Sunday, 30 June 2013

DRAG IN SCOTLAND documentary

Fellow Menergy alum Fraser (he took over my residency when I left Glasgow) has put together a great short audio doc about the drag scene in Scotland, using some of my music:

For my final project for my HND Radio college course I had to produce a 15 minute radio documentary on a subject of my choice.

I decided to produce the documentary about Scottish Drag Queens and with the help of some of Scotland’s fiercest queens - here it is!

With thanks to; Jon Pleased Wimmin, Vanity Von Glow, Lady Munter


Saturday, 29 June 2013

CVNT Kiki House EP out now!

New CVNT release “Kiki House" EP, available through Juno now:…ep/2218684-02/

Two extended dancefloor house jams that take the 90s deep house sound and marry it to more up-to-date, ballroom beats. This EP is me paying hommage to ‘Paris Is Burning’ and also the New Way voguing style.

About the sleeve:

I originally found this amazing image floating around FB over a year ago (in a slightly more cropped version). It cemented my idea to use the word “cunt" in my vogue-beats production title, as it showed how the term was used postively on the vogue/drag scenes.

This version is now the cover of the next CVNT release “Kiki House" EP, available on Juno Download.

I have also discovered the originator of the image, and the person who I thank for putting this definition out there: TEEN GANGZ aka BLKHSTRY BIG UP!!

Friday, 28 June 2013



Here’s an interview with British voguing sensation Darren Pritchard, best known for wowing the judges on reality TV show Got To Dance, and for inspiring a whole new generation of dancer sin the North West, and further afield.

In this interview I talk to Darren about his introduction to vogue, his work with the House of Suarez in Liverpool, his appearance on TV and how it has affected his career, and how he sees voguing developing in the UK:

And here is Darren in action live on national TV, leaving the judges speechless by serving some REAL vogue! Even Davina thinks he is “faaabulous!"

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Love this kid! I should have an interview with his grown-up self for CVNTY pretty soon...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

VOGUING: THE MESSAGE ft Willi Ninja (1989)

Voguing: The Message traces the roots of this gay, Black and Latino dance form, which appropriates and plays with poses and images from mainstream fashion. Voguing competitions parody fashion shows and rate the contestants on the basis of movement, appearance and costume. This tape is a pre-Madonna primer that raises questions about race, sex and subcultural style.

Dir. Jack Walworth, David Bronstein & Dorothy Low 1989 13 min. USA

Founded in 1977, Frameline is the nation’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to the funding, exhibition, distribution and promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media arts. Frameline Voices is a new digital initiative that showcases diverse LGBT stories and expands access to films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders.

Niall sez: This has been online for two years now and only got 24K views. WTF people?! This is absolute GOLD DUST!!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


CVNT featured on the new mix by Wawashi DJ of HARD TON

"JACK TO THE SOUND OF THE UNDERGOUND" a mixtape by WAWASHI DEEJAY (HARD TON) // the mixtape is ltd to 100 downloads // booking

2. HARD TON: MONOTONE (to be released on Killekill House Trax 04.06.2013)
3. SPN —-> RMX (white label)
7. M.C.I. (white label)

Monday, 24 June 2013


Cunt Traxxx - Serve (For Dean)
Matrixxman - Kanekalon (Extensions)
Parris Mitchell - All Night Long (Bok Bok Endurance Dub)
Thomas Bangalter x L-Vis 1990 - Spinal Ha
Loopstradamus - #CVNT DO IT
Tony Quattro x Beek - Temptation
French Fries - What To Do
Bambounou - Capsule Process

Oh look I’m the first tune!

Sunday, 23 June 2013


Excellent new EP from Supraman on #Feelings.
Supraman “Hit It Right” EP

Download/stream: BandcampiTunes, BeatportSpotify, Juno, Amazon
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Format: Digital
Catalog ID: FEEL006

#FEELINGS proudly presents its sixth digital release: the “Hit It Right” EP from Austin-based producer Supraman. This four-track debut EP showcases his unique spin on footwork and ghetto house, juxtaposing delicate melodies and frenetic percussion against crushing sub bass to create a focused, unique fusion of sounds never heard before.

Supraman has shared the stage with footwork heavyweights DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn and DJ Phil, as well as highly visible artists and DJs such as Dubbel Dutch, Prince William, Zebra Katz, Total Freedom, Massacooramaan, and Taso. He was also recently featured on FreshMoon’s “808K V.1” compilation alongside a roster of footwork luminaries, including RP Boo, Traxman, DJ Manny, DJ Earl, DJ Rashad, and DJ Spinn.  His tracks have been recently played out by Lil Texas (M|O|D) on Flosstradamus’ 2013 tour and by his #FEELINGS label-mates Ben Aqua and Mohegan Son at Together Festival 2013 in Boston. This EP is #heavy on many levels. #HITITRIGHT.

Track listing:
1. Hit It Right
2. Test Screen
3. Street Taps
4. Fabbed Out

+ Supraman on Soundcloud, Twitter
Art: Kim Laughton
Design: Ben Aqua
Audio Mastering: Ben Aqua
Previous release: Ben Aqua “Reset Yourself EP

Saturday, 22 June 2013

VJUAN ALLURE's guide to Ballroom Status

And now the final part in CVNTY's little Vjuan Allure love-in. Vjuan explained to me the different levels of “status" in the ballroom scene, ie the different rankings and how a performer progresses from one level to the next. This was originally for the Boing Boing ballroom article, but had to be left out. It is, however, definitely worth posting on its own. Read and learn, children: 
ICON Sinia Ebony

"STATUS:  Status as it relates to the Ballroom Scene is where you stand among everyone else in the scene and how you are perceived. It must be earned and it comes from Hard Work, Talent, Humility, and how you carry yourself within the scene.

There are four levels of Status:

1. Stars - you’re just starting but create a buzz through the ballroom, people are taking notice of you. 2-3 yrs)

2. Statements - You continue your rising in the scene and are ALWAYS giving a good battle, you’re winning a lot, and are demonstrating what it takes to make that impact on the scene. (4-8 yrs)

3. Legends - You consistently make an impact when you hit the floor, you’ve made ballroom moments, had great battles, and are looked upon as the cream of the crop in your category. (10yrs +)

4. Icon - You are the upper echelon of the ballroom, you’ve paved the way and defined what your category should be - it is patterned off of you. When your name is mentioned there is no question about what you’ve done to/for the scene. (15+yrs)

Though there are minimum measures of time needed to acquire the different stages of Status, there are exceptions to the rule and it depends on your impact/influence on the scene, making your ballroom moments memorable, exciting, and anticipatory."

Be sure to check out Vjuan’s latest release, the Digital Krash EP, presented by Ultra Nate on 410 Paradox Underground. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

VJUAN ALLURE interview for RBMA continued

Told you this was epic! This is all the stuff RBMA DIDN'T use, including Vjuan’s thoughts on the growing and changing ballroom scene, and his work for other labels like Mad Decent/Jefrees and Ultra Nate’s Paradox Underground Records… 

Congratulations on the recent “Vjuanage" EP release on Jeffrees. The release notes that accompany it say it was two years in the making - why did it take so long?

The reason it took so long is that, before I started to save the songs in the regular format, I would just delete them, because I was just making tracks. Jeffrees liked my new suff but they’d been fans for a long time so there is certain stuff that they wanted. So I had to reconstruct those tracks from scratch. “Percussionix" and “Energy Bounce" are probably the newest tracks on the EP, but they have all been updated. 

How did you get hooked up with Jeffrees?

We’d been doing these beats and stuff, and in the States [ballroom] is this huge scene. And by “we" I mean me and MikeQ and a few other people. I was contacted by Kingdom [Fade To Mind] quite early on, and gave him some tracks, and then I basically went about my business, until I signed up to Soundcloud. There I found people that I was buying music from, and I would reach out to them and tell them I liked their sound, and they would be “Oh my God you’re Vjuan Allure!" and it just opened my music up to a new crowd. With Jeffrees, it’s basically to get new music out into the world. You know there’s a lot of people who hear me in the States or in other countries, but not that particular crowd of people. 

