Our biweekly City Superheroes column highlights the powerful figures walking among us — with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: DJ Riz Rollins and visual artist Rémy Coutarel.
Given Name: Riz Rollins
Other Aliases: Reverend Doctor Deejay Riz, Hey You
Superpowers: Luminescent and sonic discombobulation
First Appearance: 1960, at age 8, reciting the The Night Before Christmas — from memory — at a Christmas program before his grandmother's congregation. “It was the first time I heard black people applaud in church.”
Local Haunts: Espresso Vivace, Pony
Archenemies: Guilt and shame
Even Heroes Have Heroes: Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Origin Story: Growing up poor and black on the South Side of Chicago, where he lived for 25 years, Riz tried to reconcile living in a harsh world despite being born with an inner joy. “My genes are happy until I get fucked with,” he explains. He sang in the Operation Breadbasket choir as a boy and regularly got to hear Reverend Jesse Jackson teach and preach. During this time Riz’s powers of observation, energy cultivation and discernment began to take form. The first time he heard the song “Cold Sweat” things shifted permanently. “It was like hearing my name for the first time,” he says. “It was hard being a poor black child in Chicago. Music saved my life.”
Riz went on to study religion and psychology in college. This is where he learned to pull energy from the sky and stars. Riz’s ability to draw power from the universe is the central component to his luminescent and sonic discombobulation. But the most important lesson he learned — and the key to his essence now — is that he is not afraid of failure. “By the time I was 30, I realized I was a failure,” he notes. “That was very liberating. That’s when the second part of my life began — I stopped having aspirations. I’m not good at aspirations but I’m really good with opportunity. I shine with opportunity.”
Riz started deejaying at KEXP (90.3) and writing for The Stranger because “someone asked” and he said yes. “That’s the ticket," he says: "Being asked and saying yes. I stopped saying no. I shed all my inhibitions that way.” Saying yes allowed the world’s energy to pulse through him; his ability to work with it fuels him.
“A shy ho is a broke ho.”
“The most important thing you can know about anyone is when to ignore them.”
“Stay well and the best is yet to come.”
What’s Next: “Stiffed” gay disco at Kremwerk (which happens the first Saturday of every month). He can also be heard Sunday nights on the KEXP's Expansions and every Monday night for a variety mix.
About the Illustrator: Born in France, Rémy Coutarel received a degree in Graphic Design in 2007 and moved to Seattle in 2011. When not chasing after his two toddlers, he spends his time working on illustrations, comics and children's books. For more information, visit remycoutarel.com.
To see all our City Superhero series, go here.