O.T.R.

Dame Grrrl: Rynn Miller Talks Visibility, Drag, Music, and More Ahead of Fundraiser Show

Returning once more to London to do what she loves best, Rynn Miller talks about her latest collaboration with London Rollergirls and their benefit show for the DIY Space in London, Saturday, November 24.

A vivacious and welcoming tone awaited on the other end of the phone while I fought with technology once more. Rynn Miller’s patience could calm anyone down. “Well, I don’t want to call you when it’s one in the morning,” I reiterated as I apologized for chatting with her so late. “No, I don’t mind, I’m just working,” said Miller in the most reassuring tone I’ve heard as of late.

Returning once more to London to do what she loves best, Miller talks about her latest collaboration with London Rollergirls and their benefit show, which is also for the DIY Space in London, Saturday, November 24th. “For London Rollergirls, these women work tirelessly and they travel all over for competitions because they work so hard and they’re so talented, and it’s nice to see where I can collaborate with a show and help out again.”

Miller’s root of it all hails from Claremont’s non-commercial radio station, KSPC, where she spins as DJ Zomb-E on the air and throughout Los Angeles (and now London), while managing to throw benefit shows in her spare time, with her last being for Long Beach’s LGBTQ Center, as well as female fronted nights, dubbed Dame Grrrl.

What Miller has described as similar to Los Angeles’ The Smell, DIY Space for London isn’t just a safe and inclusive space for shows, but also for growth. “They don’t have all the resources like The Smell, it’s completely volunteer run, so The Smell’s campaigns — their financial campaigns have helped them — but DIY Space for London doesn’t have this big massive pool. It’s like this magical gem in London where they have these workshops to help empower others and like I said, its completely volunteer run and they make sure that their 2 pound membership fee is affordable for everyone, and members can throw shows, they can collaborate with each other, and they can propose workshops.”

Regardless of the time difference between us and chatting late before an appearance on Get in Her Ears (at the time of our talk), Miller’s professionalism and eagerness to spread the word rose above it all, pleasantly awaiting my questions.

 

How did you get started with London Rollergirls to begin with?

I threw a show at DIY Space for London earlier this year, and I was throwing another show and they had something come up — where they [London Rollergirls] had this show booked, completely booked — they were already to promo and everything and they found out something about a venue that really had to do with integrity and so they did not want to associate themselves with the venue. So, they were looking for another space and DIY Space for London knew I had the date and that I was already booking things, so they got me while in the process of booking things and they said ‘Hey London Rollergirls are really looking to try and have their benefit show, would you be up for collaborating with them?’ And I was like yeah I’d be up for collaborating with them! I’m all for collaboration and community and DIY Space for London is like The Smell but a little bit more accessible.

In which ways?

They’re working on building their stage, a ramp to their stage if they haven’t already. They have workshops and they also have a nice ramp up to their restrooms and things like that; the restrooms are really accessible as well.

Also reading ‘A night of derby and drag,’ so obviously that’s their niche. Tell me a little more about drag and if you can elaborate on that [your participation]. 

Yeah well, I kinda always wanted to do that and I love drag shows anyways, so I wanted to incorporate that into the fundraiser. Like that was something that was the premise for the show that I was gonna throw is I wanted to include drag performances and Dame Grrrl — because DG has always been something for me that’s been — to me is super feminist and that’s a night that I’ve thrown over a year.

I always wanted to incorporate bands and so then I started working and doing that and London has just really provided me the space to incorporate whatever visions I have for Dame Grrrl and I think that drag is whole big part of the community too; that it’s great that if you’re gonna include variety that you include drag too. So, I actually confirmed with this really awesome performer Marc Anthony is going to be performing.

Marc Anthony? The Latin Singer? [laughs]

Yeah. [laughs] If you look on Instagram it’s M-A-R-K anthony.dragking and you can see his stuff and he’s really amazing. He actually won a really cool competition that was held out here in London for Drag Kings. So, he’s a really, really, great performer. I just saw him at this weekly drag show called bar whatever. And it’s spelled w-o-t-e-v-e-r [laughs] and its also LGBTQ variety show. I love L.A., but London seems to be more flourishing for a drag scene where you see a lot more Drag Kings.

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Courtesy of Markanthony.dragking via Instagram ( @ziebellphotography)

 

I’ve never heard that verbiage before — Drag Kings.

Exactly! And that’s part of the problem is there’s not as much visibility or exposure. There’s maybe one or two nights going on in L.A. that are just devoted to Drag Kings. And I think Drag Queens are absolutely amazing, and everything like that, but I think its also important to have some more visibility because Drag Kings do exist. [and] it’s one of those things where you start learning about the scene as you’re researching things and you start contacting more people, and there’s there a network, but you have to start contacting people first.

For those, like myself who may be ignorant to the verbiage, because at times it’s what we’ve been accustomed to, my understanding is its universal. When I hear Drag Queens I don’t really associate that with one gender. So what is the difference between a Drag Queen and a Drag King?

Oh, very big difference. Drag Queens are performers who perform as Queens or women, Drag Kings perform as men.

That…would make sense.