What do you think of the ballroom scene getting more and more popular?

It has been big but it is getting even bigger. and the main thing getting it into the media is the dancing and the beats that go with that. But there’s much more to the ballroom scene than just that. There are different categories aside from the voguing, which is just the dancing. There are runway competitions and face competitions, where you are judged on having a model’s face. It’s an all inclusive thing, but what we are taking and putting out to the world is just the part that you hear, not necessarily what you see. 

And how do you see the ballroom scene changing now it’s getting bigger?

It’s changing because a lot of people are taking advice from the ballroom scene, which has always been “take your talent and put it to use in the world." We have done that with the music and people have gone on TV with their dancing and choreography, and now they’re going all over the world.  So it’s changing in that way. I mean it’s always been done but on a smaller scale, but now a lot more of us are coming out and pushing the ballroom aesthetic to the world. 

Do you think the scene’s growing popularity is a good or a bad thing?

Sometimes it’s a good thing ‘cos the kids that are doing it are putting their talents to use. At the same time, if you put it to use and don’t watch it it can become abuse, so everyone is trying to recreate what they think is going on but they really have no idea what or why they are doing it. They look at YouTube and they see clips. A clip shows you a specific moment in time but you would have to go to a ball and experience what it is to understand what exactly we are into and where the energy comes from. The energy as far as the music comes form the whole entire night. By the time it comes to the category for dancing we are ready to go, but it’s what has come before that has got us hyped to do the night. 

And how do you find the ballroom sound gets accepted outside of the States?

It’s a great thing to play outside of the States, I’ve been accepted everywhere I have gone. They actually get into it more in terms of participation. In the States, you have to participate in what ever category you can participate in. But for example when I went to Japan everybody came out and did something at that ball. That doesn’t happen in the States cos it’s very categorised, you know? In terms of crowd reaction, I would have to big up my other home, which is in Naples Italy. I love playing there and I cannot forget London! The House Of Trax party was phenomenal! That was like one of the best parties and one of the best reactions. Apart from what I do with ballroom I also play house, so I’ve been in the UK and played for the Soul Satellite parties in Southampton, and in London itself a few times. I’ve been over there a couple of times, and it would be just playing house, but now that the ballroom scene is coming out too, it has opened up a different door for me. 

What would be the difference between your “house" and “ballroom" sets?

Well you know, the house set would be very energetic, I would basically run a party and stomp through the music. But I wouldn’t personally play a lot of my beats. So for instance there would be a lot less of the bitch tracks if I came to play a house set. Before, when people got me to play it was to do house, but now they have found out I do ballroom, we can do both and we can get two different crowds in. Before you used to know what you were getting, and that used to separate them. 

So how did you get into DJing? And from there how did you get into production?

In the beginning I was not actually a DJ, I was just collecting music. I didn’t actually become a DJ until I went to Italy, and when I got there they wanted me to play hip-hop but I wanted to play house. But I played hip-hop, I became a very popular DJ you know, gave them the element that they didn’t have in the clubs. But when I got with my team Angels of Love, I started to play house. And they told me how to play, how to mix and to blend. When I got back to the States I was making these small mixes for my friends, you know just these little productions putting my name in it and stuff, and it wasn’t until I went back to Italy that I started to make tracks. I started making tracks on anything I could get my hands on. I was focussed on making beats. Before I went back to Italy the second time, I was asked to DJ in Detroit. When I got to Detroit I had all my music with me, but they only wanted 6 songs (this was at a ball) and on my way home I started making my first remix. The remixes I had done I gave them to my friends and then I went back to Italy they would get in touch with me and say “hey they’re playing your music in XXX". SO got hold of some of the djs, Sedrick was one of them, and started sending him my music. And when I came back in 2004 it was all over the place. It was everywhere. 

At this point, did your productions feature the recognisable “Ha" sound?

It was featuring the “Ha", yes, because like I said, it was one of the particular records they wanted me to play [at the ball] and I was running out of good music. I didn’t want to play what I was gonna play at the ball before the ball. So I was running out of music, the crowd were losing it, but I put the Ha on and instantly it picked up. I thought “ok" and I went home, got mad, and made a remix. That was the first remix in terms of ballroom. I took that from [the] Detroit [ball] in fact, about a week or so before I left. I had “Ha Dance" on vinyl, so I just cut it off [after the “ha!" sound] and it wound down and the crowd all looked at me. So I put that on my remix, and that was what really started everything. 

Why do you think that particular sound effect has worked so well and become so synonymous with ballroom and modern voguing?

Well, there was a new form of voguing coming out at that time which was called vogue femme. And when “The Ha Dance" got re-released, that song just fit with what they were doing. And much to the credit of DJ Sedrick, he brought that song back out, especially in DC. Then it spread like wildfire throughout he ballroom scene. So it was already out, the Ha was like a staple before I even got a hold of it. It is because of the syncopation of it. You have those four beats and then just something else that closes out the whole stanza. It is the defining sound for vogue femme. But there are other categories in the ballroom that don’t even use that song, and other types of vogue that don’t use that song either. 

And what do you think of producers incorporating the Ha into non-ballroom music? There’s a lot of that going on right now, it seems.

A lot of people are putting out tracks using the ballroom crash, but even the ballroom kids who use this music will know “that’s not ballroom". That’s why I said you have to go experience what a ball is, you can’t just put a Ha or a crash on a beat and expect it to be ballroom. It doesn’t work like that. You have to know the inner working and why it is you would put that in a song. 

So what inspires you?

It can be anything, it can be a voice, it can be a sound, a word, a sound I hear on the TV anything, and I build the beats around that. I wait until something hits me. I try to stay away from anything that, like, went viral because I don’t want to have anything that’s dated to that particular time. I don’t listen to a lot of stuff that’s out, I like to keep it different. Basically it’s what’s going on in my head. 

Are you inspired by other ballroom DJs, like MikeQ?

MikeQ and I listen to each other when we are in the club. We find out what’s going on when we show up together! We talk almost every day in some kind of way, but you know, it’s not a competition between us or anything like that.

So what’s next for Vjuan Allure?  Is there anyone else you have been working with that you would like to big up?

There’s another person within the Elite Beatz camp, he’s called Ultra Energi, it’s his voice on the track Energy Bounce. He’s definitely unique. Delmar Brown is another one, his edits are good and I’m trying to get him into production, but his ear as far as music is great. DJ Pillsbury out of Ohio. There’s Davey Boy Smith over in the UK who I am remixing stuff for as well. The Elite Beatz team is still forming. I have been Elite Beatz for the longest, cos it’s something that I made and something I’m foraging, but I’m letting other talent come in now. We’re planning a party for WMC next year, we’re talking to a few places and getting that together. We’re planning on bringing some hot DJs over from the UK and Italy for this party. As far as me, I have a CD for Ultra Nate’s label Paradox Underground Records which will be out in a few weeks. 

Phew! If there;s anything else we don't know about Vjuan now, it's probably not worth knowing. Here he is in action on Jefrees/Mad Decent, with what is still my favourite club track of 2013 so far "Kid Conga Re-Bounced": 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

VJUAN ALLURE interview for Red Bull Music Academy

  OK, get ready for some epicness: this is the first half of my LONG ASS interview with Vjuan Allure, as commissioned for Red Bull Music Academy, focussing on his introduction to dance music and what has shaped his sound.

Vjuan is my favourite DJ in the world right now, and a huge, huge inspiration to my CVNT production work. His chopped up, post-tribal beats are EVERYTHING, and, along with MikeQ, have re-ignted my passion for house music. Because, let's face it, house was getting stagnant there!

ALL of Vjuan's remixes and dj sets are a must to check out, and if you have the chance to see him spin, do it! Anything I can do to get his name and sound out there I will gladly do.  Like this piece:

One of ballroom’s biggest talents is a DJ/producer Vjuan Allure. He’s the beatmaker behind the twist on Masters At Work’s “The Ha Dance” that most voguers are moving to at the moment. (It’s fittingly called the “Allure Ha.”) In this interview with Allure, The Niallist asks him about his formative clubbing experiences with DC’s DJ Sedrick, the enduring popularity of “The Ha Dance” and the unique computer program he uses to make his tunes.

