Slain SF club kid Bubbles’ legacy lives on in ‘Bohemian Berlin Disco’

Notorious, beloved personality collaborated on newly released Thrillhammer track before being gunned down in 2017.

“Defender of androgyny and living life at the top of your lungs!” 

Anyone who came into the chaotic, inspiring, often obnoxious but ultimately priceless orbit of perennial club kid Bubbles will recognize this as a perfect encapsulation of their mission here on Earth. It’s been over a year since Bubbles was gunned down near their Tenderloin home—despite the police issuing a warrant for a suspect, no justice has been served and a lot of questions remain unanswered.

Nevertheless, the puckish spirit of Bubbles lives on—now in new track “Bohemian Berlin Disco,” which they conceived before their death with SF dance music duo Thrillhammer, freshly released on legendary label Hardkiss Music, with some nifty remixes to boot. Other signature lyrics include “I got cum in my hair” and “Don’t leave San Francisco for some Bohemian Berlin Disco.” (At the time of their death, Bubbles had been looking for funds to return to Berlin, where they had spent a recent, tumultuous summer). The track will officially be released this Friday, Feb. 8, but you can have a listen below.  

“I heard a demo of Bohemian Berlin Disco from [Thrillhammer member] Duserock and thought that it had an energy and bravado that reflected Bubbles’ aesthetic,” Hardkiss label head Gavin Hardkiss told me. “Plus the lyrics spoke to the current state of San Francisco—”DON’T LEAVE SAN FRANCISCO.” I started working on a remix and then thought that the single should be released on Hardkiss Music. Why not keep it in the family?

“Bubbles was a fanboy to all of us DJs,” Hardkiss said. “He’d show up to every gig and kick the dance floor into gear. As as artist, he used Facebook like Andy Warhol would have, trailing us all along on his messy adventures and absurd debacles. I see Facebook as a broadcast channel that few people took advantage of (other than the Russians). He seized the opportunity to broadcast his life in all its gory detail and twisted reality.  

“Now we have this song, which will be played in bars in the Castro, Tenderloin, and Marina long after we all leave San Francisco.”

I talked to Thrillhammer members Coltorious and Duserock about how the track evolved from a late-night Whip-Its-fueled jam session into an endearing tribute. (I also got a sneak peak of the forthcoming supercuts video, when Thrillhammer filmed last Thursday at the Stud—stay tuned to my Party Radar column for its release.) 

Filming the “Bohemian Berlin Disco’ video at the Stud. Photo by Gavin Hardkiss

48 HILL I’m listening to “Bohemian Berlin Disco” and thinking, This is so quintessentially Bubbles. How did the track come together, and how did you know Bubbles? 

COLTORIOUS  I heard Bubbles coming before I saw them. Seven years ago, I was the night manager of a little hotel on the Tender-Nob border. My days were free so, I was wandering down Geary Street when I began to hear Nancy Sinatra echoing off the buildings. Then, I saw them; hot pink high heels with matching sunglasses and classic cat eye sunglasses, matching mani-pedi, Daisy Dukes, a sleeveless Rolling Stones half-shirt, and a blonde beehive wig to top off the ensemble.

I stopped them and said, “Wow, you are amazing! Who are you?!

“Hi, I’m Bubbles, cutie!”

“Of course you are, wow, we are going to be friends. This will not be the last time we see each other!” Three months later I was at Public Works running the photo booth at 3am. Guess, who walks in? Uh huh, Bubs! We were friends from that moment on. When a guitar my mother had given me was stolen, Bubbles gave me their electric guitar. It’s guitar I used to record the track and is my regular love show guitar.

Once Bubbles announced they were leaving for Berlin, I had been attempting to write the “swan song of Bubbles” for a year or so. I wanted something that captured their ultra unique attitude and style, but couldn’t settle on a topic or story line.

One night in August after a raucous session of karaoke in Japantown with Bubbles and company—side note, Bubbles brought their own PA system to the karaoke bar!—we ended up at my place doing Whip-Its and sometime around 4am I showed them where I was at with the song. We scrapped everything I had except for “smacked with a rubber d-cup,” because I love that imagery!

