I was planning on spending the day painting in the (new) studio. But we got snow, so it was outside we went to shovel. There was freezing rain and a drop in temperatures predicted, so we wanted to get it cleared out before snow turned into frozen chunks of ice everywhere we couldn’t get rid of until spring. This is going to be a cold winter, I think.
Being outside in a snowstorm in New England is probably the closest we reserved people get to friendliness (at least around here). Dudes out shoveling and/or snowblowing their driveways. Then there’s me and the spouse. Back before I married him and lived here (about four years), it was me shoveling among all the guys (who didn’t talk to me much). When the man showed up and started shoveling, they started being sociable.
This dynamic made me think about being a female in traditionally male activities. That’s been a theme in my life – both in the business world and in music. I was in the military, so that’s one. Computers, that’s another one. But those are things where it’s about what you know, so I felt like that was easier.
But being a DJ for as long as I have, I’ve seen it change. Since I’m not super-girly nor am I eye candy, it was strange. There was a period where it was trendy to have a girl DJ, and then it went to Paris Hilton and every other famous person being a “DJ.” Through it all, I’ve continued being the best I can at what I do and it’s worked out for me. I used to rant about computer DJs, and how easy it’s made things, but I don’t anymore. Now I realize that knowledge, library and technique are all incredibly important, and although you can fake it, there’s no substitute for really knowing your skill.
I got mad skills, kid. I’m also a female. Being weird, I’ve never really cared (most of the time, but not always) about what girls are “supposed” to do. It still comes up sometimes, but I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with being who I am, gender roles be damned. Sure, sometimes I get those moments of “I should be wearing makeup and more girly clothes because other women do it” – the conditioning is STRONG. But I’ve gone through those phases enough times to ride it out and avoid the trip to the makeup counter that results in a depleted bank account and stuff I’ll probably use twice before I throw it out because it’s past its expiration date. The same goes for being a DJ – there was a period where I was asked to do one of those “girl DJ” tours, but I refused to change my musical style to be something I wasn’t. I’m not a prop and I’m not a decoration. Maybe musical decoration, which is kind of what I do, but not because you need a certain type of person behind that computer or mixer or turntables (yes, I can do all those things).
The people I’ve seen who sell out to pay the bills or to get some degree of fame never are happy with where they end up. There isn’t enough fame in doing that to make up for doing something you’re not enjoying. Most of the time they don’t get very far, anyway, and then they’ve compromised for not very much.
Chasing fame. That’s not something I want to do. I’ve known people who had a degree of fame and it honestly looks like a lot of work and loss of privacy. I understand the desire for fame, I just don’t have it. I’d rather be respected in my small circle for what I do, maybe have some people outside my circle have favorable impressions of me and my work. I want to do more work, to make more music and to share it with other people. Maybe it’s part of that New England born and raised (with the added 1/4 Finn) that makes me this way – I want to know the people I actually know (not just acquainted with in some superficial way) and want them to say that they know me and I’m a good person who’s good at what I do. Whether that’s shoveling my street, making a mix or a recording or riding my motorcycle, it doesn’t matter. I just want to be appreciated for what I do and who I actually am as a person.
All that said, my husband just started playing “The Safety Dance” video from Men Without Hats on the TV. He looked at me and said “deal with it.”
** You need to know me to know how tongue-in-cheek that last declaration should be, given the context. Then again, if you know me, you’re laughing already. Miss you, friends. Looking forward to knowing you, friends I haven’t met yet.
So, I mentioned I’m working on my studio. Actually, I think I mentioned that I was *going* to upgrade my studio, and I’m doing that.
For a few years now, we’ve been going round and round about whether we wanted to sell our house and move out to the sticks or stay here in the “big” city. There were pros and cons each way, but we both really liked the idea of having more privacy and quiet. So we could make our own noise, of course, but our quiet. It sounded like a great idea, we felt like we had the tools and skills to upgrade the house we’d probably be looking at due to our budget and where we wanted to live (western MA or VT).
But then the election happened. I remember watching the result and feeling like I was going to throw up. The world was totally thrown off its axis for me. I was scared for my friends. My privilege (white, female, housed/fed/clothed/car/income/spouse) was showing, but it’s all so tenuous. After a long discussion, we agreed (we being me and my husband) that we were going to “shelter in place” as they call it in disaster preparedness.
We’d had ideas of leaving so far as to start packing things up. We’d looked at a house out in Rowe, but didn’t jump on it for various reasons of cracks and water infiltration, especially where you don’t want it (in the electric service line). I have very mystical friends among the many I know, and they would say that was a sign. That happened not that long before the election, and then afterward we realized we were better off staying here.
