Type “bloghouse” into any search engine and you’ll find the relics of a time in history that no one saw coming at the intersection of music, fashion, and the beginnings of being perpetually online. It’s a time marked by Myspace Top Eights, American Apparel, DJ mashups, Sparks, and party photography that’s been revived by the new generation of TikTok teens whose current “indie sleaze” obsession harkens back to a time they never knew. But who can blame them? What I’d do to pack onto a sweaty dance floor while Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Nite (Crookers Remix)” blasted from the speakers. After years spent largely indoors, it’s no surprise that the urge to escape to a time marked by its debauchery and dance the night away is strong.
To have been a part of bloghouse is to know that it was never called “bloghouse” until it was over and the masses needed to define the era. Author Lina Abascal can speak to this: The teen raver and bloghouse party attendee-turned-writer has first-hand knowledge of the niche phenomenon that inspired her to archive this pivotal moment in culture, tapping central members of the scene to share their stories to ensure they’ll live on forever — at least longer than Myspace records. We caught up with Abascal the week ahead of the release of her book, Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and the Dancefloor, to reminisce on our favorite time and how she made the bloghouse archive of her dreams a reality.
You were a part of the scene as a teen and your early 20s as a rave writer for Vice. Do you think this gave you an edge to be the one to write this oral history?
I think it did in the sense that I was really passionate about it. There were a lot of people really passionate about it, and I knew a lot of them already. Some of these interviews, I had to hunt. There are people I wanted to interview that I couldn't get, but I tried to do the best with who I could. I think it was helpful that I was in LA, where a lot of these people live and knew me personally. Or, I had a cosign from someone they knew.
I also think when you participated in it, there are little things you think of that someone else wouldn't. Something I am really proud of is that I wasn't just recapping conversations that are already out there. In chapter six, the party chapter, about the influence of all of these Latinx parties, I only knew about that because I went to all of those parties, I knew those people. I was a huge fan and attendee of those events. When I read all of these recaps about bloghouse, they have Dim Mak Tuesdays and they have Trash London, but these parties in LA were massive, why are they not in any of these recaps? This one called Dance had, like, 3000 people a week. That might have been the biggest bloghouse party in the world. Why is this not written about? Hopefully I can shed light on some of these people that really influenced the sound, the trends, and how widespread this was that are never in any of these recaps. I was happy to get them in an archive that they're missing from.
The book not only recalls the time of bloghouse, but serves as an archive for this moment in culture. How did you decide on the book’s layout of heavy reporting, and fun sections like the bloghouse menu pairings and horoscopes?
In the last couple of years I started writing satire bits — short form, little writing pieces that talk about pop culture in a tongue-in-cheek way. I thought about, what's the bloghouse version of that? I had this vision of Missed Connections on Craigslist, it's so “internet,” it's so old. Then the menu pairings, it's the opposite of the club, because it's so fancy, a Michelin star restaurant. I was like, “Oh, yeah, what song would you pair with what situation?”
In terms of the rest of the book, I knew it was going have an intro, I knew there was a through line of music. But then there's also a technology component. I wanted to do something about photography, and how that applied to the “internet celebrity” — that kind of ended up being about “It” girls.
The party section was definitely a specific choice. I wanted to separate sonic music, music creation, Serato, vinyl, digital, and analog music, and then the on-the-ground party elements of the culture. I decided to separate parties and music, even though you'll see the same characters woven throughout. You learn about Steve Aoki starting Dim Mak, and then you later see Steve Aoki and Frankie Chan starting these parties and then going their separate ways.
With the technology element, I really wanted to be focused on the bloggers, music business people, musicians, and isolate that. And then I wanted to talk to party promoters — even if some of them are also musicians — and party attendees. I segmented it because I really want this book to be palatable to people that aren’t reading dense material all the time and want something fun. You can pick it up, read a section, put it down, revisit it and be like, “I digested this one section about, Fool's Gold Records” or whatever it may be. You don't have to read it all in one sitting for it to make sense.
In the book, the end of bloghouse has many coinciding factors, but the overarching reason can be attributed to the monetization of the internet. With the nostalgic resurgence of the bloghouse era on social media, do you think there is a way for it to really come back?
As you're reading the book, it admits that it ends. Then it weaves in how it ends for the party promoters, for the label people, for the bloggers, for the artists themselves. I think that your overarching idea of monetization really hits all of those marks. You have the promoter in East LA being like, “I woke up and my money was no longer green enough.” And he's like, “Why can't I book these people? I'm legit, why won't you sell to me?” And aside from potential discrimination that was maybe happening there, I think a lot of it had to do with selling to these corporate promoters.
