From The Trenches: Mohawk The Educator

(I have been waiting to do this interview for years now. Mohawk is a luminary in the NYC underground scene, my boss at New York DanceSafe , a spectacular dancer & a generally all around stupendous person. She’s throwing a party that you need to go to, and I’ll be giving two tickets away, so you have no excuse. But before you do, kick back and enjoy this long-form conversation with someone who is fielding a tactical force to keep your sorry butt alive if you’re partying in the Tri-State area.)

Mohawk, Harm Reduction Coordinator Extraordinaire.

1. How is the party coming along? Any new surprises to announce, or should we just show up and find out? The party is pretty much ready to go and we’re in our last week of ramped up promotion. I wouldn’t say there are true “surprises”, however I’m sure many people are hearing about the party through different sources, so beyond the musical talent we’ll have on board, the additional performers, vendors, and workshops might come as a surprise to many. We’ve been making announcements a few times a week, highlighting some of what’s to come. We don’t expect everyone to keep up with these announcements, but we definitely want to showcase all that we have in store. It’s getting pretty late in the game and we still have people wanting to take part in the festivities. Don’t bank on this type of event happening again–we host events with specific objectives and move forward from there. It’s a “launch party” of sorts, so come find out for yourself and see what it’s all about!

2. You’ve been doing harm reduction for a long time, have you seen any changes in the work/scene that you’d see as positive? Any worrying trends you are trying to sound the alarm about? I’d like to preface this answer first: I really only have visibility of what’s happening in NYC. In doing this work with a nationally represented organization, a lot of people assume that we all see the same things or face the same problems. This is not necessarily the case, so I’ve chosen to take the New York chapter in different directions based on what we learn each year. The good news is, people overall are becoming more “hip” to testing. People want kits! The worrying thing about this is that, people forget that drug use comes with risks beyond just the potential of ingesting the “wrong” drugs by accident. An obvious worrisome trend is how much do we need to fear fentanyl popping up in drugs, especially non-opioids? This is one with a lot of hysteria around it right now. It takes a lot of work to keep the most accurate information in circulation and weed out the sensationalism and myths.

3. There’s a big difference between being a volunteer activists & being a manager/chapter leader. What’s the hardest thing about organizing harm reduction volunteers and managing an org that no one told you about? No one told me anything, but I expected a lot of hardship, which is why I held off for over a year on reforming a chapter in New York City. I generally lack patience for unreliable people, but I think the biggest struggle has been managing and maintaining relationships across different chapters. We’re all volunteers–including the chapter heads. There will be a lot of egos and some trouble-makers. It’s rare that we have to deal with anything too intense, but when it happens, you’re usually left to your own devices to do what’s best in order to continue our mission in reducing harm. Making sure we can fulfill that is top priority.