How did you get into dance music?

I was in New York, and my mother travelled all around the world, so I was left with my cousins who all went out to clubs. I was a dancer, I was 11 and we focused on battle dancing. I begged them and begged them to take me to a club, and one night they did, and it was house music and I loved it. The biggest club they took me to was The Sound Factory in New York, and since I had been going to smaller clubs and battle dancing they never asked me for ID. They would see me coming with the certain group that was known for dancing so they would let me in. This was about 1989, the era of Junior Vasquez, when the Sound Factory was everything! This was just before [Madonna’s] “Vogue.” When that come out we were already in the club doing it. In fact we were there the night Madonna came to the club!

Tell me about your introduction to club music from outside New York, particularly the Washington DC scene and DJ Sedrick.

I got put into an exchange program in Italy, and I started to spend a lot of time in Virginia and Washington DC, because there’s a protocol school that you have to go to before you go abroad. So I ended up in the DC area, and I went to a place called Trax. When I went there I heard DJ Sedrick, and the music he played was phenomenal! I had never heard anything like it, never seen a reaction like it. If you could put crazy in a club, this would be it.

At this point I was a huge Junior Vasquez head. Anything Junior made I was into. But when it got to Sedrick it was more beat-driven. What you thought a beat could do, it did. The songs he played were kinda like techno, kinda house, kinda bouncy Baltimore-ish beats…They had a powerful impact! They had this one dance in DC, it’s called the DC skuzz out, and you have never seen anything like it. Just to watch it, the energy, it was crazy. These are people that do backflips and land on their heads, it’s hard to describe, but anything you can imagine they’re doing it! Falling on the floor and shaking, very Patti LaBelle-ish.

Friends of mine in NY would always talk about the DC scene and voguing, but I was too young to go. When I finally went and I battled, we got to know each other, and these beats were playing back to back to back and I was like, “What IS this music?” That’s when I went and met Sedrick. A lot of it had to do with bass kinda beats, very Chicago-ish, Detroit techno-ish, but it was all fun. He was just DJing, but with his interaction on the mic it was the perfect marriage. I’m serious, he was just screaming at people, hollering, taking the needle and scratching it across the record. He was doing everything, and the kids would scream and holler back. People came from all kinds of states around just to go to Trax. I mean they came from California, from the other side of the world.

How did you get into DJing? And, from there, how did you get into production?

I didn’t actually become a DJ until I went to Italy, and when I got there they wanted me to play hip hop but I wanted to play house. But I played hip hop, and I became a very popular DJ. I gave them the element that they didn’t have in the clubs. But when I got with my team Angels of Love, I started to play house. And they told me how to play, how to mix and to blend. When I got back to the States I was making these small mixes for my friends, just these little productions putting my name in it and stuff. It wasn’t until I went back to Italy that I started to make tracks.

Why do you think the “Ha” sound effect has worked so well, and become so synonymous with ballroom and modern voguing?

Well, there was a new form of voguing coming out at that time which was called vogue femme. And when “The Ha Dance” got re-released, that song just fit with what they were doing. And much to the credit of DJ Sedrick, he brought that song back out, especially in DC. Then it spread like wildfire throughout he ballroom scene. So it was already out. The “Ha” was like a staple before I even got a hold of it. It’s the syncopation of it. You have those four beats and then just something else that closes out the whole stanza. It is the defining sound for vogue femme. But there are other categories in the ballroom that don’t even use that song, and other types of vogue that don’t use that song either.
And what do you think of producers incorporating “Ha” into non-ballroom music? There’s a lot of that going on right now it seems.

A lot of people are putting out tracks using the ballroom crash, but even the ballroom kids who use this music will know “that’s not ballroom.” You can’t just put a “Ha” or a crash on a beat and expect it to be ballroom. It doesn’t work like that. You have to know the inner working, and why it is you would put that in a song.

Tell me a bit more about Italy. How did Italy influence your sound and style, and vice versa?

Like I said, I was an exchange student in Italy, and when I got there it was the total reverse of the States. Where you would hear R&B and hip hop on every radio station in the States, in Italy it was house music everywhere. So I immediately fell in love with the place. I was determined to get into Italian nightlife, which is almost impossible to do. There are so many very good DJs in Italy who will never get a chance to play. [Italian DJs] have a group and they call it a “society” and once they get into the group, they are in it forever. Nobody gets in, it just doesn’t happen.

I was determined to get in, though, and it started from my dancing. I started to work the same way I did in the States. I started to make little CDs for my friends, and at first they were like “thank you” and they were happier when they got the next one, and then they would ask me if I had any new music, and then they were asking people to listen to it. It grew like that. I never told my team that I was DJing. When they found out they were like, “We need you to play.” They got me to play at House Club, Maddison, Angels of Love, so many places. The Biggest And The Best, Metropolis, Havana Club. Once they found out I was DJing, it exploded. This was in about… 1999.

What would you say you learned from your time in Italy, and in return, what did they learn from you?

We learned from each other. My team is one of the biggest and the best, but they were famous for bringing over the big London DJs and the big American DJs. What I brought to them of course was my street knowledge and my dancing ability. What I did onstage, there was no one in Italy like that. In terms of DJing, when I came back from Italy I was more into blending. You know a lot of us do cuts, especially if you come up in hip hop. They were primarily interested in blending and making it a smooth transition. So when I came back, other DJs looked at me like, “Wow!”

How did you get into actually making tracks?

I started making music with Dr Rhythm samplers and a Kawai drum machine. I started to work from that. When I was in Italy for the second time, which was 2002-2005, I was given every production program from Cakewalk to Pro Tools. Everything, but it was all in Italian. For some reason I just didn’t want to comprehend what was going on, even Fruity Loops. But this one program stood out: Simian. When I looked at it, it just made sense.

What exactly is Simian? How is it different from other music programs?

Simian is similar, for a DJ, to what Ableton is now. It worked for a DJ. When I opened it up I understood what to do. And even with the simplest stuff, I couldn’t do it, even on Fruity Loops. So when I opened up Simian that day and I understood what to do, I gravitated towards it.

How do you make tracks, what is your process?

I’m not looking for a particular beat, I’m looking for a voice. It could be anything. If it grabs my attention I just build the beat around it. I used to use a lot of samples when I started, but now I’ve learned how to reconstruct everything, sometimes from scratch.

How did you get hooked up with Bok Bok and the Night Slugs crew?

Bok Bok is so cool! I was doing podcasts on Podomatic, and someone suggested I use Soundcloud. So I made a profile and I started to look around for other people, and some of the people who were on there I was already getting music from, I was buying their music. Same with Soundboy, Bok Bok, Lil Silva. I friended them and said, “Hey, I’m Vjuan Allure, I like your sound, big props to you,” and they would come back and be like, “Oh my God, we listen to your music all the time!” That shocked me!

By the time Bok Bok answered me, I said “I’m going to have something for you,” and that was the remix of “Silo Pass.” I did it because when I heard the original it was definitely something I would play over some beats, but not for a crowd I would play to in the States. Most of the crowds here want ballroom, or, you know, soulful house, so it wouldn’t have fit. But I took his track because I heard something, and I went and turned it into a runway track. I played it at a ball and they all went nuts.
What are you using for production now? Do you use Ableton?

I’m still using Simian, but I am getting used to Ableton. The problem is that if I work with someone else we have to work in wavs. Simian doesn’t use aiff files. Bok Bok got me on Ableton. But I will always keep Simian because I can make a beat in five minutes.