The goodbye San Francisco, hello Berlin theme was settled on pretty quickly, “I don’t care, I don’t care, I got cum in my hair” was an immediate keeper, and the rest flowed from there. The lyrics and basic arrangement are completed that night.

Two weeks later, they were gone… Not much had happened with the song since that karaoke, Whip-Its, songwriting night but, when I heard the news I knew the song must be completed.

This is where Ryan enters the story. A mutual friend of ours reintroduced us, because even though we had met each other, we were the kind of friends you make at an afterparty at 3am. It takes a few times and possibly even meeting sober during the day to really be friends who remember each other’s names.

We got together and I showed what I had worked out. Some guitars riffs, a vocal melody, and what Bubs and I had done to the English language. The puzzlemaster Ryan started piecing it all together and before you were know it, we had a song.

Thrillhammer filming the video for ‘Bohemian Berlin Disco’ at the Stud

DUSEROCK As Coltorious mentioned, we had met several times over at the Red Vic on Haight. I was heavily involved with another project which was becoming problematic. As that situation was on its last legs, the woman I was working with brought Colton over and he pitched the Bubbles track idea to me. I immediately liked it and wanted to work on it with him.

I had known Bubbles for eight-nine years already and thought it would be great to shine a light on gun violence, Bubbles, the LGBTQ community and San Francisco. Colton laid down the lyrics and guitar riff and I started formulating the direction of the song. It came together pretty quickly, we enjoyed working together and a solid friendship began to form.

Shortly after we started working on more songs and decided to make a whole project out of it, spawning ThrillHammer. So, not only did Bubbles co write “Bohemian Berlin Disco”, technically he is responsible for spawning the group. I then spoke to Jenn Stokes, who manages the SF Pride main stage, and she thought it’d be great to have us perform live and do a tribute to Bubbles. We teamed up with Conn Cianci-McGraw and Trent Berry from Dreamrack studios as well as Andy “Ammo” Schneider to fully flush out the songs and live performance, as well as create the visuals for the backdrop. You can view the performance here: 

48H The track really captures Bubbles’ glam-rave-apocalypse-Beat-poetry aesthetic. Did you feel Bubbles’ spirit hovering over you as you put the track together? 

COLTORIOUS Definitely yes, Bubble’s is and has always been my goddess of debauchery, androgyny, and rock n’ roll. 

DUSEROCK The spirit of Bubbles was definitely important to the creation of the song. Bubbles wasn’t just one thing. There was so much going on with them, that we felt the track needed to be a bit of a melting pot. Disco, punk and rock and roll with a hint of house. Once we had the initial demo done, I shared my enthusiasm for the track and the track itself with Gavin. He liked the concept, agreed to do a remix and than we enlisted other close friends/SF luminaries to round out the project with more remixes, thus becoming a family affair. We are very proud of what’s been created and hope to spread the legend of Bubbles and overall message far and wide. Having the release on Hardkiss Music 100% tightens the whole family vibe.

48H  It’s been more than a year since Bubbles’ horrible murder and there’s still been no justice. How do you hope the track helps keep Bubbles’ singular legacy alive?

COLTORIOUS Anyone who needs to know that it’s OK to be a “Bubble’s”, or whatever form your mind, body, and soul conspire to create. The message is, Don’t be afraid to explore your depths because it’s not as dark down there as some may believe. It is a tunnel to a brighter part of yourself and only those who are brave enough to tread the path will discover the light on the other side. And if you get lost along the journey, this song is your beacon in the darkness to show the way. There is a Bubble’s waiting to be discovered by anyone willing to explore the depths of themselves.

DUSEROCK Again, our goal is to shine a light on San Francisco, Bubbles, the LGBTQ community, the current state of gun violence, and the injustice of hate crimes and murder. Where Bubbles was certainly notorious and a polarizing figure, there is absolutely no reason for murder. If we can get our message out to a larger platform, ideally we can open up the conversation more and lessen this type of situation. People absolutely have the right to become who they are and express themselves accordingly, providing it’s not directly harmful to another. If we can achieve this, possible we make some good out of this tragedy.