(Reprinted from www.backdroplive.com. Interview by Dr. Joseph. Upcoming dates mentioned have since passed.)
Hello Luz, firstly thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us and to visit our city for Backdrop: Sounds Of Solidarity on February 10th. As founder and resident DJ at Room 4 Resistance, we wanted to know more about your collective. When did you create Room 4 Resistance and what gave you the motivation to do so?
Hi Joseph, thanks for inviting us to Backdrop and for the opportunity to visit Newcastle.
I founded Room 4 Resistance at the end of 2014. One of the bookers of SchwuZ (Berlin’s oldest queer club) contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in curating one of the 3 dance floors during their Hot Topic party.
Hot Topic is a queer feminist project, focusing on music and politics. At the time, I was waiting for a good opportunity to start this project, which had already been on my mind for a while. Our very first night at Hot Topic was October 17th, 2014. Hot Topic was a good platform to launch Room 4 Resistance and we continue to collaborate on occasion.
For this first night, I invited my friend rRoxymore to play. I remember chatting together towards the end of the party and collecting ideas of what we could do with R4R. We saw that room / dance floor as an opportunity to book women / female identified artists and to give them – as well as ourselves – a space to perform, experiment & explore musically without any external pressures.
We felt that in general this was lacking in our scene. We wanted to build a core crew of residents DJs that would have a space to develop their skills and feel free to be musically adventurous and to explore. We also wanted to create a safe and fun space for our friends to enjoy themselves.
My motivation has always been to throw the kind of party that I would want to attend myself. In our crew, everyone is a long-time and experienced raver. It became increasingly difficult for us to enjoy ourselves when going out – to find space as queer women, to feel safe and to feel musically inspired – so throwing our own party was a good way to counter these experiences.
Is this when you choose the name for your party ? Why Room 4 Resistance ?
Yes. At the very beginning Room 4 Resistance started on one dance floor at the Hot Topic party, so it only covered one of the three dance floors at SchwuZ.
The notion of resistance had always held a very important meaning for me, both on a personal & musical level; it is deeply engrained in me.
Creating and providing a space where artists – guests & resident DJs – are totally free to take risks and play what they want without feeling pressured to please the audience is really important for us. It is an act of resistance as today the scene has become so conformist and predictable.
We also wanted to showcase artists that were not (or far less) represented, such as women, gender-queers, non-binary artists, trans artists, black artists and artists of colour.
Since the beginning, it’s always been important to us that we create a safe space for people attending our parties. We wanted to create some sort of bubble free of all the oppressive patriarchal behaviours that you can encounter everywhere else – especially when you’re marginalized – to create a kind of utopian space for the duration of the party. A space where we could feel safe to be as queer and unapologetic as we wanted. A space to be ourselves and just have fun in peace. In the extremely ‘white-washed’ society we’re living in, it is also our way to give back to this culture we hold so dear and to remind ourselves and others that its roots are in marginalized and DIY communities. This culture was originally created by people of colour (especially black and latino), queer people, trans people +++
The name of course also refers to ‘Underground Resistance’, which has always been a huge source of inspiration.
How did the party evolved to what it is today?
Room 4 Resistance slowly evolved over time, and then transformed more radically when we had the opportunity to start our own party at ://about blank (Berlin).
As Room 4 Resistance was to become a party in its own right, we suddenly had to define ourselves more thoroughly.
It was important for us to be vocal about who we are and what we stand for, as well as to focus on keeping the space safe for women and marginalized people.
As Berlin’s longest-running queer club, SchwuZ has more experience when it come to creating safer spaces for queers and marginalized people.
That does not mean they are always perfect, but they have more experience addressing questions and issues of direct concern to queer and LGBTIQ+ community.
That said, both clubs are open to criticism and discussion, which is a good thing. //about blank is not a queer club, even though it hosts a few queer and gay parties.
So, while we could rely on SchwuZ to do this community-building work for us, we had to take this on ourselves when started organizing our parties at ://about blank.
