On Nov. 11, indie auteur Antony Hegarty’s daring concert film documentary Turning receives a proper CD and DVD release, placing a bow on the years-long project that the Antony and the Johnsons tells Billboard represents “maybe the most joyful piece I’ve ever been a part of.” To be released through Antony’s label, Secretly Canadian, after receiving a theatrical release in 2011 and 2012, Turning captures the stories and struggles of 13 women who had performed alongside Antony on his European tour during the fall of 2006, exploring issues of gender identity as the inner workings of Antony’s live show are revealed.
“There was something so magical and empowering about the first time we did Turning,” says Antony, who helmed the project with multimedia artist Charles Atlas. The project — based around the 13 models swiveling on rotating pedestals — was performed for the first time in 2004 in New York, and after Antony and the Johnsons won the Mercury Prize in 2005 for his sophomore album I Am a Bird Now, the singer-songwriter was afforded with the opportunity to tour Euorpe with the cast of Turning.
“As the tour drew to a close, I realized that I still really didn’t understand what it was we had done, and that’s why I started interviewing the participants,” Antony continues. “I came to realize that the meaning of turning was the sum of all of the meanings, the sum of everyone who had participated’s perception of it.”
Since the launch of the Turning project, increased transgender visibility in fashion, music and media have continued to represent progress to a longtime advocate like Antony. As he looks back on Turning ahead of the DVD release, the chamber-pop virtuoso says that a decade ago he had hoped, but had no idea, that the project would be a harbinger of social change. “We didn’t anticipate that in five or six years’ time, there would be a trans-feminist revolution,” he says. “We knew that we were participating, and there was such a feeling in the air around the piece. It felt important to us. At the very least, it had a kind of homeopathic effect on the culture. It created a subtle vibration that certainly related to the things that were to follow.”
Along with the DVD of the documentary, the Turning CD will include the complete audio recording of the Antony and the Johnsons’ concert from London’s The Barbican in November 2006, as well as a few rare Antony and the Johnsons studio recordings. Antony has not released a proper studio album since 2010’s Swanlights, but confirms that an offbeat project with “some different electronic producers” will be released in 2015.
“I’m working with Hudson Mohawke and some other people, and I’m making a very different kind of electronic record,” says Antony. “It’s an intensely political record. It’s definitely got tough dance beats, but the content is much more vivid [in terms of] the lyric content.”