The party boys behind Diskotekah share their secrets to saucier shindigs
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Nick Gordon
Neil Roberts, Gavin Mikey Collins and Michael Beaumont Cooper are the threesome behind Diskotekah, which is the type of party where you’re encouraged to be your best self. Gavin and Michael are “Team Fashion”, conceptualising things like décor, theme and vibe, with Neil designing the stickers, flyers and lighting. Bratpics420 (Neil and Gavin) photograph the parties, which Michael plays at as DJ Diskotekah.
For decades, the gay party scene has been something special. It’s probably got to do with how gay people have had to struggle to be their true selves, and when they finally do accept themselves they’re just that much more liberated and likely to give no fuc*ks. When your whole identity is against the law, why would you care about whether you're breaking a few rules and turning the volume up too loud? And best believe that if you’ve been in the closet for a couple of years you’re going to come out wearing an outfit that’s all the fire emojis. Yaaas, Kween!
You know that 12-year-old wit where kids would call things that are lame, like 9pm bedtimes and rollerblading, ‘gay’? Well when it comes to parties and having fun – ‘gay’ is pretty much a synonym for fierce. Like, “That party was so gay! I lost my phone and don’t know how I got home and think I’m never drinking again.”
Because I’d much rather be gay than grumpy, I spoke to these party experts about being more fun, partying harder and then frisked them for jol tips so that whoever read this piece could also have the best summer ever.
There was something missing from the scene. We wanted to throw a party that wasn’t about ego, but instead was about being creative and giving people a platform to express themselves. In a nutshell Diskotekah is a creative expression party where you’re encouraged to represent your best self.
The concept of night clubbing was dead. People tend to hang out in bars now. There’s no more of that being in a dark room full of lazer lights and smoke machines, anymore. We’ve decided to try and bring the underground Berlin/Brooklyn club vibe back.
Rule one is to give no fu*ks. Do what you want. If you want to come in jeans and a T-shirt, do it. That said, a lot of people come to our parties and say, “Wow, I wish I had represented myself better.” They see the others in wild outfits and having the times of their lives and think, “Damn, I wish I’d shown my true self.”
We’ve all been partying together for a while. For us it’s about choosing your party and then making it really special. The music will be rad and the people will be fun and everyone will be having the best time.
Our first party was in a basement. We literally walked up and down town looking for a space that we could re-appropriate. Our second party was above a restaurant, some late night takeaway spot. We completely transformed the space. We covered up all the air ventilation with our décor, because it looked fabulous, but it must’ve been about 40 degrees and people just lost their shit.
It’s a different venue each time. We try and keep things fresh. The venue speaks to us and tells us what it wants. What it needs to be. That helps us to keep it fresh. Every party poses a new challenge and we never become complacent. You have to take that space and make it work.
For us the most fun is setting the party up. We have a crew of friends who love Diskotekah as much as we do and they’ll come and help us paint and do whatever. Be creative.
We are all doing our jobs, not because it’s work, but because it’s what we love. For me (Neil) as a photographer, it’s an opportunity to express my work in a non-commercial platform. I live for taking my camera to Diskotekah. And we’d love to have more people to come and take pictures. It’s about artist collaboration. We’d love for more people to get involved. We had a party where Jody Paulsen made this amazing piece for us, which is busy getting framed, and for the next Diskotekah we’d like to produce a small line of clothes. Just something special, not a line, five of each garment, super exclusive... There’s so much you can do using the platform of the party. We’ve been saving our outfits and there’s so much imagery and eventually we’ll do an exhibition. Photography, outfits, art, a video… definitely something to work towards.
We’re really inspired by drag queens. After the party we’ll have something we call Toot or Boot. Toot is good and boot is bad. Like Do’s and Don’ts. Very tongue in cheek. It’s our way to keep engaging with the people who come to our parties. We make light of people and make fun of ourselves. Throwing shade. There’s a guy who wore an outfit we’d seen before, so we were like, “Girl, love yourself.” And then we obviously praise people for their amazing outfits. For us it’s just a joke. But people do get quite upset when they’re not featured in the best-dressed section.
