Thursday, 22 August 2013


DAMN GURL. I met Whitney Weiss this summer as she was travelling and djing with with Tranarchy's good friends, the weirdo party collective CHERYL. We bonded instantly over her Ima Read hat and her love of voguing and Vogue Knights, not to mention her rock-solid set at the Islington Mill. Being a very talented DJ, Whitney spends her time travelling between New York and her home in Buenos Aires, and I was intrigued enough to get the low down on who and why she is for CVNTY:

How long have you been DJing, and how did you get started? 

I got my formal start when I was briefly living in Amsterdam in 2006, which is a long and different story. Friends of a friend owned a bar/club called Sappho, and they needed a DJ on kind of short notice. I'd been playing guitar with a band in Amsterdam at the time, and I guess my friend thought that meant I was capable of DJing. They asked me if I could and I said "yes, absolutely" even though I'd only ever messed around with friends' turntables back in the US. One of the owners loved Prince and for some reason I ended up playing a lot of Prince that night, so that made her happy enough to ask me back. I got my hands on some proper equipment so I could practice, and it all went from there. 

And how did you get into production/remixing/etc.? 

I grew up playing in bands and writing music but also listening to a lot of electronic music, so it seemed like a natural thing to do. I can play drums, bass, guitar, synth, even banjo, and with the exception of that last one, those skills are still applicable when making dance music/remixes/edits. And I love DJing, but I didn't want playing other people's music to be my stopping point or to be the only thing I do. Though obviously, it is not an easy thing to do and requires a great deal of talent. 

What's your favorite production you have worked on? 

I'm really excited about this remix I just finished for Kiddy Smile's new single, "Get Myself Alone." I did an EP with a Brazilian singer/force of nature named Sura Sepulveda for a project called Hotel Vanity, which is named after a sex hotel on the Copacabana across the street from her place. It's dance music for slutty people that exists somewhere between Prince's "Erotic City" and "Be My Lover" by La Bouche. That was a lot of fun to make and will be out soonish. 

And what's your all time top 5 tracks?

That's a tough question! My favorites for a dance floor might not necessarily be my overall favorites. A fair mix of both would be:
Be Thankful For What You Got (the William DeVaughn version) 
Sparks - Number One Song In Heaven 
Prince - Wanna Be Your Lover 
The Flirts - So Many Men, So Little Time 
And Fleetwood Mac - Dreams (the original or the Gigamesh or the Psychemagik remix, depending on the scenario, because it is a perfect song and Stevie Nicks is everything)

You spend a lot of time in Buenos Aires. How is the club scene there and what are the major differences between NY/other cities? 

I do. It's been my hometown for five years, even though I spend time in NY, too. As far as nightlife goes, I'd describe Buenos Aires as "gleefully lawless." It's more gentrified than it was five years ago, but not in the soul-killing, venue-destroying way. Which means that people can throw parties pretty much anywhere and not have to concern themselves with whether or not they're going to get shut down. The city has passed smoking bans and made it so you have to stop selling booze around 5am, and some places decide to follow those rules, but most do not. Headlining in NY, you're going to be out of the venue by 4:30, unless it's after hours. You can headline at a major venue in Buenos Aires and not start until 4am. And I love that. It's also a great place to throw parties, since it doesn't cost you a ton of money to secure a space and rent (or borrow) equipment and also be making your rent each month at the same time. I feel like my friends in NY spend a lot of time thinking about making rent and that parties have to be "commercially viable," whereas in Argentina if you called a party "commercially viable," people would look at you all confused-like. 

Is there much difference between what you play there and in NY and if so, what?

For me, the major difference is endurance, it's how I play. Buenos Aires is like Berlin in that people go out late and stay out for days. I think the average set I play in BA is four hours, and the longest was close to 13. And you know what? I really like DJing for 10+ hours. You get to be really creative and jump from genre to genre a lot more than you do during a two-hour set. Maybe you play things out that you don't often play out/haven't played out in awhile, or you test the endurance of people dancing by playing a long stretch of really frenetic songs when you know there are still six hours to go. I'm from the Danny Tenaglia school of thought; you should absolutely be capable of DJing for a long, long time. And when I'm not working and am just out dancing, I love when a DJ plays for more than six hours. 

Another thing that's different in BA, I think, is that people are hungry to experience something new when they're out, not while they're sitting in front of a computer screen at home. I remember playing a MikeQ track at Niceto, which is a huge club with a great soundsystem, and watching a packed dance floor of young Argentine gay kids just absolutely lose their minds, because it was their first time hearing something that sounded like that in a club (this was before "212" or "Ima Read" came out). It feels really great to play something for people for the first time and to experience that energy.

What took you there in the first place? 

