As part of our ongoing local queer artist residency at Dalston Superstore Gallery, this Thursday sees the launch our next exhibition ‘Living Vivid’ by Dan Govan!
DanGovan is an Edinburgh born, camera-carrying, usually-anxious, glamour-adjacent wallflower, for whom photography was a hobby that’s grown wildly out of control. He started with snapshots of nights out in 2008, but as he moved to east London in 2011 he was naturally was dabbling in club photography by 2012. A couple of years ago he started dabbling in portraiture. Self portraits at first, exploring vulnerability and colour, muting masculinity in vivid disorienting colours. His latest project ‘Queernift’ documents the eccentric faces of the East London LGBTQ+ Nightlife Scene.
We caught up with Dan to chat about where Queernift started, some standout experiences of photographing Drag Queens and whats next for Queernift!
Hello Dan! Can you let your readers know a little bit about your background? Hi! I’m a sorta-Scottish, nerdy wallflower who’s been floating around gay clubs, pubs and shows in London since 2008. Until last year I always had a camera with me but now I mostly do over-colourful studio portraiture.
The work that you are exhibiting at Dalston Superstore, is the Queernift project which documents the faces of London’s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene. Why did you start this project? I thought it was an exciting opportunity to collaborate with and signal boost some of the local queer artists promoting their work. It’s been nice to be able to give back to this community that puts so much work into creating queer spaces, putting on so many shows and nights over the years.
How did you come to know the queer performers that you photograph?
It’s usually people I’ve met out and about! I guess it’s a community project at heart because while sometimes it will be a friend of a friend, by the time the shoot is done we’ve normally gotten to know each other a bit. It’s all people who visit, party and work in the same iconic venues and spaces that I do.
What draws you to portraiture? Whether I’m shooting events, performances or portraiture, I try to capture situations rather than things. Reactions and relationships. People are always at the core of that. The real kick comes when I manage to show people looking better than they think they look. That’s always a thrill.
Through the series there is a consistent strong use of colour. What is the significance to this?
So much contemporary photography pretends to be realistic. It’s not. There’s artful makeup and hair, lights and loadsa photoshopping. Even when I shoot people not in a lewk I still stick with a similar colour formula, because I want my work to be self-evidently fantastical, open about the fact it’s not what you’d see in the mirror, and celebrate it a bit more. Why be humdrum?
As this is your first exhibition IRL, and you’ve mainly used Instagram to showcase your work. Has social media been useful to your practice or has it been shaped by social media?
Oh queernift is basically an instagram project really, the format follows the 3-wide grid and it’s been so cool chatting to people all over the world about my work! I have another project barenift that’ll have a few pictures up at the exhibition too, that also the same 3-wide format; I fear the day instagram changes the grid!
East London’s Drag Queens aren’t known for being the most introverted of characters. So we’d imagine photographing would bring about some ‘special’ memories. Any stand out experiences photographing them ? I think my favourite shoots have been when I do a couple of friends at once, taking turns in front of the camera the energy’s always really great. I recently had a shoot with Delirium though who arrived when she said she would, packed 3 very different looks into just 2 poly bags, changed quickly, posed to the gods, and we were all done in an hour. I was amazed.
Who else in East London’s LGBTQ+ Nightlife would you love to photograph? Oh there’s tons of people that I’ve wanted to shoot for a while but we’ve never quite got it together and I feel shy about badgering them. And a few more that I never got around to asking! Rhys Pieces, Margo Marshal, Ginger Johnson, Grace Shush, Maxi More… Dozens more probably. I used to have a list that I was working through but it made me super anxious so I had to ditch it.
Whats next for Queernift?
Well I have a half dozen new shoots to post after the exhibition launches, after that I’ve no idea, more of all of it I hope? More shoots more people more followers. I’l have to think of ways to expand the formula but as long as there’s new people it’s always interesting. Of course there’s physical proof that the work exists now, I’ve no idea what effect that will have, exciting times!