On top of that, New York City is a very unique territory to provide service to. It’s a city of 8.5 million–THE most populous city in the US. There’s a lot of work to be done that can be done in NYC alone. This is our priority–not New England, New Jersey, Upstate, Central, or Western New York. Every year in NYC, the social and nightlife scenes change–venues close, new ones open, management switches hands, attitudes change, laws change, bridge and toll fares increase–it’s a lot to keep up with as a volunteer leading a public health organization in a city with a high cost of living. However with this, it keeps things fresh, it keeps me on my toes, and gives this chapter an opportunity to be pioneers in keeping this organization forward-thinking and progressive.
4. We’ve known for a long time that harm reduction fails sexual and ethnic minorities in this country. For those who might not know what that could be, could you give our readers a tangible example of what that failure looks/feels like? I am an ethnic and sexual minority. If I step out of the rave/EDM or Burning Man scene for 2 seconds, people don’t know what harm reduction is, let alone DanceSafe. When you’re at a Burning Man affiliated event, rave, or EDM festival that has harm reduction onsite (or none at all), can you count in your head the number of black and brown people in the same space? What about LGBTQ? Think to yourself, have you ever been to a circuit party and heard or seen a single person talking about or practicing harm reduction? I know I’ve been offered cocaine as a meal–and that’s not harm reduction. In many cases, I don’t think the problem is so much that people don’t recognize this is an issue, but few know the best ways to try to address it.
TripSit - Drug Combination Chart
5. What dumb-ass behaviors pop up no matter the party, scene, music, age or mix of attendees? Are there any bad things that drug users do that you would say are universal? Mix alcohol with virtually any other drug. Not only does it not potentiate the good effects of any substance outside of maybe THC, it usually decreases many of the desirable effects of the other substances being taken. Drinking is habitual in social settings for many people, so few think about the side effects from this volatile combination. I refer people to the TripSit chart in case they don’t believe me. Some have argued that cocaine and alcohol are a “good” combination, but when I attack these viewpoints, it’s from a harm reduction standpoint. Alcohol and cocaine is a unique combination, as it actually results in the creation of another recreational drug of its own inside of the body called “cocaethylene”. I’m sure many people “enjoy” the mixing of substances as it prolongs the euphoria for marginally longer (like 1 hour in total), however, it exponentially increases risk, as it also carries an 18- to 25-fold increase over cocaine alone in risk of immediate death. With that level of danger involved, my personal recommendation would be to find a different (and cheaper) high.
More Harm Reduction Cards for use with attendees
6. Best place to do harm reduction? Whether it’s a country, festival, party, or branded hang out, where would you always go do harm reduction if asked? Kind of a tough question, as I’ve done harm reduction in several countries and dozens of areas in the USA. I like the thrill of “mixing it up”, and learning from different perspectives and trying to take on new harm reduction challenges. Providing services to the same groups over and over gets stale, and starts to feel ineffective (although it’s an easy fundraising opportunity, no doubt). I would probably have to go with Europe or South Africa. If I had to choose a single country–the Netherlands. Aside from the struggle to find a hairdresser (for the record, Kinki Kappers is the go-to) the attitudes around drug use are far more tolerant, and it blows my mind that I can walk into a public facility to have my drugs checked–in private. North America feels lightyears away from being as tolerant and effective in harm reduction. Cocaine and MDMA deaths seem to mostly occur because the drugs are too strong, not because they are adulterated or misrepresented. Fentanyl is not a “problem”. People with opioid addictions can receive proper treatment and care instead of jail sentences and isolation. The Dutch teenagers are generally more informed than many American adults I’ve encountered, and when they aren’t informed, they’re extremely receptive of the information. I’ve had a conversation with an 11 year old boy and 14 year old girl who know more about drugs and harm reduction than the average person my age (31). I enjoy being intellectually stimulated, so doing harm reduction in a culture where drug use isn’t shamed so much is refreshing. Instead of debating with people over arbitrary distinctions between drugs or people that use drugs that are plant-based versus synthetic, or legal versus illegal, or talking about only misrepresentation, we get to talk more about physiology, behavioral patterns, etc. (I’ve attached two pictures of the card game they use as talking points. A person chooses a card blindly from this deck)Card From Harm Reduction Efforts
7. If I had a magic wand and you could do harm reduction at any party, festival, or event in the world, where would you go? I’d stay right here in NYC and do harm reduction at Electric Zoo because it needs it, but still need a lot of convincing to properly bring harm reduction onsite. I’d rather be impacting my local community.
8. Moreover, if you could make one change to drug or health laws, what would it be? Decriminalize all drugs, and strategically legalize others. But since we can only change 1 law, decriminalization on the federal level is where I would start. In many people’s minds decriminalization means complete anarchy and debauchery, but that’s not what that means. Many Americans can’t wrap their minds around these concepts that places like Portugal have already implemented. An analogy that Carl Hart used in his Ted Talk “Let’s quit abusing drug users”, is that… “decriminalization would be like treating drugs like a traffic violation. Someone might be required to pay a fine if they’re caught with possessing illegal drugs, but they will not be subjected to criminal prosecution”. In the case of Portugal and other similar countries, a jury determines if the use is recreational/infrequent or problematic, and if so, then they are sent to treatment.
9. While building out this amazing event, what have you been listening to these days? I’ve been pretty bored with my normal playlist of electronic music (varying from chill wave and other downtempo genres, dance music like house and techno, and extremes like Shranz and IDM) to listening to electro boogie, funk, and oldies. When you work this hard, sometimes you need a little (or a lot of) Gap Band, Zapp & Roger, Prince, and Earth Wind & Fire and to sing “Love Machine” with all your soul.
10. MLK Jr. said that the moral arc of the universe is long, but tends towards justice. We’ve been doing this for a long time. Do you think it’s getting better or worse out there? I think somehow it seems to be rubberbanding back and forth–but that just may be my limited American perspective. When I travel, I see lots of little good things in the world. It really depends on what timeline you’re living in and what point of view you’re seeing it from.