Initially it was to escape winter and go broke at a more leisurely pace than was possible in NY. My second week there, I ended up stumbling across Kim Y Novak, which was this den of hedonism in the transsexual red light district where everyone in town went to dance and take too many drugs and stay up entirely too late. The first time I was in there, a woman who looked like Charo's grandmother was up on the stripper pole, to set the scene, and I figured that this must be a great place to DJ. I ended up getting a residency that lasted a little over a year, until the owners tried to turn the place into a sushi restaurant, which led to it finally shuttering. As that was winding down, this party called Dengue Dancing started taking off. Laura, who was doing booking for Dengue, asked me to DJ there and Lolo, one of the founders, grabbed me and shook me and offered me a residency right after I finished that first set. We had really similar taste in music, so that worked out wonderfully. So I stuck around for that, I actually didn't set foot in the States for almost three years, and then was offered the DJ residency at The Clubhouse in Buenos Aires, which is this members-only spot that's a bit like Soho House. We've had after-parties there for people like Grizzly Bear and the people in charge of The Clubhouse have been amazingly diligent about ensuring that the music meets a high standard of excellence and isn't just boring and popular, so it's been wonderful to collaborate with them.

While I was doing both of those residencies, I had a dream, like, an actual dream while asleep, that another one of the Dengue DJs, my dear friend Traviesa, and I were throwing a party called Father Figures, where we only played iconic underground arty music from before our birth dates. So I called him and said "let's throw a party together called Father Figures." And we started doing that, and it's been my absolute favorite thing in the world. We're hoping to do it in other countries next year. Father Figures happens each month I'm in BA at Sedgwick, which is a warehouse that's literally underground. It's always been free, so it's inclusive. And it's a chance to play things like actual disco or Italo disco or two hours of nothing but Patrick Cowley and Bobby O and Divine back to back and have an enthusiastic crowd of indeterminate sexual orientation that is fully committed to spending the night together there dancing in the least pretentious way possible. Which is funny, because these kids look really, really good; a crowd that good-looking in the northern hemisphere would be insufferable, but they're not in BA. When the band Poolside was in South America playing festivals, they came through Buenos Aires and guest-DJed this amazing 110bpm set of soul and funk and Grace Jones for no cover, which meant that kids who usually pay out their noses to see international talent got to come in and sweat on our dance floor and get an education in all of these artists they'd not heard played out before. That made me really happy, and it was really nice of Poolside to do, too.

Have you played in other South American cities, and if so, what has your experience of them been like?

I have, and I've found that people are generally really excited to see DJs or bands from the Northern Hemisphere play, because it costs so much damn money to get to South America if you aren't going to stay for a year or four that a lot of people can't or don't do it. If any brands or aspiring patrons of the arts want to be my sugar daddy so that we can get better up-and-coming talent down there, rather than like "the farewell tour of a metal band that really needs the money," let's talk. Same with exporting talented DJs from BA to other places for shows.

You recently played a tour of Europe - how was it?

It was wonderful. It was my first time in Manchester, and I fell in love with Islington Mill and think everything they're booking is great. I had a lovely time DJing in London and Berlin and especially in Paris, too. I liked it so much and it went well enough that I'll be back over in the fall.

Which has been your favourite club to play?

Wanderlust in Paris was a total dream. Watching people dancing next to bunnies romping in a miniature grassy knoll while the sun set over the Seine was the best. Niceto in Buenos Aires has my favorite view from the DJ booth. The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn has the kindest sound people in the world, who do an excellent job. I got to DJ there for CHERYL, which is one of my favorite parties. The masterminds of CHERYL are some of the most creative people in all five boroughs and they're doing a great job of keeping New York fun and culturally relevant. Gong, which is practically a national landmark in Buenos Aires and has been preserved in nightlife ether since 1970, will always hold a special place in my heart because of its Soviet-issue light machine.

And your worst?

Nothing truly abysmal has happened…or I've blocked it out. There was an awkward moment in Buenos Aires when I thought I was DJing a private birthday party and it turned out to be a private birthday party slash gay orgy. I was in the library and the guests were all in another room after they mingled in the library and got food from the buffet. Every so often someone would come in and let me know that the music was good and that I wasn't done yet. That wasn't actually a bad experience, though. It was more of a surprise.

Any advice to young up and coming djs/promoters?

Just pay your dues and enjoy it.

As far as promoting goes, have good taste and deep pockets so you can compensate fairly.

Any to women in particular?

Don't let men try to show you how the mixer works when you already know how the mixer works. Become 20 percent more adept than an average male DJ, this includes knowing how to set up your equipment, so at the very least, they have to say you're as good as the guys. Take deep cleansing breaths and expect to put up with some shit, but please don't quit.

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