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grateful to be given time and info from people at the forefront of the ballroom scene, so I am going to be post those unpublished interviews in full here on Cunty blog.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: 


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