Be inspired by this super cool Nelson-born DJ who trained at the Red Bull Academy in Paris and is set for big things.
Current Location: Auckland
What’s your story? Where did your passion for music originate?
I guess I’ve always been super passionate about music! When I was young I’d make tons of mixtapes for myself and pals, order in CDs and tapes from the local record shop, make up tunes on the piano. Over the years at school, I played drums, guitar and piano. Music always spoke to me although it took a long time to realise that I could take it more seriously and start playing shows and learning the software. I started learning Ableton when one of my pals introduced me to it, although it was a steep learning curve it slowly started making more sense and I was able to translate melodic ideas into full songs.
How did you get into DJing and to where you are today?
I got into the Red Bull Music Academy in 2015, off of a few tunes I’d made on my computer. RBMA was a 2-week course in Paris, where myself and 30 other musicians from around the world played a series of shows and attended lectures from famous people in the music industry. The whole experience was really transformative – it opened me up to a lot of the history of electronic music. Part of attending the course was the requirement to play a show over there. I’d never played live before and at the time learning to DJ seemed less intimidating than arranging a full live show. I played my first set over there and upon returning to NZ I started to get bookings.
When did you know you wanted to work in the music industry?
I had never really considered it, it just started to happen naturally! I never pursued shows but started to get regular DJ bookings and realised I loved to play out and to dig deeper for music to play. It’s not currently a full-time job for me but I’d love for it to be one day! Particularly for creating my own music – the process of production and the creativity I get to harness through it is incredibly fulfilling. Before music, I never really had a creative outlet but now that I do, I’ve realised that it’s a key component for my own happiness.
How did the collaboration with Red Bull come about?
Since attending RBMA in 2015 I’ve had pretty regular contact with the Red Bull team in NZ. They’re one of the few companies that invest a lot of time and money into the music scene here which is really awesome. I was brought on board with the A Label Called Success Red Bull Sound Select team (haha what a mouthful!) in 2016 and have been asked to play quite a few shows with them since then. I throw shows sometimes too and Red Bull always contribute DJ gear for those shows which is super helpful.
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Can you tell us more about your experience DJing at the Red Bull Music Academy in Paris?
Yes! So I was invited to play at the Pitchfork Festival afterparty with Omar S and Galcher Lustwerk which was incredible. I’m a huge fan of both of those artists so it was pretty intimidating to play my first show with them. I was really nervous to play and definitely made a few rookie mistakes but had a really fun time. The crowd was nice and the venue was awesome, all in all, it was a pretty cool intro to DJing!
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment or milestone to date?
That’s a hard one as I’ve been involved in quite a few different things since getting involved in the music community here. I think playing some of the big NZ festivals was a pretty big accomplishment for me – Laneway, Rhythm and Vines, Splore and Wondergarden. I’ve also made a lot of radio which was really satisfying. Red Bull Radio hosted my show Scenery: New Zealand, which myself and some friends would use to shed light on the amazing music being made in New Zealand. Potentially the biggest milestone would have been throwing the NZ tour for US collective Discwoman. They’re an amazing collective and booking agency who promote diversity in the electronic music scene. Me and my pal Emma threw their shows in Auckland and Wellington, curated panel discussions with them where we explored their ethos and also held DJ workshops for women and gender non conforming people. The whole experience was really inspiring and taught me a lot.
Do you have any advice for Miss FQ readers who want to get into a career like yours?
I think that the most important thing is just to start! After a while it starts to flow, you learn more, you meet like-minded people. But starting is the biggest struggle. There’s a lot of free software out there to download to start making music, there’s free DJ software out there to start playing around with mixing tunes. There’s a lot of amazing tutorials on YouTube about how to get started if the software can seem a bit intimidating. Also trying to get involved with your local music scene can be very rewarding. Trying to find people in your community doing the same thing, or joining Facebook groups where you can discuss things you’re finding difficult or getting feedback on songs or mixes.
What is one of the most challenging things about working in the industry you do?