So, I decided that I would finish redoing the wiring in the front room – used to be living room, soon to be studio. I took the time to re-wire everything, including the light switches, and did a new subpanel to accommodate future wiring upgrades in the rest of the house. My current studio location had three prong plugs that weren’t grounded, so I had noise problems and it sucked. Now I’ve done it myself and know it’s right.
There are now three hardwired network connections in there, so I can hook up my studio computer and anything else I need (DJ laptop, etc).
Then my carpenter (the spouse) helped me pad out and install the drywall in the wiring cutout to match the depth of the existing wall, which was drywall covered with a thick layer of plaster, making it a strange depth. I’ve been doing all the drywall compound work for almost two weeks now (time consuming) and in the next few days I plan to begin priming and painting the walls.
The new studio is going to be much larger and has a lot more light than the old studio, which was originally a dining room when I moved in here ten (!) years ago.
This is definitely a work in progress. There’s a long way to go. But I’m making that progress, and when I’m done I’ll have a new, bright, welcoming studio. Thanks so much to my husband for being my best friend and biggest cheering section. His support (and carpentry and setbuilding skills, not to mention his ability to plan for the unexpected) is so vital to what I do. If I’ve got to survive the next four years of the orange, tiny-handed despot, I know my husband will keep me as sane as possible. Hopefully I’ll be making music at the same time.
…and I’ve been neglecting my music.
I can’t help it – I upgraded my motorcycle to a Honda CB500X and now I’m riding everywhere – dirt roads, logging trails, twisty highways and back roads. Loving every minute of it. But I’ve been slacking on the music front.
One of my projects for the fall/winter will be to relocate and upgrade my studio at home. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and I’m finally going to start on it really soon.
Of course, I’ll see what I can do about posting more often, but we all know how that goes.
…and I got a new motorcycle.
The world keeps on spinning. Prince passed away and I was reminded of how much of an impact Purple Rain had on me when I was in high school. Living where I did and having the limited musical exposure I did, Prince was something from another universe (wasn’t he always?). We didn’t have MTV at first, there were few radio stations (classic rock and top 40 as I remember), and this was the time before internet. So much has changed with the internet – even the way we find out about the deaths of famous people.
When I went out Thursday to ride my motorcycle, it was a beautiful day. Out in the woods, I rode over dirt trails and crossed a stream with no bridge. Every so often I’d stop to send a text to my husband to let him know all was okay. After all, I’m out in the woods on trails where I could (and did) fall down. Just letting him know what was up, that I’d fallen and gotten up (and gotten my 400 plus pound bike up as well). It’s part of the deal with trail riding out here, especially when you’re a novice at it (the trail part, at least). Part of learning.
But when I came home, the spouse told me the news. I thought he was joking. Told him to check and make sure it was true. It had been true, for a couple of hours, and I hadn’t known. He could have told me while I was out, but he waited. Motorcycle riding is not something you want to do when you’re distracted or upset – there’s just too much to watch and do to keep yourself safe.
Prince was someone who made an impression on me when I was very young and didn’t have the musical knowledge to appreciate what he was doing. The musical history that came before him (funk and soul specifically) were mostly unknown to me, so all of it was new, without context or reference points. I did know some about rock music, so his guitar playing and virtuosity was obvious. I loved that music, and it was so evocative for me. Now that I’m so much older and know a lot more about music (but never enough), I have a better appreciation for what I truly believe was his musical genius.
I hadn’t been up on his music in a while, but I knew he was still producing so much music, music that hasn’t even been heard by anyone but him and the people who helped him make it. Maybe this will be the time for me to start learning more about who he became musically while I wasn’t paying attention. It’s certainly time for me to connect with all the music I knew back then.
Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen. Best to do and be and listen and love while you can, every day. Be in the moment and pay attention. This applies to the single track in the woods on the back of a motorcycle or listening to music or being with someone you love.
Be in the moment and pay attention.
For a while now, I’ve been working on encoding my music collection so it can be stored on computers. I think back to when personal computers started being a thing – when things were so much smaller in capacity (storage and processing) and so expensive in price. Moore’s Law being what it is, I recently added a computer to my home network that had two hard drives that were over a hundred thousand times bigger than my “big” hard drive in the old days (well, we’re talking 20 Meg to 3 Terabytes, so even more). The price for the whole thing was, if my memory is right, less than my entire computer cost in the old days. This allows me to do things that wouldn’t have been possible back in the day – storing my whole vinyl and CD collection on a few hard drives, in great quality. Networked so everyone in the house can get to the music. I need to play with the Raspberry Pi and make a file server/music player to get music to the kitchen side of my little house.
