An Interview with House of Kenzo and Santa Muerte
Santa Muerte. Photo by Wayne Holtz, Designed by Gemel Biscotti
On December 9, Walters Downtown will host a show that features DJ Earl (Teklife), as well as a collaborative performance with San Antonio art collective House of Kenzo and electronic duo Santa Muerte. This show is one not to be missed, for its uncanny connection between all forms of art, visual and musical, a great atmosphere, and a perfect location for this kind of show. Prior to their sets, Free Press Houston spoke to House of Kenzo about some of their early videos, why the group is tired of vogue, and an Obama’s passion for affordable beverages.
Free Press Houston: It is Wednesday as I am writing these questions, and House of Kenzo knows about Wednesdays. Could you describe WTF Wednesday? Where did the idea for that video come from? For those unaware, it is essentially a video of you performing on a railroad track.
House of Kenzo: WTF Wednesday was our first attempt at hosting a weekly. Tony’s cousin hooked it up with a local promoter at an ultra lux lounge and they needed help with an EDM night. The promotion happened, but the night ultimately fell through because the middleman sucked. We learned that we didn’t need a middleman and began planning our own installations and streamlining our group. The traditional club environment was not the direction we wanted.
We shot that video after trying to get into the Lone Star brewery. We didn’t want to get arrested, so we went across the street to an abandoned shed and just danced. Everyone recorded, we were experimenting and then we edited all the out of focus lol video that night into something hilarious. Really just playing. The usual.
FPH: Though there is a new family moving into the White House, I want to talk about the Obama’s… specifically Michelle and her love for cheap margaritas. Who thought of that?
House of Kenzo: Roxy and Gemel were high as fuck editing all of the footage. They were just writing BS sentences throughout the frames because it was WTF Wednesday. There was no direction. We just wanted to experiment and create a place to be weird as fuck in. They eventually took out all the random narrations, except Michelle Obama loves $1.50 margaritas because it actually provided information. The other narrations were lost, but they were probably weird as fuck.
FPH: It’s no doubt that the group delves into very experimental shows, but it’s not that unusual compared to vogue in general, is it?
House of Kenzo: Yes, it is totally different from ballroom culture. Compare vogue nights to a Rabit show. I guess it’s like the same intensity, but on two different frequencies.
FPH: What does the genre mean to you? When did it start, and is this a resurgence, or has it never gone out of style?
House of Kenzo: I think it’s really limiting. We have integrated the vogue elements into something totally new. We respect all styles of dance and movement. Our attitudes towards the world are super reflected in vogue culture, we relate, but don’t identify. We just game to play. Cunt is a feeling.
FPH: I have read that a number of you are classically trained. With being trained, I imagine there to be a lot of specific structure to every step, but in HOK, it seems to be much more self-expressive. Are there lots of similarities between the two?
House of Kenzo: Only Breezy and Karma are classically trained and the rest of us are hood dancers. We learned from the street. Dancing is about being present, you are either here or you are not. We love to dance to beats that are not even there, creating imagery. Manifesting what we want people to see. Imagination on the spot.
FPH: If we started with new-wave, where are we now, referring to your EP ‘Intro to Fuckwave’?
House of Kenzo: Working on new projects, dude. Fuckwave is over. We had a funeral for her in September called “Death of Fuckwave.” She was a nice girl, but she is gone. We have moved on to our next project. Our fuckwave trilogy explored the creative life cycle. It’s fun, then it’s done.
FPH: Do you believe that you can only be a true HOK fan if you are only familiar with the music?
House of Kenzo: We love all of our cosmic siblings. Meeting everyone in real life is really nice. Feeling them. The art in our installations is getting everyone else to perform.
FPH also got to speak to Santa Muerte about their relationship with N.A.A.F.I., being big outside of Houston, and why you should come to their show.
FPH: You guys are from Houston, and you’ve gotten some coverage that “Hometown Heroes” work their entire career to get. Why do you think you have gotten this coverage from places like FACT but not from other local publications, with the exception of a few interviews?
Santa Muerte: Well, I think that’s just it. We don’t want to be “Hometown Heroes.” We don’t want to play every weekend or have a monthly event. We are solely focused on our production value as well as the value of our performances. We want quality shows with substance. Attention to detail and hard work is what has opened the doors for us here in the US and overseas. It was extremely important to find the right fit for a performance this big for us so it was only right to do this with Mystic Stylez.
All publications (Fact Magazine, The Fader, I-D Magazine, and Dazed Magazine) that have premiered our music are publications who genuinely shown interest in our art. They see a more broad spectrum of the current state in Music and Performance art. I don’t really see our local publications worried about us or any of our colleagues who are doing things outside of Houston. We have toured the US and Mexico. Other artist from Houston have had toured the US and Australia, worked closely with Diplo and Skrillex and yet no recognition from local publications. We don’t work hard and sacrifice to seek recognition or validation from local publications, promoters and much less to fit into the “Cool Kids Club”. We do it to present an experience to our fans or those who attend a Santa Muerte show for the first time. This year we shared stage with N.A.A.F.I., Disclosure, Anderson .Paak and Total Freedom and had the honer to have a high rating on our debut Ep from Resident Advisor. We are completely dedicated to working hard and not so much on pleasing anyone.
FPH: What did the Fact Magazine write up mean to the both of you?
Santa Muerte: It was an honor but it was also well earned. We felt a great amount of love from friends and colleagues by sharing with us this accomplishment. We have more to come with not just Fact, but with other major publications!
FPH: Panchitron, would you be who you are today without the greatest hits of Barry White? Could you explain the impact of your earliest memories of music and how it has shown in what you do?
Santa Muerte: Barry White changed my life and helped me understand from an early age the effect music has in your emotional state. Music has been a part of our lives from an early age. Personally music saved my life. The moment I picked up a drumstick, my life changed greatly.
FPH: How did the group get involved with N.A.A.F.I.?
Santa Muerte: I [Pancho] have been close to N.A.A.F.I. since 2009, and I have been traveling and touring in Mexico since 2010, so I collaborated with all of them. We are all one big family, we all work as a collective. We are constantly sharing ideas and planning on how to execute them. We have several projects in the works. NAAFI is way more than just a label, it’s a core of artist who are working on a vision.
FPH: How has that label progressed the sound of Santa Muerte?
Santa Muerte: Our sound has evolved because our constant sharing of ideas with the crew and also by performing along side them. There is a plan to tour Japan in February, so I think that experience should also shape our sounds and performances.
FPH: You also teamed up with Red Bull for 12 hours of N.A.A.F.I., could you explain that show?
Santa Muerte: Well, we just played that show this past Thursday. It was crazy. There was a lot of preparation from all of us. So we were at the venue from 3pm to 6am, it was life changing. [laughs] 4,000 RSVPs and it felt like it was never ending flow of people. One of the best shows we have played.
FPH: You’re playing a show at Walter’s on December 9 with DJ Earl, House of Kenzo and you guys. Besides the music of you and the other groups, why should people come to the show?
Santa Muerte: They should come to experience something different, the diversity of genres should excite people. Houston needs to diversify and expand its mindset on music.