Houston Music

In Case You Forgot (Or Haven't Been Introduced), This Is Ze

Brian is Ze
Brian is Ze Photo by Kevin Nguyen, courtesy of Brian is Ze

What’s in a name? That’s the underlying question to “This is Ze,” the new track by Brian is Ze. The former Houstonian, who now resides and performs in Seattle, might be better known to local music aficionados as the infamous gender-bender word-blender, Biz Vicious. The artist stopped being Vicious some time ago, but has had a time shaking the old moniker. The new track, debuting here in Houston Press, is an uncompromising response to that quandary.

“’This is Ze’ is me coming in full force as Brian is Ze. Dopamine Dreams and a Fraud Complex, my double album focusing on mental health from 2016, was officially my first release after my name change, but part of it was written before I changed my name,” B.i.Z. explained. “People still find the name change confusing. I get billed wrong on shows.

“I’m trying to come back with a clear demarcation of my evolution. Biz Vicious is my id. It’s a name I took at 19. Brian is Ze - B.i.Z - is my ego trying to drag my id to meet my superego.”

The song is filled with rapid-fire tough talk, much of it focusing on “representing for the they/them.” It’s long been the business of B.i.Z. to blend gender lines into a solid stroke, so “This is Ze” isn’t just about proper nouns, but also pronouns and other ways we identify our fellow humans. B.i.Z. prefers “ze/hir” pronouns as opposed to “he/him,” which we'll use in this article as needed.

“I think ‘ze’ is the most unapologetic non-binary, genderqueer pronoun. Having that be my first foot forward is aggressive and a chance to introduce people to the idea. I’ve learned that being myself publicly is an open challenge to bigots. I’m ready.”

That’s some Bayou City-bred bravado right there, folks. We wondered how that H-town confidence plays in Seattle, where B.i.Z. relocated a little over a year ago.

“Seattle is way more sonically segregated. I don’t see a lot of mixed genre shows unless queer people of color organize them. I miss that but you can’t expect places to match Houston on mixed genre shows. Seattle does have a way more defined music community of artists and promoters who are queer trans people of color (qtpoc). That makes me feel more welcome.

“It has been an ego check for sure. Starting over from scratch, not having a solid fan base or knowing as many artists and promoters, and way fewer people recognizing me. I play shows less but that was always the plan. I didn’t expect to miss being recognized. Having fans who aren’t my friend is weird to me but, apparently, it grew on me. I did get recruited by DJ Reverend Dollars to join the qtpoc collective Darqness three or so months after I moved. I host our monthly party and that’s gotten some people familiar with me.”

Through and through, “This is Ze” is about Brian is Ze, who remains unflinching, in Houston, Seattle or elsewhere (“My inbox is all junk mail and death threats/I’m doing something right…,” ze raps). But, the new song does have some distinct Houston connections, too. For one, it’s got the stamp of approval from B.i.Z.’s mother.

“My mama hears it when I think it’s perfect,” ze said. “When my mom likes it, Houston gets it.”

Moreover, B.i.Z. reached out to local star producer Ill Faded for an assist.

Getting B.i.Z.-ee
Photo by Vineet Porghandas, courtesy of Brian is Ze

“I produced the song as Queermo because I like establishing myself as a legitimate producer separately from rapping. I still haven’t released anything on someone else’s production. It’s hard to give up any control. I knew it was time to up my overall production quality so I had to get it professionally mastered. I decided there wasn’t anyone I trusted more to master my sound than Ill Faded. Fat Tony introduced us and Faded is such a chill dude that I’m pretty sure it’s impossible not to make friends with him. I know he understands that I came up on punk shit and my manic energy is vital to my sound. He was very careful from the jump not to step on my vibe. He came in and overlaid drums and that sample on the hook. He knew exactly how to take it to the next level in the simplest way possible.

“Seattle producers are dope but I don’t know any sound engineers there,” B.i.Z. continued. “Moving to Seattle was just picking somewhere without my established support system and building a life without a safety net. People thought I was trying to reinvent myself or that I was moving for music. I moved because I was almost 30 and had never up and moved for no reason. I’m off exploring but I’m forever Houston.”

The song goes live on Bandcamp and Google Play today and will soon be available on all major music platforms. To coincide with the release, Brian is Ze is in Houston this weekend. Catch hir deejaying at Axelrad Friday from 10 p.m. “’til the bar or the cops shut me down.” That set will be followed by a turn on Space City Chronicles Monday, February 26. Stream it at HMSTV.org or tune into Comcast 17 and AT&T 99.

"I’m also recording episodes of the Pot & Plot movie podcast and Poly Wanna Podcast about ethical non-monogamy which are great and hosted by great comedians. Everyone should check those out," ze said.

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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.