DJ Deanne Interview
In addition to running into superstar DJs, reconnecting with friends and finding rising talent is another highlight of Winter Music Conference. I originally met Stephanie Swanson, aka DJ Deanne, while spinning with her at Talbott Street in Indianapolis. Seemingly out of nowhere, she made the radical decision to move to South Florida to pursue her DJ career. Following her as she has made a name for herself in the competitive market, you will realize that sometimes you need to make a big change to achieve the goals you aspire to reach. You may not know who DJ Deanne is right now, but at the rate she is going – you will soon.
RS: At the age of 40 you made a radical change, you left a midwestern town and moved to South Florida. Why the heck did you do that?
Deanne: I have always felt like South Florida was a launching pad and my heart took me here. I feel like everything has its place and time in life and there was more for me. My place and time in Indianapolis had presented itself; I had achieved what I needed to that prepared me for what was next. There was no other way to do anything other than go forward or stay still and I don’t stay still.
RS: When you first came to South Florida what was the biggest challenge that you had to face?
Deanne: Being unknown and relatively anonymous again.
RS: What did you have to do to prove yourself?
Deanne: My philosophy is kick ass and take names, so that is what I did when I came here.
RS: This city is full of DJs; you can’t kick over a stone without finding a DJ, what makes you stand out from all of them?
Deanne: That is a good question! I think that Miami has a vibe and you definitely get affected by it. It shapes and influences you, but at the same time instead of conforming to it you are influenced by it. I think that by making my mark, being genuine and staying true to who I am yet understanding the audience and giving them something that they haven’t heard or seen before makes me stand out. I have been playing here for 7 years but not with the same of amount of frequency.
RS: But all that DJs do is press play, what’s the big deal?
Deanne: Ron, you know it’s different! Yes, some DJs do just press play but it is the heart and soul of it. Yvette and I were talking about this, if you are a DJ that is new to the scene in the last 5 years maybe you just press play and there is no heart to what you do. I have been doing this for long enough to know that the true secret to longevity and success is passion and underlying soul and heart, in the need that is what drives it.
RS: Are you working on tracks right now?
Deanne: Yes, I finally have the time to focus on that. When I was in Indy I was running Pride, spinning a nightclub, managing a restaurant and doing all sorts of other things. In moving here my main goal was to focus and I have that opportunity and I am setting myself up for that.
RS: What software are you going to work with?
Deanne: I have Ableton and I am trying out Logic. I am going to see which one works for me; I do a lot with Ableton right now though.
RS: Regarding the argument about laptop DJs versus CD DJs, do you think that it makes a different with what software you are using if you are making great results?
Deanne: I think in the end the product that you produce is influenced by the tools that you use. Your primary tool is your heart and soul and creativity, the secondary tool is the software and the tools that you use to produce that. If you can express yourself appropriately and you can get your audience to respond with a minimal setup, than you are successful. I am not a gear whore, I’m not saying that I won’t ever be, but if the music that you produce is quality, impactful, and soulful then I think that you are successful.
RS: If you had to look at another producer/DJ and say I want to have a career like that person, who would you want to be like?
Deanne: That’s a great question! Rauhofer was an incredible influence, he always went his own path, he was ahead of the times and I think that everyone has felt a void in losing him. I think that he was influential in developing many other aspiring DJs and producers. You also have Chus and Ceballos that do their thing and they have stuff that crosses over and a sound that you feel in your heart. I’m sure they use high-quality software to produce it. I think that with Rauhofer and Chus and Ceballos and about a dozen other producers I look up to, their soul is evident in what they produced and that is what I am drawn to. I am not only drawn to what is current and fresh, I am drawn to a sound that will stand the test of time and the producers that produce something 10 years ago that you can still play today.
RS: What do you think about the producers that don’t do their own work?
Deanne: Forget about it, I think they are a joke. There are professionals in this room right now that have worked for years to attain a level of success and they make decisions to stay true to their heart and soul. I think that a producer that relies on someone else to do their work for them can no longer call themselves a producer or an artist, they are a musical pimp and I don’t think that there is any merit to what they do. Collaborations are rampant which is great, but if you have no input or creative direction and you are just farming it out to someone else than it’s not your work and it is not genuine.
RS: How about – “DJs have to produce and producers have to DJ?”
Deanne: That is hard, because on one hand I do feel like DJs find more success when they start producing and I think that they get more exposure based on that element alone. I don’t feel that their level of success or relevance or capabilities is based solely on their ability to produce though. For example, Susan Morabito has never produced a track and she is still working. I don’t think that you have to be a producer to still be working and I don’t think that producers have to be DJs. In fact I think that some producers are horrible DJs and they should never DJ. If you are going to pre-produce your set and you have amazing lights and everything else around you but you pre-record it and press play than you aren’t really a DJ. You are still a producer that is masking yourself as a DJ for money, it is not authentic and genuine and in the end they will lose and die out.
RS: Is it harder to be a DJ as a woman than it is as a man?
Deanne: That is an interesting thing that came up in the panel discussion today, by the sheer numbers there are fewer female DJs than male DJs so based on that alone, yes it is harder. Secondarily if you are going to look at a LGBT market it all depends on the product, you need to look at the genre that you are providing. I think that someone that has the look and six-pack abs but may be a lesser-skilled DJ might get more bookings than someone that has been Djing for a longer time.
RS: You present a more butch image rather than a femme image; do you think being a butch woman makes you easier to stomach and taken more seriously as a DJ than a femme woman? A femme DJ may be asked if they are the DJ’s girlfriend whereas you wouldn’t get that.
Deanne: I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about that. Here is an example, I was at a pool party on Friday and there were two female DJs and they were smoking hot blondes. I had two other friends with me and as soon as they came on they thought they were hot but once they started playing they weren’t that hot anymore. I couldn’t really respond to what they were doing and the way that they were playing. My goal is to be beyond my look, beyond my sexuality, beyond my height, and beyond my genre, it is to be about me and if you get me than none of that other stuff matters.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Deanne: I really feel like I am on the verge of something bigger and I have been looking for that for a long time and I am really excited. I am very appreciative of all of those people that have been with me and are supportive of me and are encouraging of my future success. I think that ultimately we have our own individual agendas and our own marks that we are trying to achieve but at the end of the day it is the people that we touch and reach that really shape and mold us. I am appreciative of them and I hope that they will stay with me as I grow.
Interview conducted during WMC 2014.