My name is Kiska Kasparov. I am a designer and event producer. I design a bunch of different things and also design events.

Experiences are really hard to capture, and I think to create one that is very memorable without being manufactured is a really fun challenge. Events inspire me because you can create an event that people remember. 

I look at my events as more like parties, not really music events. At least, that’s how I approach designing them. They’re definitely music events, but I’m not like a music curator... Aside from the music, I [want to consider] the general vibes of the situation first… just trying to do something that is unique. It’s not always possible. Even with the mud wrestle, it’s been done many times since the beginning of America or whatever, but I thought it was something kind of unique to Austin so it was something I wanted to do.

Artistry is the second thing I would try to consider; that the people that are a part of the event are artists, and it’s not just a gig really. Of course, it’s always someone’s getting paid to be there, but I try to select people that are really true to their craft and are also kind and sweet. The people working the events are usually my friends.

Value is the most important thing. My goal is that no one ever shows up to an event and is like, ‘I wish I hadn’t spent 20 dollars on this,’ because that is my pet peeve. Even if you go to a bar and there’s a cover you think, ‘okay, if I pay 10 dollars to get into this bar right now, it better be at least worth 10 dollars.’ I just want people to feel like they got their money’s worth and to really make a night that they can remember. I want it to be like 10x the value. But that’s the bare minimum, I always want people to feel like they got their value’s worth out of whatever I’m doing. 

The only metric you can use to measure an event’s success is like, ‘well, I had 400 at the first one, 500 at the second one so I must have done something people liked.’ People don’t talk about stuff they didn’t like that much. People just forget about it. People will come up and be like, ‘My friend told me that it was the best party they ever went to.’ That’s the highest compliment I could get and I hope every single person there was thinking that— I mean obviously they probably all weren’t thinking that - but that’s the goal. It’s really something you just have to observe; there’s not like an exit survey kind of thing.  

Word of mouth is strong, there've been great parties I’ve missed just because I did not know it was happening that night. If you can put it in front of enough eyes, then that’s the best strategy really. I’ve put a lot of money into the marketing...I’ve paid Sarah Myers, my graphic designer, to do the past two event flyers. In addition to that, Emma and I will try to curate something to go on our Instagram as a teaser. We try to capture the events that we’ve thrown previously and the vibe of what we’re trying to throw beforehand, then promote it in as many places as we can. We're definitely sending it to our friends like, ‘can you repost this?’ because putting it in front of people is the only way they will see it.

[I’d like to see] artists getting paid more. I’m friends with a ton of performers and they're just not getting paid enough. That’s really all it comes down to. For Austin to be the live music capital of the world, supposedly… Inflation is real, but it’s not a thing that’s new to 2022 or the [Covid-19] pandemic. $100 an hour might work if you’re a full time DJ who has a gig every day, but that’s often not the case. There’s a need to reexamine how artists are being paid and valued. I think profit follows good business practice. If you value the people that you are putting on your bills, you’re going to be more discerning and really try to book the best of the best, because you’re paying for it.

We pay people what they’re worth when we book talent and I think that’s probably most important. Obviously, inclusivity as well but I try to shy away from marketing anything as inclusive because I want it to be a given. Which it often always isn't, for anything, there’s plenty of bars and spaces in Austin that are very hostile to black people, minorities, queer people, but I just want it to speak for itself.

Ultimately, it’s really about paying talent what they’re worth, giving them the same rights as you would any other worker. That goes back to the value aspect in that the people that come to your events are what makes your events. So we’re doing right by them by giving them an experience that is definitely worth what they paid for and is a safe space for them. We have security at all of our events because of that, we want it to be safe. Safety and Inclusivity are those ‘unspoken’ values. I’ve been pretty vocal about trying to pay people fairly. Workers rights are very important and I think cultural workers are often not seen as workers, but they are. And performers are too.

I wouldn’t say I throw chill things, that’s not my goal. If I go out and I want to party, I want to party hard and to have unlimited fun, let loose, get wild, whatever. Instead of like— sometimes you will go to the bar, you’re just trying to chill. You might go with a friend or with a date, but that’s not exactly the vibe [at our events], not yet. I want to curate some calmer and more chill things [eventually], but so far, I think what people who come in are looking for is a crazy experience. 

I've only really thrown two events officially. I’ve thrown house parties and stuff in the past which were actually pretty cool. Which I think gave me the confidence to throw real events. I started out as someone who was trying to do everything I could on every weekend when I was a teenager. I was like, ‘let’s go to west campus’, ‘let’s find a house party’, ‘let’s go to a co-op party.’ There’d be some random parties that I would never forget, and I was like, ‘I wanna do that again.’ Hopefully there's people who are coming who are like, ‘whoa, I wanna throw a party this cool.’ I think that’s inside of every person.

