DJ of the Week — Wam Bam Ashleyanne

Every week (or so…) 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. You might think this week’s is late but it’s actually for a party next weekend, so we’re a little early. Stay tuned for updates.

Wam Bam Ashleyanne is not a local DJ but PDX kinda has a little thing going with our Bay area neighbor if you know what I mean. And we’re excited to have her guest appearing at the next installment of popular newish queer soul night Sugar Town. Despite some bumps in the road and yet another new venue queer folks are excited about a dance night with an alternative to pop music and the soulful spinning of resident DJ Action Slacks is just the ticket for getting a dance party out of the gay doldrums.

DJ Wam Bam Ashleyanne

When and how did you get started DJing?

I started spinning records at dance nights in London in early 2009. I had been painstakingly over-crafting mixtapes and CDs for over thirteen years at that point, and I knew that I wanted to start playing mixes live at parties, and make a connection to more people through the music that I cared about the most. A dear friend of mine had been casually playing American soul and folk records for dance nights and gigs around London and Norwich, and I approached her to teach me her magical ways around a mixer. She showed me how to bring me and my records to life, and DJing felt like such a proactive pathway to engage with my musical obsessions on. Shortly after I moved back stateside, I began DJing regularly at several all-vinyl soul nights around the bay area, and later that year, I was also chosen to broadcast my own music review show on the public station, KALX 90.7FM.

How did you get your DJ name?

I wouldn’t say that it was inspired directly from David Bowie’s “Suffragette City”, but considering the million plus times I have had the phrase “Wham bam, thank you ma’am” stuck in my head over my life, it probably played some sort of subconscious role. Or maybe a spider whispered it into my ear while I was sleeping one night. Who knows.

Who are you influences/inspirations?

Vinyl nerds and know-it-alls who love to dance. And, by ‘know how to dance’, I mean, those who know the value of shaking their rumps with absolute abandon. I am always inspired by fellow DJs who pride themselves on their deep crates of vinyl gems and rarities. I admire female DJs the most, especially people like DJ Action Slacks, who are not only talented and passionate DJs, but who understand the importance of history and awareness of the individuals who were making the music that I connect with and spin the most (in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s).

Why do you DJ?

During college, I found soul dance parties tucked away in upstairs rooms of clubs in San Francisco, where everyone was sweating and stomping to some of the rarest, yet totally engrossing soul jams from the 1950’s and 60’s. It was inspiring seeing so many passionate people go mental to songs in a genre that was so close to my heart and my childhood. From those first dance nights, I knew that I wanted to be a ardent contributor within that scene, and strive to mix the most interesting, rare, and honest tunes for all the people with soul in their hearts and ants in their pants.

What parties/clubs do you currently DJ?

I can be found playing records a several times a month on KALX 90.7FM in Berkeley, which can be streamed live at Recently, I’ve been asked to guest DJ at dance nights in LA (for Club Underground) and San Francisco (for Oldies Night, Girl Groups Night, and even a Shannon and the Clams show).

What genres of music do you like to play?

My heart always pounds the hardest to deep, soul cuts from the 1960’s and early 70’s, and my favorite evenings are those when I can play girl groups on 45’s all night long.

What are some of your current favorite tracks?

My all-time favorite songs are “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks and “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” by the incomparable soul goddess, Wendy Rene. More recently, I’ve been really inspired by Christeene’s track “African Mayonnaise”. The music video gives alone me hope in America’s future. I’m also a big fan of the majority of new, pop releases from Oakland-based, Slumberland Records.

What was your WORST DJ experience?

When I first started DJing, I had a weekly dance party at a bar on Haight Street. One perk of this bar was the fact that the DJ booth was a separate room that you could lock yourself away in all night. Simultaneously, it also proved to be a prison if someone opened the door and wouldn’t stop drunkenly badgering you until you played their request, which was impossible since I only played vinyl, and only from specific time periods. There was one evening where a very gruesome-looking, and unconventionally smelly man wouldn’t leave me alone until I played him a song by Ministry. MINISTRY. He lingered in my doorway for several highly uncomfortable minutes, before he believed that I didn’t bring any Ministry with me that night. I’m sure he left the bar very disappointed and to this day, I am still confused why he would assume this woman playing only 60’s records, wearing a bright yellow peter pan collar and a finely coiffed beehive would have been hiding any industrial metal from him. But, then again, maybe he just isn’t one to judge.

What was your BEST DJ experience?

Two words: HARD FRENCH. Last summer, the party powers-that-be raised their medallions together, aligning their flickering pendants towards the sunlight in the precise pattern to open up a 5th dimension, from which DJs, Brown Amy and Carnita stepped forth out of the golden mist to invite me to play records with them at the hallowed, always perfectly hot, afternoon-bbq-queer-soul-dance-fest known as Hard French. Playing records in the afternoon sunshine for a seemingly endless sea of happy, sassy, big-haired, short-shorts sportin’, bouncing babes was a dream come true. And sharing the decks with two friends and DJs I respect so much, was really empowering and so much fun. I am hoping to recreate that same energy at the Foggy Notion on the 31st. I can’t wait to make the Portland babes shimmy!

It was also a major honor to play records with DJ Primo at the San Francisco benefit for Jonathan Toubin (DJ, New York Night Train) earlier this year. Participating in events that raise money and awareness for people and programs that are in the various communities I align myself within, is an aspect of DJing that means just as much to me as the music itself.

What makes a DJ experience good for you?

For me, playing records is all about emoting and feeling truly wrapped into a song in a really interactive way. So anytime I watch a crowd that truly loves a song, respond and dance, it always makes me feel like the world is standing still, just for a few minutes. That’s an ideal DJ experience.

What are your main pieces of equipment and your favorite?

When you have to be so picky about cleaning, maintaining and choosing the records to bring to a gig, as long as I get to the venue and there is a sturdy pair turntables hooked into a mixer with four (plus) channels, I am good to go.

What else do you want qPDX to know about you?

Portland is one of my favorite cities in the entire world. It houses so many of my favorite so-and-so’s, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity on the 31st to get to know even more amazing people. Sugar Town is going to be a queer-soul-dreamboat of a night, and I’m honored to not only be asked to DJ alongside Action Slacks, but specifically for this month’s celebration of Women’s History Month. It’s going to be even sexier than Anna Howard Shaw Day.

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