DJ workshops run for and by women and LGBTQ + folks
Chippy Non Stop rolled through to NBNW's studio in Delhi, while she was in the country to play a couple of festivals and gigs. We took the opportunity to sit down with her and have a long and real chat about her experience so far in the music industry, and how she's now working towards creating a safer and more inclusive community within it. We chatted all things Intersessions, what moved her to start it and how she and her amazing crew of ladies started the program from scratch with their own savings. It has now grown into a legitimate program engaging and educating young girls from the age of nine, to middle aged DJ's who want to expand their craft. However, the journey to actually reclaiming safe spaces for women and people in the LGBTQ+ community is a long one, and this is just the beginning.
F: So tell me how you first started out in the music industry.
C: Well, I was living and going to school in San Francisco and me and my four friends started a website with crazy animations and graphics. One of them knew M.I.A.’s backup dancers and he saw the website and then showed MIA, and then MIA hired us to work for her and do graphics for her website. I was like really young , I had just turned 17. We weren’t vibing with the team so we stopped doing it completely and all this shit went down, cause we were young and loud and I moved back to San Francisco. Then Diplo heard about all this drama and asked me to get on a Major Lazer song when I was 18. After that I did guest vocals on a bunch of stuff and I went back to San Francisco and started to work on some of my own projects. Then people kind of noticed, and I went on a tour and stuff like that. Then my really good friend was like “Hey I need to write an album and I would love your help on it and so I moved back to LA and worked on writing, and wrote for more projects for other popstars and stuff. While I was doing that I wasn’t able to write any of my own music and I was dating a DJ. He kind of helped me a bit, and then I kind of taught myself a bit. So that’s when I started DJ-ing because I was listening to so much music but I wasn’t able to put out any of my own, I wasn’t getting booked to rap. But then I just started loving DJ-ing so much that I started doing it.
F: So you picked up DJ-ing while you were with this guy, like you’d play on his equipment and stuff?
C: Yeah, because I was in music scenes, like there’d be equipment everywhere – in L.A. that’s kind of like how it is. But once I left I kinda realised “Oh shit! Access to equipment is so hard everywhere else.” In L.A. it’s just like literally equipment everywhere, it’s free, it’s crazy. But then well, yeah I got deported. (laughs) So I moved to Vancouver and once I got there I realised access to equipment is super hard, especially for starting out DJ’s, especially women because the men DJs are like very ‘culty’ I guess. They have their boys club and they would hang out together and do boy shit together and teach each other.
F: So there wasn't so much of a community which was inclusive?
C: Exactly. That’s also the case in L.A. but there’s so much more access to music equipment and so it was easier for me then but now when I look at it I’m just like "Oh shit". I was in the scene really young, so I was like "Oh fuck it, I’m gonna walk in there." But I was a pretty confident person, but if you’re not like that, it’s super hard and not everyone can be like that. Especially as a woman you don’t want to walk in where certain scenarios could be jeopardising your safety, and a lot of these dudes are sketchy and do drugs and are drunk. You don’t wanna be around that. That is why I started Intersessions with my friend Tulip cause a lot of nightlife, it’s not safe for women. I love music but I don’t want to be around the kind of toxic kind of environment that it usually brings. This like really created a safe space for us to just give access to people that are disenfranchised and to give them space to learn all this technical equipment which is usually in night clubs, which are usually not safe for us. And then it kind of just picked up and did really well and a lot of people are interested. We just we announced a recent Toronto session, the RSVP got up to 93 people within 30 minutes. So the interest is there . For me, it’s really hard to learn from a guy because they don’t want you to be better than them. And it’s always just kind of like "Oh, do you think you can really do this" kind of tone with it all the time and I just would always feel uncomfortable. I felt like I always had to prove myself, you know like I had to be better than them.
F: When did you start Intersessions, exactly?
C: I started 2 years ago.
F: How many cities have you done till now?