This was a real challenge and we put a lot of energy and time into thinking about how to work with the club and their security staff to keep our party safe for women, queers and other marginalized people.
I think these questions will always be there – party after party- as new challenges are coming our way almost every time.
At the end of the day I don’t think any space can be 100% safe. Even if you do your best as a promoter or as a club you cannot always control all the elements in a party. However, there a lot can be done when you’re willing to protect and provide support to the people within your own community.
We put a lot of thought and care into this, and we do our best to improve party after party.
We have Luis Manuel Garcia joining us for S.O.S also. We are very excited to meet him too! Which other members make up Room 4 Resistance?
Room 4 Resistance evolved organically into a collective after we started organizing our parties at ://about blank.
Today our resident DJs are music producers & DJs rRoxymore & Doc Sleep, music journalist & DJ Yuko Asanuma, artist & DJ Purita D., music scholar & DJ LMGM (aka Luis-Manuel Garcia) and I.
We are mostly women, queer women and women of colour in the collective… and of course there is Luis, a wonderful Latino queer cis-man. Yuki Kojima who takes care of the decoration of the party is also crucial member of our team. View her work and website here.
There is also a big group of queer friends and allies involved – The R4R crew!
They help out hanging posters all around the city, running the door, decorating the space, and so on. We’re a pretty DIY party and we do everything ourselves.
Room 4 Resistance is a queer forward collective focused on community-building and creating space & visibility for women, gender queers, non-binaries, trans people, black people & people of colour in Dance Music.
Our goals are to celebrate musical diversity, sexualities, bodies, races, queer solidarity and community — which involves our audience as much as our DJs and our crew.
Room 4 Resistance aims to create a warm & safe space for everyone involved, to focus on community-building and creating bridges between different communities.
The idea is to create an inclusive space where everyone (especially marginalized people) can feel safe, respected, empowered and free to be truly themselves, to have fun, to enjoy quality music; and to provide a space for artists to experiment and get out of their comfort zone.
Our goal is also to discover and give visibility to new emerging talents. We’re not that interested in booking massive headliners as you can find that everywhere else in the city. We really want to create a special vibe, strengthen our community and give space to underrepresented and underrated artists. Our parties truly are an experience.
We know that your party is in ://about blank in Berlin, this is a club we have always wanted to visit and have heard many great things about. Could you tell us why this venue works for R4R so well? Which other venues in Berlin have you played at or do you personally enjoy going to? The obvious clubs get lots of press outside Berlin but there are still many smaller ones doing great work and we are keen for people over here to know about these.
://about blank is run by a large collective of people and is a rather DIY club, which is one of the reasons why it works well with our project.
It is also a place where, even though we can sometimes disagree on some issues, it is possible to talk through them and move forward in a constructive way.
Also, ://about blank has the most beautiful garden in town and we love to throw daytime parties there in the summer.
In Berlin I really enjoyed playing at Gegen (a queer fetish sex party at Kit Kat Club) and at Buttons (queer party at ://About blank). When I go out to clubs I usually go to Berghain, ://about blank or SchwuZ. These are spaces I still feel comfortable navigating as a queer woman, even though they are not always perfect. I also really like smaller clubs like Ohm and I enjoyed playing at Griessmüehle, too. There are also a few other queer collectives in town throwing events that we strongly support like Faux Real, New World Disorder and Riot porn with whom we’d love to collaborate in future – although their musical focus is not particularly on techno or house music.
As well as club nights, you have done a panel discussion before in collaboration with Discwoman and The Black Madonna. Could you tell us a bit about the focus of that? Did you find people to be receptive to such an event?
Yes we organised a panel discussion at SchwuZ last summer, entitled « how to bring politics (back) to the dancefloor / political activism in dance music today » in collaboration with Hot Topic and the Discwoman collective. Panelists included: Frankie Hutchinson (Discwoman), LCavaliero Mann (Artistic director / SchwuZ), rRoxymore (R4R), The Black Madonna (Smart Bar), Avril Ceballos (Cómeme / futura). Sky Deep (Reveller Records, Reclaim the Beats, Female:Pressure) was the moderator.