I always do drag and I never shave my legs and I never shave my underarms. You can leave your beard. Matthew Anderson, he’s got a great beard and will put flowers in it and glitter. If you break it down the definition of a drag queen is female impersonation. Even with some of the most amazingly polished drag queens in the world, you can see straight away it’s a man. It’s about releasing yourself from that and embracing the female part of things. Ru Paul said that “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag”. It’s how you interpret it. Drag is a state of mind. Just go to China Town and throw some glitter on it.
Diskotekah is for everyone. It’s quite a mixed group. People might think it’s a gay party, because we’re gay and a lot of gay people like to come, but for me, my favourite thing is seeing straight boys walk into a party, kinda, ‘what the fu*k is this?’ and by the end of the night they’ve got their shirts off at the front of the dance floor and asking us when the next one is. We try always do random venues away from the gay strip, it’s intentional, we want to be a voice for alternative gay people who aren’t necessarily scene gays.
Joining up with MCQP was a goal for us. It’s a dress up party and synonymous with partying in Cape Town. How it started was artists throwing an amazing party and we see it as a way of bringing a Diskotekah flavor to that. We see it as a platform that we can really benefit from and then give new people the Diskotekah experience. That’s why we did the Halloween party. It was a trial for both sides that was really successful. Good for us to gain more of a market through their channel. Party within the party. The theme is Candy Land and we’ll be The Sugar Ball. It’s about balance. We want to maintain the underground feeling but at the same time you need the exposure.
When I go to Diskotekah I’m a different person and people will come up to me like, who are you, what are you about, they freak out, and you can say all these things to them and be super outrageous.
It’s a page out of that book, The Game. You’re in this crazy outfit where people are drawn to you. I like that sometimes I’m in disguise. Then the next day when you see someone in the Checkers they won’t even know it’s you, like, who’s this person waving at me?
Diskotekah brings costume and fashion together. Like there were some amazing costumes and then Ulrica walked in wearing high fashion and just slayed. You kind of feel it on the night. There are people who walk in and you’re just, like, “Oh my god!” We have makeup artists and stylists and people who are really creative, but in their normal work lives can be quite mundane, and then they unleash. Then there are the people with the super ratchet DIY things where they’ve put in a lot of effort and that’s always appreciated. There are no rules.
That whole Nu-Flex thing was sort of based on Nu-rave and became a fashion movement with the neon and the bold prints on a fashion point of view and the club kid version was that on steroids. With our parties the experience is UV so you can use makeup or UV paint and the photographs are one thing but in person it’s such a visual experience. Especially when you’re a bit wasted and someone comes past and you’re like, “are you an angel?”
David West, early Evol, Bingo, Psychedelic Ho-Down, The Wild Eyes… Parties are relative to the time but everyone reckons five years ago was the best.
Lots of parties now are about irony. Do you actually like this style of hip hop or does it just go with the type of crop-top you want to wear? We love our music. Our outfits. Our crowd.
We like to challenge people. Don’t accept the mundane. Be amazing. We’re not following anyone. We’re trying to be unique and start something fresh and new and interesting. And there are so many creative people who are happy to take up the challenge. Anticipation is such a big part of Diskotekah. It’s a drive. We won’t compromise. We have to give it our all because people expect a certain level.
We’d never want to do this full time. Every second month is great. Because when we do something we go hard and do it properly.
If budget was no object we’d bring in all the drag queens. Amanda Lapore. Raja and Violet Chachki. DJ wise, The Hacker, it’s also very dependent on the space. There’d be four Diskotekahs: an epheral uplifting one, a dark scary one… Ultimately it would be the limit to our imagination.
Tips to have better parties and throw better parties and have more fun at parties? Don’t give a fu*k. Be discerning. Don’t settle for the obvious. If you’re going to go hear a DJ then go see someone who will give you an experience. Too many places are just people tinkering on a laptop. Have a good crew. You can go to the shittest party with the best group of people and have the best time. You can go to the best party alone and be bored. Have a really good sound system. Always try and have the best sound. Make some effort. Have an environment where it’s non-pretentious and everyone is welcome.
Cheap drink always helps.