Partying, on some level, has always been about escapism. At this current moment, party culture cannot be divided from alcohol and drugs. People party, they drink alcohol, they take drugs because they’re trying to escape for a little bit.

There was a recent Austin Chronicle article that came out about the importance of trans talent to night life. SaliYah music said as trans artists who are performing at these events, we don’t know how long we’re going to still be in Texas. So we’re going as hard as possible until the end. It’s that kind of vibe where it feels like the world is ending so let’s try and enjoy it a little bit. Which we all should be fighting against [the end of the world], but I think there is power in controlling the one thing that you can control, which is yourself and saying, ‘I take my pleasure seriously, so I’m going to be around people who love me, and I’m going to experience things that are gonna bring me joy; even when things aren’t that joyful.’ “You are making a conscious choice to consume experiences more intentionally in a way that brings back power to yourself.” 

[I am inspired by the support I’m seeing] in the queer community, like at Cheer Up Charlie’s and Coconut Club. Maybe not the institutions themselves, but the people that work there and the people that perform there. They advocate for each other. There are artists who are bigger than other artists and some people have more bargaining power. The queer community put each other on each other's bills. Looking out for your friends is important, I do see artists doing that more than any other kind of person. 

Being a trans woman, I wanted to give back in the ways that I can to the queer community. A friend of mine from Columbus, Ohio who is a trans woman was approached about visiting and talking with trans people in Ukraine to amplify their voices and hear about their experiences. I started thinking about what I can offer. I know that I’m a handy person. My family was lower-middle class, so I think learning how to fix things and how to do DIY things was something born out of necessity that a lot of people do. You can either pay the mechanic $800 or you can buy a part for $60 and fix it yourself. I started thinking about all the queer people I know who are just like me and broke and struggling who can empower themselves instead of having to rely often on cis men in terms of home improvement and capitalism as well.

I think people will start saying, ‘Hey I do have the time to learn this, and this would benefit me, and I do want to do this.’ I think a lot of people will find out that it’s very rewarding. Especially to work on your own car and work on your own dwelling. It becomes more ‘yours’. It’s not just something that you own. It’s yours. I can go into deeper constructs of capitalism but taking care of the things that you own is revolutionary thought in itself. Things become less disposable when you fix them. When you know how to repair things, you become less of a consumer because you don’t need to buy as many things.

There is like a very large movement from corporations to make things disposable in a way; they make it prohibitively hard to fix things yourself. Apple being one of them. They've lost a bunch of lawsuits in that arena. It’s called the ‘Right to Repair.’ Back in the day, I actually used to work in Sears and a giant part of their business was selling parts for the items that they sold. So people would call in and we would look through a diagram and they would find the part that you need, after someone comes and diagnoses it, they can get that part and put it in themselves. That just doesn’t really exist anymore. You have to take it to the Apple bar or whatever.

They make all these parts - you can void your warranty by replacing your screen on some items. Which are incredibly predatory business practices. Trying to become the only supplier. I really hope more of the world becomes more interested in fixing and doing things themselves instead of paying for service that you probably don’t need to pay for.

[These workshop events are] still in the works and something I really want to do. I hope I can give people the ability to feel empowered and hopefully save some money. And, hopefully, that small amount of money they save can make a difference. Because that's what I do. My motorcycle breaks down and I have to fix it myself. When your oil light turns on and your like ‘oh shit I have to pay $100 for an oil change, I don’t have that right now’ that can often be very crucial. I also came to that idea because I grew up raised as a boy and I was taught boy things, like how to help out my father when he’s working on the car or the house. I think people who grew up a little bit more outwardly queer or more feminine, and all types of feminine people aren’t being taught those things because they might not have that relationship with their father within a typical family structure, in relation to those practical skills. People were amazed Sydney Sweeney loves working on trucks just because she’s a woman. And that’s the reality of it. Not even that it’s a novelty. I think people were very impressed with her in a legitimate way. I think the reality is that it’s a man’s world of fixing things, and working on cars and working on houses. I hope that I can empower people in some way. Queer people and women as well.

Financial obstacles are the largest obstacles I have to tackle in regards to throwing more events and I’m hoping to throw one by the end of the year, if the financials improve. Really my goal is to throw at least two a year and to really explore. I have so many concepts for parties. I just want to do them all and to feel the reward of exploring new ideas. I hope these events continue on the path that they're going. You know, people enjoy them. And people have fun and artists get paid and good music is listened to. And danced to. And people have good times.

Interview by Saint John Requejo II

Transcribed by Zach Arizmendi

Edited by Saint John Requejo II & Avery Viers

Photographs provided by Dé Randle

Graphics made by Loren Madjer