On Point With: DJ Sean McMahill

If you’re a gay New Yorker who appreciates the beauty of the male ginger, then you’re probably familiar with Nowhere Bar’s monthly Fire in the Hole ginger worship party. Which means you’re probably familiar with DJ Sean McMahill, the face and music maker of that night (as well as a monthly retro dance party in Brooklyn). For this week’s Fire, he’s bringing in some friends to help with his spinning duties, because it’s his birthday… so this is a good a time as any to get to know him better! But first, see red in our exclusive sit-down with Sean.

Thotyssey: Hi Sean! Thanks for chatting with us! It looks like it’s your birthday week–when’s the official day?

DJ Sean McMahill: Hi, and sure! My birthday is actually Thursday, the 25th. When I realized that this month’s Fire in the Hole party would land on that date, it seemed like a good reason to invite some of my friends to come and DJ with me.

Nice! How’s your summer been so far?

Busy and sweaty. Which is a pretty typical New York summer, I suppose.

Pretty much! How long have you been a New Yorker?

Closing in on 15 years, this coming January.

You’ve done your time! Where are you from originally?

Illinois. Grew up in a small town amidst the cornfields, then after college, I lived in Chicago for awhile before making my way out east.

What kinda music did you grow up listening to?

My first album that I’ll admit to owning was Rick Springfield’s “Working Class Dog.” So 80s pop-rock, through and through.

(Though I also had a soft spot for my parents’ Carpenters 8-track tapes.)

Well look, Rick was hot. When/how/why did you start DJing?

I remember playing 45s at a high school dance or two in the cafeteria. Then right after college, I was working in a record store, and a new bar owner came in to buy some music. We started chatting, and by the time I was ringing up his purchase he’d offered me Thursday nights to spin whatever I wanted at his bar.

Then after moving to Chicago, I eventually landed a slot at a gay stripper bar on the north side that sadly no longer exists. That was around 2000, so it meant a lot of Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox remixes.

Sounds like heaven! Is pop your preferred repertoire, or is that basically what you do because the kids want it?

I still love a great pop tune. These days, my tastes lean a little more left of center, but I’ll also stand by my conviction that Carly Rae Jepsen released the best album of 2015.

I don’t quite get the cult of Carly Rae, but it’s quite a force to be reckoned with. 

So, what’s your method of DJing, generally? Are you a playlist guy, a live mixer, a vinyl scratcher, etc?

I used to use CDs, but these days I just show up and plug in my iPad. I use the Traktor app, which pulls from my iTunes playlists. It’s a lot lighter, for sure.

I bet! So, what’s your scene as far as when you’re off-duty… where do you hang out?

I live in Prospect Heights, and I love my hood. But if I’m heading out for a night, I’m likely meeting up with friends in Williamsburg or hanging in the East Village.

And it may sound like a cliche, but I really love both of the bars where I do monthly parties, C’mon Everybody in Bed Stuy and Nowhere in the EV. Both places feel like home to me, so there’s a good chance I’ll end up at one or the other by the end of the night.

I see you just had your party st C’Mon last week. How did that go, and what’s that one about?

It’s an 80s & 90s dance party, and it’s a blast. It’s always really fun to get that squeal of recognition from the crowd when you play a beloved classic or a forgotten gem.

And what I love about that party and the bar is that it draws such a mixed crowd. It feels super inclusive, and everybody’s just there to dance and have fun.

So, how long have you known about the strange powers off your gingerness?

I mean, I always had an inkling, but it took a fellow ginger to show me how to tap into and harness them, I guess.

Six years ago, I was having a happy hour drink at Nowhere when Kaiser Sosebee approached me with a postcard in hand, inviting me to his new ginger party, which I thought sounded like a swell idea. By the end of that first party, I’d talked my way into deejaying the next one. And when he got busy a few months later and had to relinquish the reins, I took over.

Fire in the Hole just had an anniversary in fact, right?

Yep, June marked our 6th anniversary. I feel very lucky and grateful to have been able to throw this party every month for that long.

Congratulations! What percentage of the Nowhere Crowd on those nights are gingers, and who are the worshippers?

It varies, but there’s a loyal contingent of gingers who always show up to represent. And I’m always ready with an invite when I meet a new redhead!

And there are ginger gogos too, right?

Yeah. So you can always count on at least me and whoever’s dancing!

So this week you’re gonna be backed up by other DJs so you can have some fun on your birthday?

Exactly! When Rod’s in town and not off on tour somewhere around the world, we do the 80s/90s party at C’mon Everybody together, and I absolutely love playing with him. Brett and Chris Runyon have both joined me at Nowhere before for other parties. And Christopher Logan’s a fellow ginger, so I had to have him on the bill, too!

Just to thank my guest DJs in advance, I’m really looking forward to hanging out and letting my friends and fellow music lovers entertain me! And thanks to anyone who’s ever stopped by and helped us keep this party going. Including the amazing staff at Nowhere!

Okay so last question: what is the most common misconception about gingers?

That we’re flattered when anyone asks if the carpet matches the drapes? Come on, fellas.

Haha! Noted! Okay I think we’re good! Thanks Sean, and happy birthday!

Sean McMahill DJs the Fire in the Hole monthly ginger worship party at Nowhere Bar on last Thursdays (9pm, next on August 25th, which is also his birthday). He also spins the monthly Everybody Everybody retro dance party at C’Mon Everybody on third Fridays. Sean can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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