Thanks to Todd and everyone at RBMA! Here's a mix from Vjuan, serving you all the sugar you will ever need:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

DORIAN COREY: The Drag Queen Had a Mummy in Her Closet

Originally posted on Dangerous Minds, Jan 2011


Here’s an interesting aside to the Paris Is Burning post from yesterday. Dorian Corey, the older drag queen featured heavily in the film, kept a mummified corpse in her apartment for an untold amount of years. Shot in the head, wrapped in fake leather and stuffed in a suitcase, it was only discovered after her death.
Figueroa said the body was “half-way” between mummified and decomposed. “When you have all this wrapping no air is getting to it” he explained. “But it is still losing liquid out of its body. So the body sort of floats in its own soup.” The skin was in very bad shape. “It was like very old fabric” Figueroa said. “If you touch it, it’s going to fall apart.” Figueroa spent several days treating the skin so he could take ten fingerprints off it.
I asked Figueroa if he thought the person who wrapped the body in imitation leather was trying to emulate the Egyptians. I thought it possible that Dorian Corey was into high camp with dead bodies as well as live ones.
“I don’t think so” he said. “People just wrap a body in whatever is available. It’s just spontaneous. You wrap it up. Then you put it in a suitcase. Then you put it in the closet. Then you just look at it periodically and wish it would go away.”
To this day nobody knows for sure who killed Bobby Worley or why. The full story, from a 1995 issue of New York magazine, can be read here. This is a bona fide legend of the drag scene, so it’s good to finally get the full low down. Or at least as much of it as possible.

Thanks to Geoff for digging this out!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

HOUSE OF SHADE Interview for Dalston Superstore

By Niall Connolly

In the cult classic ’90s documentary Paris Is Burning, “shade” is defined by the legendary drag queen Dorian Corey as the art of throwing humourous insults at your rivals. “I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to, because you know you are ugly.” Accordingly, Berlin’s House Of Shade doesn’t have to tell his competitors they’re not as good. Just one listen to any of his DJ mixes on SOUNDCLOUD and wannabe ballroom DJs will hang their heads in shame, they’ll know they’re not as good. That’s the beauty of shade. Ahead of his debut London dj gig at Dalston Superstore this Friday for BANJEE BOY REALNESS, we sent House of Shade head honcho Jan some questions to answer…

Who/what is the House Of Shade?

House Of Shade is not a real house in the ballroom/voguing sense, so no mothers, fathers and children, unfortunately! House Of Shade is more of a DJ moniker and at the same time a characterization of the sounds I play, which is house, disco and ballroom beats that have a certain fierceness to them to get you in a legendary and shady mood.
You are known for your vinyl-only DJ mixes. Is it a conscious decision to just use vinyl, and do you think using one format only can limit a DJ?

Using only vinyl can be limiting, true, because a lot of the newer beats are not released on vinyl anymore. But often limitation is also a good thing, and personally I just love the whole process of mixing records too much to give it up for now. You know, the challenge of pitch adjusting and blending two records manually without fucking it up – so much can go wrong. It’s exciting!  
How is the vogue/house scene in Berlin?

The house scene is huge, obviously, but the vogue/house scene isn’t, at all. There’s not much drama on the dancefloors in Berlin, being competitive or even fierce are somewhat foreign concepts in the clubs. But there is in fact a budding voguing scene. Last year in August, Georgina Philp – who’s the best voguer in Germany – organized the first Berlin Voguing Ball which had legendary Hector Xtravaganza over as a judge and drew competing houses from Hamburg, Düsseldorf, even Paris. The next Ball will take place on August 17 at Festsaal Kreuzberg.  

Read the rest here

Monday, 17 June 2013

ARIKA 5: Hidden In Plain Sight reflections

Unpublished review of Fri/Sat afternoon events at ARIKA 5 for The Skinny

There's always going to be a certain amount of tension when street culture rubs up against highbrow academia, and it's a testament to the skill of Arika that they managed to programme their Hidden In Plain Sight mini-festival (mostly concerning vogue and drag culture) with as little as possible.


Hidden In Plain Sight kicks off on friday night at the Tramway with a dance performance called "20 Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church" a contemporary, semi-improvised piece that aims to fuse pre-post-modern, envelope pushing outlook of the early 60s Judson Dance Theatre with the spirit and ethos of Harlem's vogue balls, which were also beginning to develop in the early 60s. At times these two bedfellows can make a strange mix, and not all of the performances work that well in this context. But when they do work, boy are they good. My personal favourite is the drag performer Francois Chaignaud, a gifted singer/dancer/comedienne who manages to raise some belly laughs while looking and performing beautifully. There's a sense of chaos to 20 Looks, multiplied perhaps by a wonky microphone that keeps cutting out, but no matter how wild things get, they never get out-of-control. The sense of co-ordinated anarchy is wonderful, and makes up for the show's tonal disparities (and over 2 hour running time).

Pony Zion

After the Tramway we depart for Stereo on Renfield Lane, to attend the first ever club event that Arika have hosted. This is where it all comes together, where we can experience the music, style and dancing in its most natural home. DJs Vjuan Allure and Sprinkles rev up the crowd with a mixture of throbbing deep house and busy, percussive rhythms, and the music sets the stage brilliantly for two vogue performances by the legendary Pony Zion Garcon (above), and one beautiful and scary lip-sync by the brilliant boychild. Pony Zion is a founding member of the dance troupe Vogue Evolution, and a true "legend" on the dance scene, so to see him bring those incredible moves to a stage in a Glasgow basement is beautiful. Also 10s across the board for both the DJs, and it's personally very satisfying to see the Glasgow audience, who are well versed in house music history, soaking up Vjuan Allure's fresh "ballroom" style, a new take on house that has yet to infiltrate the mainstream but which makes the Glasgow crowd go wild.

 DJ Sprinkles

Saturday afternoon and I am back at the Tramway to attend to talks before I need to catch a train back to Manchester. The heat on this surprisingly glorious day is stifling. The first talk is a round table discussion featuring members of the collectives Ultra-Red and Vogue'ology, and the host Michael Robertson takes us through the history of this very unique culture. At times moving and funny, the talk is great, though I wish more time was given to the actual voguers than the white, middle-class academics, some of whose opinions seem frankly extraneous. Oh, that cultural tension again! The second talk is by Terre Theamlitz, aka DJ Sprinkles, and concerns identity. Theamlitz holding the stage on hir own makes for a more coherent talk than the first Vogue'ology, and I am gutted that I have to go before seeing Terre's actual performance that evening. 

All pics (except for the poster) by Michael James aka Alephnaught, an exceptional club photographer - follow him

Here's a video I shot of some of Pony's performance at Stereo, re-dubbed to Vjuan's "Kid Conga Rebounced": 

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Sunday, 16 June 2013

MYKKI BLANCO support slot

I had the pleasure of supporitng Mykki Blanco at Islington Mill in May.  It was an awesome gig. I was really curious to see Mykki live, and she didn't disappoint. In fact, she went way beyond what I was expecting.

What a brilliant gig; dark, thrilling and intense. Mykki is a great rapper with awesome freestyle flows, and the drag is definitely not a gimmick. She’s the real deal. She has an overall aesthetic that is tight and well thought out - she's not just another "queer rapper" spitting over random productions, she has a vision and it's great to see in practice. 

Musically and visually it all makes so much sense when you see Blanco live. The beats are heavy and ominous, and the rapping goes from in your face and hyped-up to introspective while still being mesmerising. There's a bit of valley girl going on with the persona too, but it feels natural, not forced. It's strange, it's hard to articulat this, but it does make a lot osense in the live context. Soo see the Mykki Blanco live experience if you can, you’ll come away a fan.


Just a picture of us chilling backstage with Mykki Blanco and Midnight Growler. Mykki was just about to go on, and I had just come off. And her jacket is BADASS!

And another pic of Mykki, this time a pre-show portrait by my sis Pam Van Damned.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

PARIS IS BURNING: the batshit xtian fundie perspective

via (again, thanks to Matthew Hill for the link): 

The film promotes homosexual lifestyle--all actors are homosexual; and, some nudity (homosexual men with breast augmentation).


Sordid and evil best describe the documentary film PARIS IS BURNING that deals with homosexual "Voguing" and the drag balls of Harlem. Extremely well-crafted, the film promotes a despicable lifestyle that God abhors.


Unbelievably sordid and despicably evil best describe the documentary film PARIS IS BURNING that deals with homosexual "Voguing" and the drag balls of Harlem. The film, with its excellent craftsmanship and cinematography along with its unusual subject, claims two other distinctions as well: Winner of the 1990 L. A. Film Critics Award for Best Documentary and 1991 Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary.

Partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the film, set in New York City, traces the origins of both Voguing and the Harlem drag balls. According to director Jennie Livingston, "The Black and Latino gay men that participate in the balls are people excluded from the mainstream in every way--by virtue of race, class and sexual orientation--yet their whole subculture is based on imitating the very people who exclude them: the schoolboys and schoolgirls, the executives, the military men, the models," so the balls are a "response to homophobia and racism, yet are full of optimism and spirit."

Throughout the film, a series of commentators like Pepper Labeija, Head of the House of Labeija, offer continuous information about Voguing and ball contestants and categories. Watching these commentators (some are transvestites repeatedly daubing at their heavily layered makeup and exhibiting forced, stilted mannerisms, while others pridefully boast that they have the best "mother" and the best "House" because their "mother" will do anything for them), is to put it mildly, revolting. In one utterly despicable scene, we are treated to these grown, homosexual "children" (THEIR TERM) nursing from their homosexual House "mother's" augmented breasts.

Voguing, it turns out, is a dance invented by Black and Latino homosexual men that combines poses struck by fashion models with acrobatic spins and dips. Some of the moves have been inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics. Others involve a style called pantomime voguing where the voguer enacts a little drama or story with his hands and feet.

Voguing began in New York's nightclubs and parks and on the street, and the voguers themselves formed "Houses," patterned after fashion designers or media images, and use the balls to compete against one another for trophies.

At the time PARIS IS BURNING was filmed, most of the balls took place in Harlem, but with their growing popularity, many have moved downtown. Each ball is made up of various categories which resemble the divisions of a fashion show (Swimwear, Eveningwear, Sportswear). Some of the more popular categories are Voguing, Town and Country, Executive Realness, Upcoming Pretty Girl, Face, Body (Luscious, Model-type, or Muscular), and Model's Effect, although there are numerous other categories as well.

The world of these homosexual balls and the contestants that participate in them turns out to be nearly unbelievable. Dressed in costume to suit their category, each of these contestants seems phony and unreal. In fact, it's difficult to tell where the pose of being a contestant at a ball ends and the homosexual individual's actual life takes over. Repeatedly, the contestants state their aim: to look straight, to look like a real woman or a real man. For example, in the Venus category, a contestant announces gleefully as she goes undetected as a male (the judges even feel the facial skin for smoothness): "I don't feel there's anything mannish about me." A hard-to-describe sense of evil pervades this film and repels as one observes these terribly mixed-up, lost, and confused individuals. Finally, we have the distinct impression that these are hollow, empty individuals, possessed by another, evil personality.

Throughout PARIS IS BURNING, the camera frequently leaves the balls and eavesdrops on homosexuals in their daily lives. One extremely distressing segment focuses on two fifteen-year-old boys on New York's streets who are being lured into the homosexual lifestyle. Because they are bereft of parental guidance, the homosexuals assure them they will love them and care for them. Such scenes as this one show how the film will be used to educate its audience.

Seeing PARIS IS BURNING (named after an original ball) affected the reviewer to the point of nausea. Not only was it revolting and distressing to observe the wretched lifestyles of formerly unacceptable-to-society homosexuals paraded in all their glory on the screen, but it is also sobering to realize that this is an educational film, one that promotes the homosexual way of life as a viable lifestyle for young people.

Of course, as Christians, we know God detests homosexuality: "God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones...the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another" (Romans 1:26, 27). However, we also realize that we are to hate the sin but love the sinner, which is not always easy to do.

What impressed the reviewer about the individuals espousing the homosexual lifestyle in PARIS IS BURNING was their unhappiness with their own identity, and their desire to be someone else--hence, the poses and affectations at the balls. One contestant says wistfully: "In the ballroom you can be anything you want, a business man, a military general, or a schoolgirl; but you need to be 'real.'"

Perhaps saddest of all is the desire for these homosexual ball contestants to be "real," to be, in reality, the sex and the person they desire to be. As one extremely feminine, diminutive homosexual who dresses as a woman and hustles for a living, remarks: " Hopefully, in the near future, I'll be a full-fledged woman." He was murdered a short time after completion of the film.

At present, however, these individuals live in an unreal, illusory world, not possessing a sense of identity; they are held in bondage by their master, Satan. We need to pray for them to come to know Christ's love for them, for only His love can set them free from posing and voguing.

Friday, 14 June 2013

VOGUE: Life On The Dancefloor

This short, 11 minute doc is awesome, and gives a good picture of where voguing, and ballroom culture is at in 2013 (or rather 2011, when it was made). It was produced by, and focusses on, Dashaun Wesley Evisu, legendary voguer and founder member of Vogue Evolution off US TV. It features some ace dancing footage from House Of Evisu in black and white, and Vogue Knights at Club Escualita. If there was more money this could easily be its own feature.

Vogue: Life On The Dancfloor is highly recommended viewing for anyone interested in gay/black/trans*/dance/house culture - while Paris Is Burning is a very important document, it is not the be all and end all of vogue culture, and anyone who has seen it needs to watch this too.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


THIS is how you vogue!! Legendary Leiomy, part of Vogue Evolution with Dashaun Wesley and Pony Zion, receiver of shade from Lil Mama on "America's Best Dance Crew", serving you goth effect, wire hangers and an EPIC dip.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

CVNT interview for Dalston Superstore

I am gonna be writing some stuff for Dalston Superstore’s website in the near future, so to get the ball rolling, Rachael from the London club interviewed me. Here’s an excerpt, read the whole thing here

Who is your production alter ego CVNT TR4XXX?

CVNT, or Cunt Traxx as it started out, is just me. I’ve been making music since the late ’90s, and I have collaborated with a bunch of different people, in bands, with previous singles as the Niallist on Dissident Distribution, and also on my last full length release, the MIXTAPE AKA from 2011. That features tonnes of collabs, from Yo Majesty, Cherie Lily, Ali Renault, Ben Butler & Mousepad and loads more people. 

CVNT is different though. It started off as a very functional thing, making tracks just for the dance floor, influenced by the new school of ballroom/vogue producers from the States like MikeQ and Vjuan Allure, as well as footage of the amazing dancers. Unexpectedly some of these tracks have blown up and gone viral, so it has kinda taken on a life of its own now. I’ve loved house music all my life though, since hearing MARRS as a child, so this project can’t help but be a personal thing as well, reflecting my love of house from now and back then, as well as reflecting the great influence I take from the actual voguers, watching their bodies move and thinking about that when I make music. I was kinda in a rut before this, as I think the whole house genre was, but getting into ballroom about three years ago really re-ignited my passion for house music. So CVNT is a weird mix of the personal and the functional, which in a strange way is a more liberating experience than working as The Niallist, where I think people had certain expectations of what I did.  

Which of your musical heroes would you most like like to see a biopic of? Who would play them and which era/aspects of their life would it feature?

That’s a good question. I studied film at university so I have thought about this. When I was younger I used to daydream about a Beach Boys biopic (not sure about Brian, but Philip Seymour Hoffman would play Carl, Owen Wilson would play Dennis and Dan Akroyd would be their dad) but that seems way too big in scope to do.

I would have to say that right now I would love to do a biopic on Willi Ninja. I’m not sure who would play a young Willi, but I’ve always loved Wesley Snipes, so he could play older Willi maybe. Or maybe he could be Paris Dupree, who would be Willi’s vogue mentor. I think Willi would have to be an unknown actor, preferably a very athletic dancer who could pull of his legendary moves. I’d like to have Bette Midler in there too for shits and giggles, I’d love to get Michelle Rodriguez to play a trans woman, and there’s just so many talented drag artists who could be involved. RuPaul would play Pepper LaBeija, Benedict Cumberbatch would go ginger to play Malcolm McLaren, and my current girl crush Brooke Candy would play Madonna. The setting would obviously be the Harlem ball scene of the early 80s, and expanding to international settings later as Willi gets famous for his dancing (Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo) and dancing at clubs like Sound Factory and events like Wigstock. The film would be told in flashback by Willi on his death bed, and it would have to be quite poetic with long arty scenes of voguing and references to all the music videos he starred in. I do seriously think about making a voguing feature film all the time, and putting as much love and care into capturing the dancing and clothes as Bob Fosse would. 

