Currently reading : An interview with KAOS founder Lee Adams
Lee Adams is the founder of Kaos, one of London’s most progressive subcultural night clubs which next month celebrates its 10th anniversary. First starting in Soho in the Dickensian glamour of Madam Jojo’s; the club has gone on to inhabit a wide variety of unusual spaces that London has to offer. Besides from its wide array of prominent dj’s its also staged some of the most cutting edge performance art and live music from around the world. It has been best known for being held in Stunners a tranny fetish club in Limehouse but it is about to move on to new exciting and unexpected spaces after the closure of the night club. Housing some of the most eclectic individuals that the city has to offer Sang Bleu has spoken to Lee about his experiences of curating a social scene and energy in the British capital over the last decade.
Why did you decide to start the night club Kaos?
We started Kaos because there was something of a void within the London club scene at the time. There were no longer any queer or marginal spaces that played techno so we had to invent our own.
We had come of age with the fierce, dark sonics and an almost mythological cast of characters at clubs like Warriors, Matinee and FIST. This is where we had met so many of our friends, these were our palaces, playgrounds and temples but since they had all closed it felt like the scene had become displaced, out of that void Kaos was conceived.
How important is it to have London as the host to Kaos?
Many people tell me when they first come to Kaos that it is somehow embodies their idea of London. I think it corresponds to an archetype of this city. People come here to create themselves anew, and through this perpetual movement London constantly resurrects itself. Nowhere else I’ve ever found represents this radical diversity and the endless possibilities of reinvention as much as Kaos.
Having said that I’d like to explore the possibility of taking the club on the road internationally. We’ve had an outpost in Bangkok for some time (Run by co-founder Bradley Kaos) and I think it could work on an ad hoc basis in Berlin where there is a very dynamic queer techno/experimental music scene and possibly in Tokyo or Barcelona or Madrid.
You have always designed the flyers for Kaos, which have become collector’s items. What inspired you to create them yourself and how do you feel they have changed throughout the years?
It’s always been important to me that the images we use reflect the atmosphere and the aesthetic of the parties. We have had the pleasure to work with a number of extrordinary artists over the years including Ray Caesar and Laurie Lipton who both featured prominently in the Thames and Hudson book Fly by Night – The New Art of the Club Flyer. More recently I have begun to work with 17th century alchemical manuscripts. The experience of Kaos is transformative and I like that reflected through this kind of imagery.
Otherwise the biggest change has been the switch to digital media, we no longer print anything. I have nostalgia for the printed flyers but the switch to digital is more sustainable.
image courtesy of Ray Caesar
How would you describe the following that Kaos has amassed?
Tribal, fierce and loyal! It has become something of an extended family.
Have you ever set a dress code or has a ‘Kaos‘ look simply evolved over time?
I have an aversion to dress codes. When we first started, in order to set the scene and as a nod to the ironically impossible dress codes of New York’s Jackie 60 club we requested the crowd wore straightjackets, glass slippers and nylon wigs!
I have always found dress codes to be restrictive, one of the things I love about Kaos is the myriad of sub-cultural styles, In short, there isn’t a ‘Kaos look’ there are a thousand. It’s kaleidoscopic.
Do you feel like you’ve seen the London club scene change through your time running Kaos?
Everything changes all of the time. Since we’ve been operating we have seen numerous alternative/queer techno parties like Behind Bars and Antagony come and go. London is always reinventing itself. Recently there hasn’t been much happening outside the mainstream, with the exception of a few great nights run by various friends such as Abattoir, Blanc and Rosa Decidua. This is why I feel it is vital to keep that spirit alive in London, so it isn’t all just ersatz and simulacra.
What do you think it is that has kept Kaos going for a decade? What is it that people feel so comfortable with within Kaos?
image courtesy of Laurie Lipton
Could you tell us about a few of your favourite performances that have been staged at the club?
The very first Kaos at Madame Jojo’s was inaugurated by Japanese Butoh master Katsura Kan with an intense and dramatic solo called Time Machine in the well of the dancefloor. In the early days we programmed really epic performances, from the sonic tsunami of The London Dirthole Company to Japanese noise opera and avant garde string quartets. When we moved to The Speaker Palace in 2004 we hosted Bruno Wizard’s reformed punk outfit The Homosexuals and gave No Bra their stage debut. We even turned the club into an experimental cinema. Kaos was also where I introduced my dear friend the composer and pianist Othon Mataragas with his soon to be muse Ernesto Tomasini.
In 2007 and again in 2009 Kaos was incorporated into Visions of Excess, the Bataille inspired, multi-media performance events I co-curated with Ron Athey for the 10th anniversary of Fierce! Festival and in the tunnels of the Shunt Vaults (now buried under The Shard) for The SPILL Festival. These were two of the most expansive and transformative events fusing music, art and performance, creating a “total derangement of the senses”… from New York drag legend Flawless Sabrina reading Tarot in a glasshouse to Canadian auter Bruce LaBruce conducting interactive zombie-porno photo shoots to Veenus Vortex endlessly drowning, whilst Zackary Drucker was meticulously depilated by the audience… to Christophe Chemin masticating regurgitated chewing gum crucifixes… to Julie Tolentino slow-dancing blindfolded for 24 hours non-stop.
We also hosted memorable after-parties for Ron Athey and Julianna Snapper’s opera The Judas Cradle in the stunning, neo gothic 291 Gallery and for Incorruptible Flesh, Ron’s collaboration with Dominic Johnson at The Chelsea Theatre.
Since we moved to Stunners, an underground transsexual fetish club in Limehouse the whole place just turned into one massive, durational, Felliniesque performance. The tiny, unlit stage and the broken radio mikes did nothing to enhance any of the work that was actually programmed. So I gave up trying and just let this phantasmagoric diorama take shape and then disperse into the night.
How important is the architectural environment to the club night?
It’s important because it frames everything and creates atmosphere. Architecture has emotional resonance, also space gets charged with energies. One of the things I’m excited about right now is being on the road again, at the crossroads if you like and having the opportunity to create new temporary autonomous zones, making night raids on the Capital with a post-apocalyptic crew of gypsy pirates.
Where do you see the club going in the future?
I’m interested in investigating new spaces and exploring the possibility of collaborations both in London and Internationally. Kaos has no territory and no borders.
‘Speculum Sophicum Rhodo-Stauroticum’
of Theophilus Schweighardt, published 1618
(with interventions by Lee Adams)
Images kindly donated by Lee Adams from previous flyers
Find out more about Kaos on the website here where you can also buy tickets for the next party Saturday the 12th of October. The 10th anniversary party will happen in November. The party is in a secret East London location and Icaro, Dr Mu, HaLo-iS ,Chad Curry, Sotiris L and Choronzon will be djing.