C: So we did Glasgow, Berlin, Paris, London, Mexico city, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto. And then I did a cross Canada, I did Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, New Foundland. A lot of places. I think around 20 cities. But in Toronto I do it once a month. And Vancouver they do it once a month. And in LA and New York once a month.
F: What was that point when you decided you want to see more women in this space?
C: Well, just like even going to play shows and everyone on the lineup is a guy and you’re a girl and you just feel like oh they are having their bro moment, and they’re talking about fucked up shit, like locker room talk, talking about bitches and you’re just like "Ugh, why! Am I gonna have to hear this every time?" The energy is different when there’s mixed people playing. Seeing a lot of shitty dudes getting away with a lot of shitty things in the scene, I was just like if there were more women around this would not be happening, you know? So yeah, just like over time..I think I was like really naïve about it when I was younger, like I noticed it..but I always tried to be on the boys’ side, I was trying to be one the boys. But now I think the community needs to be more integrated, we all need to work together. And I think a lot of dudes, don’t take girls on tours because they wanna have that locker room talk. Or they won’t have someone opening for them that’s a woman because they wanna be fucked up. They don’t wanna take accountability for what they do and say and they know that we won’t take that shit, you know. People are speaking up now, it’s getting better. I mean slowly but surely, I guess.
F : Do you feel that in the process of that, you have created a little community?
C: Yeah definitely, it’s crazy cause like when the workshops happen you notice like a few people that you know that are actually gonna do it, and like actually are gonna become DJ’s. Now there are so many people that we know people who actually have careers. They’re like actually playing shows in their cities or all over. So you notice them and you kind of like mentor them too, so I’ll have them over and have little downloading music parties and stuff like that. So yeah you notice a few people and now we’re just homies, you know.
F: That’s amazing. You’ve talked before about being skeptical about people coming in for the workshops but not doing anything about it after. How much do you end up tracking growth? Do you have people who come again for workshops?
C: Oh yeah, absolutely. A lot of people come back. I do production workshops, and vocal ones and DJ ones, and I see people who come to all of them. For the DJ ones, people keep coming back because there are not a lot of places that people can use the CDJs in Toronto for free - like we don’t charge anything it’s just donation if you want to.
But yeah, so a lot of people do keep coming back. A few people, I’ve become really really good friends with. Like one girl I met about 6 months ago and we’re like best friends now. (laughs) So you also just meet a lot of interesting fun people. And they meet each other too and they all have similar interests since they’re there. And that’s another hard part - meeting people at clubs, it can be so disingenuous, you know? So this is a good space to meet people who actually care. About the culture and each other too. If you’re there, you’re going to like treat each other well and stuff – cause I always make sure that if you are here, be nice to each other. Usually like everyone mingles before and after, and exchange numbers, so it like creates a really good community. And that’s another thing is that people think ‘Oh, women are catty to each other’. So this proves, it’s definitely not that. We work together, and come together to create a safe environment. Guys just think that, ‘Well, oh if we if we put two girls on a lineup then that’s like competition’. But then how come there can be like 7 dudes on it and it’s not?
Photo Courtesy : Intersessions Facebook Page
F: How many people do you typically have in a class?
C: It depends on how many teachers there are. We have 10-15 students, per teacher. So for this next one we had 4 teachers, so I wanted just like 50-60 people.
F: So when you have 4 teachers do they take different sessions or they do it in a go?
C: It’s kind of in one go. So we start off with a 45 minute panel. And then we take questions and split up into groups in the same room. It’ll be a room like this, they’ll be one set up over there and then there’ll be one set up over there. They are all three different types of equipments. So usually like one person is really interested vinyl, and then someone is more into wanting to learn CDjs. Like those two things are the main things people wanna learn. So you can just walk around, and there's a hands on portion where like each person will get kind of a little time to play with all the buttons and then see where they are and they play kind of like a back to back big set together. So yeah, it’s super hands on. We try to spend as much time on hands on and then after the workshop maybe like two weeks later we’ll do just like a practice DJ thing, where we’ll rent one thing and everyone will come and DJ all day.
