Underground trans producer a.k.a. skips unveils debut EP Jawfiller, a throwback rave-inspired project on queer and trans identity.
Talking about Jawfiller, a.k.a. skips shares, “So proud to present my first EP as a.k.a. skips. This project is a love letter to queer and trans life, and the unique connection that a proper rave provides is fundamental to my understanding of what a community can be. An unabashed commitment to love and connection, and a rejection of the systems that would separate us. Let’s dance.”
Formerly known as Ducky, in 2021, a.k.a. skips retired the Ducky project and began his private transition as a transgender man – a journey that allowed him to diverge from the normative expectations of an electronic musician and find homes in new art forms, new spaces, and in a new body.
This past summer, he released his first photobook, i want to rest and be held by someone who loves me. He also had an original painting (Mouse Trap!) included in the renowned Los Angeles art gallery La Luz De Jesus – all while tattooing out of a shop in Downtown Los Angeles.
With Jawfiller, a.k.a. skips pushes the boundaries of dance music through an unapologetically queer lens. Edgy, brooding, and filled to the brim with heart-pounding club beats, Jawfiller is an acute reflection of a.k.a. skips’ trans experience. Referencing the literal jaw fillers commonly used to create a more masculine appearance, the title represents how the external can be transmuted to reflect greater truths about who we really are.
Tattoo.com spoke with a.k.a. skips to find out more about the inspiration for Jawfiller, how he got started in music, and his ink.
What are three things you can’t live without?
My dog, my friends, and some kind of creative outlet.
What inspired your debut EP,’ Jawfiller?’
The name is a nod to my experience as a trans man, specifically how much of the last few years have been about owning who I am and taking control of how I present myself. I spent most of my life operating under this idea that if I could just do things ‘right.’ if I could just bend myself a little more into a different shape, things would eventually get easier. It never got easier, and I’m so glad I stopped trying to change for the world. ‘Jawfiller’ is a celebration of the courage it took to be my whole self, and the joy I feel because of it.
Walk us through your mindset as you entered the studio to record the EP.
Oh, I wish it were that contained of a process! The idea for this new project has been swirling around in my head since 2020, and I even laid down some bare-bones ideas for a few of the EP tracks around then. I never really stop and start producing music – the frequency that I sit down to write changes, but the real challenge for me usually lies in choosing what to release.
Formerly known as Ducky, your new moniker is a.k.a. skips. What prompted the name change?
It was important to me to draw a line in the sand between my last musical venture and this new one. I loved doing Ducky. It was pretty much my singular focus from age 13 on, the only thing I ever wanted to do. I had the best fans in the world, and I accomplished a lot of my dreams. But I also developed a pretty unhealthy relationship with the project towards the end, feeling confined and afraid to be my most authentic self. I trust that my fans would have accepted the change – but I just couldn’t get there internally without the time off and the clean slate of a new project. It’s a promise to myself to be unafraid and unashamed.
How did you get started in music?
I always knew I wanted to do music. I would form ‘bands’ with my friends and write songs for as long as I can remember. I started producing in 8th grade. I went to a very odd kind of like, hippie school in the Bay Area, where in our final year we got to spend a lot of our time focusing on a project of our choice. I had fallen in love with Portishead and The Postal Service, and I wanted nothing more than to learn how to produce music. I convinced my dad to buy me a cheap microphone and interface and a copy of Logic Pro 6. I’m dating myself but this was before YouTube really had tutorials – I actually think it was the year YouTube was created. I read the Logic Pro manual and took some Ableton classes at a small electronic music store on Haight Street called Robotspeak, which is still there! It was middle school me, and a bunch of dudes in their 20s and 30s. I was just so determined to learn. I ended up making my first album and charting on Myspace, which led to some bookings performing at local high schools and house parties, and then I ended up getting a gig at a club in the city while I was in high school using my fake ID. I would pass out the glow sticks, work the guest list, whatever they needed, and instead of paying me they let me spin in the side room. I just kept on going from there.
If you had to describe your sound to the uninitiated, what would you say?