People in Berlin were really receptive to this event. The panel was very well attended and it was a really interesting experience. It was followed by a club night with DJ Bearcat from Discwoman and our resident DJ Yuko Asanuma. Doc Sleep and I closed the party playing back-to-back. It was a great night!
You also have a radio show on Cashmere Radio. I have really enjoyed your episodes so far. I guess between radio, panel events and club nights you have all forms of media well covered! You must be proud to see the great work of R4R reaching ears further afield than your hometown of Berlin? Did you imagine it to be this way when you started it? (Listen to the latest episode with Luz & Kathi here.
Oh thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed our first few episodes – we started the show quite recently.
It’s definitely nice that people are starting to hear about what we’re doing outside Berlin, although we remain locally focused.
I find a lot of interest and motivation in the work we’re doing locally, such as trying to build and strengthen our community, to create bridges between different communities that would not cross paths otherwise, to create safe and educational spaces, as well as to support our community of political activists by raising money for different local organizations.
I did not imagine anything when I started Room 4 Resistance. Everything just came naturally and we just want to keep doing things that we feel important to us. I’ve been trying to define and re-define Room 4 Resistance event after event, but ultimately I prefer to see it as a project that slowly evolves and defines itself collectively through time and experience. There is still a lot of space for the project to evolve, which makes it very interesting and exciting.
We are going to prioritise the creation of safe spaces for LGBTIQ communities, women and marginalised groups at our panel discussion. For those who are new to this as a concept, could you explain why this is so important?
Safe spaces are extremely important because they allow people that are marginalized to experience themselves as they truly are, to connect with each-other and ‘to experience their culture and identities on their own terms’ (Charlotte Sykes from Siren, ‘ “Become your truth” Clubbing and Community’ – Siren fanzine #2)
We also have SIREN and SAOIRSE joining you both for the evening social and panel event and also for the club session afterwards. We are very excited to hear what you all have to say and also what records you bring! You have collaborated with SIREN collective before am I right? Are you planning to do so again?
We have not collaborated with the Siren collective quite yet, but we’ve been in touch and exchanged ideas and experiences about safe spaces, different ways to organize our parties, our strategies, the difference between our scenes and the conditions in London and Berlin…
We are now working on a big collaborative event that will take place on May 13th at ://about blank in Berlin. I’m really excited about this!
Which female or LGBTIQ+ artists in particular are some of your biggest inspirations? Either DJs, producers, promoters or campaigners.
I’m very inspired by rRoxymore both as an artist and as a friend. She is an extremely talented producer and DJ and I value her opinion a lot. When I feel a bit confused about something concerning R4R she is one of the people I ask for advice as she often puts me back on the right track. She is a driving force for R4R and I feel extremely lucky to have her in our crew.
In general I’m really inspired by my close circle of friends, the R4R crew & DJs, and the artists we host. I always try to surround myself with people that inspire me on a daily basis. I know a lot of extremely talented (queer) women who are actively working in the music industry; these women always have been inspiring to me.
I’m feeling also really inspired by the emergence of new queer, feminist and activist collectives around the world. People inspiring me the most right now are all the awesome activists organizing and fighting to try to preserve our rights, people resisting at Standing Rock and more recently to the hateful US muslim ban.
A few other artists that come up to my mind right now: Kiernan Laveaux from In Training, Russell E.L Butler, Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles, Doc Sleep, Octo Octa, the Siren collective, LMGM, Tama Sumo, Jane Fitz, .noncompliant., DJ Genesis, Derré Tidá, Courtesy, Machine Woman, Aaron-Carl, Avalon Emerson, Cherushii, Jenifa Mayanja, Larry Levan, Planningtorock, Frankie Knuckles, Paula Temple, The Black Madonna, Leah Floyeurs, Helena Hauff,Yuko Asanuma, Purita D., K-hand, Whodat, DJ Minx…I also owe Prosumer some of my best moments of the dance floor.
