It’s midday in LA and a bleary Jazmin Bean has just woken up. Yesterday, on their flight to the US from Serbia, they were detained at the airport for four hours, as they regularly are when trying to enter the country. They assume it’s because, this time, they didn’t try to tone down their make-up; bizarrely, it was a security guard’s predilection for Amy Winehouse (having seen Bean’s British passport and status as a musician) that eventually got them over the border. Now we’re greeted by a floating forehead backed by a picture of an eight-eyed octopus cat over Zoom: never knowingly underdressed, the rest of the singer isn’t ready to appear to the public until their daily routine has been completed.
But then living against the grain of society is very much Jazmin Bean’s raison d’etre. Raised by a supportive family (both their mother and father were in a punk band) but bored of the conservative-minded nature of their school, since they first started picking up a make-up palette Bean has used extreme forms of self-expression as a means to differentiate themself from the mundanity of day-to-day life. “On the weekends I would go to clubs and perform and do the most extreme things that I could do and see how many people I could shock,” they recall. “I would really push it. I’d do a lot of singing, but mixed with really horrible things. I did one [performance] with a big jug of chicken liver that I poured all over myself, and in the same shock era I did a performance at this drag bar to [Marina and the Diamonds’] ‘Primadonna Girl’ and tried to pee in a cup and drink it and it just didn’t work cos I was so nervous. And I’m quite glad that happened because I just don’t know if that needs to resurface on the internet right now…
“I feel like most people’s thing is that they’re getting pushed down hard so they come back harder; the more repressed you get, the more you want to lash out. But mine was just that I wanted life to go faster,” they explain. “I was feeling like I’m not old enough, I’m not this enough, so I was just trying to make it go faster for myself by doing things that were so, so so extreme. And I don’t regret it because, at 15 years old, life was going very fast! School was so slow, but being on the internet and doing all these extreme things, meeting all these new people and having occasional internet dramas - it was more exciting for me, which I guess was what I was trying to get from it.”
“I would perform at clubs, do the most extreme things that I could do and see how many people I could shock.”
Beginning as an early teen by emulating the looks that adorned the then-popular Monster High dolls, make-up became a way for Bean both to overcome their everyday insecurities and become a souped-up, nth degree version of themself. “It’s the face I want to put on for myself all the time because that’s how I see myself,” they say. “If I saw my [normal] face I’d think, OK that’s a nice face, but that’s all you can say. But if I were to put on the face I do then I’d have so much more to say about myself; you can tell more about me.” In an ideal world, they say, they would make the changes permanent; there are no legal ways currently to do it, but the dream would be eye enlargement surgery and to get their “ears pointed like an elf”.
Music for Jazmin - the first installment of which came with last year’s ‘Worldwide Torture’ EP, recently re-released via Interscope - feels more of an arm of the whole project that is their life than its entire core. The horror-pop of their output - pop-metal hybrids that spin twisted fairytales of “gouging out [their] eyes” with love [‘Saccharine’] and create an evil manifesto on its title track (“A pure violation of God’s great creation / It’s an infestation‚ it’s world domination”) - comes backed by elaborate, theatrical videos, Bean soaked in blood or strapped to a candy pink latex dentist’s chair. Perhaps incongruously, they state that their dream musical collaborators and favorites are Avril Lavigne, Nicki Minaj and Gwen Stefani. “If I could have them on a song I’d lose my mind,” they sigh, “I think I’d just have a stroke or something.”
“It’s the face I want to put on for myself all the time because that’s how I see myself.”
Yet if Avril’s skater girl schtick doesn’t quite marry up to the Manson influences you might expect, then perhaps what unifies Bean and their idols is a commitment to whatever their specific schtick may be. Rather than attempting some great act of political transgression with their art, Bean seems to be a fairly cheerful, confident person who is simply drawn to the more hyperbolic possibilities of life. They have Aspergers, they explain, and are a very particular person with regards to all their creative decisions. “When I watch mainstream pop artists’ videos, obviously it’s pop and it’s made for the masses, but it just makes me feel very…” they tail off. “I just think being particular is everything and why wouldn’t you want to be?
“I had this really weird psychosis half a year ago where I was like, I wanna win a Grammy,” they giggle. “Even though we’re nothing alike, I saw people like Billie and Lana nominated and it made me think, oh my god a Grammy! That just seems gorgeous! I just thought it would be such an entertaining idea to have someone like me experiencing that. I thought people would be like, ‘What has music turned to?!’ if they saw someone like me win a Grammy, so I was quite set on that for a few months and then I just started having my normal ideas and fell out of it because all of them were so far from sounding like a Grammy nomination or any nomination…
“You can’t ever aim to please anyone, though, ‘cause they’re all gonna be dead in 200 years…”
As featured in the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of DIY, out now.