INTERVIEW: Kim Sorise on being a Radio DJ, her Love of Music, and Thai vs. TIE Fighters!

Pictured above: Kim Sorise spins hot wax in the Gamma Chamber! Photo by Meagan Jordan.

There was a time when I had a vision to start a bar that played only the music that I liked, which at the time was a heavy rotation of Swans and Nick Cave. If you want the bar to be miserable, do that. If you want people to enjoy their time spent out, and hopefully to hear something new and interesting, you turn to someone like Kim Sorise. A DJ for some years now, Sorise has made a name of herself in Louisville first as a host on local public radio, where she hosted a local/weirdo music show that featured awesome things like This Heat or other weird post-punk/prog. After her stint ended there, Sorise went on to professionally DJ events under the name Dirty Soul Party or Global Grease, which is now the name of her show on ArtxFM. She just landed a new spot as the music director at 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen, where she and an assembly some of the best DJs around like Matt Anthony, JP Source, Alex Bell, and Dwight Johnson to curate the sound of the space. We caught up with Sorise to talk about her new job, the importance/responsibility of a good DJ, and TIE Fighters vs. Thai Fighters!

Never Nervous: What can you tell us about 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen that we might not know? How did you land the Music Director gig there?

Kim Sorise: Well, the first thing you notice about 8UP is that it’s pretty swanky. The view is amazing and I cannot wait to throw some excellent parties on the balcony!  What folks may not know is that it’s apparently the most expensive restaurant build in Louisville. It is not owned by Hilton rather by a group out of Atlanta called Concentrics. They own spots in Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego and now thankfully, Louisville.

I landed the Music Director gig frankly because they asked.

NN: For that matter, what exactly is entailed in being a music director?

KS: My first order of business was to select what I consider to be the best collection of Louisville deejays that could work within the space: Matt Anthony, Dwight Johnson, JP Source and Alex Bell.

For me playing to a space is nearly as important as the music played; meaning, the music I spin is indirectly dictated by that space. This is not about the sound of the room, rather the feel of the room. I do not see 8UP as a dance club, it’s more of a lounge; therefore, the music needs to accentuate that mood. I am also in charge of organizing all the deejays (and eventually musical acts), taking care of any scheduling conflicts and equipment needs. I am essentially the liaison between the artists and management.

“For me playing to a space is nearly as important as the music played; meaning, the music I spin is indirectly dictated by that space. This is not about the sound of the room, rather the feel of the room. I do not see 8UP as a dance club, it’s more of a lounge; therefore, the music needs to accentuate that mood.”

NN: What was your work like at NPR? I understand you worked for both WFPL and WFPK?

KS: I moved here from Detroit on Dec. 18, 2000, to work for then Public Radio Partnership – now Louisville Public Media. I had been working at WDET-FM in Detroit for five years prior to the move; there I was a news reporter, substitute music host, Assistant to the Program Director, and a production engineer for local segments of Morning Edition. To learn the ways of radio, I quickly surmised never to say, “No.”

Anyway, I was hired as a features reporter. I created long-form documentary styles features that were heavily sound-rich ranging from 4 minutes to an hour in length. I was very good at my job, and I enjoyed it. Then 9/11 happened and the nature of news began to shift; there became an urgency and long-form features covering the diversification of tobacco farms post settlement funds or spending days with Labrot & Grahm‘s Lincoln Henderson learning about bourbon were of little interest. I covered stories of the Commonwealth – ideas, traditions and stories that developed the fabric and culture of the community. I did not want to follow around politicians.

Also while I was there I, along with a colleague, created an educational project called R.E.E.L. Radio – which stood for Radio Education Experience Louisville. We worked with area high school kids to become radio reporters, hosts, deejays and producers. Their show, The R.E.E.L. radio Hour,  ran on WFPK once a month; it was awesome!

Shadwick Wilde was in my first class. He was a super cool 16 year-old and a huge fan of Johnny Thunders. That educational radio project is what sparked my interest to move into the classroom full time.

What else – this is starting to read like a resume – I also organized the news intern program and hosted two shows on WFPK: The Independent Hit Parade and The Dirty Soul Party which was a live broadcast from Red Lounge (R.I.P). I was busy, but that’s how I like to work.

NN: I really liked the show you had on, I think, Friday nights about a decade and some change ago. What happened to that?

KS: Cool, I am glad you dug it; I loved that show. That was the Independent Hit Parade on Friday’s from 9 to 11. I remember when I interviewed John Doe once for the show, and he loved that the name was an oxymoron – not sure how many folks pick up on that at first. I had a morning interview over coffee with Thurston Moore and sat down with Weasel Walter who was here to curate a screening of No Wave film.

The IHP had two serious coups at ‘FPK – one was an interview with John Cale. It was live and supposed to last 10 minutes – he was so comfortable that we chatted for an hour. He told my boss Dan Reed it was the best interview he had had in 40 years – What an honor!

Lastly was when Sun City Girls did an hour long piece for the IHP,  98.6 is Death came out as part of the Carnival Folklore Resurrection vol. 13. It was only aired once and I think now out-of-print.

The only other radio host that was bestowed this honor was Brian Turner at WFMU-FM. I was pretty excited. The Independent Hit Parade ended because it was time.