I've been thinking about that a lot. I see so much nostalgia, not only on Tik Tok with young people, but that tweet from the guy from fake Shore Drive, being like, we'll never have a moment like this again, with blogs and blogger curation. I don't know if it will ever be possible to backtrack to a place where this would be able to fly legally or make sense. For example, someone could start a blog and find new songs on SoundCloud or even Spotify, and write little blurbs about them and link them. That could exist. It's not really popular because that person is probably better off making a TikTok where they do tiny song reviews or maybe a YouTube video. Or maybe that person is making zines.
I think that the way the internet is set up now, everything is so strategic. You set up an account and you're like, this is my goal, this is my strategy to get users, this is how many followers and engagement I need to start getting deals. This wasn't even an option at the time, so I don't blame anyone. But I feel like if you go into something with that attitude from the jump, it will never have the sort of authenticity and patience that these blogs had. They were really just hobbies.
I think in the future, there will be new ways that people do countercultural curation. Spank Rock has an interesting quote in the book: “It was a temporary autonomous zone. And it was a party to create chaos, to break some of the structures down.” There will be a moment where youth or whoever is like, “Everything I'm consuming is so curated for me. This feels inauthentic. Do I even know if I like this, or have I just been conditioned to like this?” I don't know how they'll rebel against it because the technology will be something that doesn't even exist yet. I think there will always be a yearning for authentic things, but I think right now the way the internet is set up, it's really difficult.
You got to interview bloghouse legends, including a forward written by A-Trak. Were people hesitant to talk about this time?
I had a hit list of these people that have to be in the book. I didn't get all of them, but I really tried. There are about 50-something interviews that made their way into the book. A-Trak was one of the primary interviews. I was focused on three labels: Ed Banger, Fool's Gold, Dim Mak, and maybe a little bit of Mad Decent, which was at its infancy at the time.
A lot of people I was digging for their addresses on Instagram. A lot of the Australian people, I don't know them, and had to go through their publicists. But then other people, I would speak to one person, they would be like, “Have you spoken to so and so?” And then they would link me. Everyone was so passionate about making sure their friends were in it. And everyone has their opinion of how could this exist without so and so in it. It was really like a big game of telephone. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't.
This took four years, but it was a lot of great people that were really, really helpful. I think for the people that wanted to speak, they were so excited to reminisce on it, they had a lot of opinions, a lot of thoughts.
Tiktokers and Gen Z kids are flooding the internet with Tumblr aesthetics and Cobrasnake photo dumps of nostalgia. What bloghouse trends would you want to see come back and which ones should stay dead?
I loved party photography. At the time it was necessary because our phones maybe didn't have cameras or flash. When I look back, all of the photos of me from that time are professional photos. And now I have, like, only selfies. I'll go out and forget to take a photo at all because I don't want someone to pose with my phone, or a mirror pic. I really love party photos. It's not like they don't exist, but people are like, why would I spend money on that? Or they've replaced it with a photo booth. You'll notice the Kardashians and everyone have photo booths at their parties, which I guess is their version of that.
Small parties, under 200-person capacity events that aren't just a bar. Even having a DJ at a bar, like parties that aren't ticketed. Low-key, easy to go to, fun. Stuff that isn't, like, buy a ticket online and you have to wait in a queue. I'm so over that. Sometimes you just want to go out on a Thursday and dance. And that's not that common anymore.
I really miss the desire to dig and curate music for nothing other than the love of it without being a DJ. Because if you're a DJ, I get that you have to find songs, but if you're just a fan, I don't think that there's really the the drive to do that anymore.
There's plenty of stuff that I think was so hideous clothes wise. I can't believe we ever wore shutter shades or fake glasses out, like lensless glasses at the club. I've been thinking about how in that era it was so glamorized to just be f*cked up all the time. And kind of these dead behind the eyes party photos. I don't know, maybe it reminded people of the factory girls, Edie Sedgwick and Studio 54. Now I feel like it's cooler to be healthy. That seems at odds with any sort of counterculture or nightlife. I say this when I look at those photos. I don't like seeing 16-year-old girls with old men. I don't think that was cool then. But maybe I was a 16-year-old girl. But when I look back, I'm like, that's not f*cking cool. The porno stash, big glasses, Terry Richardson daddy looking dudes with young girls. Not f*cking cool. Will never be cool.
You can buy Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and the Dancefloor now on Amazon.