Don’t miss the party on the 19th, I’ll be there working, dancing and harm reducing with the rest of the NY DanceSafe crew. And, if you want a shot to win 2 free tickets to the event, make sure to follow @terrygotham on Twitter, because more info on that is coming up Wednesday morning!

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DJ Suede, Grey, Gospel & Veganism: How To Get People Talking

Grey - Vegan Thanksgiving (Editorial by Terry Gotham)

For everyone still thinking the Mannequin Challenge was the new hot thing, I’ve got an amazing story to tell you about the U NAME IT phenomenon that’s been the highlight of my November by far. If you don’t listen to Hip Hop you might have missed this one, so sit back, relax, and learn how two artists took the raw grist of the internet and turned it into magic, one after the other.

Way back in 2010, a gospel singer named Shirley Caesar uploaded a performance of her singing a gospel tune named Hold My Mule. The epic performance, clocking in well over nine minutes, describes a tale of an honest priest tilling his fields and praising the Lord. When a bunch of idolater & materialist Reverends come from the city in their fancy cars, telling him that he’ll be thrown out of the Church they all preach at for his meager and overenthusiastic ways, Shirley utters these words (~5:55 for those interested), that will forever go down in meme history:

“I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lamb, rams, hogs, dogs, chicken, turkeys, rabbits — you name it!”

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Monday Music: WNWD, Autograf, Solstis, Lido & Wolfgang Lohr

8t5YJApril’s grinding along, if you’re flagging, rely on me. Got 5 soulful tunes for your Monday. By the time these are done, it’ll be time for lunch and you’ll deserve a break, so let’s get into it.

V continues to be one of the most important people to follow at Fresh New Tracks. WNWD coming out of Miami, taking me by total surprise. Higher has a number of electronic elements, but it’s quite different than what I expect out of South Beach. Low-key R&B for the win up in this. The vocal work hits all of the marks needed for the bass & production really shine. Great work & they earned the follow with this track, most assuredly.

Autograf has been a sleeper favorite of mine for years now. Really happy they’ve broken out of Soundcloud purgatory and arrived on the festival circuit, hitting Coachella & Euphoria Festival this month alone. This kind of moody bass might be a little chilled out for a Monday morning, but the guitar work makes up for it. It’s got a vintage Ratatat feel to it, which is a high compliment if anyone remembers their early work. Great work, can’t wait to hear basics chatting up this new Autograph band after their set in Indio at the end of the month.

Coming at you with some new (to me) talent out of Honolulu & Chicago, Solstis. Three minutes forty moves by quickly, straddling the line between Chip, Trap and Future, but never getting too big for its britches. The chorus shimmers and the underlying bass is one of the more soothing I’ve heard in a minute. It’s got an almost West Coast vibe, but it feels like it came from the dorm rooms at a tech school in Cali, if that makes sense.

