Q&A with Queer Multimedia Artist JD Samson

JD Samson is a multimedia artist and performer who achieved fame for her work in music projects like Le Tigre and MEN. The sometime DJ—who helms the popular queer party PAT at Union Pool—also writes and produces music, and teaches at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in Greenwich Village. Samson moved from Ohio to Bronxville, just outside the City, in 1996 to attend Sarah Lawrence College, where she made connections in NYC’s art world; after college, she moved to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and still lives there 18 years later. We caught up with Samson over email to discuss what’s great about NYC nightlife, how the City has influenced her artwork and the significance of the Stonewall uprising.

PAT at Union Pool. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk

What’s your take on the current LGBTQ+ nightlife scene in NYC? JD Samson: New York has so many different kinds of nightlife all happening at once, so there is always somewhere to be where you belong. We have so many incredible promoters creating inclusive spaces that range from shirtless disco parties to Queer People of Color (QPOC) grind nights to queer rock ’n’ roll events to after-hours glitter explosions. The fun is finding which party is best for you, and to do that…you have to go to all of them.

What are your favorite places to dance in NYC? JDS: I love good sound. I need the music loud enough so I can’t hear you talk but full enough so I don’t leave with ringing in my ears. Sutherland is a new queer club in Brooklyn that was built for this purpose exactly. Obviously, I can’t help but love my own party, PAT at Union Pool, because there is just so much all at once. It is free, and that inclusivity really defines the night.

How do you envision the future of LGBTQ+ nightlife in New York? JDS: I have no way of knowing what is next, but I can say that change is always good. What is the sound of the next generation? We have to listen to the younger people and hear what they hear. There is a new groove coming, a new dance to go with it—as there always was. I see more freedom to take over large rooms, better sound, better equipment, the ability to take up more space than we ever have before.

While you were in college at Sarah Lawrence, how did going into the City influence you? JDS: I was lucky enough to have internships with working artists in the City, so I ended up meeting a ton of people that weren’t from my school. There was a place called Dumba in Dumbo that became a kind of queer utopia…I met tons of people there that are still my best friends.

What are your favorite places here—hidden gems you share with visiting friends? JDS: I have always loved the West Village. For its quiet, tree-lined streets. For the sound of a lone taxi driving over cobblestones. For sex shops next to hot dog spots. It is the part of the City I always dream of living in. I love the Angelika Film Center and Film Forum. I love the New Museum, and I love the parks. I love finding quiet places so that I can remember nature in the middle of a city.

We see you as a queer icon but also a fashion pioneer. How would you describe your style, and where do you shop in NYC? JDS: I have two versions of shopping: cheap and easy, and artful and expensive. Usually I pair one with the other so as to not empty my bank account on clothing. For the former, Uniqlo rules; so do Stella Dallas, J. Crew boys department (yes, it is true), Century 21 and Nordstrom Rack. For the latter, Assembly, Bird, APC , Acne Studios and my old pals Opening Ceremony.

You've spoken at length on the importance of gender-neutral spaces. How does NYC measure up? JDS: I am mostly perceived as a male-identified person in public, and whenever I attempt to go to a female-gendered space (as I identify), I have a hard time getting through the door without some kind of confrontation. I have seen a lot of change with unisex bathrooms, and I think that is great. I would love to see more [in terms of] restrooms, changing rooms at shops and locker rooms at gyms. For the most part I have taught myself not to use any of these in order to stay away from the awkward confrontation, but I think that as we move toward a safer city, it would be nice to feel comfortable to try something on before buying it.

In 2019, the City will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. Are you excited for World Pride coming here? JDS: I’m excited New York has been invited to host World Pride. I often remind people that as Pride becomes more commercially funded and expressed, we should remember it is actually the anniversary of a protest. Hopefully, next year that will be remembered through the uprising of our community.

For more information and to learn about her parties, follow JD Samson on Twitter and Instagram.