Metro Weekly

DJ Karsten Sollors is Spinning Into DC

Chicago DJ Karsten Sollors marks his LGBTQ D.C. debut at the January 12 leather dance party, Furball DC.

Karsten Sollors by Nelson N. Castillo
Karsten Sollors – Photo: Nelson N. Castillo

Karsten Sollors all but grew up in the air.

“My mother was a flight attendant, so I’ve been traveling since I was in her stomach,” as he puts it. Because of that, he didn’t think twice about effectively giving up his weekends to become a professional DJ, traveling to a different city, if not two, every weekend.

“A lot of people, when I tell them my schedule, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, how do you do that? That’s got to be so difficult,’” he says. 

Instead, for Sollors, “it just feels organic,” a continuation of a kind of transient, adventurous, and globetrotting life and reality he’s always known. The native of Vancouver, Canada, says when he wasn’t in the air or on the road, he was “on the slopes.” He’s one of five kids in a blended “family of skiers and snowboarders,” a clan that includes a younger brother who has gone on to become a professional snowboarder. 

Sollors credits his parents with serving as a catalyst for pursuing a career that strays from the conventional and ordinary, and also nurturing his love of travel and a similar adventurous spirit — something his mother certainly did by taking her two boys with her on one galavanting trip after another.

“One time I remember her saying, ‘Okay, tomorrow we’re going to take you out of school and we’re going to go surfing in Hawaii,’” he says. “Another year, I think I was six or seven years old, I remember her [taking us] to Japan.”

It was also his mother who helped cultivate his passion for music, something that sprouted from the time he went clubbing when he was significantly underage.

“I went to my first rave [when] I was about 14 years old,” he says. “And that’s when I realized that I wanted to start DJing.” His parents bought him DJ equipment and he started practicing in his bedroom, playing the various international hit records his mother would bring back with her from her long-haul flights around the globe.

“She would go into record stores in London and just ask for 10 of their best-selling records,” he says. “So I started getting access to music that I normally wouldn’t have gotten.” Certainly not at the time, the late 1990s, just before the advent of Napster and full-on music streaming.

A dozen years ago Sollors decided to pursue a professional career as a DJ and music producer. A few years after that, he made a move to Chicago. “I was already touring within Canada and had kind of hit the ceiling as a local in Vancouver, and so it was time to branch out. And for me, Chicago was like the next step [as] the birthplace of house music.”

In Chicago, he established his own record label, Sollors Systems — a name that “struck me like a lightning bolt,” he says. “I kind of use my platform a little bit to be able to usher in people [who] might not have [had] the same experience or same networks” — what he terms “a diverse cast of artists, [including] people of color, trans people, gay, straight, everything in between.”

His success opened doors for him as a DJ spinning at predominantly straight nightclubs and parties, or what he refers to as “general population gigs” — including D.C.’s renowned Club Glow. At the same time, the openly gay DJ has become an increasingly known entity at LGBTQ parties and venues around North America, whether at one of more than a dozen different pride events, or gigs at legendary annual Chicago events organized by International Mr. Leather and Circuit Mom Productions.

In recent years, he’s become a recurring DJ for Furball at the New York Eagle. This year, Joe Fiore, the producer behind the popular roving brand of gay dance parties billed as “where bears dance,” has tapped Sollors to make his debut on the D.C. LGBTQ scene by headlining this year’s Furball DC, an underwear- and gear-themed dance party, set for next Friday, Jan. 12, at the nightclub Karma. Popular local DJ and event producer Sean Morris will open.

Sollors cites several leading DJ/Producers who helped pave the way for the house style and its tribal and tech-house variations as inspirations.

“When I first started, I was heavily influenced by Chus + Ceballos and Frankie Knuckles, Tom Stephan, and Roger Sanchez,” he says. “[Now] I try to just stay in my own lane. But I blend house [with] tech-house and techno, and I like vocals, so I have vocals weaving in between lighter and heavier beats depending on the time of the night and the energy.”

Karsten Sollors headlines Furball DC’s Underwear/Gear Party on Friday, Jan. 12, at 9 p.m., at Karma, 2221 Adams Place NE. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. A VIP ticket offering expedited entry and access to a special section is $40. Visit

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