Breaking through the club doors
by Sheena Jardine-Olade
The female DJ was at one time something as weird and mysterious as a unicorn, or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It warranted a second look to see a female rocking out behind the deck beside her male counterpart.
Lately, with a slow rise in numbers, female turntable artists are not as rare as they once were. This is rather apparent in our city of Calgary, as six different DJs have headlined major events just in this past month alone. Representing a wide array of genres and personalities, they are multi-talented business owners, students, and even mothers, all with one common goal: making you dance. Here are three of the women who are sure to be making you sweat at a club near you sometime soon.
DJ Name: Jubilee
Location: New York, NY
Affiliations: Nightshifters, Flashlight Fridays
Years in the Scene: 7
Jubilee always had a love for the heavy bass sounds from her local Miami music scene. It wasn’t until an awe-inspiring in-store DJing demonstration that she realized music was something she would love to pursue. She moved to New York City, quit her job as a make-up artist and through working at Modular Records, soon became a resident for their club night in Brooklyn.
“When you are working for yourself, you really have to hustle a little bit harder,” Jubilee explains. “I just gave up a great apartment in a great location with great roommates to move in with [DJs] Stareyez and Dre Skull,” two artists on Drop the Lime’s well known Trouble & Bass label. “It’s just really hard to sit down and be watching TV when Dre Skull comes out of his room to tell you that he has just finished another track.”
Jubilee is definitely making things happen. From her work on the Nightshifters label from Berlin, as well as her weekly Flashlight Fridays shows and tours around Canada, Europe, and the U.S., Jubilee has built a viable career doing something that she is passionate about.
“We were one of the first ones to bring La Roux to New York City…and with Twitter I can search Flashlight Fridays and see all the amazing comments [from] people having a good time.”
Jubilee has a slew of projects on the go, but check her newest EP and video with Udachi, “Paypur,” at www.beatport.com.
DJ Name: Reid Speed
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Affiliations: Play Me Records
Years in the Scene: 13
Reid Speed has been a major contender in the drum and bass scene for years, probably because she was always training for her current position.
“When I was younger, I used to make mixtapes for my friends,” she says. “I would sit by the radio and wait for a song. I had no idea that this was an actual art form that I could pursue.”
It wasn’t until she went to her first rave that she realized that she could actually make mixtapes “not just for friends, but for the whole world.” She saved for two years to buy a pair of turntables and taught herself to DJ by buying mixtapes and purchasing all the records on those tapes in an attempt to reproduce what she heard.
“I didn’t know anyone, I would just go to shows and hang around the turntables,” she remembers.
A resident DJ from one of NYC’s longest running drum and bass nights, Camouflage, saw her at the record store and told her to bring five records down to the club.
“I guess I passed the test,” she jokes.
She quickly went from resident to playing New York City’s biggest raves, to jet-setting around the world.
When asked about the pressures of being a female DJ, she responds that there was none at first: “I have a pretty sexually ambiguous name, and I was sort of tom-boyish.” It wasn’t until more female DJ’s started playing that promoters started pitting female against female: “It was either you or her on the bill.”
Reid was not comfortable with using her sexuality to book gigs, so she decided to step up her game. She promoted her mixes, took a course in audio engineering, produced tracks, and then started her own record label, Play Me. Despite all her success, she still runs into the same misunderstandings.
“Ninety-five per cent of the time before I even step on the platform,” says Reid, “I have the sound guy or other promotional staff telling me how to run sound.”
Despite these small hindrances, she is still focused on one goal: “I just want people to have a good time by making awesome music for people to lose their minds to.”
DJ Name: Mama Miche Location: Calgary, AB
Affiliations: Bitchin’ Beats
Years in the Scene: 11
Miche Stirling, aka Mama Miche, started DJing as a way to keep herself busy.
“I thought that it would be a nice hobby to keep me at home,” she says innocently.
Following a couple of cross-Canada tours and one of Shambhala festival’s most anticipated sets, DJing brought Miche anything but that. After spinning for two months on borrowed records, she threw her first party. She met Kenzie Clark, her partner in crime, and after forming Bitchin’ Beats, there was no looking back.
When asked about the lack of females in the industry, Miche points out that “you have to be able to deal with strong personalities and egos, with a little bit of those traits embodied in yourself.
You have to be able to push through and not let anything else get to you.” What keeps Miche going is her love for the scene, and a love for the music of all the artists she represents with her newly launched booking agency.
“People don’t realize that at the end of the day I still have to come home, wash the floor, cook dinner, and do the laundry,” she says.
Female DJ’s are rising up to the top. They are hardworking and busy, fighting through politics, incredulity, and disbelief. It is a hard industry to break into, whether you are male or female. But no matter who you are, if you love the music and think that it would be rewarding, it will pay off in the end.
Reid Speed says it best: “Whether I stand in front of 10 kids or 1,000 kids, I feel really blessed that I get to do what I want to do. Without people there to dance, you are only 50 per cent of a DJ.”