DJ and producer Kim Ann Foxman leaves the embrace of Hercules and
Love Affair to pursue her solo vision.
By Caitlin Smith. Photographed by Jimmy Fontaine
For most people, music from Hawaii means peaceful rhythms, falsetto, and lots of ukulele. But Oahu native Kim Ann Foxman creates nothing of the sort—the DJ and producer has been making house music since the mid-'90s, when she first moved to San Francisco. After relocating to New York in 2002, she hooked up with acclaimed electro collective Hercules and Love Affair (you may recognize her voice from the hit track “Iris”). She’s since departed Hercules and Love Affair to pursue a solo career, beginning with October’s Needwant EP, a minimalist masterpiece that employs clapping beats, laser-like synths, and Foxman’s own smooth and sultry vocals.
Foxman recorded Needwant in the Bushwick studio she shares with electro duo Populette. “I need somewhere else to make noise, because I feel like I can’t make noise in here,” Foxman says, smiling softly from the couch in the living room of her small East Village apartment. With her fade haircut, piercing brown eyes, and effortlessly cool style, it’s easy for Foxman to come off as intimidating. But that first impression is squashed within minutes as she whips out her phone to share photos of her most recent trip home to Hawaii. “We went hiking, and we didn’t even run into one person,” she says. “You have to know someone who’s from there to get to the good stuff.” After show and tell, Foxman chatted with us about the Hawaiian club scene, her distrust of computers, and why she struck out on her own.
Download Kim Ann's exclusive Skyline mix, custom made expecially for us.
WAS THERE A HOUSE-MUSIC SCENE IN HAWAII WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
What was really popular was freestyle. I loved it. That and R&B. As a teenager you want to go out at night, so I started getting into house music through compilations and stuff. And then techno came out it, and that was an intro to the club. I was always more into electronic-bass kind of music. In high school, my mom was kind of strict about my curfew, so I got a job at a club. I would get to stay out late because I was working, making energy drinks behind the non-alcoholic bar.
THAT’S A PRETTY COOL JOB TO HAVE WHEN YOU’RE 17.
Yeah, it was really cool! It was a really small club, but it was cool for the house-music scene, which was really, really small. There were basically two places to go at that time. I worked at the all-ages one. Some really cool people came by there—Deee Lite performed there live—and we had resident DJs. A lot of the information I gathered came through California. A lot of the house-music that I was listening to was, like, rave tapes from San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO HAS A GREAT HOUSE SCENE.
In a way, it’s better there than in New York for me. It’s way more of a community, and it’s a little bit on the hippy side. And house never went out of style there. When I moved to New York, it was during the electro-clash era, and then it was like dance-rock or whatever. House music was really not cool here. Nobody was dancing. People in San Francisco, they dance. And people in New York, they party, they do coke and talk, or worry about their outfits or whatever.
WERE YOU PLAYING MUSIC WHEN YOU WERE LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO?
I was just collecting records at that time. I wasn’t DJing out. I was actually in a two-man electronic band right before I moved away. We only played like 10 shows.
WHY DON’T YOU USE A COMPUTER WHEN YOU DJ?
I tried it when Serato [software] first came out, because it doesn’t mix for you. You can basically play records, so it still takes skill. Also, I was like, “I don’t want to travel with records because they’re heavy.” And then I took it to Paris, and I couldn’t set it up properly, so I got traumatized. I don’t trust the computer!
WERE YOU WORKING ON YOUR SOLO PROJECT WHILE YOU WERE IN HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR?
I started to. In the beginning, it wasn’t like I was “joining” the band. I was just hanging out with [frontman Andy Butler], doing all these fancy tracks. And then for his own project, he would be working on vocals, and he would ask me to sing over a track. I’d make him leave his apartment to go buy cat food before I would lay the vocals down, because I was shy at first. The vocals were never meant for me, necessarily. I was just his guinea pig.
WAS HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR AN UNEXPECTED SUCCESS?
Yeah. I remember he had recorded with Antony [of Antony and the Johnsons] like five years before everything came out, and I was there for the recording. It sat for five years because we didn’t know what to do with it.
WAS THE GOAL ALWAYS TO HAVE A SOLO CAREER?
It’s something that I kind of realized along the way. Hercules was so much of someone else’s project, and I could only do so much. I want to tell my own stories.
Styling: MICHELLE RENEAU
Makeup: ERIN GREEN