DJing at the Pavilion, Cork - pic by Stevie Grainger
A few years ago, when I was starting to investigate more electronic music, my friend Kim recommended the book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life to me. It’s a comprehensive look at the history of the DJ, taking the reader back to the days when DJing consisted of using one deck and talking between the tracks, and on to the heady nights in New York lofts and packed Detroit dancefloors.
It’s fascinating, and inspiring, to read about how these people who were so passionate about music brought the playing of records to the masses – but there’s something missing. Women are practically absent. While I don’t for a moment downplay the roles that those mentioned in the book played in the growth of DJing as a craft, I find it dispiriting that it appears there were virtually no women contributing to the scene. Was there a minority of female DJs? Certainly. The vast, vast majority of ’big names’ being male? Clearly. But I want to know more about the women who were there, the women who learned how to mix and scratch and who collected wax just like their male peers.
Until the day comes that such a book appears, at least there are things like the documentary film Girls Gone Vinyl being made, showing that women are part of the electronic music landscape and don’t see themselves as belonging on the margins.
The film has received funding through KickStarter and the bulk of filming took place at the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit from May 28 to 30 this year. Its creator, Jenny LaFemme, has been dropping some sneak peeks of the behind the scenes, and if they’re anything to go by, this movie will be essential viewing. Take this clip, for example – if you thought that female DJs face the same challenges as male DJs (for both do face challenges, though for the male DJs it is not as heavily based on their gender), this interview with Anja Schneider will shed some light on what it is really like:
And if you have questions about the name, this interview with pioneering DJ Derrick May is a thought-provoking watch which illustrates some of the challenges facing La Femme and co.
The official introduction to the film makes its case clear:
A film about the true story of female DJs from around the world in a male dominated industry. No one would think that the electronic music industry is in conflict, but the truth is that DJs are more segregated that politicians or business executives.
Girls Gone Vinyl is the world’s first documentary about female DJs, their struggles and successes, what inspires them and what drives them in spite of overwhelming odds. Watch these women converge on Detroit for the largest electronic music festival in North America and hear their stories firsthand.
Lest you think that this film is going to be all bitchin’ and moanin’, it’s clear that it’s not – it’s a celebration of the women who are out there working as DJs and the contribution they make to their own music scenes. But it’s also a chance for female DJs to speak about their experiences and what gender-based challenges they face. It’s essential for women and men to hear about these things and reflect what role they might play in changing things.
I spoke to a musician recently about the pros and cons with regards to ’women only’ events, and how sometimes they can serve to isolate women in the music scene. But I also believe that they help give women a space that might not already be there for them, and can bolster confidence in those who need it. It’s not a fuck-you to men, it’s boosting camaraderie amongst women. Guys don’t have to worry about being the only male DJ playing at an event; some – though not all – women can be conscious of being the only female presence at the decks. DJing with other women helps them feel less like they stick out like a sore thumb.
I know when I DJ at female-only events or simply with other women, it feels like a really positive thing – not because I prefer DJiing with women to DJing with guys (I don’t), but because it feels great to simply *be* a woman DJing, given its history.
When I DJ I think of books like Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and hope that in 50 years time there won’t be a need for women-only DJ nights. I hope that by then women won’t have to put up with idiots (and luckily these are in the minority) shouting things like ‘When are you going to lapdance for us?’ at them when they DJ with another girl. (This happened to Kim & I a few years ago). I hope there won’t be a need to have a documentary like Girls Gone Vinyl because that documentary will have helped pave the way for more women to become DJs.
That’s why we need documentaries like this now – because it’s a stepping stone to gender equality in the music industry. We don’t have that yet. We have come far, but not far enough. And you know what? Saying that isn’t complaining: it’s acknowledging something that has to change. It’s a nod at changes yet to come; it’s a kick to the arse; it’s a positive, bold, important statement.
There’s no point pretending there are enough female DJs – whether they’re professional DJs like Jenny La Femme or amateurs like myself – because there aren’t. There are more than there were in years past, however – and I think documentaries like GGV can only encourage more women to start collecting records and learning how to use decks. What are you waiting for?
Cork has a great history of producing influential electronic music – it’s home to the long-running Fish Go Deep clubnight, for example, which was based in the legendary Sir Henry’s club and now resides in The Pavilion. Throughout the decades there has been a steady amount of people making house and techno in particular but the last few years have seen a rise in the number of new club nights and producers appearing on the scene. It’s not always easy to run a clubnight, and not all of them last very long, but there is always something happening and someone, somewhere, lugging their 1210s to a pub or setting up in a club.
