Hailing from Zurich with Congolese heritage, the proudly queer artist’s music sits somewhere between LSDXOXO and serpent with feet, fusing heart-on-sleeve R&B with rave. It’s influenced by early musical loves like Frank Ocean, Britney and The Weeknd while also taking cues from the hardcore dance continuum, hard techno and ‘90s trance.
«Boy» is his debut single: interpolating Underworld’s iconic «Born Slippy» and underscoring it with a tough kickdrum while also referencing Bronski Beat’s «Hit That Perfect Beat», 36birds soaks his vocal in autotune while adding a whispering topline, transforming it into a queer anthem about club seduction. In a bid to give something back, 36birds wanted his fans to receive it as a free download.
The track happened completely organically – 36birds was in the studio at 1 am finishing another song and needed some breathing space from the project. He’d been listening to the Trainspotting anthem at the time and he and his producer began to improvise with the keys and lyrics, picking up the original song’s references but making it their own. «The picture I had throughout the song was me partying at the club and exploring the atmosphere, talking about all the boys there», he says to me.
36bird’s writing is used as a coping mechanism for many things, with politics, race and religion all reflected in his lyrics. Coming face to face with homophobia in Bern, the tiny Swiss village that he grew up in («I wasn’t able to walk through the town without someone screaming something at me»), 36birds believes firmly in the importance of representation and being an LGBTQ+ role model for the next gen. «It was something that I was missing when I was growing up», he says. «I didn’t have these people in my scene that I was able to look up to until, maybe Frank Ocean, came out. It’s really important to see that there were people doing it before you and paving the way».
When 36birds first started making music, he found the Swiss hip-hop and R&B community to be male-dominated and overtly masculine, and he felt as though he didn’t fit in. Although he identifies as queer, he was made to sing about girls when he first started working with musicians, all the while crafting his own material on the side that mirrored his true self.
36birds now swerves the commercial clubs in his country, instead hitting up the art scene parties and illegal raves, and is one of a new crop of techno artists carving out inclusive Black queer spaces in clubland – on a mission to make techo Black and queer again.