SA / 023: Cay Horiuchi
Cay Horiuchi is a Japanese American non-binary DJ, artist, and activist based in Portland, Oregon. Their sets are raw, emotional, and fun, a reminder that we never have to take ourselves too seriously or adhere to strict rules or genre boundaries even when we're taking on tough feelings or issues. In addition to DJing, Cay is a boundless source of energy on the dancefloor and one of the founding members of UwU, a newly formed T/GNC & QTPOC focused artist collective.
About the mix:
I’m usually drawn to soothing, comforting sounds. My last mix for Daisychain was inspired by being under water, from all the river hangouts and camping I did in the summertime. This time, I wanted to make something opposite, something more firely. The mix is more inward, exploring my history, my identity, the anger I feel about this world.
I spent the last couple of months fighting depression and fatigue. It took away my ability to do basic things like cooking and laundry, feeling and offering of love, and even the enjoyment of music. It was really difficult for me not to self-blame myself for not being able to do things I usually enjoyed. It was difficult for my loved ones not being able to receive all forms of love that I was able to provide in the past. It was a bit scary because of the uncertainty of if it was going to come to an end.
I was lucky enough to get out of this cave finally this past month, and I wanted to create a mix from music I recently discovered that sounded exciting to me. My mix includes the sounds that remind me of my homeland, the sounds that remind of my youth exploring the American pop culture, to the bassy sounds I often hear in my dreams.
I used my Pioneer DJ 400 with my work laptop (lol) at my apartment. I also used the sub in my car to listen to the practice mix.
Where did you grow up? How did that shape your sound or the way you relate with music?
I grew up in a handful of places in Japan: different towns in Chiba, a rural town full of delicious fish and closed-minded people in Oita, and summer time in Goto, Nagasaki up until I was 17. I spent the rest of my youth and adulthood in the tips of the U.S., from a tiny town in Maine, the Bible Belt Florida where I swam in the ocean at night and got stoned with hippies and surf bros, while being forced to listen to shitty music like Sublime.
Now I live in Portland, Oregon, a strange place where a thriving creative QT BIPOC community, well-meaning white people who take up too much space, and Neo Nazis collide. I think this mix is self explanatory of my external and internal journey to some degree. The mix features the familiar sounds from wagakki, drum n bass to Sean Paul.
What is the place you call "home" now? How do you ensure that you're both drawing inspiration and contributing there?
This is a loaded one for someone like me who left their home country to protect oneself. If you asked me in person at the “right” time, I would straight up start crying over this.
Julia Kristeva wrote about the excruciating pain and loneliness of being an immigrant in her book, Strangers to Ourselves. It resonated with me particularly regarding the strong sense of “not belonging” anywhere. Due to the unfortunate and obligatory assimilation to whiteness, I am no longer “Japanese” enough in Japan. And I definitely don’t feel like I belong here in the U.S. either. Even on a good day, someone on the street makes sure to let me know that I don’t belong here. At the same time, how can I call Japan my home, a place that rejects safety and rights of everyone except cis men? A place that shames those who dare to be different? A place that forces sterilization of trans people?
I naturally suffer from depression and anxiety due to this, and I always struggle to find myself a sense of home, a sense of belonging.
Music, community, and DJing have been a huge help, however. I’m drawn to the sound that reminds me of my ancestral home. I like hearing my language when I DJ. That’s grounding. That feels close to home to me.
I am truly thankful for the dance music community for inviting me in, and for continuing to create intentional situations in which BIPOC and queer people can dance in bliss. When this rare, magical moment happens on the dance floor with smiles on our faces, our sweaty bodies moving in unison, with a sense of freedom and safety away from toxic masculinity and whiteness, we can together create “home” for us. It’s important because many of us have left or lost “home” at some point in our lives. It is important because even on the “all inclusive”, “safe” dance floors, BIPOC and Trans/GNC often face microaggressions, violence, and exclusions.
What was the first dance music experience that really stuck with you?
Despite all the unforgettable memories from raving like there’s no tomorrow at the best parties ever in the past decade, I would say it was when my parents took me to bon odori for the first time in Ichihara, Japan during the summer festival. I was maybe 4 years old. It was my first time discovering the massive sound of taiko, the power of the bonfire, and the power of the people dancing around it. Oh, and don’t forget the glowsticks. This is an important detail. I was mesmerized by just about everything, especially the fact that there was so much energy and light in the middle of the night.
Do you have any thoughts on the present struggles of DIY collectives and spaces and how these spaces can continue to exist?
I will be honest here because I think it’s helpful to share not only one’s dreams and successes, but also failures.
