I remember being a little baby dyke…wet behind the ears/wanna be DJ/newbie promoter…proudly escorting my bevy of fabulous drag queens to “Electrolush” at The Showbox in the late 90s. Now some of you youngun’s may not know what Grandma is talking about. Trust me, it was the most epic club experience this city has ever seen. Nothing like it since. Thrown by Tasty Shows – whose influence in Seattle can still be seen all over this city. But, I digress. It was one of these nights at “Electrolush”, when I, along with what I still remember as being the most glamorous and creative group of drag queens and club kids I’ve ever known, danced our way onto the floor. Dance floor was packed and thumping! Then the DJ drops this track, this EPIC track that would become an anthem for all time….
Where did we go wrong
Where did we lose our faith
My brother is in need
But can he depend on me
Do you think if one of you tried
Maybe you could find
A better friend than any other
If you gave more than you took
Life could be so good
Come on and try
Now’s the time
‘Cause you’re free
To do what you want to do
You’ve got to live your life
Do what you want to do….
I was HOOKED! I immediately went to the record store and bought that track, and found out the name of the singer…Ultra Naté . I then became a fan for life. I have every record I have ever found of hers. I own so many remixes and white labels of “Free” that I could fill a two hour set mixing them back to back!
Now, Ultra Naté is way more prolific as an artist then my story of how I became a fan reveals. In addition to being a singer, she is also a songwriter, record producer, DJ and promoter who has achieved success on the pop charts with songs such as “Free”, “If You Could Read My Mind” (as part of Stars on 54), and “Automatic”. Nearly every single one of her singles have reached the Top 10 of the US Hot Dance Club Play chart. This includes singles like: “Show Me”, “Desire”, “Get it Up (the Feeling)”, “Love’s the Only Drug”, along with her number-one hits “Automatic”, “Give it All You Got” featuring Chris Willis, “Waiting On You” and “Everybody Loves the Night”. In December 2016, Billboard magazine ranked her as the 12th most successful dance artist of all-time. 12th most successful of all time?! That’s an amazing achievement considering how many dance artists exist in the genre these days.
Since those early days, I have become a full grown old lady dyke. That wanna be DJ has become a DJ with 2 decades of experience under my belt. The newbie promoter has gone on to open several nightclubs, collaborate on many revered queer club nights, and produce one of the largest free outdoor festivals in North America in Seattle PrideFest. I’ve also had the chance to book and work with Ultra Naté on several occasions, and I am happy to say, not only is she one of the most legendary divas of our time, girl is ALL HEART. ALL LOVE. AMAZING.
This year she’s bringing all that heart, all that love, all that amazing, and all that TALENT to Seattle PrideFest…and we are SO PROUD TO WELCOME HER BACK TO TOWN! She’s gonna turn out a little teaser on the Main Stage – so you will get your fix of her vocal genius, but she is also going to crush a set on the Fountain Stage. It’s about to get LIT down there at Seattle Center!
I was able to grab a few minutes of this busy diva’s time for a brief Q & A in advance of her PrideFest appearance. We talk history, We talk “Free”, and we talk a little bit about this thing we call Pride. Read for yourself….
L.A. Kendall: When did you know that music would be your career, and what led you to it?
Ultra Naté: Funny enough I didn’t really grasp it until I was knee deep in it, making an album for Warner UK and performing on Top of The Pops for my first single back in the early 90’s! I was a club kid who stumbled into music through DJ/Producers who were trying to build their stable of artists. We were all hanging at the underground clubs in Baltimore and formed a family.
LAK: My first exposure to you was when I was a little baby dyke DJ. I had heard “Free” at one of my favorite club nights and the next day I was digging in the crates at the record store (Platinum, RIP) for my copy. Oh man, how that track spoke to me! I was obviously not the only one. For the next 18 months it was fully featured across the nightlife scene. The soundtrack of nightlife in the late 90s. Did you have any idea that it would hit the way it did? Do you ever get sick of singing it? I am amazed by all the remixes of that track that still get turned out today. It’s a timeless track.
