12.17.2016

Snow Day

by DJ Muse

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.”

Motherfucker. **

 

 

 

** 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.

08.05.2016

…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.

01.24.2016

Technology!

by DJ Muse

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.

01.11.2016

Happy 2016!

by DJ Muse

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.

Love,

Grandma Funk (DJ Muse)

02.08.2012

Changes!

by DJ Muse

With the onset of winter (lame as it is for someone who wants to ski, dammit!), the nerdery at the TESLA space has gone on hold. When it warms up a bit, we’ll be back there on Wednesdays, but in the meantime I’ll be in my studio, working on mixes, digging through old vinyl. I’m thinking about a picture page so you can see what it looks like in there, and maybe an RSS feed so you can subscribe and get updates when I post new mixes. Lots to do.

Thank you for stopping by, feel free to drop me a line. I’m always taking requests for new mix ideas.

12.15.2011

It also soothes my soul. There’s nothing quite like the energy of playing music for other people and seeing their reactions. That perception of a reaction from a listener is a communication, and when you open a dialogue for communication, it affects both sides of the “conversation.”

Recently I started playing over at the TESLA space in Worcester, and I’m loving the way it makes me want to create. That side of me had been in hibernation, really, and I needed to kick it back into gear. Working with other musically inclined nerds, I’ve been exploring the midi capabilities of my Traktor setup as well as just plain spinning music for an hour or more at a time. I haven’t done this literally in years, and I am reminded of how much I grew as a DJ while I was doing a radio show where I would play for five hours at a stretch on Saturday nights. I’ve always been big on playing live sets, and I know how much it helps me refine my skills as a DJ. When I’m playing from a broad array of styles (even if the tempo stays within a narrow range), I challenge myself. When I hear about other DJs being suspected of playing a CD at their “live” gigs, it’s worse to me than the concept of lip-synching for singers. Because as a DJ, I feel like my main talent is in knowing what to pick, what my audience is wanting, and how to create an environment that enhances whatever’s going on. Whether it’s a dance party, a poetry reading, or just a place for people to chill and visit, I want to put the right soundtrack underneath the action. The idea that someone is being billed as a DJ and then they’re just making the motions, especially given all the tools that are available today that make it so easy to mask tiny (or larger) mistakes or opportunities for mistakes – that seems incredibly lazy and disrespectful to your audience, not to mention an indication to me that you have no confidence in whatever skills you do have.

I’ve thought a lot about how the technology available to DJs has changed since the days when I plunked down all that money for a Denon 1200 dual CD deck back in the 90s. With all the beatmatching and looping capabilities in software like Traktor (my choice) and Serato (and all those other variants), it really has gotten almost too easy to accomplish the mechanics of what we do. But always, in the end, it’s the track selection, the way you pick the pieces to fit together, that separate those who truly know what they’re doing and those who just bought a bunch of stuff and call themselves a DJ. Even with the tools, you still can’t mix some things in a way that sounds *right* unless you know what you’re doing.

With this new gig, I’m using it as a playground to play with the equipment – to see what some of these other tools are and figuring out ways to expand the possibilities in both music making and live playing. It satisfies my creative side, and it lets me get my geek on, which I’ve needed for a long time. I’m excited to see where it all leads me, and looking forward to every step of the journey.

10.03.2011

I’m still here.  I’m just working on stuff.  House stuff, mostly.  But I’ve also been working in the studio from time to time, and also arranging my computer environment (I’m becoming less platform-agnostic as I go along).  It’s tough, though, because you invest money in software that runs on a certain platform and it’s cheaper to upgrade than to try and change to a different OS, so it looks like my music will be Mac based for the forseeable future.  But I’m integrating the others, slowly.

The CD encoding is never-ending.  The record encoding is nowhere in my future.  Well, amend that – the only record encoding is on a sporadic basis.  It’s mostly a case of “I have this on vinyl and I want to listen to/use it on my digital devices so I will encode it.”  So it continues.

Today’s CD encoding observation – Ministry’s “With Sympathy” is like finding out your mother was a hooker before you were born.  You still love her, but you’re a little bit embarrassed – and you think yeah, she actually looked hot back then.   Also, Ministry is next to Mister Scruff in my CD collection – I think that’s a lovely statement about my musical taste.

How are things in your neck of the woods?  *kisses*

When I updated the gigs page today, I realized how much I’d slipped on the web page lately.

To be fair, my life has been pretty busy in the last six months or so, and especially in the last two.  I met a wonderful guy who has become a huge part of my life.  I adopted another dog (a rescued Westie) which brings the pack to four dogs (I think I’ve reached my limit, just because I want to make sure they all get good attention).  So I’m busy at home.

Musically, I upgraded my DJ software to Traktor Pro 2 (the upgrade price was ridiculously low) and now I’ve got four virtual decks which includes all kinds of options for those decks (looped samples, midi) that I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet.  With the new software I decided I had to have the Korg Zero 8 mixer to control all those decks (my old interface could only handle two decks).  Now there’s a lot less wires on my tables at the Cantab and so many options that weren’t available before.

Now, I’m trying to find the time to make some mixes before the National Poetry Slam comes to Cambridge in August.  I’m really excited about this, and hope to have new mixes for people when they get here.  I love my poetry friends and look forward to seeing them here this summer.

So that’s what’s up in my world.  Drop me a message and let me know what’s up in yours.  🙂  Have a great summer!

08.23.2010

I realize now that my take on making a mix has totally changed over the years. It used to be I was so concerned with my mixing skills (which are better than ever) and making the mix just so, the transitions thought out and perfectly choreographed into a tight, 60-something minute audio CD. Painstakingly tracked out and given to friends, I envisioned it as a sweep that had to be taken all at once.

But over the years, I’ve realized how people actually listen to music isn’t always conducive to this school of thought. People will have songs they like (and don’t like) and will skip forward or loop back. It doesn’t always get listened to the way I imagined it.

So now, I get to the point where I’m making mixes of songs I enjoy for their own sake. I sometimes come across songs that I haven’t played in years and remember how much I loved it to distraction (over and over, on repeat) back in the day and feel that thrill all over again. I find obscure versions of songs that better suit my mood, and savor the idea that someone will be surprised and entertained by what they find. The mix becomes a vehicle of discovery and sharing music, and if some of the songs aren’t loved by someone who listens, I know that most of them will (hopefully all, of course). So with that in mind, I’ve made what is probably my own version of “Another Late Night” or “Back To Mine.” I decided to go with MP3 since I’m not wedded to transitions (although I did put a lot of thought into sequencing) and I can put well over 60 minutes of music on a single disc.

My main goal with this is to share music with people who are friends. I have an idea of who’s going to get a copy, and there’s a mix of people who will probably be familiar with every song and some who haven’t heard over half of what’s there. But my friends are cool, and like-minded musically (I’m old enough now to know they’re not necessarily the same thing) and I think they’ll enjoy most of what’s there. Hopefully every person who listens will get something new for them, and more songs they listen to than skip. If nothing else, there will be some new songs in your MP3 collection, some of which are really obscure or out of print. I’m not sure if they’ll be as cool as “Roadrunner” (from Fatboy Slim’s “Late Night Tales” compilation, which is excellent, and heavily used by me at the Cantab on a regular basis), but they might be. Maybe.

If you’ve already given me a message with your address, I’ll be sending a copy on to you. Some people will get other things in their package that I think they might like. In every case, there’s a lot of love in every package, and it’s all for you, baby.

xoxo
DJ Muse

Next Page »