A large, defiantly queer man dances naked swathed only in large sheets of white plastic in what appears to be an empty gallery. Some sort of substance seems to drool from his mouth. He looks pained; tortured; confused.
Another man, in chunky high heels, paces towards him for an embrace. Some sort of wording appears smudged on the walls, possibly smeared in bodily waste.
And that’s just the first 90 seconds.
It’s safe to say the latest video from Los Angeles singer-songwriter Dorian Wood will not be airing on kids TV channels any time soon.
However, fans of this cult composer will not be surprised. Wood has been known to strip naked during live performances and to persuade others to do the same. The similarly NSFW video for his 2013 single, La Cara Infinita, featured a naked Margaret Cho, alongside others.
‘I’ve always identified as fat. That’s just what it is’
His new track is called Corpulenxia. It’s a play on the word corpulent. Wood likes to challenge attitudes to body shape.
‘I went on a hike once with a dear friend of mine and there was an instance when he was attempting to pay a compliment,’ he tells me down the phone when I ask him about the title. ‘You bring up the fact that you are fat and he said, “Well, you’re not really fat, you’re more corpulent.”
‘It was a sweet gesture but I was more fascinated by the word itself.
‘I’ve always identified as fat. That’s just what it is, and I’m totally fine with that.
‘I’m consistently looking to defy the stigma of what corpulent bodies are capable of in the public eye, whether as a vessel for expression or sexuality.
‘Unless you are being fetishized by certain gay sub-categories, you don’t really get to have much of a say as far as sexual attraction goes in mainstream form, and I’m looking to break down the perception every chance that I get.
Wood says, like everyone, he has good and bad days in his relationship to his body, but he didn’t make the video, ‘necessarily in the interests of defending a very specific type of body shape: I just believe everyone, regardless of their body shape, can be sexual.
‘It really is more of a mission to celebrate individuality.’
‘There are things I find very difficult to translate into English’
Wood was born in Echo Park, Los Angeles. He was raised ‘all over southern California’, with a handful of childhood years in Costa Rica. Aged five, and inspired by a talented grandfather, he played his first piano concerto.
He’s been releasing material for the last ten years, beginning with his beguiling debut album Bolka back in 2007. His style mixes genres, from folk and soul to the more avant garde and experimental.
Wood intersperses music releases with performance art. He’s built up a cult following around the globe, including the UK, Germany and Spain.
His latest album, XALÁ, is released 26 May. In a departure to previous albums, it is sung entirely in Spanish.
He puts the decision to release a Spanish-language collection down to a desire to explore his own heritage and after his own touring of Spain.
‘I had been touring for the past few years with two musician based in Spain: Xavi Muñoz and Marcos Junquera. We’d done several tours with them already, and during that time, 99% of the time we spoke Spanish, and I realized I don’t get to speak Spanish very often in the States unless I’m with my family who live in Florida.
‘There was just something exciting about doing that. I never really delved into the possibility of expressing myself in Spanish creatively.’
‘Spanish language is diminished by a lot of cultures’
He says he found the experience exciting and liberating, allowing him to explore some very personal aspects of his life.
‘There are things I find very difficult to translate into English. I feel people who speak Spanish will understand a lot of what I express here on XALÁ.
‘The Spanish language is an extremely powerful language. It’s spoken with as much popularity as English, if not more so. Spanish language is diminished by a lot of cultures, despite how widely spoken it is.
‘As much as my mission is to challenge perceptions of larger, less-conventional body types, my mission is also with Latino culture, specifically showing how rich with color and possibility the cultures are in Latin America. People should be respectful of it.’
‘It often comes down to what you project from the inside’
Wood’s also not one to shy away from exploring sexuality in his work. Check out 2013’s Americana, where he croons lovingly about ‘the smell of men.’
He lives in LA with his soon-to-be-husband, Joe, and is busy preparing to tour later in the year and making plans for their July wedding.
With its bear communities, does he think it’s easier to be a big, gay man than a big, heterosexual man? He’s wary of saying so.
‘I don’t know because I wouldn’t know what it was like to be heterosexual. I think it often comes down to what you project from the inside. I’ve seen men that are my size or larger, who project, for want of a better term, a very powerful charisma. So I don’t know.
‘Gay fetishes for chubby men are certainly more visible. I don’t know if chubby men are fetishized by women. I’m sure they are but I’ve never heard about it. Unless it is something very, very underground.
‘With gay culture, I sometimes feel it’s almost impossible to function without those standards. It’s sometimes very cliquey. Some people operate in clans and some people are outside of those clans. It’s all part of the rich tapestry.’
It’s a tapestry all the richer for having Dorian Wood woven into it.
More info at dorianwood.com