This tinkering with technology brings me back to what I did for years in the working world. Now, it’s just a hobby – a useful hobby in my case. I’ve got a big storage server now and can get back to encoding records to computer. I’m looking now at things that will serve me well in an environment where people can dance to what I’m playing. Why?
Next month, I’ll be the DJ at the Airspray Queer Dance Party at the Electric Haze in Worcester (see next post for update). I went out to their party this month (the third Friday of the month) and scoped out the crowd to see what it was like and whether I felt like I could do what I thought that audience wanted.
Being out at a club was a strange experience, because I realized how long it had been since I did that. When I was just a sprog, I would go dancing – out, by myself. Yes, I had friends there, but I never have been one to stay home because I had to go out by myself. My standard MO is to get there early – I have to settle into the waters gradually. Being in a club as it fills up is easier for me than diving in when it’s already full of people. So I got to Electric Haze (26 Millbury Street, Worcester MA) at just after 9PM, ordered a drink and found a seat in the corner. Yes, I’m a sitting in the corner girl. I like to watch what goes on.
I wanted to see what kind of music they were used to hearing at this party. Living in Worcester and having friends who loved to go dance (and are part of the Queer community), I’d been asked to go to this with them in the past but hadn’t gone yet. What blew me away about this party was how much people were wanting to dance. If you were even remotely aware of dance crowd psychology (really, just paying attention), you could see it – people clustered in groups on the floor once the DJ got set up and started playing music. They were bobbing even when they didn’t have anything that really made them want to dance yet. That energy – I was at ground level and I just felt like this was my kind of people – the people who would go out and dance like crazy if you gave them grooves. Funky grooves. Smooth grooves. Leftfield stuff that they didn’t expect grooves. Basically the DJ Muse special, you know?
Classifying what I do is never easy. It’s so fluid and crosses genres so much – I’ve never fit in an easy box. At the “turn of the century” everyone who was a DJ seemed to be specializing like insects – you weren’t just house, but you were Progressive House, or whatever that specialty might be. Given that slots were only an hour long, that kind of made sense, I suppose. I’ve never really enjoyed that, although I learned to get better at constructing a tight set. But constructing that set kills any spontaneity, which I really believe is where the magic and connection happens. Sure, you can still connect with a crowd, but there’s something about working your way around, testing what makes people dance, what makes them holler – and then giving them more. It’s not something you do in an hour, and it takes a lot of work and attention. You can’t autopilot that, you shouldn’t phone it in. I won’t.
So, Worcester, I’m coming out to play, and we will dance. Until we’re a damned sweaty mess, we will dance. We’ll have fun. It’s something I’m going to do while the reigning DJ of Airspray is taking a month off, and I’m really grateful to the wonderful folks at Airspray for making it possible. I’m glad to be part of something creative and fun in Worcester – and even gladder that it’s such a short drive from home.
Second week of the year, and so much going on. Last night (1/10/16) at the Sahara we had a special extra show and the slam to select a poet to represent Worcester at the Women of the World Poetry Slam (WoWPS) and it was an amazing show. The talent that showed up to compete was inspiring. Most of the poets I knew or had heard of before, but there were a few new ones who blew my socks off. The winner was one of those “new” (to me) women, and she was a powerful, talented performer with a strong voice (both literally and figuratively). Worcester can be proud of their representative and I know she’ll do well.
It’s funny – I was just talking to the other half the other day about how I used to write poetry but I never felt I was good enough at it to continue. Sometimes you just know you’re not getting where you need to go – in my case, poetry is too compact and requires way too much attention (and strong editing) to suit my writing skills. As you might guess from even these blog posts, I’m not good at doing “short and strong” poetry. Ironic, because that would probably describe me as a person. On the other hand, my musical tastes bear out my strengths – I like long sets to elaborate on my ideas and themes, and have been waiting for a long time to jump back into something that’s a long-form, DJ-centric event. I’ve been doing musical work for poetry pretty much exclusively for the last 9 years or so, and that’s just crazy to me.
But last night, I had a discussion, and passed a card. I’m going to go out this weekend and check out something that may become a new monthly home for me. I’ve missed the immediate, visceral feedback of people dancing to my sets. With the 7 Hills Slam gig, I’ve had more and more people come up to me and tell me they enjoy my music. It’s always a nice surprise, even after all these years of being a DJ. Then there are my super fans, who give me all those reactions to the strange things I play. Angel and Rushelle, and my dear friend Jenith – giving me the love and bopping along when I get it just right. I missed that. Going to see if I can get that kind of feedback more often.
