Keeping it real with Dj Misty
Artisans Exposed Projects presents: One Flow: A series of short interviews with uniquely passionate performers and artisans.
By: Jojo D
The Real Deal...
If you've been out & about in Toronto and visited a number of retro dance venues/special events in the last 10 years then you may have had the privileged of experiencing a sweat soaked, sore back session of dance floors gyrating unleashed by the one and only DJ Misty Hill.
Dj Misty specializes in spinning Rock n' Roll, Soul, Vintage R&B, Punk & Alternative Rock and has established herself as one of Toronto's best.
Who: DJ Misty
What: Housing worker in a women's shelter by day, DJ by night
When: In my early 20's :P Where: Toronto is my home but I travel far and wide
Why: Because it's fun, makes me happy and music is a great way to make other people happy too.
How: Both! Vinyl and digital
Music begins at home. Take us back to your childhood for a moment. Was music a big part of your childhood? In what way?
I grew up in a house full of music and musicians. My dad has always played guitar in a band and we had instruments all over the house that I was always encouraged to pick up and play. My real fascination was with my parents' stereo and record collection though - and I still have and play most of those records today.
Was there a defining moment when you realized that you wanted music to be a constant & extensive part of your life?
I don't think there was a single defining moment. I can't imagine music not being a constant and extensive part of my life, it's never not been!
I remember one of my first album purchase. It was Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam & the Ants. I bought it at a yard sale. It was in great condition and I knew nothing of them but I really liked the cover so I bought it. It is still one of my favourite albums! Do you recall your first album purchase?
My first as a kid was The Specials first album because I loved 'A Message To You Rudy' but then when I was a teenager my first three CD's were '3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of...' By Arrested Development, 'Hints, Allegations & Things Left Unsaid' by Collective Development and 'Dookie' by Green Day. Random, right?
There are some bands/artists I will never get tired of listening to. They have become my 'go to's' for my life's triumphs & failures because they remind me of who I am. Are there any artists/bands that you hold in the same regard? Who & why?
Funny enough Green Day always stuck with me and I've remained a fan but for the most part a lot of the music that have become my go-to's are the classic artists I grew up listening to through my parents. A lot of soul, Motown in particular, has remained because it's so timeless. And artists like Nina Simone will always remind me of life's triumphs and failures because so much of what she addressed with her music as a black woman are still very relevant.
You love vintage culture. It's apparent in your music, clothing & lifestyle. Tell us what it is about vintage culture that you love.
I love vintage music because it's what everything comes back to. Every style of music today traces back to vintage blues, r&b, rock n' roll. Everything I liked musically -even punk rock - could be traced back to vintage rhythm and blues. My mind was blown the first time I heard Big Mama Thornton sing the original version of 'Hound Dog'. Suddenly hearing a song I had thought was by Elvis being sung from deep down in the gut of a black woman completely changed how I heard that song and music.
What/Who inspires you as a woman, a Dj, a culturist?
So many things! As a woman, other women inspire me and wanting to see each other succeed. As a DJ I'm inspired by fun, good times, letting loose and trying to channel positivity wherever I go. Everywhere else I'm constantly inspired; by other artists, by the women I work with in the community, by activism and need for change both in Toronto as well as globally.
Toronto has a very vibrant music scene. As a Dj, a lifer of music, an insider; what is your take on the overall scene?
Toronto is booming! Big cities have tons of talent and Toronto is no different. Obviously we have been in the spotlight with some major local acts and that's really put a lot of attention our way but I think where Toronto really stands out is in the communities we build around music. Toronto has some very tight knit music scenes and the support that artists and DJ's give each other makes Toronto amazing. For example, within the vintage music scenes DJ's are supporting each other by going to each other's events and promoting each other whenever we can. I'm proud to part of a collective of musicians, DJ's and artists called the "Toronto Soul Club" who works to promote the best soul and vintage parties in the city, whether they are our own or not.
There is a long roster list of male dj's. They have dominated the Dj Industry for years but in recent times we've seen more and more young women come up in the scene. What, if any, adversities have you experienced as a up & coming female dj.
