text by Ryoko Kuwahara
photo edit by Ryoko Kuwahara
photo by Satomi Yamauchi

Kim Ann Foxman × PUNKADELIX Interview

— I think it’s been about 6 years since Kim was in Japan last time.

PUNKADELIX: I haven’t been to New York for 3, 4 years. What is the music scene like now? Are there any good clubs?

KIM: It’s changed a lot. It was very hard to fill venues for a while. There was a ton of amazing DJs, but people were not so into dance music for a long time, you know? And now, it’s exploded and all the clubs are filled. And there is a lot of illegal warehouse parties. It’s going crazy. i’m honestly never there on the weekends. I’m not there enough to know what’s really going on, but when I am there, I’m like “wow, there is so much to choose from now, every night.”


KIM: Yeah, It’s really good. I have a residency at a placed called Good Room in Brooklyn. It’s one of the better places I think in New York. It’s more local scene. The other places can be… it’s hard to get a good vibe because it’s just all kinds of people who want to go to clubs. But Good Room is a good place. All the local people would go there, and other DJs would go there. It’s not trying to be fancy or anything, and you can get away with having a lot of fun in there. It’s just fun and relaxed. It’s nice because people can get on the same level and it’s very comfortable in there.

PUNKADELIX: It’s important that you are able to share the same vibe at a club. It’s same in Tokyo, but when the city attracts tourists, there may be all kinds of people and some people don’t pay attention to the music, so you can’t really share the same vibe. In Tokyo, there are small clubs where people who love music would come as well, so I guess it’s the universal thing[laughs] I’m relieved to hear that the scene in New York is good now.

KIM: Me too. Because now I can start playing in my home city. Now the market there has grown so much that I can actually stay at home and work. I love to stay home, I love New York, you know? So it’s nice because it was a bit frustrating and depressing to try to get people to come out, and people weren’t ready for it. It’s just that New York is a very pop culture, it’s like very top 40 city. And indie as well. But dance music came much later. Rock and pop was very popular. House music, more so, there was a small scene that sort of stayed but it was much more of body and soul scene, like David Mancuso at the Loft. But now there is a techno scene in New York. That’s something that’s very strong there now, and for me, that is a new thing for New York.

PUNKADELIX: I’ve been noticing some fresh techno labels from New York.

KIM: Yeah, There’s a strong underground techno scene there.

PUNKADELIX: Techno is getting a bit more popular in Tokyo as well.

KIM: Because a lot of people in the techno scene are a lot younger, the thing I do notice is that it should be a lot more open than it is. New kinds coming into techno are like, they have this sort of attitude like, “now it’s all bout techno and not about house!” And for me, I’ve always played everything. I loved techno, I love house. And it’s like that has to change because they are too stuck in their small scene. They have to be more open. I always love DJ sets that are more than just one music. It’s a great thing but I do notice that it doesn’t have to take itself so seriously. That attitude should be more open, for me. But it may be because I’m just old and I got over being that way [laughs].

PUNKADELIX: I started listening to dance music when techno and house weren’t that separated. So I like New York house like Mancuso, but at the same time, I like more avant-garde techno from Europe or electronica as well. I didn’t separate genres within the dance music I hear in the club.

KIM: Yeah. My getting into dance music in San Francisco was also good for me because when I used to go out in San Francisco, they had a really good scene. And the DJs I was really into and following like all different genres, so my ear has always been into taking different turns, you know? I get really bored with some of the DJs that only plays deep house. It’s not that it’s not good but it’s just not inspiring to me sometimes.

PUNKADELIX: It might be the same in Tokyo. It’s a bit biased. Dance music scene is underground and small to begin with, so when the genres are so separated, it gets even smaller.

