5 Questions: Staraoke hostess Arzu Gokcen goes under the beehive with Gimme Noise

Categories: 5 Questions
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Photo by Chris Joiner
Arzu Gokcen might have one of the craziest looking resumes in the Twin Cities rock scene: Singer and guitarist for such bands as Selby Tigers, Lefty Lucy, and Strut & Shock, wine nut, film geek, and hostess of the long-running sing-it-yourself event Staraoke. Boasting one of the deepest song collections in the Twin Cities (where else can you hear someone belting out a Buzzcocks song immediately followed by "To Love Somebody" by the Bee Gees?), Arzu's been providing a place for locals to get in touch with their inner rock star three nights a week at Grumpy's Downtown for almost a decade, and her annual Christmas Day event at Triple Rock Social Club always packs a few hundred folks partying the holiday season away.

This year, as a celebration of the upcoming opening of the Seward neighborhood's Cake Eater Bakery (from those who brought you Miel Y Leche Catering), Arzu's taking over Valentine's Day Eve at the Triple Rock...for all the lovers and non-lovers alike.

Gimme Noise: Staraoke has been an institution for years now. How did it get started? In nine years as a karaoke hostess, what's the best thing you've ever witnessed?

Arzu Gokcen: To be honest, Staraoke got started because I wanted somewhere where I could scream a metal song and not get cut off. It is really that simple. I went all over the place and sang and as soon as I would get loud at all, they would either turn me down or cut me off. My friends encouraged me to start my own night, so I bought all the equipment, had no idea what I was doing, and booked a night at the Clown Lounge. Then I met with Grumpy's and the rest is history.

There are so many stories, good and bad that I could tell. I think the best thing I have ever seen is when people meet at Staraoke and form their own creative projects because they realize a common interest. Goddamned Doo Wop Band, MC/VL, and The Guystorm are good examples of this.

GN: What was the first record that made you sit up and say, "I want to be in a band!"

AG: I honestly think it was that one show--Bikini Kill, Jonestown and Nation of Ulysses, at the Entry in 1991, I think. My friend and I talked to Kathleen Hanna after and she was so great and we bought the tape (yep, the TAPE) and she loaded us up with stickers and stuff. I just knew I wanted to be part of all of it. I had also just found Babes in Toyland who i must say changed my entire world. Any all ages show they played, I was there in the front row just in heaven.

GN: All the bands you've been in have had a distinct sense of style, even when most people weren't paying attention to those things. How does style tie in to the performance? I guess what I'm saying is, "why the beehive?"

AG: I am shy. Growing up with the name Arzu in Minnesota kind of sucked. It made me super quiet and shy and I just did not want to stand out at all. But then I got to a point where I just said fuck it, and started wearing cocktail dresses and crazy Ragstock finds to high school. I guess I just wanted a different persona, and it was a fun and a weird safety net, where if the show went horribly wrong, I could change out of my disguise and walk around undetected. But I actually never did this, even though some (if not many) shows went horribly wrong.

GN:  You are someone who's involved in all sorts of pursuits--rock and roll, karaoke, film, wine. If you had to just pick one, what would it be?

AG: If you had asked me this a few weeks ago even my answer would have been wine, because I dream of going and working on a vineyard in New Zealand and am going to go there in Spring to try to make connections. But I just started playing with Christy [Hunt] and Charles [Gehr] from Ouija Radio and now am so insanely in love with music again and we are planning on touring and the whole shebang. Christy and I have known each other since we were teenagers, and always kind of meant to try it, but it really clicked when we sang together on the new Birthday Suits record. Hideo [Takahashi, Birthday Suits singer/guitarist] is a weird matchmaker of sorts...like Chuck Woolery.

I think music will always win, because it has shaped who I am the most, and has led me to meet the most amazing people. People ask me how I can do my job and not go crazy sometimes, and it is simple. I love music, and I want people to have a good time, so yeah the whole room is singing Sweet Caroline or Bohemian Rhapsody...I am not even sick of these songs because I love Neil Diamond and Queen. I may be doomed!

GN: In honor of Saturday's Sweet Hearts Staraoke: do karaoke and romance mix?

AG: Only if you keep it classy. Don't be creepy and sing "Angel Eyes" to someone you just met--yes I have seen this--or sing "Fuck Her Gently" when you just get engaged--seen that too. But yeah, A little "Melt With You" works every time, even if it makes you want Burger King now.

Sweet Hearts Staraoke with Cake Eater Bakery is Saturday, Feb. 13th, 10 PM at Triple Rock Social Club, $5, 21+. Staraoke happens every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at Grumpy's Downtown.


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