And there also non-binary performers who, well I’m not entirely sure how non-binary performers are defined or identified, I think at this particular point in time each performer defines themselves, you know? But I’ve met some really cool non-binary performers out here too. The scene is much more visible here and that if you go to a show you’re gonna see all kinds of performers, and its amazing.

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Rynn Miller, courtesy of the artist.

Did you have say with the bands on this show?

Yes, I actually had booked a band and was going to be booking more but what I decided to do is, because I have the DJ aspect handled as well, and the Drag performers, that was important for me to include that, and so since I had one band solidly confirmed I kept the one band that I had confirmed and we’re making it a longer show so that there bands didn’t have to be changed either. But I didn’t want to book additional bands that I perhaps had in mind because its a collaboration, so I feel in a collaboration you want to try and make things work for everybody.

What was the main aesthetic for the line-up? It’s very eclectic, when I went from Guttfull to Megaflora I was like whoa! In the beginning I wanted to punch somebody and then I was just leaning back to indie-pop. I love that type of line up — so was that something that you had a hand in terms of catering to everybody?

As far as shows that I’ve thrown — because I’ve thrown a lot of benefit shows and sounds for for the cause, and for Dame Grrrl — in London I’ve been able to incorporate bands and I like having a variety, so it’s not just all one thing because then you’re getting different tastes of the music scene. So, its like a four course meal; you’re getting the whole culinary experience of music. And so yeah, I like having a variety. It was perfect that it worked out that way because some of the bands that I had reached out, some of them already had commitments, so it lucked out.

It fell into place?

Yeah.

 

To scale it back, because a lot of people don’t know that you do a lot of outside work aside from just being a DJ or being on KSPC, go into Dame Grrrl. How did this start and where is the future?

Well, I’ve done live gigs for a long time and it started out by spinning at Acerogami in Pomona and then the booker, Becky, said hey we love every time you spin we would like to give you a night, and I was like o.k., what is the premise of it, and she said whatever you want. And so I thought that was so amazing and this was a concept that I had been wanting to incorporate for a really long time and I was very grateful for the year we had at Acerogami. And the only reason that it stopped there was because they stopped having live music there.

It was a big bummer, I love all the staff there. In doing so, I think that it has made it so that I have the freedom to throw “Dame Grrrls” wherever I want. And it’s very important to me for me to highlight female fronted music and non-binary music because we need more girls to the front.

This is the thing that I ask, because I like to see things from every angle and try to be considerate to all, so when you say that, isn’t it just a double edged sword? In terms when you create these spaces or when you create these titles that negatively you created a label and now you’re separating?

I don’t feel a separation because I’ve always been an advocate for safe space shows and I even make sure when I do throw a show that I tag “safe space DJ,” I started that tag, I’m not sure if anyone else has continued it. It’s always been important to me because I used to spin at the Federal too and anywhere I spin I make sure people know that I’m a safe space DJ, and if anything is going on let me know and I’ll let the appropriate sources know so that they can take care and handle it. Also, I make sure to tag LGBTQ and say that these are safe spaces and part of the reason is that I put a lot into names that people may or may not realize, so Dame Grrrl to me incorporates the riot grrrl movement and to me riot grrrl is inclusive to non-binary folks and all our lovely transgender women who are out there fighting. So, to me I feel like it’s a very inclusive name and that’s personally just how I feel.

I chose the name because I like the sound of it and to take the phrase, “damn girl” and “oh she’s a dame” for me, it’s putting power into the phrase. Taking the power back and these terms or phrases that are usually used in a misogynist way, to be like “no, damn girl we’re cool” — plus I like play on words.

damegrrllondonrollergirls

The political climate has been really hard and stressful on me [too], and music is so healing. I’ve been out, while I’ve been out here, I’ve been to some really amazing and incredible shows and just to be able to feel that energy and not be in the states and feel that… it’s been very cathartic for me. When I get back I’ll probably be like, ‘oh no.’

What you’re feeling, we need it over here; need to bring it over here. There’s more people feeling like that.

Yeah. I am in the process of booking a performance, I got contacted for January so I’ll be booking a performance but I have to take a break once I get back. I will continue my radio show but I have to take a little bit of a break once I get back for personal reasons. But the good news is that I am going to work — I probably have like 90% of my Dame Grrrl sets that I’ve done, not counting the vinyl ones — and I have over 50-60 sets that I have to upload on Mixcloud. I’ve just been so busy! I did weddings, I’ve had two residencies.

Busy is good though!

Yeah, I do many different things. I feel that recognition hasn’t been really important to me, I just like to create and do. I have different aliases, I don’t have just one thing where you can find all my stuff.

That speaks higher for someone who doesn’t want the recognition and just doing it for the passion and love; that speaks volume and I think that’s why you’re getting so much work.

Well I try, but I’m also socially awkward. I’m a socially awkward music lover.

Join the club, we’ll make the t-shirts.

When I was thinking of DJ names I was actually thinking of DJ Awk-werd [laughs].

I can see this on a t-shirt.


Dame Grrrl & London Rollergirls present a fundraising show for DIY Space and London Rollergirls, Saturday, November 24th. More information here. For those unable to attend, may also donate to DIY Space via their website: Ways You Can Help

 

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