We've got M U C H R E S P E C T for DC's DJ Ayes Cold: "I spin the music I want to hear, and work to forge spaces for open-minded DJs and producers who musically want more." Having recently left her full-time to devote energies to her creative career, she's "about the vibes not the hype," and re: VIBES, we're excited to share this interview in tandem with the release of The Freezer Vol. 4. the fourth in her series of Soundcloud mixes, and one we're already digging hard. Read on for more about her day to day and also for a list of what's coming up, event-wise – including this Friday's Late Skate (because rollerskates + pajamas, but more on that later this week!) and Saturday night's Bass Chakra (with CMPVTR CLVB)
You're killing it – in general, and very much RIGHT NOW. How do you describe what you do? Thank you! I describe myself as selector... Typically my process involves a lot of digging for soulful and cutting-edge sounds, and 'curating' or mixing them together in unexpected ways. If you listen to my sets you'll hear some interesting mixes. That's what keeps DJing exciting to me - the challenge of mixing a range of sounds into something seamless and fresh. While my main thing is DJing, I recently started event and music production. It's all one big learning process - evolution is the key to my survival here.
It's been somewhat recently that you've started doing this full-time – can you talk about that transition? What was the "breaking point" for making the decision to work for yourself? I first came on the scene as Ayes Cold in December of 2013, while being employed at a nonprofit downtown (I used to do research on electoral systems, exciting stuff). I had just gone through a bad breakup, and in the context of that heartbreak I made myself to get out of bed and DJ. What started as a form of catharsis somehow became something bigger. And at that moment, I had nothing to lose - so I just let it unfold.
I worked at this non-profit for over two years before quitting this past June, but it wasn't a total waste of time - I learned some valuable things there. Most significantly, I became aware that I thrive when I set my own deadlines and goals. Also, I learned that for me to feel motivated, I need to have a personal stake in what I'm building or creating - even if it's just laying down some basic foundations for future growth. All of this made me realize that working for myself was the way forward.
I worked full-time as a researcher + DJ for approximately 15 months, and it was definitely challenging. I used to DJ until 2:00 AM on some nights and have to be at the office at 9AM the next day (with a hangover), it was rough. My breaking point was when I realized I was cutting too many corners at the dayjob (like literally prepping for gigs at the office), and feeling unbearably guilty about that. The lack of sleep also started taking a toll on my health, so I decided to make the jump in June 2015.
Any advice for ANYONE looking to go into doing what they love, full-time? And your industry, specifically? Work backwards and save your money! My transition from the day-job to full-time DJing was smooth because I started saving money while at the day job, so I could leave it without being totally broke. Choose the date you quit your job, and then mentally work backwards from that date. For instance, in the summer of 2014 I decided I would leave my day-job in the summer of 2015. With that goal in mind I left my comfy but expensive digs in LeDroit Park to live in a group house in Brightwood in March 2015. I ended up paying half the rent I had been previously paying, which allowed me to save money. I think I'm still living off some of those savings.
For anybody aspiring to DJ, be cool with starting small - i.e. DJing at little art openings, bars and even coffee shops. Gradually build your online presence through sharing mixes on Soundcloud or Mixcloud or Bandcamp. Be patient with yourself and know that nothing great happens overnight - I still have to tell myself this.
Also, this may be a tough pill to swallow, but : if you're questioning whether you really love your craft, you probably shouldn't leave your day-job to pursue it. Leave your day-job when the urge to pursue your craft or dream screams from inside you. Leaving your day-job can be isolating and weird- not only the process of quitting, but those tiring months that come right after you've made the jump. During these insecure moments, love keeps us going.
Can you talk a little bit about your experiences as a woman in your industry? Any other women in the scene you'd like to give some love to, in DC or beyond? As a new female DJ on the scene, the entry barriers to the industry are more intense. For example, when I first started spinning in 2013, not only did I feel a need to prove myself as a newcomer - but also as a woman. In a male-dominated DJ culture, a perception among club owners, other DJs and promoters is that if you're a woman DJ - you've made it to that point because of the hype and novelty of the woman DJ or 'DJane' - and not necessarily your skills. That perception has definitely made me work harder I ever have before at growing my DJ skills.
A few months ago I linked with some women producers in NYC - our aim was to start a collective...It culminated in a conference called the Women Beatmakers' Conference (WBC) this past October, which is evolving into sizable community of women artists. Special shoutout to FXWRK and Dulcinea Detwah for making it happen.
Two years into the game I'm focusing on working with more women DJs, MCs and producers - because masculinity in music and DJ culture can be fatiguing at times. I also realize that I've gotten to a point where I have more leverage - with a broader network, and more experience, I can make doors open that two years ago I couldn't. I'm hoping to use these opportunities to book more women artists. I'm always plotting new projects, club nights and collectives - moving forward, some of this is definitely going to be female oriented.
What does a typical month look like for you, re: gigs, etc? What do your next two weeks look like? A typical month involves many bar and club gigs in the DC area that are fun, but make very little money - and two to three 'rent paying gigs'. These are usually corporate or private events that have budgets to pay me at my hourly rate. I think having a balance between both kinds of work, and diverse income sources is important for me.
Here are some highlights for the next week – I leave town the week after, but I return just in time for Frosty the Trap Queen on December 5th... I'm really looking forward to it.
- The Late Skate on 11/13
- Bass Chakra on 11/14
- Daybreaker at Malmaison on 11/18
- Underwater DC at The Velvet Lounge on 11/18
- Eli and Fur at Flash (downstairs wi/ the Fête crew) on 11/18
- Last but not least, I recently joined the Fête record label and we're throwing a big event with the Proper Vibes crew featuring the one and only Tek.Lun.
What didn't we ask about?? I hinted earlier my recent involvement with Fete - I found them online and learned that these guys were local, and the rest just came together. As a DJ and aspiring producer I've been meaning to connect with a label focusing on future bass and experimental sounds, so check out label (here's their soundcloud), and stay tuned for some collaborations. Also, they are about to drop a new compilation that's house music focused [cover art below], so keep your ears and eyes peeled for that.
BASS CHAKRA! Fill us in. Bass Chakra = snowflake emojis on fleek ! Some of the best up and coming DMV artists are coming together for a showcase of thoughtful vibes - without any of the hype you see at clubs or formal venues. My brothers Nag Champa and CMPVTR CLVB are throwing it - you may recognize the name from Bass Chakra Radio, [they occasionally take over Luke Stewart's "Jam Session" slot around 12AM - 2AM. If you like jazz, afrofuturism, and experimental tune in]. The venue is a secret until we reveal it, and we have some really incredible secret guests joining us. Stay tuned for that info, and know that this will be a night strictly for locals and music heads.