Behind the Decks, Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Part I

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Behind the Decks, Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Part I

For those familiar with Complex Magazine, the “Ultimate Mens Buyers Guide,” you know to expect the usual smattering of articles on cars, curves, sneakers, sports and hip hop culture. Recently Complex took a pitiful stab at naming the 10 Sexiest Women in EDM, pulling together an overall mystifyingly random collection of females, with “sex appeal” as the primary criterion.

Aside from committing the carnal sin of referring to them as “girls” throughout the feature, from a musical perspective Complex totally dropped the ball on coming up with a legit list, despite the obvious availability of so many worthy candidates. Their readers knew better, and the comment thread showed unanimous disappointment in the sparse, underwhelming top 10, so we decided to set the record straight with a slightly more comprehensive top 40.

With so much hype around the notion of women’s absence from the electronic music scene, or the need to distinguish artists as “female producers/Djs” in an ironic attempt to laud them for succeeding in a male-saturated industry “despite” their femininity, let’s simply recognize the fact that there are a slew of women in “EDM” already, many who have been in it for decades. Rather than jumping to the detail of gender as their defining quality, it’s time to stop talking chromosomally and just appreciate their music and who they are as artists.

The first installment of this top 40 series features 10 women who have made a huge impact in dance music – as club DJs, broadcast DJs, producers, vocalists, label owners, promoters – wearing any and all hats, they have demolished the myth that women don’t thrive or even belong in the electronic music world.

Mary Anne Hobbs
The Queen of Dubstep, one of the UK’s most successful broadcasters, as well as a music journalist and editor, Mary Anne Hobbs was a rebel with a cause from the age of 16 when she left school and “eloped” to London with a hard rock band. She’s been immersed in many facets of the music and entertainment industries ever since, hosting BBC Radio 1 shows, including her groundbreaking “Dubstep Warz” show that contributed to dubstep’s global impact, along with her curation of “Generation Bass.” She’s also curated annual stages at Sonar festival, has broken into sound design for film, working with director Darren Aronofsky on the soundtrack for Black Swan, and also creates her own “ghetto road movies” on her YouTube channel.

Watch her talk about her Tuesday – Wednesday Radio 1 show that pushes the boundaries in experimental dubstep, grime, drum & bass, hip hop, and techno:

And check out Hobbes, The Queen of Dubstep, The Dutchess of Grime in action, spinning a spectacularly filthy set with electrifying passion:

Annie Mac
Following in the footsteps of Mary Anne Hobbs, Dubliner Annie Mac is a self-taught spinner known for her former Radio 1 Mash Up show on Fridays, and Switch, her Sunday night Radio 1 show. By the time she was 26 she had The Annie Mac Show, and also hosts an annual DJ tour called “Annie Mac Presents…” where she handpicks the lineup to take over her favorite clubs throughout the UK. “Annie Mac Presents” began as a one-room event in Fabric that has since exploded to become a top-shelf brand, giving voice to new generations of artists.

Check Annie Mac spinning at a BNR party in Miami:

Born in Poland, Magda came of age literally and musically in Detroit, where she delved into the underground scene in her teens, lurking in record stores and cultivating her fascination for vinyl. She joined the Women on Wax Detroit rave collective and eventually met Richie Hawtin and Marc Houle to form career-impacting bonds.

Her nomadic nature and hunger for change brought her to Berlin’s underground world. By 1998 she joined the Berlin-based Minus label and began an international touring circuit as Richie Hawtin’s one and only opener. With a style influenced by Chicago Jack, minimal techno, and acid house, her unique sound found it’s way to residencies at Robert Johnson in Offenbach, Technique in Leeds, and Fuse in Brussels.

In triangulated partnership with Marc Houle and Troy Pierce, Magda formed their Berlin imprint  Items & Things, as well as a boutique Down & Out worldwide underground party series.

Watch a clip of Magda throwing it down during one of her closing sets at Cocoricò:

Heidi’s origins in Ontario Canada placed her close enough to Detroit and Chicago to catch the underground house and techno fever from an early age. Her knowledge and passion for music inevitably led her to vinyl playgrounds across the pond, and she took part in opening Phonica, London’s preeminent record store. Quickly she moved from selling vinyl to spinning it, and was signed to the Get Physical Music label and made her mark on Berlin. Soon after, she started her own BBC Radio 1 show “In New DJs We Trust” in 2008, and by 2009 she had performed on every continent in the world except Antarctica.