I know that part of my guiding philosophy is to keep things interesting. Keep changing things up (in the context of a coherent framework) and add in as much diversity as possible. This goes back to the time when I was going out to dance clubs every weekend, all weekend long. The DJs then were playing everything, dance music was blowing up in all directions, and the influences were so eclectic. You always knew that things would change direction again and again, and anything was possible – from old school rave music to acid house, from Nine Inch Nails to Depeche Mode to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I miss those days, but they definitely played a part in making me the musical misfit that I am. My collection is diverse, but it mostly spans a couple of decades with an emphasis on certain periods when I was the most active. I’m still adding, but as I get older, I realize that there is so much music out there, and so much more being produced all the time. It’s easier than ever for someone to create music and put it out to the world. It’s also easier to find the music you feel best expresses your voice and curate that music for others to take them on your journey. I’ve never been big on having the “latest and greatest” of everything, but I have always known when I hear that song that makes me go WANT NOW and I am constantly reminded how that voice is spot on even years later. Of course, I’m not above pimping when a friend puts out something amazing, so that happens, as well. I think I’ll get to see pretty soon what that will be like with new people in a new setting. Check back soon and I’ll say more as things develop!
Stay warm, enjoy your new year, and play a David Bowie song for you and for me.
Grandma Funk (DJ Muse)
Nope. I try, but really I just get sidetracked.
There were some decisions to make about where we wanted to be long-term. Many considerations, and the world is just so crazy these days. It made me question a lot of things, and I had to decide where I wanted to be for my own well-being and long-term stability. Yes, the idea of picking up and moving away to the country is crazy, and the idea that I could even do it is an indication of how fortunate I am in many ways. Most people live where they are as a result of circumstances of family, of employment, of “that’s just where I ended up.”
Family. My family is all married and found – so many people I chose to be part of my life because they were someone I wanted to have in my life. Again, I’m fortunate. I choose well these days, the result of so many errors in discretion and judgment when I was younger. Luckily, I eventually learn from my mistakes. I chose music as part of my path, and writing as the other – and there are so many amazing people in those areas who became part of that circle I call friends and family. We support each other. We cheer each other on. We share information and inspiration and music.
So, I’m trying to set up my life so that I create more, noodle more, play with music more. Write more. My husband thinks he’s the only one who reads my page, and he might not be far from right. But I’m going to try writing here every day or as close to it as I can get. Expect things about my life, the projects I do around the house, and my music. Fun stuff about the music I’m encoding from vinyl, that ongoing, never-ending process. Maybe some links to the songs, especially when I have trouble finding them on YouTube (those end up on my Facebook page a lot of the time when I find something I want to share). Basically being more forthcoming with what I’m doing on a more regular basis.
Right now, I’m still doing the Seven Hills Slam on the first Sunday of each month. There’s talk about expanding the reading to more nights (like making it biweekly) and I’ve verbally committed to adding those nights when they happen. I’ll try to keep the gigs page updated accordingly.
So, let’s see where this goes! Feel free to drop me a line at my djmuse address. I’ll write back, I promise.
Got the Seven Hills Slam coming up again. There’s also a fundraiser in the works and I believe I’ll be doing something for that, as well. The slam team has been chosen and they’re going to nationals in Oakland, so they need to raise money. There’s a regional slam the first weekend in July and that should be fun, also.
Here’s to summer, friends and music.
So, I’ve been doing the monthly poetry DJ thing at the Seven Hills Slam, and it’s been great to get out again.
I’ve also been encoding vinyl and finding things I’d totally forgotten I had. With hundreds of records in various crates and bins in my house, that’s not surprising.
I’ve also been cleaning up my music files and consolidating from three different computers over the years. One of my discoveries in that process was an old mix I did probably around 2002. I don’t even remember what the release name was, but its working name was “Boom.” Lots of breaks and some old gems from the Chems and the Propellerheads that still make me want to dance. No matter what I do, I’m never quite satisfied, but I have to say that mix came out pretty damned good. Going to post it up on the Mixes page and post a link on r/breakbeat because the kids need some good “old” music.
DJ Muse, aka Grandma Funk
..I forgot to mention – I have a new monthly. It’s the poetry thing again. This time, it’s the 7 Hills Poetry Slam in Worcester. Next one is February 8th (Sunday). A featured poet, an open mic, a spotlight feature and a slam. I play in the middle of all that stuff. I’ve been reconfiguring my live gear so it’s a bit more streamlined and I don’t have to dismantle my studio every time I got out to play. Enter the new gear!
So now I’ve got new gear with fully midi mappable surface. I’m working on tweaking it to have more control with Traktor beyond the standard midi map for it and find myself using more of the creative functions (like looping and cue points). Having the buttons rather than having to click everything makes a huge difference. I guess I’m just a huge nerd at heart.