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Meet DJ Whitney Day, Classically Trained DJ | Flygirl Interview
Posted by Mandy Randhawa on August 1, 2017
DJ Whitney Day on how to read a crowd, soul music, and the giant elephant in EDM
“Unique” doesn’t even begin to describe DJ Whitney Day. Yes, she’s a classically trained DJ. Yes, she is a huge soul music lover. Yes, she has something to say about that drop you keep waiting for the DJ to drop. Meet Whitney.
Flygirl: You were originally a classically trained musician. Is there anything unique about that training that you think really helped you in your transition to becoming a DJ?
Whitney: I think so. I played classical and jazz trombone for 10 years and I also worked in recording studios while in college, and again after I graduated. My first few jobs out of college were doing sound design, recording engineering, sound and music editing and composition. I’m fortunate to have a base of training in technical and traditional music before I even started to think about experimenting with DJing or making a career of it.
Flygirl: Lots of DJs talk about “reading the crowd” at a party. What are some of the cues that you look for when you’re reading a crowd successfully?
Whitney: You can physically see when a person makes a connection with a track or piece of music. They may react by tapping their feet, drumming along to the beat, smiling, dancing, you know how it looks. When that connection happens to hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously in one place, there’s a collective energy that emanates from the crowd that you can see and feel from the booth.
As a DJ I look out for that body language and use my musical knowledge and technique to build a story that will facilitate, influence and ideally increase those connections with music on the dance floor.
Flygirl: Soul music is a huge influence for you, and it’s been said that a lot of EDM and other dance music out there today is kind of soul-less. What do you think is missing today that was so prevalent in truly great soul music, like in the ‘60s-’70s?
Whitney: Yeah, there are also plenty of tracks from the 90’s, 2000’s and today that are soulful. I think of soul in a broader sense that isn’t defined by any genre or decade. Music that has soul is music that resonates on an emotional level. It hits you somewhere inside, and you feel that. Mainstream EDM is missing that organic, human essence. EDM can generally sound mechanical, over-processed, over-polished and and monotonous. The sound of EDM was created for a large-scale festival atmospheres; for big DJs with slick light-shows, smoke, and fireworks.
Flygirl: Right. It was made to be able to appeal to a huge audience.
Whitney: It’s all about a getting to big build-ups that last forever with a mega drop (finally) released at the end… Over and over and over again. Soulful music on the other hand builds on a groove that unfolds over time. It’s expressive and raw.
Flygirl: Do you ever play “straight” parties now? And if you do, what kind of differences do you find in the parties?
Whitney: I typically spin LGBTQ parties, but I’ve played mainstream clubs and parties as well. Besides the fact that there are obviously less women in the crowd overall, the biggest difference is that lesbian / LGBTQ parties are very community-focused.
In terms of vibe though, every crowd, night, party is totally different.
Flygirl: Fair enough.
Whitney: I don’t think I could draw a specific difference between gay and straight parties based solely on the general sexuality of the crowd and no other factors.
Flygirl: You’re deep in the industry, both producing and DJing parties—how do you think it has changed for women in the last few years, and where do you see it going in the future?
Whitney: Things are definitely moving forward motion in terms of women and visibility in the music industry / DJing. More female DJs are getting booked, added to festival line-ups, and taking up acclaimed residences (though not nearly enough of them).
Still, women are far behind being equal to men in this industry. Despite the progress that’s been made, women (as well as POC) are grossly underrepresented on bills for big name festivals and clubs. Female DJs are judged unfairly and more harshly than their male peers (read: boys club). Overall, many if not most female DJs are still lacking not only the recognition, but also the respect that they deserve, but I’m optimistic that things will keep heading in this upward direction and little by little things will change.
If you haven’t gotten your Chicas ticket yet, grab yours now to go check out her Vancouver debut!