Sam Kern is one of those people who takes challenges head on. She helps others see their strength and encourages them to do the same. She shines bright even when things seem dim. She brings life to the party. She is many things: a DJ, a label head, a promoter, a flight attendant, a mother, a lover, a friend. She is Sassmouth.
Sam was one of the first Spotlights here on Sequencer back in October 2015. In that piece she opened up about living in Chicago, running Naughty Bad Fun Collective, hosting Planet Chicago at Smartbar, Industry Brunch in Detroit, and holding down a residency for San Francisco’s As You Like It.
In 2013 she launched god particle, a record label now on its seventh release with the latest EP from San Francisco’s Christina Chatfield. The label’s map spans the globe with output coming from Pittsburgh, Columbus, Venezuela, Chicago, Berlin, Santa Cruz, and Detroit. Each release on the label is unique, with artwork done by Justin Kohout, yet the sounds collectively groove together, wonderfully cohesive with the label.
This DIY vinyl label came to fruition “for friends that were making great music that sort of surfs the line between techno and house and minimal and acid and all the stuff I like to play as a DJ. I’ve had the joy of releasing music from musical heroes Shawn Rudiman, Titonton Duvante, Argenis Brito, as well as friends like Christina Chatfield, Olin, Karina, Stridah, and Covio,” she says. “I kind of took my underlying passion and motivation to connect people by throwing underground parties and applied it to the label: connect DJs and vinyl collectors with excellent music they perhaps hadn’t been exposed to. Perhaps they were too young to enjoy early releases from Shawn on 7th City, or Titonton’s Metamorphic releases, or they hadn’t yet heard of Stridah or Karina. (Both had their vinyl debuts on god particle).”
Although she does so gracefully and diligently, the level at which Sam multi-tasks is no easy feat. Not to mention the sub-challenges within the music industry that so many others also encounter. “Obviously there are a million challenges we have all heard about with the current state of vinyl production in the States and I have had to deal with all kinds of frustrating moments like refusing batch after batch of white labels. I have also had my personal challenges with wanting this label to be something I cultivated on my own without collaboration and always feeling like I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to the label with being a working Mom, DJ and occasional party promoter,” she says. “But the joy of seeing a dance floor rock out to a friend’s music who you care deeply about, that you know worked their ass off for months or years to create, is absolutely worth the frequent frustration with vinyl production.”
Chatfield’s The Circle EP has been a work in progress since god particle began. Sam says, “I have loved Christina’s music and live PAs for years and she was one of the first people I asked for music in early 2013. Any time I would see her I would gently remind her to finish some tracks for god particle, but also understanding that she is constantly creating new music for her live PAs, which are always some of my favorite live PAs I’ve seen over the last 10 years. I think it’s important to respect each artist’s creative timeline and not force or rush something before it’s ready. I feel like patience paid off and she produced a record that just hits all the right buttons for me – it has a trippy techno track, a ‘let’s get this party started’ techno track, a playful acid track, and a dreamy acid track. I don’t know if it will ever leave my bag. The record sold extremely well in the States and very soon a limited number will be distributed via Word and Sound to Europe and Asia.”
Coming up for god particle will be a release from Chicago producers that she says she has admired since the label’s start. Ghosts of the Sky comprise the dual creative effort from chicagodeep and Taelue, heads of record label Perpetual Rhythms. Sam says “they have a crafted dreamy deep house and dark Chicago acid record for the next god particle release coming out in the near future. Sound clips will be up on the god particle Soundcloud page soon.”
Not only does Sam want to share the work of her peers, she encourages others with musical aspirations to start creating. In March this year, Sam, Elly Schook (Kiddo), Ariel Zetina, and Jarvi Schneider launched the Walking & Falling DJ workshop and mentorship program geared for women-identifying and non-binary music enthusiasts. During the first week of October the second installation will be taking place once again in Chicago to provide a safe learning space for women and queer folks. The biannual workshop’s name is inspired by a Laurie Anderson song.
“She is one of our musical heroes, and we felt like it celebrated the learning process where making mistakes is encouraged and embraced, which can be challenging thing for women-identifying folks to embrace in a male-dominated field like DJing or music production.” – SASSMOUTH
“The program includes private DJ lessons with turntables and CDJs, a visit and appearance on WNUR radio station the night of Wednesday, Oct. 4 and a public in-store event at Gramaphone Records on Thursday, Oct. 5 where participants and mentors will DJ and dig. And finally a Walking & Falling public DJ workshop at Smart Bar Saturday, Oct. 7 from 7-9 p.m. before Planet Chicago,” she says. The public workshop led by participating mentors will be “open to any women-identifying, non-binary and trans music enthusiasts who want to learn more about DJing and participating in future programs. The entire program is a created and run by volunteers in the hope that participants will ‘pay it forward’ and become future mentors here in Chicago and other cities.”
Sam has recorded a special mix for Sequencer, something different than most mixes she has out there. Developing a studio mix is a unique experience. “It’s a little different every time. Sometimes I have a very loose idea of what I want to play and record whatever happens and am happy with it. Sometimes I have a very specific vibe I want to create, and maybe it’s even a silly description I make up in my head. Like last year when recording a mix for VODERcast, the theme was ‘melancholic space trip to Saturn’, which reflected where I was at personally towards the end of a very difficult 2016. I planned it out a little because I wanted to choose specific tracks that fit into that vibe,” she says. “Or then for something like the Truancy podcast that is based in the UK, I just wanted to record something that would give new listeners a little portal into what I would do if given the reigns of a dark sweaty Midwest Fresh warehouse party or a Hot Mass hotbox party.”
“For this mix I wanted to shift gears and create something that is less about the dance floor and instead what I enjoy listening to at home. It showcases music I’ve cherished from the time I was a teenager to today. This year in particular I’ve been working on listening more to my inner voice and intuition and being more honest with myself and others. Our international dance community lost some incredible spirits in the last year and like for many others, it was devastating and shook me to the core. It constantly weighs on my heart and how I want to live this short insanely beautiful life. And a small piece of that life puzzle is the desire to continue sharing music I love as through DJing in the most authentic way possible.”
We keep busy and follow our passion. We push ourselves to grow, learn and expand. We multi-task. Sam will teach you that you can do and be whatever you want. She will also help you see that when things get a little hectic or when we start to feel that heavy weight of life, it’s important to stay in tune with your roots. Remember that as long as you are honest with who you are, where you are, and where you want to go, everything will be okay.
1. The Five Star Galaxy – “Rester Eveillle Riviera Traxx Dub”
2. Digable Planets – “Jettin’”
3. The Pharcyde – “4 Better or 4 Worse”
4. Fela Soul – “Trouble in the Water”
5. St Germain – “Sure Thing”
6. The Nation of Ulysses – “N.O.U. Cooking With Gas!”
7. Sonic Youth – “Schizophrenia”
8. Unwound – “Re-enact the Crime”
9. Lee Ranaldo – “Slo Drone”
10. Psychic TV – “Black Rainbow”
11. Flash and the Pan – “Waiting for a Train”
12. Circa Tapes – “Walk”
13. New Order – “Ceremony”
14. Rootical Sound – “Horny Dub”
15. Dub Narcotic Sound System – “Typecast”
16. Cat Stevens – “Was Dog a Doughnut”
17. The Orb – “Little Fluffy Clouds (Cumulonimbus Mix)”
18. Yello – “To the Sea”
19. Aphex Twin – “Fingerbib”