Not a LGBTIQ+ artist neither female but definitely a huge source of inspiration and one of my favorite DJs and producers of all time: Joey Anderson.
We know you are a passionate collector and great DJ. What can Newcastle expect from your set on February 10th?
Probably something darker, faster and on the more deeper side of things.
Just come by and check by yourself !
Do you have any particular standout sets you can recall from R4R that have really been etched in your memory? You of course had jane Fitz play last year, one of our all time favourite DJs.
There are so many of them, I will not be able to name them all!!! A particularly great and touching moment was .noncompliant. closing the garden of the party Jane Fitz also played at last September. Room 4 Resistance was her first ever European gig. This was a truly special moment as Lisa has been playing in the US for over 20 years and is an incredibly talented DJ & producer. Not only she is very much a ‘DJ’s DJ’, she is also very outspoken, political and a wonderful human being. People will start hearing more about her pretty soon I’m sure!
rRoxymore played a 2-hour improvised live set in the garden last summer and Bearcat’s set after our panel discussion with Discwoman and Hot Topic was definitely something else – I think I never saw people dancing that intensely before. That was really fun!
I also recall so many good moments on the dance floor when R4R residents DJ’s LMGM, Doc Sleep, Yuko Asanuma, rRoxymore and Purita D. played. They are the essence of the party really.
We noticed that you put a lot of attention into the design of your posters. They are really special and colorful. Could you please tell us more about that ?
Colours are very important at R4R. We like things to be colourful and we invite people to come to our parties wearing their most colourful outfits !
We’ve been working together with Stefan Fähler – an art director and illustrator working primarily in the music and film industries – since we started Room 4 Resistance back in 2014. Stefan is an extremely talented artist and illustrator and does a lot for the queer scene here in Berlin. I’d advise you to check out his work: http://stefanfaehler.com
This year we’ve decided to start collaborating with different artists every year, as a way to support up-and-coming queer artists.
At some point we just realized that we could also use R4R as a space to give visibility to more marginalized artists, inviting them to take over the design of our posters and visual identity. We’ve now decided to work with a new illustrator / designer for every party season and we’ll be inviting a new talented musical artist to join our crew every season as well.
This year we’re looking forward to working with the great illustrator Rudy Loewe. We’ve been following their work with attention for quite a while and we’re super happy to welcome them in our crew for the year. Check out their work here!
What is your plan for the future of R4R?
To keep doing our parties and try to improve them every time. To grow our family of unicorns ! (Those who already experienced our party will know what i mean by that ! )
We’d like to use the platform of the radio show to invite guests and discover new emerging talents.
We will also be traveling to Poland, France and in the US in the coming months and we hope to have more opportunities to go abroad.
We would love to organize and participate in more panel discussions as well, organize free DJ workshops and to exchange & collaborate with other collectives from both our local community and the international scene.
And a few other things we sadly can’t reveal yet! ;-))
Get in touch and follow R4R:
Mail – email@example.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/room4resistance
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/room4resistance
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/room4resistance
Hello Luis, firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We are very excited to have you join us February 10th for ‘Sounds Of Solidarity : The Power & politics of Dance Music’. You will both DJ and speak on our panel.
For those who do not know you, whereabouts are you from and where do you live now?
I’m originally from Canada, having grown up mostly in the area between Toronto and Detroit. I’ve lived, studied, and worked in a bunch of different places, which has had an impact on how I engage with dance music: Chicago, Toronto, Paris, Berlin, and the Netherlands (Groningen). I’ve been a lecturer in ethnomusicology and popular music at the University of Birmingham since winter of 2016.
What is your biggest passion? How do you spend most of your time?
