Moments Presents: Discwoman Panel Discussion
“What's next for Discwoman?”
“World domination is on the cards,'' declares Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson jokingly.
Although the remark is in jest, it doesn’t seem like an unrealistic goal for Discwoman, the NYC-based platform, collective and booking agency that focuses on promoting diversity within electronic music. Since their inaugural 2-day showcase in September 2014, the agency has gone from strength to strength and currently boasts a roster of some of the freshest, most uncompromising DJs around.
Along with Discwoman signee, SHYBOI (real name Yulan Grant) and co-founders, Christine McCharen-Tran and Emma Burgess Olson (who also DJs as Umfang), Frankie is speaking in Wellington as part of a panel discussion organised by Moments. Emma Hall-Phillips, who runs the New Zealand collective, was inspired by Discwoman and their objectives, realising that a more diverse approach to booking was also needed in Aotearoa. Today, she’s hosting a panel discussion along with queer DJ and producer, D. Tyrone (real name Dirk Peterson) and an audience of electronic music fans have gathered to hear about the origins of Discwoman, diversity in electronic music and the current climate of the music industry.
Since the success of their first event, Discwoman has gone on to curate events all over the world, promoting both established and emerging talent. With 21 artists on their current roster and 4 people working behind the scenes, the running of Discwoman presents a relentless workload for all involved.
“There are hundreds of e-mails that need answering every day,'' states Christine, who had already been working in nightlife prior to the formation of the agency. “Our artists at this point are touring all the time and all over the world, so it’s accounting thing like, do they have their flights, all these logistics.”
“Yeah, it’s nice being here because we’re actually ahead,” says Frankie, referring to the difference in time zones between New Zealand and the United States. "We’re never behind on E-mails. We’re in the future so everyone else is late. It’s awesome. I love it personally.”
When Yulan first received a call from Frankie about joining Discwoman, she wasn’t one hundred percent sure who she was talking to. “She was like, hi, it’s Frankie and I was like, who?” recalls the New Yorker. SHYBOI’s penchant for explosive, energetic forms of dance music has seen her play shows around the world, but she confesses that the way she got into DJing almost accidental. “A friend’s boyfriend at the time was throwing a party on 4/20 and she was like, do you know how to DJ? I was like, of course, I know how to DJ. Completely lied. Downloaded a free trial of Virtual DJ, downloaded a bunch of music and then I played and from there, someone was like yeah, I want to book you for another party.” This mischievous genesis story might seem unlikely for a top-tier DJ, however, she's certainly made her mark on the DJ circuit, playing shows at Amsterdam’s De School, Atonal Festival in Berlin, and Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda within the past couple of years.
For co-founder Emma Burgess Olson, balancing her role working for Discwoman in addition to her own musical career came to a head around two years ago. “I found that it wasn’t possible for me to be both an administrator and a full-time touring DJ,” admits the Bronx-native. “I also just sort of lost my mind the first few years of touring constantly. The idea of having to be available for anyone else became almost impossible for me. Being honest about that was challenging, but it just sort of had to be that way.”
Taking some time away from the running of Discowoman, Olson was able to focus more on her other roles. As well as being a DJ and producer, she has also worn the hat of promoter. Technofeminism, the name that she gave to her night at the Bossa Nova Civic Club, has been amplified far beyond humble tongue and cheek aspirations. “When we started Discwoman, I became a bit more comfortable with being a bit more in your face about my beliefs,” she explains. “It’s funny to me when I see, the techno feminists are taking over. I would almost prefer if it were a bit lighter. But yeah, it’s cool that people engage with that.”
Much of the success of Discwoman seems to be tied to the founder’s ability to stay true to themselves and do what feels right for both the agency and themselves. “So much of it is just going with the flow,” describes Christine when asked by Dirk what’s next for the agency? “The minute this loses it’s fun, that’s when we’re going to stop. It’s really humbling to be around the world and you guys are interested in what we’re talking about. That’s so crazy!”
Following the panel discussion, Umfang leads a workshop about how to use CDJs organised by Moments. May 2019. Image: Emma Hall-Phillips.