Raised in Seattle, California-born Zah, a.k.a. Nightspace, is a performer, music producer, fashion designer, and stylist. At the age of 23, Zah has cultivated an aesthetic distinguishable from the norm and is becoming an icon within this generation’s young, genderfluid artists. I first read about Zah in March when their first music video, “Modern Survival,” premiered on i-D. A celebratory fusion of techno beats, high notes, somber vocals, occasional screaming, and aggressive lyrics, the song is proof that transgressive art is exactly what we need.
Adolescent: How would you describe your sound?
Zah: Dreamcore. Industrial. Emotional. Spirit.
Adolescent: When did you start performing and making music?
Zah: Over five years ago when I was in high school. I was always into alternative music but never saw myself being a musician. But I’d also never seen anyone like me. Subconsciously I knew that’s why I had to. It’s been a forever moving process of self-discovery, self-discipline, growth, and devotion.
Adolescent: When did you begin working on “Modern Survival”?
Zah: I produced both “Evil Eye” and “Modern Survival” in an attic [in] spring of 2017… I’ve performed them at every show since. They started without vocals. I usually improvise melodies every performance until they solidify.
Adolescent: What does “Modern Survival” mean?
Zah: To me, as far as the mood goes, it’s quite eerie and angry, but ethereal at the same time. That’s it. Navigating White America as a queer person of color is complex. My art or music could never be just one feeling, evoke one emotion. It will always convey vulnerability [and] reclamation, resistance, and productive anger in some way or another. We are constantly forced to fight for our time, space, and safety. Learning to be vulnerable but accepting my anger [is a] driving factor [in] my creative process. People need to hear and see us.
Adolescent: When you dress up, where do you get your pieces from?
Zah: I try to make or at least alter everything I wear to feel hyper genuine. If you can go out in the world so different, so out of the ordinary, you’re vulnerable. You’re disturbing the peace, provoking the natural order.
Adolescent: Do you often feel appreciated for what you create?
Zah: I’m validated by the people in my life and the queer community, we exist everywhere. We’re forced to find one another because we’re safer together. So in that way, yes. We protect. In “america” as a whole, no. We’ll always be living on stolen land tainted with colonist evil. It doesn’t deserve any credit for the fact that, despite everything, we search and find home in each other.
Adolescent: You’re part of UN, a network of QTPOC artists. How many people are a part of this collective?
Zah: We started with five core members. UN joined me on my nationwide tour with Bamban. After traveling and hosting events all across the country, we now have friends and collaborators everywhere. We want to be universal.
Adolescent: Have you ever felt threatened for standing out and being “too different”?
Zah: Of course. The world is afraid and acts on that fear. Every single PoC I know endures trauma daily.
Adolescent: As a nonbinary artist, do you feel that you’re given enough space and freedom to create?
Zah: In queer communities, yes. But I feel responsible for my creative freedom. I’ll work with what I have and find ways to do what I love regardless of the space or resources I have access to. This lifestyle brings queer artists together… There’s a lot of us holding it down culturally, evolving, reaching new horizons, and I’m hopeful queer youth will live by example. It’s exponential.
Adolescent: What advice would you give someone who’s trying to find the drive they need to create?
Zah: Energies attract. If you put out work that represents you, people will be drawn to it. Listen to your intuition. Believe in yourself and your ability to create the world you want to live in. It never hurts to reach out to artists you already admire!
Photography by Grayson Whitmire(@_coorslite_)
Makeup by Bailey Skye (@Zah) & Ali Larson (@blondetaki)
Styling by Mark Humphreys (@markymarkstyle)
Assisted by Arabella Batista (@Arablahah)