Catch ‘Living Vivid’ at Dalston Superstore from Thursday 6th September till Early November!
On Saturday, the Laurel and Hardy of Dalston and legendary DJ’s, Dan Beaumont & Wes Baggaley, are joining forces to get you all bumping and thumping to some deep homosexual house with their brand new night: Bottom Heavy! Having both been prominent figures in London’s queer nightlife for over a decade and played some of the most infamous parties around the globe including The NYC Downlow, we are pretty sure that these two bottoms know how to throw a TOP party.
Despite their quite sickening resumés and having been pals for years, its actually the first time they’ve collaborated together! Don’t worry huns, this isn’t the only venture for the duo. Later in the year, Dan and Wes will be playing back-to-back at Farr festival alongside Prosumer, Tama Sumo and Lakuti!
To get you lubed up and prepared for Bottom Heavy, Dan and Wes had a little chinwag amongst themselves! Read on to find out what these two legends think about the state of London’s LGBTQ+ Nightlife, their most played records and whats on the horizon for them both!
Dan: Can you remember the point in your life that house music grabbed you?
Wes: I do actually. I was still at school and too young to go clubbing but I remember when Steve Silk Hurley’ ‘Jack Your Body’ and Raze ‘Break For Love’ were in the UK charts and on Top of the Pops. I remember the video for ‘Jack Your Body’ having a bucking bronco in it. Then there was the whole acid house /rave thing in the tabloids. I became mesmerised by it. I used to buy 7-inch singles every week with my pocket money from being really young and I remember buying ‘Jack Your Body’, ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ and Inner City ‘Good Life’ on 7inch. The first house music 12 inch I bought was Lil Louis ‘French Kiss’ in 1989/90 which I still have and still play.
Dan: I remember all those weird cartoon videos they threw together for those Chicago house records that became hits. Also remember thinking ‘who is Steve Silk Hurley and why isn’t he in his video?’ Then I got totally obsessed with Betty Boo.
Wes: What inspired you to open Dalston Superstore?
Dan: I met Matt and other Dan (DSS co-owners) when they were running Trailer Trash, and I was doing a party called Disco Bloodbath. As promoters, we often had problems with venues, and talked a lot about starting our own. Eventually we began looking in earnest and around 2008 we found the site that became Superstore. It had been empty for a couple of years before we found it. We just wanted to create a space where the people who came to our parties would feel at home, where the music, drinks and food were all good and our friends could be themselves.
Dan: What sounds are you looking for when you go shopping for records to play out? What are you trying to communicate through DJing?
Wes: That’s a tough one. I like a really wide range of different music and play various styles but when I’m looking for sort of functional dancefloor records I tend to be drawn to quite energetic stuff with lots of percussion. I’m a massive fan of the old Cajual, Relief and Dance Mania Records and always tend to gravitate towards that type of jacking type sound. I also like disco and I’m a sucker for a disco sample but I don’t like playing the same sound all night. I just tend to play what feels right at the time, could be soulful, disco, acid, techno, hypnotic deep stuff, jazzy stuff, ravey breaks type stuff, broken beat, African percussion.
Wes: You’re partly responsible for some of the best LGBTQ+ parties around at the moment including my favourite, Chapter 10. What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ clubbing in London at the moment, especially with a lot of venue closures in the last 5 years?
Dan:I personally think that LGBTQ+ clubbing is very inspiring right now. Adonis, Discosodoma, Homodrop, PDA, Femmetopia, Gay Garage and loads of others are all pushing underground queer music and culture to new places. Unfortunately the gay scene is still affected by misogyny, internalised homophobia, body shaming, transphobia and masculine bullshit, but it seems like more interesting voices are starting to come through, which means more creativity and more talent steering queer clubbing. Also it’s exciting to see groups like Friends of the Joiners Arms, Resis’Dance, and London LGBTQ+ Community Centre (all rooted in queer dancefloors) disrupting the status quo.
Dan: What do you think are the positives and negatives of LGBTQ+ clubs right now?