Honestly, I just find it hard trying to keep a full-time job whilst pursuing music! I’m lucky that my job can be pretty flexible, but over summer while I have a lot of festival sets and shows in different cities it can be hard to return to the 9 – 5 life. Working a lot, playing and putting on shows also doesn’t leave as much time for music creation as I’d like. It would be amazing if the government was more supportive of creatives here and that people could make a decent living off of pursuing their passions.
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How important is female empowerment to you and why?
Incredibly important! It’s always so amazing to see women in music doing so well, and I have seen a huge surge of diversity in electronic music over the past few years. I didn’t start making music until I was 23, and although I was always around a lot of (male) musicians it didn’t seem like a possibility for me as there wasn’t a lot of representation. If I’d seen more women at shows and making electronic music I’m sure I would have started a lot earlier. Eventually learning that I didn’t just have to watch and could take part was very empowering.
Who do you admire most in your industry and why?
I’d say Frankie from Discwoman! Meeting her on the tour was so awesome. She’s been pushing against the lack of diversity in music for years and along with the rest of the crew has made a huge impact on the current state of dance music. By seeking out, booking amazing shows and giving a platform to so many women and non-binary folks in music, she’s really changed the game.
How do you define success?
So personally I have big lofty goals to eventually play some big European festivals and venues like Dekmantel and Berghain. I think that being fulfilled in your creative expression is also a key component of success. Aside from that, being involved in your local community, speaking up against injustice, building up the people around you and taking good care of your mind and body.
Being told ‘no’, being rejected or failure, in general, is a hard reality we all face at some stage. What do you find is the best approach to dealing with this?
Whenever I’ve had a disappointing reaction or have a bad show it’s just encouraged me to work harder. Get a bit of revenge by bouncing back so well no one remembers the negatives! It can be hard and I definitely have a tendency to overthink things but being kind to yourself is a good thing to remember. If you’re really giving your all and trying to do the best that you can then reminding yourself of that can be comforting.
Did the move from Wellington to Auckland impact your career in any way? How so?
In Auckland, I’ve had more opportunities to play different shows. It’s just a lot bigger up here so there’s a lot more going on. Often touring DJs only pass through Auckland too so I’ve had some cool chances to play with people I wouldn’t have been able to in Wellington. Being closer to festivals is also very helpful in summer! Wellington has more of a community vibe which was awesome but it just started to feel a bit small to me after a while.
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What is your usual process for creating a track – how long does this whole process take?
A lot of tracks stem from melodic ideas I’ve had. I often record a lot of ideas for tunes on my phone, and when it comes time to make something I’ll pull from those. When I start up Ableton and start playing around in there more and more ideas are added and a track will start to form. I’m really slow at my music creation – sometimes it will take half a year to make something. The fastest I’ve created a track was probably 2 weeks. It’s also awesome to work with friends on music. Most people I know work a lot quicker than me so working with them shows me all the different ways I can approach music-making.
When did you last act fearlessly?
Throwing the Discwoman tour took a lot of courage! It was the biggest series I’d ever worked on and took a lot of time, money and hope to pull together. Although Discwoman is pretty big overseas, not many people in New Zealand have heard of them. So to invest so much into something like that and have no idea if it was going to pan out was a big thing to do. We thought that to run DJ workshops and for people to hear more about what they’re doing through the panel discussions would be very inspiring for young aspiring musicians in New Zealand, so it was worth the risk!
Luckily it panned out and all went pretty seamlessly. We had so much amazing feedback about the tour so I’m so glad I pushed through the fear!
You’ve already achieved so much, what’s next for you?
I’m just trying to focus on making new music at the moment. I’ve got a solo EP in the works and another EP almost finished with a good pal of mine, Hugo Jay. So I’m very excited to release new music next year (after a very long hiatus). I’m also in the works of planning another show in December (soon to be announced) and have a big summer of shows. I’d love to eventually play more shows overseas and run more DJ workshops in the future.