It's All About the Drama, Really

Mya Morrison-Middleton in conversation with Fully Explicit founder Creamy Mami, who took DJing and partying out of the boys’ club by catering to the freaks.

Going out to a club night where pulling a risky look is expected, harassment isn’t tolerated, a genuinely diverse DJ line-up is booked and playing sets of high-energy genre-bending bangers is kinda normal now1. Tāmaki Makaurau has high-profile club nights Filth, Nympho, Community Garden, Looped and annual Queer strip night Bodyhaus, which were preceded by Fully Explicit and Fuck Boy Jihad. Te Whanganui-a-Tara had big-time vibe-shifter Coco Solid’s Kuini Qontrol club night at Moon Bar in Newtown, and recently had the mega night New World Order by No Mercy2. The connections between each unique night are fluid. Some have taken up the mantle from each other, while others have spawned independently out of necessity. Their priorities and genres cross over like a Venn diagram, but they all offer a carefree and harassment-free nightlife experience for DJs and audiences.

The essence of these club nights (the sound, the style, the politics) is getting sucked (for better or worse) into the always-hungry mainstream, but this wasn’t always the case.

The essence of these club nights (the sound, the style, the politics) is getting sucked (for better or worse) into the always-hungry mainstream, but this wasn’t always the case. These club nights were born from a history of existing on the fringes and catering for the freaks. To understand the growth of the scene, I hear from its source code: a heavy hitter here in Aotearoa who followed the work of heavy hitters before her to make clubbing fun and relevant again.

A self-described “semi-retired party girl” based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Creamy Mami shapeshifts between DJ, musician, artist, designer and club-night visionary who founded the legendary Fully Explicit.

Creamy describes her DJ style as hectic, saying, “It’s just totally chaotic and all about what I’m feeling at the moment. The energy I’m getting from my friends is feeding what I play. That’s my DJ style. I could play off my phone and still pop off. It’s kind of freestyle in that way.” Creamy’s approach to DJing contrasts to the conservative style of many DJs, who play within a small range of genres and BPM. Her style isn’t restrained to a particular genre, she loves “rap, R&B and club sounds all mixed together in music like that … I just love every genre, truly.” Creamy plays everything reggaeton, dancehall, garage, drum and bass, and techno all mixed with trap, divas and bangers with a lot of screaming and sirens. “It’s all about the drama, really.”

This no-inhibitions style is what I love about Creamy Mami. There is always a track that surprises me in her sets, which other DJs wouldn’t be brave enough to play. Her wide range of influences comes from constantly absorbing music on SoundCloud and Bandcamp. “I love the New York scene from back in the day, I loved House of Ladosha when I started DJing” – they are an NYC-based collective who produce music, visual art, performance and merch. Another big influence was the expansive record label Fade to Mind, Creamy becoming friends with the founder Kingdom when he visited Aotearoa. These international artists and collectives pushing out full club/merch/art experiences along with the music were the beginning of Creamy’s vision.

OG Fuckjoy Jihad poster. Supplied by Creamy Mami.

Creamy started out DJing and putting on club nights in 2013–14, and credits her first steps to a Twitter friend Amy, who had the same music taste in Texas rap and DJ Screw, and had crack-up takes. They both realised there was no one playing rap music for Queer people and for the ladies, “No one was catering to that audience who do love that music, but get harassed at the bro’d out parties.” So Amy decided to make a night for them. “She brought it out of me, you know, she has this Texas spirit,” which encouraged Creamy to get out there and make a night that’s for “women and Queers and for people who like rap and all the freaks. Let's get the freaks out, the real dirty freaks out.” This began a night called Fuckboy Jihad, which Creamy says was “against everyone in the scene that we could see were like just fuckboy DJs, playing all the same old head tunes and were just real gatekeep in the scene.” The group behind Fuckboy Jihad linked up and started putting on nights at local venues like Whammy and even in an old mechanic’s garage. When Amy left Aotearoa in 2014 this put a pause on Creamy pushing club nights.