I've lost gigs for not being "sexy" enough because I didn't want to look a certain way and I've also not been taken seriously because sometimes I like dressing up although that's irrelevant to me playing music. I've had people come up when I'm dj'ing and even though I may have a record in my hand they ask a guy in the booth for a request or ask me where the DJ is. There are so many things both obvious and on a micro level and I could write whole articles on this but ultimately it's why building relationships and community with other artists and dj's - especially women - is so important to me. I am fortunate to have an amazing network of people who are working hard to bring each other up so it helps me be able to focus less on adversities.
What was your Dj "I've arrived" moment?
Probably the first time I made a dance floor go bananas! I'm just kidding! Being nominated (and voted runner-up!) as Best DJ in NOW Magazine's Reader's Choice for the past two years has been my biggest honour so far. I don't really know what officially qualifies as saying "I've arrived" though because I'll never stop trying to accomplish more.
What events/venues have you Dj'd?
I've dj'ed almost every type of event and venue from parties, clubs, weddings, small pubs, museums, after hours, galleries, burlesque shows, sports events, ice skating parties... You name it! Three highlights so far have been dj'ing for burlesque legend Tempest Storm, dj'ing on King St. W. for the Toronto International Film Festival and getting to DJ at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.
Have you Dj'd anywhere else in Canada or internationally? Where/what event?
My goal is to DJ as many places as I can, so far I've DJ'ed vintage music at clubs in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles and most recently in Mexico City. Next stop, travelling Japan in the fall!
Tell us about the kinds of music you love to spin.
I like to play lots of different genres. I'm mostly known for DJ'ing vintage music from the 1950's, 60's and 70's but the music I've DJ'ed is as varied as the music I listen to. Anything from punk, new rock and alternative, retro 80's and 90's, top 40 though most of what I play falls *outside* the electronic/EDM umbrella which can be a little unusual for DJ's sometimes!
Who are some of your favourite female dj's in Toronto & internationally?
In Toronto some of my favourite DJ's are women who I'm also lucky enough to call friends (and often co-conspirators!) like DJ Nico who DJ's the mod party, 'With It' and DJ Blush who DJ's Stones Place and party 'Hold Tight!' with me. I'm also a big fan of DJ Fawn, DJ Betti Forde and the YES YES Y'ALL DJ's. Internationally there are way too many (yay!) but I recently met three killer DJ's in Mexico City, DJ Elisse Locomotion of the HIPSHAKERS! and Girls Got Soul parties, DJ Denepa Panky and DJ Bam Bam of Radio Paax (http://www.radio-paax.tumblr.com).
What are some of the awards and hardships of being an established female Dj?
It's all good! The biggest challenge I have sometimes is balancing time between my full time career, dj'ing and taking time for myself but truthfully I see myself as being VERY fortunate to be in a position where that can be a challenge.
What is the Dj community like? Are they supportive or competitive?
Overall I'd say very supportive with a healthy dose of friendly competition. In terms of gigs and events I've found other DJ's both in my immediate circle and beyond to be encouraging but my friends and I can sometimes get a little competitive around record collecting and sometimes even skills - but not with any ill will, more as a form of admiration towards the other DJ for keeping the fire under our own butts lit.
If music is the medium then Dj's are the messengers. Can you elaborate on this?
I think it depends on what the message you're trying to get across is. My first priority is wanting people to dance and have a great time but there's still a level of consciousness to the songs I select and if a song or artist doesn't sit well with me I can't bring myself to play it. That includes music and artists that are racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, etc. It's not that I'm a fan of censorship, but that's not what this is. I just can't put myself behind a message I feel strongly about if that message can't be inclusive or is harmful to having a great time.
You've won Best Runner Up Dj by NOW voters the last 2 years. Hopefully, this is your year. What conscious steps/if any have you taken to help you get the win this year?
Honestly, just being nominated (especially alongside some of the other nominees) is such a huge honour in itself. I haven't taken any conscious steps to try to win this year, I just want to keep being able to DJ events where people keep having fun and if I can keep making people happy it'd be an awesome accolade to accomplish.
If you could headline any event in any part of the world what and where would that be?
I honestly don't even know... I'm up for dj'ing anything/anywhere fun, headliner or not! It'd be an honour to DJ alongside Jonathan Toubin from New York's Night Train so I'll say that's my #1 pick.
