An Interview With Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales

A person wearing a black hat, a wig, a black floral dress, and high heels sits on a concrete wall. Another person in dark sunglasses and a suit stands beside them. The wall has we're watching graffiti, and a skyline with the Space Needle is visible in the background.

Winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Jinx Monsoon and her musical partner Major Scales are heading off on tour around the UK to showcase songs from their new album The Ginger Snapped. We had a chat with them during their 11-day residency at The Soho Theatre, before they take off to 6 more venues across the UK and Ireland.

Could you tell me about this show for someone who’s never been to one of your shows before, what should they expect?

Jinkx - All of our shows are always music and comedy, that’s where we thrive, but this show specifically is about Jinkx kind of having a mental breakdown on stage, and Major has to become her therapist on a moments notice, and they just talk through her anxieties and the things she goes through on daily basis. The material is a lot of personal stories from my own life, with a comedic spin on to share with the audience. So it’s very intimate and it’s very horrifying.

Major - we like to say that it’s a psychotherapy session with a beat to it.

Have you found it therapeutic?

Jinkx - Yeah. If I’m writing about personal things I only write about things I’ve already processed, and gotten over, because I don’t want to be going through anything on stage. It’s kind of been liberating to write about a time of my life where I didn’t feel strong and powerful, but now I am feeling strong and powerful and I’m able to look back on a harder time without regret, because I’ve been able to turn it into something worth sharing.

Do you think it’s really important to have that distance between the two, and how do you know how big that distance is?

Jinkx - I do think it’s important for an artist not to take something they’re going through on stage because I feel like that’s less of an artistic representation of something, and more of just making an audience watch your therapy. Which is funny because that’s the premise of my show - watching my audience watch my therapy session. But if it were happening now, and you’re watching someone actually torturing themselves on stage, I think that would be a little bit more masturbatory and less educational.

Major - and maybe a little less fun.

Jinkx - A lot less fun. We were told constantly in art school, and because we both went to Theatre College together, you shouldn’t be putting yourself through the actual mental trauma. It’s about processing and then synthesizing it on stage. It’s the same reason why we don’t actually get into sword fights on stage, because the audience should never be worried about the performer. Worrying about the performer rather than watching the show and not interpreting the meaning.

Major - To be fair I’m sure the audience has worried about us at times, but hopefully not that much.

Do you think that cabaret/singing/drag are useful tools for the conversation around mental health?

Jinkx - For me, I like to take on very heavy topics but make them light and funny. I approach everything with comedy. We’ve tackled some pretty heavy topics. What I set out to do with this show is not tell anyone else’s story, just tell my own. That’s why it’s entirely composed of personal accounts throughout my life, with the hope being that showing myself talking about it encourages other people to talk about their own things. I think the biggest thing that prevents us from addressing our own mental health is the shame and stigma put on admitting that you’re having a problem that’s out of your control.

So it’s about visibility and safe space?

Jinkx - it’s about being able to speak openly and without shame about something I went through or something that I deal with.

Major - we put them through the drag and cabaret lines because that’s what we do and we live in those universes, but also drag and cabaret have a light, fun side to them that I think is really approachable for people, so you have a heavy topic but it’s easier for people to digest if it’s coming from this comedy background. Some of the songs in the show have heavier topics, like the song Just Me in our show has to do with gender identity and finding yourself in the world. So, that’s a heavy topic but the songs really catchy and I think that’s an easier way for people to take on the topic.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the album?

Major - Totally, yeah. This is our second album, The Ginger Snapped, and one of the first things that me and Jinkx bonded over at university was our interest in music, 1930’s style pop music and rag time, so that’s what we based our first show on, and when we put out our first album we thought ‘this is our realm, lets try this out’. For our second album we expanded on that, we like different types of pop music, we know we can succeed with a small band behind us and if we add some more electronics it’ll give it more of a dance beat. So I think you’ll find some more pop and rock numbers in this show and an Adam Ant cover which is probably a little bit more rock than we’ve done before.