KIM: It’s true. But the other thing that I noticed is that the way it’s changed is really interesting. Bigger DJs in general, their attitude is so different from when I used to go out. Now for them, it’s about playing songs that they know and they want to hear, whereas when I was going out, it was all about playing songs that you don’t know. So that’s the real journey, like playing a lot of obscure things. But now I feel like a lot of DJs play popular songs that everyone wants to hear, and I just can’t do that [laughs]

PUNKADELIX: There are many good DJs in Tokyo, and a lot of them including younger guys like both techno and house. But there are also some DJs who are only into a certain genre.

KIM: That’s ok. It’s just something that I noticed. I used to be the same way. It’s a young thing. I was more open musically, but I remember going through a phase where I was like “I don’t like songs with words, I just like rave music” [laughs].
But I was a teenager, you know? It’s like you do that also when you are young. You’re like “I’m goth! I’m only goth!” What I’ve noticed is going to places like London, the punk kids would also go to raves, and that’s really cool. They are more open, I think.

PUNKADELIX: That’s the most important thing for clubs now. There should be people from different cultures, different generations, and different sexualities, and you can still enjoy underground music, that might be the most ideal way clubs could be.

KIM: For me, I really like it when the party is mixed. It’s the most fun.

―Do you think how younger kids are listening to music digitally influence the way they enjoy music?

KIM: I do. Because when you grow up listening to anything having physical form like records, tapes, CDs even, when you buy it… It’s like I used to save my lunch money to buy a record, so you appreciate it, you know? And then you have it, and you look at the artwork and open it and read inside and it’s much more romantic in a way. And it has more longevity. The songs we grew up with, they lasted for so many years. And in the digital age, it’s great because you can get everything you want. But the shelf life of the music is so short. And you don’t really grow with the artist. It’s like you pick one song, you don’t know the whole album, you don’t even care about the whole album. Music from before could last for 20 years, and now I feel like after 3 months it can be old for people. It’s less romantic.

PUNKADELIX: That’s so true.

KIM: There is also so much information now, and there is so much music, which is good and bad, Because you discover a lot of new things and more people have the chance to do that which is cool. But at the same time, you have to filter through a lot of mediocre or just… garbage [laughs].

PUNKADELIX: I feel like I waste more time listening to music digitally than going to a record store. Of course, I mainly buy music digitally now, but the reason that I still go to record stores is there are the records that the store selected and you can read whatever they wrote about them. And you can find stuff that you would never find just streaming songs. I feel like the records you find at record stores have more values.

KIM: Yeah, me too. I do buy less new things, I still buy more records that you can’t find digitally. But if I love something, then I also want the vinyl. So I feel like the music is going to last for me.

PUNKADELIX: Do you buy classic old records?

KIM: I buy a lot of old records. I do buy new records but if I can buy it digitally and if it doesn’t feel special for me, then I just have it digitally and that’s fine. But when I get this awesome feeling where I’m jealous that I wish I made it, then I want to have the record.

PUNKADELIX: I feel the influences from classic records or Chicago house in your records.

KIM: Yeah, for sure..

PUNKADELIX: And that’s what I love about your records.What were your roots?

KIM: When I was a kid, I was really into electronic music even before I knew about club music. It was like latin free style and breakdancing music and early electro. And those are all drum machine based electronic music. Growing up in the 80s, stuff like M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump up the volume, ” and Technotronic, sort of like more popular stuff led me to more underground stuff. And then somebody gave me this very cheesy techno compilation. It was super cheesy, and I loved it! Because in Hawaii, you don’t hear stuff like that. So I was like “what the hell is this!?”

PUNKADELIX: [laughs] I see.

KIM: So I think probably Technotronic in around 89 going into, like by 1992 I got this techno compilation and then I was like, wow, there’s a whole rave scene happening somewhere in London or whatever. So I became very curious and by 1994/1995, there was a small small scene in Hawaii, and I was working at the club.

PUNKADELIX: Was it rave?

