This week's Question of the Day host is a familiar face if you attend art and music events in Seattle—especially since he stands a head above the crowd. Travis Ritter is a fashion copywriter by day and DJ by night, curating the post-punk/minimal wave night Aesthetic Mess at various venues. In addition, he has written about the music he loves for The Stranger, City Arts, SPIN, Seattle Weekly, Houston Press, and the Portland Mercury.
We asked Travis some questions about art, activism, and exactly how much pizza he can eat in a single sitting. Enjoy!
Let's start by asking you one of the Questions of the Day you wrote for Siren: How do you contribute to activism and culture in your community?
A lot of my involvement in Seattle has revolved around the music scene, volunteering for non-profit organizations running fundraising events, including Noise for the Needy, and The Vera Project's Drink For The Kids. Though I have contributed to a number of non-profit organizations monetarily, I'm frankly ashamed of how little time I have put toward the more socio-political side of things (aside from some rallies and marches), considering how politically active I was from my late teens to mid-twenties in Eugene and Houston. That is one of my goals of this year, to become more involved with all aspects of our city, not just with music or the arts, but local chapters and movements seeking to better our city and society as a whole. Beyond expressing my informed (or sassy) opinions through social media, or trying to create fun environments at bars and clubs that bring people from all walks of life together.
In your bio, you identify yourself as a feminist. What does feminism mean to you, and why is this such an important part of your identity?
Growing up with girls as your best friends (in my case, punk and riot grrrls), you kind of just begin identifying as one. The music I listened to shaped me to be one. Kurt Cobain was the first male musical hero I had who openly championed feminism. I've always held women in very high regard and respect, knowing how much more crap they have to put up with on a daily basis, and have always tried to set a good example as a male ally. I'm hyper-aware of society's hypocrisies and double-standards of how women are treated compared to boys. I'm sickened by chauvinism and misogyny and hate that it still somehow exists even among liberal men. Dudes have been the alphas of society for far too long. I'm ready to stand back and let women take over the world.
"Kurt Cobain was the first male musical hero I had who openly championed feminism." [Tweet this]
Who creates the graphics for your DJ night Aesthetic Mess? The collages are great!
I do! I've always loved collage and have spent a lot of time in my adult life doing it just for fun, typically cut-and-paste old magazines, the old fashioned way. I have boxes and boxes of magazines and paper scraps and cutouts in my basement as evidence of my desire to re-purpose an image into something more abstract. But over the last couple years, have been working more in Photoshop, since it allows me to duplicate images I like much easier. Plus, I feel like I'm just learning something new every time I sit down with the program itself. I design a new flyer every month so that grounds me to keep creating and pushing myself. And because there was a certain hodgepodge collage aesthetic to the posters I was creating early on, I decided to stick with that identity for Aesthetic Mess. I'm excited about this year. I'm putting together a zine at the moment that will incorporate both my design and writing. I'd love to do a collage with puzzle pieces. That being said, I simply LOVE the collages done by Troy Ayala, who used to be in Stickers and now lives in New York. His work is a constant source of inspiration.
Speaking of DJing, what's your perfect playlist for setting a romantic mood?
Shuggie Otis, "Sweet Thang"
Portishead, "All Mine"
Robert Gorl, "Mit Dir (With You)"
Sylvester, "I Need Somebody To Love Tonight"
Eurythmics, "Take Me To Your Heart"
Benjamin Biolay, "A L'Origine"
Aphex Twin, "Ageisopolis"
My Bloody Valentine, "Slow"
Pink Industry, "What I Wouldn't Give"
I didn't used to call myself DJ Randy Travis for nothing!
What's the most adventurous thing you've ever done?
I do quite a bit of hiking, whether it's a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. I've hiked a stretch of the Oregon coast over a few days, from Seaside down to Manzanita, with my dog carrying his food and water in his saddle pack. I've climbed some mountains (the highest mountain summit I reached was the volcanic Lassen Peak in the Sierra Nevadas). But one that always stands out is a day-long hike through the jungle of Northern Thailand. It was super hot, we switch-backed up and over a few mountains, through many farmlands, before reaching a really cold swimming hole, where we all took a dip and swam underneath a waterfall. On our way back, our guide lead us to a pitch-black bat cave in the hillside that we climbed down into and out of, less than an hour before the bats were to head out for the night at sundown. It was a really exhausting, but rewarding experience.
What do you do to unwind after a long day at work?
It depends on the day, but lately, I've been taking the first hour or so to call my senators and state representatives to express my concerns about issues they will be voting on. I also am almost always listening to a record, whether it's something I just picked up on my walk home after work, or something like Iggy Pop's The Idiot when I wanna slink out into the night later on.
What is the most unusual compliment you have ever received?
I've received plenty of back-handed compliments in my day. I consider those unusual because I don't understand why people bother saying something if it's not constructive or positive. Other than that, probably something along the lines of "that's a cool scar" or "I like your cast." I was a skateboarder so I was always hurting myself. My response was generally "Thanks, IT REALLY HURT!"
Name something about you others might consider old fashioned.
Refusal to embrace digital/CD DJing.
What is the most pizza you have ever eaten in a single sitting?
A whole extra-large cheese pizza in just under 10 minutes at the Pizza Fest pizza eating competition three years in a row (I never won).
Name something you think the world needs more of.
Wind and solar energy.
In one word, how would you want someone to describe you to another person?
(Oh geez) 😏