In the lavishly-produced world of disco pop band Hercules and Love Affair, Kim Ann Foxman is the queer female voice behind the song “Athene.” Off stage, she’s a jewelry designer, a DJ and all-round enjoyable interview subject.
Originally from Hawaii, Kim Ann moved to San Francisco in the mid-nineties and threw herself into the city’s rave scene. A few years later she moved to New York where she started a dirty dance party called Mad Clams at The Hole with her friend Andy Bulter, now the musical force behind Hercules and Love Affair.
These days, she divides her time between New York, her girlfriend’s house in Barcelona, and the Hercules recording studio in San Francisco. In advance of her DJ gigs in Chicago and Toronto this week, we rang up Kim Ann to reminisce over her days as a New York party promoter, amateur filmmaker and exercise video aficionado.
Hercules and Love Affair perform “Hercules Theme” on Pitchfork.TV.
When did you begin DJing and throwing parties?
I started collecting records in San Francisco, mostly dance music I liked from my rave scene ? I was pretty big into some specific DJs. When I moved to New York I had met Andy through [a girlfriend] I had followed to New York. He was dating her roommate at the time. We bonded instantly and I really liked the music he played.
The first party I threw in New York just fell into my lap. I was walking down the street one day and I was looking for a bar tending job and I ran into a friend that my girlfriend of the three days knew. I knew he had a night at The Hole and I said, ‘if you ever need a bartender I’m totally looking for a job.’ He said the owner was looking to start a new night for girls and he said that if I bar tend, I had to throw the party.
So I was like, f*ck it, I’ll try it. So he called the owner and two weeks later was my first party. I just decided to call it ‘Mad Clams at The Hole.’ I really needed money ? I needed clams… I was never really much of a super lesbian scene girl, so I knew I wanted it to be mixed but I also named it Mad Clams because it was silly ? and I’m kind of silly, I’m not very serious. I asked Andy to be my resident DJ and he said OK so that’s what started the party at The Hole. It was such a great space. It was the only queer night of that time that was really mixed and it was super debaucherous because anything could happen there.
People would get naked and dance on the bar, do drugs off the bar. Everybody was smoking and it was after the smoking ban so that was really exciting for people. There were no lights, it was really dark, the walls were covered with graffiti. Anyone could write on the wall, pee in the corner, have sex, whatever.
It was one of the last seedy places where you could get away with anything like that. There was no manager other than us and on other nights, it was just as scandalous. They would have these secret sex parties — XXX parties that were unannounced and it was a whole room full of sex. Sometimes I’d have my party the next day and have to sweep up a whole floor of condoms. So it was just one of those kinds of bars.
You guys would write theme songs for the party, which were the first musical collaborations between you and Andy. What did they sound like?
Yeah, we would do theme songs, that’s how we started working together. I first new about his stuff because we would hang out and he’d play little things he’d made and I was like, this is totally my kind of music. At that time, electronic music was not cool in New York. I had just moved there from San Francisco and I was super bummed ’cause I was like, where’s the dance music? It’s not cool here, nobody dances and it’s kind of depressing. He was my friend that played the music I wanted to hear.
What kind of music was that?
We both have the same love for some San Francisco DJs and really good dance-y music. It wasn’t cheesy electro, it was deeper than that, coming from classic house. He had some weird disco stuff then and I just thought it was really fresh.
Just for fun we started making theme songs that would close the night and videos that we’d project behind the DJ. It was something that happened by accident and it was fun for us. I didn’t take it very seriously and it wound up being very successful. The party ended because the bar lost its lease. They moved The Cock into The Hole so it became totally a gay bar and they didn’t want any more girl stuff there. But I’m happy it ended on a good note. We made a Mad Clams theme song and a Mad Clam rap.
Is there anyway we can hear those theme songs now?
I don’t think so! [laughs] I’m sure that we might have them somewhere but I don’t know if it’s possible to hear them. Not unless you’re with us!
I hear you’re obsessed with exercise videos and made your own videos for Mad Clams. What were they about?
I was really into exercise videos. I started playing exercise videos behind the DJs and everything just looked really good with the music. It went with the beat, their outfits were awesome, it looked perverted and kind of silly. People started giving me all these exercise videos and I started collected the weirdest ones I could find.
