EXCLUSIVE: First Interview with LA DJ Kutmah after His Controversial Deportation
Two months ago, news broke that the popular Dublab and Low End Theory-affiliated DJ, Justin "Kutmah" McNulty had been detained by Department of Homeland Security authorities for failing to honor a voluntary deportation notice that he had signed over a decade earlier.
The arrest triggered a campaign to save the artist and musician from being forced to leave the country, a plea that ultimately fell short when he was deported to England two weeks ago, following a nearly two month detention in a processing center in New Mexico.
This is his first interview since his release.
You're staying in Manchester (UK) right now. How did you end up there?
I'm staying with friends until I figure out where I'm going to settle. Everything is up in the air and exciting and brand new and hectic.
You spent a good portion of your childhood in England. Do you have a lot of memories from that period?
I was 12 when I left and I've never been back since, so I basically have no idea about the country. Everything is backwards for me. I consider myself an American--wherever you spend your teens, that's basically where you're from.
Where in England were you from?
I was born and lived in Brighton. I can't wait to return there. It's going to be fun to retrace my childhood steps. It's been interesting thus far in Manchester. They have a delicacy here called Blood Pudding that they eat for breakfast. It's basically cooked eggs and beans and ham, with a cooked blood clot on the side. I've been staying away from that.
Have you played any shows yet?
Not yet, but I have a few coming up. There's a big Brainfeeder London show that will be my first gig in England, and I have a radio show I'm doing in a studio. I've been in the studio a lot, trying to make music and record as much as possible. It's weird going back to my machines after so much time away.
I assume you weren't able to get to your stuff before the authorities detained you?
No, I haven't been able to get it. I've basically been living off three t-shirts. It's like I'm camping.
Are you thinking about settling in London?
You hear so much about London. People say go to the East End, and then people are like 'dude, the east end is dead,' so I don't even know. I'm thinking about London, I'm thinking about Egypt. I haven't been able to travel for 22 years, so right now, I just want to travel and see the world.
Were you expecting to be detained by authorities or did it come as a total surprise?
I was shocked. I didn't have a criminal record and I acknowledge that it was irresponsible to not have the proper paperwork, but I was treated like a common criminal. They called where I was a processing center, but it was like a prison. A 24 hour lock down. I was in there with people who had been in there for 8 years, 16 years. I was a person who didn't have the right paperwork, locked up next to guys boasting about their crimes, about shooting this person or that person, and I was sitting there wondering how it all happened.
The authorities busted in at 6 a.m, right?
Yep, 6 a.m. I thought there was a flashlight or a gun banging at my window. I didn't answer because I didn't know what was going on. My roommate answered the door and I heard my name. I thought they were just going to take me downtown to speak with me, check up on my background, and I'd be fine. I'm not a threat.
I asked them if I could get my sunglasses and they started laughing at me. The authorities were like, 'you won't need that.' Then they handcuffed me, took me downtown and put me in a room with 50 guys, most of them of Latin descent and none of them were speaking English. They gave me a piece of paper saying that I was being deported for ten years. I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone. After five hours in the room, they put us all in shackles. I heard that I was going to Lancaster, then we went to Santa Ana, and then to the airport. The next thing I knew, we were in New Mexico.
And you still couldn't speak with an attorney?