I’ve just felt nervously inspired enough to (re)brand my DJ-researcher project. Meet Dovetail. Tough, but soaring techno – and where electronic music and academic curiosity come together. Last night I had an uncharacteristic bout of insomnia, and after pouring rich strong coffee on top of sleep deprivation, Dovetail felt ready to fly, right here, today, in a pool of October sunshine at the dining room table. A dovetail joint is a cabinet-making term to describe two pieces of wood, held securely together using nothing but their own forms, cut into snugly fitting lugs in the name of doves’ tails. No need for glue, or screws, dovetail joints bring quite separate pieces of material together to make new and beautiful things. My Great Auntie Jessie made beautiful furniture in the 1930s, my grandmother loved to shape and whittle wood, and my partner is a cabinet maker – wood has always been my foundation, even though I am only realising how strongly now. The dovetail is also the symbol of my partner’s and my relationship, two very different halves of what we call our ‘magical whole’ (apologies for the mush, but if you like a bit of soppiness, check out my tattoo post on my personal blog where you can read more)
As I wrote the bio on my new SoundCloud page (below), my heart was getting on for 120 bpm and it felt like a coming out. A no-going-back emergence into something that feels terribly exciting but scary as hell. I have a lot of conversations with people from the music world, academia, and beyond, about how full of doubt and imposter syndrome we all seem to be when it comes to creative, highly personal projects. And in my case, the screaming terror that I am actually a complete wanker for being a middle-aged woman pretend playing at DJs when she should be watching Strictly, wearing cardigans and being happy with her lot cramming Management 101 into the minds of the future. In our culture we have a tendency to feel weirdly shameful about doing anything creative that nourishes us over and above what we need to survive (see Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear for an excellent account of how mistaken we are in this regard.) In working through this I am putting myself out there and ‘owning it’ as I believe they say, and hoping that being vulnerable will also help and inspire others.
So here I am writing about it, because I know other people feel as nervous about their own projects, and if I am serious about investigating how women carve out spaces for themselves in electronic music scenes, then I need to be brave enough to start with myself. It wasn’t until I got to the end of writing the bio above that I realised how perfect the metaphor ‘dovetail’ is for the two major parts of my life, as well as for the quite different types of music I like to play and make. It’s possible that I am the only Business School Professor who also DJs, and a near certainty that I am the only female Business School Professor who also DJs. It’s an unusual combination.
I might well have given the world’s first academic DJ-set in 2016 when I presented early findings from my project exploring what its like to work at the grass roots of a cultural industry so radically altered by digital technologies – underground techno. About 30 odd people, most of whom were a bit drunk, assembled in a bar by the shores of Lake Bled in Slovenia to hear me play my first ever set outside my living room (none of whom you can see in the photo below, but trust me, they were there, honest!). I was absolutely shitting myself. I wanted them to feel the data, to dance while they took in the quotes and pictures in my visuals from the DJs and producers I’d spent time with, and to my amazement, they did. It went down an absolute storm and I absolutely loved it.
It was then that I knew I had to find a way to reconcile my personal love of, and need to be involved with the music itself, with my professional curiosity as a researcher, and along the way, working on not feeling like a cock for doing so. Its important to me to champion the sounds and careers of brilliant, but little known artists and backing the underdog is, I guess, what also drives my interest in a striving for a more gender balanced scene too. So I did another, more ambitious set in Brighton this year, featuring only the music of small independent producers, many of whom I know personally. In the meantime, I’ve been asked to play a small festival and a couple of parties, which is frankly astonishing to me, but very very awesome.
I’ve now started learning how to produce my own tracks in Ableton with the help of friends – with particularly gratefuls to Gary Wood, You Tube videos, and my amazing partner who is building me, er, I mean us, a studio space in our garden (he’s out there right now while I’m typing in fact). I’ve got a partnership with all-female artist collective SISU to put out some shows featuring interviews with, and music made by, female electronic music producers, which I’m researching and producing myself. The first one will air on November 25th 2018 – watch the socials for details. And I’m playing my first later night techno slot at Deeviate, an eclectic party in London a couple of weeks before, on November 10th. I’m hoping that counts as putting myself out there and owning it, even if lessening the feeling that I’m a huge twat for wanting to DJ and produce music as a middle-aged woman is still very much a work in progress! But thank you to everyone who’s helping, and to everyone also on their own scary creative journey. This post is dedicated to you.