I am so freaking excited that the guest for this week’s episode is Ultra Nate, the dance music superstar best known for the 90s classic ‘Free’.
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Ultra fell in to club culture in her first year of university. From here she met the production group the Basement Boys, started writing songs with them and… well, the rest is history…
Ultra and I discuss the Baltimore house sound, being famous in one country and unknown in another, and the etiquette of snogging on the dancefloor….
This is really an episode about a number of venues – Odell’s, Club Fantasy, and The Paradox (so legendary that it has its own wikipedia page!), with the common thread being the pioneering owner Wayne Davis. Whilst none of these venues were queer, they did host specific nights promoted to this community, and, being dance venues, the audience they attracted was really diverse.
Ultra Nate 0:00
Oh, if you’re taking up too much space and carrying on like Alo snogging is cute. A moment is cute. But if like that’s your destination for the night like you’re, you’re just in the way to just be no, you need to carry on over there in the corner. Get out of the way because the dance floor is for dancing on some series dancing tip. Now I’m all for the romance and being in the heat of the moment. It’s lovely. It’s cool, but it cannot become like that’s the thing that you’re doing all night and just taking up all the room.
K Anderson 0:33
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces. The podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past. The memories are created there, and the people that they used to know. Today’s guest is ultra and attai. The dance music superstar best known for the 90s Classic, free and native of Baltimore, Maryland ultra fell into club culture in her first year of university. From here she met the production duo the basement boys started writing songs with them and well yeah, the rest is history. This is really an episode about a number of venues Adele’s club fantasy and paradox with a common thread being the pioneering owner Wayne Davis. Whilst none of these venues were queer, they did host specific nights promoted to this community and being dance venues, the audience they attracted was really diverse. Ultra and I discussed the Baltimore house sound being famous in one country and completely unknown in another, and the etiquette of snogging on the dance floor.
Ultra Nate 2:21
I mean, I just had a club kid, just a kid that stayed in the club. As often as I could get there, yes, every single weekend, every night of the weekend, if I could, you know, that wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t into like all kinds of craziness. I wasn’t into drugs and all of that or you know, that culture, but I was around the culture and you know, it’s like, that’s, that’s your thing. That’s what you do. But you know, I got to go dance. And that’s really all I wanted to do was dance like psychotic is just be in the music, be immersed in that sound, you know, very Pisces, I needed to be immersed. And it just gave me everything that I that I didn’t even know I needed. And it fell, I fell in love with it. It was just intoxicating.
K Anderson 3:06
So just a quick sidebar, when you’re on the dance floor and dancing all night long. How sweaty do you get?
Ultra Nate 3:14
Oh, clearly, like, you know, drenched, like, you know, you’re
not doing it,
you’re not doing anything, if you’re not coming out of there, you know, just like a wet noodle. Definitely. I mean, it’s to the point like with our, with our crews, like people carry a second set of clothing to wear, you know, to wear later to change into maybe in the course of the night. You know, you have your little freshen up kind of things, wipes and things with you to like, you know, freshen up and change into a whole other outfit. You know, because these a lot of these are long nights and it’s a long morning. So you know, and then sometimes you’re going to breakfast and hanging out with friends after the club. You know, it’s not over when it’s over. So, you know, you got to be prepared for these things. You know, the better club kids are ready.
K Anderson 4:02
Well, I mean, that is very prepared. I but I always had this, I always felt like I was the sweatiest person on the dance floor and that there were some people who just like even if they were going at it really, really hard and dancing alone. Just didn’t just like maybe glistened, maybe there was a little bit I just want to know what their secrets are.
Ultra Nate 4:24
No, I probably was somewhere I was somewhere probably in the glistening somewhere between glistening and, you know, wet rag. It just depends. It depends on a lot of you know, elements how hot the club is, how packed the club is, how well the ventilation is, but I’ve never been scared to sweat like I have no problem with it. I feel it’s a very healthy thing to do means the you know, your systems are working correctly correctly and you’re detoxing. So, you know, when I look at it from that standpoint, it’s like great.
K Anderson 4:53
I’m yeah, I’m for it. Some people are getting Botox in their underarms to prevent sweating. That’s true. But then doesn’t your sweat just go elsewhere?
Ultra Nate 5:03
I don’t know. But we’re gonna have to look into that a little bit. It sounds a little it sounds a little stifling. Like you’re not detoxifying, like it’s supposed to, because that’s how the body excretes toxins is through the pores and through sweat. So I don’t know. But there are people that sweat profusely. And so it’s, it can be a problem, because it’s a little over over the top in terms of how much so I can imagine over time that that being kind of embarrassing, or just, you know, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with.
K Anderson 5:35
Yeah, you’ve either got to really lean into it or do something about it. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, the way you were just talking about people, and sweating has brought us to the fact that you were studying medicine when you started. That’s the segue. It was kind of a segue, kind of make it work.
Ultra Nate 5:56
That was my intention. That was my intention, after high school that my high school curriculum was geared towards the medical profession. So I was taking, you know, prerequisite courses for university while I was still in high school, and everything was geared towards the medical profession. So I had a lot of biology and anatomy, physiology, and chemistry and all of those, like really fun sciences. And then, you know, I graduated, I started at university, and then I fell into club culture. And it was just like, Wow, this is amazing. And this is a whole other thing. That opened up a whole other area of interest and exploration for me. So, you know, it wasn’t my design, by design on my part that I ended up in the music industry, I ended up in club culture. But being in club culture, I made connections with people who were, you know, just kind of starting to get their chops with the bass with boys, mainly with Tommy Davis, from bass with boys, because he was like one of them. The main DJs that worked at the record store where everyone went, after the clubs were over, and they went to get the records at the DJ play that night that killed it on the dance floor. So he was kind of like, you know, this Pied Piper that was, you know, directing the sound and the culture in that way. And so I met Tommy through that situation. And he invited me actually to come down and meet the bass boys and just, you know, audition for them. And it was very casual. There was no grand light, and this is what we’re going to do. And it’s going to be a thing, like, it all came together really organically from that.
