We catch up with the person whose club night changed fashion and music across the world as the GHE20G0TH1K label launches
Black and brown women and queer people making the dancefloor their own. Gothic rap, ballroom, industrial and Jersey club all rammed into each other. Clown make-up, brightly-dyed hair, and Hood By Air. These are just some of the hallmarks of GHE20G0TH1K, founded in 2009 by New York’s Venus X.
It began as a space to channel aggression with dark sonics and visceral dancing, with the aim to shatter the illusion of goth being exclusively white. Hosts and voguers would exchange magic in an environment influenced by local subcultures, Aaliyah and the internet. The roster of artists who’d form Fade To Mind span at GHE20G0TH1K, as would Venus X, often DJing impromptu B2Bs with HBA’s Shayne Oliver as the night moved from basements to warehouses. Its influence extends far beyond NYC, with Dan DeNorch of Berlin’s Janus platform citing the GG residents’ CDJ use as “revolutionary”.
Fending off appropriators and striving to make sure GHE20G0TH1K continues to exist on its own terms, Venus X is perfectly aware of its legacy but has her sights set on the road ahead. The forthcoming GHE20G0TH1K merch was designed by her, and she hopes to take it from the logo phase to a full online store some day.
Aside from her music commitments, she also has plans for TV projects. Funding them is the biggest challenge, and while her DIY approach and reverence of autonomy is present in each activity, she also carries the pragmatism to do what it takes to reach her goal: “You have 365 days to stay true to who you are,” she says, explaining that one single day won’t change that.
For Venus X, the bigger picture means reaching the audiences she isn’t engaging with GHE20G0TH1K parties, and developing a multifaceted relationship with the ones that she is.
Now she’s launching a record label that’s kicking off with the LSDXOXO mixtape FUCK MARRY KILL that you can stream below and download from the GHE20G0TH1K site. Not only that, she’s opening a pop up store. We spoke to Venus X to find out what goes into worthwhile collaborations, what makes GHE20G0TH1K unique and where she’s planning on taking it next.
What happens when GHE20G0TH1K opens its doors?
Venus X: Well tonight we have GHE20G0TH1K and we're back at a warehouse that is 16+, and we're opening at midnight tonight 'cause they have a punk show right before. We've done this before, it's a really great time to start a party. Unfortunately as it's all ages we can't go too late, so it's a really intense four hours of really good music. We have Manara tonight, and we have Nkisi, Angel-Ho, and Asma from Nguzunguzu.
Are you seeing more new faces play GHE20G0TH1K than before?
Venus X: Now, yeah, there's a new wave of producers and DJs that I feel are right for our parties. I'm all about loyalty and growing with people so it's not about having a new DJ every week, it's more so about finding the right DJs that really understand the vibe and can bring that on a regular basis, and grow in that space.
In 2009 you were creating your own space. Do you think that there are the same kind of spaces for such people across the world now?
Venus X: I think there are - everything's connected. We just happen to have the most consistency, and [are] probably the biggest, because New York has been a home to so many of the DJs that I feel best encapsulated the sound of our generation, at least for the marginal communities of artists. It is spreading but at the same time it's different. GG is like a real space, it's not just where I DJ - I don’t always DJ but it still exists for all those people and it exists for the community.
A lot of DJs need that residency space, that space to come to New York and play for the group of kids that really understand their music – myself included. I like to do a lot of fun shit when I DJ but it doesn’t always go over so well in a regular club. And I know that. I have to balance out the experiences that I have in the regular world and in the corporate world with this very unique, totally free, pandemonium-oriented space. We’ve had three major warehouses that have been like seasons of GHE20G0TH1K, you know? The fact that it came together and still comes together is magical.
Do you think there's a collaboration aspect to GG?
Venus X: Always. It’s all about collaboration. I do a lot of work putting the event together but actually coming in and making it happen is a whole other thing. Inviting your friend who happens to be really great on the mic to host and then waiting for that moment where he grabs the mic and just starts chanting over every song for an hour creates another dynamic - we don’t ask for it, ‘cause if you ask for it you don't really get what you want, but if you just let it happen, it’s fine. This recent flyer is really beautiful - Manara, Asma and I worked on it together. One did the background, one did the text, and the other one added some more to the background. And we did it unplanned, but it worked out.
Asma and I, we’re working on a mixtape right now. I got a job in Brazil a couple of weeks ago for Fashion Week, and they offered me an extra plane ticket so I was like, "Hey, do you wanna come?" So we got our gig out there and then we went into the studio and recorded a couple of remixes with some baile funk MCs, and we played some back-to-back sets together – it was so last minute. We haven’t worked together on music before but that's just how we do! We have pretty amazing friendships at the core of what is GHE20G0TH1K.
It takes some time to build those relationships with the kinds of people that you trust and feel comfortable working with. People are stronger together but you actually have to know what you’re getting yourself into and we couldn’t have done what we do now years and years ago – but now we can. That’s why it just works out without even having to talk about it. And I think it’ll just keep evolving into a better and better collaboration, if everyone feels like they’re being treated fairly, they're getting paid well and they’re getting heard.
GHE20G0TH1K’s never just been about the music, right?
Venus X: I don’t think that you can go through life and just listen to things or just look at things - it's an experience and it happens in 360 degrees, that's why the space is important, that's why the flyers are important, that's why the line-up is important, that's why sound is important, the quality, that's why people feeling good and safe is important. It's all those things together that makes you have a good time but also wanna come back again, and care about it, and grow in it.
I think everybody brings something different - we definitely need listeners and people to give off energy and dance, but then we also need the people that activate them and keep them entertained, and then we have the musicians who provide the soundtrack for all of that. We definitely have a lot of music fans who don't really care about the fashion side, and then we definitely have a lot of fashion fans who don't really know who every DJ that's playing is, but they're enormous supporters.
Moving into fashion, you’ve got a pop-up shop in the works?
Venus X: Technically, yes. It is an artist studio converted into a store and we’ll sell merch, second-hand designer stuff and vintage that's really about references and bright colours and interesting silhouettes and old HBA that different friends will bring in and consign. It's just a good way for us to engage people a little bit differently than just that night, you know? 'Cause it's a limited engagement, when you come in and you're drinking, and we've never sold merch, so I've always wanted a store. I collect a lot of vintage clothing and I kinda started curating things that I didn't ever have the intention of even wearing. I think it has merit even if it's temporary, but for right now, it should be six months in this space and then hopefully we'll be able to go to a real space.
And you have GHE20G0TH1K TV on the way as well?
Venus X: We’re figuring out how to put the first pilot together, so we’ll see - we’re having some conversations with some networks. I think that it's time for younger kids to be able to engage with some of the stuff. If we do parties, even if they're 16+, a 12-year-old at home is like, "I want to dye my hair, and I think I'm gay, and I wanna listen to music that's about me, and where do I find that?" Even just the kids that are a little bit more to the left of things - it's not that they hate pop culture but they don't really identify with it, there's like this whole spectrum of musicians that are soundtracking another experience that's not perfect top 40 pop. How do kids learn about that? As much as DJing and throwing parties is amazing, it doesn't actually teach people anything at a bigger level.
All styling in the shoot done by Geraldine Jorge, all clothes HBA or model’s own. GHE20G0TH1K is curating the next Ray-Ban x Boiler Room Push Yourself event tonight in the Bronx at an undisclosed location with Messiah El Artista, Tate Kobang, Kablam, Venus, Asmara, Byrell The Great, LSDXOXO, and DJ Cue Heat. RSVP here.