Lido has hit his stride and we are all better for it. This video is a perfect indication that he’s embracing his rising star position & digging in. The signature viscous rhythm & bass vibe that we love him for is here, with lovely vocals and a surprisingly good video. This has anthem all over it, but not in a big room way. If we can get Future Bass & Chilltrap to the mainstage this year, I’ll be a very happy man.

Rounding out the tunes today is an edit by one German electroswing DJ, of an original tune by another German electroswing DJ. I had no idea the stuff ran so deep in Germany, but this is jolly dope. The hustle is warm, the piano on-point, and the progression really lends itself to some infectious booty shaking. It’s hard to resist this one, and it’s good for all ages. The German vocals are oddly relaxing, while the pacing doesn’t let up. Drop this into a wedding reception & watch people of all ages jump up and down. Great work Wolfgang, keep it up!

Monday Music: The Code, New Phynix, Dream Beach, Soy Sauce, Feki & ROIS!

Monday Monday (so good to me)! Another balmy week is before us Gothamites! To celebrate, here’s your usual 5pack of dope tunes & a bonus EP slapped on the end! One oldie from Dream Beach, but mostly new hotness. Let’s dig in!

Kicking things off is a peppy, moody How Deep Is Your Love future remix. Calvin Harris usually doesn’t leave a lot of room to improve on his signature sound, but the way the track almost waves in the breeze works perfectly. The Future Trap vibe can be over done, but no bed squeak noises, quality production and a couple of satisfying drops make it great for an office chair dance party. Great work by The Code, can’t wait to see what they do next.

I’d not heard of New Phynix, but this original got my attention. It’s a great example of where Progressive is going now that the Big Room trend has been dead & buried. This is very much still a mainstage/anthem track, but the abrasive electro sounds from 2 years ago are all gone. Instead, we’ve got a driving bassline & rounded synth stabs, making for an impeccable “get hype” tune.

Switching gears entirely, Dream Beach has been killing it for a while. It’s hard to describe the sounds he creates, but it definitely needs way more attention. His occasionally melancholy, occasionally euphoric, always dope vision has made for a bunch of great releases. Faintly Jersey Club, faintly future dreamwave, the track is everything I want from a 90’s hip hop remix. The mix completely re-envisions the song & brings us a triumphant new look at the classic Biggie track.

Not everyone may remember “Suga Suga” but, if you do, you remember how it was on every dance floor for months back in 2003. Soy Sauce brings us all the way back with this syrupy dope remix of the original. Winking future elements, soft chill vibes & his own excellent vocal work. If you’re a fan of his vocal stylings, check out Imad Royal while his beatwork will be featured on Soy Sauce. Delightfully relaxed and sexy, it might deserve a spot on your Valentine’s Day playlist.

Feki, the young star from of down under, brings his A-game once again for a sweet reworking of Anna of The North‘s soulful tune “The Dreamer.” It’s got an almost Lana Del Rey/London Grammar vibe to it, which is high praise to someone I’m not sure anyone outside of AUS/NZ knows of yet. The Future vibe is in full effect, and the fusion between organic & synthetic couldn’t work better if we handed it to Flume himself.

Bonus!

I usually only do 5 tunes a week, but I had to make an exception for this EP from ROIS. A duo out of LA so far below the radar they don’t have 100 Soundcloud followers yet, so you know it’s a juicy find. It’s a light, forward thinking take R&B that we’re not hearing much these days. While most are pushing towards the Jersey Club sexiness, Vincent Coleman & Nick Hughston make a strong case for your attention using a more vintage style. Is Future Soul a thing yet?

Midweek Music: DZZ, Mobil, Win & Woo, The Kairi Collective & Priscilla Sharp

summer New week, more music! One classic, couple newbies, all quality & no bullshit. Wide variety this week, so let’s get into it!  DZZ came out of nowhere on this one. With a premiere on Nest HQ this week, DZZ is going places. This tune is at once chippy, future and melancholy. The production values are off the charts on this & the drippingly synthetic vocals are stupendous. This is my sleeper hit for the week, so get into the whole EP here.