K Anderson 7:36
And so that that first time that you met was like, Oh, we’ve been working on these beats are we’ve been doing this Do you want to see if you can vibe with that, or did it start from scratch,
Ultra Nate 7:50
kind of kind of like that, but definitely from scratch. We will the first the first time I went down, it was just the kind of the audition and I just signed acapella. So I sang Angela when wishes Angel acapella. And there were other established singers there because I wasn’t, I wasn’t a singer. In that way. I knew I could carry tune. But I didn’t consider myself a singer. And I definitely never written a song before at that point. So these other people, they also auditioned, I was the only one out of the people that came that evening that they ended up actually working with. And I think because my vocal style was what I had this really raspy kind of bluesy, jazzy quality to my vocal style, which I didn’t realize was the style at the time. And so when I actually wrote a song, which was it’s over now, my first single that went on to become a top 20 charted in the UK, we did that organically just hanging out in the basement, and sitting around the table, and decided to like, you know, come up with a song idea. And so we just pitched in all these ideas of what we wanted to talk about, I knew what I wanted to talk about. And it was organic as well, that I had, like, just broken up with like, my first real boyfriend at that time. And so that was something to like, talk about, like it’s over now, you know, and what that whole experience was like, and so this is coming from a very good place and these first experiences and then the boys were like, Okay, we’ve got you got these lyrics. So, you know, let’s see if you can put it to a track and they did literally go into a closet and pull out a debt at that time, you know, been growing debt. So they pulled out a dat with some beats some random beats that they had put together because they would just be in there all the time making beats, and they were like, okay, just go in there and sing it to this track. And I didn’t even hear the track before I was like, Can I go home tonight and like, maybe, you know, figure out like a vibe or something like I don’t even know what to walk it into here and I’ve never done this before. It’s but they were like, by you know, it’s all very loose. So I went in the booth, and the track started with this backbeat. You know, this Jazzy, kind of With this backbeat, and it was all very underground very like, you know, on the ground house, it was very organic and, and, and raw. And so I had these lyrics and I just kind of bounced off the rhythm and came up with don’t change my hair, clothes out with my belly again and just started adding lyrics and bits and pieces. And I just found the rhythm pocket and develop the melody out of it and piece together the lyrics to make my verses on the fly. All of it was one fly. And that became the song like they wouldn’t let me record it again, the label wouldn’t even let me record again, it was crazy.
K Anderson 10:39
Sometimes there’s that thing like because you’re saying you weren’t like a trained singer, and you didn’t consider yourself a singer sometimes that’s that can be really helpful because you’re not overthinking it. And you’re not kind of like
Ultra Nate 10:49
that was the thing. That’s what they said like that was the magic. They were like, it’s raw emotion is like right up front. In your face. It’s got its own style, and attitude and energy. And it was like nothing else that was happening in in the house music were garage, as they called it at the time was the UK called the garage. We just called it house. You know, there was nothing like that at the time. And what was happening because it was all Most of it was r&b r&b tracks that were danceable being played in the club. And then what was coming up coming up as house was what was being formulated out of Chicago, and New York, of you know, just like the basement boys, young new would be producers taking advantage of the new technology with a four track and, and making beats and writing the songs with vocalist songwriters or whatever. And just like doing it in your basement, it was all very underground and loosely pulled together. And we were creating this whole genre. Unbeknownst to ourselves, we were creating this genre that became the template and the foundation for what global dance music has
K Anderson 11:58
become. Now and so you said before that the label wouldn’t let you redo the vocals that the boys would let you to redo the vocals. Did you ask Oh, no. Well, they will I did. I did. I did I because I fighting for it. I was like,
Ultra Nate 12:13
let me get that one more time. Because I had no idea before, when I was laying this stuff down, like there was any kind of thing going to come out of this. And all I could hear were, oh, that part sounds weird, or that’s pitchy over there. This, you know, all I could hear with, like, in my mind were errors and mistakes, and things like that, because I’m like going off the top of my head with lyrics that I’ve never seen before that I just kind of wrote that didn’t have any real structure. And I’m also doing it to a track that I’ve never heard. So like everything is completely organic, and I wanted to do it again. So they finally acquiesced. And let me do it again. And of course, I you know, ironed out all of the areas that were like weird to me, and pitchy or just off, as well as in terms of what I knew and understood to be pitchy at that time. Because, you know, I didn’t clearly define those those terms, either at that point. But they said it was too clean. The second time I did it, it was too precise, too clean, too perfected. And it lost the character. So those things that I interpreted as flaws were a part of the character and the nuances that gave the song such distinction, that that’s what people fell in love with, because it was raw and real in a real way. And that’s what connected with people. And so they were like, okay, girl, you had your moment now we’re gonna put this original demo version out here in the world, and you go about your business and promoted by.
K Anderson 13:47
So really, they just set up that second session just to patronize you and okay.
Ultra Nate 13:51
They did. They did. They were like, okay, she’s really worried as well about this. Ever. Give her a break.