Jinkx - But with the sensibility of two vaudeville performers living today.

Major - so there’s still some jazz involved, some rag time influence. It’s still very much Jinkx and Major.

Jinkx - what I like about working with Major is because we know each other so well, and we share so much of our musical taste. I’m no lyricist, and I know what I want the content to be in a song but I don’t know how to turn that into a song. So when we work on an album together I literally go ‘I need a song that’s about gender identity, where you take all the funny things I’ve told you about, going through the airport and being gender ambiguous, or going to see the doctor, take all that stuff and put it into a song with a Blues feel to it’. Then two weeks later that song exists all of a sudden.

Major - one time she said ‘I want a cartoon that’s about cartoons and vodka, and things that are fun to do after a show’.

Jinkx - Things I like, let’s do a song that’s like ‘the day might be hard, but all I want to do is come home and watch cartoons and drink vodka with you’. That’s my favourite song on the album, Cartoons and Vodka.

You’re doing a lot of tour dates in the North, have you spent much time in the North of England? How do you get along with the accent?

Jinkx - where’s the North? Oh Manchester, Newcastle… yeah I get along great with the Manchester queens.

Major - We’ve done the North a couple of times now, we did the North on a vaudevillians tour as well, but we love Manchester.

Jinkx - you asked about the accent, there’s a queen named Liquorice Black in Manchester and I just have a really fun time doing impressions of her. She was playing a Racoon in our Grey Garden show once, and her microphone wasn’t on, so on stage she’s just like ‘it’s not working innit Jinkx’ and I just started cracking up, literally dropped the character, came out of the moment and I’m just stood on stage laughing, as this young, sweet drag queen looking up at me and going ‘I can’t get my microphone working Jinkx’.

Jinkx - being raised on British comedies it’s like funny because until we started performing here I’d only ever heard British accents in the context of a character on a TV show, so sometimes meeting people who have that voice of that character I grew up with is really funny.

Major - but we’re awful in that we’ll hear someone say something that sounds interesting to our ear and immediately mimic back to them. It also helps that we’re awful people, so all of your accents are very funny.

What do you like about spending time in the UK? Do you plan on spending time here much in the future?

Major - definitely we do plan on it, as often as we can. Jinkx was talking earlier about how we both had British comedy in our lives at a young age, and I think that’s influenced our day-to-day humour, so maybe that’s why we’ve found this niche crowd here, that seems to be really hungry for the weird stuff we come out with.

Jinkx - I just feel so at home with our audiences here, and I feel a loyalty from the audiences that we’ve built here. I always say what feels different about performing here in the UK is that it doesn’t matter that my season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race aired a while ago, I won season 5, they’re now on Season 11, and the more distance we get from it the more I have to be like ‘hey I’m still here everybody! I’m still alive and kicking!’ I feel like I’ve become more of a crazy aunt staple in the drag community of America.

Major - I think what the surprising this is that when we come here it feels like she’s just won.

Jinkx - I feel like I won yesterday. The audiences treat me like it doesn’t matter how long ago I was on TV. Just to be able to bring our original shows and have them be appreciated in a way that makes me feel like I don’t have to hit you over the head with the subject matter, or explain the jokes to you, you know? Not saying that I have to do that in America, it just feels different here. Also the boys are extremely cute in the UK.

What’s next when you finish the tour?

Major - we’re coming right back.

Jinkx - we have two weeks in April to go home, and then we come back in May with the show Drag Becomes Her, with Peaches Christ and BenDeLaCreme, and it’s a drag queen parody of the film Death Becomes Her. We do a Summer show in Province Town, Massachusetts - I don’t know how often Brits get over to Cape Cod for Holiday - but the exciting thing about it is we have a new show concept that we’re going to be working on whilst we’re here, and have it up and running this Summer in our residency in Province Town, and as long as it’s a smashing success then we’ll probably be being this show back here next year.

Click for tickets in Manchester, Stafford, Lancaster, Birmingham, Dublin, and Newcastle.