Oliver Sim of The xx has revealed he has been living with HIV since he was 17. Sim disclosed the news while sharing new solo song "Hideous," which will feature on Sim's forthcoming solo debut album, Hideous Bastard, due September 9.
"Hideous" was produced by Jamie xx and features Jimmy Somerville, described by Sim as a "guardian angel." Somerville was a member of '80s groups Bronski Beat and The Communards.
In a statement shared alongside the new music, Sim says that much of the writing for his album was informed by his negative feelings since receiving his diagnosis as a teenager and the stigma attached to the illness. "I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time," he says. "I hear a lot of the music as joyous." See his statement in full, below.
Early on in the making of my record, Hideous Bastard, I realised that I was writing a lot about fear and shame.
I imagine that might paint a picture of a dark, “woe is me” sounding album, but in recent years I’ve become a firm believer that the best antidote to these feelings can be bringing them to the surface and shedding some light on them.
I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time. So, I hear a lot of the music as joyous, because the experience of writing and recording it has been the complete opposite of what fear and shame have been for me. Two thirds in, having a good idea of what the record was about, I realised I’d been circling around one of the things that has probably caused me the most fear and shame. My HIV status. I’ve been living with HIV since I was 17 and it’s played with how I’ve felt towards myself, and how I’ve assumed others have felt towards me, from that age and into my adult life.
So, quite impulsively, I wrote about it on a song called 'Hideous.' I thought I could release it into the world and be done with it. After playing the song to my mum, being the protective and wise mum that she is, she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. She suggested that I spend some time having conversations with people in my life first. Either people I hadn’t told yet, or people I had told but hadn’t wanted to talk much further on it. Since writing 'Hideous,' I’ve spent the past two years having those conversations, which was difficult and uncomfortable to start with, but has allowed me to feel a lot freer and has only strengthened my relationship with myself and with the people in my life.
One of the most special relationships I’ve gained from this has been with Mr Jimmy Somerville. I knew for 'Hideous' I wanted a guardian angel to appear in the song and sing to me the words I needed to hear. Not only has Jimmy been such a powerful voice around HIV & AIDS for decades, but the man quite literally sounds like an angel. I reached out to him as a complete fan boy, but now consider him a real good friend. He encouraged me to do the song for myself. He taught me “glamour” is a Scottish word. And, most importantly, he reminded me to not take myself too seriously, no good comes from that!
“Am I Hideous?” feels far less like a question I’m asking the world now. I know the answer. As scary as it still feels, I’m excited to share this music with you, and I hope you enjoy it. Lots of love, Oliver xx
Hideous Bastard, due via Young, is produced entirely by Sim's bandmate Jamie xx and features the previously released singles "Fruit" and "Romance with a Memory."