'RuPaul's Drag Race' star Alaska Thunderf**k and Jeremy Mikush on their deep and familial friendship that led to 'Amethyst Journey'
Alaska and Jeremy's album ‘Amethyst Journey’ is a powerful combination of folk, power ballad, and pop that gently prods you into thinking deeper.
For fans of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ Alaska Thunderf**k is the epitome of drag – a persona so much larger than life. Most of us fans obviously expected her to outshine herself once ‘Drag Race’ was over and that meant having her own web show – check – releasing songs which are mostly catchphrases – check – and making appearances on music videos and award shows – check. What we did not expect her to do was to release a soulful album that speaks of her innermost emotions and politics.
Staying true to her reputation of being outlandish she joined hands with her long-time family/friend Jeremy Mikush to do just that. Their latest album ‘Amethyst Journey’ is a powerful combination of folk, power ballad, and pop that gently prods you into thinking deeper, or as Jeremy puts it, it is “Confrontational. Magickal. Beautiful!”
In Alaska’s case, this would be the first time that we get to see, dare I say, his boy version Justin as the artist. “It is different from my other work but I’m grateful that as an artist I get to share different sides of myself,” says the ‘A**S’ and ‘Poundcake’ singer.
This album has been a decade in the making. The duo has been traveling together and working together for that long and it was only a matter of – I guess 10 years – before they made music together. We get a glimpse of their beautiful relationship in many songs of ‘Amethyst Journey.’
This joint musical venture came to life as a result of the bond between the two brilliant artists. “The music was born out of the friendship that Jeremy and I have. It was a natural progression. We’ve been putting shows together and making music for years so we figured it was time we wrote and recorded some music together,” says Alaska.
“We laugh and use inverted comedy—meaning we often go into ‘Bosom Buddies’ mode, if you know that song from the musical ‘Mame’. We watch a whole lot of ‘The Golden Girls’! We grew as friends by traveling,” says Jeremy. Alaska reiterates, “We love watching 'The Golden Girls’. Also, Bette Davis movies. We love the theatre. We love to have a nice meal and just talk. We’re sisters and I am so grateful to have such an open-hearted friend for life.”
“When I was in grad school and she working café jobs in LA, I’d rent us a car and we’d spend a weekend in San Francisco. It’s blossomed into us traveling and making music tougher,” reveals Jeremy. “We’d sing to 60s hits, ABBA, and Madonna in undergrad while she drove us around Pittsburgh. We are quite the traveling act whether it’s as performers or as friends. We have a glass of white wine, put the Judy Garland record on, keeping up the tradition of late-night singalongs!”
Jeremy claims to be familiar and happy with “being the wind beneath the wings of people whose talents I’ve believed in,” and looks at being a two-man act with Alaska as “a non-traditional path to a different kind of spotlight.”
“I’m at the point in my life where I’m both surprised, grateful, and surprisingly ready to share my gifts, perspective, and love. This project is the grace of the Universe... and also subtlety inevitable if you’d have viewed my life like a film thus far,” he says.
During the course of their friendship and specifically their musical journey, Jeremy has played a lot of roles in Alaska’s life, including that of a traveling assistant—”a crucial secondary and collaborative role for a popular television personality,” as he points out.
It’s not always all love, and that is okay. “So there are cycles of feelings that aren’t much different—pride in seeing her succeed, annoyance when she’s moody or a bit in the ego, exhaustion at going at a galloping pace. So, I’ve literally been initiated into her life. So, I’m not naive about the ups and downs.
“But as for me and Alaska coming out as both chosen family and a performing duo... think about it this way—I sing whatever parts we agree to, I can play harpsichord sounds on ‘Aliens,’ and wear whatever I like while more folks get to see me live out a dream. I don’t need her particular spotlight,” he clarifies. “The Intelligent Universe and I have some of our own unique experiences of which this is a major rite of passage. I’m humbled and thrilled. And, sincerely, I have two goals: good work and fostering community. That’s my heart’s desire.”
He can definitely check those two off his bucket list, because with the new album, he has unequivocally accomplished both goals.
Some of the songs that appear on ‘Amethyst Journey’ may sound familiar to fans of Jeremy and that is because he has put them out in the world in his “exploratory EP” ‘Somewhere in Between,’ which was produced by his close friend Chad Mikels (@musicbyceem). Some of the songs on there that really appealed to Alaska, like “Truth in the Light,” for example, were added to their joint album. While some of the songs were developed on what it used to be, others were completely revamped.
“’Truth in the Light’ was the track Alaska connected to, and she knew immediately it was an impactful track and wanted this song as part of Amethyst Journey. We kept the basic production aspects of that track, says Jeremy, adding, “But for ‘At the End of Day’, we expanded it from it from its birth as a melancholic piano postlude with me singing four-part harmony. We could go full Palestrina-meets-Pentatonix!”
The “recovering academic” has an in-depth knowledge about music that surely came in handy for the musical duo in this album. Jeremy does not just have talent or taste, he also has in-depth knowledge. He even left UCLA to travel. He elaborates, “...I studied 17th-century opera and baroque music as my primary focus...so I swim in decadent harmonic and melodic waters. When I’m not listening to Pete Paul & Mary I’m listening to Purcell, Handel, and Monteverdi. Maybe there’s some wild lyrics in ‘End of the World’ that reach a tad to Kate Bush or Tori Amos, who are my altar goddesses of piano-based classically-rooted music, but I fall asleep to Handel arias and Dolly Parton. I bounce between genres so I can find connections between them!”
Despite the technical leanings, the inspiration for ‘Amethyst Journey’ is a lot more personal and emotional. “Power ballads are the lifeblood of Alaska’s and my relationship. From Grace Slick, Joan Baez, Heart, and Jewel to Cher, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Robyn, we worship female lead rock and pop vocalists who emote and give us all our life, death, and resurrection,” explains Jeremy.
Even Alaska reiterates that it is the artists and their songs that swim around in their brains that inspired their album. Elaborating further she says, “I wake up every day with my Spotify playlist which consists of Donna Summer, Donny Hathaway, the Pointer Sisters, Patti LaBelle, and a bunch of other amazing artists. I worship Whitney Houston and she’s playing every day as well. When Jeremy and I hang out we listen to Stevie Nicks and Annie Lennox and Kate Bush and Madonna.”
When you make songs that come from a deep place within the artist, it is obviously too hard to pick. However, if she had to choose, Alaska says she would pick ‘So Far Gone,’ which she says came from “a very real place.” The song is a beautiful interpretation of the ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2’ winning queen’s life on the road. As amazing as the life on the road is, it can also be harrowing and she often finds herself to be a person with a "beating heart and feelings.” it is also an homage to the people that she loves.
Unsurprisingly, her best friend and musical partner agreed with this choice. “I would change nothing about ‘So Far Gone’. Lyrically and sonically, it's a clear, beaming crystal gem! It’s a ballad I wrote for my best friend to help him heal from the burdens of touring in the crazy world of show business.”
“It means so much to me to write healing music. The line ‘And I can’t recall / how it feels to feel alright’ I dedicate to anyone who’s struggling to feel balanced in our transforming reality. I could listen to the harmonies in that line on repeat. It’s also a kiss and bow to the Trio project of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris," he elaborates on his choice, adding, “I went through a bout of depression in 2016 and the re-release of their work brought me back from a place of sorrow and confusion.”
The song is as brilliant as both Alaska and Jeremy say and the remaining songs in the album aren’t any less awesome. But more importantly, we feel like these two may be a RuPaul and Michelle Visage in the making. You can check out the songs on Apple Music and Spotify.