Gothtrepreneur: Interview with Jet from VampireFreaks

Last week, I gave you all a preview of what I’m looking forward to at the new goth convention, Dark Side of the Con. This week, I got to chat with Jet, VampireFreaks founder and co-host of the convention, to ask him about goth, gothic events, and more. Jet has had a huge influence in the goth scene over the past two decades, both in New York City and world wide via his website, and I’m very excited to have had the chance to meet him and get his perspective on the goth scene.

Jet, founder of Vampire Freaks

Can you tell me a little about VampireFreaks and what you do there?

VampireFreaks is a social networking site for goths, freaks, and everyone who identifies with all things dark and spooky.

I wrote the website myself and I own the company. In addition to the social network, we also have an online clothing store, we throw gothic/industrial parties, and we have a hair dye line called ‘Lunatik’ hair dye.

The website launched back in 1999 but I turned it into a social networking site in 2004, and it became a haven for creatures of the night to congregate and make like-minded friends. The company has gone through a lot of changes over the years, and we even had a physical retail clothing store in NYC for over 3 years. After 17 years we’re still around and doing well so that’s pretty exciting!

What does goth mean to you?

This is a bit of a tough question for me, because to be honest I don’t really know any goths that like to label themselves as ‘goth’. It’s just a label that is convenient to categorize a group of people. But to me, goth is a mixture of 3 things:

Fashion—if you wear black all the time, you likely look goth. There are many varieties of goth fashion such as Victorian goth, industrial goth, etc., but the main sticking point is that you’re wearing black and probably have some interesting accessories/hardware.

Music—Some traditional goths are gonna hate me for saying this, but a significant number of people who get labelled as ‘goth’, don’t listen to ‘traditional goth’ music. I know, the horror. But yeah there is the age-old battle of goth music vs industrial music. We generally try to get along about it though 😉

Mindset—The thing that really separates goths is their mindset/point of view. Goths are generally outcasts from society and have chosen not to conform to certain norms. For example: supporting independent artists, refusing to buy name-brand products and refusing to be influenced by corporate advertising. The goth questions everything and refuses to be a sheep, and embraces people for their differences. The dark aesthetic is also influenced by an attraction to the darker/morbid side of life, and appreciating death in all of its imminent glory.

What originally drew you to the goth scene?

Personally I had depression issues as a child and I felt like an outcast growing up in the ghetto in Brooklyn, and the ‘goth’ scene was a whole new world where I could relate to my inner turmoil and focus energy on. I discovered ‘Nine Inch Nails’ and ‘Marilyn Manson’ who were the gatekeepers to the goth scene in the 90s. I went from being that nerdy kid that got picked on to that goth kid that people stayed away from. Then started going out to goth clubs when I was 16, using a fake ID to get into ‘The Bank’ and ‘The Pyramid’, and getting deeper into the culture.

What made you and Jeff Mach decide to create a gothic convention?

Jet at Glimmerdark with the giant tree man

I’ve been to a few Jeff Mach Events before and we have vended at a few of his events as well. I’ve always been a fan of his events because they’re a ton of fun and they get a great crowd. Unlike some of the other ComicCon-type events we’ve done which are very corporate and rigid, Jeff Mach Events have personality to them which I can relate to. Me and Jeff actually live 10 minutes away from each other now and we just started talking and the idea came up to do an event together and we both thought it sounded great.

Jeff Mach Events has the convention experience and VampireFreaks has the goth event/community experience, so the companies complement each other really well. I’ve worked with a lot of people and I have to say that Jeff is one of the nicest, most personable guys I’ve worked with. We’ve also gotten a ton of feedback saying that people are really excited about this partnership, and I think that this partnership is allowing us to make a really great event. The response has been really great, ticket sales are doing really well and we’re all really excited about it.

What are you looking forward to most about Dark Side of the Con?

While I’m of course looking forward to seeing great bands/performers and dj’s which I’ve helped to personally select, I’m most looking forward to the community experience. We’re giving people many different options/events where they can interact with each other, plus the fact that you have hundreds of people taking over an entire hotel for 3 days/2 nights, it’s going to be filled with a special kind of energy. I’m looking forward to being surrounded by groups of freaks who want to get away for the weekend and create a new world. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of familiar faces, and making lots of new friends, and also witnessing other freaks making friends and connecting with each other. From the start, Jeff and I had decided that this con is about encouraging attendees to make new friends and create new experiences amongst themselves. We want people to create experiences that they will remember and talk about for years to come. My favorite part about running VampireFreaks is when people come up to me and say “I just want you to know, I met my wife/husband/partner through VampireFreaks”, or “I had the time of my life and made best friends for life at this VampireFreaks event”. It’s all about creating life experiences and connecting like-minded people.

And, since The Gothic Library is a book blog: What’s your favorite book?

I actually love to read, but admittedly 99% of the books I read are educational books on computer programming or business management/self-help. Yep I’m a nerd.

With that said, I know this is cliche and probably expected, but the Ann Rice Vampire Chronicles are my favorite, particularly The Vampire Lestat. As I am sure you may have guessed, I have had quite the obsession with vampire stories.

~

After meeting Jet, I realized that I’d been missing out on a great forum for the goth scene and immediately made a VampireFreaks account. My account name is TheGothicLibrarian, come be my friend! If you want to learn more about Jet, you can find him on the site, come meet him at Dark Side of the Con this month, or see him running all sorts of goth events in the New York City area.

What other goth-world celebs would like to see me interview here? Let me know in the comments!

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