BY TARYN MCCARTHY
There is a staggering lack of a female DJs and EDM artists. According to an article in LA Weekly, to date, no female artist has ever headlined a major EDM festival. Female DJ Colette Marino emphasized saying that she really doesn’t understand why there is a lack of women in electronic music, but thinks that this absence needs to be addressed. Colette also mentioned that in the past five years, she has seen a significant increase in women in electronic music. To further emphasize this female deficiency in electronic music, in 2016, only 3.2% of the acts at Beyond Wonderland, an EDM-focused music festival, were female-identifying acts. At EDM-focused music festival Ultra, there were about 7.5% female-identifying acts. While this article did note that these numbers had increased from their first analysis in 2014, the numbers are still astoundingly low.
DJ MADDØG, also known as Madison True, is hoping to influence the presence of females in electronic music. Pursuing a passion like producing electronic dance music, is difficult, especially without many women mentors in the genre. Bloomington is lucky to have a strong core of women DJs and women in EDM. Artists like DJ MADDØG have impressed audiences all over the country.
Madison noticed the absence of a female presence in DJing, and aspired to fill the void without being “superficially attractive.” Like MidWay, Madison is working to increase the female presence in the music industry, and inspire women. With her passion for music and unique sound, MADDØG dove into DJing, focusing on a variety of genres such as house, techno and trance. MADDØG is a resident DJ at The Back Door, The Root Cellar, and The Handlebar in St. Louis. MADDØG was born in Atlanta but has since lived in Florida, Chicago, Detroit and Indiana. This unique childhood gave her the exposure to different cultures and genres of music and built her appreciation for it.
How did you first get into DJing?
I’ve always been fascinated by dance music, even as a child. Gravitating towards lots of synth and drum rhythms. I love late 80’s early 90’s dance music and New Wave. So, I think my interest in DJing was pretty organic. I’ve had lots of friends who were DJs but they were all men - so I never saw a female DJ growing up or even in college.
So, there was definitely a void that I wanted to fill but I didn’t really have the confidence in myself to do it until I was a little older and more sure of myself as a person and as a woman. So for my 27th birthday I bought a small (and cheap) DJ controller and started practicing. I had software on my computer for years and would tinker with it from time to time but this was kind of the first step in beginning what I thought would just be a hobby.
How did you get your start?
I started just playing for friends on my porch at 3rd & Madison St. It’s a pretty major intersection so on Friday’s at 5 o'clock when people were getting off work I would set up my stuff and a crappy speaker and just start playing. We called these “porch parties.” Then I started opening for friends, playing at fundraisers, and that led to getting actual bookings which then turned into residencies. My journey wasn’t forced - it just kind of happened which I think is really cool. I think when you get into something like this it’s all about your intention. Why are you doing this and who are you doing it for? That sort of thing. I didn’t start DJing because I wanted to be the next Diplo or Skrillex - I did it because there was a clear gender disparity and I wanted to change that.
What challenges have you faced as a woman and in your work life?
Oh man, to list them all would take a long time so I’ll just generalize. I really have to “prove” myself on a daily basis. When I contact venues, or submit demos etc. people see my picture and make the assumption that because I am a feminine woman I can’t be as talented or bring in the crowds that a male DJ would. Like I’m second-rate or something. So, I really have to go above and beyond what a lot of male DJ’s are doing at this present point in our careers. That’s why I make sure I have LOTS of videos of myself actually performing so I have “proof.” I’ve had people say “Wow, you’re actually good” to my face. What you mean “for a girl?” Like, what does that even mean!? Did you expect something less than that?
What are your passions that keep pushing your forward?
I’m a Leo, so I don’t do anything 99% it's always 110% all of the time. When I get involved in something I put my all into it. Just like I would a friendship. So, to get past a lot of the BS, especially in such an ego-driven industry as music and more specifically DJing, you have to give your all. What keeps me going is the idea that I might inspire someone who goes on to be the Beyoncé or Madonna of DJing or the next great female music producer like Missy Elliott.
How do you think the music industry is changing?
I like to think the industry is realizing that women exist as artists not just over-sexualized products to sell. That we too can make iconic albums and headline venues. There is a lot of “talking” going on and not a whole lot of “walking.” So, it will be interesting to see who does the walking first. This truly begins on a local level.
Who is someone in the music industry that you are inspired by and why?
My first exposure to women in music growing up was Madonna and Janet Jackson. I think these ladies inspire me so much because they truly “own it.” They sing, they dance, they write and produce a lot of their music. The amount of creative control these two women have had in their careers in pretty amazing. I mean Janet Jackson’s album Control just says everything. They aren’t afraid to be feminine and sexy but when they are its with strength not weakness or frailty.
And I love Ya Kid K who was a MC and vocalist for Technotronic - remember the song “Pump Up the Jam?” In the early 90’s there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about gender/sex and what pronouns people preferred but I would call Ya Kid K someone who was gender fluid. They actually replaced her with a model in the original video for Pump Up the Jam while the model lip synced. It wasn’t until later that she began appearing in videos. This actually happened a lot in the 90s dance music scene. I have the Technotronic LP single for Pump Up the Jam with some model is on it. Ya Kid K inspires me not only because she is a badass MC and vocalist but also, she never changed who she was because it was different for that time.