Read the rest here.

Monday, 10 June 2013

HOUSE OF WALLENBERG (Stockholm) interview

I’ve just done my second and third remixes for Sweden’s House Of Wallenberg, aka Petter Wallenberg, on the track “Be Somebody" featuring the NY ballroom legend Octavia St Laurent (star of the ballroom documentaries Paris Is Burning and How Do I Look).

I sent Petter some interview questions to find out more about how this collaboration came about, his club Mums Mums in Stockholm, the voguing/club scene in Sweden, and the upcoming House Of Wallenberg album Legends, which features vocals from Octavia, Neneh Cherry, Ari Up, Leila K and more…

The “Be Somebody" video. 

How did you get into music?

I never had any formal music training but I started making music when I was around 8.  I would take my casette recorder and go down to a tunnel near the block of flats where I grew up, and record myself shouting there because I loved the reverb and echo. I would also make my own mixtapes, but not just standard one track after another - I would mash it all up, take snippets of music, sounds, stuff off the tv, the sound of the phone ringing and all sorts of stuff, and create these elaborate megamixes. Bear in mind, this was the 80’s so all I had were basic analog cassette players. It was a case of recording a millisecond at a time and if you wanted to repeat it you had to record it again. I would press those buttons so much that they fell off. It was primitive, but a great way to be inventive. This was also the time in music when samplers were new, and you’d hear tracks where they’d just played around with a sampler. This was an inspiration to me. I still love that sampler vibe. It’s treating the vocal as an instrument. Like what Black Box did with “Ride on time"- they just took snippets of Loleatta Holloway’s vocal, and created hooks and a new chorus out of it.  I love that. You can hear that in a lot of my own music today, that influence is still there. Nothing makes me happier than chopping up a big diva vocal!

Who is in the House of Wallenberg?

House of Wallenberg is me. But it’s also a home for collaborations. I have a collective of singers, dancers, visual artists, stylists, photographers and dj’s that work with me on my club Mums Mums and my magazine Mums - and House of Wallenberg is the musical hub for all that. A creative home where the door is always open and I’m constantly cooking something up. 
Of course it’s also a nod to the ballroom culture of NYC. House being a community. A gay street gang. I like that because my life has always been like that. I have my gay “father" in London, my transsexual “mother" and of course all my “children" who come to my club in Stockholm. It’s important to create our own families and look after eachother.
And lastly the name is a nod to my surname Wallenberg, which is famous in Sweden, as it’s the name of a very rich banking dynasty. In Sweden it’s like having Kennedy as your last name. People always ask me if i’m a “real Wallenberg". I enjoy playing with that. After all, I grew up on a council estate - so I got the name but not the money, honey. But i’m rocking that name! 

How did House of Wallenberg come about?

By chance I ran into Leila K on the street. She’s a living legend in Scandinavia, having been the first Swedish rap star and a big club diva and since then notoriously homeless on the streets of Stockholm. We decided to do a track together, and I came up with the lyrics, based on a line from Paris is burning - “I’m legendary, you’re not". I felt that Leila K was perfect in that context - as the spirit of Paris Is Burning is about how you may have nothing -  but in the ballroom you are legendary. To hook up with Leila I had to go into the underworld of Stockholm. It was tough, but felt like an important mission.
After that I decided to make a whole album with all my idols. Find them all and make the tracks I always wanted to hear them sing. And seven long years later my album “Legends" is  complete. 

How is the vogue scene in Stockholm/Sweden?

Voguing has seen a real revival in Sweden lately. I’m glad i’ve been part of that. There’s an amazing vogue crew called P*fect that often perform at my club and you can see them in some of my videos. We’ve been serving vogue culture for years and now it’s in the zeitgeist. I sometimes have Aviance Milan from NYC vogue house House of Milan over at my club and I see new kids, full of excitement, voguing on the dancefloor and feel part of something special.

Tell me how the collaboration with Octavia St Laurent happened…

I was in contact with Octavia for years. She was amazing. She would sing down the phone and I was like: Girl got pipes! People didnt know it, but she had a big old gospel voice. She’d never had a proper record release though.  I think the 90’s were too messy for her. So we made an early version of “Be Somebody". Then she got ill. I would be on the phone to her at her mother’s in upstate New York. She was so determined to get through it. “By the summer the chemotherapy will have worn off and I’ll be looking gorgeous again" she said. But she never did. She died in May 2009. The track ended up on a shelf. I wasnt even gonna put it on my album. But my friend kept nagging me. So I finally mixed it and gave it my all, making a video in New York with all the legendary vogue houses. I walked around with a sign saying “Be Somebody" and during filming a homeless man came up and held a speech about being somebody. It was beatiful and sort of summed the whole thing up. The circle closed. Octavia got her real proper release after all, albeit posthumously. And I had completed my journey of working with all my idols. It’s so amazing now when people tell me “Be Somebody" is their favourite track. It’s been one hell of a journey.

Who else is on your album? How did you get these guests to collaborate?

Neneh Cherry, Ari Up from The Slits. Victoria Wilson James from Soul II Soul and many more. I just made a wish list of my all time favourite singers and contacted them all. It involved loads of detective work, determination and patience. One track with Neneh Cherry took 3 years to complete. To deal with that kind of time frame you gotta have huge balls. You can’t do it if you’re worried about sounding like the latest fad on the radio. But I knew what I wanted and stuck by it. Thank god I don’t have a record label telling me to do some naff Swedish House Mafia shite. I’m doing my own thing and releasing it in my own time on on my own label. It feels amazing! 

What’s coming up for HoW?

The next single off the album is released on the 4th of June. It features not one but two legends - as both Neneh Cherry and the late Ari Up are on it! We wrote it playing with the idea of what a “real" woman or man is. 

I can’t wait to show you the video I’ve directed for it. It’s inspired by Keith Haring, Basquiat, old school hiphop videos, kids programmes and Benetton adverts. I’ve gathered some of my fiercest gals in Stockholm and they’re all celebrating their fabulousness whether they’re a “real woman" or not. It’s one big summery postcard full of love from House of Wallenberg!


Legends is available here. The remixes of “Be Somebody" (ft Octavia St Laurent) are available for free for a limited time at the House Of Wallenberg Soundcloud page.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

ROMANTHONY Bring You Up (MikeQ Remix)

First Peter Rauhofer, then Romanthony, those are some underground house legends we have lost lately! Here's MIkeQ's remix of a Romanthony classic from a few years ago:

Saturday, 8 June 2013

SUGUR SHAME Peter Rauhofer tribute mix

I wasn’t going to do my monthly mix this month, but this is a tribute to the man who has influenced me and kept me going throughout the years. Tears flowed from my eyes when I heard he passed. As you know I’ve dedicated my latest mixtape to him and Junior Vasquez “My Night with Peter & Junior”. Heartbroken we have lost one of my music heroes. His legacy lives on. Everyone has been doing podcast tributes but I decided to go about mine differently. Not just Peters mixes but any songs related to Star 69 in any way or tracks he has spun at the legendary Roxy. Rest in Peace Peter We love you and miss you!
Sugur Shane tribute to Peter Rufhofer (RIP)

Friday, 7 June 2013

MIKE Q [Qween Beat/Fade To Mind] interview

As I mentioned in a previous post, I interviewed a lot of people for the Boing Boing ballroom article, but I only got to use a small fraction of that information in the article itself (even though it rapidly went from 3K words to 5K). I am very grateful to be given time and info from people at the forefront of the ballroom scene, so I am going to be post those unpublished interviews in full here on Cunty blog.

Ballroom DJs don’t come any hotter than MikeQ. Resident at New York’s weekly Vogue Knights party, founder of the Qween Beat collective and recording artist in his own right, he has done more than most to push this sound out into the world at large.

In fact, it was hearing some of his dj mixes that re-ignited my passion for house music, and cemented my love for voguing culture. At a time when it seems like house music has little new ground to cover (deep 90s revival, anyone?) here is something that is genuinely fresh. Mike always brings a new slant to the genre, while making a direct link to the original house sounds I fell in love with as a child in the 80s and 90s. Best of all though, this is house music simultaneously looking forward while going back to its roots - this is dance music for DANCING TO, not for applying redundant arty pretensions to or for falling into a k-hole to.

