SA / 033: Sharlese
Seattle-based Sharlese's sets combine the contemporary and the nostalgic in a way that feels timeless. A busy contributor to her local music community, she's a resident and Producer of the Afternoon Show and Programming Education Manager at Seattle's KEXP radio station, and currently serves as Vice-Chair on the Seattle Music Commission, as well as organizing events under the banner of coldwave, industrial, EBM, and synth crew False Prophet and underground techno collective Depth. Sharlese's dark, gritty, ravey sets are perfectly suited to the dancefloor, while still feeling informed by the deep digging collector mentality that comes with a long background in radio.
Where did you grow up? How did that shape your sound or the way you relate with music?
Seattle, WA, born, raised, and present.
I’m just an honest to goddess nerd! I started out listening to New Kids on the Block, dove into some Built to Spill and Sonic Youth to the present day of various wave and synth and a wide variety of techno gems I fancy at any moment.
What is the place you call "home" now? How do you ensure that you're both drawing inspiration and contributing there?
Seattle and my apartment at the moment. I have a music space that I share with Gag Reflex and T.Wan who I find to be huge inspirations, but since the pandemic I’ve been staying home. I have a set-up of 2 CDJs, mixer and 2 turntables that I use as my work and creative space. I actually record one of my radio shows at home and practice a lot. I’ve fallen in love with Bandcamp, I feel like I’m on the site everyday just cruising for things for mixes, my radio show and for fun.
I find that I work through a lot of emotions around my creativity and contributions which I just consider part of the process that I’m learning to accept. I like to dance and be really silly when I’m alone, try out silly mixes that may not work so I can keep things in the closet studio spicy and fun.
What was the first dance music experience that really stuck with you?
My first time walking into Electric Tea Garden (RIP) on Capitol Hill. I had just finished my DJ night Brush Off at The Wild Rose and I was walking home with my friend Trent. We actually weren’t walking, we were stumbling (lots o cocktails that evening) and we were walking east on Pike St and happened to walk by this place that was playing loud music.
We decided to investigate and it was a dance party, full of people! DJs, drinks it was going off! I was wandering around just looking at everything and wondering where I was at and why it was happening! I had never really been to an underground party before and the next thing I remember was throwing up in a big garbage can and then someone handing me water. That one experience, led to many experiences at ETG that I will never forget, including discovering techno!
To what extent is your music tied to community, and to what extent is it about individual expression? Can those things intersect?
I think my entire career was founded on community and it definitely intersects with my individual expression. Without my community there would be no Sharlese. I thrive on the creativity of my friends. I love seeing what they’re doing, watching them, supporting them and I feel honored when they do the same for me.
Seattle is full of talent, bursting at the seams and when I see everyone expressing themselves, it causes me to do what I want to do! I’m pretty lucky to have a radio show where I can play my friends and people I admire on a platform that will hopefully bring more awareness to their work. It’s all connected, without one, there can’t be the other!
Have you ever traveled specifically to attend a music event? Why do you seek out those experiences?
Detroit, MI, Movement three times. I went there first because it came highly recommended that I do so. Then after the first time, I had to go again, second again! I love the line-ups and most of the time I felt like a lot of the artists that I wanted to see, wouldn’t ever come to Seattle. Sometimes I feel like my taste is different than other people so I wanted to create my own experience and traveling was the only way to make that happen.
Do you have any thoughts on the present struggles of DIY collectives and spaces and how these spaces can continue to exist?
One of the biggest struggles I see is that I don’t think DIY collectives and spaces are fully respected by their cities. An issue that I keep seeing is various safety issues and I think in order for collectives and spaces to continue to exist, their cities needs to accept that they are there for a reason. I think there needs to be more collaboration and acceptance, all around.
Can you tell us about something you've discovered about yourself through a dancefloor?
I discovered that I do like to dance. That was always a big deal to me, kind of like yoga where you realize that no one is looking at you and if they are, then they’re not doing it right. I like to dance, feel the music. I’m not a dancer, but I like the experience and the environment. It means a lot to me to be around people and all feeling the same thing.
