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DJ of the Week — Amy Kasio

Every week we 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 sees newish DJ Kasio Smashio on the eve of her brand spankin’ new night called Deep Cuts which will premiere this Friday the 7th at Rotture. This ally friendly party is co-helmed by earlier DJ of the Week Bruce LaBruiser and features Freddie Fagula as a guest at the opener. It is for those who want to focus on the music and move beyond top 40. Can I say PDX music snob in the nicest way possible? That’s what I’m envisioning.

When and how did you get started DJing?

I’ve had a passion for finding new music and sharing it with others my whole life. I come from the generation of kids who made mixtapes like their lives depended on it. I would put everything I had into making the perfect mixtape based on what situation it was for. Was it for a crush? A friend? A party? A roadtrip? What kind of roadtrip? I even went so far as to make mixes for my favorite bands that passed through town so they would have something different to listen to on the road.

I got the urge to DJ the first time I went to one of the queer dance nights here. I moved here from a small town in Ohio where we didn’t have anything like what I was seeing. Within five minutes I turned to the friend I was with and said, “I want to DJ, how do I get up there?” and pointed to the DJ booth. After that I started looking into ways to DJ and talked to local DJ’s. I wanted to use turntables and discovered that Serato is the industry standard. However, I quickly realized I did not have the extra money to be able to afford everything I needed to go that route. I looked into alternatives methods and discovered Virtual DJ. They have a free version on their site which I ended up playing with in my bedroom on my laptop for hours every night. I really, really love finding perfect transitions. I can sit playing with and creating different transitions all day long. After about a year, I got my hands on a Mixtrack Pro controller and upgraded to the Pro version of Virtual DJ and fell even more in love. I felt like I was making mixtapes all over again, finding the perfect transitions to flow together seamlessly and keep the mood going.

I am really excited about using virtual DJ because if offers multiple decks at once, up to 99. It’s a really exciting idea be able to have so much going on at once – I have the ability to play multiple songs at once and then layer them with loops and samples in real time. Coming from a background of being an electronic musician, doing it this way feels really natural to me. I got kind of burned out with all the effort it takes to create electronic music, so it’s really refreshing to take songs that are already made and have the ability to change them up a bit live, in real time.

How did you get your DJ name?

I was at a girl’s roller derby event for the first time and realized everyone had these really cool, kick ass, powerful names. So I wondered what my name would be if I was a roller derby girl. I go by Amy Kasio, so I came up with the variation of “Kasio Smashio” as my kick ass tough girl name. I’m never going to be a roller derby girl so I adopted it as my DJ stage name. The same message applies: “I’m here to kick ass!”.

Why do you DJ?

I DJ because music has always been my life, my main passion, music heals, connects people, sends a message, and provides fun. I want to share all of this with people because in my life, music has always been the one thing that could help me get through anything. Music can be a powerful thing.

Who are your influences/inspirations?

As far as the local scene goes, DJ Automaton (Vera) was very inspiring for me in getting started doing this and then later on I became inspired by DJ Bruce LaBruiser (Jenny Bruso). Jenny and I are actually working together now which is incredibly exciting to me. A part of me is also influenced by my early club days. When I was about 18-22 (you don’t have to be 21 to get into the clubs in Ohio, unlike Portland) a lot of my really good friends were gay guys and we didn’t have a gay dance club in our tiny city in Ohio, so we would grab as many queers as we could fit in the car and drive an hour to get to the gay club. There, they had turntablists playing dance/house remixes and we would dance our hearts out on that damn black and white checkered floor.

What parties/clubs do you currently DJ?

I am really excited to start my own dance night called DEEP CUTS. With the help of DJ Bruce LaBruiser (Dirt Bag) and Sterling Clark (recently helped spearhead the Portland Slutwalk, which spoke out against sexual violence), our first event is Friday, Oct. 7 at Rotture in SE Portland. We all share the same idea on what we want most in a dance night. We want to provide music that isn’t normally heard around town, straying away from the top 40 and sticking to more indie dance/electro music. Queer/feminist/influential music is really important to us so you are going to be hearing a lot of that mixed in with lighthearted, fun music more on the indie side. I personally have a weak spot for awesome remixes of songs from the 80’s and 90’s, so every once in awhile, in moderation, you just might hear one mixed in with everything else.