K Anderson 13:58
All right, yeah. Yeah, here we go. press record, you’ll figure give her a bone, you know, and
Ultra Nate 14:03
I and you know, everybody was like, give it a shot. But when they heard it, I was like, now let’s see perfect. It doesn’t have that thing. Is that thing, the sauce. And you know, over the years, I couldn’t understand what that was, what the thoughts is, you know,
K Anderson 14:17
it’s funny. Sometimes, like, as an artist, that’s a horrible way to start a sentence. As an artist, sometimes you have to, like, you have to listen to your God. And sometimes you just have to listen to what other people are telling you. And it’s really hard to know. Yeah, well, yeah, it’s you got to find the sweet spot. Yeah,
Ultra Nate 14:38
yeah. You got to find the sweet spot because especially at that moment in my life, you know, I’m on a major record label. I’m on Warner Brothers. So I’m like, Oh, you know, you know, I’m just, I’m just the kid. Like, I was going over here to university to study medicine, like, you know. I don’t know. I’ll have Is my gut. But, you know, I’m going to take everyone’s opinions in this, you know, as a valid opinion, and weigh all of these things. So the consideration was absolutely there. And with that, I was like, Well, let me just try it once we just we never know. We never know. You know, and when and when it came back, and everybody felt like, No, it’s too clean. I was like, Okay, I’m done. I’m good. Let’s hit it. You like it? I love it.
K Anderson 15:30
Yeah, I mean, if they’re fronting the bills, as well,
Ultra Nate 15:32
yeah. They knew, I mean, they knew what was going to work for them. And, you know, they’re a major label putting this music out. So I don’t think they’re spending, you know, a ton of money, you know, investing in and completely unknown artists on something that, you know, they didn’t feel that they were going to recuperate, you know, they’re not in it for the love. And they’re certainly not in it to be your best friend. They’re in it, because it’s a business and you’re a product, and you have something that they can sell.
K Anderson 15:58
Which is like, sometimes a useful way of looking at it and sometimes horrible.
Ultra Nate 16:05
facts and maybe because I’ve been doing it for, you know, for 30 plus years, like I’m very clear about that, like, you know, the rose colored shades came off a long time ago. Yeah, this is what it is.
K Anderson 16:19
So, um, in terms of like, where everything fits, so did you meet the basement boys when club fantasy was still in existence?
Ultra Nate 16:28
Yes. Yes. And fantasy, actually, club fantasy was like the first place I ever performed. Once I had made a record, like, that was what my first very first gig ever was, was a club fantasy. On a Sunday night on baseball boys night. And Teddy Douglas and Tommy would play. And they would, you know, play a lot of their new, you know, unreleased stuff. And it was just like, their night to just be experimental. And, and, and do things like just do their vibe. So that was my first gig, it’s over now had come out. And I had to perform it. Club fantasy was the first time and I was, it was really fun. Like, it went by so fast. And I still clearly remember the moment about that.
K Anderson 17:11
Okay, so but the moment before, where you just like, Oh, yeah, I’m gonna go and perform, or were you shitting yourself?
Ultra Nate 17:19
No, no, I wasn’t, I wasn’t shitting myself, only because I don’t know, I think I’ve always kind of had a natural affinity for performing in a way. And in a way, early in my career, I always preferred being live as opposed to being in the studio, because I felt the studio was more intimidating and stressful, because everything needed to be so specific and precise. And I feel like when you’re live, because the energy is raw, and everything happens organic, like your magic just happens naturally. Like, that light switch comes on naturally, without you having to turn it on, like you have to do when you’re in the studio, like, okay, now I need to be great. It doesn’t work like that, you know, you need to be inspired to be great. So I always prefer the live situation. So when that first show came up, and I had like this really great network of friends, my LGBTQ community friends, you know, they were awesome. And they just embraced like, we have a show. You know, my show was, we have a show. So they got me together. And you know, one day my makeup and my hair was amazing hairstylist named Neil. And he was like, the most amazing hairstylist in Baltimore City at the time. My friend Lyle made me this amazing, tiny little band aid size mini dress. With these fabulous gloves with fringe hanging, it was all very diva, you know, someone else did my make. I think Lau actually did my makeup as well. And, you know, and they just like did me from head to toe.
K Anderson 18:53
And you weren’t joking about this charm to existence where you
Ultra Nate 18:59
had all these great, very God queens around me, that just made it like fun. And it really when you’re a club kid, like you’re already doing this anyway, like, it’s all about the dress up, like what am I wearing to the club this weekend, like, that’s all you cared about, you know, so this was just like the same energy but on steroids. And now I’m gonna be on stage in front of everyone and I’ve got to sing this song. And so I guess my natural energy, whenever I get nervous to have to perform is I go inside and go inside myself. And then I push that energy out. And so that’s basically what I did. So I just started off the show in this in this very epic kind of way of being in a pose and not moving like the crowd was losing their mind and I was like, Frozen, but it was for effect. And then the, you know, the tracks started with the saxophone and everybody’s you know, so it was it was amazing. Like, how can you not win when everyone is rooting for you? You know what I mean? This Is my family These are people that I hang out with every weekend. And they’re they’re all rooting for you, you know what, what a magnificent, magnificent, you know, experience.
K Anderson 20:09
Most of the people that I talk to, I’m like, what was your first performance? Like? They’re like, Oh, God, I was
Unknown Speaker 20:16
like, oh, everything was falling apart.
K Anderson 20:18
The crowd No, those experiences later.
Ultra Nate 20:23
No, that was later there were those times later. But that first out the gate moment was really epic. And, you know, I really appreciate like my Baltimore family, like, you know, I test so much stuff on their ears. And I still have to the The first time I ever performed free to fast forward many, many years later, the first time I ever performed free shortly after I had recorded it, and it was still in a demo form. I performed it here in Baltimore at a little small club called the spot. And it was this leg heads, you know, and I just needed to hear it live. So I, you know, I tested on all my books, you know, and get there and get their energy and reaction just to hear it out there in the universe coming back at me. And that’s kind of it’s kind of like a feedback loop, you know?
K Anderson 21:08
And yeah, when there’s that many people, they can’t fake it, can they like, you’re gonna get your honest feedback?
Ultra Nate 21:13
No, not at all. And I didn’t mean, Baltimore’s a very particular kind of city, because it’s very, like, you know, trash or, or no grab, like, they were it is not hot, they’re not going to fake it, you know. So it’s like that old saying about New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But Baltimore has that same kind of energy, because they are very, like, cutthroat about things. So they either love it or hate it. And they’re very few places in between.
