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The days of writhing on a sweaty dancefloor in flashy, skimpy get-ups or engaging in fetish play with a sexy stranger might be behind us (for now), but some L.A. club promoters are not content to wait for things to re-open to get their freak on. Rather, some are looking to experiment, taking their nightlife environments to the internet. Sin Harder -the founder of Batcave, L.A. Fashion and Fetish Ball & Dark Circus- is one such nightlife figure, and this Saturday he goes bigger than ever with the Batcave Fashion & Fet Ball LiveStream Experience, a multi-media sextravaganza bringing together goth, metal, industrial music, dance, dress-up and more. Joining forces with 3Skreen (an events promotions firm specializing in digital, real world, or hybrid happenings), the online gathering intends to utilize “advanced atmospherics” including shared lighting environments, multiple spaces and locales- a smoking patio, main stage, side stage, basement, go-go dancer view, vendor faire, performer stage,  projections- via navigation between multiple screens, browsers,  platforms, apps and devices. According to 3Skreen’s Wry Mantione, the unique at-home viewing experience will be available via FBLive, InstaLive, Zoom, and YouTube, with additional adult/fetish content available with VIP access. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but one that both Harder and Mantione are excited to embark on. With Harder in and out of hospitals battling cancer the past few years -not to mention everyone’s coronavirus concerns across the city, country and world- it seems especially challenging. But that is exactly why these promoters and the community they are part of want and need to put on such an event, they say. As we have written in the Weekly several times before, the gothic nightlife crowd is loyal and enduring no matter how dark or bright it is outside in the real world. Here, Harder shares his club Batcave’s history, his vision and his hopes for the future (as told to Mantione).

Sin Harder and Dani Divine  (Courtesy Batcave)

Can we get a timeline for how Batcave came to be over the past 10 years?

My clothing line Vamps and Tramps was heavily doing events with our models and Evil Pin-Up Girls. I was involved with getting support in the Myspace days- getting my friends to go to Bar Sinister, Clockwork Orange (my favorite at the time), Das Bunker, and Helter Skelter. I would try to influence people to go and I found I was really good at it. That’s why venues started contacting me.

Medusa Lounge started contacting for over 2 years, telling me about the perfect venue with gargolyes and arches and all the goth vibe. They just wanted me to do an event, after watching us work with other clubs and venues. We had already been doing some events with Bats over Broadway in Long Beach and that was with one of the members of 45 Grave and the DJ from the Release the Bats.

Our first official event at Medusa Lounge, we did an afterhours and support for Fangoria Magazine. It was a horror convention. and 45 Grave ended up playing the event. The first night and it was crickets at 9 p.m. No one showed up. And then all of sudden hundreds of people starting coming in. It was just chaos out front. There was cameras everywhere, it looked like news crews, paparazzi and TMZ style. The entire horror community came out to support. Overwhelming support, I couldn’t believe the response we were getting for a new club. Something different. Stanton LaVey met his wife that night there.

Who was involved?

I actually set up a round table of people who were influencers in the beginning. Old School, new school, industrial, metal. People from N.Y., L.A., London. I wanted to create a support group. That went over really, really well because I was already working with all the top clubs. There was only one promoter who wasn’t on board. Most clubs go through some rough hazing. Any time a new club opens up there is going to be some resistance. It’s going to take away patrons for some existing clubs. We were unique thinking, forward thinking to have two rooms. Everywhere else was one sound, one room, one smoking patio.

In the beginning we had more a metal influence as well. In the back we’d have more harder dance music that seemed to be more cutting edge and modern. Many years later, we had great great DJs involved. Frank at Das Bunker was a resident…Club Hell, Fetish Nation and many other clubs. Al Jourgensen came out and played some tracks, DJing at the Belasco, which was Bondage Ball with Batcave. That was our night with Ministry, which is my favorite band in the world, and that’s the ultimate cool. Getting to work with who I love. Other members of Ministry attended our very first night and sometimes they would DJ over the years. If I had parents that would have cared, they would have told me that I could never do this life and make enough to get by. And now with online events, they would have said the same thing about this era, that I’d never make a living at this, sitting around in my underwear, planning events from home.

