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KAOS Discuss Techno & Queer Spaces
The Quietus , March 18th, 2015 16:26

KAOS takes place this Saturday, featuring sets by Oliver Ho of Broken English Club, Dahc Dermur, DJ Karezza and The Quietus' own Hamburger Ladies. Argy Sapountzakis spoke to KAOS' Lee Adams about the night and the importance of fighting for autonomous queer spaces in a changing London. Photos by Damien Frost.

A man's back, neck, make up, muscle, tits, jock-strap,wigs and a zombie baseline which vibrates into your skull…. Intoxicating heady scent of flesh and sweat… I love clubbing and somewhere that invigorates and offers a new perceptive. A couple of years ago I heard about this techno party, KAOS, with a queer crowd happening at Stunners, a transvestite fetish club in Limehouse. I heard this place was very alternative - whatever that means these days.

The place was super-friendly and fun. The people had an energy that is the transmutation of sexuality. A crowd with an indefinable sexual orientation. A diverse mix of acceptance, the new place to worship your own personal divinity. The venue itself was surreal and the music very danceable and chaotic. This experience for me was unique in London, something that I would have expected in Berlin. There is an insatiable curiosity in newcomers from the regulars. They want to know you...

Once Stunners shut down and Kaos moved to Electrowerkz in Angel, the promoters focused more on music and dancing - they became the club's true protagonists. Now Kaos ranks among the most eclectic queer parties in London. Lee Adams, artist and DJ, is the creator and driving force behind Kaos. He is often referred to as "the Master of Ceremonies". I asked him how Kaos came about…

Tell me about the origins of Kaos. Where did the idea come from? And why ‘Kaos'?

Lee Adams: We started out as a Sunday night techno party at Madame Jojo's in the days when everyone we knew went out from Wednesday night until Monday morning, that seems like a lost world now. We wanted to create a party that was unpredictable, that wasn't easy to define, that was exuberant and deranged, a kind of magical parallel universe.

What sort of environment did you want to create? What is special about Kaos?

LA: We wanted to generate a space that was creative and experimental where people could play with modes of expression and identity, where they could encounter similar restless minds, losing and finding themselves in the sonic/social labyrinth.

As Kaos has moved around a bit, have you felt that it was more at home in any one particular venue and how important was the location and the actual building? Tell us more about how do you choose your venues?

LA: Each of the different venues have had their own charm and their own limitations I guess. At The Speaker Palace we had all the space and equipment to programme really elaborate live performances and experimental film screenings as well as techno.

At Stunners we lost that but found a special atmosphere that was out-of-time, the kind of place you think you must have dreamt about, but the space was cramped and the sound system was a disaster! Now we have moved to Electrowerkz we have the best situation, a massive, gritty warehouse space with a powerful sound system which means we can expand, both in terms of international collaborations and live acts and plenty of physical space which is great as the party keeps expanding.

What's the KAOS sound? Is it different from when you started out?

LA: The KAOS sound is what I call techno not techno. The music covers a range of styles from electronica to dark/coldwave, analogue synth to rhythmic noise and of course techno in all its myriad forms, minimal to maximal to industrial. Different nights will have different emphasis as we like to keep experimenting. The music has always been at the harsher, more brutal end of the sonic spectrum but obviously it's evolved over the years and continues to do so.

Choronzon - Pilgrim Mix. Gegen AMT - KitKatClub Berlin by Choronzonkaos on Mixcloud

What drives you to play music/put on parties? What is inspiring you?

LA: I've been organising live art events, performances, screenings and exhibitions since the early 90s but become somewhat disenchanted with the art world. When I started making parties 11 years ago I realised there was something that felt more visceral, immediate and authentic going on. The energies that are released are charged, powerful and cathartic. There is something primal about dancing and entering trance states, it's ecstatic, a total derangement of the senses.

How would you describe the type of people that go to Kaos. and how do you see the crowd evolving?

LA: The crowd is kaleidoscopically diverse and always has been. Techno seems to be undergoing something of a revival in London recently after years of being out in the wilderness and so a lot of young people are discovering that they don't have to go to Berlin for their techno fix, they can find it right here on their doorstep. and we have the most eclectic dance floor I've ever encountered.

I've heard people refer to themselves as a "Kaos guy" or as part of the "Kaos family". It almost sounds like a cult… What does that mean to you to hear this? Can going to Kaos give you an identity?

LA: That's funny. I guess because we have always been very underground and because we have been around for quite some time, a generation has grown up at KAOS. Enduring friendships have been formed there and many creative collaborations have evolved from the party. Because we have always been apart from the mainstream both in terms of music and sensibility, it's not that going to KAOS can give anyone an identity rather that KAOS is a space where you can be free to explore, express and recreate and your identity.