K Anderson 21:43
I mean, do you know where you stand at least? And can we can we talk a bit more about Baltimore? Like, I think like for Judo, I mean, I don’t really know that much about it, other than john waters is from there, Tori Amos is from there. You’re from there. But like,
enjoy the holiday. Like,
you know, you talked about house evolving from Chicago and New York and people that kind of used to hearing about those cities, in relation to that scene? What like what is distinct about the Baltimore scene? Well, I
Ultra Nate 22:15
think it goes again, to what I was saying about that kind of brash persona or energy about the city because Baltimore is a blue collar city, in its origins is a port city. So there are a lot of factories, there are a lot of building of ships, and imports, exports, things going on from the city. So it’s been it’s been very blue collar throughout much of its history. In recent years, obviously, it’s evolved and develop and grown and is becoming more cosmopolitan. But those roots are still very ingrained in Baltimore culture. And so it’s, it’s a very inclusive kind of city. So they embrace like the quirkiness, the weirdness, the bizarreness of a lot of people, which is why, you know, john waters is kind of like a staple representation of Baltimore in a way because that is a very specific culture in Baltimore that he embodies in that way. But you know, it has its, it has its problems, as most inner city cities do, you know, but it’s grown so much over the years and continually growing, and I just love it, because it just kind of has that old school kind of charm. Where it’s still just between that place of like, you know, being kind of in your face and gritty, but still growing and maturing and turning into like, it’s it’s full fuller realization of itself. And so, you know, I always root for the underdog and Baltimore City is definitely an underdog because most people only think of it from what they’ve seen in media, which has been things like the wire and things like that. And that’s definitely a reality and has been a reality for years. But it’s not the complete story of what the city is about, for and also for me, you know, having started very young, in the music industry and traveling abroad immediately. It was always nice to come home to like this little kind of, you know, hamlet of a city and and know, you know, the people and the energy of the place and be around things that you have memories attached to. So I’ve never necessarily wanted to felt the need, like I’ve got to move somewhere, I’ve got to go somewhere else because I’ve always had the luxury of being anywhere else in the world that I wanted to be at any given time anyway, and still be able to stay close to my roots and close to family and friends that have been you know, a part of who I am for my whole life. So that’s always been really important to me. Yeah, cuz
K Anderson 24:52
this thing like so. Like I’ve lived in London for a really long time. So I’m probably not the best person to talk about this, but and I Like in those smaller cities where it’s maybe like a bit more affordable to live in, it’s not so cutthroat. And there is that kind of experimentation. And there is that kind of space for people to try things over here and do this over here, because you’re not going to bankrupt yourself by doing so. And it kind of brings out all these kind of interesting ideas that might be complete failures, but it’s something different. Yeah. Anyway, sorry. So we’re going all over the place. So we were at the point where you’re done, you’ve done your first performance. And so how did that feel coming off? And how did it feel like in the days after, did you get the bug?
Ultra Nate 25:40
Yeah, it was epic. It was on stage. It really was. It was epic. Because, you know, I felt like, one everyone was in love with this song. And it already had such a great story and a great relationship with everyone. And like I said, again, everyone’s everyone was rooting for me. You know, so it was easy to make them happy to the song that they had been hearing for months and months and months, you know, at that time, songs, music lived in the charts a lot longer than they do now. You know, in the charts. And on the dance floor, I think now you’ve got like, this ridiculous three week window in the charts. Back then, when it’s over now, it’s circulated for a year, just as a demo on a real before it even got signed. And then it was put out, you know, officially, and then they did its campaign and lifespan that way. So it had been around for a long minute. By the time it I hadn’t even gotten to that point. So everyone was like, the attachment to that was already well ingrained in everyone’s head. So for me, it was really easy. And it was like a natural Hi. And it was you know, it was just a further extension of art that I didn’t know that I had because I had in this process found out. Oh, I can sing a little bit. Oh, cute. Oh, I can write songs too. This is fabulous. Oh, and I’m a performer because not all the time, just because you’re saying are you right? Are you a performer as well, that’s a whole other discipline. But it was great to like, you know, be learning all these amazing things about myself at the time. So yeah, I felt very gratified. It was it was a wonderful experience.
K Anderson 27:24
And so I didn’t realize that the window was so long, so so you met the boys, you’d started recording. And then so you were just kind of going about your life whilst the song was finding its own life. Yeah, I
Ultra Nate 27:39
didn’t even believe that it was happening. I mean, before the the label deal happened. Like I said, the voice and if it’s only Humphreys, they had a relationship with Tony. And Tony was like the premier DJ in New Jersey, with his club Zanzibar, but he was also the premier DJ for house music on kiss FM, in New York, and his show was aired on kiss FM in London. So Tony was notorious for having all of these tracks from everyone in the underground who were making these songs. And you know, he would be the only person to have it, and he wouldn’t share it with anyone. So you had to tune into Tony show. And you know, there wasn’t the thing of the rampant you know, file sharing and burning and snatching music and all that kind of stuff like it is now. So, you know, he could play these records on the radio and play them at the club incessantly without someone you know, ripping it and then putting it out. And if you lose the momentum on it, in fact, that just continued to build the momentum on all of this stuff. So yeah, it’s over now had a long lifespan, just you know, on a on the grassroots level, before it even became a signed record.
K Anderson 28:48
Isn’t that incredible? The whole way, the music industry is totally flipped upside down the way that it works and that like, before you wanted it to be, they wanted that anywhere as possible to like, build people’s appetite. And now if people can’t find it, like, yep, the first ranking on Google search is dead in the water about it. Yep. That’s incredible. Yep, dead in the water.