My biggest passion is music (surprise!), which is why I’ve devoted my life to the study of music in its many forms. I’ve always been very musical—since I was a little kid—and my introduction to dance music was through the rave scene of the 1990s, which provided some of my best musical experiences. That said, I spend most of my time working as a lecturer: teaching, administrative paperwork, grant applications, and so on; my ‘spare time’ is often devoted to research and writing. Thankfully, a lot of the research, writing, and teaching is focused on music.
You are a member of Room 4 Resistance. We also have Luz joining us from Berlin. How did you come to join Room 4 Resistance? Have you been over to DJ in Berlin with them before?
I used to live in Berlin, and I’m back there very frequently. I had already been friends with Luz for a couple of years when she founded Room 4 Resistance. At the beginning, R4R was devoted to women and women-identifying artists, so I offered support as a male ally when I could, but otherwise I wasn’t directly involved. But over time, the scope of the event expanded to include trans*folks, queer folk, people of colour, refugees, and so on. I think my “moment of initiation” happened when Luz was invited to do a ‘trial’ version of R4R at ‘://about blank’ (a Berlin nightclub) in the summer of 2015. She called on her network of friends and colleagues to help with the logistics of running a much larger event. At that first party in the new venue, I worked at the door, helped with preparations, and played some records early on in the day. It was a great success, and R4R was booked almost every other month all through 2016. Ever since then, I’ve returned to Berlin for every R4R not only as a resident DJ, but also as an operational assistant to Luz throughout the whole event.
I recently have been fascinated by your “An Alternate History of Sexuality in Club Culture” feature for Resident Advisor. Thank you for a powerful and riveting insight.Why do you believe it is important that todays music fan understands the LGBT, black and latino roots of much of this music that fills our clubs?
When researching for this feature, which must have been very extensive, what findings surprised you the most?
I’ll skip over the first question, because I think it’s answered quite thoroughly in the original Resident Advisor article—both in my words and in those of many of the people I interviewed. Also, in light of the Pulse Orlando shootings and the general political shift towards conservatism and authoritarianism all over the world recently, the relevance of dance music’s historical origins in marginalized communities is hard to miss these days.
As far as surprises I had while researching this article: I’d say one of the pleasant surprises was the newest generation of queers. (Note: I’m using ‘queer’ here as an inclusive, shorthand term for a wide range of non-normative sexual identities, but I’m aware that not everyone in the LGBTIQANb* rainbow identifies with this label.) At the time when I was drafting the RA piece (late 2013), the ‘EDM boom’ was in full swing and it seemed to me that queer underground club culture was at risk of being both erased from history and eclipsed by the mainstream in the present. But as I searched through my network of queer(-friendly) contacts and did some internet-sleuthing, it became clear that there were a lot of new, grassroots, polysexual, sex-positive dance events going on all over the place. I was really happy to be able to finish that article on an optimistic note, considering that so much of the history was pretty grim.
That said, I should also mention a non-surprise: I was sadly unsurprised that, even though queer folks have played a central role in creating club culture and constantly renewing it, they continue to struggle for visibility, recognition, acceptance, and safety. Every person that I interviewed for that article had personal stories of harassment and discrimination, violence and exclusion. Queer underground scenes manage to survive and sometimes even thrive, but the struggle is still very, very real.
What more do you think straight promoters can do to help this situation and bring about a more diverse dance floor, while still remaining respectful?
Well, queer (and POC) audiences can perhaps seem ‘picky’ about where they party—but with good reason. As I said during a talk at ADE last autumn at De School, ‘Hypervigilance is a strategy of survival for the marginalized’. Risk-assessment and constant situational awareness is essential for those of us subject to patriarchy and white supremacy—the consequences can be dire if we get it wrong—and so there’s a tendency to be cautious about entering new nightlife spaces. And so, if queer folks aren’t confident that they’ll be safe from aggression at a party, they’re likely to not go at all. Similarly, if a favourite venue or party begins to change and feel unsafe, they’ll abandon it and go out somewhere else.
