If you Google famous DJs, all of the results you'll get are men. If you scroll through lists of the world's biggest DJs, you'll see names like Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Marshmello, and more...but not a single woman tops the list.
Drumsticks in hand, Canadian DJ hey! dw is ready to infiltrate that boys club.
PRIDE chatted with the queer EDM musician about making her mark in the male-dominated industry, her role in Idris Elba's upcoming Netflix film Turn Up Charlie, and we premiere her live set performance at Home Brew.
PRIDE: For those who don’t know you, tell them about yourself.
hey! dw: My name is D.W. I am a queer-identifying artist who DJs and drums at the same time. Blending Joan Jett vibes with EDM, you can usually find me drumming over my signature pop-electronic remixes and soaking the crowd with water. When I’m not throwing wild parties, I also work as a filmmaker and am the creator behind the award-winning web series, That’s My DJ.
Describe your music.
My music combines punchy, fun tracks with heavy percussion and pulsing rhythm. Hugely influenced by house music from the UK, I like to release people's inhibitions on the dance floor. I create and play tracks that get you moving and your blood flowing. I’m also a sucker for great remixes of Top 40 hits—but they’ve gotta be good.
Most artists drop singles, but you just premiered a full set performance. Why?
It’s during live performances that I truly feel in my element, not only as a DJ but as a storyteller. I typically start the show cinematically, drawing audiences in with steep builds, strobe lights and a pounding drum solo. Then spinning tracks that get people moving; taking them from dirty, bassy beats to electric hits, fused with my own original music. The entire set I’m building and building to an eventual climax, ending my set on a song that is dominating pop culture in that moment. At the end of one of my shows, the audience is usually panting, soaked in sweat and the water I’ve thrown all over them. It’s through releasing a live performance online that I get to share that core element of what my music is all about.
What are the crowds like at your shows?
My audiences are very diverse from show to show but typically female-identifying and queer women are always front row and centre. EDM is dominated by cis men, and the club scene is notorious for its rampant misogyny. I’ve taken inspiration from what Bikini Kill did for the punk scene, and I am adamant about creating a safe-space for female-identifying and LGBTQ+ people to own the dance floor during my shows. The environment I create isn’t focused on "looking cool," but letting go of your self-perception and DANCING. No egos on my dance floor, just F-U-N.
What do you hope people feel from your music?
When listening to my music, I hope that people aren’t able to resist moving their body—and when I say that, I mean embarrassingly dancing like they’re 12-years old in their bedrooms.
You worked with Idris Elba on his upcoming Netflix series, Turn Up Charlie. How did that come to be?
The whole experience still seems very surreal to me. Almost a year ago I received a message in my DJ inbox from a production company, saying they’d seen my web-series That’s My DJ online and loved it, and were interested in bringing me on to their new project. I thought it was spam, but my agent reached out. Lo and behold, it was Idris Elba’s new DJ show, Turn Up Charlie. After chatting with me, seeing my live performances and realizing I was a real DJ, the production flew me to the UK for three months. I worked on the show by consulting on the series, giving music notes, and teaching the actress Piper Perabo how to DJ (cue my inner 15-year-old Coyote Ugly loving self screaming). I even went back-to-back spinning with Idris Elba himself at Latitude Festival. It was a wild experience and I’m excited for the show to drop.
What’s next for hey! dw?
I’m in the process of honing in on my evolving-voice as an artist. I’m working on new music, and am creating tracks that are exactly what I’d want to hear while DJing. I’m also working on my debut feature film as a director, so I’ve got lots of irons in the fire.