Vogue culture, and house music, are alive and doing very well. They are not simply sounds and styles stuck in a 20 year old time warp, they are still restlessly pushing forward and Mike is right there at the forefront. Mike was kind enough to answer these questions for me late last year:


How would you describe ballroom culture to someone who has never seen or heard of it?

I would describe it as a long running culture of pure underground talent. A place where people can come and express who they are or who they want to be and not be judged by the outside world. It is a thriving community of greatness and an open outlet for many talents. 

How did you first discover and get involved in this scene?

I first discovered the scene in 2003 after I finally visited a LGBT party I had been hearing about in school. That very day (and only for 10 mins) was I exposed to this scene and that was enough to get me started, the rest is history.

How did you get into DJing? Who were your first influences?

Well I got into deejaying totally by mistake. I had finally taken off as a producer of ballroom, I was still very new at it but deejaying just came along with the territory. It was not something I ever wanted to do, and I ended up being the DJ at the same party I first visited.

When did you get into production and who are your main inspirations as a producer? What set-up do you use to produce your tracks and remixes?

I got into production very shortly after being exposed to the scene. I heard this great music and had seen what people do to it, and that just made me want to hear more of it, being that I couldn’t find much of it on my own. Since day one I’ve used a combination of Fruity Loops and Acid Pro, but along with that I use many things as I am still learning, which is a never-ending thing.

How is Vogue Nights going? Can you describe to us what it is like?

Vogue Knights, which is in it’s second year running, is still going strong. This “Vogue Night" came about after 1. The lack of smaller weekly happenings in NY ballroom and 2. Just somewhere for the younger generation to come out and practice their ballroom skills. First part of the night the lights are out and you just hear music and after 2am, they come on and the battles begin.

You’re travelling a lot now - how does the ballroom scene differ in different US cities?

It doesn’t really change in different cities the ballroom scene is one huge scene, same people, same rules. Every state has it’s own chapter but it’s pretty much all connected. 

Voguing has been appropriated by the mainstream once before (most notably by Madonna) do you see this happening again?

It’s happening, maybe not as huge, but you’ve got plenty of celebs voguing in or just attending balls, the likes of Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Rihanna Ashanti, Kelly Rowland. You just gotta look closer. 

There have been a few artists lately using some of the language and imagery of ballroom culture in a more mainstream context.  What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t at all mind, just if your going to refer to ballroom or try to be relevant to it, at least know your history, know what you are saying. Who, what, why, where, when, and how. And feel free to attend a ball. Otherwise I’m gonna be there like “wtf?" 

Who and what is Qween Beat? How did QB come about and what’s coming up in the near future?

Qween Beat is My Label/Team of DJ’s Producers, MCs, Video Artists & More. It originally started in 2005 as just a name for me to put my music under, I then got my first member Gregg Evisu and I’m up to 15 members now. We area collective of ballroom music makers getting ready to take the world by storm. You can expect our first release In the early part of 2013, and many soon after. 

Thanks Mike! If you haven't heard/got it already, this is Mike's debut release from 2012 on Fade To Mind: 

And this Fact magazine mix is still basically a crash course in all you need to know about Ballroom, as well as a huge mix for me personally, re-invigorating my love of house music with its forward thinking tracks, and a definite inspiration for my own CVNT productions: 


Thursday, 6 June 2013

PAPER MAG Ballroom shoot

Looking for pics of Pony Zion for the Arika preview (below) I came across this PAPER MAG fashion shoot/interviews with NYC ballroom children. It's an excellent piece, and well worth reading, but here's the photos:


Here's a short video clip from the shoot, speaking to some of the models:

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

ARIKA 5, "Hidden In Plain Sight", preview for THE SKINNY

Originally published by THE SKINNY 09 May 2013

 Pony Zion

Underground scenes don’t come more co-opted or exploited than New York’s voguing sub-culture, which went from the ballrooms of Harlem and the clubs of Manhattan to global ubiquity for one hot minute in the early 1990s. This was mostly thanks to Madonna’s mega-hit Vogue, and as with most things touched by the hand of Madge, its credibility and longevity came into question. But far from being a flash in the pan dance fad, or a clubbing moment frozen in time, vogue (and the ‘ballroom’ culture which spawned it) has become a way of life that encompasses art, music, dance, language, and style. It deals directly with the Black, Gay and Trans* experience in modern America, and raises pertinent questions about appearance, performance, sexuality and gender (much more than was ever achieved by Madonna’s faux-controversial Sex book).

This May, Glasgow collective Arika are hosting a series of events in the city to celebrate voguing and ballroom culture. Although Arika are already well known for events that address queer notions of identity and politics (as well as organising the renowned Instal festival at the Arches) Glasgow doesn’t have much of a ballroom scene, so how did this mini-festival come about? Quite organically, it turns out. Having been the first non-Americans to curate at the Whitney Biennial, Arika had worked alongside the sound art collective Ultra-red, some of whose members are part of the ballroom community. It was Ultra-red who suggested bringing some of this scene to Scotland, in keeping with Arika’s interest in ‘queer identities.’

The commitment to quality is evident in the bill Arika have assembled for the event, subtitled Hidden In Plain Sight; the fifth part in their ongoing, episodic series of mini-festivals. Club music, dance and performance are all heavily featured, as you would expect, but there will also be a series of discussions involving the visitors from New York that will be pretty damn essential too. Voguing is unique in that it’s a street dance form that can command serious academic appreciation, and Arika have done a great job in bridging these two disparate worlds.

Clubbers will be excited by the Glasgow debut of DJ Vjuan Allure, the grandfather of the modern ballroom house sound, who comes fresh off a release on Diplo’s Jeffree’s label. Joining Allure will be DJ Sprinkles, aka Terre Thaemlitz, purveyor of deep house and Resident Advisor favourite, as well as one time DJ at New York’s legendary drag/trans bar Sally’s. Thaemlitz also has a video/audio art installation project called Soulnessless at the Tramway on the Saturday, investigating ideas of gender and religion, and will be giving an introductory talk earlier that day. Performance artist boychild will also be appearing at Friday’s club night, and again on the Sunday, with two untitled lip sync pieces that question ‘the mutability of body and the mobility of gender.’

Dancer Trajal Harell will be giving a Saturday evening performance titled Twenty Looks, or Paris Is Burning At The Judson Church, an imagined meeting of the original ball queens and New York’s renowned improvisational dance group. Of most interest to hardcore voguing fans, however, will be two talks on the Saturday and Sunday by a group called Vogue’ology. Vogue’ology is described as “an investigative team consisting of members of the House/Ballroom scene and Ultra-red” featuring dancers, academics, and the legendary Pony Zion of Vogue Evolution, they are the dance troupe most responsible for bringing voguing back to mainstream attention through their appearances in videos and on American television.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. Hidden In Plain Sight hosts an embarrassment of riches for the dedicated fan, but also for those interested in queer politics, for historians and academics, and
even for those simply in pursuit of a good time.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013


One of my all time favourite 12"s (was one of the first 7"s I bought as a child) esp for the Mark Moore/William Orbit remix of “Deep In Vogue".

Here's a gif I made from the video:

Monday, 3 June 2013

OH HELL "Unlucky For Some" collection [RUSHMORE "Couture (CVNTure Edit)"]


My friends from the clothing label Oh Hell used some of my music in their April 2013 promo video.

Track is Rushmore “Couture [CVNT TR4XXX edit]" :

UNLUCKY 4 SOME from Oh Hell Viral on Vimeo.

You can downlaod the remix for free right here: 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

SHAUN J WRIGHT complete "Introduction To Ballroom" interview

As I noted in the Boing Boing piece, Shaun J Wright’s answers to my questions about ballroom, and how he was introduced to that scene, deserved an article in their own right. 

So, without further ado, here they are.

How did you discover the ballroom scene? What was your introduction to that world?

