The first day I started working for Borgore, doing digital marketing for his label Buygore, was the day Buzzfeed came out with an article branding him 'The Most Hated Man In EDM.' I remember staring at my laptop screen and wondering if taking this job was a terrible idea. How would I, a self-proclaimed feminist, be able to work for this guy and sleep at night? Was I going to have to add "making dat ass clap" to my resume? I went so far as to type out a resignation email to his management, but I didn't send it. I told myself there was nothing I could do to evolve the Booty For Borgore narrative from outside his world and that, at the very least, the whole experience of doing this job would make for a hell of a story.
I was also nervous because, even though I was already starting the gig, he had yet to sign our contract after weeks of negotiations. Once again, I assured myself with a similar 'do it for the story' rhetoric. Part of the paperwork was a non-disclosure agreement, so, if he never signed the papers, then we would never have an NDA in place, and someday I'd get to write my tell-all about what it was like to work for him. And here we are!
I got my start in the music business working in metal, the same world Borgore comes from, so I have experience working with artists who have insanely violent and misogynistic lyrics that are sweethearts in real life. They all say the same thing, which essentially boils down to: "This is my creative persona and it's not to be taken seriously." That's fine I guess, but how is anyone supposed to know that? Whose responsibility is it to communicate that to the audience, many of whom take it all quite seriously?
The first time I went to a Buygore creative meeting with Master Borgore himself, I can only describe my state of being as terri-fuck-ified. Before he bought his obligatory house in the hills, Asaf was living in a relatively modest apartment in Hollywood with his girlfriend. It took ten minutes of brooding outside to get up the balls to knock on the door. Sam Vogel AKA Jauz was there and I nearly kissed him because I've never been so happy to see another human being in all my life. He told me to take my shoes off and led me into the living room where a then-26 year old Asaf Borger in neon blue socks with puppies on the toes was seated at a keyboard playing a sad, dramatic sonata. He kind of said hi but seemed like he was really feeling whatever he was playing so I sat quietly next to Sam on the couch and waited for him to finish.
Finally, Asaf stopped playing and turned to face us, looking a bit shy but completely deadpan and said, "I don't think that one's going to make the album." This scene could not have been anymore of the opposite of what I'd expected.
After that first meeting, which went pretty well, I had to admit to myself that he's a perfectly nice guy, albeit awkward and rather hard to get to know. I found myself looking for ways to justify the tone of his brand, and often came back to a quote he gave Buzzfeed where he said, "I don't think Sacha Baron Cohen is racist, he's just taking a piss." This quote unintentionally handed me the key to success at relating to Borgore. I read over all of his interviews, lyrics and tweets in the voice of Borat, and it made everything he said and did seem at the very least innocuous, and at the most like some profound social commentary.
Years ago, I worked for the management company of another Israeli act called Infected Mushroom, and compared to working with them, Borgore was a cakewalk (Bitches love cake, etc, etc). The band themselves were fine, but their Israeli booking agent and self-appointed gatekeeper was the most dismissive person I've ever dealt with. I had no idea how to handle it. As a 23 year old, so excited to be working her first real job in EDM game, I found myself crying in the bathroom at their show after being literally pushed out of the way by this guy while trying to get some CD's signed for a giveaway the band was supposed to be doing. When I was speaking to him he looked right through me. It was a total shock.
A friend from Israel explained to me a few days later that I shouldn't feel bad about what happened because it was just a cultural thing. He said Israeli men often act like faux patriarchs, that they're raised to be super macho but it's all to try and mask the fact that their lives are entirely governed by bossy Jewish wives and mothers. I met Asaf's parents once and they fit that description perfectly, at least from an outsider's perspective. His mom was the most intimidating lady I've ever been in a room with, and his dad was super friendly with this excessively goofy smile painted on his face. They seemed happy, they're really proud of him.
Once I figured out that Borgore wasn't a crack-smoking, womanizing sociopath with STDs dripping from his eyeballs, I was able to relax and became confident enough to start pushing my own agenda. When we launched #BootiesForBoobies, at the first of the year, I felt like we were really getting somewhere. The idea was to turn #BootyForBorgore into a philanthropy mission by donating $1 for every booty shared to his breast cancer charity of choice, Keep Abreast.
There was only one time I ever felt like I was compromising myself as a feminist while working for him and that was when we were doing promo for Asaf's New Year's Eve gig in New York City with Kirill, truly one of the the worst human beings in EDMlandia. Although at surface level the Kirill and Borgore brands are rather similar, the difference between them is illuminating. Borgore's brand says to women 'get your butts out, let's party!' Kirill's brand on the other hand, says to women 'get your butts out, WHORE! Your dad doesn't love you!' That's a monumental difference in my book.
Another occasion during which I was worried about what the fuck was wrong with the father of a 16 year old girl who was taking her and nine of her friends to one of the East Coast stops on the first Buygore tour. The dad (#RaveDaddy) had a Twitter account and followed Borgore, so he clearly knew what he was getting into, and I just couldn't believe it. The show was on a Wednesday night, 150 miles from their town! Was #RaveDaddy going to allow his daughter to participate in the twerking contest too? I followed this guy's 3 hour road trip in a rented van he and his daughter were live-tweeting. They were kind of adorable. I realized she probably never gets to see a big touring DJ in the little town they live in, and even in bigger markets almost all the shows are 18+, so this was a really big deal for them.
I became overwhelmed with empathy for both the daughter and Rave Dad. I texted Asaf and asked him to shout the guy out onstage and make him his daughter's hero and he totally did it! Those moments making the fans' days were nice. Their opinions are the only ones that matter to him, negative Twitter feedback about a set or a release was the only thing that ever really got him really upset. I never heard him raise his voice to anyone, the only time I ever saw him lose his cool was during the #BuygoreMansion Twitch livestreamed pool party. The number of bouncing booties onscreen became so NFSW, the feed was pulled. Asaf was furious and everyone was already full of Jaeger, and he just went off on the Twitch rep that was there. I remember him running around like a madman, at one point throwing his phone at me as he ran up the stairs yelling, "Tell Twitter #BuygoreMansion booties broke the Internet!"
Other things to note about the real Asaf: he doesn't talk shit about anyone, even when baited heavily. He doesn't cheat on his girlfriend, a total anomaly in his line of work. He makes all of his own music without exception. He never does even a toodle of nose drugs and barely smokes weed. I've never heard him refer to women sluts or thots, and I hear countless male artists use those words on the reg. So I ask, who is worse - the guy who's a shock value misogynist in the streets and a gentleman in the sheets, or someone with a clean image who speaks about and treats women like disposable cum dumpsters when the cameras are off?
If Borgore were pulling the 'I'm just joking' card while being dismissive or judgmental of women in actuality, this would be a very different article. He's just not that way. To answer the question of how anyone's supposed to realize the Borgore character is satirical: I really don't know. You can take his word for it, take my word for it, or just fuck off I guess. Personally, I wish he'd retweet girls posting photos of their 4.0 GPA, but #BootiesForBoobies isn't half bad either.
I'll leave you with some existential booty-food-for-thought – if every girl in the whole world tweeted a pic of her butt at the same time, would we all be sluts or none of us? If I'm ok with Miley telling us to get our get out titties out (#FreeTheNipple, fam), how can I not be ok with Borgore telling us to get our butts out? Fuck it, y'all I'm going for it.
See more of Molly Hankins' butt on Twitter