This year Heidi launched her own label, Heidi presents Jackathon Jams, which was born from a global brand party series she created, with the goal of performing alongside artists she respected not only for their talent but also for their personality.

Watch her jackin’ Boiler Room set, the first session held at the infamous Warehouse Project:

Maya Jane Coles
Maya Jane Coles has become the newest IT Lady of dance music. Only in her early twenties, she’s quickly risen to the industry’s upper crust, voted Producer of the Year in 2011 by DJ Mag, Best Breakthrough DJ in 2011 by Mixmag, No. 9 on Resident Advisor’s 2011 DJ Poll (holding her spot at No. 10 this year), and was Best Newcomer of 2011 at the fan-voted, 14th annual Ibiza DJ Awards. Her touring circuit over the past two years has been mega and non-stop, and now she’s also starting her own label, I Am Me.

Coles’ creative ambition bloomed from an early age, as the British/Japanese producer began her music making at the age of 15 exploring hip-hop terrain, and by 16 moving onto dub and drum’n’bass. Breaking into the house music realm with her award-winning track “What They Say,” she’s proven herself an all-purpose artist, conceiving her vision from all angles — from writing, producing, engineering, arranging, mixing, performing, even doing her own vocals and album artwork, as is the case for her recent EP releases “Don’t Put Me In Your Box” on Hypercolour, and “Easier to Hide” on I Am Me.

Best known for releases under her own name, Maya Jane Coles is also one half of the live dub/electronic band She is Danger with Lena Cullen, and also creates dubstep music under the guise of Nocturnal Sunshine.

Read more about her in our featured artist post, and check out her Essential Mix:

Nicole Moudaber

Spreading her wings far beyond her homelands of Nigeria and Lebanon, Nicole Moudaber broke into the industry as an international party promoter in New York, the city where she first discovered her passion for electronic music at a club called Twilo. She lays claim to the impressive feat of bringing dance music and NYC style parties to the Middle East, particularly Beirut, where it was previously non-existent.

Self-taught, Nicole Moudaber describes her sound as “driving, techy and dirty” and found a new home in London’s scene where she ran a monthly party called Soundworx at Turnmills. She’s released tracks for labels like INTEC, VIVa, 8Sided Dice, Kling Klong, Monique Musique and Waveform Recordings, and is a favorite of Carl Cox, playing at his weekly party at Space Ibiza for the past several years. She also created her own party at Ushuaia in Ibiza focusing on classic house, with performances and support from house legend Danny Tenaglia.

Coming up this year Moudaber will start her own monthly at Cielo NYC & Pacha NYC in February, and is also in the process of launching a new label called MOOD.

Listen to her new “Sonic Langauge” EP released on Drumcode, and watch her do her thang at Space:

J. Phlip
Jessica Phillippe aka J. Phlip grew up in the American Midwest just south of Chicago where she was first exposed to house music as a 17-year-old, going to clubs with a fake ID and eventually delving into underground parties. She started DJing as a 19-year-old college student, got her engineering degree, and finally moved to Chicago to fully enter the scene.

A year later she migrated again to San Francisco and began exploring production more and more, teaching herself Ableton and Reason. Fortuitously, she ran into Justin Martin out on the dancefloor one night, and then met him again soon after at Winter Music Conference. The Dirtybird crew had just begun to forumulate, so it was the perfect time for her to link up with her flock. She’s become one of Claude VonStroke’s favorite partners in crime, and together the two have created a rather hush-hush, exclusively vinyl label project called Krush Groov.

J. Phlip’s first release off of Dirtybird Records was “Rumble Rumble” in 2008, and she plans to release upcoming EPs under her full name in February 2013. She’s currently residing in Berlin but jets back to California often to reunite with her Dirtybird clan.

Here’s some wise words from a Beatport interview, where J.Phlip delivers sage advice to aspiring artists:

“Please don’t take half-naked press shots if you want to be taken seriously – unless you’re a badass like Lil’ Kim. I don’t care how hot you are, I don’t want to see your headphones being used as a bra. Have style, show it off, and work your sex appeal if you want to and if you have it – but be careful with how you do it. People want to judge – let your music speak! Once your music has something to say, everything else will follow.”

