National Women’s History Month, 2019
By Sebastian Fortino
As part of ProudTimes’ coverage of Women’s History Month, we are speaking to DJ’s who are serving up hot beats on the dance floor. They are all fierce queer women, who are changing the tracks through empowerment, and progressive change. Today, we bring you Portland resident, Jules Juke.
ProudTimes: How long have you been DJing? When did you decide you were going to get out there and spin?
Jules Juke: I’ve been obsessed with underground music since middle school, but spent many years promoting it from behind the scenes as a writer/album reviewer on webzines, long before I decided to put myself in front of the decks as a DJ at my college radio station, KUPS, in 2009. Back then I wasn’t Jules Juke – the radio show was just called “The Mixdown” and I hosted with my real name! Jules Juke didn’t come about until 2012 when I played my first club gig.
PT: Was this something you wanted to do, or have experimented with doing, from an early age?
JJ: As an introvert, DJing never really crossed my mind until I was much older. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was essentially a crate diver long before I knew the term existed. I loved finding and exposing new music, but had little personal desire to play in front of an audience. I had been on a steady diet of trance since 2006, but never felt a great urge to mix trance despite listening to it all the time. In 2008, I fell headfirst into the retro-yet-futuristic sound of synthwave and 80s electro. It was then, that I finally felt I found a genre I wanted to play with more than consume. That to me is what separates a typical music lover from someone who becomes a DJ or producer–that extra push to create something that didn’t exist before.
PT: Do you think the industry is difficult for women to break into? Is it something of a “boys club?”
JJ: It’s definitely somewhat of a boys club and that can be intimidating for women to want to break into, especially if you don’t see any role models like yourself in the community. Just look at the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs! There are only six women in the Top 100, up from four in 2017! Often electronic music festival lineups mirror this underwhelming percentage with female representation in the single digits. Not to mention female musicians are overly sexualized and subjected more often than their male counterparts to unfounded criticism of mixing technique or using ghost producers. That said, I feel like the techno space actually has better female representation than the EDM space and there are slowly more female DJs being profiled in media and festivals signing on to the Keychange initiative to bring gender and diversity balances to lineups. Organizations like She Said So and PWR by Kittens are also doing remarkable grassroots level work to change the industry landscape.
PT: What kind of music do you spin–how would you describe your DJ style?
JJ: My sound is best described as playing in the space between genres with an underlining attention toward melody. I tend to mix with an ear toward a cohesive story and the emotions I want to evoke. Aside from House and Techno I enjoy playing Disco/Funk, Tropical Bass, 80s/90s and my personally curated styles called RnBass (R&B influenced Bass music) and Future Club (a mix of Ghetto House, Trap, Jersey Club, and Bass music).
I also have a soft spot for pop music so I curate a Spotify playlist called Cruise Control dedicated to sharing music that’s “too alt for the radio and too pop for the underground.”
PT: Are there any venues, events, audiences, types of shows which you really prefer to make music at over others?
JJ: Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone lost in the moment, eyes closed, brain off, body vibrating to a song they can’t identify in a room full of strangers doing the same. I don’t really have a favorite venue, but my favorite audiences are the ones with an open mind who aren’t there to listen to any particular artist or genre, but just want to let the DJ to take them on a sweaty, danceable journey.
PT: I know there are less and less venues specifically catering to queer women. When you get the opportunity to perform for a primarily lesbian or female audience, does that add any excitement to your approach?
JJ: Of course! I love queer female audiences because I feel safer around them! Even when I’m on the dancefloor enjoying the music, I don’t have to worry about some random guy touching me uninvitedly. I think creating a safe space in a club setting is a very complicated and nuanced issue. Jen Roberton does an amazing job with LesbiOut/Flock to create that vibe for her events!
PT: Do you have any influences, whether from DJs or musicians, that inspire your sound or attitude when you’re playing?
JJ: My favorite female DJs are La Fleur, Peggy Gou, and J. Philip because they are all amazing selectors and the thought of being able to spend a day picking their brains on music makes me weep. I also love Brenmar, Stanton Warriors, and Russ Chimes because they inspire the type of stylized sound I want in my mixes with lots of remixes/re-edited tracks to make their sets sound unique. Aside from DJs I really love producers who sit outside of a particular genre box and execute on thematic bodies of work like Henry Saiz, Imogen Heap, Max Cooper, and Club Cheval.
PT: How do you best promote yourself, your events, or parties while still keeping your identity intact? Meaning: to get noticed, some artists scale back in the hopes of attracting more fans. Do you find yourself trying to appease any standards?
JJ: Not to sound like a broken record, but this is an interesting question to me because I’m such a student of genre that I never really feel like I scale back or change what I play to appease. My collection of music is so wide and diverse, that I happily step into mixing new genres as a personal challenge. My goal is always to pick out the best bits and elements I like out of a style and mold that into my own thing. For example, I started DJing yoga events in 2017, but had no chill out music to play. I reached out to my DJ friends and asked them to send me some of their favorite ambient tracks. Through that experience I discovered some amazing artists I’m really drawn to, but never would have found otherwise. Doing this countless times has only deepened my appreciation for different styles of DJing.
PT: What are you working on right now–in terms of events, gigs, collaborations etc.?
JJ: I’m headed back to Hawaii next month and will be DJing a non-profit yoga event called Namastyay on 4/7. I also recently guest interviewed on Missing Mei’s Indie Rant Radio podcast, which should be coming out soon! For the Portland folks, I’ll be playing at the Local Lounge in May as part of Club Flock. It’s very exciting to be part of an all female DJ collective after so many years of doing it alone! We have amazing plans in the works so follow Club Flock on social to stay informed!
PT: Female DJs are getting more and more prominent in our cultural landscape—especially in the LGBTQ community–what would you tell younger DJs out there, especially young women, who are interested in getting into the industry?
JJ: I feel like this advice is true for any entrepreneurial pursuit or stretch goal, but know your why. There will always be people who will criticize, reject, and distract you, but your why has to be stronger than all of that or you will give up. My more practical advice is to try make each day nonzero, meaning do one thing everyday toward that goal, whether it be contacting a promoter, learning a new DJ skill, or working on your mixes. Nonzero days are compounding interest on yourself! Most importantly, practice self-compassion because we are usually our own worst critics.
PT: We are celebrating Women’s History Month. What does this mean to you? What are you fighting for in 2019 and beyond?
JJ: Women’s History Month means celebrating all the tremendous work of the women who have paved the way for the rights and equality we have today. I’m extremely lucky to live in the country and time-period that I do. That doesn’t mean there’s no gap to close, it just means I could have been born in a totally different social/political climate where talking about being a queer female DJ would be absolutely ludicrous. I’m humbled and grateful that is not my reality. In terms of 2019 and beyond, #metoo is a movement I feel drawn to and I hope to see more shifting mentality and legislative wins from!
PT: Anything else you’d care to add?
If you know any DJs, musicians, or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate email email@example.com and we’ll see what we can do!