David Chan couldn't find what he was looking for in New York City nightlife, so he created it himself.
The Brooklyn-based DJ, who spins under the name THELIMITDOESNOTEXIST, just launched his own hyperpop club night, called sksksks, which aims to be a "safe space" for queer, trans and nonbinary partygoers "to gather away from the pure pop music or hard techno" that often dominates LGBTQ+ parties.
Described by Chan as a physical space where the virtual world meets IRL, sksksks brings together online music communities, from PC Music to nightcore stans, with an emphasis on "maximum safety, maximum fun." Beyond providing a dance floor, sksksks offers face masks, ear plugs, fentanyl test kits and Narcan — in response to the pandemic and a recent rise in overdoses from laced drugs.
"Coming from a community background, it's important for me to throw the function as safely as possible," Chan says, building off his years of experience organizing different events for the BUBBLE_T collective. "The [sksksks] party is very much community-focused."
The first installment of sksksks, which took place July 23rd at H0L0 in Ridgewood, featured music from Alex Chapman, moistbreezy, Tendryl, Morenxxx and cute boys. Hosts included queer/ nonbinary designers like SYRO and LEAKYOURSEXTAPE, as well as sex work advocate Sammy Kim, photographer Leo Xander Foo and Twitter legend Justin Wolf.
Ahead of the second sksksks on September 11th, PAPER caught up with Chan to talk about the post-lockdown shift he's seeing in NYC nightlife and how his club night is creating a more caring approach to the scene.
How long have you been involved in nightlife?
I've been a DJ for just over 2 years, although I've been going out for a few more years than that, taking in and experiencing the highs and lows of NYC nightlife, but especially within the rave/ techno scene. I have also been associated/ friendly with the BUBBLE_T collective in some capacity since the early days (around 2017), although I officially took on a more active organizing role this year. That's where I crafted a lot of the current ethos I have around nightlife, which is a very intentional and care-based approach to creating spaces. Having experienced what a healing and special place the dance floor can be, I think you can really feel when there's a lack of intentionality and specificity on the part of event organizers. I've gone to the best and the worst parties in my time, and I think it's helped me learn what I like and what I would like to bring in curating a nightlife space. Ultimately, it's an honor to help set the vibe in any capacity.
As a DJ, what do you think you bring to the scene with your work?
One of the main reasons I became a DJ was because so many times I would go out and I'd never be satisfied with the music selection. My experience of New York is that there are many spaces for house, techno and pure pop. But I was looking for the spaces and DJs that played what I wanted to hear: SOPHIE, Charli XCX, Spinee, Doss, GFOTY, Shygirl, Danny L Harle, Himera, Arca, Slayyyter, just to name a few. They weren't playing this music at the rave, nor at the bars — they still don't. Every time I go out, I still think to myself, "It would be great if they could play SOPHIE right now." I learned these spaces and DJs were not that common, so the main motivation was to be able to control the music. I think hyperpop and PC music, with pop, trance and techno remixes and influences is very much the vibe.
How long have you been wanting to make your own party? What were the steps leading up to the first night?
It's been an idea I've been thinking about since the start of 2020. I wanted to create a space where I could play GFOTY, A.G. Cook, SOPHIE, easyFun, and I was actually really nervous because I didn't know who would be interested. I had planned a party in April of 2020, which of course never got to happen. We all spent a year inside and I spent my time perfecting my craft, expanding my skill set, learning audio production, but most importantly getting to know a lot more people who listened to hyperpop/ PC Music — whether it was through DJing for the hallowed zoom rooms of Club Quarantine and Fairy World, or meeting new OOMFs on Twitter.
That was something I didn't have before. I didn't feel that I knew that many SOPHIE or Namasenda stans IRL, and I got to know these fierce queer people on Twitter who had great taste in music, some in New York, some in California, and many of them all over the world. Now I knew they existed and mind you the hyperpop community is very much a hyper queer community — I still believe it's somewhat niche, but there hasn't yet been a super well-curated space to gather.
When things started opening back up, I felt a lot more confident in tapping on these connections with people I had met. It was also really reassuring to know this time that the audience was there. I reached out to the venue, H0L0 in June, formed a lineup, got a bunch of hosts together (mostly my friends), and we did a little bit of a social media push and put up flyers in Bushwick. I figured out the logistics as I went — working with a venue, deals, trying to pay all our talent fairly, lighting — and we threw our first party on July 23rd.
What void do you think you're filling in the nightlife space with sksksks, specifically with music?
I don't really see a carefully curated and intentional space that caters to the hyperpop community, outside of pop and house music at the gay bars or clubs, or hard techno or ambient music at the rave. I feel like there is something that exists in the middle and that's what I hope to create — something that doesn't take itself too seriously, but that is also more deliberate in execution. I give full credit to the beautiful spaces I've admired from afar such as Heav3n in Los Angeles, Fake and Gay in San Francisco or the legendary JACK댄스 in London. Seeing these parties flourish and find an audience was such an inspiration for me, and definitely pushed me to wanna create New York's version of that.
You've described this as a physical space for the virtual world to meet up. Why is that important?
