The life of a professional DJ is glamorised as an unending buffet of all-nighters, backstage riders, and yacht rides. But this picture fails to account for the prevailing nerdiness of many a good DJ.
A hard-working DJ tends not only to be obsessed with music but driven to illuminate hidden gems and draw connections between ostensibly different yet spiritually kindred tracks. The work of Brisbane DJ Dameeeela is founded in all these qualities, as well as a deep thirst for dance floor liberation.
Dameeeela, a Yuggera woman who was born and raised in Brisbane, will be spinning a deftly curated playlist of jazz-influenced electronic music at the Sydney Opera House this Friday, June 3rd for Vivid LIVE.
Dameeeela is one of many excellent acts on the lineup for Astral People’s 10 + 1 birthday celebrations. The Sydney label and events company is hosting back-to-back parties on the Northern Boardwalk. For night one, Dameeeela will join UK jazz and Afrobeat drummer Yussef Dayes, Melbourne neo-soul band Hiatus Kaiyote, psychedelic soul artist Jitwam, Noongar soul singer Bumpy, and jazz-, psych-, and Balearic-influenced ensemble Mildlife.
Tone Deaf spoke to Dameeeela about her teenage hip hop obsession, her rise through the DJ ranks, and her recent debut single, ‘The Shake Up’.
Tone Deaf: Does being a DJ and producer take up all of your time?
Dameeeela: I’m also studying a Bachelor of Primary Education. Eventually I want to open my own outdoor school.
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TD: Oh, nice. How long have you been DJing?
D: Probably about six years now.
TD: How did you start booking gigs?
D: I started pretty much just invading other peoples’ sets in the clubs that I was going to. I was just taking over and picking the songs for them and then all of a sudden I was being booked. It’s all been very accidental. Never was I like, “Okay, I’m going to be this DJ.” Not once.
TD: What was it like when you started going out in Brisbane – was there a good club scene?
D: We had a couple of the main clubs that were all really close to each other that were probably a bit more of like the underground clubs. So, we had the TBC Club, which was Bowler Bar, and they would throw on acts like Diplo and all of the Listen Out sideshows and stuff like that.
And then we had Oh Hello!, which would have Disclosure and stuff playing. So there was like a house place to go as well, which was cool. And then right in between those two there was an indie club, so we’d have artists like xxyyxx and all the cool alternative electronic.
TD: When you were growing up and music started to become something you loved, what was the stuff that really switched you on?
D: When I was in high school, I used to download these massive hip hop daily packs. It was like a hundred tracks a day, and I would skip through each one and pick like five [songs] or something and then I would upload them to Myspace. And so, people would follow that and add those songs to their profiles and stuff, so they could hear new music.
TD: Was the objective just to share this music with more people?
D: Ever since you could first go on someone’s profile and a song would play automatically, to me it was like, you’re displaying your music taste immediately when you go on someone’s profile. I always thought that was so cool and always felt such a pressure to pick the right song, or wanted the newest song.
TD: So, hip hop was your main obsession when you were a teenager?
D: Yeah, pretty much. I think I stem a lot of my electronic music knowledge from artists like Shlohmo. They listened to lots of hip hop and then also made ambient electronic music and dance electronic. So it was through him, who listened to hip hop, I started listening to more underground electronic.
TD: You’re on the lineup for Astral People 10 + 1 at the Sydney Opera House, with Yussef Dayes, Hiatus Kaiyote, Mildlife, Jitwam, and Bumpy. What do you have planned?
D: I have this selection of really unique, jazz-inspired electronic music. This is such a beautiful opportunity to play that music – I couldn’t imagine a better one. It’ll be the right crowd, it’ll be the right environment. I’m pretty lucky, pretty excited.
TD: Do you usually DJ all digital?
D: This set will be all digital, but I have done many vinyl sets as well. I learnt to DJ on vinyl. There’s two residencies I have that are in Brisbane and one of them is vinyl only and one of them’s vinyl option.
TD: You put out your debut single ‘The Shake Up’, featuring Tjaka, in February. Who are Tjaka?
D: Tjaka are two Aboriginal brothers. Basically, they play an electronic didjeridu and their dad was the one who invented the microphone that goes in your mouth to play the didjeridu. Artists like Yothu Yindi and stuff back in the 90s tried those mouthpieces.
So, they’ve got all these super cool, different kinds of didjeridus and they play so well – they grew up playing with Cat Empire and stuff like that.
TD: Working with Tjaka and the electronic didjeridu, is that a sign of what you want to do as a producer? Do you want to incorporate more Indigenous sounds and influences?
D: Yeah. There’s just not enough in that space yet. There is a wave of us coming and we’re all in our little electronic mob DJ chats that we vent about everything to each other. So there’s this big wave that’s happening right now, which is so exciting.
TD: Who else is part of this wave?
D: RONA., she works closely with RÜFÜS DU SOL. DJ pgz, who has released some cool electronic. And Soju Gang, she just does fun Soundcloud mashups and stuff. She just did a Barkaa mashup. There’s so much happening right now, which is really exciting.