Duane the Jet Black Eel was my favorite set at the Hamtramck Music Festival. On Saturday he headlined at Planet Ant and ended the night leaving people wanting more.
His show was theatrical and fun and reminded me of David Bowie meets Of Montreal.
Duane transitioned from blue jeans and a white tee shirt into a red, full length bodysuit with an American flag tied around his waist for coverage. His stage presence is enhanced by a woman painted charcoal black and tied in chains, lurking on stage.
His act is avant garde and stands out among the many musicians that come and go in Detroit.
Naturally, we had to get Duane on the phone for a J'adore Exclusive.
Talking To // Duane Gholston
formerly known as the Teenage Weirdo & Brand New Dog
Currently known as Duane the Jet Black Eel
J'adore: How did you get into music and performing?
Duane: "I went to a Performing Arts High School, I was into drawing and anime comic book stuff. In junior year of high school I started performing at clubs, bars and art galleries.
When I was 18, in my first year of college I was making fliers at the Wayne State copy center, an older guy liked my fliers and asked me if I wanted to do a show with his group. He messaged me on Facebook and at first I was like oh no, stranger danger! It took me two months to do a show with them. The spring of 2011 I did my first show at R&R, it’s closed now but it was a gay bar in the city. I was the Teenage Weirdo at the time but I wasn’t allowed to use that name at R&R because it was 21 +. I did more shows over the summer and slowly took off."
J'adore: Out of all of your aliases, do you have a favorite and why?
Duane: "Whatever the current one is, is what I care about the most. I wouldn’t want to go back to being the Teenage Weirdo, nor can I because I’m not a teenager anymore. I stopped being the Brand New Dog last year- I loved the characters and the outfits. Duane the Jett Black Eel has an actual message behind it. It’s supposed to be a take on American culture as it pertains to African Americans and minorities. It’s a tongue and cheek parody of Americana and American rock music. It pokes fun at Donald Trump trying to make America great again. The Jet Black Eel is supposed to represent a foreign creature infiltrating where it’s not supposed to be but doing it anyways."
J'adore: When do you know it’s time to switch it up and reinvent yourself?
Duane: "It comes out of necessity. I stopped being the Teenage Weirdo after I turned 20. I was coming out of a bad experience with a record label and had to start over as the Brand New Dog- like how the entertainment industry is a dog eat dog world. Duane the Brand New Dog was about being more mature and being an independent artist after going through bad contracts.
I enjoyed the music I was doing as Brand New Dog, but I wasn’t getting the kind of attention I wanted. I wasn’t getting any articles talking about the seriousness of the work, people were just enjoying the music. I love rock music and wanted to do a glam rock take on it, I decided it would be a good time to change up and unveiled the Jet Black Eel in summer 2016."
J'adore: In your six years of performing in Detroit you must have seen some venues come and go. What has been your favorite venue past or present and why?
Duane: "I used to perform a lot at New Dodge Lounge with my peers, now it’s playing more metal. It’s one of favorite spots to play, I played there a lot as Brand New Dog. Planet Ant is cool, they’re letting me shoot my music video there."
J'adore: Who are your peers?
Duane: "Lieutenant Bad he’s like b-boy, early 80s hip hop-dance-electro. Mexican Knives- the drummer is actually in my band. Junk Food Junkies- an all girl band."
J'adore: You had a couple outfit changes at the Hamtramck Music Festival. Where do you shop in Detroit?
Duane: "I did a lot of thrift store shopping as the Teenage Weirdo and Brand New Dog. Now, as the Jet Black Eel I wear blue jeans, a t-shirt and plaid shirts- I go to Macy's sometimes or H&M for jeans. I hates denim, I only wear it for the act."
J'adore: Who do you draw inspiration from?
Duane: "David Bowie, Madonna, 80s musicians- outside of music, I’m inspired by lots of activists. I love Bernie Sanders and Tina Turner they really get me fired up."
J'adore: Who are some of your favorite Detroit musicians?
Duane: "Iggy Pop, Madonna. Local, current, now I like the people I work with Lieutenant Bad, Junk Food Junky, Tunde Olaniran. No one basic, I like the shows people walk out of and say, wow!"
J'adore: What do you like to do for fun?
Duane: "Stay at home and be online- I’m a homebody, not a going out person. I don’t like to party. If I’m not at work, I’m at home with family or my boyfriend. Home and the internet that’s what I like to do for fun and I like to be at work helping the old ladies shop for jewelry at Carson’s."
J'adore: Your new music has a lot to do with a post Trump world. What can we expect from you in 2017?
Duane: "A lot of videos, there’s one out now. Two more will be out this Sunday. I would like to have more out by July. More interviews and a good body of work, I want to capture this moment in time. My past work was an ode to the past, I want Duane the Jet Black Eel to be very current and with the time. I want people to look back and say my voice mattered at this time."
J'adore: If you could perform with one Detroit icon past or present who would it be?
Duane: "Iggy Pop, but I don’t how long he has left."
J'adore: When is your next show?
Duane: "My next show is April 13th at Wayne State University for their LGBT organization at State Hall and I’ll be performing in France over the summer at Festival Les Escales de Saint-Nazaire with Tunde Olaniran, Flint Eastwood, and Carl Craig."