Calling anyone the king of a city's underground nightlife may sound like hyperbole, but in the case of Seattle's Nark it is the wholehearted truth. The DJ, promoter and magazine editor is, among other things, the mastermind behind Dickslap, a party lauded by Vice as being the single-handed saviour of the city's nightlife. We are absolutely thrilled to have him join us on the stellar lineup for Les Poppeurs this Saturday, so we caught up to chat Pride politics, 21st century promoting, and upcoming plans in the pipeline!
Hi Nark! We can’t wait to have you play soon for Les Poppeurs! Can you tell us a bit about your party Dickslap in Seattle, and how that’s developed over the past five years?
It started as punk rock and it just got dirtier and more dark and sleazy and sexy over time, but always it’s encased in camp and inclusivity. First we were able to change the city regulations, then we were able to change the hearts of people afraid to mix together with other people (i.e. gay guys with straight girls, daddies with drag queens etc etc), then we just started taking all our clothes off. The party has been able to accomplish so much, it’s become its own lifestyle really, the lifestyle of the poor and shameless.
The history of Dickslap is quite a remarkable one, particularly in light of the nightlife economy of London’s recent struggles in the face of councils and licensing. You basically won! How have you seen that impact queer club culture in Seattle since?
Enormously so. I mean, before our battle with the liquor board, their policing was so pointless. They would come into parties and make us shut off John Waters background projections because it was considered offensive, to a room full of adults - adult queers at that, my eyes still roll so hard when I think of this. When all this stopped, we knew we couldn’t exactly do whatever we wanted, but the ability to at least act more freely and get away with more rule-breaking was possible, and more parties were able to open up.
London Pride is fast approaching, and with it comes the usual questions & issues of homogenisation and corporate sponsorship in the community. We are really interested to hear about the alternative pride event that you run in Seattle. What inspired you to start it?
This is an interesting topic, and one I could probably talk WAY too much about, but I’ll try to keep it brief.. Homogenisation.. well, let’s face it, the actual pride festival, it’s not really so much for gay people anymore, it’s for straight couples and kids. Is this a bad thing? No of course not, visibility and equality is important! But for us underground party people, we obviously want something different out of our weekend and it does not involve seeing baby strollers. Sponsorship is necessary, and important; in theory, that is the money that is put in the pockets of the creative people you came to see, unfortunately, for most, that has become rather diluted in several ways. That being said, there have been some awesome supporters of Nark Magazine over the years, including Absolut Vodka, Steamworks and local businesses, and whatever they have been able to spare has always gone immediately to the performers.
Honestly, issues that really boil my blood this year are gay publications all up small promoters' asses about having them PAY thousands of dollars to advertise or talk about their pride events this year. If you are a gay publication and you talk about gay pride, you write up whatever you think is cool or fits your publication style, you don’t ask your subject matter for money, it’s ridiculous. Just as much, it’s always been important for me to make pride a time to give back and at least one of our events always has a beneficiary, usually Gay City, our local free HIV testing/education centre. If you’re going to make money off gay culture you owe it to the community to give back, even the smallest amounts, and I see almost no one doing this in Seattle still.
All the ranting aside, the whole reason I started enjoying pride was because when I moved to Seattle I found that there were events and outlets that were for me and that made me feel the 'pride' that weekend, weird shows and underground parties and punk shows and things that weren’t “pay money to go to the park and witness a massive circuit party” or whatever. This I wanted to perpetuate and offer a balance of gritty to mainstream events with a weirdo twist that can appeal to everyone. In the (approved) footsteps of JD Samson I adopted the Pride is for Everyone mentality and motto, and honestly, to see everyone come together from different cliques in the gay community and also the straight community and party together is the most awesome feeling of Pride.
With social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram taking an increasingly bland, moralistic & body-shaming approach to their so-called “community standards”, do you see this causing promoters to take a more hands-on or DIY approach to promoting parties?
Well I would hope so, I am still in the mindset that you must be hands on as well as internet based when it comes to promoting, although when time is short or supplies are limited then of course social media is the place to make it happen. It’s super hard to get advertising to slip through the cracks in the rules for most parties I do, as they have ridiculous names or what is to be considered “graphic” content. But a promoter's number one job is to adapt and reinvent the wheel every day, and this is why we will all go to an early glittery grave. When all else fails, I live for a good wheat-pasting campaign.
Oh gosh, anytime I get to work with any of those guys and gals it is amazing, my dream collaboration would have to be a million-hour long party so I could bring everyone together and mix them with all the fierce unknown DJ and music people I love so much. I would love to do a bunch of female performer only warehouse parties, that would be way cool, but is it ok for a guy to do that? I have no idea.
My top two people I want to have out though and hopefully will in 2017 are Xosar - I’m obsessed with her boiler room set and live setup, and KiNK - I idolise his performances and watch videos of them all the time, it looks so fun to be a part of. I’m starting a campout techno-type weekend this summer in Washington state and it would be amazing to have him there one year. DJ Sprinkles is also high on my list for this, but I am also thrilled to be having my gal Perrine aka La Fraicheur out from Berlin to headline this year’s inaugural bash.
Which up-and-coming artists are you most excited about?
My Label Bottom Forty will be doing it’s first vinyl pressing later this year with a Doc Sleep EP and I am really stoked on it. Her production style is so solid - minimal and sexy. She’s a super dedicated and talented person and soon everyone is going to be wanting a piece of her. I’m also having Vain Hein up from San Francisco for pride this year and I know little about them but I have a feeling I am going to be 'yasss'ing so hard for their performance.
If you were to take us on a date in Seattle, where are we going to eat, drink and dance?
This is my favourite thing to do! Many first time visitors to Seattle have been on my little tour of things that make me love the city. We’d start with driving around some of my favorite neighborhoods that are full of trees and crazy houses and view points, and then go down the hill to Lake Washington (and go for a dip if it’s summer time), we’d have drinks at my favorite bar called Montana and have some famous Rachel’s Ginger Beer and then go around the corner to Kedai Makan for their amazing Malaysian food and head over to The Eagle or Pony for some serious faggotry - of course. Depending on how the stars align, there may be some seriously weird and amazing drag shows or queer house parties going on as well, and all along the way running into so many characters and queens and creative misfits on the streets. Seattle nightlife isn’t as populated as many big cities but it is endlessly diverse and dynamic, there’s always something to do to suit anyone's taste music or venue-wise (from fancy clubs to a maze of old train cars converted into a Chinese restaurant/karaoke club/tiny dance party space) and there is little cultural/sexual segregation going on.
In three words, what are you planning to bring to Les Poppeurs?
Popper Heightening Disco
And finally, what do the next 365 days hold in store for Nark?
That’s such a crazy thing to answer, there is so much unknown. This campout will be very exciting, and record releases (both my own Nark releases and our Bottom Forty label releases) are going to start stacking, including some really cool remixes I can’t talk about yet. I’m probably going to get priced out of my apartment within a year as Amazon couples come in and take over our neighbourhood, so who knows where I will go then, maybe I’ll start living in the woods and make techno for squirrels!
Catch Nark at Les Poppeurs this Saturday 4 June from 9pm-4am at Dalston Superstore!