*Download the mix here
You may know about voguing, that extravagant dance that became popular in 1990 when Madonna adopted it in one of her videos. But if that's all you are aware about this culture, then you know almost nothing. That was the tip of the iceberg. Below it, there was a huge underground movement that ruled some of the preeminent gay clubs in New York and New Jersey in the late 80s and the early 90s. Last year, the Soul Jazz Records anthology, "Voguing: Voguing And The House Ballroom Scene Of New York City. 1976-1996", brought to a wider audience a way of living, dancing and feeling music that has travelled parallel paths alongside garage and deep house. The compilation was titanic, split over three CDs featuring all-time classics and hidden gems from Latino, gay and black house producers. There was also a book published alongside the release, including essays and photographs that completed the picture.
But the truth is that ballroom -that was the name of the scene- has never died. It went back to the underground, the same underground where it started, and has been there for many years, mutating and surviving. Today, ballroom has experienced a new wave of attention thanks to a crowd of experimental club producers -mainly the Fade To Mind and Night Slugs crowds- fascinated by the jacking energy of the new tracks that have emerged from the ballroom circuit. There, MikeQ is prince. This young man from New Jersey has capitalised the attention towards ballroom with dazzling mixes and sharp productions posted on his Soundcloud, which is something like a streaming label called Qween Beat.MikeQ is one of the participants in this year's Unsound festival at Krakow. It will be his first festival appearance ever (exclusive!) and before that happens, he agreed to talk to us about his work, the ballroom continuum and the fascinating bastardisation of house music, alongside a mix of brand new productions from the current ballroom masters. Ready to go wild?
After the photo-book and the Soul Jazz compilation, alongside your success last year, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know what ballroom or voguing is. But maybe there are some readers that have no idea about the movement. Could you please explain in your own words what ballroom is?
Ballroom, not to be confused with ‘Ballroom Dancing’, is a large long running underground scene of talent. Usually occupied by LGBT members, it can almost be prepared to fraternities having houses With Mother & Father figures built up with members who compete in various categories ranging from Realness, To Runway to Vogue dancing, which is broken up into categories even further. Out of this scene has also come its own genre of music to go hand in hand with these various and endless categories.
You have been involved in the scene since 2004. How has the scene evolved from that moment until now?
Since 2004 the scene hasn't really evolved much except maybe gaining more members or unfortunately losing many due to the AIDS epidemic running rapid in our community. More of the change can be noticed from its early years to now, which is just like the way people dance and the moves they do. It's more broken down and dramatic in some cases. Although it has slightly evolved we still honor the old way of doing things. The music has also evolved, as when before it was just regular house music tunes that were used to walk to, now we make our own beats for these things too.
You have been named the prince of modern ballroom. So, who do you consider the royalty of the (old & new) ballroom scene?
Well I don't really like to take titles as I just like to be me. Although people may see me as one I would never like self proclaim to be a Legend or anything. The royalty in the scene are mainly people that have either been in the scene for 20 years, 30+ for some, or just people who have made or are making a huge impact in the scene and there are many!
I guess it’s very different to play your sets in a ballroom party, rather than a bass or house music party in a European club, but what are the main differences?
It is different only because I am playing a type of music that was once ONLY used in this scene, but at the end of the day it's still music, it's catchy, people like it and I enjoy playing it and mixing it with other genres during my sets. Another difference is that a lot of these people don't even know about ballroom, but they are still out there getting it in the clubs and I enjoy that so much.
Now you have been traveling a lot around the world. Did you find the ballroom scene is somehow spreading in other places besides NJ and NY?
The scene even before I came into it was a widespread thing as far as the US goes. NYC is the Mecca but there are balls in LA, Houston, Atlanta, Boston, DC, The Midwest and I've even dj’d one in Japan. It's just still so underground nobody knows this. People even think vogue is reemerging which is untrue, it never left or died even 1%. You just didn't know about it.
What was first for you, producing or DJing? And why did you decide to start doing the other one?
I started producing first which was totally random, I taught myself everything I know thus far. DJing, which I never even wanted to do, just came along with the territory maybe a year after I started producing, I love what I do and I can’t say it enough, I’m glad to have found this way of life.
People who have nothing to do with the ballroom scene know you through labels like Fade To Mind or Night Slugs, and their bosses Kingdom, Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990. How did that relationship start?
Well it's like a long story with that. Kingdom and I randomly DJ’d a party together in NYC, we exchanged a few words but didn't pick up the point until he moved to LA and then it went from there. He is the Father! Bok Bok, if I'm not mistaken, I just met in January of this year, but we had been talking for maybe a year beforehand and I even had knowledge of his girlfriend Sarah before anybody. It's a small world though, everybody knows everybody. L-Vis I just met 7 days ago in NY at my party and then we played together last Saturday, he's amazing much respect to him. I love them all, they are family in this music thing.
Your production work is a mixture of that “diva bragging” feeling of the first ballroom music, mixed with other current genres. What kind of music (genres, artists, producers, labels) influence your production the most?
I can get influenced by anything, house music is a big one, vogue dancing, some hip hop I can hear and be like "oh that would make a nasty beat" and even just another DJ playing his set could influence me to want to go home that very minute and make a beat.
You are also running a label called Qween Beat, its Soundcloud account has plenty of free downloads but there aren’t any official releases. What are your plans regarding the label?
Yes I wouldn't call it a label, it's not super official yet, but trust we are on the way, I plan to have the first release the second we enter 2013, which will be like a showcase of me and my 14 or 15, or 39 members that I have.
You’re playing the Unsound festival in Krakow this year. What do you expect from the festival and what should the crowd expect from you?
Well it is my first festival ever, I am on the bill alongside good friends of mine which should make it even more fun, being that I’ve never done one before I really don’t know what to expect, besides a lot of people. I plan on just giving them ME, doing what I do from NJ to here... Same way just good loud, music and fun.... I can’t wait.
Could you explain us how you recorded the mix and what you wanted to transmit with it?
I recorded the mix here in Berlin, didn’t take long as I knew what I wanted to do already. It’s basically a highlight of the many talents in and outside of the ballroom scene, I mostly highlighted music based around my Qween Beat team, just to give people a taste of what’s coming from us in 2013, be ready!
Once a member of the influential Anti-Social crew and now full-time Deep Medi artist, V.I.V.E.K. lives in a permanent st...
Living in the Reunion Island for almost a year, Jazzanova’s Alex Barck may seem to be living in Paradise. But he doesn’t...
The mysterious Arandel gives us “Neige”, his homage to Christmas with tons of traditional songs arranged in an electroni...
Johan Agebjörn of Sally Shapiro fame gives us a big dose of his passion for eighties synthetic disco and previews us an ...
Active for ten years in the depths of the underground, and now ‘discovered’ by Scratcha DVA for his brand new DVA Music ...
Sam XL, the British expat rooted in the LA bass underground, shows us the history and the sound of the huge Pure Filth S...
Next week, the Scotish duo known as Clouds will drop his new smashing techno 12” for the Turbo label, called “Tannhauser...
Enrique Mena, alias Svreca, is the man-label par excellence in Spanish techno. In charge of the exquisite Semántica Reco...