Then in 2015–16 Creamy met Lil Hoe on the Prairie and Brown Boy Magik, both DJs based in Tāmaki Makaurau, who soon became friends. They realised it was still the same guys controlling the scene and the same dry parties happening. This boredom is why they started putting on parties under the name Fully Explicit. “I was always wanting to go out, and was sick of hearing what everyone else was playing,” she says. Fully Explicit, a self-described Queer-active club night and radio show, was a game changer. It was genre melting, it was raw, it was well hosted and people ate it up. “The music that we played at Fully Explicit was just that. It was like filthy bangers for the freaks. The freaks know that they’re freaks and they’ll come.”

“The music that we played at Fully Explicit was just that. It was like filthy bangers for the freaks."

Fully Explicit was at its peak in 2017 when Equalise My Vocals, a project focusing on equality shifts in the music industry, started. This project was formed in response to the reality that gig line-ups were dominated by elitist men, with everyone else pushed into a few token spots. Musicians, technicians and promoters who weren’t part of the boys’ club were scrutinised unfairly, and the music was dull because of it. It was a dry atmosphere to party in. “You can feel the energy that the person is giving off playing the music and you can tell if they’re just focused on making sure that the beat is matching perfectly and not really engaging with the energy in the room at the same time.”

By contrast, DJs would turn up to play Fully Explicit on Virtual DJ with their best remixes ripped from SoundCloud. They didn’t care about perfect blends or fighting over the most obscure and hi-res tracks. In response to this competitive DJ culture, Creamy is quick to reply, “Do not take me seriously. Just listen to the music, feel the cunty beat punching you in the guts, and you’ll love it.” This sense of mutual respect and love for the music was what made Fully Explicit so successful. Their line-ups weren’t a diversity tick-box exercise, but it is no surprise that the DJs who were willing to play the boundary-pushing, high-energy sets weren’t the straight white cis dudes who’d gatekept the scene.

Fully Explicit poster collage. Supplied by author. Design by Son La Pham, in collaboration with Creamy Mami.

Fully Explicit got on its feet with an invitation by Sam Harmony, who came to the Fuckboy Jihad shows. Sam invited Creamy to host a monthly club night at REC, a venue down at Britomart. The motivations behind this, Creamy says, were to get paid, get free drinks, and play whatever she wanted. Fully Explicit was run by its core three DJs (Creamy Mami, Brown Boy Magik and Lil Hoe on the Prairie), with a roster of DJs picked from the sidelines to join the decks, alongside drag performances, merch and strong visuals provided in collaboration with Son La Pham. The international inspirations behind Fully Explicit were collectives and club nights like NYC’s GHE20G0TH1K, which was linked to the brand Hood By Air, House of Ladosha, and London’s Bala Club, whose DJs mixed classic reggaeton with Korn and Deftones. “I wish I could have experienced them, so I tried to make it myself,” says Creamy. On a local scale, the Queer scene around Karangahape Road, which was her home at the time, was an influence, as was her lifestyle. “Fully Explicit came about mostly because my life at the time was fully explicit, truly. I was DJing nights and then hustling nights. It was fully explicit all the time... I was doing my thing being an artist, so it’s all like a mash of that.”

The aesthetics of Fully Explicit were a major part of why it vibe-shifted the scene. When the first Fully Explicit poster was put online, I was floored, and I knew Creamy was onto something good. Imagery is big for Creamy. “The posters and the design that we did were so important to me because I love gaming and anime and manga and flyers from 90s techno nights, drum and bass and jungle nights.” These influences fed into posters and merch designed by now-Berlin-based Son La Pham in collaboration with Creamy. The pair would spend hours tweaking each poster until it was perfect. “We'd be sending edits back and forth for days. I love those posters. And I feel like they're such icons now. I've kept a lot of mine. I'll just keep them forever now, because they're so cool.”

The first Fully Explicit poster. Designed by Son La Pham in collaboration with Creamy Mami. Supplied by author.

Creamy’s style and these club nights became the first moment in a long time where dressing up was encouraged. “That’s in the name as well, Fully Explicit. You can just go there and wear your sluttiest outfit. Whatever you want. I feel like that was one of the first times in Tāmaki Makaurau that people could feel that way, that they could dress up like that and feel safe to be in that space, and not have guys or whoever jeering at you or making abusive comments.” Imagine it: one of Creamy’s favourite looks is her “full-on psycho rave clown” fit from a Halloween gig at Whammy. The fit consists of a neon string bikini, clown skirt, neon scary-clown makeup and hair chalk.