My entry into the ballroom scene was quite lengthy. I was familiar with some of the elements of ballroom culture because I would sneak into black, gay clubs in Chicago when I was 15. There would be vogueing and runway battles occuring in the club but I didn’t attribute those things specifically to ballroom. Around the same time I viewed “Paris Is Burning" and it helped me to make connections between what I was seeing in the clubs and the balls, which were still a great mystery to me. When I ventured to Atlanta to attend college I began to learn how to vogue by watching voguers in the club. I would test out my new moves and a few houses took notice. I decided to join the House of Escada as most of my friends were already members and it felt like a natural fit.

What was your first impression the first time you went to a ball?

I attended my first ball in the summer of 2001 in  Chicago. It was a really crowded ball with participants from around the country and I was extremely impressed and also a bit confused. I still remember that night in a hazy manner. Though I had been clubbing for about four years by then, balls were something different altogether. The energy just swept through the room and I was never quite sure if my eyes were seeing the events as accurately as they were occurring. It would take attending a few more balls before I was able to process their intensely complex dynamics.

What left the greatest impression that night was watching Legendary Mother Leonard “Lisa" Escada Mugler (R.I.P.) destroy Butch Queen Face. I recall him walking to the judges panel and sending every other competitor on their way without a single vote. All I could hear from the commentator was, “1 Escada, 2 Escada, 3 Escada…". I decided at that moment that I wouldn’t even consider joining another house. I wanted to be apart of a crew that had that type of mother. It just worked out that most of my college buddies were already members of or prospects for the House of Escada.

How was walking? Were you nervous? Which category did you walk in?

My first time walking was in 2002 at the House of Milan Ball in Atlanta. I walked Butch Queen Vogue Femme, my first and only category. It was a major ball with a lot of the big names from NYC in attendance. I remember spending hours practicing with my friends beforehand and emulating the attitude of the vogue divas that I loved watching.

My friend Randal helped me dress behind the upstairs balcony of the ball venue which was a huge converted chapel. I wore an over the shoulder sweatshirt, tulle skirt, blue Converse hi-tops, and my hair in a side ponytail. Very Punky Brewster and tres chic in 2002. I was a virgin in the category so I wasn’t very confident that I would win. I was pretty excited to walk but not nervous. Until I approached the runway…

Unlike most times when you walk individually to qualify to compete or “get your tens", we began with the process of elimination. Another unexpected twist  was the commentator, Jack Mizrahi, instructing us on which element to perform and when to switch to another element. So, we were told to give hand performance at the back of the runway, then catwalk towards the judges’ panel before duckwalking. As we approached the panel we were told to spin and dip and end with a ovah floor performance.  As you can imagine, I was petrified, especially after seeing more than a few people chopped who were in line before me. Some of these people were ballroom stars and statements, which heightened my anxiety. I didn’t get chopped and though I didn’t win my battle I did receive some votes and the congratulations of others who had been walking and making a name for themselves in the category prior to me.

I walked a handful more major balls and a dozen or more mini-balls after that in both Atlanta and Chicago and even won a few trophies.

Did you form many bonds with the people at the balls? Do you feel the balls work at building community? What about the fierce competitive aspect?

I did encounter some incredibly interesting and inspiring individuals within the scene. Most of my core connections occurred with members from my house and some of those connections still last. I wasn’t extremely social with people from other houses but I did enjoying vogueing in the club and would spend hours “passing the beat" with those who walked performance and even legends who would still vogue in the club for pleasure. A few people in particular come to mind. Icon Father Andre Mizrahi and Legendary Armani Milan, among others, were always so giving of their time and creativity when vogueing with me and really helped to shape my understanding of and appreciation for vogue.

Who are your favourite vogue DJs / dancers?

From my point of view, there are only a handful of dj’s who are actually entrenched in ballroom culture and help progress the culture forward. I have no expertise on who the dj’s were before I entered the scene but DJ Vjuan Allure created the greatest remixes of the “Ha Dance" by Masters At Work, which is the quintessential tune for vogue femme. It’s not the only vogue femme song but it’s the most enduring. Angel X is also influential. MikeQ has pushed the scene beyond it’s previous boundaries and has had a great impact on the infusion of ballroom into other fringe/underground music forms. He’s an incredible DJ, too. I had the pleasure of hearing him spin at Public Works in San Francisco this year and I danced uncontrollably.

I can go on endlessly about my favorite performance divas but I’ll compile a list in no specific order.

Femme Queen:
Icon Sinia Ebony
Icon Kristina Richards
Icon Alyssa LaPerla
Legendary Meeka Prodigy (my all-time favorite)
Legendary Desja LaPerla
Legendary Roxy Prodigy
Legendary Leoimy Mizrahi
Tamiyah Allure Khan

Butch Queen Up In Drags:
Chloe Mugler
Starr Revlon

Butch Queen:
Icon Andre Mizrahi
Legendary Armani Milan
Legendary Ricki Allure
Legendary Kevin Prodigy
Legendary Kevin “JZ" Prodigy
Legendary Pretty Prodigy
Legendary Marquise Revlon
J-Lo Allure
Boots Prodigy
Lollipop Prodigy

Voguing has crossed over into the mainstream once before, do you think that can happen again? Do you think people want it to become bigger?

Here in the States, the second cross over has already occurred, particularly with The Vogue Evolution team doing so well on the television show “America’s Best Dance Crew". It’s also made a major impact in mainstream video choreography and is constantly referenced by mainstream artists, both male and female. But as before, oftentimes, the source of the dance, the ballroom scene, is left without credit for their contributions to the larger cultural landscape.

I believe that a lot of this oversight has to do with several factors. When vogueing and ballroom culture began to enter the mainstream consciousness and be accepted, it was first dispersed by conduits who didn’t necessarily reflect those who were core participants within the scene. I think this is very telling particularly since members of the ballroom were already producing work that reflected the culture with very little mainstream fanfare.  

Also, it is an improvisational, ever shifting culture and dance form and I think many in the mainstream find it challenging to digest these changes. It’s often easier for those outside of the culture to hold on to that which has come to symbolize the essence of the culture, particularly films like “Paris Is Burning".  There is a sea of new ballroom footage flooding the internet but whenever ballroom cultural cool is needed, “Paris Is Burning" becomes the default go-to. This is not to dispute the validity of that particular piece of work, I just believe that ballroom is mistakenly reduced to something way more static and two-dimensional than it is truly.

It’s also difficult to fit ballroom into the very narrow commercial models that rule the mainstream. Ballroom, unlike so many other cultural movements, doesn’t ascribe to any particular marketable fashion or tangible product that can be bought and sold. Unlike punk or nu-rave, you can’t venture to the mall and buy garments that reflect ballroom sensibilities specifically. The music doesn’t fit into the traditional pop radio formats. You can watch balls from afar on YouTube but in order to truly participate you must actually attend balls and gain an insider knowledge on the culture. That makes it difficult to shift into the ballroom. However, with the increase in democratic media, ventures like Ballroom Throwbacks stand a great chance of permeating the mainstream while also keeping the presentation within the control of people who actually participate in balls.

These are not the only reasons that the mainstream has a hard time pegging the ballroom. I’m not sure exactly how people feel about an increase in the culture’s popularity. It seems to be happening organically with very little interference from the mainstream, most likely because of technology.

What would be your advice to a first time ball virgin?
Be prepared for anything to occur. Be prepared to be surprised and astonished. Relax and enjoy the entertainment and jot down as many mental notes as you can as you will find great inspiration from the experience.

Do you think balls and vogue culture has changed or even effected your life?

Absolutely! I can’t imagine my life without participating in the scene. Learning to vogue greatly expanded my dance vocabulary and my ability to improvise. It helped me become more comfortable with my gender expression as well as the complex gender expression of others. It exposed me to great art, creativity and broader ways of thinking. I’m less afraid to be bold and expressive. I got to witness some of the most energetic displays of dance and individual style that I’ve ever witnessed. My short time in walking the ballroom was amazing and I’m still an avid spectator.

As you can see, Shaun's answers are definitely worth an article in their own right. Here he is in action, taking vocal duties for the Stereogamous release "Face Love Anew". This video (and song) is gorgeous: 

stereogamous feat Shaun J Wright "FACE LOVE ANEW" from stereogamous on Vimeo.