What are your most prized possessions?
I had this pregnant woman aerobics. They do ‘the preggo shuffle’ and they have shades on and all these pregnant women do fake raps. There was one where they used babies to exercise, as weights, which is totally not OK! They were flinging their babies around! Then I had Estelle Getty aerobics, which was her moving her head back and forth. It was really slow — it was the slowest aerobics that I had. I also had Latoya Jackson. She moves her neck like Michael and she just looks really crazy. If you listen with the sounds she’s like ‘ooh ooh’ ? she make Michael noises. I played that one so much it broke and I had to tape it together.
A clip from Estelle Getty’s work out tape for seniors.
Then we started making our own videos. We made our own exercise video on a roof top. I invited all my friends to have a daytime party, it was super last minute. I said everybody bring alcohol, this is the theme, meet me on the rooftop we’re going to party and videotape it. We each wound up trying to lead the group in a workout which turned out really cool and everyone got dressed up for it. There’s people drinking bottles of Jameson on the exercise bike in crazy outfits. Of course because we were drinking, the exercise all turns into fake dry humping. And I swear Saturday Night Life, someone must’ve came to The Hole and saw my video because later on they had one that was so similar. The dry humping was just too similar.
The exercise video is called Exercise Your Clam and then we made a horror film called Nightmare on Clam Street. The plot was if you got bitten by a vampire than you turned gay. It was basically all these people turning gay because they were getting bit by vampires. There was a lot of dry humping in that film as well. Not serious dry humping, just very silly dry humping.
Seems like dry humping was a theme.
Dry humping is a recurring theme in my films. [laughs] We also filmed a really good scene in The Hole. Everyone was dressed up and we filled The Hole with dry ice and that’s when they sacrificed me. I was the last person to not be a vampire alive. I was like the last virgin and finally I turned gay. Andy was a really good character named Beth — she was red-headed woman in a nightie.
When you first started DJing, what kind of music did you play?
At that time, I was feeling very silly. I was always collecting house music, so I’d go between freestyle house and cheesy songs like “Short Dick Man”. Or Neneh Cherry mixed into freestyle mixed into house, and now I play more specifically. I don’t play so silly anymore, I play more deep now, classic house and acid and weird disco-y stuff. There was a time for my silliness and it was fun.
When Hercules and Love Affair went on tour last year, was that your first time singing live?
That was my first time. It was really scary at first, it was more stressful than fun in the very beginning. I really fell into singing. Andy had been using me as a guinea pig for a lot of years, just testing ideas. I was singing ‘Athene’ for him so my balls dropped slowly with that. He kept pushing me and he pushed me to the point where I couldn’t be embarrassed anymore in front of him. He pushed me to a certain space and he was like, ‘I think I’m going to keep that for the album.’ I never really expected that, it just sort of happened. He was like, ‘what do you think about playing live? I said I was totally into it and he said, ‘you can’t be scared, you have to be balls to the walls.’
“Blind” became a huge success for him, which I had a feeling it would. I knew we were going to start touring. There was so much hype before we played any shows. It was really scary. Most bands get to play for their friends or they’ll play 50 shows for 20 people. We had no practice like that. Our first show ever was sold out in New York at Studio B for over 1,000 people. So that was really frightening, but by the end of the tour I was stage diving and having a lot of fun. I think I grew a lot in the seven months we were on tour. I’m a lot more confident now.
Hercules and Love Affair perform “Athene” on Pitchfork.TV
Have you been offered other singing gigs since the success of Hercules?
I’ve been approached, but I really love working with Andy. I’m really picky about aesthetic and he’s always been my favorite aesthetic.
Describe that aesthetic.
It’s very genuine and sincere and it has a lot of timeless things about it. He doesn’t do anything tacky or cheap sounding. Everything comes from a sincere place and a place I can connect with because we were into the same DJs and we freak out over the same records. It doesn’t sound like new, cheesy, cheap electro stuff. It has more substance than something you can whip up on your computer. It’s a lot deeper than other things that are out there. He doesn’t write about silly stuff.