Ultra Nate 29:13
Well, also, you know, people, you’re able to put out so much music these days, because of technology. You know, people are making music on the fly for 10 minutes, and then they’re able to upload the track. And then it’s on a digital website. So that’s also, you know, become problematic, because the music is saturated, the scene is saturated. Whereas that wasn’t the case. Like, you know, this kind of song. It was stood by itself. It was a thing unto itself. So of course, at the time, everyone was like, What is this song? Gotta have it. Oh my god, this is my song. Tony would literally play this song, three times a night in the course of a night at Zanzibar, and that’s when I really got it because Tommy would tell me when I would come into the record store, after you know, a night of hanging out of the club. Here in Baltimore, not fantasy, but by then we were at Odell. Again, Wayne Davis was, you know, part of the Adele’s into the fantasy era, but Odell was first. And that’s where I initially connected with Tommy and Teddy and Jay. And then in that process over time, Wayne transition from O’Dell to start club fantasy based on boy night, my first performance, blah, blah, blah. And the song was signed by that. But we’re talking about a year in the making of all of those things before from the time that I actually recorded the track to the time that it actually came out as a commercial single.
K Anderson 30:35
And so in that time, you just kind of continue to school and you were just like, man, nothing’s gonna happen.
Ultra Nate 30:40
Yeah, I had no idea. I didn’t believe any of it was happening. And Tommy, because you have to understand Tommy’s energy. He’s always really amped. He’s like this. Baby, he calls me ultra Baby. Baby, it’s been killing it. And they’re dancing. Three times a night is crazy. And like, his energy is already here. All the time anyway. So I’m just like, push rod, my nickname for him is push rod, like, What are you talking about? It cannot be that serious, like, whatever. And until I actually went to the dance bar, finally, and observe for myself the night I had to perform the song and Zanzibar, and literally, it was hands in the air, the whole club every single time. Tony played it. So it was it was really happening. It was really happening. And I was oblivious. I must
K Anderson 31:32
have been a real trip. Like because again, the difference between the industry then and now is like, everyone has all of the metrics immediately about how well the songs doing. So they now have all that information.
Ultra Nate 31:47
I had no clue, no clue. And until really until my label head, folks called me when they we know that the deal was on the table until the day that they called me while I was at work. I had a little, little, little baby job at the time as because I was going into medicine. So I had a little job as a physical therapy assistant assistant to the assistant or something. And I was at work I they called
K Anderson 32:14
they called the office
Ultra Nate 32:15
and they call me like Cynthia cherry and Peter edge like they called me while I was at work. And I was like,
on the phone with like Warner Brothers records like
what is happening to me. So it was all very surreal for me at the time. And then when I went to London, and I went to high on hope, and met Norman Jay, he was kind of basically the equivalent of Tony Humphreys on this side of the water. And so high on hope was sort of the equivalent of what Zanzibar was. And it was just massive on both these fronts. And this, this record was just doing its thing, and it is what basically started my whole career.
K Anderson 32:55
And so what was the nature of that phone call when they like you need to quit your job. You’re like, Where is the problem in this story? The problems came later. No, no, no, I’m not waiting for trauma, I promise, just like your story. So they’ve like looked up your work number and they found you.
Ultra Nate 33:19
Well, they got it from the boy, they got it from the boys. But they got it from the boys. And they you know, they called me at work. And they just called me to say hello and to just chat. Like they had never talked directly to me because they were talking to the boys, because they were my producers. So I had a production deal with basement boys. So basically, they were the intermediaries between me and the label themselves. But at this at this point, like everything was going down. So they wanted to reach out and have a conversation with me directly. And they still had never met me. They didn’t meet me until months and months later when they flew to New York. And I went up to New York to Zanzibar as well to meet them there. So that’s what we physically met in person. Oh, and so you assigned without them having met you?
K Anderson 34:05
Correct. Wow. I know. It’s all crazy when I talk about it out loud. Oh, yeah. They weren’t like that. You know? Like, again, you hear these horror stories about the industry and people being like, oh, you’re not tall enough. Your breasts aren’t big enough. You’re this you’re this we’re not gonna sign you. And they were just like, Oh, hey, yeah, by the way we’re signing you
Ultra Nate 34:30
know, I mean, I’m sure they had they had pictures of me and the boys I shot like a little video of me like we went to fantasies one night and like I, I, you know, I danced to it’s over now. Like, I just like dance because I was a dancer. I was a kid club kid. So I did what I always do every weekend, I just danced. And you know, at that time, everything was you know, the tracks were all like 1112 minutes long because that’s the early days of how so everything was an extended you know Club Mix. So it was you know, probably 1112 minutes of just me dancing by myself to this song and that’s what and that’s what they said them and then they were like
K Anderson 35:10
we’re gonna assign her weight like I think a single shot or did they edit it
Ultra Nate 35:14
they go shot baby there was no there were no stripper there was no trickery going on at all like this was like straight raw one shot. Aim Fire dance, not great lighting. How
K Anderson 35:27
many takes did you do? This one? You got one shot.
Ultra Nate 35:34
This all sounds crazy. It is crazy. because things are so dramatically different now. Yeah. And because I danced every single weekend and I would be on stage dancing and hanging out and party it. You know, I wasn’t nervous about the camera looking at me because I’m always in the club dancing anyway. So there’s always people looking at you.
K Anderson 35:57
But yeah, but by the time you get to like minute seven, you must have been like, what can I do? Now?
Ultra Nate 36:02
Listen, listen, this is underground. Underground club culture. We dance until the next day without problem. Okay, so yeah, it’s like that. 12 minutes was absolutely nothing. It was just like, let’s just stop right? They would just want to see how I dance. They wouldn’t see how I move. Okay, then they started to track and I just did and they still those boys still have that damn taste. I’m sure someday it’s gonna surface and I’m gonna be like, when
K Anderson 36:31
is it going on YouTube? No doc get in touch with them. I find it
Ultra Nate 36:37
is our it’s our personal little Kiki. Like we occasionally have get back to that and just had the massive fall I got laugh about that moment. And now you know, I was dancing. I was getting it done. You know?
