Our next local MIXED BY/ comes from Silktits (soundcloud) – a DJ, radio-host, and community-organizer who’s been persistently blessing our ville de Montreal, known for her ever-eclectic digs and ability to work any dancefloor.
We had a chat with Silktits prior to her Piknic Electronik show on Sunday June 10th, where she’ll be playing alongside Roberto and Seb Wildblood for the Bolting Bits stage! Listen to her mix and have a read below ~
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today Alexis! Let’s start at the start — how and when did you start getting into DJing, and music in general? Did you play any instruments as a kid?
I’ve been infatuated with music my whole life, but it’s taken me some time to focus that admiration, and even still learning how to expand that horizon. I played multiple instruments as a kid – switching to new instruments as I discovered them due to curiosity and lack of discipline I suppose haha. I realise now that I kind of operate this way in my adult life, trying to soak up everything I can, manically needing to collect sounds (which I guess is why I started DJing!) I was also obsessed with dancing, which I did semi-professionally growing up – mostly in high school. When I was super young, I did musical theatre (nerd alert) to be closer to my mom in some ways, who is an actress/singer in musical theatre.
Were there any particular influences or people that facilitated or inspired your entry into DJing?
I’d have to say friends who were also interested in learning how to DJ around the same time as I was, who have since been working and killing it in music production: Jaclyn Kendall, Zoe Christmas, Christina Bell, as well as a plethora of other DJs starting shows on N10.AS radio not too long ago. I was able to meet so many amazing local DJs and learn from them. I’ve only been DJing for 2~ years but I’ve learned so much about trusting my ear and on a technical level, overcoming the fear of it being daunting.
Since then, have there been any formative moments that influenced your journey to how you are as a selector today? Maybe any special gigs? Proudest moments? Or else just influences to music taste?
The invitations to play at Datcha alongside some very talented artists have been formative moments. Blue Hawaii’s Raphaelle Standell-Preston and I DJ’d together a night at Datcha last November having only met the night before, and it felt like we’d been a duo for years! Donald Dust from the UK is another producer who gave me a shot at sharing the decks without meeting me beforehand. That was so incredible!
I have to give a huge shout-out to the crew I’ve been throwing monthly parties with (DJ name, DJ Frog, Original Recipe) at Blizzarts called ‘Hungry 4.’ If we hadn’t started ‘seshing’ together on vinyl I probably wouldn’t have improved so much over this year. They’re a group of women who are truly inspiring to me. Lastly, I need to give some major credit to my best friend Kevin, an outstanding drummer, who is always showing me the most amazing tunes.
Speaking of vinyl seshing, do you find you have any preference over vinyl or digital?
Right now I think I prefer vinyl as a challenge. I only started mixing with vinyl this year, and each environment I play in seems to affect my selection & approach. Because it’s all about ear, the satisfaction that comes with getting a perfect mix with vinyl isn’t quite the same with CDJS (digital). For my radio shows, I like to stick to digital since the recordings are geared more toward precision in the mix, if you were to hear it at a cafe while you’re doing work it would have better levels and less skips, etc.
You’ve talked about differences in mixing between physical and digital, would you also say you find there are differences in the manner in which you prefer to dig for each medium also?
Digging for vinyl is so much fun, but I only really do that at one place in Montreal: Death of Vinyl. I guess I find the majority of my music online/through other musicians/music enthusiasts in my social circle. Shout-out to discogs & Youtube! Sometimes I reach out to DJs who have put out mixes to find specific tracks, but if I’m going to be including it in my mix I want to be sure that it’s a whole new ‘story.’ I like thinking of mixes as stories.
Cool! And are there any elements you usually look for in selecting your tracks to make up these stories?
For my show ‘Tender Grooves,’ I search for diversity in voices and perspectives, and overall gentle instrumentation. I’m mindful of gender roles when using love songs with lyrics, especially if they’re 20+ years old. Female vocals have a special place in my heart and in my mixes, so I carefully choose ones that I feel I can most relate to or present more progressive ideas. This is not to say that certain songs don’t still make it into my library, for example, the song ‘Where Is My Man’ by Ertha Kitt. I love cheeky lyrics and songs about being independent & fed up. On the other hand, I don’t mind songs about true love because it’s fun to think of love as magical and undying, which is not ‘me’ at all. Fun fact: I am not romantic. For electronic dance music (ie. House, Techno, Jungle, etc.) I look for anything funky or unique in the production. I’m pretty open minded when it comes to genre, I love to play everything.
So ‘Tender Grooves’ is your regular radio show on n10.as (where you also work!). Would you say the idea behind your show, your mixing style, or your taste has developed over time throughout the course of this show? And how?
The idea behind Tender Grooves on the surface is love I suppose, the songs aren’t always about romance. The direction I take the show each month is affected by the genres I’m feeling at that point, and I’ve been moving more into 80s & 90s genres, rather than my original Disco. My mixing style has definitely developed over two years, moving from fading in and out to blending as many tracks as I can. I think for radio it’s appropriate to fade in and out, but I just love to mix & practice, so that’s been my approach.
Apart from radio, your presence around Montreal as a DJ could definitely be described as prolific. On an average weekend you could be found working your way round town, stirring up the dance-floors of Datcha, Bar Le Ritz, or else late-night DIY rave spaces… and that’s on top of your regular nights at numerous Montreal venues such as Blizzarts and Sparrow! What do you do to keep inspired as a DJ? Also what do you usually do to prepare before a show — any mental/emotional prep, as well as practical music prepping?
Prolific!!! I’m blushing. I love doing recurring DJ nights because it forces me to grab new material every week/month and keep up the Good Search. I am incredibly inspired by artists from around the world, not to mention the people I surround myself with in Montreal. The amount of talent growing and changing here is mind-blowing. I don’t usually do much to prepare before events other than making sure new finds are on my USB! Or that I’ve packed my bag with the appropriate accoutrements. I live with my best friend, so we hang out and watch TV before I head to a gig.
As a community organizer who throws DIY shows in our city, what aspects do you value and also what do you think needs work in the ‘scene’ in Montreal, or worldwide? Are there any changes you wish could be made to the social infrastructures, venues and spaces?
I appreciate all the hard work & money out of pocket promoters/organizers puts into their events, because it can be a stressful endeavour. The focus of organizing our night at Blizzarts are twofold: for us to practice new sets or try out mixing new genres without judgement, and for anyone from outside of our ‘scene’ to come in and enjoy themselves. It’s very special to be able to share that with people and have it be a welcome and safe space to anyone.
Socially, and I suppose more generally, I think we could continue to broaden & diversify our line-ups, which is already happening. If we want to be affecting party-goers or listeners in new ways, we need to continue on that path. Diverse lineups mean being exposed to new music and as many new styles of mixing/performing which is ultimately why we put these parties on in the first place! This also means teaming up with new DJs, who may not have had as many opportunities to play or are just starting out. Also, dancers are so important and should be given a huge amount of credit. Keep doing your thing, dancers, because I am obsessed with you! You make the party.
You’ve recorded this mix for Bolting Bits leading up to playing our stage with Roberto and Seb Wildblood, exciting! Can you tell us a little bit about this mix, and also give us a little teaser as to what you have in store for us for Piknic Electronik?
Ou, yeah this one is really is a mixed bag, moving from soft jazzy strings to boogie to fast tempo new wave. I can’t wait to play Piknic! My set will be roughly around the same vibe, so if you’re into this one hopefully you’ll like the relaxing day-sway action I have planned.
Interview by Maria