At times Kaos hosted performances or showcased certain artists' work, is that something you see happening more often in the future?

LA: I wouldn't say more often but certainly it is something I still believe in. As I said, we've played a lot with various ideas and formats. I've come to understand that programming performances during a club night can be problematic in terms of changing the energy in the space. It can be very dislocating to stop everything abruptly and change focus, so I don't tend to break the night up any longer. We do sometimes invite artists to create installations or projections and we started a project last year where we showcase the work of a different visual artist each month on our website and digital flyers, a kind of digital residency. A number of the artists have discovered new audiences for their work through the collaboration. KAOS is also inspiring other artists such as the Spanish composer Pedro Merchán Correas who has recently scored an electronic music piece: †.7 KAOS Estudio de electrónica nº5 inspired by the music at KAOS, which had its premiere last month at The Royal College Of Music.

As Kaos developed, how has your personal angle on what Kaos is shifted?

LA: KAOS has become a kind of temporary autonomous zone. That was always intentional, but it took a while to realise. This is what drives me to keep the momentum going. London is becoming increasingly optimised and gentrified and the number of alternative queer spaces is diminishing, recently we have seen the closure of several historic, subcultural venues including the the Astoria, The Joiners Arms and our own birthplace Madame JoJo's. I don't want to see London go the way of New York. Resisting this process, or at least holding a space that is oppositional is what inspires me to keep going.

I think Kaos is one of the most eclectic and queer parties in London at the minute. What do you think about the scene as it currently exists in London?

LA: London is always in a state of flux which is partly what makes it such an exciting city to live in, every moment is just a snapshot in time, but if I think about London in the 90s it seems there were many more underground options. Having said that, it feels like we have been through the wilderness years and it's good to see a few new alternative club nights starting up such as Transisters at The Resistance Gallery and credible music events such as Blanc. I'm also happy to see a techno resurgence start to emerge in East London, from small basement parties such as Legion hosted by Ursula Snakes, to Solid and Shoes (all at Vogue Fabrics) and the occasional AVOID and Rosa Decidua parties through to the larger warehouse style techno nights such as Individual Collective, Dazed and Confused and Find Me in the Dark at various spaces around Hackney Wick and Corsica Studios. The other fairly recent development is the proliferation of quality (dance) music journalism online from quirky and respected journals such as The Quietus to Resident Advisor, FACT, The Wire and The Ransom Note.

What's influencing the DJ line-up at Kaos at the moment?

We have started to collaborate with several record labels and with other techno clubs in Berlin such as Gegen and Drone as well as with various international producers.

There are some amazing live techno acts and producers making incredible records right now; Orphx, Polar Inertia, Ancient Methods, Powell, Bronze Teeth, Headless Horseman, Samuel Kerridge, In Aeternam Vale, Demdike Stare, Silent Servant, Broken English Club, Rrose, Lakker and Paula Temple who is just about to launch her own record label (Noise Manifesto) also closer to home Othon, the brilliant London based Greek composer who has also recently made his London DJ debut at KAOS and the sound artist Jose Macabra who is a force of nature, not to mention the otherworldly, walking art installation Dahc Dermur VIII (pictured top and above).

We have also been fortunate to work with Parisian producer Mondkopf recently, hosting the first ever UK event featuring his latest project Extreme Precautions, and with Dominic Butler (ex Factory Floor) and Richard Smith's incendiary new project Bronze Teeth. Our most recent collaboration was with London Modular alliance who create live, improvised, analogue synth-driven techno using no midi devices, turntables, CD players or computers, their set-up involves some of the worlds most advanced, obscure and sophisticated synthesisers.

When is your next party and who is DJing?

Our next event is on Saturday 21st March. We are looking forward to Oliver Ho (Broken English Club) headlining … we also have demigoth DJ duo the Hamburger Ladies (Luke Turner and Sophie Coletta of The Quietus), the enigmatic Brazilian DJ Karezza, New York style legend Dahc Dermur VIII and yours truly closing the proceedings.

Your email sign off is "Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted". Do you want to tell us what you mean by that?

It's a reference from William Burroughs, the final words of Hassan-i Sabbah. It is a fundamental affirmation of unrestricted creative freedom: an apocalyptic avowal that goes beyond the call to destructive, unrestrained behaviour:

"Everything is permitted because nothing is true. It is all make-believe... illusion... dream... art. When art leaves the frame and the written word leaves the page, not merely the physical frame and page, but the frames and pages that assign the categories." - William S. Burroughs.

KAOS takes place at London's Electrowerkz this Saturday, March 21st. For tickets, please visit Resident Advisor

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