I recently interviewed ballroom / vogue house artist, Mike Q for Paper Magazine. Here’s the slightly-edited transcription of our Facebook conversation after his weekly DJ gig at the Vogue Knights party in midtown Manhattan.
M: HEYY JUST WOKE UP
W: Good morning. Last night was great.
M: LOL GLAD U HAD FUN
W: Was it cool for you?
M: USUALLY IT’S NOT, BUT I DID HAVE FUN
THEY ENDED AT 3:30 AM DUE TO A FIGHT
RIGGGHTTTT AFTER U LEFT
W: It broke out on the floor?
W: Ha, kinda wish I stayed… let’s do the interview on chat, cool?
M: Sure, best time for me is now. Send questions over and I will answer.
W: What are some of your favorite ongoing parties?
M: My favorite parties that I’ve played would have to be Vogue Knights (NYC), Outpost1 (Albany), Turbotaxx (BK) & IceeHott (SF), and the Night Slugs Parties in London. Ghetto Gothic (NYC) was cool, too.
W: How’d you get into music? When did you decide it was going to be your thing?
M: I got into music in a crazy way. I went out to this local party here in New Jersey in 2003 when I was in high school. That very 1st night I went, this track came on and a few people started doing this crazy dance I had never seen. It was so cool and even the track was something new to me. Seeing and hearing this made me want more of it, especially the music, which I eventually went in search of. I found more of it at a NYC Hiphop / Ballroom party. I bought some CDs, but that still wasn’t enough for me.
Some friends of mine brought the software, Acid Pro to my attention.
We played around with ballroom sounds. They didn’t even know how to use it, but me being me, I played with it, and I started doing my productions from that day, putting music out on this once-popular ballroom forum.
From there, I just made my name making music.
Physically deejaying came about a year later, which I was very scared to do mind you.
W: You never played an instrument?
M: In school, starting with 4th & 5th grades, I was in the gospel choir. In 9th Grade, I took piano. In 10th, 11th & 12th, I was in high school gospel choirs, as well as these studio classes. But I can’t sing, play the piano and I barely paid attention in those classes.. So, to make it short, NO, I never really played an instrument properly.
W: Have you ever walked or danced ballroom style?
M: No, not at all, not out in public. In the house, yes, but that’s something I would never do publicly. I can’t dance even normally. And I’m very shy so that has a lot to do with it as well.
W: DJing was the perfect role for you.
M: YES pretty much. I’d rather be heard than seen.
W: Tell me about how you got to the sound that you’re at right now.
M: My sound is a combination of a lot of ballroom house (new and classic) with a little Jersey club.
W: What allows your style to transcend the ballroom?
M: People like Kingdom, Bok Bok, and Diplo playing my tracks as well as a whole entire bunch of my other DJ/Producer friends getting into it, the Internet and technology, as well as ballroom just being something different from what everybody was hearing… a lot of people have also seen Paris is Burning or heard Madonna’s “Vogue” and of course Masters At Work’s “The Ha Dance.”
People can connect that past with this culture that is still pretty much underground and alive today. Now other producers outside of homosexuality and ballroom are getting into it and making or attempting to make/remix what we call “Ha’s” (songs based on a sample from “The Ha Dance” by Master at Work).
W: What are some ways in which the sound of ballroom and the ballroom itself are different than in the 80s?
M: Today the beats are geared more directly toward ballroom and the specific categories, but still shadowing the 80’s. The dance has also evolved into new movements and styles but in ballroom not too much of the past is forgotten. We still play the same original music at times and still have the same “oldway” style vogue categories. I’m sure most will agree and say that back then, those were the good ole days, but too much talent has come from ballroom even recently so today is as good to me.
It still has the positive aspects.
Ballroom does have its negatives, though, so being in the scene today can almost be a crappy thing at times.
M: YES AND SHADE!
W: Can you give me some basic definitions for shade, cunt, voguing?
M: “‘Shade’ comes from reading, reading came 1st” (quote from Dorian Corey in Paris is Burning) but my definition of shade is just typical Queerness at its best, just basically not liking or using somebody. Shade can become violent or in some ways good, like when you’ee walking a category.
"Cunt,” we use basically just to define femininity, or being "pussy" if i can say that.
"Vogue" is the term for the dance itself whether it’s Old Way, New Way, Vogue Fem, Dramatics or Soft & Cunt.
W: Soft & Cunt?
