‘It’s 2019! Yes, we have tits, but we’re just doing our job’ – The three DJs behind a new club night Lost & Sound

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‘It’s 2019! Yes, we have tits, but we’re just doing our job’ – The three DJs behind a new club night Lost & Sound

The three DJs behind a new club night at Dublin’s latest late-night venue talk about sexism in the industry, trying to bring a 1990s clubbing vibe back to the capital – and why they can’t stand the term ‘female DJ’


Turning the tables: DJs Kate Brennan-Harding, Sally Cinnamon and Claire Beck. Photo by Tony Gavin
Turning the tables: DJs Kate Brennan-Harding, Sally Cinnamon and Claire Beck. Photo by Tony Gavin

Claire Beck visible bristles. She and fellow DJs Sally Cinnamon and Kate Brennan-Harding are chatting about their new club night – Lost & Sound at the Lost Lane venue in the heart of Dublin – when the term ‘female DJ’ crops up.

“I’m going to stop you there,” Beck says. “We’re DJs, just DJs. The female DJs thing? It’s 2019. Yes, we have tits, but we’re just doing our job. We were joking earlier that we have a guest coming to join us soon and we were wondering should we introduce him as well-known male DJ? Or male producer? Or male musician?”

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Cinnamon – aka Sally Foran – agrees.

“The term ‘female DJ’ sounds amateurish, and I’ve been doing this for 17 years. You know when people use the term, they think, ‘Yer wan has only started DJing’. I know it’s wrong but people do think that.”

“It can get very patronising,” Beck says. “You say you’re a DJ and people go ‘Oh, well done!’ People come up to me all the time and go, ‘You’re not the DJ!’ And I go, ‘No, I’m just minding the stuff – he’s in the jacks’, and they go, ‘Oh, all right – grand’.

Foran says she still encounters sexism from punters. “Sometimes, when I’m DJing in a bar environment,” she says, “they’ll come over and give me the drinks orders. It makes more sense in their brain that I was a bartender with headphones on than I’m a DJ.

“I was DJing recently and this lad came over to me and said, ‘Myself and me mate were saying how deadly the tunes were and the next thing we looked up and saw it was a girl… f***ing fair play to ya!’

“What’s the point in trying to school this asshole?”

Brennan-Harding says: “I do think there is still a thing of ‘Oh, you’re a woman and a DJ’ so there’s an element of us going – you’re a bird, let’s look out for each other.”

“I do think women are better at the minding each other,” Foran adds. “When I started off, I did encounter sexism from other DJs. I’d have guys starting and stopping my stuff in the middle of a set…”

“I’m not surprised to hear that,” Beck says. “You’d get the sense [male DJs] were almost feeling indignant that you were there. It was like: ‘What are you going here? This is my space’.”

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“It probably felt quite novel back then,” Foran says “and when I look back, I’d get overly pleased when one of those DJs would compliment me. Why was I waiting for male validation? You don’t need it. You have to step forward and get it yourself.”

All three are hopeful that they can create something special with their Lost & Sound club night, which takes place on Saturdays at the same location as the old Lille’s Bordello off Grafton Street. “It’s nothing like Lillie’s,” Foran insists. “There’s none of that exclusive stuff. We want to create a space where people who love clubbing can come and hear some great music.”

Rewind to the mid-1990s and Irish club culture was in a really good place, especially in Dublin. “You’d all these incredible club nights back then,” Foran says. “Places like the PoD were sacred, people still talk about Powderbubble.”

One of the legendary Dublin club nights of the decade alongside Ri-Ra’s Strictly Handbag, a Powderbubble flyer from 1997 can be seen on the National Treasures website. There was a sense that club culture was a big deal back then.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Brennan-Harding. “I always dreamed of places like Studio 54,” she says, “of being able to walk into a legendary club like that in its heyday.

“I snuck into H.A.M. [the much eulogised gay club night at PoD] when I was underage and got to see what was going on there. That’s what dance clubs can do – it’s not like a bar where everything is about the drink. At clubs, there’s a scene, and when I moved back to Dublin from Cork in 2012 and started going to Mother [an ongoing club night in Temple Bar], I made lots of new friends there.”