F: It’s so interesting, because you didn’t go to a school for this but in a sense you’re creating your own school for it now.
C: I mean yeah, I feel like things like these you can’t really learn in a school because you have to have actual experience doing it. You learn the most when you fuck up, when you play in front of a lot of people. That’s when I learnt the most, when I like embarrassed myself in front of people and then I was like okay can’t do that, there’s a wrong thing. And then you learn how to save yourself when you fuck up. We teach things like that too.
The reason why it’s important to hear a woman’s voice cause like the environment for us to play is so different, like the way people treat you when you walk in is so different. Like the way the sound guy will talk to me is completely different than he’s gonna talk to some dude, you know. So we talk about things like that too - how to navigate that, just be composed during that. But to still hold your ground and don’t be scared to be a bitch, you know.
F: So the people who come out, do they have a musical background or are they complete amateurs?
C: Some people have completely never done anything, some people are like interested in singing and stuff but never really got into DJ-ing, some people are into videography and visuals and want to be able to match the music with visuals. It’s a lot of different people. But mostly everyone who comes is a complete beginner. In the production workshops, everyone has basic experience because production is hard, because the software is just complicated. We mostly teach Ableton, they sponsor the production workshop. So this last year we finally got sponsorship. I was doing all out of my pocket for the first year, I’d spend all my gig money on it, and then now finally we’ve gotten sponsors so I don’t have to pay anything. Last year was good. The first year was like….I was spending shit loads of money.
F: So now you feel that it was kind of worth it?
C: Yeah and I’ve been probably getting better gigs because of it too. I’ve just met a lot of people, a lot of teachers from all over the world. I did it across Europe, you know, so like you meet all those teachers who also throw parties cause they care about the community so they throw parties that are like safe spaces for women.
F: So Intersessions tries to open up sessions to women and the LGBTQ+ community?
C: We kind of say that everyone is kind of welcome but if there straight white men, we say try to not take up a lot of space up..you know? (laughs) Cause I’ve seen straight white men come, and like overpower the energy of the room cause that’s just what they’re used to. They just don’t even know or realise that that’s what they are doing. We say give first access to everyone else and then.. Like you can come watch and be respectful, and whatever. But yes, everyone is welcome. We just wanted to make sure that people who need it most get priority. A lot of people don’t come because women are teaching, or like don’t come because queer people are teaching, or even if people of color are teaching. And some smaller towns, I’ve had some dudes being like ‘why would you do this for women, why can’t everyone come?’ It is for everyone but they just don’t understand and why it’s that tone.
F : Why do you think you specifically need it for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community?
C : Yeah, some people don’t understand why we need Intersessions specifically for women or why it’s angled towards people of color, or LGBTQ+ people and women. They just don’t get it. And I’m like, but the whole world is your space. I created this space, this thing, because I thought it was missing in my life. That’s why you do a lot of things, you know. It’s like, you’re passionate about something but there’s no space for it in the world. So then you create the space for it. I am not trying to leave anyone out , it’s just like if you feel more comfortable in this space then come to the space. And if the space isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you. Then don’t come.
F : There’ll be more spaces for you?
C : Exactly. So yeah, people that do get offended, I’m just like, you know, we created this space because this is the lack that we found in our community in this realm. If you feel you don’t belong here then you probably don’t belong here. But at the end of the day, our goal is to be able to be inclusive and also get everyone into the conversation. If you are a straight guy and you want to come there, I think you should. I think you should come, listen to how we are feeling. But you know, LISTEN. The thing is that a lot of these dudes do come and then want to insert themselves into conversations or say things where they shouldn’t say shit, cause they don’t know our experience. But we want them there too, you know?
F: What’s the kind of age span of participants? Youngest to oldest.
C: The youngest we’ve ever had is 9.