Wes: I also think it’s a very good time for LGBTQ+ clubbing at the moment. In spite of a lot of the recent venue closures there are great nights popping up in non LGBTQ+ clubs. Seems to be a sort of creative DIY culture happening which is great. There same is happening in other cities like Manchester with great nights like Meat Free at the White Hotel and Kiss Me Again at the Soup Kitchen. There’s some great music events and brilliant cabaret stuff going on at the likes of The Glory and The RVT. As you mentioned, the internalised homophobia, transphobia and misogyny needs to be addressed. A lot of the fetish venues have closed down and some of the bigger LGBTQ+ fetish nights in London are struggling to get venues. I do think this is a vital part of the culture that is dwindling. I reckon we need a LGBTQ+ fetish rave with good music.
Dan: Good point about all the amazing queer parties outside of London!
Wes: Can you tell me some of your favourite producers and record labels at the moment?
Dan: I love it when you find a record that you know intimately from the first bar to the outro, and it does a really long stint in your bag. What are your most played records over the past couple of years?
Wes: I’ve got a few of them. I’d say my absolutely most played record is Braxton Holmes and Mark Grant –The Revivalon Cajual, which has never left my bag in 20 years. I actually need to replace it because I’ve almost worn it out. Also the Maurice Fulton Syclops ones, Where’s Jason’s K, Jump Bugs and Sarah’s E With Extra P are go to tracks but luckily he’s just released another album of gems. The man’s a genius. There’s Kinshasa Anthem byPhilou Lozolo on Lumberjacks in Hell that came out a couple of years ago that I’ve played a lot, and then there’s that Danny Tenaglia remix of Janet Jackson –The Pleasure Principlethat I’ve owned for many years but didn’t know what it was until I heard you play it at Phonox haha
Dan: I’ve totally stolen The Revival off you. It’s pure magic.
Wes: Tell us a bit about the idea behind Bottom Heavy. What can we expect?
Dan: The main idea is so we can play together all night and I can steel your tunes! Whenever I’ve heard you play, I can hear a sound in between all your records, a sort of energy that I’m always searching for myself. It’s hard to describe, but it exists in the space between that jacking Chicago sound, leftfield Detroit stuff and tribal New York tracks. Plus also jazz, afro, techno, electro and disco elements. As we mentioned earlier, here are loads of great gay nights popping off, but I think what’s missing is a really great HOUSE all-nighter that joins the dots between all those sounds.
Wes: Haha! Well there’ll be a lot of tune stealing going on because I’ve been known to have a sneaky peek through your bag as well.
Dan: Back to your earlier point about Fetish nights. Why are they important to the gay scene? Are there any you remember particularly fondly? If you were to throw a fetish party, what would the vibe be?
Wes: With the fetish thing I thing it’s important to have those spaces where you can dress up and sort of act out your fantasies and do whatever you want within reason. I’m actually not massive into the sexual side of it myself believe it or not, but I do like the spectacle of the whole thing and the dressing up and the fact people are free to express themselves sexually at those nights without judgement. Sadly a lot of the fetish nights are also men only parties that go hand in hand with the whole gay misogyny thing.
A few years ago me and my friend Lucious Flajore put on a fetish night at The Hoist which is now closed. The night was open to everybody, gay, bi, trans, heterosexual men and women. The soundtrack was dark disco, slow brooding techno and weird electronics in one room where we also had alternative cabaret and showed art house horror movies and in the other lighter room we played disco and showed John Waters films.
The atmosphere was great but we had problems with the sound and there was no dancefloor to speak of then the venue closed. We also had a problem with heterosexual men complaining about gays (I know right? At the Hoist!). I am actually thinking about re-launching the party at a new venue and putting in a good sound system but making it more LGBTQ+ focused and making sure people know that women and trans people are more than welcome
Dan: That sounds amazing. You need to make it happen!
Dan: OK last one from me. Who is your biggest DJ influence?
Wes:That’s really tough but I have to say Derrick Carter. I first heard him play in about 1995 and became obsessed. I loved the way he seemed to mix different styles with ease and mix the records for ages.
