At this time last week I was preparing to leave Paris, FR, after 3.5 amazing months there.
At this time this week I am in Seattle, WA
preparing to spin after having spun my final set at BedlamBedlam, a new store opened by one of my close friends, Suki Valentine and her husband, Shea.
I flew in to not just DJ the premiere weekend events, but also to assist with the actual store production in it’s final days leading up to the grand opening. It was a mad rush right up to the very last second, but that kind of executional environment happens to be a specialty of mine. I operate very well under pressure and the diversity of my experience means that there wasn’t a single task I couldn’t take on. Everything from electrical work, vinyl cutting and application, construction/carpentry, A/V, merchandising, social media roll-out, etc, the works, you name it. It was nice to put all those skills to use again and to know I’m as sharp and well versed as ever. Helping my friends is the best possible cause so I was glad I was able to put my skillset to use for that purpose.
On top of the production work, I’ve also spun a series of live sets for in-store events, created epic playlists for the store, and photographed the goings on (simultaneously DJing and photographic events is not easy, heh). It’s been a strange amalgamation of my past and my present. When I was originally asked to DJ for the store events, including a fashion show, I thought it might be a joke. It had been nearly decade since I was behind decks, during a time in my life that was a million miles from where I am now. The technology has changed dramatically (I used to record my sets on long-play cassettes) so it was a bit of a challenge to do everything digitally from scratch (no pun intended), but I pulled it all off in a pretty spectacular fashion and added a lot of new tools and techniques to my audio arsenal in the process. My musical taste has certainly changed since that time too, well, “expanded” I should say. That proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword.
It is unfortunately, painfully, obvious that I am just not part of this subculture any more (something I also experienced with the hardcore videogame culture in my last job). I’ve evolved as a person and while I still retain aspects of the subculture as part of myself, I’m certainly much broader in scope as an individual than can be associated with any one particular group. Yes, I’m of course connected through the music, in a way, but I’ve found that as I have changed, and that which I introduce those changes, it’s not often met with a sense of acceptance, especially when applied to something as rigid as a specific subculture. The image is rooted in tradition, no matter how “anti-traditional” the image is. People want what they are familiar with and straying from that, even into a space that is more authentic or situationally suited for the environment, tends to incite conflict. I’m not saying I’m some progressive or creative genius or anything like that, just that I try to encourage the evolution of all things. To be open to the possibilities that something unknown can work within the context of what you are familiar with. As an example, here’s a small sampling of the tracks I used for the BedlamBedlam reception set I mixed.
Satan (Live from Irvine) – Orbital
Still – Neotropic
Radio Babylon – Meat Beat Manifesto
Moya (7″) – Southern Death Cult
Ostia (The Death of Pasolini) – Coil
Papua New Guinea – The Future Sound of London
Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron
Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen – The Faint
Chainsaw (Josh Wink Remix) – Skinny Puppy
Stopwatch Hearts – Delerium
You Can’t Go Home Again – DJ Shadow
I was asked to keep it generally down-tempo and low-key. This was a reception, not a dance party. I was billed as spinning Trip-Hop, Ambient, and Darkwave, and while I am familiar with all those styles of music, I am not really devoted to any one of them. Now, a lot of those tracks above are not any of those three styles of music, but when well sampled and mixed, they work into a marvelous dark electro-ambient landscape. More-so, each track was explicitly, deliberately, chosen for personal significance to the people in attendance. The opening sample in the live version of “Satan” is something Suki and I still reference to this day. “Assimilate” is an industrial classic and a staple of my old sets, the remix I used for this set fit the event but still was able to call back to those days. “Destroy Everything You Touch” is one of Suki’s favorite tracks. “You Can’t Go Home Again“, well, I’m sure by now you can guess why I put that in there. I can go on and on, but you get the idea. The entire experience was designed to have significance, even if it didn’t fit exactly into the genre scope I was assigned. To me, that is the essence of producing a meaningful set/event/photo/etc. A personal connection trumps guideline/genre confinement, especially when you can still operate within the boundaries of the theme. That is what having passion about something is. Well, to me anyway.
My in-store sets have been much different. Crazy uptempo, epic, sprawling, sets full of old and new. Although the store’s theme is “Goth” (which also usually bends backwards into 80’s, New Wave, and Post-Punk) I’ve been straying far more into Industrial, EBM, Synth, Electro, and even a bit of Metal. As it is, I’ve been banned from mixing The Misfits into my sets and that is extra-ordinarily disheartening to me. I’ve caught some flack for some of my choices (Southern Death Cult is ok, The Cult is not.) and some I’ve been able to sneak under the radar because they fit so well (Devils Never Cry, Bloody Tears) and I know how to mix them. Pushing boundaries like that was one of the reasons I was originally noticed and picked up by Nintendo (mixing classic Nintendo tracks into my cool-down sets). Pushing those limitations is progress and imagination.
In any case, it’s been an experience. Originally I was going to make Seattle my base of operations for a while. The start-up scene, tech industry, and creative environment are very strong here and there is a lot of great job potential. Unfortunately, the housing situation that was proposed to me did not manifest as planned and, well, I kind of need one of two things to get the ball rolling in most places. A place to live or a well paying gig. With one, the other can usually be secured very quickly. Without either, being particularly effective at anything becomes a challenge. So, with that, it’s time to move on. I definitely still feel that there is potential here though. I’ve made some amazing contacts across all different kinds of industries and I could probably integrate very quickly here, but now is just not the time. It’s been a good lesson in saying “No.” and understanding what I don’t want. Both of those being kind of opposite scenarios for me. The former in that I’m not going to just be ambivalent about things and the latter in the way that I do have such a better idea about what I want in my life, especially after Paris.
During the reception one of Suki’s closest friends asked me if I live in my own “Kyle World”. I asked her what she meant (I’m not fond of that phrase) and she clarified. She said that it seemed like I didn’t quite fit into any of the traditional group dynamics around me, especially for the store. That I seem to live outside of my given environment, observing or affecting it externally via my photography, music, work ethic, etc, but never becoming an actual part of it.
It was an interesting observation. In a way it’s true, given my natural adaptability and ability to play a role that is needed while still holding on to some base element of myself. Maybe I’m out of practice after Paris, where I was just able to be myself 95% of the time.