By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
DJ Irene could be one of the top 10 nightmares for the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, or any girl-positive group cursed with an overly earnest lefty bent—a lesbian artist of color who'd rather ogle young chicks than right the world's wrongs.
Her vagina-themed rap on her most recent album, Phonosynthesis, would make George Clinton blush—and he was the composer of such tunes as "I Call My Baby Pussycat." Then there's the way she describes her bad self: "I'm a fat, dyke bitch!" she shouts with her evil cackle, a laugh that could only be branded a more lighthearted version of the Wicked Witch of the West's.
But this is how DJ Irene, one of the only women spinning the most brain-dead branches of techno, hard house and happy hardcore, has fun. "She's crazy," says Ron D Core, a prominent hardcore DJ and owner of Costa Mesa's Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab. "The first time I met her, she interrupted the conversation every few seconds to check out girls' asses."
He's not lying. Witness the cover photo of her 2001 album, Global House Diva 2-Live in Ibiza. Irene's goosing a scantily clad, statuesque woman while being the center of attention at a girls' slumber party.
But there's also the serious Irene, the one who recently completed a degree in sound engineering, the one who grew up in the heavily Latino LA suburb Montebello and was obsessed by music. She was the first kid on her block to buy dance singles such as "Boogie Wonderland" and rock albums such as Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door. She was dying to be a musician but followed her DJ instincts, eventually landing gigs at house parties. "It took awhile before someone wanted to teach me," Irene says. "There are a lot of haters out there."
She didn't complain, though. Instead, she took action—a lot of her skills are self-taught, lessons learned during gigs she produced and promoted all over the San Gabriel Valley. Her hard work eventually resulted in residencies at such big LA clubs as Arena and Circus. A decade later, she now spends just about every weekend jetting across the United States—as well as the techno mecca of Ibiza and even down to Latin America—to spin for her legions of fans. She has sold more than 300,000 albums—and all those people aren't wrong.
As much as Irene would hate to use this word to describe her music, it matured on Phonosynthesis. Where Live In Ibiza mixed the sledgehammer-pounding beats of hard house with gauzy club sounds, Phonosynthesis mixes almost every kind of club music. There's hardcore-techno thumping mixed with obscene catcalls, then it slides into a gentle trance, followed by an energetic breakbeat, a thrashy drum-and-bass, some transparent filter disco (a genre that loops classic disco songs into new beats), and, of course, more trance.
In the midst of this mix, there's a terrifyingly realistic sample of a violent LAPD drug bust; some hilarious talk about girls; and even a wonderful remix of "Foreplay/Long Time," the classic nerd-rock song by the classic nerd-rock band, Boston. If you're wondering how that dinosaur got on Irene's album, blame it on both Irene's serious side and her impish side.
"I like to catch people off guard, and it seems to work. Plus, I grew up with Boston—they're the bomb. They recorded it on the cheap, and the sound quality is so good that I always revert back to that CD," Irene says without a touch of irony. Hey, who said a girl DJ can't rock out?DJ Irene spins at Club Raw at the Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700; www.clubraw.net. Sat., 9 p.m. $20. 21+.