Dan: I used to go to his Classic residency at The End religiously, and would always try and describe tunes that Derrick played to people in record shops the following week. I never had any luck. I was probably trying to describe about three records being played at the same time.
Wes: And for my last one I’m going to fire that question back at you and also ask if you have any music coming out soon?
Dan: I’ve got a bunch of musicnearlyfinished that I need to sort out. I’m going to lock myself away and do that. Arranging tracks does my nut in.
Catch Dan & Wes at Bottom Heavy Saturday 23rd June 9pm-3am at Dalston Superstore!
Can you believe its been a whole year since SofterTouch made their cosmic crash-landing at the mothership? This Thursday sees an intergalactic celebration of the rowdy, abrasive, noise intensive experiencé that has become a cult-hit! With three successful club nights AfterTouch, SofterTouch and MEGALAST as well as playing at festivals such as Secret Garden Party, LeeFest and Glastonbury, J.Aria (Jacob Aria) and Ni-ku (Nik Rawlings) are renowned across East London for their eclectic and bratty DJ stylings. We caught up with Jacob and Nik to chat about how their friendship blossomed, why we’ve heard Barry Manilow play at SofterTouch, and what we can expect from Thursday!
Hiya Jacob and Nik! For our readers who aren’t that well acquainted with you two, can you tell us a bit about yourselves ?
J: I’ve been working as a musician in some form or another since I was about 15. Loads of different bands and gigs, festivals and all that. My main focus is a vocalist and experimental producer. I started to find my feet as a DJ about eighteen months ago.
N: I come from a choral background, had a noise band when I was a teenager and ended up studying Sound Art in Brighton, and DJing and promoting went hand in hand with that. For a long time I was obsessed with voguing and that informed a lot of my earlier DJ sets, and I organised a series of voguing events in Nottingham. I’ve always been drawn to more textural, intense, manic music. I think some highlights for me so far have been playing for Boo Hoo at Südblock in Berlin, at Tropical Waste with a hero of mine, KABLAM, and at Intruder Alert in Warsaw. Travelling and making new connections is one of the best things about DJing.
You’ve been collaborating with one another for quite some time now. Let’s rewind… How did you two meet?
J: We met at a Lotic gig in Brighton and hit it off. We’re both quite unbearable so we compliment each other pretty well.
N: Jacob and I hit it off pretty much immediately (ie. we both ranted a lot). Our interests and taste clicked so when I moved up to London it was an obvious move to work together. We’re a good balance as a duo and Jacob’s happy to tell me to shut up which is important when you work with me.
Your first club night, Aftertouch, seemed to have a real underground and experimental vibe to it. Tell us a little bit about the premise behind it?.
J: We wanted to bring together experimental queer performance art with experimental queer club DJing in a way that we hadn’t experienced before in London – it was usually one or the other.
N: We had spoken a lot about how at the time (2015/16) there was a lack of queer nights that focussed on the more experimental club music we were both into whilst also making a good space for performance art and radical drag. We wanted to present a night that was darker, more confrontational, disco-free, without being too overtly serious or prescriptive.
Aftertouch provided an amazing platform for queer artists. There seems to be an abundance of amazing LGBTQ+ performance talent but a lack of spaces for them. How can London become a better city for performers?
J: There are loads of amazing things happening now. But it’s always a nightmare trying to get a venue to support you with your stuff. There’s usually always a catch, and doing something that isn’t super conventional is always a gamble. I think London would benefit from having more interesting and accessible spaces to party in. The licensing laws here are too tight, it stifles a lot of freedom when you’re regulated in that way. It needs to loosen up, and we need more funding to be put into creative outlets. It’s kind of a rich kids playground, and rich kids are boring c**ts.