F: Oh wow!
C: And she came with her mom. And her mom was like in her forties, she was also interested. Her mom DJs on vinyls. Her daughter was young and wanted to learn on more new technology. So her mom was like ‘Okay well there is this workshop.’ One time, I was actually at the airport and I had left something some DJ stuff/equipment at the airport and the lady that found my stuff was like ‘Oh I found this. Do you make music? My daughter is really interested in learning, but I don’t know where to send her.’ And she just happened to say that to me, and her daughter came to the workshop the next month we had and she was like 10.
F: That’s crazy.
C: And then the oldest is in their fifties. It’s like a lot of vast variety of different people. It’s really fun. And you just meet a lot of really interesting people. And I like wouldn’t have considered myself like a teacher, like a tolerant person in that way but I learnt that I actually love doing it. I love when people learn and the reactions you see when in the hands on portion, when you see people’s reactions when they got it - is just so sick, cause you just know oh they are really gonna do this. I just wanna see more people like us behind the deck. You can tell someone’s story, and their kind of like life behind what kind of music they play and the way they mix even, I can kind of tell like their personalities and a lot of the times if its like some like big egotistical bro Djing, they all fucking DJ the same, they are all confident. I like to see some messing up, some variety in the way you mix, or like the sounds you play or even like anxiousness. You know it’s different. It’s cool to see with different types of people with insecurities, and just like different life pasts DJ. I just like watching all of the different types. So that was another thing. I was bored of watching the same type of person behind the decks all the time. There’s no variety.
Photo Courtesy : Intersessions Facebook Page
F: Do you think Intersessions has made you a better DJ?
C: Oh definitely. Definitely. I have listened to 1000’s of teachers teach in so many different ways, and there so many different ways teach in or to DJ. There are so many different ways. So I’ve picked up like little techniques here and there. I’m a million times better. I’ve learnt so much from so many different people. And like all the people that are chosen, they’re all really really different. They all play different genres, and they’re already teaching on different equipment, but with different genres the students can relate to different teachers. So one teach can have kind of like a hip hop sound and a techno sound , or maybe like more dance music, kind of like more clubbish sounds, kind of like a variety there. And usually the person who’ll play techno will also play disco and house music and stuff like that. So not only have I found a lot of music through a lot of the teachers, but techniques of mixing - like I’ve learnt so much. And then in production classes I've learnt an insane amount.
C : Now, like the amount of support of other women, is like crazy. Everyone has been like so sweet and having each other’s back like, helping each other out, get gigs. I know a lot of headlining DJ’s who say that you know, ‘’I’m not gonna play unless there are two other girls in the lineup” or “I’m not gonna play in this festival, look at the line up. You need to add more women to this.”
There’s a lot of bigger artists like Black Madonna, whose a big house music DJ, She is a lot older, she is in her fifties. She says before every show, I’m not going to play unless there are atleast two or three other women on this line up. If it’s like just a show, but she doesn’t play festivals unless there’s a diverse lineup.
F: That’s amazing.
C: Once you’re big like that, you can throw your weight around like. It’s just crazy, cause dudes have never done that for anyone (laughs) you know? She’s 50, and she’s maybe just now started getting good gigs in the last 2-3 years and she’s been talented forever, for a long time. And yeah, she literally in the last year, she just played Boiler Room this year. She just played at all the big festivals this year/last year. So it’s like crazy. And even Jayda – G, and like, Jayda G’s been doing shit for a long time. She’s older too, like not old but she is like in 30’s. And then Peggy Gou, have you heard of her? She’s like amazing. She’s been doing stuff forever, and this year…Just because there’s been attention on how they haven’t been booking women. but now they are finally booking. It’s still fucked in certain ways. There ARE a lot more women getting booked for this stuff now, like this year. There definitely will, this year. I’m excited, hopefully it’ll become good.
Follow Chippy on Instagram at @chippyxnonstop and on Twitter at @chippy_nonstop