We hung out with Discwoman at Ableton’s Loop Summit, Berlin

For those out of the Loop, Ableton closed off its 3rd global gathering for music makers last month. Leah Abraham caught time with Loop panellists and members of Discwoman to find out their thoughts on social media, on being spokespeople for queer and non-binary artists and the secrets to a good set.

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Ableton’s Loop, was an variety bag of production-led interactions, colourful conversations and tactile audiovisual presentations across the 3 days. Offset against frosty winds and the greyscale gloom of East Berlin’s industrial landscape. Organisers and promoters of the world’s leading digital software franchise (Ableton Live, Check) enlisted everyone to the summit; from educators, to sound technicians, musicians, producers, Youtubers, and all the youth-ridden music enthusiasts. Alongside talks, at Loop there were performances and live installations which descended in the historic (maze-inducing) Funkhaus building. Amongst the barren halls of a derelict school building was a relaxed, friendly and accessible vibe, for anyone to connect and collaborate across the industry.

Over the 3 day period, we tuned into artists, and speakers as they gave the lowdown on their journeys and creative processes; on pushing gender and sexuality out of the window in Electronic music; on the beauty of borderless collaboration; on what it means to play good music, and not give a fuck about the “Like’s” and the “Followers” (thanks Honey Dijon). There were groundbreaking audiovisual performances from Jlin, William Basinski and Nosaj Thing. And with the conversation flowing, and a rare knowledge hub of industry expertise made accessible for all to “participate and collaborate” – we could not help but get involved.

Above: Workshop with Planetary Cymatic Resonance, The crowd at Loop 2017.

On day 1 of Loop, first-time participants, and recent additions to the Discwoman roster; DJ Haram, SHYBOI and stud!nt panelled a discussion on ‘Building Creative Ecosystems’. Birthed in Brooklyn by Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson and Christine McCharen-Tran, Discwoman shape-shifted from the digital world of Facebook and Soundcloud into a thumping IRL collective and artist agency.

Each member is a standalone artist with individual merit and other artistic commitments. While both SHYBOI and stud1nt are core members of multidisciplinary art collective KUNQ, Philly-raised DJ Haram is one half of the noise/rap group 700 BLISS and organiser of legal fundraiser party series (f)LAWLESS. Amongst the buzzing noise and activity of Loop, I later managed to catch up over beer with the three of them. Quick-witted, charming, candid and seriously eloquent, they opened up about how Discwoman collective functions as a sustainable ecosystem across continents.

 

Anti VJ 3Deconstruct installation

Tell me a little about your relationships with Ableton software.
SHYBOI: I learnt to use Ableton because of peer pressure, everyone that I knew doing music was like using Ableton.
DJ Haram: I post Instagram stories of me on Ableton, but not sure if Ableton viewed them…
SHYBOI: (laughing) I would love to do a survey to see how many people actually have the serial number of Ableton and just break it down by demographics. By race, by gender, by where you from. Like Discwoman research.

As 3 recent additions to the DW roster, how do you feel about people’s expectations of you as advocates representing female/queer DJ’s?
Stud1nt: I don’t identify as a woman. I’m gender non-conforming, and it can be cumbersome. At least for me, I’m doing what I’m doing, and that in itself is enough. Because there’s not that many of us in it. We’re just existing. I think it’s challenging in the sense that we can be tokenized, can be forced into the position of having to speak to question gender cause, and not just have someone be like ‘So what is your work about?’
DJ Haram: I don’t think really that any of us are capable of representing more than just ourselves, or being ourselves as a group.
SHYBOI: The thing about DW [Discwoman] is that it’s not that we do this thing, or we pick these people in this way because then we have this beautiful flag of the diversity of life. It’s just the reality. I can name maybe 3 white people, it’s not on purpose. That’s just my life. I know amazing queer, transgender and non-conforming people. That’s my circle, my environment, my environment informs my everyday practice.

Having an online presence has been instrumental in Discwoman’s growth as a platform that crosses continents. What’s your social media game like. How important is it to curate yourselves digitally?
Dj Haram: I’m heavy on Instagram and Twitter. I don’t have a personal Facebook. On one side, it’s visibility, meeting people. Connecting with people you don’t see in real life, promoting yourself. On the other side, we have an obligation, this new part of the work. Making social media content which is not necessarily related to making music.
Stud1nt: In a way, social media makes me a little anxious. Sometimes it’s empowering and sometimes it’s like obligatory. Sometimes a bit of both. I almost like don’t know if it has any impact. I try to think of it in terms of getting more opportunities. I used to think of it more in terms of being in a community with people, and now I just want a brand to see that I do things that are cool, think I’m cool and wanna book me. Or like plugging other people in some way.
SHYBOI: There’s this virtual network thing happening called Sister, run by Coral Foxworth [AKA FXWRK] made up of women and non-binary producers who are sharing tracks digitally. With over 1300 + women, trans and gender non-conforming, exchanging over the interwebs.

How do you go about selecting music, does audience always come into it?
SHYBOI: I’m an emotion-based DJ. I’ll go through up and downs, 50 bpms, and then go through different genres in like an hour and a half. What I feel is how I DJ. There are times when people are like, ‘Oh can you play this type of set?’ And I’ll say yes and just not do it.
Stud1nt: I feel like I’m just [going to ] play what I want to hear. The ideal medium for a set with an audience is one where you can kind of challenge people, and bring something in that they weren’t expecting. Getting them to continue to dance anyway. I feel it’s cool to push people.
SHYBOI: Electronic music is a lot more ambiguous so you can get away with playing around. I don’t think you should tell DJ’s what to play it’s just stupid.

What are some of your favourite parties to play?

SHYBOI: I play a couple of parties, Dagga and GUSH, and both those parties use a pay system. Women and gender nonconforming people pay $5 dollars to get in, queer males pay like $20, and then straight male pays $50 to get in. I think that’s really funny. Like an all-out pay-scale is great in taking money, which can then be redistributed back into the community which I think is important…

Where are your favourite cities to hang?
DJ Haram: Berlin and London I’ve spent time in the most, and I think I like London better. I was hanging out in Dalston, and Hackney. 

As an independent collective of “shared friends, with shared political interests”, and a platform for female-identified/non-binary artists DJ’ing/running parties across continents, Discwoman is the living breathing manifestation of club culture as it should be. “Emotion-based” DJ SHYBOI is to the go-to for genre-splicing journeying sessions. Stud1nt etches disruptive drone ambience over defected samples, noise ruptures and popping baselines. Whilst Philly ruling artist DJ Haram tears the club down with booty bangers, and crunk sets tinged with sounds from her Middle Eastern roots. With an ever growing community, plus a super strong merch game… there’s so much spilling out from New York’s coolest collective. We can’t wait to see what’s on their radar for next year.

Head over to the Discwoman website to see more.
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