N: There’s some fundamental issues being in London that need to improve that would positively impact all creative scenes and especially queer performers. Space tends to be in short supply, but so is time; without lower rent and better wages it’s impossible to take time to make work! We all need more time and space than we often have in London if we want to be able to make ambitious, honest and original work. I’m sick of seeing new build flats sold on the credibility of the ‘creative quarter’ that they knocked down. Dedicated spaces are in short supply, so hats off to the LGBTQ+ Community Centre project. Projects like that are going to be wildly important in supporting performers.
Why did you decide to move away from performance to a music-centred night with SofterTouch?
J: I just wanted to bring something really different to the Dalston Superstore programming, and to have a regular night to work on my DJ skills I guess. It had always been that I was the one that sorted the performance aspect of afterTouch and I wanted to cross over into DJing. Plus Superstore have always been so supportive of us as both friends and mentors that we wanted to do something there, something ‘at home’.
N: We’d both worked at Superstore – and for me it was a formative club when I first started coming to queer clubs, so obviously we wanted to ‘come home’. But we were also really excited to disrupt what people might expect from Dalston Superstore, and bring something a bit more confrontational and manic. It’s been a really great learning experience for both of us; we play B2B all night, and play a really frenetic and sometimes jarring combination of tracks, so the music can be a real journey. It’s kind of like an argument on the decks, but somehow it works. Oh, and generally I’ll close out with a basic bitch trance or donk remix of something so there’s that.
In terms of your DJ styles, who or what have been your inspirations?
J: My influences are all over the place. Sometimes I’m pretending I’m Black Madonna or Honey Dijon, other times it’s Aphex Twin or JLin. I dunno, I’m super messy. I get most of my inspiration from my DJ friends or by being on the other side of the desk on the dance floor and kinda peeking over to see how the DJ is working. I’m always trying to study whoever I see.
N: Big question. I think the whole of our particular scene looks to TOTAL FREEDOM as an originator. KABLAM, originally of Janus in Berlin is still my current favourites, we have a lot of choral influences in common too. Then also I always look back to the Bubblebyte party, maybe seven years ago in Peckham where AIDS-3D & TCF (then known as Craxxxmurf) played loads of insane bubbling and hardstyle – it still stands out years later, and I’ll weave in some tracks from that period throughout most sets. When I’m playing a solo mix I’ll plan a trajectory and think about the textural and emotional story I want to tell, and when I play SofterTouch with Jacob it’s much more about wild trax that’ll just about fit with whatever they’ve been playing and keep bodies moving without being too stuck to genre or tempo.
Its safe to say that you both are quite contrasting in what you play, but we’ve never experienced a dull moment when you’re both going b2b at SofterTouch! Why do you think you both work so well together?
J: It just keeps the night evolving, because the mood is constantly shifting. We have totally different tastes but there’s a middle ground, we are both trying to experiment in similar ways – just with different tracks. If I think Nik is being too bratty I’ll play Barry Manilow just to piss him off.
N: We kind of battle each other a bit and sometimes there’ll be 30 minutes of us playing tracks that mix smoothly and then you’ll have a whole load of material that shouldn’t work together but somehow does. There’s a huge range of genres we’ll play from…. and every now and again I’ll drop a lipsync track in and get on the bar. We play a lot of quite intense music but it’s all with a sense of humour.
More recently, you both brought your experimental flare to our Friday night line-up with MEGALAST! Whats in store for the next one?
J: MegaLast is our new Friday night party. It’s kind of a natural progression from softerTouch. We are bringing in challenging and experimental DJs from across the country and the continent. I guess we are really trying to shake up the kind of programming you would expect on Kingsland Road on a Friday night. We are back on August 31st for round two, it’s gonna be even bigger and rowdier than our first. I’m super excited about who we are looking to get down to the lazerpit this time around.
N: MegaLast brings both SofterTouch and AfterTouch’s music policies together; there’s artists downstairs playing more abrasive, experimental and intense music downstairs in the basement and diverse party tracks upstairs. The next one will be headlined by Object Blue whose recent release on Tobago Tracks is one of the standout records of the year for us; they’re also a regular Superstore-goer and so we’re really excited to have her at DSS for the first time