A powerhouse who needs little introduction, Kim Ann Foxman’s divergent path from Hercules & Love Affair has proven to be creatively fulfilling and professionally fruitful. Years after closing the nu-disco chapter of her life, Foxman has manifested her own mellifluous journey, and is staking a claim for herself in the music scene as DJ, producer, and label owner. Her highly sought-after sets, continuous creative collaborations and array of vinyl releases has her on everyone’s radar… again.
So, you’re one of the busiest DJs on the scene, as well as a recording artist, record label owner, producer, remixer — how did this journey begin for you?
I just started DJing a lot — it was actually quite hard at first; it took a little bit of time to gain momentum. Most people weren’t actually aware that I was a DJ before I was in a band.
You were born in Hawaii?
Yeah, I was born in Hawaii and grew up there. I started craving nightlife and started going to raves.
How old were you?
I was a teenager, in high school. It was around ‘92 that I started listening to techno music. Someone gave me this really cheesy compilation of techno and I was like, “Oh this is really cool!” — I hadn’t heard much stuff like that in Hawaii.
As someone who has moved to Europe from Brooklyn, I am always interested to still speak to artists residing there and in NYC as a whole. So, pretty generally, what are your impressions on the dance scene in NYC and in BK specifically? What needs to change? What is unique? What are some of your favorite destinations to go out to? Favorite destinations to play?
I love living in New York. The dance music scene has gotten very strong there. So many clubs opening and also underground parties. I mean, it would be cool to have more options of places that stay open even later legally. But we have come a long way. Clubs are packed, and there some after hours underground vibes as well. I’m honestly not much around on the weekends so I don’t really keep up with the latest. But I enjoy playing Good Room & Panther Room are probably my two spots I enjoy as far as clubs go.
My favorite place to play is Panorama Bar in Berlin of course. There is nowhere like it. I wish we had something like that in NY. I love playing a lot of places really. I love San Francisco as I used to live there for a bit so it has a special place in my heart. I also love playing Helsinki. It’s a nice warm crowd.
How would you say NYC inspires you as an artist?
The entire energy of the city is really inspiring. The people are inspiring. So many talented and amazing people. Everyone has to push really hard to be there and live. That energy alone is really motivating for me. I’m originally from Hawaii so me ending up in NY for so long has been a really exciting adventure.
How did you make the leap from being a fan to being a DJ?
It wasn’t until I moved to New York in 2002. As soon as I moved I bought my whole DJ setup and I was like, “I’m going to learn how to do this.” I practiced my ass off. I started at friend’s parties, then that turned into more and more parties — all of a sudden I found myself playing 3 or 4 times a week. Nobody really taught me how— I had to figure it out myself.
I think it’s funny that now they have schools for this.
Back then it was all by ear. I remember the first gig where it felt like everything finally clicked for me — without having to premeditate and practice so much. It was in Amsterdam and I was playing at this little, tiny bar. All of a sudden it just felt like my balls dropped. [laughs] I was like, “Oh shit, I’m really doing this.” After that I couldn’t stop — I was DJing all the time. It’s so addicting.
It’s been said that the DJ world is male dominated — that it’s a boys club, and that female DJs don’t get the same treatment as their male counterparts. Have you found that to be true?
I have felt that way for sure. I have to fight extra hard to get a headlining slot, and to have my name as big as other DJs. I know that a lot of times I’m getting paid less than the people who are playing next to me, or before me even. Sound people can sometimes be condescending. Still, I’m recognize that I’m lucky enough that I get to do this as my job.
Dance music culture was born out of the underground gay scene in New York — clubs like Paradise Garage, Zanzibar, Better Days and The Saint are responsible for shaping the dance music we listen to today. Do you still think there’s a dance scene underground influencing the culture today?
I think there’s always an underground dance scene, but for me, it can be really hard to find in New York – it definitely happens, but those kinds of parties are special and rare. A lot of the people who throw parties now are just interested in making money, and you can feel that. It’s quite mainstream now in some places — it feels like you could be at a sports event. Sometimes I’m like, “Where are the freaks? Where are the gay people?”
You started your own record label, Firehouse Recordings. Has that been a challenge for you in this digital age, and how do you see the label evolving
The industry is so oversaturated, and labels are — you can’t even send stuff to labels anymore, because nobody has time to listen to a zillion demos from random people. When I started producing my own music, I found all the wait times very long and frustrating — and people didn’t want to put it out on vinyl, which was also frustrating. And people don’t wanna take the time to do artwork, which used to be a huge part of finding records.
Do your DJ sets change from country to country, or do you stick to your plan?
The thing is, I don’t really have a plan. I just feel it out. I know what I like to play, of course, but depending on the party, I can really take it into left-field, which is fun for me. That’s why places like Panorama Bar are very special.
With the schedule in full swing, I’m wondering how you maintain health & mindfulness? Do you have a certain protocol to keep yourself calm throughout the season? What about after summer…do you have a protocol to “wind down”?
I’m a pretty healthy person in general. I always try to give myself some nice down time between gigs but usually I wind up having to catch up on studio work. But I make sure to give myself some time off as well with my loved ones.