By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
Seattle’s resident superstar deejay has been very busy dabbling in Portland nightlife of late. He’s been seen at Love Ball, played Bridge Club, starred at Control Top, and — along with his Bottom Forty — headlined a certain drag show at The Fez that offered our fair city an up close glimpse of Jinkx Monsoon. And, it seems, that’s all just the beginning.
So who is this music maker from the North and why do all of our city’s party architects love him so? We aimed to get to the bottom of the who, what, where, when, and why that surrounds Kevin Kauer, Seattle’s deejay Nark, on the eve of his big gay Pride party, which brings Alaska Thunderfuck back to town.
PQ Monthly: Were you involved in the scene down in Sacramento (your hometown)? Where’d you get your music-making start?
Deejay Nark: Oh boy — no. I ran away from Sacramento as soon as I turned 18. Sadly, Sacramento has no real scene, and even sadder: I lived in a cow-town-turned-super-suburbia 30 miles north. Nightlife there consisted of an emo show at a local church, or maybe a Bud Light at Applebee’s. I spent the next four years in San Diego — which had great music but a boring gay scene. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle a little over four years ago that the spirit hit me and the flourishing and prismatic nightlife scene sucked me in and a beast was born.
All the colorful characters, the go-getters, the creators in Seattle making art, music, fashion — they were my biggest inspiration, and that inspiration spawned the creation of Nark Magazine as an outlet to expose, feature, and promote the many great and sometimes completely unknown creators here. Some of my favorites: my muse and wifey, Stella Rose, pot-stair hair whipper Lisa Dank, the daddy-o of glamour, artStar, and, of course, our new queen of the world, Jinkx Monsoon.
PQ: How did the Portland-Seattle collaboration come to be?
Nark: I love to travel and work, and frolicking around in other towns I always find great deejays, musicians, queens, and performers that haven’t been to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest before, and thus the party train begins. I like to draw inspiration from different cities and scenes — this is a big part of what Bottom Forty is.
PQ: I haven’t been out in Seattle since Pride 2010. Katey Pants and Mary Charming tell me I’m missing out. Am I? How are our scenes similar?
Nark: I love the pace here. Centralized neighborhoods with vibrant day and nightlife full of dancing bearded gents? Yes, you’re missing out. I feel like I am often defending Seattle’s greatness and I’m not sure why I should have to. Portland seems to be run more by its young and up-and-coming community members, which is really great and keeps you guessing constantly, I especially love that it’s a city of outcasts where barriers and stereotypes are destroyed daily. But it can also be a double-edged sword — wisdom comes with age, no matter what you think you know.
PQ: How are requests — and tipping — different between the two cities?
Nark: One time a gargantuan bug-eyed man with long black hair — who was wearing only a fur vest and leather pants — asked me to play Nirvana over a techno beat and then he proceeded to immediately dance his ass off in the case for five minutes before leaving the building. It was 9 p.m., he was the only one there, and I hadn’t even taken out my records yet. Then in Portland — I was getting really sick of requests, but something changed recently and my last few sets have gotten a great response. People have come up to me to tell me they feel like they have been transported to a disco in Spain instead of asking for Azealia Banks, and that feels pretty great. As for tipping, it’s kind of a lost art. So always remember when you pay cover at the door you’re helping put food on a deejay’s table and new records in their bags for you to dance to.
PQ: During “Gospel according to Willam,” everyone raved about Bottom Forty — and someone started a shirtless dance party. How’d Bottom Forty come to be?
Nark: The creation of Bottom Forty definitely grew inspiration from other collectives of homo deejays pushing for the greater good, like Honey Soundsystem in San Francisco and Horse Meat Disco in London. The catalyst for its creation was when I was offered a Sunday residency at The Cuff in Seattle, which is basically a leather-friendly and daddy-filled disco, the perfect breeding ground — no pun intended. So I rounded up some of my favorite deejays on the underground scene — Riff-Raff, Pavone, Spaceotter (and our newest additions, Jimi Jaxon and Tony Radvoich), and Bottom Forty was born. In a few short months we did some incredible parties at The Cuff and really gave that scene a good punch in the gut.
PQ: What are you itching to tell people about Bottom Forty?
Nark: Even in the beginning, Bottom Forty was about more than a party. It’s a collective, an ideal, an art project, and a feeling. It’s about the moment when you feel at one with your surroundings, on a beach, in the desert, sweating and dancing in a dirty basement or in a kaleidoscope of color and light. It’s not about being seen or scene or being routine. It’s about what music can do to your mind, not just to your body. We’ve come together to bring all those moments and feelings into one place, outside of a club, and onto BottomForty.com.
We have no advertisers, we aren’t making a dime and we aren’t out to promote parties, we just want to share each of our styles and favorite tracks and trends with other deejays and music nerds. We want to provide a radio for everyone to pop on and listen to channel the Bottom Forty sound wherever they see fit. Occasionally and at no regular intervals we’ll come together to do large underground private parties. I want to take some of the biggest names in music and literally pull them back underground, into the dingy basements for the real heads to enjoy, not the bridge and tunnel, fist-pumping, hair-gelled, weekend nightclubbers.
Gospel According to Alaska Thunderfuck goes down June 16 at 7 p.m. at Branx. Music by Seattle’s Bottom Forty and SF’s Honey Soundsystem. Performances by Alaska, Shitney Houston, Kaj-Anne Pepper, and more. $10. Advance tickets here. Also coming this summer: Dickslap, featuring Detox Icunt, Vicky Vox, and Willam Belli. That night of dreams hits Portland Aug. 18. Stay with us online — we’ll have the latest.