K Anderson 36:51
Did they threaten to leaker if you ever have a fight?
Ultra Nate 36:54
No, not at all. When you do that, they don’t want to deal with that rat. They don’t want the other girl on the other side. They don’t want that. No. But now that’s that was the audition tape I guess for lack of a better excuse. That was the audition. Like they just wanted to see what I look like and see how I moved and they sent them that video recording and then they were like, okay, here’s the record you
K Anderson 37:18
just done done and done. There you go off you go easy. And yeah, so the other thing that I often ask my guests is, did they snuck anyone in the club?
Ultra Nate 37:32
Well, you just were not in the club. If you haven’t snagged someone in the glove. Of course. Well, please tell when you say snogging. I’m talking about kissing. Now. He’s talking about anything further than that. No, yeah,
K Anderson 37:45
that’s what I’m
Ultra Nate 37:47
gonna say from my British interpretation. That’s just it just kissing. Of course. Yes. Like that’s epic. Are you kidding me?
Let’s do it. Now.
Can we go out? Like Really? Yes. Don’t let me be in the club with someone I’m attracted to. It’s so going down there will be kissing.
K Anderson 38:07
Oh, so what our so are you like? Do you just piss you?
Do I wait?
That wasn’t I didn’t say anything rude. I promise. Do you pursue? Are you the pursuer?
Ultra Nate 38:23
Oh, do I pursue none, then? Yeah. And then No, no. I mean, I, you know, I’m not for like not letting someone know if I’m not interested in them. If I’m interested in them, I have no problem and letting them know that. But I’m very much a Pisces Aries girl. So you need to let me know. And you need to come through because I have a very strong personality. So, you know, I don’t want to feel like he’s not in this. And I’m wandering around like, after him. Like, what is that about? I’m still about like, you need to come through with like, some serious energy. And let me know what’s up. And if I’m, you know, into you, then I will return that.
Okay, so like, let’s just say you’re hitting on me, but like, you know, you’re, you’re making it. You’re making it obvious to me. I like I give you a little flirty moment. Okay, yeah. So So how does that work? I don’t know. I mean, it could just be like, you know, things happen organically when you’re in the club, like, you know, it could be a moment where there’s a song that comes on and you’re both vibe and at that moment and you start dancing together, like back in, like make a connection or somewhere in a conversation. I mean, you can read body language and how someone looks at you, or how someone puts themselves in your space. Like, you know, there’s things that people can do. Now, that first moment is not going to end up in a snog I’m not that only is going down with someone that I am dealing with. But yeah, you know? I don’t know. Okay, but you’re talking about being sweaty on the dance floor. Are you pro or not pro? What’s the opposite? What’s the word? I’m looking for pro again and again. Like properly made out on the dance floor.
Oh, if you’re taking up too much space and carrying on like a little snug in his queue, a moment is cute. But if like that’s your destination for the night like you’re, you’re just in the way to just be no, you need to carry on over there in the corner. Get out of the way because the dance floor is for dancing on some series dancing tip. Now I’m all for the romance and being in the heat of the moment. It’s lovely. It’s cool, but it cannot become like that’s the thing that you’re doing all night and just taking up all the room.
K Anderson 40:57
I totally totally agree. And I hate when people are just like not moving with the crowd and they’re just like blocking everyone. Oh, no, no, no, no, that’s that will get you in big trouble around here. Big trouble. But have you ever done it? His dance floor etiquette Ah, but it is kind of fun. I don’t want anyone else to do it. But like if I’m doing it, it’s kind of fun to like, just stand there in the middle of the floor and make out like yeah, like you know that like ridiculous making out you do in a cloud like where it’s just like, Ah, okay, this puzzled look, maybe this needs to give out this.
Ultra Nate 41:38
I’m not doing i’m not i’m not doing the like the ridiculous crazy out of control make out like that. That’s not gonna get it’s not gonna get mad off the chain. Only because I don’t have any privacy. Like, wait a minute. Hey, everybody looking. So you know, it’s going to be it could be hot, but it can’t be like get a room. guys seriously, like, really? I don’t need to be an exhibitionist for the sake of being, you know, of being an exhibitionist, but I’m on stage all the damn time. Like, I know where to get Oh, no, that’s enough. So if you see me in that kind of move, it’s going to be like, I’m really in that moment, but it’s not gonna be super extra. Because I don’t need everybody in my bedroom game. So yeah, you know, it can happen, but within a year.
K Anderson 42:28
Okay, well, now you’ve just made me seem even luckier than I do in every episode. Thanks. Oh, yeah. No, it’s not it’s no, it doesn’t happen very often. And, you know, obviously, it’s not having very, very long time. But it’s just that like you
Ultra Nate 42:43
in the moment. And you know, if it was the right song, the lights, the lights, the music, you know, you just kind of lost yourself in the moment, and I’m here for it.
K Anderson 42:52
I’m wondering when that happens, you know, but that’s that’s really you know, how an average just kind of alibi you whilst I was dancing, so you would like get annoyed and leave the dance.
Ultra Nate 43:10
They’re in their own world. Love his Gran. Gran, when it works, and he get it, get all of it, get all of
K Anderson 43:16
it. Oh, again, you’re looking like a nicer person than me. Get all of it.
Ultra Nate 43:20
Unless I’m really like in DC in advance and in my space, and you come up in my space and just decide to stop in my space with the shenanigans, then we’re gonna
K Anderson 43:29
have that I mean, peep some people just no man is just say, so let’s get to paradox. We waffled about lots of other things. So So you’ve already had your success in the UK by the time paradox opened. Right? And do you remember like the first time you ever went there?
