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.



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.

So this summer has flown by. Last night I had a wonderful party at my house with friends. The Cantab’s been wonderful fun as always, and I’m exposing people to new music every week.

In the next week I will finish a new mix – be sure to check back for your fix of warm grooves for a perfect summer afternoon with your sweetie.

Now get out there and enjoy your summer!