My go-to description is ‘hard, hot, and gay’ – but I’d also probably tell someone that it’s rooted in techno, and meant for losing your shit to at a warehouse.
What’s your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time?
I guess the kind of defining attitude or perspective that dictates the art. It’s absolutely changed over time because I’ve changed over time. One of the reasons I love producing for other artists so much is that in the context of my own art I really only know how to draw from my own experience. For better or worse, everything that I make on my own is immensely personal. Currently, I’m in a process of intense liberation and growth, and I really feel it coming out in my music.
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?
I write the best when I’m in love – whether it’s with the process, people, or the world. I do draw inspiration from going to shows and raves, where I get to observe what makes a crowd really let go. And I think that I’m influenced by everything I take in, often without consciously knowing. But in general, most of my art is self-expression or catharsis.
What can you share about your writing process?
It’s a mess! I’m so lucky to have a functional little studio set up in my apartment right now, so I can usually sit down and work when inspiration hits me. I collect voice memos of ideas and write lyrics in my notes app. I have a lot of unfinished projects and a massive back catalog. I’ve developed a few tricks to make things flow faster when it comes to sitting down and actually producing, but I think the process probably looks very haphazard from the outside.
You’re also a licensed tattoo artist. How did you get into tattooing?
I am! I’ve been getting tattooed since I was 17, and I was always obsessed with them. I gave my college boyfriend a horrible stick and poke that said ‘swag’ in blue ink on his 21st birthday – I think it’s still there. But I had such tunnel vision around music that it never seriously occurred to me that I might be able to pursue something different until the pandemic. My introduction to visual art was through graffiti in high school in San Francisco, and I never stopped drawing or painting, but it was something I really connected with in a different way during lockdown. I’m very lucky to be friends with Annie Motel, who is an incredible tattooer with more than a decade of experience and who took me under her wing. I’m only in my second year of tattooing other people, so I’m still very much a baby – but it’s a huge passion of mine, and I feel honored that my clients trust me with something so personal and permanent.
Do you have ink? If so, how many, and which is your favorite?
Of course! I couldn’t tell you how many, I stopped counting a long time ago – I’m finally starting to feel like I don’t have an annoying amount of blank space. Definitely working towards filling some last gaps in my arms and legs at the moment! Annie (@littleanniemotel) did a mini portrait of Pauly D on my arm that I probably get the most compliments on, and my most recent is a giant demon on my back from Jack Watts (@tattoosforyourenemies). I’m not a big believer that every tattoo needs to have significance, but they all mean a little something to me because they freeze a moment in time. Some are impressive and gorgeous, and some are busted or silly as hell, but there’s not one I’m unhappy to have.
Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?
I have a soft spot for illustrative artists with an unconventional style – @happy_tatz comes immediately to mind as someone on my tattoo wish list, @dranem.bag, @keegandakkar, and @pelorosso. I follow a lot of artists on IG, it’s really exciting for me to see how incredibly creative and skilled people are. I could probably ramble all day and I’m sure I’ll miss people and kick myself later, but I’ll leave a list of some more of my favorites at the moment:
@aye_cuidado, @stinmaster, @tannerclarkfuckingsucks, @davidenth, @littleanniemotel, @tenderbrusselsprout, @cashfrancesx, @extra_hot_club_mix, @a_new_nausea_, @tattoosforyourenemies, @whotattooedyou, @ar.bel, @baby.phag, @strato200s, @4___play
How do you define success?
I love this question because it’s changed so much for me over time. It used to feel like success was this measurable, concrete, and fully external thing – how many followers, how big of crowds, how much money. These days I really feel how fleeting material things are beyond the level of safety and comfort. If my choice to live visibly as a queer and trans man makes someone else feel less alone, that’s success. If I can help someone achieve more joy or peace in their body through a tattoo that they love, that’s success. Hell, even if all I do is give someone a proper escape for an hour or two while I DJ – maybe they leave feeling a tiny bit lighter. I hope my success can be measured in the lives of other people.