I also played at September’s Dirtbag and have an upcoming gig at Bent (Foggy Notion) in November.

What genres of music do you like to play?

I am very into indie electro dance music. I especially love songs that incorporate aspects of house music into them. If it’s upbeat, dancey, and electro, I probably love it.

What are some of your current favorite tracks?

It’s really hard to keep this list short and sweet so I’ll say I am currently in love with some remixes I have from: Yelle, Lykke Li, Frankmusik, Robyn, Dev, The XX, Bat For Lashes, Ellie Goulding, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Paula Abdul, The Knife, Empire Of The Sun, L7, Kaskade, Bag Raiders, Madeon, M83, and Beach House.

Not remixes but still amazing: SSION, Crystal Castles, Familjen, Bloodgroup, actually, I really love a lot of Swedish/Scandinavian electro.

I am also currently in love with the Kaskade mixtape: Dance.Love

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

I won’t tell anyone to stop playing something, because it’s all relative to your audience and what the event is that you are playing at and your end goal. However, with that being said, I would like to see people taking more risks, stop playing it safe and push the boundaries. As the provider of music, that means you should have a good ear for music, a passion for it, and a desire to make people feel, a desire to show people what they haven’t heard before. Trust your instincts, if you really believe in something and love it, other people will too. I personally love it when I go out dancing and hear something I have never heard before that I end up loving. As a passionate music lover, it makes me feel like I just got something really special out of that night.

What was your WORST DJ experience? What was your BEST DJ experience? What makes a DJ experience good for you?

I can’t say I have had a worst experience, but I had a really embarrassing moment when I was kicking off my set for the night and I had this really cool remix of an 80’s song, but when I started the song it was actually the original song, and for me, that was really embarrassing because I try not to play something everyone has already heard. If it’s a known song it’s going to be a really awesome remix that breathes life back into what you already know. It’s going to be familiar, but different, fresh, and emphasize favorite parts of the song.

I am pretty green to doing this outside my bedroom, but my best experience was also my first experience, which happened over the summer for the Slutwalk Pre-Party. I had no idea if people would dance or like it, but as soon as I started playing music and working my transitions, I could feel the energy in the room just shift to the energy of what I was playing and people danced like crazy and I was so happy that I danced like crazy too. My favorite is looking out into the crowd and seeing people singing along. The best moment of that night was when someone came up on stage and danced by me, leaned over and said, “You are wearing me out!” I smiled so big for a long time after that.

What are your main pieces of equipment and your favorite?

Currently, I use the software  Virtual DJ Pro with a Mixtrack Pro controller. I am really happy with the Mixtrack right now, however I am always looking for ways to expand and grow. I am experimenting with the idea of incorporating live electronic instrumentation during my sets, specifically my Kaossilator and Akai MINIAK.

What else do you want qPDX to know about you?

Again, I’d like to mention the new dance night I am putting on with Jenny Bruso and Sterling Clark: “DEEP CUTS: A Queer Dance Night For The Music Enthusiast.” Please check it out if hearing indie dance/electro/queer/influential music sounds like something that fits what you are looking for in a dance night. This month, joining Bruce LaBruiser and I will be special guest Freddie Fagula (Do The Dark). Again, we strive to provide you with dance music we love that we don’t hear getting played already. You’ll hear a lot of hot, new, electro tracks mixed in with oldies but goodies. This month I will be debuting a brand new track from the upcoming album Katastrophe is working on with my good friend De aka dE=Mc², which you can’t hear anywhere else.

All of the musicians I have mentioned above are what you will hear and more!

This party is also absolutely open to our queer allies; we want to provide a diverse, safe space where people can gather to enjoy music together, because really, that’s what it’s all about. Connection.

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