Dasha Bikceem a.k.a. Designer Imposter – The Collapse Board Interview
Do you travel much?
I try to travel a lot. When I can I travel.
Is there anywhere that you’ve travelled that’s really changed your outlook on things?
I really love Brazil. I loved Haiti a lot. I feel like those places really made a big impact on me. I went to Brazil six years ago. I really love the music there. I didn’t know a lot about the culture until I went there. I didn’t realise that it’s like the second largest African population to Africa. You would never know it from watching Brazilian movies or Brazilian TV because the people that live there are not reflected in the media there. It made a big impact on me seeing the music, the Brazilian music — it’s not like the type of music that I make — there are so many different kinds of Brazilian music. I really like that people have really strong connections to African culture there still, that was really inspiring. That’s kind of how Haiti was to me too. I had heard so many horror stories from people about Haiti; people told me to be afraid. When I went there it was totally different from what I expected. Parts of Port-au-Prince were dangerous and it’s very poor but, the culture and the art there was mind blowing! I would have never known that if I didn’t go there. Those are two places I really like.
You grew up listening to both punk and hip hop and immersed in those subcultures, have you found many similarities between them?
Yeah, definitely. The DIY ethic definitely crosses over into both circles. Also being an outsider and not being mainstream is part of it; even though there is commercial hip hop I still think a lot of the music has that same sentiment but maybe it’s more coded than it is in punk music. I’m not the type of person that’s like “oh, I only listen to hip hop if it’s saying political stuff”. I’ll listen to any kind of commercial hip hop that sounds good because like I said, I think there’s a lot of messages in it that are coded. Some people think like if you’re talking about having money or cars that means you’re fake — I don’t buy that! I just think that a lot of people grew up not having things and the wanting for things is normal. I think punk and hip hop are very similar to me; it’s what I grew up on. They seem really connected to me.
I’m the same way. I listen to both and I listen to lots of others types of music too. If the music is ‘good’ to me and it moves me in some way I’ll totally listen to it!
Yeah me too. I think maybe as you get older you get less close-minded about stuff.
I’ve been making zines for 17 years now and when I first started out I was predominately making punk-related zines and I feel that for a while I just got tunnel vision for the punk culture. It got to a point where everything I did pretty much revolved around punk. One day I realised that there was so much more in life that I was missing out on.
That’s how I felt too. It’s like, why limit yourself? I kind of feel like now, I want to go back to making fanzines and not doing everything on the internet. Getting back to my punk roots a little bit. It’s nice to have both things.
What are some of your favourite things about making zines?
I haven’t made a zine in so long [laughs]. I like assembling them, I like writing them. I like just the actual tactile making it. Making layouts and collecting art, stuff like that. I liked getting the feedback. I like the reaching out to people. I like people writing me letters and people being like “oh, I really related to that”.
How did you first discover zine culture?
I had an older friend (the one that lived with Theo from the Lunachicks) and she had been living in Oregon. She lived down the hall from Tobi Vail who was in Bikini Kill at the time. Tobi was making this fanzine called Jigsaw so she brought me back a Jigsaw; she also brought me back a Bikini Kill fanzine and a Girl Germs fanzine. That was my first taste of zines. That was pre-Riot Grrrl madness! As soon as I saw those zines I said ‘I want to do that!’ and I made one really quickly.
I got into zines in a similar way. An older girl I knew made a zine that was inspired by those first Riot Grrrl zines too and she passed me hers and I wanted to make one too. Here in Australia, I was influenced by the same kinds of zines as you.
Yeah I know! Those zines had a really far reaching audience all over the world. All of us who made them, we don’t even know where our zines ended up because people were photocopying them and giving them to other people. At one time there was Riot Grrrl Press that was making them and sending them out. It’s amazing that these little photocopied pamphlets and books were getting circulated … and still are!
Your zine Gunk is pretty much always referenced when people talk of influential Riot Grrrl zines, are you comfortable with the attention your zine gets?
Yeah I’m comfortable with it but it’s weird because even though I was grouped into that scene, I didn’t feel a part of it. Now I feel more a part of it but, at the time I felt isolated from it. Not just because of who I was, but because I was away from it in New Jersey. A lot of the zines — the ones that really interested me — were made in Olympia and DC. Geographically I wasn’t there. I met some of the people though because my band [Gunk] ended up playing a Riot Grrrl convention in 1991 or 1992. Doing that, I ended up meeting a lot of the people that I had been corresponding with and trading zines with — that was my first bridge into actually meeting people. Now Kathleen [Hanna] lives in New York. And Johanna Fateman, who did zines that were around at that time, she’s in Le Tigre and my best friend. It’s now come full circle I would say.
In the documentary you made a comment saying something like, there came a time where you felt that people in the Riot Grrrl community weren’t your people?
Yeah, definitely, that was how I felt. All of a sudden it had run its course. I felt like I didn’t see much of anything changing. People were talking about race and doing stuff but there wasn’t a lot of inclusion still. Even though they were talking about it, it was still like there was only going to be a small group of people that are going to be touched by this. ‘Girl power’ became really mainstream. By the time it became mainstream it had really lost a lot of its meaning. It was like, what does this even mean?
As an artist what kinds of mediums do you like to work in?
I can work in anything really but at the moment I’m just trying to focus on music. I make stuff with my hands still but I’ve tried to narrow it down a bit more so I’m more focused. Music is what I’m most interested in right now.