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Photography Paul Phung

A musician and dancer who says working in a sex club improves his work, illyr is one of the new faces of creative unconventionality

LocationLondon, United Kingdom

“It’s hard to watch, but it makes my work better.” Composer, choreographer and dancer illyr is talking about the part-time job he has in a London sex club.

illyr scans the club’s CCTV monitors for punters shifting drugs, dodging payments, or weirder. “I’m in the middle of the viewing tower, I can see into every little soul,” he says. Observing the sometimes awkward, always nuanced body language of customers has impacted illyr’s dancing. “I look at people like Anohni – I saw her show at The Royal Opera House with the Philharmonic Orchestra. I saw all these different mediums meet in the middle, I cried for an hour and a half – then I realised I could choreograph, I could make music and I could do anything.”

His video for “prelude”, directed by visual collaborator REMEMBER, matches staged surveillance footage with flashes of butting male bodies. illyr’s yearning vocals and off-tempo orchestral flourishes crane dramatically over the short film, the first of a four-part series accompanying his debut EP, [SCROLLING SUBCONSCIOUS]. “Dance is like sex,” he says. “It conveys so much in just a touch of the hand.”

When illyr’s not laying down dance sequences in his concrete bunker in north London, he’s working with alternative music heavyweights. “We made a video for (Nine Inch Nails’) Trent Reznor, but he hated it,” he laughs. “It looked like purgatory, we were screaming and sweating and punching ourselves.” Another commission saw illyr choreograph the video for Goldfrapp’s recent single, “Systemagic”. “Alison (Goldfrapp) called me incessantly,” he says. “She’s hard to work with, because she expects a lot. But really, you’ve just got to look at the results...”

Jack Mills