DJ ZOE LONDON on how she inspires women to be more involved in the DJ industry and more at Slam Dunk – North!

Date:

I had the pleasure of catching up with DJ Zoe London before her closing set at Slam Dunk in Leeds; we got to cover what it was like being a female in a mainly male dominant industry and fitting in with the alt scene, how she preps before a big set, and how lockdown affected her career!

Melodic Mag: Firstly, I’d like to say you’re really inspiring as a woman in the music industry, it can be difficult – what challenges have you faced being a DJ and how have you overcome them?

Zoe: “The odds are stacked against me fully because it is like a 90% male dominated, and it’s been like that since it started. I started 10 years ago, so it was harder then than it is now, but I’ve heard everything; every single comment you could hear as a woman, you know? “Oh you’re not really playing, you’re using Spotify… Oh, you must be the DJ’s girlfriend, when is the real DJ turning up? Do you know how to work that equipment?” Yeah, I do, that’s why I’m stood here and you’re not,” she laughs. “Unfortunately it’s a genre of the music industry that is still very behind in that sense, I’m hoping going forward… I feel like this lockdown that has just bust a lot more women who have been stuck indoors, have maybe thought “I’d quite like to give that a go” and I see a lot more people uploading on TikTok, more women kinda getting involved, and I’m hoping that there will be a bit of a shift because there needs to be. It’s been a long time coming and I think the biggest thing for me is just to stand my ground, and remembering you’re there for a reason, and anybody that is just trying to belittle you is coming from a really stupid, old, sexist viewpoint where they don’t see women as DJs and you know, it’s hard, because statistically women are less booked to DJ, but when you get people like Annie Mac, and Arielle Free, Blessed Madonna, and people like that who are standing up for women and making sure women are booked, I’m hoping we’ll see a bit more of a change. Luckily, the rock and metal stuff seem to be quite good booking a few more women. I played the Download pilot and it seemed to be more women then men! Which was amazing and I was so proud of the team for doing that, because that kinda stuff is a long time coming. Some of the dance festivals are a bit more behind, and could do with booking a few more women, and hopefully the more people who speak up about it… The faster we’ll get there. The more I’m yelling, like “BOOK WOMEN!”.”

Melodic Mag: What’s it been like DJing under COVID restrictions and lockdowns? How’ve you kept motivated?

Zoe: “At first, all the motivation went, I was just like, “what am I gonna do? My career is over!” Because us DJs are very bottom of the pile, you’ve got the musicians, the artists… Even trying to get them back into work was a long process but the DJs are an after thought really because the clubs were the last thing to re-open and a lot were struggling with money, cutting corners and not booking DJs so… I lost all my motivation at first, then I discovered Twitch and that kind of saved me a little bit, I don’t know what I would’ve done without Twitch. And honestly, it’s really weird – because I’m in my lounge and I’m playing to a webcam, and the way that I have it through my stream – no actual sound comes out, it’s just in my headphones, people can hear it through the stream but then it just makes it really weird because then all you can here is me going “woooo let’s go!” in my lounge. Obviously on the stream it looks great, but the amount of times my husband would walk past and look at me like… Is she okay?! It was weird and I was trying to do it every Friday, get into a routine of you can watch me every Friday and I could build a following on Twitch. Even though I’ve got a following on other social media – Twitch is a brand new platform, takes time for people to come over, had to start doing it regularly. There was a few times where I was like “I don’t want to do it, it’s not the same!” It was hard… I think everyone had their personal battles in lockdown, it came back eventually, and I found a lot of comfort in watching other DJs on YouTube, where maybe before I didn’t have a lot of time to sit and watch two hour long sets, I then had time to watch them and see what they were doing, learn from them, take bits and bobs… Practice new tricks, and do things I haven’t had time to do before.”

