Nationality: Born in England, raised in Austria to an Austrian mother and a father from Barbados
Occupation: DJ / Producer
Current Release: Donna on Aus Music
Musical Recommendations: Silvie Loto and Maura
If you enjoyed this DJ interview with Cassy, visit her website for further information.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I think it was around 1999 when I started DJing, mainly because of the influence Electric Indigo had on me. She was, and still is a very well know techno DJ from Vienna, she which was my biggest DJ influence and my main influence in the beginning. My early passion I guess was to soak up as much music as possible in clubs.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own style?
I was probably emulating my influences like Electric Indigo, Miss Kittin or any other DJs I was listening to at the time for what kind of music they picked, their professionalism, and how serious about DJing and on their game as they were. My own style, this really took a long time. At the beginning your own style is may be something very awkward and rough and bizarre, and you have to learn how to refine it.
What were some of the main challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
I think the main challenge is because you are directly connected with the people on the dance floor and many different energies, so you have to learn how to read this. Producing is something where you are with yourself, in your studio locked away and it's a creative process that can take many months to actually see the results of what you've been working on. DJing is so direct and it happens the moment you are doing it. Each time you play you get to start afresh and it's a new experience every time, and you can learn something new every single time you are doing it. It's something that is always interesting and stays fresh to me every time I do it.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My most important pieces of gear are my brain and my hands and my intuition. My set up has not evolved too much, it has practically stayed the same. I sometimes think maybe I should use some effects or maybe I should use the loop machine again, and then I'm like "no, maybe that would be too lazy of me!"
How do you see the relationship between the tools you're using and the creative results – in which way do certain tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Do you believe in the idea of progress in DJing from a technological perspective?
If I think back when I used external / additional gear to the turntables and mixer etc, I used to focus very much on those pieces of gear. So you concentrate more on manipulating the music, which can take your focus away from the natural creativity, and not allow you to live in that moment or give you the time to breath and then be a little bit braver. The more technical equipment, I find the more repetitive and boring you can get because you don't allow yourself to really connect, make mistakes, or be in the moment. There is always going to be a new turntable, a new CD player, sound quality improvements on digital files or whatever else they are going to invent, but I think the only thing you can develop or make better are your own skills.
Could you take me through the process of preparing for one of your gigs, please? How do you select the tracks you like to play, how do you prepare and how do you decide on the opening phase of your set?
I am happy if I find time during the week to search for new music, downloading promos and hopefully buying some new records online, physical record shopping doesn't happen so much any more unfortunately. The preparation is probably more mentally, and just try to listen to as much music as possible. I try to get to the club as late as possible before my set so I don't have too much time to think. Then I can just assess and see in that moment what I can play. I have to see what's going on in the crowd and the mood or tone the people who played before me have set, it’s a very momentary thing.
What constitutes great mixing from your point of view? What are some of the sets that have personally impressed you over the years?
Firstly great mixing is certainly not just about synching, not at all. I think to be able to mix different styles of music together, not necessarily something like funk and soul and techno, but to be more daring when the time is right. Great mixing can also be to have the skill to tell what energies connect in certain tracks, and what they can elevate and make people feel in that moment. There are so many DJ sets that I have listened to it's hard to name one and not others, but there is one in particular from Danny Howells. I think it was around 10 years ago or maybe even longer, his closing set at club Arc in NYC, that really impressed me.
How would you describe your approach to building a set? What are some of the characteristics that define who you are as a DJ?
Building your set really depends on where you are playing and what audience you have in front of you. The characteristics that define me as a DJ are that I think I am quite organic and natural. I'm just playing in the moment, trying not to forcing anything, and hold the energy in the room.