KIM: Yeah. My mom was so strict about me staying out late, so I got the job at the club so I could stay out. So I was working, and my mom was like “oh, you are working!” I was working at the non-alcoholic bar because I was underage. I was making smoothies for the ravers [laughs]

PUNKADELIX: So cute! [laughs]

KIM: And at that time, a lot of the influence was coming from California, like a lot of DJs from San Francisco, because it’s the closest place to Hawaii. Then, I moved to San Francisco. Because I heard that the scene there was really cool, so I went to an art college there so I could go to raves, basically [laughs]. That’s when I really started buying records and I was going to record shops and following DJs… I think that time in San Francisco influenced me the most, even more than New York, because I got so much knowledge in San Francisco.

PUNKADELIX: Yeah, you mentioned that earlier.

KIM: When I moved to New York, there was no scene there. That was also good for me to go record shopping, because nobody was buying those records. There was a store called The Thing, everything is 2 dollars. Nothing is sorted. So I just sit there for hours and hours and I would find a whole crate of amazing records. It was like an old DJ’s crate and everybody was ignoring those crates because they weren’t into house music or techno music. The year that I moved there was the end of electroclash and it was like dance rock. And I wasn’t into that, you know?

PUNKADELIX: What do you think would be next for New York? Not just music, but you just got the new president, right?

KIM: Ugh. New York specifically doesn’t support our president. I mean some people do, but I think it’s been really weird. For the first time in my whole life, I feel like it’s very dividing of people, and it’s very like “oh, you are one of them.” It’s very intense.

PUNKADELIX: It seems to be the trend worldwide. We see some of that happening in Japan, and there was Brexit this year.

KIM: Yeah it’s so trending.

PUNKADELIX: I wonder how that kind of trend would influence different cultures in the future.

KIM: I think it really sucks, but at the same time I’m hoping that it pushes some sort of trend for people to wake up, or at least for this side that I’m included in [laughs]. I’m hoping some kind of movement to change that attitude.

PUNKADELIX: You’re right. Maybe we can take that situation to make things happen.

KIM: Yeah, somehow. I think a lot of artists can influence other people to change that mind frame and hopefully… I don’t know, it’s either going to stay very separated, or maybe change eventually to be more open, I hope. It’s scary.

PUNKADELIX: If we look back our history, sometimes artists worked harder in bad times. It’s still kind of taboo for artists to talk about politics in Tokyo, but maybe we can’t stay that way any longer.

KIM: It’s intense though. You really have to be prepared for a lot of hate when you are vocal. Even when I posted something on my page that was encouraging people to sign this petition or whatever, and the amount of really crazy comments were so startling. You have to be really prepared for Internet trolls and a lot of hatred. But you just have to ignore and not to give a shit.

PUNKADELIX: Yeah, I think you have to be prepared too.

KIM: You have to be ready. But you know, for me it’s like I’m not a politician, and I’m not necessarily going to go on a crusade for it, but I’ve never cared about playing it safe. Because I don’t really care what anybody else thinks. So if I have an opinion and I feel like sharing it, I’m going to share it. Because if people want to unfollow you or whatever, I don’t need those kind of people to be my fan base. That’s not the kind of people that should even be supporting me. If you’re going to be that way, fine, later [laughs].

PUNKADELIX: I think that’s the way artists should be, and that kind of strength would influence their work.

KIM: Totally. And it would inspire people to make their own art that is also real and pure, maybe it would get pulled out of a place that’s real. Because pop culture is so manufactured, maybe it will start a trend of things that are more real. Pop culture is so weird now. I miss real artists. It’s less real. Everything is too perfect. It’s mass actually. It’s an equation for the perfect catchy hook. I just appreciate when things are real. When you can tell that there are some roots there that you can feel.

PUNKADELIX: I totally agree. It’s wonderful that you keep creating things to express your identity in rather underground scene of techno and house, mixing new things and your roots. It’s not an easy thing to do. Especially in this particular scene, it’s very hard to keep things fresh.