UN: By the time I wrote and recorded “Free” I had done two albums on Warner Brothers and had been dropped from the U.S. label so I had no idea what would work and what wouldn’t. I did know that you have to stand behind whatever you put out there so I went for what would not only distinguish itself but push the boundaries also. I never get tired of singing it because it’s a gift to myself and others that it has spoken to and will speak to in the future.
LAK: OMG I am so glad that you feel that way, because I think that track is timeless, and frankly, it’s my go to whenever I need to remember I got to live my life! Admittedly, I was late to the Ultra Naté party by jumping on the train at “Free”. (Shame on me!) By the time you released that, you had nearly a decade of work under your belt, and had already released several albums, working with artists like Basement Boys, Nellee Hooper, and D-Influence. You had also contributed the song “Party Girl (Turn Me Loose)” to the soundtrack for the independent film starring Parker Posey. Some people work for decades in this business and don’t see a tenth of that action! How did those experiences drive you into the new millennium?
UN: They always reassure me that no matter how unsure I feel about any of this at any given moment I do have a purpose and I have shared some good music with the world!
LAK: Damn girl. You sure have! How do you feel about the recording industry today? You came into the scene when promoters still had to pound the pavement to get the word out, before social media and MP3 culture. What was better then vs now and vice versa?
UN: There’s always pros and cons to every situation both then and now. Back then you relied on a label for everything and you are an indentured servant who owed them your life whereas now you can make some things happen on your own and that’s an upside. However, technology has enabled more music than ever to be made and put out on a million labels with not always great production or any promotion – which saturates the market and devalues the music and industry. Clearly a downside.
LAK: Outside of being an exceptional singer/songwriter, your resume also includes: DJ, Producer and Promoter. Did you always DJ and Promote? Or did that come later?
UN: Those definitely evolved later as I took on more roles once I became completely independent.
LAK: Your “Deep Sugar” parties have been going on for nearly a decade and have become something of an institution. What inspired this party, and what keeps it going strong 9 years later?
UN: It’s actually 14 years this September! I started the party because the scene in Baltimore started to become stagnate with no venues or events for the heads going on. It was all hip hop or rave..nothing for the underground dance community I came from. I felt I needed to give that back to the city. Baltimore has had a long relationship with house music and produced a lot of talent that have made their mark on the industry. It’s still going because we run the party like “Cheers” (where everybody knows your name!) and if they don’t, you’re still treated as family. We also play great music that makes you forget your life drama and wanna shake your booty like no one’s watching!
LAK: 14 years! That is legend status girlfriend! It’s on my bucket list to make it! As any good fan would, I stalk you on Social Media. (You’re welcome! Ha!) I notice that you come down on the side of being appalled at the state of politics we currently find ourselves in. How do you use your platform either as a release of the anxiety/anger/outrage/etc you may feel? As a public figure, do you feel a responsibility to infuse fans with a sense of hope during dark times?
UN: I feel that artist are humans first and citizens next – we feel it just like everyone else. It’s a personal choice if you want to use your platform but I’m a vocal person and I feel culpable if I don’t use my voice to say no to injustice and hatred. In my mind..if you don’t speak against negativity then you’re ok with it. I have mothering instincts so I always want to protect…
LAK: We are so excited to have you out for Seattle PrideFest – not only for a few song set on the Main Stage, but for what I expect will be an EPIC DJ set on the Fountain Stage. When you think about Pride, what comes to mind?
UN: Great vibes, camp, comedy, fantasy, magic, makeup, high kicks and good times!
OMG YES to all of this! You have two chances to see Ultra Naté in all her glory at Seattle PrideFest. Do yourself a favor and make sure you catch them both!
Sunday, June 25 at Seattle Center
- 3PM Live Set on the Main Stage
- 4PM DJ Set on the Fountain Stage