Celebrating 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, fabulous, queer women, who are changing the tracks through empowerment and progression. Today, we bring you Denver-based DJ Missing Mei.
ProudTimes: How long have you been DJing? When did you decide you were going to get out there and spin?
Missing Mei: I dabbled here and there between 2003-2006 doing underground shows from lounges and private events. 2006 is when I decided to focus on the craft and debut at Premier Nightclub in Sacramento, CA. At the time, Asylum was the longest running Goth-Industrial EDM Night on the West Coast. I remember being so nervous, but being hooked after that.
PT: Was this something you wanted to do, or have experimented with doing, from an early age?
MM: No, it didn’t start that way. Although, I was always a go-to when someone wanted to know what good music was out. My friends would ask for mix tapes and I would happily oblige. My first experimental DJ gig was for a fashion show in college. I remember how it was fun matching up tracks according to the designer models for the show. It was the first rush experience of an audience loving what I spun.
PT: Do you think the industry is difficult for women to break into? Is it something of a “boys club?”
MM: I think on the surface it does look like the boys club and on some level there will always be an undertone that it is. It’s what the industry started from. I recall reading an article from thumpvice.com in 2014 that the average percentage female to male DJ ratio spinning at festivals was like three percent to nine percent at the time. Prior to that, I spun with an all-female DJ crew called ‘Stiletto’ in Cali. The night prided itself as the ‘Only All Female DJ Night’ in the city, which said a lot about the lack of gender diversity. It was a great experience, but it didn’t last long due to draw. But, with that being said, I feel that there has been an increased presence of female DJ’s since then. I think part of that shift is credited to social media and the Internet. There was so much talent that was not being exposed and now that everyone has access to these platforms it helps level out the playing field. It’s optimistic to see more female DJ’s getting their music out there, tracks topping charts, and being headliners for their own shows. But, there is still a lot more progress that needs to happen and that takes time.
PT: What kind of music do you spin–how would you describe your DJ style?
MM: Currently, I am really into Tech House. I love the minimalism and heavy beats in the composition. But, I have a range from Goth-Industrial, EDM, Dark Wave, Nu-Disco, Electro, Top 40, to Classic remixes from the 80’s and 90’s. I even spin in Trap at times when I am playing with my band. House is my true love, but Trance music is what got me started into all of it.
PT: Are there any venues, events, audiences, types of shows which you really prefer to make music at over others?
MM: I recently embraced the festival scene. It really has evolved from what was the Rave scene in the early 90’s to 2000’s. I love the blends of different genres and DJ’s that make up a festival. It creates a sense of community that welcomes all. One of my favorite gigs was at The Supper Club in San Francisco. The event filled up three rooms that catered to every genre of electronic music. Every room had a different DJ, different electronic music being spun. So, you can imagine the diversity of crowd that it drew! It was fabulous.
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?
MM: I’ve been noticing that as well. It has become less, but the parties have become BIGGER which I think compensates for some of that. When I have the opportunity, it is totally empowering and exciting! Those environments tend to be less abrasive and exudes a commonality that does not need to be mentioned. It’s a vibe, a feeling and an unspoken understanding. Short answer: ‘Excitement scale from one to 10?’ Definitely a 10.
MM: When I first got started, influences would come from the latest artist I was in to or a style that I was drawn to. That is ever changing. But, over the years I have adjusted to playing with feeling and being conscious with connecting to the audience I am spinning for. I feel that there is an advantage to having spun different genres. Because of that, it influences the texture of my set.
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?
MM: I found so far that what works best is to be myself. When I first started, there was an image of what I thought a DJ should be, but really didn’t have a lot of female DJ’s to model. I had one back in the day, DJ Irene, who seemed as close to a personality I could relate to. I really couldn’t always relate to the guys off decks and only with music. I have been fortunate that the genres I spin usually embrace a type of vision where enthusiasm, best intention, optimism and unity holds a higher standard versus what I am interpreting the question is asking, ‘selling out’. It guided me to a DJ residency in the Bay Area for as long as I wanted and the opportunity to meet talented and like minded people that encourage the same integrity. Today, I can say it still remains true.
PT: What are you working on right now–in terms of events, gigs, collaborations etc.?
MM: Currently, I’ve been adjusting to a new city and scene because of a recent move and traveling for gigs in regards to collaboration for brilliant music community movements. It’s has been mainly with ClubFlock and all female queer DJ lineup. There is exciting momentum happening with this crew that we will be announcing soon! I’m also engaged in a DJ and Drum duo project with talented drummer, Joel Swift, called She DJ’s and He Drums based out of Portland. This week, my podcast Indie Rant Radio, had its first interview for season two. It’s the first of a series of interviews with all female DJ’s based out of Denver and Portland.
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?
MM: I think the best advice I could give is to stay true to the music. It can be easy to get caught up in what you think you should be or sound like. In some instance, even with who you should know. There is a difference between networking versus building connection. Connection supports your authenticity and will be more fulfilling in the long run. Stay connected with yourself. Stay connected to your music and surround yourself with people who will lift you up. Once you start understanding your success, it’s good to give back into the music. Whether it’s to another young woman trying to get into DJing or a music cause who can use your support. Stay in true love with what you do.
PT: We are celebrating Women’s History Month. What does this mean to you? What are you fighting for in 2019 and beyond?
MM: Celebrating Women’s History Month is a very exciting moment. It means so much in terms of gratitude and strife. It has taken a lot of women before us to make this happen and it is our responsibility to continue to carry the torch for future female generations to inherit and do the same. One can learn by example that the future can only grow and flourish from not fighting but uniting together.
Missing Mei is also part of Flock, their mission is: To create a magical experience with a unique flock of female DJs by spreading love and connecting the community through underground music. ProudTimes will bring you more about Flock in the coming moths. Currently, you can find their events through LesbiOut on Facebook.
Missing Mei‘s passion for music has always been present in her life and strong in her gene pool, from waking up to her mom singing Italian opera to her dad gigging in his band. For Missing Mei, it made sense to become a DJ before leaving her roots in Hawaii. Missing Mei has channeled DJing as a journey of expression and has found it through tech and electro house. She also fills in her time podcasting for ‘Indie Rant Radio’ highlighting artists and DJ’s on the West Coast.
If you know any DJs, musicians, or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do!