“I’ve met some of my best friends on the dance floor at Mother,” Beck enthuses, “and I feel like we have the potential to create something else like that here.”

The arrival of Lost Lane – with its sound system designed by boatbuilder-turned-audiophile Toby Hatchett – has been warmly welcomed at a time when revered, long-running nightclubs have closed down. Some, such as Andrew’s Lane and the Tivoli, in Dublin, have been levelled, with hotels set to take their place.

“Dublin lost its club culture because all the venues closed,” Beck says. “All those amazing places, like Tripod and Redbox and the Tivoli, went and there was very little to replace them. You go there and that’s your ‘family’ – you’re all there to dance and listen to music and there would be guests [guest DJs] there and you’d know the sounds would be really good.”

“The death of Tripod was awful,” Foran says, “because all those DJs ended up doing club nights in bars – and bar culture took over and it’s not nearly as good because music is secondary to the whole experience of drinking. I saw a big banner on the side of Tripod going on about ‘Bespoke offices’ and it was just so grim. Our cities should be about more than just offices and money-making.”

Beck says there were signs of revival during the early years of recession. “All those empty buildings were used very creatively and you had one-off events and lots of experimentation, but then the money came back and these business people say that there was a killing to be made by turning them into hotels.”

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, Brennan-Harding insists. “I have seen something emerge with student culture and student club culture and it’s magic to watch, but the problem is they don’t have venues. Marcus [O’Laoire] is doing Hijinks and that’s a great club night, but he’s had to move venue loads of times.”

Each of the three believes the frenzy of speculation that has injected Dublin city centre is not nearly as apparent in cities like Cork and Galway and, consequently, they have a better club culture – per capita – than Dublin has.

They say they feel lucky to have a new club night in a venue that has a long-term strategy, and they hope to connect with a new generation who has the entirety of music ever made available on their smartphones. “It’s been more challenging to be a DJ nowadays,” Foran says, “because thanks to streaming, anyone can think they could be a DJ. The music is available to everyone, but there’s still a lot of skill needed to deliver a really memorable night where you connect with those in the room.”

Foran rarely makes playlists. She’s much happier to gauge a crowd and create a playlist there and then. “Women,” she says, “are much better at reading a room than men are. Fact. Women want people to dance and I think sometimes lads like to show off a little bit, you know, to show off their skills, whereas I don’t do that much scratching or messing [on turntables].”

“In my experience,” Brennan-Harding says, “I do feel that women are more empathetic to the room… they want everyone to have a good time. Purple Disco Machine [German DJ Tino Piontek] is absolutely amazing – and there are loads of male DJs and they’re fantastic – but often they go down their own little rabbit hole of what they want to listen to. Their heads are down and…”

“That’s exactly it,” Foran interjects, “it’s head down with a lot of them rather than thinking, ‘I want to make Sharon over there have a bit of a boogie’. Nicolas Jaar, John Talabot… every time I’ve seen them, they’ve either been amazing or they’ve been shite. They’d never looked up once, they never spoke to the crowd.”

As well-travelled DJs, it’s Berlin that keeps cropping up as the city that does club culture better than almost any other, but Foran says that’s partly down to the liberal licensing laws in the German capital. Lost Lane may open until 3.30am, but most Irish clubs shut their doors at 2.30am – pitifully early by European standards.

“If you treat people like adults, they’ll regulate themselves,” she says. “It would be so grown-up to be able to stay out as long as you want to. None of them [legislators] seem to realise that the idea of finishing so early means everyone scrambling to get their last drinks in – and then everyone arrives out at a certain time and they’re all shit-faced.”

Beck says Dublin should take a leaf out of the book of Manchester, arguably Britain’s greatest clubbing city. “Last year, I went to Manchester for Black Madonna – my favourite DJ – at The Warehouse Project and that goes on until 6.30 in the morning. We weren’t on a mission to get shit-faced. But it got to 4.30 and you could see the locals still going but we were so unused to that. We wanted our beds! But it was a reminder of what’s possible – and how amazing club culture can be.”

Indo Review


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