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DJ of the Week — Action Slacks

DJ Action Slacks. Photo by Annie Maribona

qPDX is starting a new feature! Every week we will introduce you to a local LGBTQ party DJ and ask them about their experiences in the scene and feature an audio mix they’ve made. If you’re interested in being featured contact alley@qpdx.com.

This week’s DJ of the Week is something like a repeat. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve had a busy week and a bit under the weather. More importantly, however, DJ Action Slacks‘ profile was one of the most popular so far and definitely the most shared when it was originally published. This weekend she’s at the helm of a bigger night. Only in its third incarnation, SugarTown queer soul party is the best new queer night with a distinctly non-pop music focus.

As I said previously the Slacks distinct music and fashion sense is pretty much my favorite right now and I have a sneaking suspicion that this party might turn out to be 2011?s best new night.

When and how did you get started DJing?

There are a few stages to the birth of my live DJ career.  Like everyone else, I made mix tapes for MANY years.  I started live DJing in the mid-1990s.  I lived next door to Khaela Maricich (who eventually became The Blow) during my first quarter as a transfer student at Evergreen.  Khaela was my RA and our rooms had a shared bathroom.  Apparently she enjoyed the music she heard coming out of my room and asked me to DJ an October barn dance somewhere off campus.  It was my first gig and probably one of the weirdest.  It was also my first encounter with straight white males who felt they could do a better job choosing music.

A year later my friend Jenny Jenkins recruited me for KAOS Radio.  This is where I found my true calling.  A few years after I started doing my radio show, “Soul Kitchen” I was approached to DJ the birthday party for a friend of a friend.  It went really well.  I became addicted.  Prior to that I had never imagined that people in my own age group (and younger) would want to dance to music from the 50s, 60s & 70s.

How did you get your DJ name?

In Olympia I was given the DJ name of “DJ Shannon” by my friend Keyan.  He arranged a DJ night for me in my early days and needed a name for me for the flyer.  There really weren’t tons of dance DJs in those days.  People didn’t have the cutesy DJs names like they do now.  So for many years I was “DJ Shannon”.  Soon there was another “DJ Shannon” in Seattle only THAT DJ Shannon DJed topless.   While I felt that I had the goods to compete with her, I chose instead to find a new DJ name.  There was a lot of trial and error.  Then one day it just came to me.  I had been trying a out a new look and was buying a lot of 1970s men’s slacks.  And that’s where Action Slacks comes from.

Who are your influences and inspirations?

Martha Jean “the Queen” Steinberg, the pioneering 1960s female radio DJ out of Memphis & Detroit. She was a woman in a sea of men, which is how it was for me starting out as a soul DJ in the 90s. Check her out here:

http://www.theairplaychannel.com/deejay-lounge/

Michelle Noel (of Olympia), David Mancuso, Larry Levan, Don Cornelius, Rufus Thomas, DJ Dub Narcotic, DJ Wild Man James, DJs Brown Amy & Carnitas, the artists/musicians of Olympia past and present, my dearly departed Uncle Steve who let me borrow his Supremes records when I was 12, and the Supremes.

The book “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” changed MY life.  I had been DJing for YEARS before I read that book and it made me realize that I’m part of something and what I do is more than a trivial pass time.

Mostly, however, I’m influenced by soul music itself.  It’s not a music about exclusivity.  It’s about inclusiveness.  It’s about finding hope and determination during difficult times.  It’s about love.  Soul is love.  During its golden era, soul music was performed and recorded by people of all races in all countries all over the world.  It was the music of revolution.  We really need a revolution.

Why do you DJ?  I started DJing in order to show people of my generation the value in music of the past.  On my radio show I tried to demonstrate how soul/r&b music was used to initiate social change. My hope was to inspire people to do the same with their own music/art.

Vintage soul is much better appreciated currently.  People know a lot more of the old stuff than they did when I first started, so  Introducing people to the music is no longer a goal.  These days, I think like so many other DJs, I hope to provide a place of community as well as an escape from the problems of these difficult times.

What parties/clubs do you currently DJ? “Sugar Town” (queer soul dance) is my primary gig right now.  Other than that I’ll be around.

I’ve got a one-time ladies of classic country night called Touch Your Woman at Sloans on FRIDAY, September 23. Breaker, breaker, Sloans is the CBingest bar in town, come back! You’ll get to hear me say things like, “What’s your handle?  Mine is Action Slacks. 10-4?”

What genres of music do you like to play?

I’m primarily a soul DJ, so I play 60s & 70s soul mixed with 50s R&B, house rockin’ blues, 60s garage, girl groups and an occasional disco party.  I dream of continuing stretching out and doing other theme nights in other genres.

What are some of your current favorite tracks?  All of them

What do you wish would stop being played out right now?

I would never dream of telling people what not to play.  In my eyes, DJing is an artistic expression.  It’s not up to me to tell people how to express themselves.

That being said, Chris Brown.  I can’t support that.

What are your main pieces of equipment and your favorite?

My baby blue 1970s tuxedo jacket, my various colored tux vests, ascots, cuff links, a great pair of dancing shoes and my records.

What was your WORST DJ experience?

There is a list I keep in my head.  At the top of it right now would be an after party at the E-Room for which the party guests were very late and I ended up DJing for the E-room regs who were less than kind.

What was your BEST DJ experience?

There’s a list in my head and starts with Angie Hart’s Birthday Party at the Voyeur.  Other highlights include, almost every episode of Soul Kitchen I ever did, the last Yo-Yo A Go-Go, Sissy Soul with Beyonda, Hard French in SF, and every time I ever DJed with Michelle Noel.  And getting to work with Nadia.

What makes a DJ experience good for you?

If any one of the these things happen:

1. People dance

2. Someone hears something they’ve never heard before and asks me what it was

3. I get to nerd out with other DJs

What else do you want qPDX to know about you?

I like to collaborate.  I went to Space Camp.

You can get a taste of what Action Slacks spins from her old Olympia KAOS radio show “Soul Kitchen,” below:

01 Soul Kitchen July 2004 by Action Slacks

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