Shejay.net is a community of hardworking and devoted women who came together through a common bond to discuss the viability of an online hub for women in the world of dance music. DJs, promoters, producers and fans alike joined forces to build a network that would serve to promote the interests of females actively involved in the industry. It also provides them with a constructive platform to comment, share and vent about the struggles, successes and concerns of women in one of the most competitive industries of our time. At the head of this movement is one Kelly Sylvia aka Kellilicious; this is her storyâ€¦
â€œMore importantly, women are being recognized more for their skills instead of the â€˜wow you’re a girl DJâ€™ factor which is what weâ€™ve always campaigned for.â€
Format: Ok so why not start with a quick intro, tell us who you are and what it is you do…
Kellilicious: Hi, I’m Kelly Sylvia — probably better known as Kellilicious — DJ, vocalist and co-founder of Shejay.net.
Format: As far as your transition from club-goer to beginning your career as a DJ; how did that all come about?
Kellilicious: I guess it was just a natural progression; I was raving from an early age. I eventually became more involved in the club scene as a promoter at two of Bostonâ€™s biggest spots at the time. I had a lot of DJ friends so I played around on the decks for fun. It wasn’t until I moved to London that it turned into something serious. I was jobless; I had my flat mateâ€™s decks in the lounge and a lot of anxious creative energy, so the DJing just took over as my job.
Format: When you were coming up, who was most likely to give you a hard time, was it the other DJ’s or rather promoters/club owners etc.
Kellilicious: To be honest, I can’t recall being given a hard time per se for being a female in a male-dominated scene. I guess because of Shejay, it’s a common misconception that I’ve faced a lot of gender related adversity but the boring truth is, I personally haven’t. But that’s not to say it doesn’t exist and it did somewhat inspire Shejay’s creation, but it was never epidemic in my eyes.
If had to say something about it, there for sure has been the odd â€˜you’re good for a girl DJâ€™ comment here and there — usually spoken without malice by a punter; Or you get the occasional male DJ standing behind you while you play — either observing or waiting for you to fuck up (it’s subjective) – but those things I never take negatively. Thankfully, I’ve been given more support than a hard time by peers and promoters alike.
Format: Whatâ€™s the background of Shejay.net, who’s involved etc…
Kellilicious: Shejay.net started from a conversation on a mailing list thread about the idea of starting an all female DJ ezine. There were about 100 girls on this list, all felt women were largely unrepresented and unsupported in the dance music scene, which left many of them feeling discouraged. It was more about forming a sisterhood than a neo-nazi feminist movement.
So myself, Mona Jonz and DJ Diosa kicked the idea into action, within a year, we had our humble ezine up and running with 50 community members. Seven years on and the site has evolved into a community of over 1800 girls, and the brand itself has become world renowned for representing female DJs offline as well â€“ with events and tours through its booking agency. Mona and I are the helm but we also have a team of content contributors, booking agents and promoters that keep it flowing. Members contribute their own reviews, music and articles regularly but our main focus nowadays is with the bookings, which has naturally brought in the most business.
Format: As a DJ, Promoter and Co-founder of Shejay.net, how have you seen the industry change to favor women in the last decade?
Kellilicious: I think the industry has matured quite a bit in the way it sees women. It’s gone from treating female DJs as a novelty to actually celebrating women in the game — but more for being the minority, rather than just for being a girl. I think people appreciate that like any minority, it might be a tougher game and they give them credit for it. More importantly, women are being recognized more for their skills instead of the â€˜Wow you’re a girl DJâ€™ factor which is what weâ€™ve always campaigned for. I think this is leveling the playing field and more and more girls are doing it. There is also a steady increase of women producers coming onto the scene, which is brilliant.
Format: Where do you see dance music culture blossoming most, and are the traditional strongholds still as dominant today as they’ve always been?
Kellilicious: Perhaps Iâ€™m biased because I live here but the UK to me has always been the hub for dance music. It markets it in a way that nowhere else does. When you have major media outlets championing it â€“ like the BBC and mainstream MTV for example — it becomes very much a part of the culture. I think London harnesses most of it being the capital city and although itâ€™s quieted slightly, it remains an integral part of the musical landscape.
Even more prolific is Berlin, which is responsible for so many amazing producers and artists, paying a huge contribution to dance music; also Paris and Amsterdam… I actually see these other European cities as more forward thinking musically and London just brings it all together. As an American, itâ€™s baffling to compare the scene in Europe to the mainstream stateside where dance music is not even on the map. That said, I think the states is reviving its dance scene, slowly but surely. Last but not least; Canada gets mad props for not only knowing how to party but for giving birth to so many amazing artists over the years!
Format: Going back to 2000, why did you choose to leave your hometown of Boston, USA and head for London, England?
Kellilicious: Boston was too small for me and I desperately needed a change. I’d fallen in love with London when I first visited in â€˜97 and the music scene had a lot to do with it. I just felt I wanted to experience what the city had to offer for me creatively and as a music lover. I had planned on setting up shop as a graphic designer right in the midst of the .com crash … needless to say that plan fell flat and the DJing and Shejay moved in its place. I’m glad it worked out that way.
Format: Now that you’ve been there for close to a decade, what if any, are the distinct differences between the two markets and where are these most prominent musically and as far as the club kids and venues are concerned?
Kellilicious: As mentioned, the UK market is more mainstream â€“ while stateside itâ€™s still mostly underground by comparison. More money is invested in the UK around promotions, venues, and production value; itâ€™s done in the most pristine manner. Musically, you get a lot more compilations in the UK; dance music is just everywhere, whereas in other regions youâ€™ll have limited access and limited variety in the music available in stores.
As for clubbers, people really go for it in Europe, every night is treated like itâ€™s their last and they come in droves â€“ whether itâ€™s in a small underground venue or a massive super club — itâ€™s a real community. I think the strict closing times in some American states puts a downer on the â€˜up all nightâ€™ party mentality. But again, Iâ€™m seeing loads of dope parties poppinâ€™ up stateside, which I think is putting dance music back in peopleâ€™s heads as something to be taken more seriously.
I think dance music will always flow through the musical veins in American cities, it might be less mainstream but I think it makes it more special and more appreciated. The downside with the UK market and high turnover of the music is that it chews it up and spits it out before you can truly appreciate it.
Format: Of all the girls you’ve seen coming up, who would you tout as the Shejays most likely to explode into 2009 through 2010?
Kellilicious: There are so many girls doing big things at the moment, but those that come to mind are DJCATNYC â€“ whoâ€™s just recently done a remix of Lady Gaga â€“ go girl! Hanna Vasanth who is an amazingly talented producer in the Nu-jazz/Soul realm. Another is Mieka du Franx who is one of the hardest working DJ/producers in the biz and has a lot to say… watch this space!
Format: And how about you, what’s up for the immediate future?
Kellilicious: Iâ€™ve taken the DJing down a notch this past year to spend more time in studio focusing on vocals and producing. Itâ€™s been a self-admittedly daunting task due to my being a perfectionist but I am a sucker for a painstaking creative process. No release dates as of yet, but keep your eyes and ears open…
Format: So what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since starting setting out on the Shejay.net venture?
Kellilicious: Be careful what you wish for … because if you want something to be big – it may well turn out to be! Shejay has grown into something I never expected and sometimes, it’s hard work but I am proud of how far we’ve come.
Format: If you had to give out one bit of free advice to a potential Shejay, what would it be?
Kellilicious: Never let anyone tell you that you canâ€™t.
More info: www.shejay.net