Truancy Volume 141: Sassmouth

Samantha Kern aka Sassmouth has been spinning records for a while now. Her residencies at Planet Chicago in Chicago’s renowned Smart Bar as well as As You Like It in San Francisco have made her a well-regarded selector in dance music circles in the US. Outside of DJing, she also runs her own label, god particle, which has hosted releases by the likes of Olin and Shawn Rudiman with more releases planned for it later this year. Sassmouth has very kindly provided us with the 141st edition of our Truancy Volume series and while she may not have the same high profile as some of her Smart Bar contemporaries, we think Sassmouth’s skills as a DJ are top tier. We also caught up with her to talk about DJing, Chicago, Smart Bar and of course the mix.

Firstly, of course I have to ask, what got you into dance music? “I grew up in the Northwest which didn’t have the same rich dance music culture that grew out of the scenes in Chicago, Detroit and New York, but I was always naturally drawn to dance music. I hungrily gobbled up anything that managed to make it’s way onto MTV or the radio – Deee-Lite, Black Box, Crystal Waters. My best friend and I would have little dance parties in her bedroom and fight over who got to be Lady Miss Kier. My older sister also did a great job introducing me to groups like Depeche Mode, New Order, and OMD. I felt like the coolest nine year old in the world cruising around in her car listening to ‘Catching Up with Depeche Mode’. I always try to find the right moments where I can weave some of these songs into my DJ sets that I have loved most of my life.”

 You’ve been resident at Smart Bar with Planet Chicago for a while now. Have you noticed any big changes there and the dance music community in Chicago generally in that period? “I’ve been a resident DJ at Smart Bar for 6 years, and DJing there for about 11 years. In some ways there’s a comforting timelessness to Smart Bar- you know you can always hear fantastic house and techno music on many nights there. My favourite nights at Smart Bar are the Queen! nights on Sunday. Queen is probably one of the best reflections of a changing atmosphere in Chicago dance music culture. For many years, the gay and dance scenes were segregated in Chicago and the gay scene was mostly concentrated in the Boys Town clubs and bars, with a heavy commercial circuit sound track. But Queen is an example of our Chicago scene going back full circle- a queer friendly party where anything goes, but everyone is welcome. And then to top it off with the excellent house music provided by Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, and Garrett David.  It’s an absolute must if you’re visiting Chicago!”

A lot of people consider Smart Bar to be the torchbearer in continuing Chicago’s legacy at the forefront of dance music. What makes it so special and what does it mean to you? “I fell in love with it the first time I stepped down its stairs to the dance floor 16 years ago. At that time, the rave scene was fizzling out because of strict anti-rave laws, and super clubs were really in vogue. Smart Bar was the no nonsense option. A dark intimate dance floor, surrounded by great speakers, with zero roped off VIP areas and no bottle service. Coming from a punk background this type of environment really appealed to me. At the time, the DJ booth was off to the side of the room and the focus was especially on the dance floor. Often dance circles would break out. Although I didn’t grow up in Chicago, I met so many friendly Chicago natives on Smart Bar’s dance floor who taught me a lot about the history of the music and the culture. Some were DJs, producers, record label owners and some just passionate dancers. I owe so much to the education I received there. I have danced side by side to so many of my heroes over the years. Never trust a DJ that doesn’t like to dance!”

I noticed you’re playing in Berlin soon, do you get over to Europe much? “I don’t have an agent or agency so almost all the DJ gigs I get are through friends or connections I’ve made on the dance floor over the years. I also work as a flight attendant, so I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time in Europe, including a four year stint living in London a few years ago. I try to prioritise getting to Berlin often for the amazing record shopping and really enjoy taking my daughter there. It’s a fun city for kids too! She even spent a little time in Hard Wax with me last year.”

What’s exciting you music-wise right now? Have you seen anyone play out recently who’s blown you away? “I like showcasing live hardware PAs at the Planet Chicago night and our ‘Industry Brunch’ daytime parties in Chicago. I suppose I’m partial, as he’s become my good friend over the years and he’s an artist on my label god particle, but I’ve seen Shawn Rudiman from Pittsburgh at least five times in the last year and he never ceases to amaze me with the impromptu techno jazz wizardry he creates with his machines. Fellow As You Like It resident Christina Chatfield from San Francisco plays for us regularly and is also a master with her gear- she builds the most beautiful mental acid jams. She is finishing up an album for god particle right now. But the best surprise was a live set from 214 at Berghain last September. Imagine a fresh sounding, acidy full on electro live PA on that gorgeous pristine sound system. I thought I was going to sprain something I was dancing so hard. I love throwing old electro records into my sets, and I was ecstatic to hear all this brand new material that was so damn good.”

Tell us about the mix. Is there any idea behind it and what sort of stuff have you decided to put in it? “I recorded it on my turntables and Xone 92 and a borrowed CDJ to play the soon to be released god particle material. I wanted to do something that reflects the way I play at all the dark sweaty underground events that are popping back up in the States, especially all over the Midwest once again. A little bit of house, techno, acid and electro sounds, including many tracks from friends living in the States.”

Have you got any projects or plans coming up in 2016? “Just more of what I’ve been up to for years now- continuing to connect the dots and help build our dance music culture by playing records for great crowds, throwing friendly parties here in the Midwest, and putting out beautiful vinyl records on my label. Next up will be releases from Titonton Duvante and Christina Chatfield. Thanks for checking in with me!”

Tracklist:

Empathy Boxx- Statikshift- Antenna International
Benjamin Brunn- Infinity and Intimacy- Woodwork
Stridah- Placidity- god particle
Andy Vaz- Oppidum Ubiorum- Yore
Titonton Duvante- Licentious- god particle
Vin sol- Just Whisper- Delft
Steve Rachmad- Steps- Drumcode
Blank Program- Untitled- Hybrid
DJ Skull- Serial Killer- Djax Up Beats
Stridah- Days of You’re (Acid Mix)- god particle
Emmanuel- Entoterra- Arts Collective
Gomorra- Beelzebub- Be As One
Mr. G- Sub Level 3 (G’s Freak Zone)- Phoenix G
Gomorra- Spin- Be as One
SCSI-9 Transsibirski Express- Neutonmusic
Glacial23- Warning Star- Savage Quality Recordings
Ike Release- Socialite- Episodes
Popkan & Rich Effect- Effektikan Tracks Part 1
Mr Velcro Fastener- Coywm- i220
Annie Hall- Emotional Navigator- Cryovac Recordings

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Sassmouth: Facebook, Soundcloud
Label: god particle

Antoin Lindsay
Antoin Lindsay

antoin@truantsblog.com

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