The Hawaiian Bred New Yorker Ditched Beauty Pageants For Music Royalty
Words and Interview by Kathy Iandoli.
Kim Ann Foxman has an interesting story to tell. Born in Hawaii, she was initially groomed for beauty pageants by her mother. That didn’t last very long. Kim got a job as a teenager working the smoothies bar at an all ages nightclub just to keep her ear to the dance music scene. From there she attended college in San Francisco before moving across the country to make New York City her home. Deejaying became her forte, and eventually joined Andrew Butler’s famed Hercules and Love Affair project. Now solo, Kim returns with her new Return It EP, the title track creating a huge buzz. As she prepares to jump across the pond to tour, she talks about her solo LP, giving up her beauty pageant crown, the pop-dance movement known as EDM, and her love of snacks.
What have you noticed is the difference in the energy of the crowd when you perform overseas?
It really depends, I think. In general, I do find that Europe has a bigger dance music audience. But, the spots that are in the States where there is a crowd are really cool. I think they’re equally as cool. I just think there are more opportunities and options in Europe. As far as the crowd being excited and everything, I think they’re equally excited [laughs]. It depends if it’s like a hot party or not. It’s kind of a hot party everywhere.
Do you feel like people understand the distinction between certain forms of dance music and EDM? They tend to lump it all into one category, which is wrong.
Yeah, exactly. I only found out about EDM or that title way after it was invented [laughs]. I was like, What? Really? It had been going on forever, but I wasn’t aware. I actually found out because I had been touring so much in Europe – it’s where I’ve been playing a lot. When I did do a U.S. tour, I was a part of this festival and it was something that was so oh my gosh…it was something that was totally crazy. I had no idea that it existed. It was kinda weird. I kinda do feel like because it’s so new, especially here, for people in dance that have been in underground dance for so long it’s kinda like a mainstream version. It’s a new school mainstream vibe. For me, it was like totally weird. It’s cool that dance music is getting popular, but it’s not necessarily my specific thing.
It’s like when Blink 182 came out and everyone was, like “Oh, they’re Punk!”
[laughs] Totally! The thing that I do notice about that specific genre [EDM] in America is that Europe has been doing festivals for so long, that they’ve got it down. They can make it really fun and put on costumes, but the crowd at those EDM things [in America]— I feel like it’s so late. Like “Oh my gosh, are you really dressing like how people were dressing 15 years ago?” But in a more Jersey Shore way. [laughs] I couldn’t believe it!
So people are like wearing JNCO Jeans and FreshJive t-shirts?
I have never seen so many ballerina tutus and fluorescent trucker hats in my life. I was like, “This is really weird.” Like pigtails and lollipops. And like, okay, I’ve had pigtails when I was like a baby. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever had pigtails, I take it back [laughs]. I’m not into it. I don’t get it, but I can’t really bash it because it’s its own thing and it’s so outside of my world that I’m like, “Okay, if that’s your thing, do it.” But to me, it just seems…weird. I prefer the festivals in Europe by far. They’re more experienced.
Is that weird for you that you have to go overseas to perform your music, because in your homeland so to speak, this whole other thing is going on?
Yeah, it is kinda weird. I mean, there are always pockets that get it. Especially in a city like New York, it’s getting a lot better in the past couple of years. There have been some cool underground parties and they get a cool crowd. It’s the kind of thing where if there are too many going on – it is kind of a small scene for such a big city. It’s kinda trippy that a lot of my work has been overseas. The parties that are here in America – there are cool ones in LA, San Francisco and New York, and like Portland. The scene is just smaller, I think. When you go to Europe and take a taxi, they’re listening to dance music. Dance music is totally normal there. You go to Tesco, which is their Safeway or Target, and they’re playing dance music there too.
What was the music scene like in Hawaii?
In Hawaii it was really, really small. When I was in high school, and I wanted to stay out late and I was discovering nightlife as a teenager, my mom didn’t want me to stay out super late. I got smart and I got a job at a club when I was in high school, and it was a six-minute drive from my house. It was a small club, and that was my excuse to stay out late. My mom thought it was good because I had a job and I was working. It was an all-ages club, and I worked behind the non-alcoholic bar and made energy drinks and smoothies and served soda. They had some cool things come out of that club though. Deee-Lite played live there, like it was a cool club. They had proper things there.
So your mom wanted you to go to beauty pageants right?
[laughs] Yeah, my mom wanted me to go to charm school – I never went to charm school. I was like the opposite of charm school. I didn’t want to brush my hair, and I just wore jeans all the time. I never ever, ever, in my life chose to wear a dress. I think my mom noticed that, so in her heart she thought, “Oh maybe if I send her to beauty school she’ll get into it or something.” It didn’t work. She blames it on my aunt now. She was like, “No, that was your aunt’s idea.” I was like, “Whatever! You agreed to it!” She forced me to be in a pageant when I was little. I wasn’t even that little, which is the more embarrassing part. I was 13 [laughs].
Didn’t you win though?