Ultra Nate 43:51
Oh, yeah. So you know, I’m deep in my culture here. So yeah, part of the part of the initial family. I mean, I watched the club be built around us the same with fantasy, you know, knocking out walls, adding a wall. Because one week the wall is over here. And next week, the booth is over there. Like, yeah, that was all part of the process. So it was basically the same thing, like every weekend was a cash infusion. And we would invest it in the club. And that’s what he always did just reinvest as the club was open, and it’s really raw. And it’s Ross kind of, you know, representation. Every week, you put the money back in the club or in the sound system, and continue building things up around you. So I was at paradox which was a 13,000 square foot warehouse, when it was concrete floors, and I’m sure my joints in my back don’t appreciate those years. I was topping around up in there, you know, endlessly for hours. But you know, I watched the club grow and be built and come to this, you know, amazing venue that it ended up being for 27 years. Wow.
K Anderson 44:55
So let’s talk a little bit about Wayne. So was paradox opened simply because Club fantasy. The audience outgrew the venue.
Ultra Nate 45:03
No, not because the audience outgrew the venue, the city had decided where fantasy was located, was now going to be a route for a new metro system. And it was going to be straight in the front door. On the street aware club fantasy was this fantasy was it was a three story, townhouse, and made into a club venue. And so it was still like right in the middle in the heart of the city of downtown. And that area still had some local residents directly around the corners. So it was kind of in a tricky location anyway, and the city decided to start building up into that part of downtown and put this metro system there. So he had to move from that, you know, they sorted him out, they came to some kind of deal, or whatever understanding and then he took that investment, and started with this extremely raw space, again, of paradox, which was just this shell of a warehouse. And so,
K Anderson 46:10
so that first time then, it was like a celebration.
Ultra Nate 46:15
It was definitely a celebration, because, you know, we you know, we were a loyal, we were a loyal crew of people, like everybody here houses, like, you know, from the soul for us in Baltimore, in that way, the same way it was for Chicago and New York. You know, Baltimore sound was very relevant, it just had a bit more, you know, four to four stock to it, it had a little more basketball information. It had a little bit of like Miami, kind of, you know, breakbeats and some, some components of it. And, but those that were in it, were really about that life, like it was really a very strong culture here. So we would all we will fall away like the Pied Piper, no matter what,
K Anderson 47:00
Ultra Nate 47:01
So yeah, we were all very emotionally invested in whatever paradox was going to be because we had follow Wayne from Adele’s, which was the inception of all things house in the city. I mean, he brought to us, you know, from the Richard long sound system culture, that analog sound of Paradise garage, he built that culture here in this city, and so from Odell, then into fantasy, and onto paradox, so he had, you know, the whole culture behind him. And even when he started paradox, actually, he had the both sides of the culture because not only did he have the underground house kids, they also had the Baltimore club kids, which is a slightly different take on the house scene, it’s a whole different thing that’s origins are strictly from Baltimore. But then he also had the rave scene, starting there as well. And that’s part of what made like, the rave scene on East Coast culture, like massive, was clubs, like paradox is fostering,
K Anderson 48:02
one of the things that I wanted to ask was around. Like, so. So you’d been signed in the UK, you’d released like records in the UK that had more and more mainstream success than in the US. So it’s kind of like, the question I’m leading to is like, What is that like when you’re famous in one country and not famous in the country that you’re from?
Ultra Nate 48:25
It’s like living in two worlds. But it’s, it was okay for me, and it’s still okay, for me, actually, because it’s still really my reality. You know, it’s fine, because, you know, I’m very Pisces like to swim upstream and downstream at the same time, I enjoy a certain bit of anonymity. Just so I can just relax and not have to worry about like, what am I lashes like light is lighting, okay, am I at a good angle, you know, like, who wants to deal with that all the time I you know, I, I often, you know, feel bad for artists that are kind of at that level because although it looks all very glamorous and fabulous to be that famous, there’s a certain level of freedom that’s taken away from you because you have to meet this
K Anderson 49:09
constricting, isn’t it?
Ultra Nate 49:10
Yeah, you have to meet this level of expectation for four people all the time. And that’s a lot of stress to deal with. So I actually enjoyed that freedom of being able to like okay, when I need to turn this on, I just jump on a plane and I go to Europe or London UK wherever. And then I am a thing when I want to be a thing, but when I want to come home and just chill and just be ultra under normal circumstances and I worry about my hair or my makeup or, or any of that and just like kick it with my people and be silly and stupid and whatever. And nobody’s judging that. Like, I felt like I had again, like the best of both worlds because I could go to the to the UK and my face is on buses and posters and things like that across the city and in magazines and I will come home and you know, go grocery shopping amongst everyone and no one is going
K Anderson 50:03
to say you hadn’t developed a diva personality. You weren’t like storming through the doors of paradox and demanding VIP treatment.
Ultra Nate 50:12
No, but that was expected Anyway, let’s get Oh, no, it’s a matter of respect. I mean, you know, it is a small city. So everybody knows you know who you are what you do. And so there is a level of expectation with that. But at the same time, a lot of them are my friends. And a lot of them are crew that I’ve known for years. And a lot of people are people that I’ve known before a career even happen. And those dynamics haven’t changed. But they also understand that I’m a thing that is kind of different from just, you know, who we are in our regular kind of situation, and when I have to be out and be another thing for what my audience expects, so all of my friends who’ve been with me, they get that, and so we’re good, we’re all good with it.
K Anderson 51:03
Yeah, it’s that thing that you were talking about before. And like this, I’ll try the person and I’ll try the product. And it’s healthy to look at them as distinct things. And so paradox was really celebrated as just being this type of venue where there were all kinds of people to be and the only distinction I’m about to make is straight and gay. But like, can you talk to me about like, the the crowd there and, and who was going and who was dancing beside you.