Collectives are so hot right now. The Kairi Collective dropped this release and I couldn’t be happier that they did. This chilled vibe is unmistakeable. The glitchy, dubsteppy sounds work perfectly with the classical violin, piano and shifting chords. Really looking forward to where Pensees, Quok & Jan Amit are going with this as this effort is tremendous.

 I’m so glad Tropical has turned into an element of music production, instead of a genre of music. Just like dubstep before it, people are realizing that steel drums & sexy sax do not a song make. You still need a hook and possibly some catchy lyrics. Win & Woo have a great little ditty here, and have a soaring mainstage career in front of them as long as they do the work.

This one takes a minute to get going, but you want to give it the time it deserves. Like a girl who knows what she wants, this track takes its time and really explores a sound that’s both future & 90’s vintage. I don’t know how to describe this, except maybe if Cyndi Lauper did some K & then took some allergy meds. And I mean that in the best possible way. It’s like if The Eurythmics had a Macbook to produce on. Trust me, you want to hear this. Priscilla Sharp knows what she’s doing so don’t disappoint her.

Classic trance vibe right here, and it’s from 2013. This really doesn’t need any further introduction besides it being euphoric trance that needs to be played on high volume. Mobil does amazing work here, so show it some love. And if someone can clue me into where I can get more full-length mixes of this style of trance, hit up the comments.

Midweek Music: White Boys, MitiS, GRMM, Lookas, KSHMR & Vaski

These Irish guys said they’d let me know when their new single was out and they came through. This is a funky, indie flavored track that really makes me want to go to the party this was filmed at. Excellent effort by White Boys, and I can’t wait to see where they go with this sound. Here’s to hoping they invite me to the next party. I’ll show up. Even if it’s in Dublin. That kind of scene is totally worth a hop across the pond for.

GRMM is an Australian stunner on Hegemon records. This future tune took me by surprise. It almost shimmers as it smooths along the avenue. Travolta Cool is such a clever title for a relaxed track like this. Now I’ll be following this dude around the internet like the weird, creepy sonic stalker I am.

MitiS is a force of nature. I don’t care if you’ve followed him for years like I have, or if this is the first time you’ve heard one of his tunes. His signature fusion of electro, progressive, trance & chillout make him an act to remember. I interviewed him way back when. Who knows if he even remembers now that he’s a big star. If you don’t know why, put Forever into your face.

This Song Is Sick debuted a stupendous chillstep track this weekend. KSHMR & Vaski collab with Francisca Hall for a lovely, edgy dubstep track that keeps it taut. This one is some new hotness that should be getting a lot of attention this week already.

 Lookas keeps things real, and I’m so glad to hear some originals from this guy after a string of dope remixes. This kind of anthem trap that gives you hope for the future and doesn’t remind me of white guys with dreadlocks at all. When it could be performed live with a drum line you know it’s dope.

Midnight Music: UV boi ft. Fionn Richards & Brasstracks فوق بنفسجي – LUV [Aussie Bass]

UV Boi ft Brasstracks & Fionn Richards - LUV

UV boi ft. Fionn Richards & Brasstracks فوق بنفسجي – LUV

I’mobsessed with how future this track is. There’s so much to like about UV boi, and it’s on display here (By the way, the Arabic says ultraviolet.). From the perfect collaboration to the perfect future trap sounds, to the cell phone typing on the beat the whole time, this is the new hotness. The Brasstracks adding their emerging horn jams to the windswept vocals by Fionn Richards and UV boi takes it from there. He takes it and runs with it. There’s a neo-spiritual feel to this, while it also identifies as footwork and future bass. This is why I love the stuff coming out of Down Under. It’s so free from corporate dumb-assery, it takes so many more risks. C’mon, can you imagine anyone but The Chainsmokers adding texting sounds to a track? And then adding them to a future jazz track? I don’t think so. UV Boi makes it happen and we’re all better for it.