Check out one of J. Phlip’s killer EPs, “The Barbary Coast:”

Cassy grew up as Catherine Britton in Vienna and Austria, singing and exploring her musical talents from a young age. She first dove into the industry as a vocalist in the 90s, until Electric Indigo (longtime DJ/musician and pioneer of female:pressure) encouraged her to start spinning. It wasn’t long before she had gigs throughout Europe, and eventually united with Dave the Hustler in Geneva to form their “Cassy & Dave the Huster” collab on Mental Groove Records.

The Cassy & Dave the Hustler project set her ablaze in the minimal techno realm, and from that point she pursued her style and inspiration in Berlin, continuing to form significant partnerships with heavyweights like Ricardo Villalobos and Steve Bug. She took up a residency at Panoramabar, Rex Club Paris and Trouw Amsterdam, launched her own imprint, called Cassy, and also became one of the legendary Cocoon Heroes. Her debut artist album is due out in 2013 on Planet E, co-produced by Kirk Degiorgio.

Melt to her mixing live this past summer at Cocoon Ibiza, and watch her spinning on vinyl at Dommune in Tokyo:

One of Germany’s techno/house elite, tINI’s cheeky moniker is a modest contrast to her heavyweight status, taking the prestigious No. 15 spot on RA’s fan-voted DJ Poll this year (make sure to check out her 2012 RA mix). Born in Munich, she flexed her musical muscles when she was only a bitty 7 year old, starting with a drum set and eventually moving onto incipient productions on her brother’s Atari. Like Maya Jane Coles, tINI also immersed herself first in the hip hop and rap genres, but not surprisingly found her way to the techno/house realm, particularly inspired by Moodyman’s Detroit style track “Amerika.”

By the early 2000s she had built considerable momentum in Germany’s fertile scene, and began to branch out to the rest of Europe. Then in 2008 she was signed to Desolat, the imprint created by Loco Dice and Martin Buttrich, as well as Artist Alife. She debuted her first release on Desolat, “" target="_blank">That’s Right” in 2011 and soon after put out her album Tessa, named for her best friend who introduced her to Ibiza and encouraged her to pursue a career in music. A significant portion of the album was produced in Ibiza, so it reflects her love for the magical White Isle as well.

Watch tINI describe the making of Tessa and her Ibiza inspiration:

Nina Kraviz
A Russian spitfire with more skills and sex appeal than Complex could even comprehend with their “10 Sexiest” list, Nina Kraviz offers a entirely new, exciting embodiment of “The Diva.” Before she began her artistic ascent, she was considering dentistry, but luckily her obsession with music led her to the industry, initially working in A&R.

She quickly developed a name for herself in Moscow, hosting a weekly party called “Voices” at Propaganda Club, (which she considers to be the “Russian Fabric”), booking guests like Theo Parrish, Cassy, Shed and Marcel Dettmann to play alongside her.

As enthusiastic about absorbing music as she is about making it, her introduction to electronic music in particular began in her childhood. She would stay awake into the wee hours of the morning listening to a radio show that featured US garage and Chicago house. It was then that she first feel in love with that magical 808 sound, and it’s energetic power over the body. To Kraviz dancing is essential, even you’re the DJ.

With releases on Rekids, Underground Quality and Naïf, her haunting production " target="_blank">Voices is what first put her on the map through Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality imprint. Her voice adds an extra-special spark to her music. Delivered with a rare combination of grit, sensuality, and elegance, her vocals supplements her brooding soundscapes, infused with acid, deep house, techno, and 70s underground disco influences.

During an interview with Halcyon she was asked about sexism in the music industry, and gave an exemplary response that speaks to the crux of this rather complicated “gender issue:”

I would say I have no problem with people taking me as a woman behind the decks. No problem! But only if they are really educated enough to realize the difference between just any woman behind the decks and me is huge, enormous… it’s immense, it matters. So when they realize the difference and they realize I’m a professional first and can mix my tracks and have my own style and sound, then no problem. Look anywhere you want! Enjoy my ass shaking, anything, feel free, but only if you realize that and enjoy what I’m doing and the music, only if you take it as the whole concept. If you take it separately, then get lost really! Then this is sexism, I don’t want to be the doll really or a puppet.

Her debut self-titled album was released this year on Rekids, with an utterly mesmerizing lead single called “Ghetto Kraviz” – check out the music video below and get a taste of the essence of Nina:

If you’re wondering about who might be “missing” from this feature, there’s more installments coming, but please feel free to comment with artists who you think should be included in the upcoming editions.  


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