Soap Box Girls

The Technology Issue, November 2000 : Articles : DJ Dazy


These days I get pretty excited if manage to drag my sorry behind out to a club on a weeknight, and weekends rarely find me up till dawn floating on a night of sensual beats and seamless mixes anymore. But there were days when I could regularly be found emerging from alley doorways into the grey morning rain of the Pacific Northwest, or watching the sun rise behind the mountains, in a valley full of dancing and music. At one point, I actually spent a summer working as a “water girl” for a local promoter selling endless bottles of water to my fellow party-goers. Vancouver is a great place to party if you were a house fan like me, as it managed to foster and attract some of the scene’s best house DJs.

DJ Dazy was always one of my favorites. I admit to being predisposed to liking her seeing as how female DJs were rare, but after the first time I heard one of her sets my affections were quickly justified. Not only are she talented, she spins exactly the kind of funky west coast house that I cannot resist. In my humble opinion, it is the best kind of music to move to; a journey that varies in intensity as the set progresses with some soulful vocal tracks worked into the mix. Truly a lovely thing to behold and while I was maintaining my rather vapid post as water girl, Dazy was out there forming a fabulous virtual community for other women DJs: the Sister DJs email list. Lovely indeed.

Dazy started DJing in 1992 when she was living in Salt Lake City, and at the time she was the only female DJ in town. She bought her tables by mail order and a mixer from Radio Shack and taught herself. Two years later she moved to Portland and continued DJing there.

“When I moved to Portland I was still pretty much the only female DJ in the Pacific Northwest, except for Little T in Vancouver, and I didn’t really even know her until years later. And when I moved out there I didn’t really know anybody and the guys were kind of jerks to me, and whatever. And I was just kind of bummed out about not having anybody to talk to. And there were a lot of girls coming up to me and saying “Oh I really want to get started” and “Can you help me?” And they would email me and trying to reply back to all these emails myself, to give them lots of advice was just really time consuming. So I thought, I should start a list so that everybody can talk about stuff in a safe place and all that fun stuff.”

There wasn’t anything else in existence online that filled the gap that Dazy was addressing. There were lists for women in rock music but they didn’t deal with issues of concern to DJs. Other DJ/rave lists, like Northwest Raves, were often filled with mindless chatter and lacked the kind of quality discussion about the task itself that Dazy was looking to foster. She wanted to create a safe community for other women to start up valuable dialogue.

“I wanted to start a list that was devoted to just talking about music, records, experiences and gear, and that kind of stuff just wasn’t being talked about.”

So she started the Sister DJs email list. When she started the list there were a handful of members, now there are around 300 girls on the list. And the quality of information that they are sharing with each other is of extremely high quality.

With the Sisters list having been so successful, Dazy has recently put a Sister DJs site online with help from Mylai, another DJ. The site is online now, but Dazy is still adding content. It will expand on the community that the Sisters list has already established and help to raise the profile of female DJs. Recently, Dazy says that she has been getting an influx of subscriptions to the list from overseas: Europe, Japan and Australia, which is surely an excellent trend.

While Dazy is obviously devoted to helping to support other gals in the DJ biz she is not cool with her status as female DJ being leveraged solely as a marketing tool. She has no patience for male promoters who put on shows advertising all female line-ups as a gimmick. She’s been around long enough to know that she and other women deserve the respect of being judged on their talents and not their gender. That said, she is all for women promoting and producing their own shows and using them as vehicles to support fellow women DJs. About a year ago she and Little T put on just such a series, and the parties were brilliant.

Almost a decade after Dazy started DJing, the scene has changed quite a bit. In one sense it has of course become much more commercial, which has its ups and downs. In one sense it means more money in the industry, which ends up trickling down to the DJ. And while Dazy isn’t a big-money-Ministry-of-Sound kind of headliner, she says that she is now able to support her art paying for her records and gear out of what she makes performing. Another upside is that with the industry expanding in popularity and having established itself there are more and more girls taking up DJing. Vancouver, for example, now has at least half a dozen fairly well known women DJs, a couple of them with their own regular nights.

There are also more women getting into promoting and the behind the scenes aspect. Promoting parties comes naturally to women who deal well with organizing all of the details required in getting a party off the ground. Dazy suspects that many of them got into promoting through their boyfriends, and then once they start, they stick with it. After watching the guys put a party together, and inevitably being the one that takes care of all the details, they decide to take it on themselves. I’ve experienced that both first and second hand, so would have to agree.

After years of spinning, Dazy has decided that it is time to get into producing records herself. She is currently in the process of setting up a digital studio and has recently bought her first sampler. She has been learning all she can about what she needs and getting valuable guidance from friends along the way. Like her talents in beat matching, producing music is something that Dazy is ultimately teaching herself. She told me that she feels that she has always been pretty comfortable with technology, and with the level of excitement she brings to the subject she is clearly enjoying the new challenge. Her hope is to get a record out in the next year.

I asked Dazy if there were any other women producing electronic music that she admired right now and she came up pretty blank. While she had lots of female DJs to list off, there isn’t too large a pool of women producing this kind of music to draw from. Money is of course a big factor in contributing to that reality. She pointed out just how expensive it is going to be for her to set up a studio to provide herself with access to experiment and learn on her own. She also mentioned that it has taken her eight years of DJing to decide to start producing, so with women now becoming more confident and established as DJs, in a few years that will probably translate to the same in production.

My conversation with Dazy has inspired me. She is an amazing and positive person to talk to, who draws her knowledge from many years of experience. I have been rather disillusioned with the party scene here in Vancouver for a while now, due in part to the mainstream adoption of the scene and also as a result of contributing personal reasons. Dazy reminded me of some of the reasons why I used to love it so much, namely the music and the potential for community. I’ve been listening to some of her sets off her personal site and they never fail to bring a smile to my face and brighten my day as I sit in front of this glowing box for hours. While not exactly the first female DJ on the scene, Dazy’s contribution to women DJs (and partiers) is worthy of great respect. If you get the opportunity don’t miss a chance to check out one of her sets live, and in the meantime head to your local record shop and pick up a tape and enjoy some of the finest in west coast house music.