When Fully Explicit came out, the clubs felt free and private. It was before Instagram became such a promo machine. “Back in those days we just put one fire post on Instagram and that's it.” It was an awkward time on social media, before every moment was caught on stories, but a willing crowd always turned up. This in-the-moment, uninhibited style of partying is what Creamy is all about, “It makes you feel more free. You're not performing for the story, or you’re not randomly gonna get caught on someone else’s story looking crazy.” This freedom was also because, unlike many other club nights, Fully Explicit was controlled by its hosts. “Even back when I first started with Fuckboy Jihad, I really wanted to make it not what you would call a ‘safe space’ but make it actually safe for my friends to go. They know that they could just come to me and I don't even care, I’ll just kick somebody out.” With no hesitation Creamy admits this control of the atmosphere is about “making sure it was just what we wanted. For the freaks.”

When Fully Explicit came out, the clubs felt free and private.

It has been nearly ten years since Creamy started DJing and a lot has changed. Covid has had an obvious impact on live music and parties, and has impacted Creamy and Fully Explicit – Covid cancelled a Fully Explicit reunion show planned for 2020, and other gigs. I ask Creamy what her take is on the scene now. She admits she has been out of the scene, and lived in Melbourne for a few years, but she appreciates DJs Native Bush and BBYFACEKILLA, who combine style, energy and music all together, and loves seeing what Filth and Community Garden are doing. With so many years between, and the changes to both lifestyle and the scene, I ask her what interests her about music and creativity now. She mentions moving into fashion. “I love making clothes. I've been making clothes for myself and making crochet garments with my brand Crappy Lovely.” Music is still on her radar, but it has to be really good for her to want to play because “I’m not a party girl anymore. I need it to be immaculate. I still want to play crazy music because I love how the scene is evolving and I still want to be part of that.” The perfect conditions for her to play depend on the calibre of artists in a line-up and the hosting skills of promoters. “I really need to be taken care of these days.” Creamy says. Her days of playing for free drinks are over.

It’s easy to get nostalgic about what Creamy and many others helped make. It was a perfect collision of forces that provided salvation from a music scene where the choices were between indie gigs and student clubs playing Calvin Harris. One of Creamy’s favourite moments from those early days is a drag performance by Busty and Princess Richard at a Fully Explicit gig down at freshly refurbished REC. “They spat blood around the audience and all over the walls, it got on the curtains and stained them. I absolutely loved that. Bloodstains on the curtains, leaving a mark there.” Another memory is from Golden Dawn, a venue now gone, but which once sat on the corner of Ponsonby Road. “We’d play classics like the ‘Ride on Me’ remix and we’d all just be on the same vibrational level. Like we’re synchronised or something, that is the best feeling for me and that happened a lot of times at Golden Dawn.” Creamy and co held a regular slot in the outdoor bar, with its dancefloor totally exposed to open sky. “There were a lot of times we played and it would rain, like really hard right in the middle of the set right in the middle of the dancefloor. Everyone just dancing, not caring about getting wet was so hot.”

The lack of photo evidence from those nights give them an air of secrecy and cult status. “If you know, you know,” says Creamy. I remember the point of writing this article: to record pieces of that source code, when the scene was being sideswiped by a high-calibre underground ruled by Queer brown freaks. Not every secret needs to be shared, though. Creamy concludes, “Yeah, you still had to be there.” ;)

1 If you live in Tāmaki Makaurau or Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Sorry to the regions – your time is coming!
2 This list is barely scratching the surface of the last ten years of club nights, and beyond.
3. Virtual DJ is a free DJing software. It is often used by DJs who are learning how to mix and put together live sets and people who can’t afford expensive gear.

Listen to Creamy's new track, Soyunavaca, now as part of Vibe Shift:


Header image by Anastasia Burn, using design imagery from Son La Pham. Soyunvaca illustration by Creamy Mami.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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