There are lots of things a promoter can do to connect with queer clubbers, and I won’t try to provide an exhaustive list (although I hope we’ll have a chance to discuss this further during the panel). Nonetheless, there are a few things that are worth mentioning here. For example, targeted outreach is very important; queer clubbers need to feel explicitly and unambiguously invited, because they have learned from experience to assume that they’re otherwise unwelcome at most events. This can take a lot of forms, such as: distributing flyers in well-established queer spaces, both offline and online; collaborating with local artists/collectives that already have a good rapport with the queer community; posting supportive statements, links, quotes and such prominently in your social media feeds; including a diversity of sexualities and identities in your visual representations—flyers, posters, emails, post-party photos, videos, and so on; and/or developing a ‘safe spaces policy’ for your event, published online as well as posted in print throughout the venue (especially in the toilets).
What more should the music community be doing as a whole to promote lgbtiq, female and minority artists?
BOOK THEM. Book more of them. Listen to their mixes / productions. Go to their events. Give them a ‘signal boost’ online and retweet, repost, repeat, and so on. Seek them out, rather than wait for more established venues and media outlets to ‘discover’ them.
PAY THEM a fair fee for their work—especially when big-budget promoters book them in an attempt to add ‘diversity’ to their vanilla lineups. One of the ironies of combating marginalization is that much of the (underpaid/unpaid) labour involved in addressing inequality falls to marginalized people. In the music world, that can take the form of: speaking on diversity panels, playing charity/fundraiser gigs, creating and running alternative artist collectives, helping festivals/venues ‘diversify’ their lineups, speaking up publicly about injustice, and so on.
LISTEN TO THEM when they talk about their experiences and call for change. It may be sometimes disconcerting to hear criticisms and tales of marginalization, but the struggle to be better to each other should never feel out of place in dance music. It is vitally important for the health and integrity of our community that we understand our failures as much as our successes.
STAND UP against harassment, both online and in real life. Pretty much any artist who speaks up in public about these issues gets inundated with hate-mail, twitter trolls, threats of violence, and so on. For many of them, the club environment isn’t always the safe and welcoming environment we would like it to be. Intervene online, to boost their message and distract the trolls; intervene offline, when you see someone struggling. With the direction that politics has been taking in the past year or so, we need our str8, male, white, and/or cisgendered allies to stand with us.
Do you have any particular standout sets you can recall from R4R that have really been etched in your memory?
R4R has only been running for a few of years—and the full-format party at ‘://about blank’ is barely a year old—but there are lots of good memories. Last September, Jane Fitz came and played a groovy, psychedelic set that had many of us running to the booth, asking ‘OMG WTF was that last track?!’. At the same party, Midwest US rave legend .noncompliant. (f.k.a. DJ Shiva) worked us all out with a techno set that was just the right combination of funky and jacking. We were both thrilled and proud to have been the first to book her outside the US, and even more so when the recording of her R4R set was chosen by Resident Advisor as the ‘Mix of the Week’. Besides that, I think that the residents-only ‘Family Holiday Special’ party we had two days before New Years Eve remains one of my favourite memories; there was a sense of intimacy, kinship, and conviviality that few parties ever truly achieve.
Which female or LGBTIQ+ artists in particular are some of your biggest inspirations?
There are too many to list, but we can start with many of the R4R resident and guest artists, such as Jane Fitz, .noncompliant. / DJ Shiva, Sassmouth, Rroxymore, Ziúr, Purita D, Doc Sleep, and Yuko Asanuma. I’d add to that DJ Sprinkles, Tama Sumo, Prosumer, The Black Madonna, the SIREN collective, the Honey Soundsystem crew, Midland, and Björk (as producer, vocalist, songwriter, and DJ). And, of course, Luz is a constant source of inspiration, as a musician, as a promoter, as an activist, and as a friend.
What can Newcastle expect from your set on March 10th?
Copious amounts of cheese and relentless cheer, in the form of disco, soul, house—a mix of classics and rare grooves.