Tell us a bit about yourself. When did you start your journey as a musician…
W1ZEinterview with the Vienna based artist
30 March 2023
YEOJA chatted with singer W1ZE (@w1ze_official)about her music, her artistic influences and what it means expressing herself as a gender-fluid BIPOC person in Vienna.
Last summer you released Painted Pain ft. Lukas Oscar, a song about trauma. Do you want to talk about it?
Yes, last summer was amazing! Lukas and I had been wanting to meet up and it just so happened that this became our first songwriting session together. We really hit it off upon meeting and we just opened up and shared our personal experiences. This ended up birthing the lyrics “trauma looks good on me.” I love Painted Pain, it’s a new sound and our voices fit so well together.
You grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to Europe later in life. How did the move influence your artistic style and ways of expressing yourself?
Moving from Zimbabwe to Austria got me to really open up. I still face challenges in Austria but I am mostly able to put this into the lyrics and emotions of my music. And while I do feel like quite an outcast here, I also have a community that supports me. That support of freedom has allowed me to develop personally and as an artist and that’s something I don’t think would have been as easy in Zimbabwe.
Who are your role models in life?
I mean I have people that have inspired me for sure and I definitely appreciate the works of many artists, but I’ve learnt that if anything the best version of yourself should be your role model or who you should at least aspire to be.
At what point did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career?
It all just kind of happened before my eyes. I guess it was something I lowkey dreamed about but didn’t really push that much until it actually happened. And to be honest, I’m just so connected and dedicated to being a musician. It’s not always easy but doing the things you love most are always worth the investment.
You performed both at Vienna Pride and Popfest in 2022. How does it feel to move from underground gigs to larger more mainstream audiences?
Chiiile, I am so happy that that even got to happen. Both performances were huge and people are still talking about them today. It still feels unreal but I’m just so grateful to have had those platforms. It’s scary but exhilarating.
Your sense of style is amazing. Both in your music videos and on your social media. Where does the inspiration come from? Do you work with local designers and stylists?
I honestly just love being playful about it, I think it’s the best way of expressing your true character. I hate that there’s still such a lack of appreciation for self expression in these Viennese streets, but the ones that get it get it. I’ve worked with Amaaena, Hvala Ilija, Oliver Huber and recently with Arakne, I love their pieces. I’ve also worn Jennifer Milleder, House of the very Island’s, Alessandro Santi, Ferrari Zöchling to name a few. Shout out to all of them!
In an interview with Vangardist you talked about rejecting labels both for yourself and your music. Do you want to elaborate more on why and if this has changed for you in the last year?
I still think that boxing myself into being this perfect thing that fits into society’s current standard isn’t 100% my thing. I am one of those people in the middle of the excitement. I keep myself open to fully experience life and it’s where I am most comfortable. I lean towards my femininity but I am still very fluid and so is my sound. I love that my voice is pretty androgynous. It makes me unique, it’s chameleonic, but it’s still W1ZE.
On your social media you are open about the harassment you face as a queer BIPOC person in a conservative city like Vienna. Do you want to talk about it more? Do you have a message for white/straight fans and allies?
The amount of harassment one has to go through here for being gender-fluid is ridiculous. Especially being BIPOC and queer, it feels like society does not take you seriously, just because your self expression is different or because your background is different. This honestly made me cold for a while and I do not like that feeling; I felt so cast out and it’s hard to remind yourself you’re not when it all feels like such a fight. I know there are more people like me who go through this and I mostly post about it to create a conversation about this in the hopes that people here understand how much of a problem we actually have. There’s still so much work to be done. To any ally, I would say that it starts with listening to queer stories. Just because it’s safe for you doesn’t mean it is safe for us. Know the difference, especially when it comes to the privilege of being allowed to live freely. Don’t forget that.
What do you envision the future holds for you and your career?
There’s been a lot of changes and surprises this year. I am thriving independently, which is scary but I am definitely ready for all the new opportunities ahead of me. I am super curious and hopeful about 2023. I got a new single on the way too and I’m working on a new ep, so I still have quite a bit going on. I am definitely excited for this new era, so stay tuned for that.
Photographer: Sarah Tasha