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8 Jun 2007

iris judotter

No stranger to the lesbian community in Singapore, Iris Judotter has become the first out lesbian to launch an album. Catch her at The Arts House this Saturday singing original songs from her self-produced and released debut album, The Importance of Being!

Iris Judotter - a familiar face and voice to regular patrons at the now-defunct Mad Monks which used to host weekly lesbian parties in 2001 - is launching her debut album The Importance of Being under her own label at Earshot Caf @ The Arts House on Saturday, June 9, and at Toca Me on Wednesdays this month.

Fridae speaks to the 25-year-old music producer-singer-songwriter, who is of Peranakan and Indo-Chinese descent, about her musical influences, being out as a recording artiste in Singapore and not wanting to categorise her music as being purely lesbian.

æ: Tell us about your new CD, The Importance of Being.

Iris: It's a chronicle of the things that have happened and people I've met in my life. The key tracks "Four Leaf Clover" was written six years ago just before "Sleep Tight," while "Don't Walk Away From Me" was written more recently. "Four Leaf Clover" was the song that planted the thought of an album in my head. When I used to perform it at Mad Monks during the weekly lesbian parties, people used to come up to me to ask where they can get a copy of that song and subsequently, became the ONLY original song that was requested weekly.

"Sleep Tight" was written for one of my ex-girlfriends when we first got together but we had a problem with acknowledging the relationship. It's one of the songs which has evolved so much since I first wrote it six years ago. Although it was initially written as a sweet lullaby love song for the said ex but over the years, I've expanded the scope to a song that's not specifically for her anymore.

æ: Having written all the songs on the CD, what inspires the music and lyrics?

Iris: The people and events that have meant enough to me like, when emotions are in its most raw states - that's when I can churn out the tunes.

æ: When did you write your first song?

Iris: I was 12 and it was a very childish song which I wrote on the piano.

æ: Is being a singer-songwriter your childhood dream and how did you get started in the industry?

Iris: Yeah, it was one of my many childhood dreams. I first got into the music industry when I got myself my first publishing deal with Musset Publishing at 18.

æ: Which do you prefer, performing live or working in the studio?

Iris: I love the independence and indulgence of working in the studio but the instant gratification I get from performing live always leaves me with a lingering high to last for the night. It's really a tie between the two.

æ: What artistes have inspired you musically in your life? Is there one artiste in particular that has been particularly inspirational to you?

Iris: A lot of musicians inspire me, people like Jason Mraz, Alicia Keys, India Arie, Imogen Heap and Tori Amos. Whenever I listen to any one of them, I will feel the need to write. Our own local soul icon, Asha Edmund from Singapore is one of my biggest inspirations. She's a close friend of mine and she has great groove and she is to me, Singapore's voice.

æ: What are the biggest obstacles you face as a singer-songwriter?

Iris: Opposition from my family. Not like they were dead against it, but they aren't exactly supportive either.

æ: Some lesbian singers and other performers in the entertainment industry are afraid to come out because of their fear of it affecting their career or be pigeonholed as a lesbian singer or entertainer. When and why did you decide to come out?

Iris: It's something I always wanted to do. I will not pretend to be straight nor will I deny my sexual orientation by slipping into ambiguity. But I do not want to categorise my music as lesbian music too, it's too different from the common concept of that. My sound is quite different from the 'mainstream' lesbian music which is mostly acoustic country or folk tunes.

æ: Singaporean listeners have often been criticised for not supporting local talent i.e. meaning buying locally produced music. How do you think being an out lesbian singer will affect your chances of being accepted by mainstream listeners?

Iris: Despite certain Christian groups trying to criminalise lesbian sex in Singapore, I don't believe my sexuality would matter too greatly with general listeners. I've performed at many places with varied audiences and my unfeminine appearance has never been an issue. People come up to me to talk to me about my music and ultimately, I believe that music and popular culture would go some distance in bridging the divide.

æ: While some gay/lesbian celebrities are out to the gay community, they have resisted coming out in the media or to the public. What are your thoughts on that and do you intend to come out in a mainstream publication?

Iris: I am not going to go around and broadcast that I'm gay but if anyone poses that question, I will come out because being gay does not change the sound of my music and that's what it's all about, isn't it?

æ: Having performed numerous gigs at the now-defunct Mad Monks, Centro and The Boom Boom Room as well as Hard Rock Cafe Zouk, Mox, Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, Recital Studio and Concourse, and The Singapore Arts Festival, have you been approached by female/lesbian fans?

Iris: Yeah, but I think it happens more often during lesbian events. It's almost like then they are absolutely sure I'm gay. As for dodgy propositions, I only had them when I was younger. Thank God that stopped.

æ: Are the lyrics in your songs gender neutral? What can listeners expect and how do you think lesbian listeners in particular will relate to your music?

Iris: I have the 'hers' and the 'shes' plastered all over them!! There is one song in the album ("When an Angel Cries") that everyone would think it's written for an ex-girlfriend or someone I was involved with romantically but I actually wrote it for my mom who passed away 15 years ago. I've written all the songs in this album for the people I love or loved before so I'm quite sure that all listeners can relate their own personal heartbreaks to any of the tracks in the album.

æ: Tell us about a cause that you support?

Iris: I'm pro-life. I believe it's not really up to us to decide whether a child should be denied a life or not.

æ: What's your vision for the gay/lesbian community in Singapore/Asia?

Iris: I'm not asking for too much, just please put the gay scenes on TV! It's so weird that adultery and murder is tolerated but not anything that is remotely gay. When that happens, then maybe I can start wishing for same-sex marriage rights.

æ: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?

Iris: My passion for the Shopaholic book series by Sophie Kinsella.

æ: Tell us one of your fantasies?

Iris: To be in a room full of expensive guitars for me to choose from.

æ: Who would your dream date be if you were straight for a day?

Iris: Hmmm, if it can be anyone, it'd be Oscar Wilde or Lee Hom. Oscar Wilde for his wit and Lee Hom for his music.

æ: When and where will your next shows be and why should we be there?

Iris: I'll be singing for my launch at 8pm on June 9 at Earshot Caf @ The Arts House, Toca Me on Wednesdays for the month of June, Play on July 5 and people should come because I promise a good show! Plus, I'm the first lesbian recording artiste in Singapore!

Earshot Caf @ The Arts House is located at 1 Old Parliament Lane., Toca Me (formerly Club 95) is at 95 Club Street and Play (formerly Happy) is at 21 Tanjong Pagar Rd.

Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author
2. 2007-06-08 23:04  
Jia You Iris~! Will Be There to Support You on Tis Sat~!

Fr: Wilson
3. 2007-06-09 09:23  
gd luck gal ;)
4. 2007-06-09 18:17  
Iris Judotter- initially her name rhymes a little with Icelandic name; Judottir. Could she be the next Singaporean Bjork? LOL. Good luck anyway, its lovely to see homegrown talents, come to Adelaide if you could, would love to hear you sing.

5. 2007-06-10 06:45  
ohhh...i would love to get my hands on the cd...wonder if i can get it in the UK?
6. 2007-06-10 21:21  
good luck in everything u do! u got my support. =)
7. 2007-06-10 21:29  
Wow.. So much love from the family! :) Thank you!!

8. 2007-06-10 21:43  
pls come to sydney!!
9. 2007-06-11 00:31  
an inspiring artiste and piece of news. keep up the good work.

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