Melodic Mag: For a lot of people here, this is their first live show in two years, but you’ve managed to be able to ease yourself back into it with Reading, and Download…

Zoe: “I got lucky, the Download one was so emotional… Prior to that, I’ve done a couple where people were sat down in tables of 6. If you’re a musician and you play guitar, that’s fine – but as a DJ – my literal job is to get people up and dancing so I was really struggling. Every now and again they’d be like “you need to turn it down because people can’t dance, you can’t encourage that” but that’s my job, to make people dance! I found those ones quite hard so I don’t really count those as my first sets back so they were more of a warm-up. But Download was my first one back and because it was a testament, people were allowed to dance with no masks on, and free from social distancing and I found it very emotional; I played and then as soon as I finished – you know the Kim Kardashian ugly cry? I did a full blown ugly cry like, “I am so happy!” And then after that it’s got a little bit more normal, each one, coming back round.”

Melodic Mag: And now you’re here! It must be quite familiar?

Zoe: “I’ve been to Slam Dunk before, but this is my first North, I usually always go Slam Dunk South because I live in London so this is my first time up North – its so pretty! There’s a nice backdrop, it’s really nice! It’s like a house or something.”

Melodic Mag: So with what you’ve learnt in lockdown, have you brought it into your sets?

Zoe: “Yes! I feel like my skills now… From having the time and dedication, to properly sit down and practice the same things over and over… I definitely feel better about my sets. I do feel more confident, that was a little silver lining in lockdown for me. It did allow me the time when I didn’t have it before because I was travelling a lot, and I was busy. To actually properly sit down and go ‘I’ve always wanted to learn to scratch this, or to mix with 4 channels rather than 2,’ and I finally had the time to sit and do that, so I’m feeling a lot better about it, to get back up on a big stage like this one and be like ‘ok this is fine’. You know that meme of the dog with the fire around? That was me before but not now! It’s fine!”

Melodic Mag: For such a big event like this, is there something that you do to prepare differently? Is it different than playing a smaller venue?

Zoe: “Yeah, I’d say for a festival set I tend to plan pretty much the whole thing, just because for a festival you just don’t want anything to go wrong – you don’t want, in the moment, to play something and then go ‘ugh I shouldn’t have done that, that wasn’t right’ a bit like a band that rehearses their festival set – I kind of lay things back, whereas in a club I just kind of make it up as I go along, its easier to read the crowd, and people come in and out… At a festival, people come to see you, you do just plan that in advance. I found it a lot easier knowing what I’m playing and feeling like this is good, I know exactly what I’m doing and playing to big crowds, the last thing you want to do is press the wrong button, or play the wrong thing…”

Melodic Mag: I imagine you cover it up well?! If that did happen!

Zoe: “I tend to just blame it on someone else [she laughs] I’ve definitely done it before where I’ve tripped over a wire, or something and pulled it out and gone “aah, the speakers, why would you- plug that wire back in!” Best way to do it. It’s a real thing that happened – I did trip over at 2000 trees and pulled the plug, and spectacularly tripped as well. It was quite obvious what I had done, but still I was like ‘no no no, it was that guy!'”

Melodic Mag: Is it harder to read the crowd and improvise at festivals?

Zoe: “Yeah, on Monday I played Alt LDN, that was tricky, because it was such a diverse crowd. Slam Dunk, I know what I’m dealing with, people have come to watch a certain genre and I know that when I come in. But because ALT LDN was hip hop, and rap, and then rock music – it was really weird. I would play like Post Malone, then Iggy Pop, and you will see two different groups of people and that’s what I was feeling. Festivals usually stick to one genre, a part from Reading and Leeds, but even then you kinda know what you’re working with. You get to know the crowd, and what they’re like. I found this year, Reading and Leeds, the crowd is a lot younger than I remembered, and I was like “s***! I better get some Olivia Rodrigo, I better get some young people stuff”. With Reading and Leeds, you’ll find you have to really adjust your set if you’re playing stuff to a younger crowd.”

Melodic Mag: Good luck with your set! Is there anything you can tell us about it?

Zoe: “Oh we’re going pretty ravey, I hope slam dunk is ready, you’ll be able to hear me from a mile away I reckon!”

Photo by Hayley Fearnley

Keep up with Zoe London:
Website // Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

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