Before I begin I would like to state for the record that the names of the people involved in the Portland Oregon and Washington DC ‘scenes’ mentioned in this post have been changed. I changed some because I honestly can’t remember them, and I changed others in the hope that they have at least evolved a little bit over the last twenty years. I have also changed the names of clubs. If you ask me who these people really are I will not answer. If people haven’t changed they will say I am lying and will pretty much be outing themselves, which will kind of prove my point. I will post their real names, if I can remember, and such responses in this blog for the whole world to see if they occur.
I thought long and hard about writing this. There are so many women out there spinning right now, and that makes me very happy. However, it makes me sad that some of these women are experiencing some of the same sexist crap that I encountered twenty years ago. After hearing really fucked up stories I feel like I should tell my own.
I moved to Portland in 2002 after a really bad relationship went south. Before that I had been in a really disastrous marriage so emotionally I felt like I had to get out of the area I was living in. My mother had moved to Oregon about ten years before so I thought that Portland would be a good choice for me. Back in the 80’s and 90’s Portland had a reputation of being infested with WAR (white aryan resistance) skinheads. When I went there in 1991 I had a run-in with one, but by 2000 they were long gone.
Before I moved to Portland I had never been a DJ, so I brought none of that baggage with me. Nobody knew who the hell I was so nobody had any preconceived notions about me. During that time I dressed up a lot when I went out, which was about the complete opposite of how I had dressed ten years before. It was partially due to being newly single and stretching my wings. There was definitely some jealousy that reared its ugly head pretty soon after I moved there. Most of it came from a chick that I’ll call Esmerelda. Esmerelda got most of her wardrobe from Hot Topic and her main goal in life was apparently becoming the ‘scene queen’. I didn’t think bad of her because of the Hot Topic fixation, rather her obsession with scene status alarmed the hell out of me. Oh, and she had the hots for a male goth DJ named Tarzan. Tarzan knew this and perpetually lead her on to make her seem like she had a chance when in reality she didn’t. At one point I hooked up with Tarzan. One of his friends actually asked me if I had indeed hooked up with him. Since I had no shame I said yes. A few days later at a club Tarzan comes up to me and tells me that I shouldn’t have talked about hooking up with him because he likes to keep his personal life private. I, in turn, told him that he ought to get new friends then because they are the ones who asked me. I’m 100% positive that he didn’t want Esmeralda to know about any of this because he enjoyed leading her on. Basically I was slut shamed, so as you can imagine I told him to fuck off. I never spoke to him after that.
There was one other person from the San Francisco Bay Area in the the scene and her name was Davina. I didn’t know her before this because I hadn’t been a fixture in the SF Bay Area scene, however we knew of some of the same people and we both hated the uber gooberness of some of the clubs there. She was a DJ, and offered to teach me since I showed an interest in it. It really wasn’t that difficult and I begun to spin at the same club every once in a while. I actually had fun doing it, and I tended to spin music that the other DJs either didn’t have or didn’t know even existed. Remember this was the era in which really shit EBM and synthpop music was taking over the clubs. I was one of the only people in that town at the time who was spinning deathrock and goth rock. I even spun some of the deathrock revival music that had started to come out during that time.
One night I spun and barely anybody danced. I was a bit drunk and said kind of loudly in the club to some friends that a lot of people there had a shit taste in music. Not everybody could hear me and I didn’t direct that statement towards a specific person, I just meant in general. Should I have said it? Maybe not, but I was speaking the truth. What most of the people wanted to hear was repetitive boring crap. Well, apparently two scene queens from Seattle who were visiting heard me and complained to the self appointed goth scene king Urkel. Urkel was a DJ who only spun the EBM and synthpop repetitive crap. Being the passive aggressive coward that he was I didn’t hear about any of this until the next day when he sent me an email demanding that I apologize to the two women. I had no idea who these people were and since I did not direct my ire at them at all I didn’t feel like I owed them anything. Fuck that. Urkel didn’t like that one bit. Not only did he say that deathrock sucked he also threatened me with goth club banishment. Seriously, he told me that I would never DJ in Portland ever again. I think there was definitely some sexist bullshit going on because he was used to people bending their knee to him, but when a woman wouldn’t do it they deserved threats of banishment. By the way it was Urkel who screwed up when Convergence was held in Portland in 2007. He failed to book some venues and some of the bands were decidedly not goth in nature. A couple of years after I left he started to DJ deathrock music, because of course he did.