Ultra Nate 51:34
I mean, everybody was going everybody in anybody and it you know, the place of acceptance. So you could come in, like your weird state and your crazy outfit and experiment and have fun. And there’s, it’s kind of like no judgment, because the Wilder and crazier it was, you know, the better. You know, it’s a completely freeing kind of atmosphere. And, you know, when if someone was there, who was who had that kind of energy, like they were judging people, well, then you were kind of the odd man out like, well, what’s your problem like, this isn’t? Clearly this isn’t the space for you, because we’re not doing that here. Everybody here is in this together, gay, straight, black, white, old, young, you know, we’re not divided by any of those kind of barriers, like it was literally the melting pot of people and energies, and everyone kind of fed off of each other’s differences. Like, that’s what made it really, really special, is those differences were celebrated, as opposed to looking, you know, being frowned upon in a way
K Anderson 52:40
and, and I’m really interested in like, how certain clubs cultivate that culture. And whether it’s the the architecture, whether it’s just the people that happen to live in that city, or whether it’s the kind of the curation of the owner, or whether it’s a combination of everything, like do you know, kind of what the secret ingredients were to make paradox, that special place,
Ultra Nate 53:07
it was definitely the curation of the owner. Because he made it intentionally a place a welcoming space, for creative culture, for dance, music, culture, and all in all its forms. So it you know, everything starts at the top, at the head. So Wayne being the head, he set, the template of what the club’s story and energy would be. And then from there, the music, as he always said, the music dictates the crowd. And so the music was inclusive, and the community that was promoted to was, you know, multicultural. I know, for me, doing my doing the deep sugar parties, one of the biggest things that we’ve always put forward is to make sure that we cross promote to all different kinds of people. Because it has always garnered like this really great inclusive vibe, and so many people have come away from it saying, Wow, I haven’t been to an event like that before, where there’s so many different kinds of people, just all like on this same vibe on the same wavelength enjoying this music and just in this in this place, spiritually together, you know, and so that that was learned from what Wayne had created. And that was what paradox facilitated. Is that that inclusivity and so,
K Anderson 54:32
say the club opened in 91. And had a really, really good run. It lasted for like 26 years before closing in in 2017. And it was like really just there for your whole adult life.
No, yeah. What?
What happened when you found out that it was closing, how did you respond?
Ultra Nate 54:54
I was heartbroken. I mean, we were heartbroken for like the last three years of it. We just weren’t We’re in a state of heartbroken. But we, you know, we knew inevitably The day was coming, you know, Wayne was getting older, it was a lot of work on him to sustain the club, I was on the road and had to, you know, have my career. So I couldn’t step into his shoes in order to, you know, keep it running myself in that way, that kind of management level, and he really didn’t have anyone around that he felt would really be able to sustain it, and keep it going in that way. And then, you know, the decision was made beyond us anyway, in the city had, actually, some developers had come in and bought property around the club, and the owner of the venue, because Wayne was, was rain, Wayne wasn’t the owner, he owned the business paradox. But he didn’t own the building. And so the owner of the building had did a deal with the developers and basically sold the building anyway. So it became part of a larger plan that is now under construction. To develop an entertainment complex, that’s going to be a lot more. I would imagine more commercial, when, you know, finally sees the light of day. But it’s been in progress for like the last three years. So those those last few years, we we mourn the club heavily, but we threw a lot of really great parties. And we made sure we sent her off, you know, with some epic vibes.
K Anderson 56:27
And so that very, very last night, tell me what happened. Well,
Ultra Nate 56:35
we had a marathon, like a crazy marathon, we had had two marathons, because we kept getting false starts from the developers of when we needed to close. And so we were like, Okay, this is it. And then we have this end of the party party, and it’s like, but wait. So that kind of kept happening, because their, their timeline kept getting pushed back. So while their timeline for you know, demolishing the building kept getting pushed back, the owner of the building was like, well, when he may as well just, you know, keep keep going for now, and, you know, enjoy the club while still have it. So we would be like, okay, we’re still going so that it kind of happened a lot. And we had a lot of time to mourn it, because all of that was in play for over a year. So you know, I would just have these nights of, and Lisa and I, and at any given moment, anybody on the paradox and deep sugar team could just go in and have an emotional breakdown. Like at any given time, it was just like, that was just the order of the day, on any given weekend, at any given moment, somebody is going to get hit with that reality that this is going to be gone, our home is going to be gone at some point. And you look around the room, and you look at these people, and you look and you hear this incredible system, and you feel it in your body, and you’re like this is all going to be gone in a minute. And there’s nothing else like it to replace this moment. And there are people coming behind me, who will never be able to experience this, this is this is different. This is genre defining. This is this has brought couples together and this is facilitated the birth of children. And this is launched careers. And you know, it created friendship, lifelong friendships. And, you know, there’s so much history in these walls. It’s not just a building, it’s a whole life experience. And so to see that coming to an end, and to know that there’s nothing even close, that can touch it. Like you have to try to take all of that in and process it, and then find some place to make peace with it. And so that was the work that we were doing for like the last, you know, two years of the dogs. When that final night came, you know, nobody wanted to leave exhausted as we were, you know, we probably I probably had like five changes of clothes. I lived in the club the whole weekend. And no one wanted to go home and people would leave because they were exhausted and they would go home and take the cat nap. And they would be right back at the club because nobody wanted to approach that moment when it was officially the last dance.
K Anderson 59:27
Did you ever go to Dallas club fantasy or paradox? Well if you did, I would love to hear from you. Find me on Twitter, Instagram Facebook with the user name K Anderson music and tell me what you got up to share any photos and just Just tell me how it was there. And whilst you’re at it, go and give ultra some love on Instagram. You can find her with a username ultra net a music. Love space is no Not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is also playing underneath my talking right now on all good streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe, leave a review on Apple podcasts or just tell people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.