Venus X has changed New York’s clubbing landscape in the past few years with her night GHE20G0TH1K (pronounced ‘ghetto gothic’) and her punk-influenced DJing. With an aesthetic that merges her love of Lil Kim and Siouxsie Sioux, the New York-based DJ plays a variety of urban electronic styles and has created something that stands out in the clubbing world. The likes of Total Freedom, Kingdom and Nguzunguzu have all come to be associated with the night, but since starting it with Hood By Air founder Shayne Oliver in 2009, Venus X has always remained its beating heart. It’s taken her all over the world, from Berlin’s KitKatClub to China, and even on tour with MIA. The weekly warehouse party has more recently transformed into a record label and, last year, she launched her own clothing store, Planet X, in Chinatown NYC.
1 Her sets are a smorgasbord of sound
Untethered from genre restraints, a standard Venus X set could go just about anywhere. One minute she’s dropping baile funk, the next she’s leapt into Jersey club before switching into a Nicki Minaj edit. To her and her fellow GHE20G0TH1K DJs, it’s become almost a challenge as to who can play the craziest set. “There’s this underbelly of music around the world that doesn’t get any play,” she says.
2 She has no time for a smooth blend
Tracks don’t so much as blend together but crash into each other when Venus X plays. “It’s like sex when you’re right in someone’s face and say ‘Do you like that?’” she says. The New Yorker pushes songs (and often audiences) to their limits as she samples, loops and layers tracks during a DJ set. “Even if it is a shitty rap song,” she says. “You loop that one part of the second verse you like right before the person’s voice drops in, and turn just that in to a whole new track.”
3 GHE20G0TH1K has reclaimed the club for outsiders
There are parallels to be drawn between GHE20G0TH1K and the early days of dance music, as both provided a space for those on the fringes of society. But where some parts of club culture have become overly homogenised, Venus X is carrying that legacy forward. All are welcome at GHE20G0TH1K; “everyone except the mainstream,” she says It’s become a place where you can truly “explore your identity, explore your ideas or explore your body.”
4 GHE20G0TH1K is more than just a club night
Whether she’s dropping records by LDSXOXO and False Witness on her label, finding new designers to put in her Planet X store, or hosting a panel discussion of female, radical feminist artists, Venus X is building something far more than just a club night. She’s making something that feeds into a much larger ecosystem. “The people who come to our parties are part of a much bigger system,” she says. And we need to create something that’s more than just a six-hour drinking and drug experience.”
5 She offers a vital political voice
“Look at who the president is! To say that the music he listens to is not political is bullshit, because he’s political,” she says. “The music that he listens to soundtracks his political life and soundtracks all of his ideas.” To Venus X, saying nothing is as much a political statement as anything. Why don’t people like urban electronic music so much, even though it’s in the same tempo as house?” she asks. “Maybe that has to do with racism.” Venus X wears politics as she wears clothes. “We dress according to the weather and we DJ to the political climate.”
6 She got revenge for the world’s cocktail waitresses
Anyone who’s spent time in one of those glitzy table service clubs knows that you end up hearing a lot of terrible music. So spare a thought for the staff who have to go through it night after night. Venus X told Rolling Stone a few years back that she got so tired of hearing shitty DJs play while she popped bottles that she took it upon herself to learn to DJ herself. At least something good came out of hearing Fatman Scoop every night!
7 Venus X doesn’t compromise
When asked to play at a Damien Hirst party in a gallery filled with the art world’s elite, Venus X proudly dropped Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame in her set. “They literally held their ears with their fingers, like ‘this is terrible!’” she says. In the past eight years, she’s driven GHE20G0TH1K from a warehouse in New York to conquer the world – without sacrificing the values that launched her in the first place. “People say, ‘Well you’re not underground any more’, but our ideas are very underground and what we do and who we represent and who we bring together and how we use our powers is still very radical.”