Bats hangin.’ (Courtesy Batcave/Doomsday Ball)

There was a Batcave in London as well. Was there a connection? What set your L.A. bats apart?

A gathering of bats, of dark souls, or dark people, and that meant welcoming people from different scenes.

That to me was a beautiful thing to unite us. And to create their own version of what they consider traditional, which wasn’t traditional at all. I was always friends with Ollie, from the original Batcave in London, from Specimen. We wanted to revive a lot for them. Make enough money to start bringing over some of these bands, his band in particular. Ollie Wilson and I have always been cool, but I’ve never thrown his name around. I wanted to revive his legacy, since I admire him.

I never thought it was necessary to throw names around. I knew my history and I knew who I was working with, because I had every right to do it. I knew the original people from London. I don’t need their name. I don’t need to name drop and never did. I don’t need people who don’t understand the facts getting in my way and I don’t need to school anyone. They would just do their own thing.  Our venue looked like a cave in the back. Even my mom would make fun of the name, she would call them the Dingbats. The gathering of Bats.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get your start?

I started importing Docs and Creepers when I was 16, before they were here in the U.S. and I had this dream with the clothing line. I did these shows in the middle of the desert with a generator, like Dr. Know, DRI, The Vandals, DI, The Adolescents, all these punk legends. Before Hot Topic, there was us. We would import first to Canada and then bring it into the U.S. because of the currency issue. People would say, it can’t be done, and I would do it. More desperation than genius sometimes.

My 16th birthday was in my garage with the Offspring. And people would come to me to manage bands. And I’ve just been doing shows my whole life. The Offspring called it the Dust Bowl. We had 2 to 300 people. People would trust in me to put on these shows. And we would just find a long road. People would assume I own the land and the cops would show up and I would just tell them that they have to get off my property and they had to leave. We’d get 20 kegs of expired beer and people would pay $3 bucks to get in and the music would bounce off the rocks like in a cavern. We’d just drop off all the flyers we possibly could at places in Huntington Beach like Wimpy Burger. This is history that has never really had a chance to be told and I hope it can live on beyond me.

Go-go bats Shannon Chromegirl and Kitty Rodriguez (Courtesy Batcave)

How has the “goth” scene evolved?

I go back pretty far with the punk scene and the deathrock scene. That term was made in California. That’s us. Let’s talk about a Huntington Beach Goth vs someone from Bathe or London or someone from Ireland or Spain. We’re different than the European counterparts. My family is from Europe. But we’ve always changed. We changed punk, we changed deathrock to fit our own needs and our own way of thinking. For Europe it’s more of a lifestyle and for us, it’s just life. We brought a casual look to things with a rougher edge. A punk and metal aggression, especially in California. We all have our own freedom of not being stuck in one category. We could be listening to hardcore punk and go right into Bauhaus. Ours always seemed like a little harder, a little edgier. Visually, we tried to make it as radical as possible. We wanted some excitement and a major change from what the norm was. And not just to be outrageous to influence the future. Batcave has always tried to bring the new and the old together. A lot of people just wanted what was the future. Like Static-X and Combichrist. The days of wallflowers and leather jackets and leaning against the wall and looking at each other were over. We wanted to be known as a friendly club. You were welcomed. I welcomed them at the door and welcomed them on the way out.

We were never stuck as a straight club, a gay club, a metal club. If you look at the founders in London, they were totally against being labeled a Goth Club. Don’t force people to be the same as you. I don’t want people to be me. Don’t pretend to be me or anyone else. That’s the real poser.
What artists and genres did you champion?

In the beginning in the front 242, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy and FrontLine Assembly. More recently 3Teeth. We’ve worked with all the big artists.  The old school Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Slick Idiot, KMFDM, which was probably our biggest show at Circus. That was very cool. Johnny Coffin brought a band out from Italy. Skum Love played live with his band, but also was a DJ. Some of those events were KGB, but no matter what I do, people always say it’s Batcave. For over 5 years, I worked for Club Hell and Fetish Nation.

Wry Mantione and Goddess Nyx (Eric Charles)

Talk about the intersection of the fetish scene, industrial and goth.

