Grindhaüs is a new project founded by Alexia Nile and Vanilladisco to form a community of inclusivity, allowing for various art forms to come together and “get weird” at a quarterly show, the first of which is February 11, 2017 at the Nite Owl. The unconventional show will aim to give a home to projects that might make you a little uncomfortable, but also challenge you to question things, and most definitely entertain you.

I had the pleasure to sit down with Alex and James, as well as their producer, Nicky Markin and their communications expert, Megan Kargard, at PRLR.

FREQ: The “about” section for Grindhaüs reads: “Music and stage in the raw. Intimate art with interesting humans.” I had a visceral reaction to that. What is the inspiration behind the project?

Alex: I had this idea to do a gritty style of performance art show about 4 years ago. I was inspired by Devine, a drag queen from New York. She was a huge influence, as was David Bowie.

Later, I went to this strip club in Portland. The exotic dancing was very in-your-face, with the strippers pounding on the table tops, hanging from the rafters. I wanted to do something that was really grimy, underground, no-holds-barred; to get away from that cutesy style; to do stuff that’s more art house, stripped-down, avant-garde, inspired by Grindhouse film.

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FREQ: Tell me a little more about Grindhouse films.

Alex: Grindhouse was a genre of exploitation films in the 1960s and ‘70s that were super cheesy. For example, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is hilarious, because it’s Go-Go dancers killing people!

I don’t want to solely be defined by Grindhouse film, because as fun as it is to play on those themes, it’s also important to do feminist reinterpretations.

James: It was the body of work that Tarrantino drew from to create his esthetic. I believe the perfecting of technology was part of the reason why music was so good in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It was the golden era of studio music. Film was doing the same thing. For the first time, film-makers were able to whatever the fuck they wanted. It inspired the rawness of this project. The grittiness. And the strangeness.

FREQ: What kind of response have you been getting?

Megan: When we thought about how we could branch out, we realized we have three scenes here: live music, burlesque and electronic—how do we bridge them together? This event would be welcoming to all three.

Alex: We want to have a theatre element, spoken word, comedians, live bands, and open the stage to a variety of voices and performers. You don’t have to be the status quo to be at Grindhaüs.

Megan: It’s a facilitative conversation.

Alex: We’re not afraid of controversy or politics. Along with inclusive community, we’re not afraid to speak up about social justice issues or to stand up for what we believe in. Art is so important to free speech and it’s a form of protest. It can change people’s ideas and consciousness.

FREQ: Alex, have you been dancing for quite a while?

Alex: (laughs) Yeah… but I came from a theatre background. I actually don’t have much formal dance training. I prefer to call myself a performance artist because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as just a burlesque dancer. Burlesque is a performance art, not just a dancing art.

I’ve in theatre since I was about 16 and I started performing burlesque five years ago, and performed with The Electro-Swing Club—which James and I started—at Shambhala [Music Festival]. Two years later, a girl I met in Nelson said “That was so cool seeing girls with curves up on the stage!” It made me happy to hear that. When you have insecurities, you start thinking “I could never do that.” It took me a while be comfortable with who I was—to grow into my own skin. James really helped with that. He’s such a supportive partner. It was really cool to be able to get up on that stage and do that show, especially at Shambhala. Later, we launched the Dirty Gramophones, a project focused on creating stylized experiences for our audience, in the Electro-Swing genre, the 1920’s Great Gatsby/Speakeasy theme. Recently, I began working with Peppurrmint Parlour.image003

FREQ: What is Peppurrmint Parlour?

Alex: It’s amazing. I am a feminist. I love talking to people about intersectionality and feminism. Peppurrmint Parlour embodies exactly that. We’re breaking down race, gender, body type. It’s a beautiful project.

FREQ: How long has it been since you touched your first decks, James?

James: In my parents’ basement! Maybe 2009 or 2010. Long enough! Since that turning point, I’ve been lucky. There have been very few relationships that have gone anywhere but up and just gained momentum. Bassbuss is the perfect example. They’ve been around since the start. We’ve grown. And Calgary, too. Since Nenshi was elected, Calgary has put down roots—culturally.

Alex: We make our own local scene here! You don’t have to go to Vancouver or Toronto or LA, you can stay here and make your art! That’s another reason to do Grindhaüs, because it’s cutting edge art.

James: We’re making progress. There’s space for it here. When you bring an idea to the table, you can play by our own rules. If you bring an idea that’s good, like Bassbus, like Substation Recordings, Habitat, HiFi, Dirtytones, etc., you never really hear “no”. People don’t put down ideas.

FREQ: How does the show connect to the era to which it’s an ode?

Alex: I’ve always been obsessed with Andy Warhol and the Factory parties. We love disco for its inclusive spirit.

James: Disco is a cultural revolution.

Alex: We’ll draw on the Grindhouse film element by starting every show with a skit and by having weird and different characters. And by questioning the corporate culture.

James: And we’re defining the night by the art forms involved, not just the music.

FREQ: A lot of people base their decision to attend a show on what genre of music will be playing.

Alex: We want to get away from that; offer a bit of everything. It’s not going to be an entire night of this or that. There’s even going to be a Psychedelic Surf Rock guy, Nick (“Doctor Agon”).

James: Really weird music style from the ‘60s.

Nicky: He and I always used to listen to punk rock back in high school. He’s an eclectic, interesting person.

James: A while ago, he decided to start listening to music chronologically. He says once he got to the ‘60s, he just stopped. He couldn’t get past it. He just liked it so much.

FREQ: What about some of the other artists involved?

James: A guy on Facebook suggested incorporating live art and inspired us to talk to Harold. We’ll include a live painting gallery where the artists can privately sell their pieces.

Alex: And the musical aspect: we are blessed to have Freak Motif headline, as well as Casey “Rusty Meeks.”

James: Casey puts the House in Grindhaüs!

Nicky: And it’s not just about the party, it’s about the connection, about building the community.

Catch Grindhaüs at Nite Owl February 11th, 2017 @ 9 pm. Grindhaüs encourages patrons to bring donation items for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter- unused clothing, toiletries, toddler toys, anything a family would need in a time of crisis, as well as feminine items—like tampons—and children’s care items—diapers, baby wipes, etc.

 

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