We sat down with DJ BCKWLD, a connoisseur of the buckwild lifestyle, to learn a little something about the world of DJing and the passion behind her beats. Bonus! She created a unique guest mix to go along with this interview and you don’t even know how excited we are for you to hear it. It’s perfect for the warmer months and is an epic cocktail of all things Diviners (from Beyonce to Zayn to Sia, we know you’ll die for this mix). Press play to listen while you read!
When did you discover your passion for what you do?
Music has been a necessary part of my life for as long as I can remember. If I don’t listen to music for extended periods of time I most certainly start to go through withdrawal. It has been a little bit of a circuitous route to DJing and there have been a lot of other fun musical adventures on the way, like the period of time in middle school when I took bagpipe lessons. However, what I’ve always loved is making mixes. It began when I would just wait for a song to come on the radio and record it onto a tape, then wait for the next song I wanted to come on and record that. It was a long and sloppy way to make a mix-tape but I loved doing it. Needless to say, the advent of the mix CD was a relief and now using a DJ controller is the best!
For as long as I can remember I have been a collector of music. This means more than just trips to the record store: I’m the person who will track down a store associate to find out what song just played because I have to have it. I pick the brains of friends whose musical tastes I admire, and basically I’m always searching for a new song or group to explore. DJing is kind of the ultimate expression of this passion and I am so thankful that I discovered it. Getting to share music that inspires me with people, in an interesting way, is an amazing experience. Sometimes it’s just that one person jamming out to a transition that makes all the hours of prep worth it. But honestly, even if no one listened I would still do it. Ultimately it’s for me. It helps me process my thoughts and emotions in a way that nothing else does and the product is something that is really meaningful to me on a personal level. Although I would totally still be up for international DJ stardom….
What projects do you have going on right now?
I have so many music projects going on right now! Alongside DJing every weekend at a local bar and a smattering of other gigs throughout the northeast I also make music. In terms of solo projects, I am working on an EP as DJ BCKWLD of “Gregorian Trap” music. I am really excited about this project, because it’s all about using found sounds and my vocals to create melodic minimal music evocative of the meditative, monophonic essence of Gregorian chants, while still leaning on a BCKWLD essential, i.e., bass. I have an EP of these songs recorded which I will release one at a time as I finish production on them – I plan to release the first one any day now!
I am also half of a trap/hip-hop duo Gold Bikini with DJ IBG. We are currently in the midst of recording an album which we hope to release late Summer/early Fall 2016. IBG is the production guru behind Gold Bikini, and it is really inspiring to get the opportunity to collaborate with him. I write the lyrics/melody for most of our songs and perform the vocals. It’s a very lighthearted group and we bring a lot of silliness and obtuseness to the music we make. I am really excited to be recording an album… it’s a huge endeavor but it’s exciting to approach this group through the lens of writing a whole album of music that follows a thematic thread. It allows me to use some of the same creative processes I discussed above with my DJing. We have a lot of serious songs on this album and we are bringing in a lot of RnB and 90s vibes, while still keeping the lighthearted Gold Bikini essence. I can’t wait to have more time to work on it this summer!
Where/how do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is bountiful. There is so much I want to learn, pursue, create, and distill when it comes to music. The only thing I am really short on is time! Sometimes my inspiration for a mix comes from a mood I experienced recently. For example, that feeling of when you are still up at 4am and everyone else is asleep but you’re deep in your groove and vibing on the darkness, or that feeling of happiness on the first really warm day of the spring when you sort of break back out of your winter shell and want to go out and connect with everyone. I love trying to distill these moods into a mix. At the same time, sometimes the inspiration for a mix starts with a song I heard, or someone’s reaction to a song can inform the rest of the set. There is so much amazing music being created every day, it is pretty much an endless source of excitement and inspiration for me!
What is your creative process like?
My mother is a fiber artist and I remember watching her work as a kid. Her pieces are the result of an iterative process that sometimes involved her slicing apart a whole piece she made only to work it back together in a completely different way. Sometimes I was horrified to watch her cut apart something that I thought was so beautiful. Now I find myself doing the same thing with the way I put together my mixes. I usually start with a feeling I am trying to evoke, and sometimes I start with just one song that I think evokes that mood. Then I start to pull together everything that I think might fit that mood regardless of genre or bpm. Once I have a far too long mix put together, I start to tear it apart and whittle it down until I think it’s just the right mood. Then, if I let a work in progress sit for a week or a month before recording it you better believe I am going to end up totally overhauling it, even if I had felt it was done just a few days before. It’s not dissimilar to how I write music either. Sometimes you just have to trash an idea or a lyric or a melody that you love because it just doesn’t work, but it’s an iterative process and all that work informs the progression of the song (or mix).
What equipment do you use to DJ?
Currently I DJ using Traktor Pro and a Traktor Kontrol S4, although I sometimes use Ableton and an Akai APC 40. I love Traktor for the ease of playing a weekly gig. DJing using Ableton is fun and the creativity is boundless but being able to morph my set to the vibe of the crowd is much easier with Traktor, plus its warping algorithm is pretty legit. However, in terms of hardware I am definitely lusting after some Pioneer CDJs.
What’s your studio set up for music production?
What D.A.W. (digital audio workstation) do you use? Ableton, Ableton, Ableton – I mean German engineering, come on! Seriously though, I really love Ableton Live 9 and I particularly love working with the Ableton Push 2 MIDI controller. It’s a really intuitive way to produce electronic music. It’s nice to use a midi controller that so seamlessly controls so many function in the software. It’s awesome to look away from the screen and just get engrossed in the music. I can really feel it rather than approach it from a more analytical perspective, which is what using a mouse sometimes makes me feel like.
Goals for the future?
International pop stardom. Seriously though, my dream is to land a residency at a nightclub in a mid- to big-sized city. I also want to keep making music and improving my production skills while working on adapting Gold Bikini’s music for live performance!
Male dominated industry – what’s it like?
It’s funny how unassumingly male-dominated the world of DJing (and music production for that matter) is. I am constantly running into annoying things, like a company that makes DJing Tshirts, but the only one in women’s sizes says “I’m with the DJ.” I am the freakin’ DJ! Once I was walking into a gig with DJ IBG both carrying gear and a guy looked straight at IBG, ignoring me, and was like “oh, are you spinning tonight”? And I was like, “I am too!!” I was reading, “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” by Bill Brewster, and all the pronouns describing DJs are exclusively male, to the point of absurdity. However, these are all small things. Overall, I think it helps to be a female in this industry more than anything. Something like less than 10% of club residencies are held by female DJs. Just go on Instagram and you will find a million male DJs but only a handful of female DJs. But, in this industry, anything that makes you stand out is key! Also, it feels great to be a female DJ and throw down a hardcore trap set, which people aren’t expecting, and kill it. It definitely motivates me to work hard in order to represent all the awesome female DJs out there and work on carving out more room for us in this industry.
If you could live in any decade, what would it be?
Despite all the madness I am pretty happy with the tenners? the twenty-tens? We need a better nickname though…
Current phone wallpaper?
Palms and Beer in Portugal. It’s been getting me through winter in Maine.
What was the first CD you ever bought?
Well, this will out me as being super cool, but the soundtrack to “Pirates of the Penzance”
You can contact DJ BCKWLD for clubs, bars, and private events at email@example.com. Check out her music here & don’t forget to follow her on Instagram!