Would you ever leave your day job to pursue a full time career in Dj'ing?
No way! I've DJ'ed full time before and when I relied on it as my sole source of income I found myself losing the love for it because my greatest source of fun was also my greatest source of stress and sometimes those things just shouldn't be the same.
What message can you send to other women who seek a career in DJ'ing?
DO IT! Please! :)
Give us your top 5 list of songs that you can't live without.
Too hard too hard too hard :p I can barely narrow it down to 5 genres sometimes but my favourite soul song to DJ is Tainted Love by Gloria Jones and my favourite rock song to DJ is I Love Rock n' Roll by Joan Jett.
You are you own brand. If you were an advertisement what would your tagline/mantra be?
Marketing has never been my strength... I need to work with someone who could help me with this perhaps, haha.
What does it take to become a great Dj?
PASSION! Being in love with music is really the thing, if you love and know a wide variety of music the rest can be learned.
Tell us about your extensive music collection?
I'm trying to limit my physical collection to what I will listen to often at home and/or play out. That still means I have way too many records of course but they are pretty eclectic. I have a lot of different genres in there; punk, soul, garage, funk, indie, vintage r&b, jazz, classic rock, hip-hop, and so on. All the things I like to listen to!
Where do you acquire most of your music?
Record stores like Kops, Sonic Boom and June Records and I'll hunt for specific 45's on websites like discogs from time to time. Otherwise I buy my music online though sources like iTunes and beatport.
What are your plans for the future?
Is Dj'ing a part of it?
Definitely! The future is still a big question mark but music will always be part of it in some capacity. I'll never stop collecting records, and I'd love to be in a position where I can facilitate opportunities for other women and girls to learn
Vinyl or Digital...where do you stand?
If a DJ can make me dance I don't care what format they are using - and I DJ with vinyl and my laptop, depending on the event. My personal collection is also made up of both. My general rule of thumb is that music usually sounds best on the format it was initially meant for; if it was originally pressed on vinyl, it probably sounds best on vinyl!
Vinyl is making a huge comeback, as it should. Although Digital makes things light and convenient, vinyl is the real thing. Does it effect how you buy your music and your show?
YES because I'm not buying as much vinyl these days - it's too expensive. The comeback is amazing and I get so happy when I hear my 21 year old sister is buying and collecting records. But one of the downsides is that now you're finding (used) records that are worth a few bucks being sold for $30, and ultimately compared to buying digitally, vinyl is not the most economical choice. But let's be honest, the satisfaction of holding and playing a record is unparalleled. I'm pretty happy with technology DJ wise though because it's able to encompass both. Serato's digital vinyl system for example is incredible.
Are there any sub cultures within the Dj Community? What are they?
I think just about every music genre or scene in the city has its own subculture or even many. Be it the soul/mod/vintage DJ's who make up the Toronto Soul Club and beyond, the Queen West rock n' roll scene and so on. That's part of what makes Toronto so exciting for music and as a DJ, is that there's a scene, culture or DJ night for just about any music fan.
Where are you playing next and where can people find out more about you and your music life?
I'm dj'ing the first Friday of every month at the Rivoli called HOLD TIGHT! with the amazing DJ Blush, I'm also dj'ing the last Saturday of the month at Swan Dive at a party called Good Times. Through the summer you'll be able to find me a bunch at Stone's Place as well as dj'ing afterparties at Miss. Thing's tiki bar for the Golden Flamingo Revue. It's going to be a fun summer!
My website www.djmisty.com or Facebook page (www.facebook.com/djmistyrocknroll) is the best place to keep up with where I'll be. I admire women who live what they love and look great doing it! Misty is fast becoming an unstoppable force delivering happiness and inspiration to many. She's having a great time and affording her audience the same because she is pure to her art. Simply, it's who she is.
Artisans Exposed Projects is a Toronto based Blog highlighting the solo artisan, the creative warrior, the 'One'. One challenges conventional ideals on all fronts. One is true to One's creative self and exhibits endless passion for One’s unique endeavours. One is resilient and steadfast in the pursuance of One’s flow and gains strength while streaming through the face of adversity.
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