For the past 15 years Chicago has been the adopted home for Sam Kern, who otherwise goes by the moniker Sassmouth. After growing up in the punk scene as a teenager in the Northwest, she was brought to the city in 2000 working as a flight attendant.
“I didn’t discover Chicago house and Detroit techno until I moved here, but once I did, I was smitten immediately … we spent most of our time going to clubs like Crobar, Rednofive, and Red Dog for Boom Boom Room. For many years my friends and I would regularly caravan to Detroit to get our fix for more underground parties,” she says.
Detroit played a significant role in her foundation as an artist, as she made her way to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (Movement Festival) each year since the second annual event in 2001, with the exception of 2010 for the birth of her daughter.
Chicago and Detroit became such inspirational sponges for Kern which went on to establish and influence her DJing and producing. “I really can’t think of a better place to soak in the culture and surround yourself with badass mentors than Chicago and Detroit. If you go to a party here, chances are you are surrounded by amazing DJs and producers that really set the bar high and constantly inspire each other.”
While learning to mix Kern said she would carry around a little notebook and after hearing something that piqued her ear she would would ask around, scribbling down the artist and name of the track, meanwhile also establishing a network in Chicago bringing her down more paths.
A multi-tasking master, Kern juggles a variety of things including running the Naughty Bad Fun Collective, holding a residency with As You Like It, developing the Industry Brunch parties, and creating her own residential party series at Smart Bar.
The Naughty Bad Fun Collective, based out of Chicago, began around 12 years ago comprised by a tight-knit community, including Kern. She says they were “just a group of friends that loved dancing right up front next to the speakers and partying together. We could fill a dance floor wherever we went. Someone pointed it out to us and I think that kind of inspired us to start throwing our own events.” The party began to manifest as an underground event finding home anywhere the group could muster, often in giant lofts or warehouse spaces. For a while NBFC parties were being held in “The Rave Dungeon,” the basement beneath Kern and her husband’s apartment, or hosted at their friends loft in London that they called “Club Regret.”
Life spent living in London inspired her creation and establishment of the Industry Brunch parties in Chicago. What started as an underground daytime party at a friend’s restaurant has become a staple event in Chicago and has also successfully taken place in Detroit during the city’s major festival as well as throughout the summer months.
“My husband and I lived in London for a few years and were inspired by all the daytime events there. You could get a full night’s sleep, wake up, have some breakfast, and enjoy music on a Sunday afternoon. We also liked the idea that many of our friends who do work as bartenders and various service industry jobs could enjoy going out on their day off. It has been really special to watch how it’s evolved in Chicago.”
Additionally, Kern also makes her way to the West Coast, holding down a residency with As You Like It, a promoting group based in San Francisco, Calif. She met AYLI founder Jeremy Bispo about 12 years ago when she was just learning how to DJ.
“Some friends and I traveled to Los Angeles to see Richie Hawtin and Sven Vath and I guess we were dancing extra hard and probably fist-pumping. Jeremy walked up to me and asked where I was from and I said ‘Chicago!’ without missing a dance beat. He got a big smile on his face and said ‘I figured! Nobody dances like that in L.A.!’ and we became instant friends and kept in touch over the years and would meet up at parties across the U.S. when we could,” she says.
Bispo invited her to play an event in 2010 at a place called the Compound, also known for Lee Burridge’s Get Weird parties, in San Francisco and at 7-months pregnant she played her last gig before giving birth.
“The Compound was a fantastic underground space with a capacity of around 150 and had an ‘in the round’ setup; the speakers, visuals and even the crowd surrounded the DJ in a circular-shaped room. It is still one of my most favorite parties I’ve ever played. To be that connected with the sound and crowd, and I still get the occasional person coming up to me when I play in SF and tell me how special that night was. I currently fly out to SF to DJ the As You Like It parties every other month or so. The next one will be at a warehouse space in Oakland, Calif. with Juju and Jordash on Halloween,” she says.
While back at home in Illinois, she hosts her own special event titled Planet Chicago at the well-renowned Smart Bar. A continuation of her crew’s underground events, they take the party and transform the club with decorations and themes like on an underwater planet or in an alien cathedral. According to the artist, Planet Chicago is always “a little campy, a little trippy” and decorated with artwork usually handmade by one of the NBFC’s newer DJs, Jarvi.
“We also like to feature a lot of live PA’s and present it floor level so the dancers can see what the act is actually doing with their machines, or watch them sing live like when we had Portable play one of our first events,” she says. “We also like to feature longtime heroes to us. We’re not opposed to showcasing newer artists but I think there’s something important about spotlighting and celebrating artists that have been quietly grinding away over the years making fantastic music. We also believe in building long-term relationships between the artist and community, which is why we bring back artists annually if we can.”
By 2013 she developed a vinyl label called god particle. During her travels she was reading about the Large Hadron Collider and while daydreaming she thought about how music — like the smallest Higgs Boson particle — connects everything in her life. She says, “As a DJ, I love tracks that work as building blocks that can work as connectors between techno and house and electro and more ambient sounds.” Vinyl pressing in today’s age she coined as a labor of love due to various hurdles with production. Kern was excited to announce that the label will be releasing “GOPA 05” by Santa Cruz, Calif. producer Stridah.
As a mother, wife, DJ, producer, label and party developer, Sam Kern does it all purely driven by passion. “I’m positive I will be doing something music-related even when I make the leap from Mama Techno to Grandma Techno,” she says.
Kern will be present this Saturday, Oct. 17 at 45 Euclid in Rochester, N.Y. along with Shawn Rudiman for the next installment of the Signal > Noise parties.
“Shawn is one of my favorite people to watch perform, he is also a mentor and now I feel lucky to say a dear friend. I was first awed by his live show 11 years ago when I saw him and Claude Young at party called ‘Green Light Go’ in Detroit during the festival,” she says. “I felt honored when he sent me music for my label — he is truly one of the most inspiring musicians I have ever met. He just goes for it like he’s on a kamikaze mission. A lot of what he does live is improvised on the fly and I’ve seen him many times and have never seen the same show. There is a funky raw vibe to what he does, and somehow he even injects his sense of humor into the experience, which is awesome. Rochester is in for a treat.”
Stay tuned into the Sequencer later this week for a spotlight on Shawn Rudiman.