Justin Tranter have taken his controversial act right from a publicity handbook. The eclectic gay singer does not mind creating a little stir to get his point across.
His latest project is no different. Tranter’s new album, “Tear Me Together,” features graphic images of death and suicide on its cover. The photography has generated mixed responses from fans and other listeners.
Tranter, who says he is inspired by Marilyn Manson and Lucinda Williams, discusses life and death on his new record.
“I used death metaphors in two different songs,” he says. “I wanted to use that concept on the CD to portray the idea of living your life to the fullest until you die.”
“Tear Me Together” is the follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut CD, “Scratched,” released in 2002. That album garnered Tranter a 2003 Outmusic nomination for Best Male Debut Recording.
Now 23, Tranter grew up in Lake Zurich, Ill. He says his parents were involved with many liberal causes that they were very passionate about.
Tranter moved to Boston to study songwriting in the late ’90s. Subsequently, the aspiring musician held odd jobs while working with his band to record his first album.
The intensity of his upbringing is reflected on “Tear Me Together.” The CD features a ferocious barrage of pop rock that ranges from the manic “Gag Reflex” to the dramatic “Fear of Fratility, and from the tender “Ultimatum” to the vivid “Good Luck With Your Armageddon.”
The artist’s ideas are drenched in rich, orchestral arrangements that Tranter likes to label as “drama pop.”
“On this record I use really strong metaphors and images to talk about small, but substantial things,” he says.
On the song “Sad As It Is,” Tranter uses the concept of death to find strength after a breakup. He is comforted by his father who advises him to love until death.
Another track that deals with the delicacy of life is “Good Luck With Your Armageddon.” Tranter sketches a gloomy picture of the environmental state of the world.
“The sky is lit up orange at 3 a.m.,” he croons. “Somehow I wish I still lived in the Midwest ’cause any moment this city will be beach at best.”
Tranter is most proud of the song “Gag Reflex.”
“Again, I use a really extreme, over-the-top metaphor of a gag reflex to express how easy or how difficult it is to get over a relationship,” he says.
He names Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin and even Marilyn Manson as artists that have inspired him.
“I don’t think there is much intelligence to Manson’s music,” he says. “But, visually, I love everything he is doing.”
As a visual performance artist, Tranter loves to accentuate opposite sides of the spectrum.
“I love to push boundaries in every aspect of my life — in gay culture, especially,” he says. “So much is consumed by sex. I always try to push love. In the gay community, people look at me like I am crazy at times.
Tranter now lives in New York City, a haven for gay singer/songwriters. And he speaks candidly about the rivalry among Manhattan’s gay musicians.
“There is a big divide between West Village songwriters, who write dance songs and sing about boys they met at a club,” he says, “and East Village artists, who are trying to talk about bigger issues, such as tolerance and understanding.”
And while Tranter is very involved with promoting gay, lesbian and transgendered singer/songwriters, he does not plan to perform at any of the upcoming Pride festivals.
“Pride is making me sad,” he says. “Pride has become all about corporate America and advertising and sex.”