Yes. I accidentally won. I tried so hard not to win. I remember crying in the back when my mom was trying to do my hair. I didn’t want to put on the lipstick. When she was doing my hair she was pulling it too tight, so I was like, “Ouch! Don’t comb my hair!” It was like a big drama backstage. I refused to do the talent portion. It wasn’t a real pageant. There were like five contestants. It was a Miss Teen Filipino Hawaii Pageant. During the swimsuit segment, I came out in like fluorescent green spandex shorts with a green sports bra thing. And I came out with my boogie board with fluorescent colors [laughs]. That was my favorite part, because I really wore that to the beach. So I won, and it was this huge trophy as tall as me. When I went to school the next day, I was like “I’m so glad nobody I knew was there.” Then this girl came up to me and was like, “I saw you win last night!” I was mortified. It was not until I was much older that I found humor in it. I went back to my mom’s house, and I found the picture. Then I made Christmas cards out of it.
That is totally the plot of a movie…
Totally! And when I see these pageant mom shows now, like the Honey Boo Boo Child kind of things, now they really scare me. I think, Oh my god, what if my mom got carried away! She knew that I hated that one so much that she never made me do another one. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I resigned!
Wait, you gave up the crown?
Kind of, yeah. They made me go to these other pageants, as like a guest. I went to one and they were like, “Oh Miss Teen Filipino Hawaii is here in the back.” I had to get up and do the wave. I got tired of doing that. Supposedly I was supposed to get a television or something, and like I never got it. So I was like, “I never got my TV! I quit!” There was no one to give the crown to, so I think they kept it on the hush.
It was so the tabloids didn’t get a hold of the scandal.
[laughs] Exactly! Now I can laugh about it, but I was so traumatized back then.
So Ya Kid K was your fashion icon?
Oh yeah. Totally. She’s like tough, and she looked cool rapping to dance music.
What was the first dance song that really moved you?
There are lots of them. I grew up mainly listening to the stuff that was on the radio in Hawaii. Of course it was radio r&b, but we were also really into freestyle, like Debbie Deb and Connie and Shannon and Lisa Lisa. The Jets were huge. “Crush On You” used to make me emotional [laughs]. I would listen to it in my headphones all the time. I consider them to have molded me into dance music, but then I heard Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” That was like a solid, club jam. That was the most iconic one for me, because it sent me more directly in the club.
Your music reflects the music of that era, because it has such soul to it. Is that the message that you’re trying to convey?
I don’t even know if I technically think about it. I guess it’s just influenced by the stuff that I love. So it probably comes out. I don’t follow trends as far as music. When I moved to New York, house music was not really cool at the time. So I was like, “Oh I’m a dork, but I don’t care.” I think if you listen to yourself and make the music you really like, then it comes out.
When did you start DJing?
I started when I was like 22. I had been collecting records though since I was like 18.
When did you start making music?
When I was living in San Francisco, I was in an electronic band. That was my introduction to making music. I have my first demo tape on the first drum machine that I got – this really crappy one – and I got a sampler. I worked with this guy and did some vocals. So that was my intro, from like 2000-2002. Then I moved to New York.
When did you realize it was time to break from the Hercules and Love Affair project and go solo?
I knew it needed to happen for a while. It happened just over a year ago; I knew it was going to happen eventually. I thought, “Okay I can tour with this band, but I’d rather make my own music.” You want to tell your own stories at some point. I had solo experiences before, and I just wanted to push that.
What did you take away from that experience?
I got lots of balls from that experience. [Hercules and Love Affair] was a whole other beast that I wasn’t mentally prepared for. My first show, I was afraid to even look up at the crowd at all. I just wanted to look at my feet. I gained a lot of confidence. I think it’s really good to have those experiences – the good shows and the bad shows. You have to experience the bad shows to make you a better artist.
Is it liberating being on your own?
Yeah, totally. I’ve been DJing on my own, mostly. I did a couple of live gig things, but I’m saving it until I have more releases. Hopefully I’ll have my stuff together for the summer festivals and stuff. But in general, I like being on my own. I think it’s really fun.
You’re working on your first solo LP right?
Yeah, I’m working on a lot. I’m working on my first solo album, and I’m working on some underground stuff. Right now, I’m working on remixes. I just finished a remix with the XX. I have some guest appearances for other people. I have my hands in all these different pots right now, but it’s fun. I worked with Maya Jane Coles, I worked with Richard X, which is pretty awesome. I also did some stuff with Snuff Crew.
What’s next for you?
I guess my travels coming up. I’m about to play London and Germany at [Berghain] Panorama Bar; it’s a pretty big gig for any DJ. Berghain is such a mega institution, so I’m super excited. And I’m playing New Years Day. I think it’s going to be really, really, extra epic [laughs].
So which color JNCO jeans will you be wearing to the American festivals?
I think I’m going with denim vs. the khakis with an extra wide 36-inch width covering the shoe with the pants. And a pink tutu, and a bikini top. And I’m going to have a lollipop in my mouth.
If you weren’t here doing this, where would you be?
That’s a good question. I used to do some jewelry stuff, like metal arts. I would probably do some accessories. Sometimes I want to have a random snack. Like, you know when you buy a really good snack and you read the back and they’re like, “We climbed Mt. Everest and needed a snack so we invented this.” I kinda just want to invent a snack, and then sit around while it makes money, and snack on it. I like snacks a lot.