Around the same time as all of this I met somebody online who lived in Washington DC. I flew there to visit, everything went fine, but when I moved there he suddenly had the urge to tell me that he didn’t like me in ‘that way’. I was pretty heartbroken, but I stayed in DC because I had a lease and didn’t want to shell out thousands of dollars to move out early. At this time I found out about a goth club called Gothik and I went one night to investigate. The music was just about the same crap that was being played in Portland which was pretty intolerable, but I did meet a few cool people so it wasn’t all bad. I talked to the promoter of the club, Edwin, who was a guy in his 50’s about wanting to guest DJ there and he said I could. Well, I spun my usual kind of music and some people would dance so I did okay. I would get people coming up to me saying that I spun really good music but that the local scene was filled people who had a bad taste in music. Their words not mine! You know things are bad when various people tell you exactly the same thing about a local scene.
During this time I was also a guest DJ at another club night that was run by a guy named Dizzy. Dizzy had a girlfriend but I and others were made to believe that it wasn’t serious, so I messed around with him a bit. Then he ghosted me. Seriously, the guy was a piece of shit and I wasn’t the only one he did this to. Since he was one of the only goth scene promoters there was almost no way of getting DJ gigs, except for the club Gothik. Around this time a resident DJ spot opened there. I interviewed with Edwin and the one resident 22 year old DJ named Sophia. Sophia only ever spun synthpop and EBM so I told them that I would be a good fit since I spun music that just about nobody spun and that fact would attract more people to the club. Some people didn’t like the club expressly because the club’s music was boring, so I made a good point. Did I get the gig? Nope, and you know why? Because I didn’t own enough synthpop music. Wahahahaha!!!!!!
What made that whole situation even more funny was the fact that Sophia never bought any of the music that she spun. She illegally downloaded 100% of the music that she played. Her excuse being that she was a poor student and couldn’t afford to buy music. She actually told me once that if I wanted to hear goth rock and deathrock music that I should make some CDs for her because she didn’t know about that kind of music. I’m not even kidding about that. Oh hell to the fucking no. It’s her job to know about the damn music and I was not going to give her a rope to climb out of her cesspool of really crap synthpop. There were quite a few special people in that scene, so here is a short list of them.
-A male DJ named Dinky who promoted himself as a professional DJ, but all he would do was load a pre-mixed CD into the player and just stand back for an hour. Like Sophia he illegally downloaded all of his music. Proven by the fact that he claimed that Cry Little Sister, from the Lost Boys soundtrack, was by the Sisters Of Mercy. He also thought that all goths got into the music through Marilyn Manson.
-A male DJ named Binky who could never get gigs and said that I only got one because I was a woman. He was so bitter that he told me this on several different occasions.
-Edwin, the promoter, was very creepy and it was well known that he would hit on the young women who went to the club. I didn’t fall for his crap because I was over thirty.
-The group of DJs who opened a goth club night the same night as Gothik, which was just down the block. An example of how promoters worked against one another instead of together.
I decided to leave when my lease was up because the scene was so damn toxic that there was no way I would ever be happy there. After all of that I was never a DJ again, because all of that drama was just way too much for me to handle on a regular basis. Both cities had very toxic goth scenes and I truly feel sorry for the young people who wanted into the subculture during that time. Please don’t think that everybody was a narcissistic jerk in both cities because they weren’t. However, a lot of the people were too afraid to ever speak up because they didn’t want to lose their scene cred. In my opinion those particular people were just as guilty.
I really hope that things have changed in both of those cities. Do I still hate all of those people and wish them a horrible death? No. The reason being is that some people do change over time and end up the exact opposite of who they used to be. I’m all for people redeeming themselves, because I have changed a lot. I am now in a happy marriage and living in the U.K.. Plus, I have opened my mind a bit when it comes to electronic music in general. Do I still think that some EBM and synthpop bands suck? I will never willingly listen to VNV Nation, and if you ever see a positive review of them on this site you know that something bad has happened to me.