Interview by Sean Ocean.

10 Quick Questions with Ken Vulsion.

Drawing on an East Coast punk past, Ken Vulsion picked up and set down roots as a mover and shaker within the San Francisco underground house disco and LGBTQ community. Not as just a DJ with aspirations, but a voice for the community and as its “Musical host.” As You Like It shared some questions with Ken about his past with the House music greats of SF, the Honeysoundsystem and the recent launch of his Sunday party, Club Übar, with Steve Johnson.

AYLI Nice to have you with us. Ken Vulsion is quite the name. There must be a story about how you picked up the Nom de Plume.

Ken Vulsion Terry from the Record Town at the mall gave me my “punk” name. This would have been around 1983 when I was jamming with different bands on lead vocals and mini Moog, and DJing 4-5 nights a week. Shout out to the 373 Contingent, the Bone Hunter, the Choice, the Think, Fright, RAP, X.Ø.X, Skulls TC and anyone who came to dance at Myhalyk’s. Some people are still surprised to see a different last name on my driving license.

AYLI You’re from the East Coast originally?

KV Yes, Elmira NY.

AYLI When did you come to SF and how did that shape you as a person and an artist ?

KV I road tripped to SF in 1989, loved it, and took a job here shortly after. Besides commercial work as an art director, I was also designing posters and graphics for ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) Queer Nation, Product at 1015 Folsom and Club Uranus at the End Up. As the saying goes it was anger in the streets, and love on the dance floor. There was raw, wild talent everywhere. To give an example : Drew from Matmos and Soft Pink Truth was Drew Macaroni and Cheese in those days, and go-go danced at Club Uranus in a makeshift rubber fish g-string. The head of the fish went over his cock and balls, and the tail was sticking out of his ass.

AYLI You designed the most recent posters and flyers for the Stud Fundraiser with The Carry Nation and later The Blessed Madonna. They were excellent. Rumor has it this is just one of your talents, how did you fall into graphic design for posters and how does it feel to be a part of the Stud’s resurrection?

KV The designers making the best record sleeves were always bigger stars to me than the bands. Peter Saville, Assorted Images / Malcolm Garrett, Tibor Kalman / M&Co., Vaughn Oliver / 23 Envelope, Jamie Reid, just to name a few. You cannot separate the impact of the visuals from the music. The Stud was my home since before I moved here. When Honeysoundsystem was ‘on the run’ the Stud generously hosted us for our Butt Magazine party, and an infamous Labor Day Sunday with Jeno. He got the full experience, dance floor blowjobs and all. Honey soon moved to 1535 Folsom Street which was the original Stud. Go Bang! is another party I was involved with that also moved to the Stud after losing a venue . The Stud is essential. The Stud must be rebuilt! The images for the AYLI Stud Fundraiser are inspired by my dear, departed sister The SteveLady (the first Miss Trannyshack.)

AYLI Do you see yourself as a visual arts representative for the queer community in the Bay Area?

KV  For sure ‘queer’ is part of my identity, I was around when ‘queer’ was a new thing. Not sure about ‘representative’, but I try to be the best Ken Vulsion I can be. If I’m making a giant billboard for the SF Giants the queer gaze will be there. They are some good looking boys.

AYLI You’re cited as the Co Founder of Honey Soundsystem. How did the Honey Soundsystem Collective come about and what were the goals behind the inception?

KV Honey Soundsystem was a collective of disc jockeys, musicians, performers and designers Co-founded by me and Jacob Sperber (AKA PeePlay, Jackie House) in January 2006 after seeing severe gaps in San Francisco nightlife. We were inspired by pivotal gay underground parties, and offered a take on dance music in direct opposition to what was being played in mainstream Gay clubs. Gradually we brought in other DJs with similar tastes: Jason Kendig, Robert Yang, Josh Cheon and Derek Bobus. The group bonded over a shared love of timeless sounds, iconic imagery, the complete look, indulgent behavior, and most of all, attractive men.

AYLI Over the years you’ve played many parts within the community. What part do you most identify with?

KV We are in the hospitality business. David Mancuso thought of himself as a musical host, not a DJ. I like that.

AYLI How important is it for you that the LGBTQ community have a voice and a representation within the dance community?

KV By most conventional standards Disco and House Music started in the queer / black underground. Ours is still an art form where knowledge is passed from peer to peer. The work leaders like Theaster Gates is doing is super important. It’s important to connect to the source.

AYLI If someone wasn’t too familiar with your work as a DJ, describe your sound and your history. What’s your most favorite mix that typifies your style and why do you feel it represents you?

KV Here’s what Marke B wrote about the sound and aesthetic “a genre-busting musical sweet spot in decades-spanning sets that could rightly be called ahistoric if it wasn’t so rooted in a conceptual sense of the gay past. Even playing host to such cutting-edge talents as Stefan Goldman, C.L.A.W.S, and Disco Dromo, the HNY collective foregrounded, in flyer art and party theme, an appreciation for AIDS-era icons like Keith Haring, Willi Ninja, Larry Levan, and Patrick Cowley, the local electronic music originator who was the subject of a brilliant art and music retrospective.” My favorite mix would be “I’ll See You After The Function” which was vogue/ Bitch tracks. It was an effortless, raw one take. All vinyl.

AYLI You’restarting a Sunday party  called Club Übar at Underground SF what was the main idea behind the launch?

KV There are situations in the world like Bar-Ton, Fréquence, Dirty Lemon, or getting an espresso at Panoramabar that inspired Steve Johnson and I to do something different :  a Sunday day-rave dedicated to our favorite things: great music, great drinks, and coffee.. As a result the back bar is stacked with records rather than bottles, Expect an eclectic open-to-close set, crafted as a heartfelt homage to San Francisco’s iconic spirit, paying tribute to the Lower Haight St. Players, cherished memories of The Top, Fiend, Viennetta Discotheque, Hardkiss Music, and the notorious Drunk & Horny. Classics and future classics only.

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