My collaborator and I applied for the arts grant a couple months ago because we dreamed of creating an event series focused on the healing of the local QT BIPOC community through dance music.
We recently received a rejection letter, but our dreams are still alive. Surprisingly, I wasn’t disappointed as much as I thought I would be a few months ago if this were to happen. In a sense, we are both relieved about the result because this means we don’t have to report our project to a white institution. It means that we would have a total control of our visions.
I think these intentional collectives and spaces are necessary, especially for the marginalized communities. We want something that makes us feel supported and grounded, that are nurturing to our hearts and bodies.
I want to address that these collectives and spaces are possible with low budget, but I am also aware of the importance of being able to pay properly for each artist and staff member’s labor. There is a couple DIY event spaces where we could potentially throw parties, but we also want to avoid a white-run space because it leaks of toxic colonzier energy.
I do wish white men with more resources would become more self-aware to the point where they would fund queer BIPOC events while being hands-off from the leadership or the decision making process. But I’m definitely not counting on that.
Can you tell us about something you've discovered about yourself through a dancefloor, whether in a single moment or over an extended period of time?
Throughout my raver history, it became clear to me that I dance in order to release the anger and frustration I feel about this world. I let my wild side take me over to experience something primal that I can only experience in nature or in these unconventional situations. I dance harder than many others honestly because I don’t want creepy men or white women who minimize my existence to touch me.
Can you share any tracks or mixes created by someone else that really bring you back to a place or are somehow connected to a specific time or locale?
Just like a typical, boring Taurus, I obsess over one album for years. I love The Weighing of the Heart by Colleen, and have been listening to it since 2013 often to fall asleep to. I particularly love Push the Boart onto the Sand. It’s ethereal, melancholic, yet comforting. It makes me think of both departure and arrival in one’s personal journey.
Share a video or photo that you recorded that takes you back to a moment, and tell us a bit about that moment.
I took this video in 2008 when I was back in Goto Islands, Nagasaki.
Chankoko is a Buddhist prayer dance performed in different towns of Goto Islands during Obon, a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirit of our ancestors. These dancers would visit households having Hatsubon, the first anniversary of a loved one’s passing. I will be forever missing the islands and the ocean.
- Lafidki - Kniom Nahn (2017) [Chinabot]
- Jason Hou - 合 (Unity) (2016) [Do Hits]
- Indus Bonze - 般若心経 (Heart Sutra) (2018)
- Ground - Hanasai (Original Mix) (2018) [ESP Institute]
- Ancestral Voices - Samhain (2019) [The Fifth Kingdom]
- MM - Terrible Muscle (2019) [Even the Strong]
- W. Y. Huang - 奴郎不辨 (Master & Slave) (2019) [Eternal Dragonz]
- Sha Sha Kimbo - di Prima (2016) [CyberSonicLA]
- JX Cannon - Tool 2 (2017) [CyberSonicLA]
- Osheyack - Parataxon (2018) [SVBKVLT]
- Don Froth - HR22 (2016) [WNCL Recordings]
- Perfect Health - Take That In (Shake That Thing) (2018)
- Jasmine Infiniti - Dark Crystal (2019)
- SCIBATTLON - Gor-AKIRA 2020 (Retake) (2014) [Terminal Explosion]
- Slikback & 33EMYBW - ZENO (2019) [HAKUNA KULALA]
- BFTT - Ofusc (2019)
- Throwing Snow - Idealog (2019) [Houndstooth]
- LEVL - Arcola_#1 (2019) [Arcola]
- Otim Alpha - Tongwen Instrumental (2019) [HAKUNA KULALA]
- Missy Elliott - Lose Control (Hermeth Edit) (2019)
- Cop Envy - Junk Bass (Original Mix) (2019) [Hypercolour]
- LMajor - Danger (2018) [WNCL Recordings]
- T5UMUT5UMU - 2019 (2018)
- A.Fruit - Three Six Nine (Original Mix) (2018) [Hyperboloid]
- Leda Stray & High Class Filter - Venga ft. Nane (2019) [Symbols]
- Walton - Lazer War (2014) [Hyperdub]
- 33EMYBW - Arthropods Continent feat. Li Jianhong (2019) [SVBKVLT]
- EYECEE - Delicate Drippin' (Rushmore Remix) (2018) [Sans Absence]
- Cop Envy - Leisure (2019) [Cry Baby Records]
- Janet Jackson - Someone To Call My Lover (Gag Reflex Edit) (2019)
- Cay Horiuchi on Soundcloud
- Cay Horiuchi on Facebook
- Cay Horiuchi on Instagram
- Cay Horiuchi on Twitter
Published December 2019.