GUEST INTERVIEW | Ultra Naté

Ultra Naté ARTIST image
Sam Burns interviewed Ultra Naté for the second chapter of our Blisspop Guest Interview series. Sam asked Ultra about her Deep Sugar parties, why she became a DJ, where she thinks the dance music scene will go in the next few years, her upcoming projects, and more. Catch Ultra Naté and Lisa Moody with Katie Elder at Deep Sugar DC at U Street Music Hall on February 11.


Where were you born?

I was born in Havre De Grace, MD and then moved to New England until I was 8 years old. Then we moved to Baltimore and I’ve been here since!

Who inspired you as a child?

I was a musical sponge but I was also influenced by visual artists in the music business, so I listened to everything from Earth, Wind & Fire to Madonna to Pink Floyd. I kind of surfed the radio dial from track to track for endless hours.
How was your childhood?

I was a singleton for many years of my early childhood, so I grew up very independent.  I lived all over Baltimore, but coming from New England, I was usually the girl with the funny accent and the bizarre name who dressed like Boy George.
When did you start singing?

I sang in church for many years and with my high school group for fun. I had no real aspiration at the time to be a singer by trade.

What was your first song you wrote? How was that experience?

The first song I wrote was my first initiation into the music business unbeknownst to myself at the time. I was having fun in the studio — it was casual and experimental. The Basement Boys and I came up with “It’s Over Now,” and the rest is history as they say …


How was it working with the Basement Boys and other dance producers?

The boys and I would spend hours just hanging and talking before we got to any serious work.  I’ve found it’s great to have that kind of easy way with a producer. It takes the pressure off to “be great” on demand because creativity doesn’t work like that.


“The boys and I would spend hours just hanging and talking before we got to any serious work … It takes the pressure off to ‘be great’ on demand because creativity doesn’t work like that.”


How do you feel about the recording industry? 

It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s always been a tricky place, but it’s gotten completely out of control in the last few years. However, it’s a necessary evil — there will always be the need to create. Artists need an outlet and have to fulfill their purpose … therefore there will always be a “business” in the way that process is packaged and sold to the consumer.


“Artists need an outlet and have to fulfill their purpose … therefore there will always be a ‘business’ in the way that process is packaged and sold to the consumer.”


What is your favorite experience performing? And your least favorite?

Some of the most amazing experiences have been performing at festivals in Europe for 300,000 people all singing your records while you’re up there! It really makes the low moments worthwhile! My least favorite is when I’ve toured excessively in a short span of time and the human factor kicks in. You’re so exhausted that you feel out of body. Inevitably the lack of rest takes its toll on my voice, and there have been times where it was so stripped that I would be anxiety-ridden before going on. That’s the worst feeling for me because I love to perform live and I give 100% every time, and if I can’t, I’m gutted!
When did you decide to DJ? And why?

I started spinning 13 years ago as a response to the deteriorating scene and opportunities to hear great house music in Baltimore. It really just started because I wanted to hear some good house music, and there was no place to go, so Lisa [Moody] and I started playing it on one of our girlfriends’ 1200 turntables.

When did you start your long running Deep Sugar parties? 

It was the next logical step after starting to play that year. Fulfilling a need in the city, I decided to start a party instead of complaining there was no place to go when I was home from touring. We also became completely obsessed once we put the needle to the record that first time!
Explain the concept of Deep Sugar.

Deep Sugar continues the legacy of the all inclusive and dance-focused “warehouse” culture started by people like David Mancuso with The Loft (NYC), Larry Levan with Paradise Garage (NYC), Frankie Knuckles with the Warehouse (Chicago), and parties like Shelter, Body & Soul, etc. But more importantly, also preserving and continuing the legacy of Baltimore’s underground house music culture nurtured by our own Wayne Davis with O’Dell’s, Club Fantasy, and Paradox. Once U.S. house music blew up internationally, it evolved into many subgenres that became more commercially viable and the origins of the scene got diluted or completely obliterated. Deep Sugar was the effort to resuscitate Baltimore’s once thriving scene and continues as a exciting new discovery for people who never knew of the culture or had never experienced that feeling of family and belonging with a party.


“Deep Sugar was the effort to resuscitate Baltimore’s once thriving scene and continues as a exciting new discovery for people who never knew of the culture or had never experienced that feeling of family and belonging with a party.”


When did you and how did you meet Lisa Moody?

Lisa and I met at Goodlove Bar in the late 90’s. That was a cool go-to spot for many heads until it closed. She was the barfly socialite, always with a drink in her hand. We had many of the same friends, so it was only a matter of time [before] we would meet. We hit it off because like me, she’s type A but knows how to have a good time. That’s always how I’ve approached my career — handle your business but have fun in the process — so eventually I started using her for road management.


“That’s always how I’ve approached my career — handle your business but have fun in the process …”


How do you see the dance scene in the next few years?

It’s getting more and more corporate unfortunately. A lot of amazing venues that impacted people’s lives have or are closing, and many are not being replaced by venues that will be “special.” People are being treated like sheep, following what’s popular, paying for more than what they are getting and not giving anything back to the scene. That’s what’s happening on a large scale, but that always leaves room for the underground to satisfy the people that look for a different kind of experience. There’s room for everything, and things will keep evolving at hyper speed thanks to technology, but there’s always room for that connectivity that happens when you strip away the bells, whistles, pyrotechnics, and naked dancers. I love all of those things, believe me … I appreciate “the show,” but I also know the fundamentals of what music and a proper dance experience in its purest, undiluted form does to the soul — it’s transcendental.


“A lot of amazing venues that impacted people’s lives have or are closing, and many are not being replaced by venues that will be ‘special.’ People are being treated like sheep, following what’s popular, paying for more than what they are getting and not giving anything back to the scene … but that always leaves room for the underground to satisfy the people that look for a different kind of experience … there’s always room for that connectivity that happens when you strip away the bells, whistles, pyrotechnics, and naked dancers … I appreciate ‘the show,’ but I also know the fundamentals of what music and a proper dance experience in its purest, undiluted form does to the soul — it’s transcendental.


Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?

Always! I’ve just finished my next 2 albums set for release in 2017. Deep Sugar will continue even in the looming eventual closing of The Paradox. My gig schedule is quite healthy, and I’m still enjoying being in this game with all of its madness!