M: It’s like having a very light vogue, very soft, feminine movements while Dramatics is like hard dips to the ground and stunts. But all of voguing has these 5 elements: Catwalk, Dips, Spins, Hands, Duckwalks and some also say floor performance. You must have these 5 or 6 elements to truly have obtained the correct way to vogue. Anything less is basically a chop.
W: What’s the name for the movement when a dancer hits the floor?
M: That would be Dips, Shawams, Death Drops some say.
But the main term is Dips or Dipping.
W: So with the tracks on your Fade to Mind EP, do they correspond to certain categories of dance?
M: No really. What’s on there is basically neutral to me. I can play that stuff for any category almost. But mainly just Vogue
W: What’s your favorite tempo right now?
M: Right now and just about always, I’ve stayed within the 128-132 BPM.
W: Tell me about your tattoos.
M: I have a lot. I lost count. Starting with my neck I have my initials “MDC”, then had it re-done, I hate it. On my chest I have the word “redemption” really huge, it hurt like hell. Under that, I have a scorpion. My right arm has my 1st name, a cross, a pair of headphones, a bible scripture, music notes and down to my right hand, which has my zodiac sign (Scorpio) and MikeQ on my finger. My left arm has 3 stars, the word “music” written in Chinese, a music note, the word “loyalty” on my wrist, and “DJ MikeQ” on my hand.
W: How long Vogue Knights been around? What’s your role? How long have you been there? Is it a ball in the Paris is Burning sense? How does it fit into the larger ballroom circuit / scene?
M: Vogue Knights has been going on for just over a year now. My role is to be the DJ and nothing more. I’ve been there since day one.
Yes, it’s a ball in that sense, like any ball, but not totally.
Vogue Knights was initially created for people to just come and practice their performance for bigger balls and have a fun safe night out. That’s also how it fits into the larger circuit. It’s a practice round.
W: There are cash prizes every week? What is and when is the biggest ball of the year? Is this something you would DJ?
M: Yes, every week. Cash prizes range from $50 - $500 at a Vogue Knights and in a bigger ball: $50 - $20,000 (as a house) but individually I think $10,000 has been paid, but definitely a few people with $5000 and $7000 grand prizes. The Grandest Ball of Them All is the Latex Ball held at Roseland Ballroom annually, but this is not where all that money comes from. People also throw individual balls as well as organizations and houses. I have not DJ’d the latex Ball as of yet, but I’m sure I will one day. Other big balls are annual house balls, The Collections Ball, and The NY Awards Ball.
W: What’s a good example or two of an old-school ballroom track that you played last night? What’s an example of a new-school one?
M: Old school tracks I played: MFSB - Love Is The Message (Larry Levan remix), Armand Van Helden - The Which Doctor, Robbie Tronco - Runway As a House, and a host of others. New stuff: Kingdom - Stalker Ha (he is My Industry Father LOL), tracks From QB members like Jay R Neutron, B. Ames, Divoli Svere, Gregg Evisu, Beek & others, and some of my own remixes, and tons of Vjuan Allure. A simple comparison from Old to New would be: the 1991 Remix Of The Ha By Masters At Work and then my 2001 remix of that same track,”The Ha Dub Rewerk’d” released on Fade to Mind.
W: Anything else I should include?
M: The Name/Team I created “Qween Beat Productions” which was initially just a name I made to put my music under and now I have 13 members of Producers, Dancers/Dance Instructors, Commentators, MC’s, Image/Video Artists and me, the only DJ.
W: Are you the Qween of Qween Beat Prod? What’s your preferred title?
M: LMAOOOOO, no… I’m just the head man. I have future ambitions to have it as a label. Um I am on the other side, but I don’t public describe myself as Qween or Diva, I may say That I’m A Bitch, but its because it’ s true. I’m a little more masculine than the average GURL. lol
W: Lol, what’s a good example of a straight DJ playing ballroom that you enjoy?
M: This dude, Buckmaster in NC plays it. Brenmar, French Fries, Bok Bok.
W: What else are you psyched for in 2012 in terms of gigs, collabs, anything on the horizon?
M: I’m excited for everyday I wake up. It’s always something new and random coming up in my life with just an email or Facebook message. I hope people know how extremely grateful I am for them loving me and for where I am at today because before that day, I went out I never thought about producing or making music. It was never something I wanted to do, and yet I’m now traveling the world doing this. It’s too great. So just everything, upcoming music, any collabs, any gigs, they all mean much to me.
I just wanna make and play great music, and make people happy. That’s it.