Ultra Nate with iconic NYC queer club Paradise Garage behind her.

In New Podcast Ultra Naté Tours the World's Greatest Dance Clubs (with a Little Help from Paris Hilton)

Emell Adolphus READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Ultra Naté's heavenly vocals made her a LGBTQ icon long before she became a household name in house music nightclubs around the world. At the pinnacle of '90s grunge, she cut through the noise with the empowering song "Free," urging those on the fringes of life to "live your life" and "do what you want to do" in her lyrics. Then she scored another cultural hit as a member of Stars on 54 with the song "If You Could Read My Mind," which has been highlighted in countless queer films and lauded as a near perfect combination of house and pop music. The former of the two is how self-professed club kid Paris Hilton (yes, the heiress) first began to follow Naté's career.>

Over the years, Naté's voice has had a steady presence on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart, with hit singles such as "Show Me," "Automatic," and "Everybody Loves the Night," while she has also kept her ears in the club scene as a coveted DJ. But this year, Hilton approached her with an offer she couldn't refuse that combines the best of both her worlds in a new podcast series titled The History of the World's Greatest Nightclubs, available on Apple Podcasts.

In this exclusive interview with EDGE, she explains how she was approached by Hilton's team to join the project and supply an authoritative voice through Nightlife's history. From New York's Danceteria to London's Trade at Turnmills, podcast listeners will quickly find that to tell the history of nightlife is to tell queer history.

Below, Ultra Naté talks music, djs, how she found herself in the club scene, and helping other queer kids do the same through music.

Ultra Nate with the NYC 1970s/1980s dance club Paradise Garage in the background.

Asked what makes the best dance song in a club, Ultra Naté said: "There's it's never one thing, specifically. And it really just depends on the track itself like, for a particular track. It could be just that there was a lyric that really connects with people, that really hooks you. It is a really strong hook, and it just doesn't let you go."

Such was the case of "Free," her aforementioned 1997 hit, which climbed the international dance charts before becoming a queer anthem. "There were a lot of different things churning at that time,"she explains. "So I think 'Free' hit because it was so different sounding from everything else, with the guitars and the story line, and the rawness of the vocal backed with a really uplifting gospel background. I think that cocktail of all of those things resonated really clearly, really cut through all of the minutiae out there going on and dance music culture, and people just immediately gravitated towards it. They got it. It stuck."

She also addressed how important the LGBTQIA+ community has been to her career. "The LGBTQIA+ community has been a part of Ultra Naté as an artist, really, from inception – really from just my club kid days in Baltimore, running around, just hanging out with my friends."

She says the clubs for the podcast were chosen before she came on the project, but she felt it was "tailor-made for me, because this is encompassing what my life is. And not even from the perspective of talking about clubs I may or may not have gone to, but just what... all of my experiences have been built on."

And is Ultra Naté afraid that there will be an AI version of her mixing music in the future? "I hope not. There is a certain level of human error that makes what we do magical. You know what I mean? Of course, the machine can make it perfect. Perfection is not always the goal, and perfection is not always amazing. It's just can be boring after a while. It's the imperfections, it's the specificity of the character that happens organically, that makes it magic."

Watch the complete interview in the window above. Video edited by Emell Adolphus.

by Emell Adolphus

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