If house is your thing, then you’d be wise to check out these songs from Cork-based producer, Shane Linehan. Shane’s well known for DJing and having an encyclopedic knowledge of house music – and that knowledge and love comes across in his debut tracks as a producer. He has been quietly working away on these gems for quite some time, and though he’s a modest guy he’s getting the word out about what he has been up to.
He’s part of a tight-knit group of friends who’ve put on numerous gigs and events over the past few years in venues like the Realt Dearg, Liquid Lounge and The Pavilion, and who are part of the new breed of Irish producers.
Shane has a busy year ahead of him - forthcoming releases include the digital EP No Control / What About It coming out next week on US label Soul Shift Music, and the tracks Hidden Harmony and Make it a Ritual (below), which are coming out on his own label Basic Grooves in September on vinyl.
Then there’s a track on the digital Fusion 1 EP, which is released on the Cork label NG415 on the 18 July and also features a track by that independent label’s founder Glenn Keohane.
Speaking with Stevie G on Red FM earlier tonight, Shane said that he is heavily influenced by the early New York house scene, and encouraged people to get making their own tracks and setting up their own labels.
I’ve seen Peter Delaney perform twice now in the past two weeks, and by gosh if I haven’t fallen tongue-lollingly in love with his music.
Ukeleles can often be associated with tacky, Hawaiian pop songs or ‘quirky’ tunes, but in the hands of someone like Delaney they become a perfectly miniature way of crafting a heartbreaking melody.
At last night’s Hefty Horse gig, where Delaney played support to Uni and her Ukelele, I bought a copy of his 2007 album, Duck Egg Blue, which was released on the Dead Slack String label.
Listening to it, the difference between the Peter Delaney of four years ago and today is astounding. Though a man who seems like he prefers the shadows to the spotlight, his humbleness is touched by shyness on his debut.
Today, he still has that soft, unimposing demeanour, and keeps his eyes cast down as he performs. But his voice is so much richer now. When he performs them live today, there’s a depth to the songs on his debut album that had barely been struck when they were recorded.
It’s as though he has found new meaning in songs like Pariah Chimes – ‘He’s a hound of the city, but that don’t mean much to you and me’ – and an inner confidence that allows him to communicate that meaning more clearly.
At times, he reminds me of Will Oldham’s younger brother, but whereas Oldham has a frightening darkness simmering away beneath a lot of his work, Delaney manages to make even his murkiest songs feel unthreatening.
The good news is that Delaney is working on his next album, and the songs he played from that sound absolutely incredible. This is a guy who has found his perfect mode and is letting it mature naturally…and the results are goosepimple-inducing.
One of the gigs I saw Peter perform at was Cian Nugent‘s album launch for Doubles, his latest – epic and very ambitious – record.
Nugent is one of those people who seems like he was born out of his time. He crafts the sort of folk (if I was to limit him to just one genre, which given the scope of his work, feels somewhat cruel) that could be be played on park benches or back porches, while tumbleweed runs past saloons and waistcoat-wearing men chew strands of straw and talk of civil unrest…Or on a cavernous stage in the Guinness-soaked-tourist-swamped heart of Dublin’s city centre.
Doubles has two tracks that are 20 (Peaks and Troughs) and 24 (Sixes and Sevens) minutes long – and they twist and turn, build up and break down, in the most captivating of ways. Nugent and his band give themselves breathing room when they need it and, such as at the beginning of Peaks and Troughs, leave us hanging on every empty beat or picked string.
In yesterday’s Sunday TimesCulture magazine, Nugent was hailed as a genius by Conor O’Brien of Villagers, and described by Eithne Shorthall (whose work I really admire) as ‘largely unknown’.
Nugent may not yet be a household name (though if John Fahey or Jack Rose are well-known names in your abode, he may well be), but his reputation has been steadily building here and especially abroad for quite some time.
And he is so young, and preternaturally talented, that he can’t remain an ‘unknown genius’ for too long. Plus, people adore Nugent’s music, and judging by the hugs, kisses and loving back-slaps that were doled out to him as he sat watching the support acts on the night of his album launch, he is much adored as a person, too.
Doubles is available in all good independent record stores.