To what extent is utopia possible, and does dance music help us get there?
We are all balls of energy, contributing to the world. We all have our own idea of what “utopia” is, meaning different things affect us, sound and vision and that’s why we are all unique. Yes, dance music helps us get there, but all music helps us get there. Music is sound expression and we absorb what we need based on where our mind and body are at. It’s love.
How does online communication and social media play into your music/performance practice? Can these tools be used for community building?
Online communication and social media are not my favorite things. I’m happy they are there to connect with people, but I think that it takes over my brain and causes me to feel unpleasant emotions, which I think it all part of the evil master plan and yes, it can be a tool used to build community. But even while building something, always come challenges that show up in various forms and that is what we will always be trying to overcome. My only suggestion is to be kind to one another.
How do mind-altering substances play into your personal experiences with dance music? What are your feelings on how they impact the community or industry?
To be honest, the first time I took M at a party, I was so focused on being high that I forgot about the music. The entire night and day went passed me and I saw nothing. Later the next day, I remember sitting at ETG after the party and the people cleaning up were playing music from the night and I was like what is this?! I was super groovin’ and they all said to me, this was the music at the party you were JUST at.
I was so surprised at myself, I felt a little embarrassed and at that point, I had to ask myself, am I here for the drugs or the music. That specific point made me realize that I wanted to hear music and to have those experiences and to find balance with it all. Honestly, I don’t really like being high in public. It’s hard for me to control my behavior and sometimes I’m ok, but I don’t like the feeling of wondering if I was too obnoxious or said something I shouldn’t have.
My thoughts are substance use has be to normalized. We can’t keep them from being at the party, people are going to use them and of course that’s ok, your choice, but we have to accept and plan that people are going to be using as part of their experience and promoters must plan for them to be there by practicing harm reduction that will provide a safe environment.
If you DJ/produce under an alias, what is the story behind your alias?
My first DJ name was Sh6rl6s6 and it confused a lot of people because no one could pronounce it, but the vowels were changed to 6’s and it was just pronounced Sharlese! I just decided to go by Sharlese after a while, but I still play around with the 6’s. It’s funny because I used to relate three 6’s to evil and dark, the style of music that I love to play, but actually three 6’s can be your spirit guides telling you something to help you.
I think what’s cute about the 6’s is I can change them 3’s if I want. I have 333 tattooed on my left leg so it’s interchangeable and lovely to me!
Share a track you've always wanted to include in a mix, what you love about it, and why you've never managed to include it.
“Disco Stella” by Alessandro Parisi screams SHARLESE and for some reason, I just can’t seem to work it into a mix! It’s the perfect BPM, it makes me think of driving on a smooth windy road, but for some reason I cannot make it work!
I struggle with and have tried to put it in many mixes, I’ve looped it and have done everything to it and it still won’t work. It’s dirty and twirly, the 90s piano at the end, the angel vocals, the sounds seriously make me crazy, but for some reason it hasn’t worked. It’s the most perfect track and I’m determined to make it work!!!
What's something you do in your spare time that helps calm your brain?
Not a lot of people know this, but I have a music video Tumblr (yes Tumblr still exists) where I put up music videos that I think are fun to watch. I guess this is just a personal project because no one really follows me, but I enjoy having a space where all of them exist for me to watch whenever I want to!
- Aloka - XTX3
- Cybernetic - Movement
- Sina XX - Miroir (feat. u.r.trax)
- Sina XX & Cassie Raptor - Body Needs Bass
- AADJA - Nero Erotic
- Locked Club - Atom Hell
- Charlie Sparks - Center of Attention
- UNREALNUMBERS - Nadia
- Repro - Amain to Live
- Aahan - Hail Discordia
- Die Selektion - Kaleid (Romain Frequency remix)
- Vladimir Dubyshkin - Grasshopper's Opinion
- Falhaber - Rave Nation
- Special Request - Vortex 150
- Funeral Future - Heute Nicht
- Sharlese on Soundcloud
- Sharlese on Instagram
- Sharlese on Twitter
- False Prophet website
- False Prophet on Facebook
Published March 2021.