Earlier this year, a new DJ Collective called GIRL burst onto Belfast’s music scene. Ahead of their Hallowe’en gig this Friday (Oct 28th) in the Pavilion Bar, Chloe Gault caught up with Marion Hawkes and Claire Hall, the DJ duo at the heart of the project.
What exactly is GIRL?
MH: GIRL is myself Marion Hawkes and Venus Dupree.
CH: We’re still figuring GIRL out. Primarily, it’s a platform for ourselves to play music together but we’re also looking at how we want this to grow over the next year. The idea grew from the absence of a platform for women DJs in Belfast, but we also wanted to eradicate the idea that women in the industry are ‘Other’.
When did you start DJing and who were your early influences?
MH: I started DJing about 4 years ago after a long love affair with electronic music. Early influences were the Detroit & Chicago scenes which were massive in the UK at that time, and the French house wave following Daft Punk’s seminal Homework album
CH: I started running club nights around 9 years ago and from 2010 to 2012 I ran Go Bang! playing The Pavilion and The Deer’s Head which is now Aether and Echo. Back then I was mostly playing electronica and indie music, but in the last couple of years I’ve been really getting into House, Techno and Disco. I found myself becoming obsessed with the sound of Disco in particular and once of my first influences here was Arthur Russell under his producing names of Dinosaur L and Loose Joints. It was through Go Bang! that I met Marion.’
Other than GIRL, what other projects are you guys involved in? Do you DJ regularly anywhere
MH: I play the odd night at The Marcus Ward, Love & Death, Aether & Echo to name a few and have a weekly Saturday night residency at The National. As well as running 2 other monthly nights… the queer disco Ponyhawke at The Pavilion and comedown Sunday session Slow Jam at the Black box.
CH: I DJ as Venus Dupree recently playing the Marcus Ward and have a bi- weekly residency at the Pavilion. I work as producer in my other life and produced HOUSE last year with members of the House Ball Room Community. In November this year, I’m working on producing a follow up event to this called KIKI on Nov 17th. I also have an exciting gig coming up at Blackbox playing after the John Waters show on Nov 19th. Both events are part of Outburst Queer Arts Festival.
Do you think DJing is a misogynistic industry? If so, is that what inspired GIRL?
MH: It’s a very male dominated industry and chances are that you will experience backward views along the way at some point. Personally, I haven’t so far, not from within the scene anyway. So ,that’s not so much what inspired GIRL. We wanted to run a night ourselves, for our friends and for people who enjoy music.
CH: I wouldn’t say it’s misogynistic, but it is certainly a male dominated industry. Marion and I feel supported by a lot of male DJs like Connor Schmutz, Timmy Stewart, and Jordan McCuaig. They recognise us as good DJs and are male allies in many ways. It’s more of a reaction to the lack of female visibility. Rather than trying to make it alone, placing women together appears to create a more confident space for acts to emerge. We were inspired by Discwoman – a queer, Brooklyn based collective of female DJs and producers- their motto is all about positivity and inclusion through music.
Do you think there is a change in the scene that is becoming more open towards women DJs?
MH: There are loads of female DJs already on the circuit, so it’s not a new thing but some of them are only coming to the fore now. Exposure always helps. There are more kids getting into dance music these days, and it’s more available than it was when I first started listening. You can go online & watch Jayda G play Boiler Room or listen to B. Traits, Heidi or Moxie on Radio 1, or stream Courtesy & Avalon Emerson on Mixmag Live. It’s there, it’s already happening. These things are such an inspiration to any young girl wanting to break into this industry.
CH: There have been a lot of female DJs working over the last 10-15 years Heidi, Nina Kraviz are big ones so it’s not a new thing and currently my role models are people like The Black Madonna, who is certainly doing a lot for visibility now. This can only be a good thing!
Where is your favourite place to play in Belfast?
MH: Aether & Echo is great fun to play, the crowd is so up for it. I had a great gig there at Pride outside playing the block party with Conor Schmutz, it was an insane amount of craic!
CH: I love the Pavillion because there is such a great vibe there and I have always loved playing Catalyst Arts late night parties.
In a post-troubles society, do you think that NI is producing music that would rate on a global scale?
MH: Certainly , while the scene is very small here we are some of the most dedicated, and the guys producing at the moment are really making some of the best electronic music to come out of this country in years. The ability to self-release music on resources like Bandcamp or Soundcloud is a fantastic tool for getting your tracks heard.
CH: Yeah, the scenes here are vibrant; particularly in electronic, dance, and the visual arts. We have BICEP and Sarah McBriar (co-founders of AVA festival) who are globally and commercially successful, but have returned home to give back to their community. Connor Schmutz has been booked to play several times at the Panorama Bar in the Berghain in Berlin. Jordan is producing and being played on Radio 1 and Timmy Stewart played on the Boiler room, so yes it’s an exciting time.
What advice would you give for women who are starting out and want to get involved in the DJ scene?
MH: Get to know people involved in the scene, if you show passion & enthusiasm to match your skill then that can only make a great impression on your peers. Also check any attitude you have at the door.
CH: The best piece of advice is to believe in yourself. Ask for advice from the people who inspire you but, most importantly, focus on where you want to go. Find your niche and what makes you tick.
Who have you been listening to recently? Is there anyone who is up and coming that is deserved of attention?
MH: God there are so many….label wise Rhythm Section has been impressing me for a while, UK label Church is in the same vein also. I’m loving lots of low key stuff right now.
CH: I’ve been listening to Gloria Anne Taylor, Minnie Riperton, a lot of Rush Hour Records stuff, and compilations by different producers – a particular fav this month is a compilation called ‘Surinam Funk Force’.
If people want to get involved in GIRL what can they do?
MH: Right now we are focused on getting. GiRL established. In the long run we would love to give slots to upcoming DJs, just make yourselves known to us, come to one of our nights and say hi.
CH: At the minute, there are only the two of us, but get us on FB or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org . We’re just starting out but over time, hope to grow and love to hear from other people making music and doing things!
To find out more, check out GIRL’s Facebook page here!