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Total Freedom - The FADER

GEN F: Total Freedom

photographer JAKE MICHAELS

“It’s, like, not a joke—I’m a fucking queen.” 

From the magazine: ISSUE 87, June/July 2013

At the end of June, Ashland Mines is doing what he does whenever he’s in LA on a Monday: DJing at Mustache Mondays, the downtown gay party where he’s been performing under the moniker Total Freedom since 2008. He’s chewing gum, adjusting the sound levels, and he appears nonplussed by the drag queen with blonde hair, round pink glasses and a plastic, California smile who’s swiping the air nearby with a flamenco fan. Mines is shifting between club obscurities and songs by the triumvirate of divas that dominates playlists at any gay night in the world—Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Under his control, though, the pop star’s vocals are relocated from their cozy studio contexts and transported to some industrial wasteland. “I’m using these women’s voices, but I’m fucking with it,” Mines says. “Instead of just delivering the feed, you’re making people think about what the feed is.” Beyond that, he’s simply playing what he—and the crowd—loves to sing along with. “Part of being a faggot is following divas to the grave, like, Ohhhh myyyyy gahhhh, Mariah, I love you!” he says. “So I’m actually there. It’s, like, not a joke—I’m a fucking queen.”

Total Freedom"PROMISE REAL TALK AKA WEDDING SONG AKA BLAME MA DJ FOR ALL THE BABIES U R NOW PREGNANT WITH"

Total Freedom didn’t create this sonic blend of the peculiar with the pop, but he is one of its most proactive emissaries, spending the past six months infiltrating club environments from Bangkok to Copenhagen. “Venus [X] and Shayne [Oliver] and GHE20 G0TH1K changed the stage,” he says, referring to the pair’s innovative New York dance party. “They made a big point of using uncomfortable stuff.” He’s referring to GHE20 G0TH1K’s signature style of alternating disruptive, experimental tracks with hip-hop and pop samples, a blend of high and low that Mines credits with opening him to the powerful range of emotions that a DJ can conjure for a crowd—creating and controlling the environment, not just working as a party favor. After meeting Venus on Facebook in 2010, he traveled to New York to play some of her earliest parties. “I was turning into my image of the worst fucking trash DJ, and then GHE20 G0TH1K happened—this space where I could actually be creative and communicate. They actually saved my life. I’d probably be working at Subway or something.”

Unlike the legions of DJs attempting to put out dance albums, Mines isn’t that interested in recording original material for the time being, despite label offers. “I only make stuff if it’s, like, dying to get out of me,” he says. “And I don’t have a record that’s dying to get out of me.” He’s released some production work on vinyl, but he’s more into what’s already around him. Mines is known for hosting weekly parties—LA institutions, really, like Wildness, a party at a Latino gay bar, and Grown, a lounge-y affair at a Japanese jazz bar—but no project exempli-fies what he’s about better than last summer’s “Blasting Voice,” a nine-day study of live performance that brought 30 collaborators to The Suzanne Geiss Company gallery in New York, including friends like singer Kelela and Mines’ brother, Kyp Malone, from TV on the Radio. It’s being a curator—bringing people, ideas and sounds together—that drives him, and Mines is committed to the job description of DJ in its truest form. “I’ve been wanting to never, ever, ever, ever say this—but I’m a DJ. Just the word ‘DJ’—it’s the grossest thing in the world,” he says, breaking into a giggling fit. “But it’s just a fact. It’s something I can’t pretend is not the case. I’m just a DJ.”

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