KIM: Thank you. Yeah, it’s hard. Because I guess with music, a lot of people just sort of jump on the train that’s popular. Because it’s new to them, by the time they put it out, it’s just following a trend. Even though I’m not making the trend, I’m influenced by the old stuff, but I’ve also ignored all the trends. So when it wasn’t cool in New York, I didn’t care [laughs] And then I stuck with what I loved and eventually, it gets you somewhere. But you know, I could get a lot further money-wise, if I sacrificed what I like. But I could never do that. That would make me so unhappy [laughs]

– It’s not just music but to be open and build your own style and to accept differences are what we really need today.

KIM: For sure! Totally. With Everything.

– People are frustrated and creating more art, so there are more movies about sexual minorities or discrimination. I feel like culture is crying.

PUNKADELIX; Especially now, it’s the only chance for us to know those issues. For instance, they don’t tell kids that it’s bad to discriminate on news. We used to learn that at school, but the only chance our kids can learn now is from culture. So it might be the time where artist must be vocal.

KIM: Especially to influence girls. It’s so important. But it is changing. When I first started, there weren’t many girls DJs that had the opportunity. There were local ones but they didn’t get to travel, they didn’t get the prime time, I had to work so much harder to get my name the same size, to get the good hour, you know? And a lot of times, I would show up somewhere and the DJ after me is just some random guy who is so boring, so uninspiring, and you know, they are getting paid so much more. Girls have to work harder. But I think right now is the good time because a lot of women are gaining confidence and there is a good trend to push women up right now, and pulling each other up. It’s not a competition, it’s like “let’s all do this.” Because girls should do whatever they want to do.

PUNKADELIX: You collaborated with Maya Jane Coles, right?

KIM: Yeah, she’s so lovely. She’s a really good person. A lot of artists can have this ego where they are worried about their position and kind of have to keep themselves up. I felt that a lot with other artists in general. But she really is an artist who wants to lift people up, and I think it’s really cool. People have to be like that.

PUNKADELIX: I’ve spoken to Maya before. We DJed at the same party. There are more girls DJing in Japan now, and they can play just like guys.

KIM: That’s cool. I think everywhere it’s gotten a lot better.

PUNKADELIX: But it’s just recently that things started to change.

KIM: Yeah, I’ve noticed. But it’s a good trend. People are letting them in now, which is really cool.

– I hope it won’t just be a trend, but it stays.

KIM: Me too. I think it will, it has to just keep growing. It has to. We need more female energy out there, in every field [laughs].

PUNKADELIX: That is so true!

―We accept, and we give birth too.

KIM: Yeah! Exactly! I hope and I think especially with people in our generation, I think things are going to change. It might take a long time, but there’s a lot more support for women in our age group. Because people are more open minded. So I think it’s going to be easier for the younger ones, especially.

KIM: I think there is going to be a new way of thinking, I hope.

PUNKADELIX: Did you read Bjork talking about gender in DJs recently? It was quite long, and she was talking about how she’s been discriminated before. She was DJing like every other DJ, and media criticized her for not performing. And she felt that it would have been no problem if she were a male artist doing the same thing. I don’t know if it’s true or not but.

KIM: It is true, but also people like to box people in. We like to compartmentalize things. So even for me, I’ve experienced like just in categories of your art. When I came from being involved in Hercules, I was a DJ before I was in Hercules and Love Affair, just a local DJ, but that’s what I always was. I fell into Hercules and Love Affair, and it wasn’t my project. It was really fun but people only knew me from that project. So when I left it, it was extra hard for me because when I played out, people were like “why aren’t you playing that music?” That’s what people expect from you. And that’s what they want from you. People kind of selfishly want what they expect from you. That’s why I don’t like to ever be boxed in. And I don’t like to conform necessarily to these rules like “I have to make this kind of music.” I also have another project I’ve been working on, which is a bit different, broader audience. I do stuff like that because I don’t like to be boxed in. For Bjork, of course she’s going to have a hard time DJing, because people would expect her to sing. That’s what happens to me as well, and I’m not nearly as big as Bjork, so I could imagine what she felt.
But being a woman also must be a factor in that. Because when a famous male artist reached a certain level, you could probably fart and people would embrace it, you know what I mean? They don’t care [laughs] They don’t have to try. But a woman always has to be kind of pulled apart like “Why do they do that?” It’s just different.
With music especially, it’s so powerful because you are giving people their own personal experience. And they are relating something in their life to this music because you are moving them somehow. And when you are not giving that to them any more, if you are doing something different, they take it personally. And they are like “why don’t you give me that?” .

