Marlena Goller aka DJ Tranzilla She-Beast is a 55-year-old transgender woman who started her DJ career in the 80s in Southern California. She was a master at spinning vinyl and perfected beat matching before most people even knew what that meant. She lived in Portland Maine from 1996 to 2003 and was a very well-known performer in drag shows at The Underground in the 90s and early 2000s. She then moved to Vegas to care for her ailing father and has finally moved back to Portland. She will be DJing her first gig in years at Flask Lounge only one week after landing in Maine! Wil Whalen aka dangerwilrobinson, another one for Flask’s retro DJs, took a few minutes to talk with her to give the Flask community a chance to get to know her.
Interview By DangerWilRobinson
You and I go way back. I remember those days well and I have to say it’s so nice having you back in Maine. When Wayne aka DJ Cougar mentioned he was looking for DJs for his Vinyl Night, I immediately thought of you. I’m so glad you accepted the invitation and I’m beyond psyched to come out that night and support you. You and I have talked a lot over the years about our plight and our journeys as LGBTQ people. I have always had the utmost respect for transgender people. I’m a war veteran and I still think it took you more courage to be your authentic self than it did for me to go to the front lines of a war. You’re a hero of mine. Did you ever realize that you were a trailblazer being the first transgender DJ in Southern California?
I don’t know that anyone sees themselves as a trailblazer. I was just being me, as I’ve always been unapologetically. I just liked music, I loved dance music and I wanted to spin the music I liked to dance to. Learning to DJ just seemed like a natural thing for me to do. I also felt like I really understood all the layers in dance music, as you have to in order to be good at beat matching and keeping a flow going. So once I got to know a DJ, I asked him to teach me how to do it. I took to it quite quickly and even went on to teach other DJs who spun at The Underground in the 90s and 2000s.
Your former DJ name was DJ T-Girl, why change it now to DJ Tranzilla She-Beast? Are you at all worried that other transgender people may find it offensive?
Well, as you know, I am not the kind of person who holds back. Like I said, I’m unapologetically me. I don’t lie and I don’t mince words. I came up with Tranzilla when I joined Instagram, as I would have men flirting with me and I wanted them to know I was a transgender woman right up front. As for the name She-Beast, that’s just me, honey. I am loud and proud and, well let’s just say, I’m not the kind of person you want to put on speakerphone. I’m not easily offended and I don’t really care much about who I offend. Why the name I chose as my DJ name would offend anyone else is beyond me. I am a transgender woman who can be a monster at times and I am definitely a beast. The She-Beast part is also a slight nod to a superhero I love – She-Ra Princess of Power.
You’ve always DJ’d in gay clubs, how do you feel about DJing at Flask, which does not identify at as gay?
Gay bars are closing all over the country because in our quest for equality we got what we fought for to some extent. LGBTQ people are welcome in all bars and clubs these days. Especially in a town as progressive and liberal as Portland Maine and places like Los Angeles, NYC and even Vegas. Gay clubs were our haven back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s because it was the only place we could go and be our authentic selves without fearing for our safety. I remember when gay bars hid their entrances in the alley and you took your life into your hands just getting to the entrance. I often say, “I remember when the back door was the front door.” As for Flask, why would I have an issue DJing in a bar owned by a lesbian that has a really awesome LGBTQ clientele? They have gay, lesbian and bisexual DJs and now a transgender DJ. My friends tell me that a lot of people who identify as queer are big fans of the bar. So, when you get down to it, it not only welcomes people who identify as LGBTQ, it basically employs at least one person who represents every letter in our lovely and ever-growing acronym! Name one other non-gay bar that can make that claim. I’m happy to join the roster of some of the most talented and diverse DJs on the planet. Some of these DJs have followings that extend beyond the borders of Maine and even New England. To be added to a roster like this is an honor. And I think it’s spectacular that there is a bar where people from all walks of life can come in and dance and feel safe and welcome. I’ve heard that there are some naysayers who don’t think it’s gay enough or even trans-friendly, but I know for a fact my friends in Maine wouldn’t frequent a bar that discriminated against transgender people. My friends are that loyal. I’ve also heard that some straight people think it’s too gay. And to them, I say find the nearest sports pub and saddle up to bar, grab a pint and watch your game. In a town like Portland where every other building is a bar, there is a bar for everyone. So, if for whatever reason Flask isn’t your cup of tea go somewhere else. However, I doubt I’ll find a bar as trans-friendly as Flask anywhere.
Are you excited to be spinning vinyl again? Some say it’s a lost art.
I don’t think it’s so much of a lost art as I think it was just that vinyl pretty much disappeared for a long time. Record stores were scarce and artists stopped releasing music on vinyl. But that’s changed and vinyl is all the rage again. I’m really happy to see the resurgence in vinyl sales and popularity because it really is some of the best sound quality you can get with music. And I love the sound of the needle when it hits the record. Also, I’m not tech savvy enough to be a digital DJ. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen down the line, but right now I’m happy for the opportunity to spin vinyl again. I promised you I’d teach you how to beat match, in return you can teach me how to spin on a computer. How’s that sound?
I’m game for sure. What can we expect from your DJ set?
I guess you have to come down to Flask and hear it for yourself. But don’t just come down for me. Come down for all the DJs spinning that night. I can’t wait to meet them all and I’m sure I can learn something from them as well.
Well on behalf of myself and the Flask gang, welcome back to Maine and welcome to the team! We’re super excited to have you on board! I hope that you can inspire younger transgender people to come out and enjoy some good music at Flask.