NN: How did you get involved in freelance DJ work?

KS: I started DJing about 20 years ago to justify my obsession with buying records.

NN: What constitutes a good DJ set? What skills are involved in being a DJ?  How do you know what your audience needs to keep whatever mood going?

KS: Many things: music, space, crowd, & leaving them wanting more – not much different than putting on a great rock show. I think one of the many skills of being a good club or lounge DJ is being observant – recognizing nuances from folks, facial expressions, body language, proximity to their people – all this helps to keep the mood going or determining if it’s time to switch it up.

There is tremendous technical skill in DJing – scratching, mixing, matching, or juggling beats. I am more of a matcher and blender which is also because of the music I play. For example: spinning punk rock is not conducive to juggling or scratching, but it is to matching. Techno and house leads to blending etc.

“I just play other people’s music because I am an appreciator and a fan; I’m not trying to make anything new.”

I just play other people’s music because I am an appreciator and a fan; I’m not trying to make anything new. But man, great deejays play the 1200 like it’s an instrument. You can’t just do that; it’s years and years of practice. Folks like Eric B., Scott la Rock, Shadow, Pete Rock, Q-bert, Premier – even if you are not a fan of hip hop or the turntablist, the skill cannot be denied.

NN: What kind of gear do you use when you DJ? Turntables or a laptop? Is there a skill set different from one to another?

KS: I use Technic 1200s, and I have a couple different mixers. I have a pro-dual CD player that I only use when I am spinning for roller derby or a wedding because derby is too fast to only spin records, and weddings may require stuff I don’t have on LP. I do not nor have I ever spun out with a laptop. I don’t have anything against those that do and, I am know there is skill set involved, but I am unfamiliar with it. I just spent New Years Eve spinning with JP Source who exclusively uses CDJ, what he does is awesome! I love it! But I’m a traditionalist, tactile in my approach and will always bring records.

NN: Have you ever played in a band or anything like that?

KS: Yes, I played trumpet all through school and was in every band class: jazz, concert, symphony, marching. I played guitar – badly I might add – for a short time and was in a duo with Brad Hales who owns People’s Records Detroit called Aggie Usedly’s Air Driven Wheel. Aggie Usedly hosted the Michigan Lottery and the anchor would always announce, “As Aggie Usedly cuts the power to her Air Driven Wheel… here are the numbers.”  Folks liked us, we used to play over sound effects LPs and got to open up for Dirty Three’s Mick Turner which was awesome.

NN: Do you think there is any contention between musicians and DJs? From my perspective as a performer I’ve certainly felt at odds with DJ culture in the past, since a DJ set cut into my set time, but in retrospect I think my attitude was stupid and couched in rockism, which I’m not okay with. Definitely not trying to stir anything up here, but to get a professional’s opinion on the matter.

KS: No, there certainly doesn’t have to be – if a DJ cut into your set that’s on them and the sound guy unless the band wasn’t ready. When I spin in between bands, it’s not about me, it about the band and the folks coming to see that band.

NN: What is the worst musical performance you’ve ever seen and why?

Sorise: I once watched Tom Smith from To Live and Shave in LA get a blow job on stage during a show at the CAID in Detroit; that was ugly on many levels. Musically the worst musical performance…were from folks I enjoy quite a bit musically. Bob Dylan about 87, 88 was particularly horrible. I think he was drinking pretty heavily and the mix was off; his guitar was way out of tune; it was sad. Thankfully I saw him again later and redemption was accomplished. Eugene Chadbourne once sent me running from the Cadieux Cafe during one of his “electric rake” performances. A rough performance for me is usually noise based – I have issues with certain pitches, tones & too much feedback.

“Eugene Chadbourne one sent me running from the Cadieux Cafe during one of his “electric rake” performances. A rough performance for me is usually noise based – I have issues with certain pitches, tones & too much feedback.”

NN: What is the best prank you’ve ever pulled or seen played on someone else?

KS: Not much of a prankster; I’m kind of serious, I guess.

NN: Have you ever been in a fight? Did you win, if so?

KS: Physical or Verbal? At some point in any fight, don’t we always think we are the winner?

NN: TIE Fighter or Thai Fighter? Explain your answer.

KS: You know who wins.

NN: What non-musical things get you riled up these days? Read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth discussion?

KS: Inequity in education, injustice, people choosing not to use the power of dissension get me rather riled up. Poor table manners and loud gum chewers always piss me off.

Hmmm… I am completely obsessed with Milkwood’s Togarashi Cheesecake, and this is coming from someone who should (can) not eat cheesecake! DELICIOUS! I also think Rye’s drink The Shit is about the best ever. I’ve been slowly making it through Netflix music doc section: Nollywood Babylon is great about Nigeria’s breakout Bollywood film scene. I just rewatched the doc on Paul Williams – AMAZING!

NN: What have you been listening to lately and why should we?

KS: Well, nothing new in terms of release date. I just bought some soul 45s from People’s in Detroit, and I am enjoying them. Ready to try them out on the folks at the Derby City Soul Club. But I have been listening to a lot of Indonesian stuff from the ‘70s. Light in the Attic recently reissued Kelompok Kampungan’s Mencar Tuhan. It’s pretty brilliant!