PUNKADELIX: Especially someone as big as Bjork, she is very influential.

KIM: She’s amazing. No one can replicate being her.

PUNKADELIX: You don’t see someone as big as she is make a statement towards media like that, so I was a bit surprised.

KIM: I mean it happens, you know? We just have to remember that artists have changed too. But if you are going to a gig and you know that she’s going to be DJing, then what do you expect? [laughs]

– Madonna also was talking about how they stop playing your music on the radio once you get old, so women can’t age. She said women has to accept sexual objectification, yet we are not allowed to talk about our sexual desire.

KIM: I get really mad when people show how aging they are especially towards women. Because men can grow old but women can’t? You love Madonna then, and she looks amazing now, but a lot of people have the attitude like “oh she just stopped.” I might not necessarily like her newest music, but I really respect her, and I think she’s inspiring, a woman in her age is doing stuff like that.
It’s so unfair. When you get old, you’re just done with for men. And why do they get the power to say that we’re done. You know what I mean? Like we’re done when we’re done [laughs] Why do they get to decide even what’s sexy? We should be deciding for our selves.

– Definitely.

KIM: Someone like for example Black Madonna is really important. I think she’s really an awesome person. People talk about her being too vocal, but I think it’s good, we need someone like her that isn’t afraid to be real. I think it’s really cool that someone like her has been lifted up in the industry because she’s a great DJ, and she says what’s on her mind. People don’t always like it, but good for them.

PUNKADELIX: I’ve read her article in Dazed &Confused Magazine the other day, and I could relate to a lot of what she wrote about including her political opinions.

KIM: She’s a really good writer as well. She gets her points across really well. She’s real. But I think a lot of people are hopefully going to wake up. And maybe all the stuff that’s happening cause people to think more openly, hopefully in the future. Because if people are pushing to be more open minded, you are just going to look like a dick, if you’re staying closed. You’re just going to be like, “ew, you’re like that?”

PUNKADELIX: [laughs]

KIM: [laughs] yeah, not cool. I’m an honest artist, I’m going to say what I want when I feel it. But I’m not on a crusade to… you know, I just want to live my life and whatever. It’s not everyone’s job to do it, but it’s good to do it when you feel like it and not be afraid to be honest about who you are and what you think is good. You don’t have to feel guilty because you’re not that person. I’m not really that person. I’ll talk when I feel like it, but I don’t need to do it all the time, because I’m just not like that. For the people who are shy, it’s good if they can inject it into their art and sort of express it in another way.

– Not everyone has to be vocal, but I just want everyone to think.

KIM: Everyone should be aware. Everyone should at least have confidence within themselves… because a lot of women just accept their place that society has put them in. And we just have to be aware within ourselves that we don’t have to follow those rules.

– Not just gender issues, but there might come the day when we are in war without realizing it was coming, so we should all be aware of what is going on around us.

KIM: For sure. We are at a weird strong edge right now. It’s very scary in the world. It just makes me feel more compassionate towards other people. Because when you hear about something somewhere else, it’s sort of like a story. It’s not happening to you, so you don’t feel it as much. But then when you start to fear for your future and what’s happening in the world that could be affecting you, it makes you find compassion for other people more so, and hopefully that will change what’s happening.

PUNKADELIX: Yeah, hopefully, there would be more people who feel that way. Not just the people who only care for themselves, but I hope there would be more people who can be compassionate towards other people.

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