I’ve put out so far! Well, I’ve always tried to live by this rule when it comes to my art, “everything has to be better/different than my previous body of work.” I take loads of inspirational queues from Cher, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, David Bowie and the world around me.

For Hot City, the vertical format was largely inspired by Spotify Videos, mostly, Nicki Minaj’s ‘Chun Li’. I wanted to incorporate Bilal into the music video as naturally as possible. Since he’s from France and it’s almost impossible to fly him over for a music video, so why not have a video call? To make it seem like the different sections of the videos were deliberate. As for SXW, I was largely inspired by the vaporwave aesthetics and wanted to make the video look was futuristic and cinematic as possible.

Q: Your music and videos all tell a story. Do you see yourself as a musical champion of LGBTI issues?

A: I’m going to be real honest right here and say that, although I do champion for LGBTQI issues as an individual. But when it comes to my music, it’s universal, though I do touch a lot on LGBTI issues here and there, because that’s a part of who I am.

There isn’t a deliberate attempt in trying to represent the community. But a lot of my content, especially for this era, is inspired by the queer culture and my own life. I think it is amazing how creative and insanely talented queer individuals can be. I aspire to be as honest and authentic in my work as they are. Although this era is largely camp, so the songs could still be applied to anyone.

Q: Can you share a bit of background to your album ‘Welcome to Hot City’’? How long did it take you to get the album ready?

A: The entire record, apart from ‘Forgotten Natives’ and ‘Hot City’ was done during the release of my debut EP ‘Mannequin‘. There were about 30 songs and we chose 5 songs out of 30 and replaced 2 of the songs with ‘Forgotten’ and ‘Hot City’. The concept of the EP didn’t really happen till early last year? initially, the EP was supposed to be a sequel to the first record I released. But when I got to meet new people over at Pride festivals around Asia, I thought: why wait for representation I wanted? Imma just share my experiences.

My journey of finding my gender expression also played a huge part in the EP. who says boys can’t embrace being femme/fluid? imma do it. From start to finish the EP took 1.5 years.

When I was putting the E.P together, I realised that the content of this EP really just spoke about my experiences as a social outcast in my own home and community, as well as the people I have met through this journey of self-discovery. I titled it ‘Welcome to Hot City’ as I wanted to welcome people to a side of my home that they might not have seen before.

Q: We do think that ‘Forgotten Natives’ has a catchy tune. What was the inspiration behind this single?

A: Yeah, I got the inspiration to do a slower track because I realised that every time I’m performing my songs, I’m hopping all around and by the end of it, my back really aches. I’ve become too old to catch up with the young, hahaha.

But in all seriousness, ‘Forgotten Natives’ is really just a track inspired by feeling like an outsider my entire life. Getting bullied back in my school days, getting rejected by the industry for being too different, getting abused online for my sexuality. It just feels like, no matter where I am headed to, I’ll always feel like an outsider. ‘Forgotten Natives’ really is just an anthem to bring together the “outsiders” to embrace being different to let people know “Hey, I am here!”

Q: Your single ‘Foolish’, which premiered on 24 April 2020 on YouTube, shows your amazing creativity; being able to self-direct and release this during the Circuit Breaker. Will we be seeing more of this?

A: Most definitely, though ‘Foolish’ was the first music video I’ve edited and shot on my own. I usually am very hands-on with my content. Apart from writing my own music, my visuals are mostly made by me. I did all the sets and costumes you in my music videos in the past.

QnA with Leon Markcus

You could say I am a perfectionist, but it’s just that it’s very hard for me to articulate what is going on in my head, so in the end, so I’ll much rather just do it on my own. I’m involved even when it comes down to the physical copies. Like for this era, the physical copy is in the form of an IC and passport to represent you becoming a citizen of Hot City.

But yes, i am currently in the midst of creating what I feel would be my most daring venture yet? And I hope to be able to share that with the world real soon.

Q: You have created many personas throughout your various music videos. Which of the personas do you personally identify with, and why?

A: That is very true! And refreshing to hear. Well, there isn’t a particular persona I really identify with, as they’re all just small parts of who I am. I think that especially for this era, I expanded on a part of myself that is considered bold and daring as this EP was dedicated to queer culture. I would say that exploring this part of who I am made me proud of being in my own skin. Because in person, I tend to be very distant and introverted as communicating and socialising is a huge task for me. Hence, through the personas I learnt so much that I can apply in my own personal life.



A curious wanderlust at heart, Benedict is always out to explore the world around him, and share his discoveries.