Fetish wasn’t always well received. I caught a lot of slack for it. In Europe they don’t really work with fetish. I felt I could unite that scene, even if I wasn’t particularly participating. Giving it a platform was really important to me from the beginning, and still today. I thinks it’s great to watch while you’re dancing. I did get a few club owners that felt that fetish should not be welcome. I felt that it was a stance I had to stand up for, the freedom of choice that I had as a promoter, and I considered it an art form that needed to be shown, as well as other things like burlesque shows. At the time, people had a real hard time with change.

Sin, what can you tell us about your health challenges and how they’ve affected your creative pursuits?

Well, it’s not nice to be known as the guy who fought Stage 4 cancer. Even with David Bowie dying from cancer, and Lemmy from Motorhead and many others. Mistress Cyan who had cancer and survived, still running Sanctuary to this day and the Girls of Sanctuary have performed at many Batcave events over the years including as a group at big events like Doomsday Ball and monthly events like SUBMIT, that we just reignited in January. We’ve worked with her at DomCon as well.  We started doing Cancer Awareness events, even before Batcave. Before I got cancer, I started doing Breast Cancer Awareness. A lot of my female friends needed help so I was raising money. I started to get involved in Cancer Walks 2 weeks out of major surgery… I was out on a track raising money for the American Cancer Society.

[Getting cancer] I would have to say changed me and my way of thinking. I was way more loving and understanding of other people. It didn’t matter who you were, you might get cancer and struggle. And the kids who were always into cool stuff like Batman and Star Wars, they could see what I was going through and that I was going to make it. There wasn’t much that would make me want to give up. I would go to Batcave even on chemo and radiation and people didn’t even know. I didn’t want to tell people. But eventually it was too hard to hide. I was only 130lbs at 5’10.” I lost so much weight that my girlfriend at the time could carry me around. I would be working the door. That’s the thing, we were always very hands on. I’ve never been a promoter to just sit on a couch and just watch things happen. Batcave was my only outlet. Then I would be in bed for 3 weeks. At the time, the plan was: I’m not going to make it. So I wanted every event to be the best we could do.

How has your community dealt with coronavirus and not being able to go out to the clubs and dance, drink, socialize?

The cool thing is that we found a way around all that. For me, sadness came, depression came, the first time in my life where I was completely alone. I just moved. It’s a time where people don’t even talk on the phone. You’ll get a text. So we came up with a way to do it [streaming events].  I could see people dance, to seen Kitty and Chromegirl on screen, all the Batcavers…. You could dance with them and feel like you’re dancing with them in person. I would see people teaching their kids.  Moms teaching their kids to dance who had never even seen a goth club. People who had never seen what we’re doing and had no idea about fetish and our dancing and movement. I just won’t give up on the scene.

(Courtesy The Agents of Lust)

What are your goals with doing streaming events right now?

The whole streaming thing came about because we’ve done weekends that were always do for free. We all work for tips. Many nights we’d get nothing. We invested money into and bought the equipment. Batcave has never been a particularly lucrative business and it wasn’t supposed to be. Now we are creating and connecting across the world. We can reach 30,000 people. Everyone wants to know what LA is doing. We’re getting tons of messages from around the world.

What does the future hold?

I think the future is some of us not having to travel and others empowered by traveling. I think the future is having massive screens where we show an interview with someone like Siouxsie and Banshees live. Or Robert Smith. Or even modern bands. Sure, we’re in L.A., but people around the world influence us and we influence them. We’ve always been a future-looking club versus other events that were all about tradition and conserving the past. That was never us. We need to bring in the Baby Bats.  To me, the word Batcave represents a group of Darklings. A cave full of Bats. A group of people. Traditional goths don’t follow a genre or a trend. You don’t try to be the same.

Batcave Fashion & Fet Ball LiveStream Experience with hosts Sin Harder, Dani Divine, Metal Sanaz, Grinder & fire performance troupe The Agents of Lust,  Syfy’s Monster Man Cleve Hall, DJs, metal bands, go go dancers, burlesque, aerialists, visual artists, vendors, panel conversation, fetish performances and more. $4.99 admission gets you entry into multiple Zoom rooms for LIVE performances, music and dancing. $24.99 VIP Access gets you an exclusive fetish performances.  $100 “platinum” VIP and “exclusive” VIP are also available. More info here.