From traumatic drug-fuelled teenage years to fighting to be a queer male role model in New Zealand music – Ardon England is ready to make a statement with his EP, That’s Camp.

Ardon England first gained national attention when his Pride Box classes for the queer community made national news. A skilled dancer, he has represented New Zealand in Salsa, duetted with renowned dancer Taane Mete for Night Of The Queer and produced his own dance piece, ‘Fierce,’ for the Tempo Dance Festival. Now the 32-year-old is embarking on his most ambitious project yet – releasing his own dance music EP that he hopes will change our music industry’s attitude toward queer male artists.

Rough Teenage Years


Growing up in Whanganui, Ardon England found it hard to express his queerness.

“I always knew that I was different, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t have role models around me. There were no other queer people. I felt quite unsafe, so I rebelled a lot in school and got heavily into drugs from a young age.”

By 15, Ardon had moved out of home. He checked into rehab for the first time at 17 and the second time at just 19 years old.

“Meth was the big one for me,” he explains when asked what had been his drug of choice.

“By the time I was 20, I ended up in a psych ward for drug-induced psychosis. I was never a shit person; I was just withholding who I really was – dealing with all of this small-town stuff and not having anyone around to teach me how to navigate it. Drugs were my escape.”

Ardon’s situation had been exacerbated by a friend, whom he had confided in, outing him at 15.

“I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t come to terms with it myself. As a result of that, I tried to commit suicide. I ended up in hospital,” he tells us, the pain still exuding from his steely eyes.

“I remember my mom coming up to the hospital room and asking me, “Is this because you’re gay?” I just went silent. She said, “Well, if it is, we’ve always known, and it’s never been an issue.”

His mother’s announcement was news to Ardon.

“Since then, I have asked her, ‘Why didn’t you make me feel like it was okay?’ he tells us. She said, ‘It’s just not something we talked about and didn’t think it was an issue.’

“For me, a conversation around ‘if you like boys or girls, it doesn’t matter’ would have made it a lot easier,” he says.

Turning To Music

A performer and lifelong music fan, Ardon is adamant that his troubled teens would have played out differently if he had had local queer male representation to look up to. Something he would now like to be for the next generation of kids who are ‘different’ and growing up in small-town Aotearoa. Ardon wants to use his music to give him that platform but tells us that the New Zealand music industry is not welcoming of queer male artists.

“All of the feedback I get from people in the NZ music industry is, ‘Get out of New Zealand. You’re just going to be pushing shit up a hill.’ Anyone doing anything different or outside of the box – New Zealand turns a blind eye. I wanted to release this EP in the middle of New Zealand Music Month to shine a light on a space that isn’t being represented here,” he tells us, referring to his house music EP, That’s Camp.

Apart from industry contacts who suggested he tries to release music overseas, Ardon says that he has found next to no support from our music industry as a queer male artist.

“During Pride Month, MediaWorks throws up a Pride flag and says that they ‘support Pride.’ So I emailed them, saying this is who I am and what I’m doing, and included the song ‘Leather Daddy,’ which I was dropping for Pride. No one even replied. It’s great to fly the flag, but where is their actual support?” he asks, pointing out that during Mardi Gras, equivalent radio station Triple J in Australia produced lists of up-and-coming queer Australian artists to encourage listeners to follow them.

“Look at the queer representation within the music industry in New Zealand. It’s all females!” he claims bluntly. I want to disagree, until he asks me, “Name a queer male New Zealand singer currently releasing music in the mainstream?”

I pause. “I’ll wait!” he responds, as Anika Moa, Paige and The Topp Twins all swirl through my head without any equally successful male counterparts. It seems Ardon has a point.

“It highlights how queer women have always been somewhat more accepted,” he says.
“I’m a queer male, pushing boundaries, and everyone is telling me, “You’ll do better in Australia or Europe.” All the male queer artists I know have moved to London for that reason, but if we all move, then who’s here fighting the fight here?”

And boxing teacher Ardon is ready to fight!

“I want to do the hard thing because I believe there should be space for us. I want to stay and be the person that I wished there was in New Zealand when I was younger!”

The struggle for new music artists trying to make it in New Zealand

While a couple of smaller student radio stations have picked up Ardon’s tracks ‘F.E.M. Man’ and ‘Plastic,’ Ardon’s sound is yet to break through, and even NZ On Air is yet to show any support.

“NZ On Air do a list of new tracks (distributed to radio each month). Not one of mine has been selected by them. There are other artists out there who are doing safe music, releasing their first song and, boom, it’s on their list. It highlights how uncomfortable NZ still is with queer males. I’m releasing my EP this New Zealand Music Month to highlight that there’s still so much to do in Aotearoa in terms of queer representation,” he tells us boldly.

That’s Camp

A performer for 21 years, Ardon tells us he has always been around music-orientated people. “A lot of my friends run festivals or are DJs. I always dreamed of being a pop star but felt like I couldn’t really sing… My flatmate at the time was a music producer, and I had an idea for the song ‘Leather Daddy,’ so we collaborated. I wanted to bring a camp element to house music, and we bashed the song out in three hours. Within three weeks, I had the video done. It just felt like I was doing what I was always meant to be doing. I had found the space within music that suited my voice and suited my creativity. I’m one of those people that, once my mind is set on something – I don’t do anything half-pie.”

That’s Camp will feature five of Ardon’s original songs, plus a bonus edit of lead single ‘Neon World’.

‘Leather Daddy’ is a grimy, unapologetically queer house anthem that sounds made for underground clubs like Wellington’s Ivy and Auckland’s G.A.Y. Ardon tells us ‘Leather Daddy’ is about a past relationship he had with a drug dealer. “He always used to pick me up on a Harley, which is why I have one in the video,” he tells us nonchalantly.

Ardon’s lyrics sound particularly authentic and unfiltered, with a depth that you usually expect from dance music. His track ‘’F.E.M. Man’ is about the impact that religion has had on queer people, while ‘Plastic’ is a fun, creative mix of rap and house music, written around the importance of bodily autonomy in 2024.

YOUR ex also got a sneak peek at the lead single ‘Neon World,’ which takes us on a journey of melodic, ethereal techno – based on the events and music that have inspired Ardon’s creativity.

As a whole, the EP feels like an unapologetically queer statement that’s ready to shatter taboos. In a world where break-up albums are at their most popular, I’m yet to hear Taylor or Adele sing about dating a motorbike-riding drug dealer.

“I’ve always been quite bold,” laughs Ardon.

“This isn’t just about releasing music; it’s about breaking down boundaries, stepping outside the norm, especially in New Zealand, where we are so safe with music. I’d be better off making reggae or safe indie music, but I want to be bold. I want to write songs about my own life. There’s no other artist in New Zealand doing what I’m doing, and I think that’s important.”

That’s Camp will be available to stream on Spotify from Friday 10 May as an important part of New Zealand Music Month. Follow @ardon_england on Instagram and visit for more info.