The Power of the Selector
Photo by Jack GouldClay Young's revolutionary goal is gender equality, and his medium is music—several women spinning deep house, punk and even avant-classical music at Night of the All-Girl DJ-2, a monthly club at Costa Mesa's Detroit Bar.
If deejaying doesn't sound as influential as owning a major corporation or sitting in Congress, Young, a veteran KUCI DJ, won't argue. He just wants to give a group of outsiders a chance to shape pop culture.
"The first power of the DJ is the power of the selector," says Young, a gangly, six-foot-five man with librarian's glasses and thinning hair. "Having women share their musical tastes is different. It's usually a guy telling you what's dope."
There are no statistics showing women DJs are an endangered species, but any trip to the dance floor will confirm that the great majority of DJs are men. It's an injustice, UC Irvine graduate Young says, symptomatic of the way society marginalizes women.
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"Why an all-girl DJ night? Because every night is an all-male DJ night. [Society doesn't] encourage women to do anything but look good," he says.
An increasing number of women are taking center stage in the DJ booth. Newport Beach's L is a true veteran; she has been spinning around SoCal for 13 years. Sandra Collins launched her career (in part) at Irvine's long-ago Metropolis club and recently released a full-length album, Cream(Kinetic). Producer/DJ the Angel has received critical acclaim, and collectives such as San Francisco's Sister SF and Los Angeles' Chix in the Mix have tried to encourage women to make the music, not just dance to it.
But things are more stubborn in OC clubland. No women hold residencies at OC's most popular clubs such as Rubber, which frequently sells out nights at Santa Ana's Galaxy Concert Theatre and has been successful in exported versions in such cities as Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego. Rubber co-producer Damian Sanders has booked female DJs—including Valerie and the Vibe Tribe—but believes the pool of professional woman DJs is too small to depend on.
"Deejaying as a whole has just become the rock-star profession in the past few years, so I do expect to see more females getting involved," Sanders says. "But just like female guitar players, they are few and far between. Most female musicians are singers. Deejaying is time-consuming and lonely unless you're on top."
Appealing or not, Young tried to change the situation by drafting girls into DJ work. He'd find women with good taste and invite them to assist him at KUCI or his club gigs. He'd ask them to take over the turntables for a while, and—voila!—his assistants discovered they might be masters.
Young introduced Natalie Stanchfield to deejaying after she asked if she could spin a couple of records at a La Cave gig last year. "It's a general female state of mind: you look at something and think, 'I can't do it.' It takes a push to get over it," says Stanchfield, who now hosts The Kids Are All Right show on KUCI and also spins at Detroit Bar.
At the Detroit Bar showcase this Saturday, L and Viva Roxx will spin the music that gets people dancing—progressive house and deep house; Stanchfield plans on playing punk and glam; Erin B. is considering a set of spoken word, avant-classical and general soundscape weirdness. "That's why I go on first," she jokes. "You can't dance to it." The Dagons, a female-fronted rock band, will also perform.
Behind this night is the mystery of Clay Young. Why is this guy so intent on getting women involved in one of his favorite activities? Could it be about female companionship? He admits that's a part of it, but his efforts to democratize the power of the selector are also deeply rooted in his autobiography. He was raised in a home where the bookshelves were filled with such feminist tomes as Our Bodies, Ourselves. His mom was a supermarket clerk who didn't easily yield to authority.
"She was a hard woman to deal with," he says, "but I'm glad I did."
Night of the All-Girl DJ-2 at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600. Sat., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.
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