I met so many people I had no idea were into the same kind of music as me through the internet — through Zoom parties, through Twitter and through our sksksks instagram account, which during the year we weren't throwing parties functioned as a hyperpop meme dump account. Because I knew so many of these people primarily online, during a time when we couldn't be on the dance floor, it feels incredible to finally get to gather in a physical space — and one that I created, no less. I had the idea for this party in my head and it was extremely rewarding to see it come to life — to see us pack the place out with people. My hope is that I gave the thing I was looking for to other people who perhaps felt the same way I did — that there was a lack of something in queer nightlife spaces in NYC and provided some catharsis through the powers of the dance floor of a well-organized event. If I've done that, then my job is done.
How would you describe the vibe in NYC right now, in terms of gathering and resocializing?
Clubs reopening has been crazy in NYC — we went from 0 to 100 real fast. There was definitely this hunger for partying right away, which has always been there in the past, but right now it feels like the volume is turned way up. I think not being able to party for so long has made me more selective of the spaces I want to put myself in when it comes to nightlife. The privilege we have as NYC residents is that we have lots of options. It can be a little overwhelming, but it's also been a really beautiful time because this hunger has created opportunities for new things, new parties, new events. There's almost been a reset and people are open to new things. That's where sksksks comes in and I think we are seeing a shift in the world of nightlife right now.
I've been really enjoying raving hard and I love seeing that everyone else is doing that, too. It's been really cool to see the spaces and events that collectives like Club Carry (memphy, antpuke) and patiasfantasyworld (mistervacation, river moon) have been curating, and seeing goth jafar blossom, as well as seeing longtime collectives like DisCakes (Pauli Cakes) and PapiJuice (Oscar Ñn, Adam R, Mohammed Iman) continue to create the community-based spaces that you feel safe in because of the very caring approach. I have so much respect for what they do and I'm so grateful we have them in the scene.
What's your favorite memory from the first sksksks party?
The highlight was slightly later on in the night, where I had calmed down a little because things were for the most part going according to plan. I went on the dance floor and hugged my best friends (who had helped me throughout the night), and the DJ Tendryl dropped SOPHIE's Whole New World (DOSS and SOPHIE Remix) from Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides Non-Stop Remix Album. This was just a song I had never heard anyone play before at any party, and I just felt so reassured and seen. It was a euphoric moment — very much what I feel like that remix intends.
How do you determine the DJ lineups of this party?
There's a few different criteria in my booking/ curation process. First of all, genre — now, hyperpop is a pretty amorphous term as a genre that can encompass a range of sounds, but I think I am looking inside this spectrum. DJs should be able to make people dance, period. That is a really important criteria for me. I'm also looking at the taste level of the DJs, whether they have a unique identity and voice in their sound.
At our first party I booked cute boys, who is a Soundcloud legend to me, and makes some of the most incredible flips and remixes that I've been bumping all last year. Alex Chapman played a fun and high energy set for us as well, and if you've ever seen Alex play live you know he's one of the best at getting a crowd truly excited and getting them to pop all the way off. It's really a special skill he has. I also had one of my favorite underground pop stars, moistbreezy, perform live. It was her first time playing songs off her album, Breezy, which came out in 2020.
I would like to continue having more underground pop stars perform live and give them the stage to serve their full fantasy. We have a few really exciting DJs and performers for our upcoming parties, which I can't talk about yet but it's going to be major. Moving forward as this turns into more of a platform, I would really like to also provide a platform for younger DJs and producers who are looking for spaces to play, as long as they fit the vibe, and pay them for their work, as well.
Outside of music, what else is important to you in throwing a successful party?
On the operational side of things, it's been really important for me to offer people fair rates. Having been on both sides of the booking process, I've taken too many low-paying gigs — especially in my early days — to offer any DJ a low rate. My ethos as a promoter and organizer is also just to pay everyone as well as I want to be paid. That stems from my community background, where profits are not prioritized, and I want to take the best care possible of my DJs, artists and partygoers.
We provide ear plugs, masks, and fentanyl test strips and Narcan at our events, as a harm reduction measure, given recent reports of overdoses due to laced drugs, and I also had my friends trained in crisis management/ overdose prevention. As always, my philosophy is "maximum safety, maximum fun." I want to make my guests feel safe, the way other parties have made me feel safe. This includes setting rules that prioritize the safety of our queer and trans partygoers, and following city protocols when it comes to the ever-changing rules in a COVID-ruled world. These safety and community guidelines are laid out in every post caption and on our website.
It's also been a pleasure to commission friends for their skills and be able to pay them for their work. My friend Calvin Chin designed our first flyer and logo, which in turn was rendered by my friend John Sampson, who is working on future projection visuals, one of which is used as a part of our website, designed by my buddy Zach Krall.
I also asked Matías Alvial, a Chilean artist and activist who is also a photographer, to photograph our party. He was the one who took these gorgeous, fun 35mm photographs that we have as a document of the night. Putting this party together has been truly a collaborative effort and that is one of the most special things — that everyone believes in my vision and is willing to mobilize to make it happen.
What're you most excited about for the next installment of sksksks?
We have many more fun parties coming up. I can't reveal our incredible lineup of underground DJs and pop stars yet, but we have a stacked lineup planned for our next party on September 11th, 2021 at H0L0 (1090 Wyckoff Ave, Ridgewood, NY). You can join our mailing list at sksksks.wtf or follow us on Instagram to make sure you receive our announcement and ticket link drop, which will be coming in a couple of weeks. We sold out last time, so I would recommend getting tickets early this time.
We have a date in October as well, and some other big plans coming up. I'm most excited to keep the hyperbops playing and keep the party going as safely as possible, and to continue to create the nightlife space that I want to see in the world.