DJ Lady DM

January 28 marks the first night we will open and close our reading with music, and spinning for us will be Mackenzie Largie, aka Lady DM.  We spoke to her about being a DJ’ane, Europe v America for black girls, and the Norwegian night she made headline news.

Zurich, Switzerland 1999

Would you share the origins of Lady DM? Lady DM stands for devotee of the Divine Mother. My guru is Amma. My vision is to heal people through music, as I’ve been healed as a kid growing up under very unfortunate circumstances. Music and dancing saved my life.

Who were your early musical inspirations? My mother didn’t allow music at home, and after a certain age, I lived mainly with her. I used to listen to the local radio a lot, and luckily we had a satellite dish with both east and west coast MTV. I have an almost encyclopedic memory of videos that were on MTV in the 80s through the 90s, and to be honest, MTV and popular music was a lot cooler back then. Those limitations really forced me to have an open mind with music in relation to the idea of ‘genre’. I loved certain metal songs as much as I liked certain Janet Jackson songs.

When did you know you should DJ? I began to know I should DJ after I was dating a DJ for some time. I got really sick of hearing his friends–all men–play the same music, or for instance, mix out of tracks before the part I considered cool hit. I came to the conclusion I could do this just as well or better than them, so I started DJ’ing.

Europe v America. As a DJ.  As a woman of color. Lord. That is a loaded question. I shared with a friend the other day that when I got to Europe I started to notice the word DJ’ane attached to my name on flyers and promo. I was like, what is that? That’s not in my contract! I asked someone and they said that’s how they indicate that the DJ is female. In other words, it was extremely rare to come across a female DJ in Europe in the late 90’s, while I was used to a crew of some bad ass girls throwing down here in New York.

What makes you happy on the dancefloor? Good music p-e-r-i-o-d. It can be badly mixed. Just don’t cut the record short, or cut off the best part of the track.

What does “we” mean to you?  I love being a part of the worldwide music and nightlife community; I just don’t embrace the lifestyle. I never needed drugs or alcohol to get off or get high on music. The music is enough. I’ve had what’s called a kundalini experience more than once on the dance floor, where I feel this energy rising up from my mid-section and shooting out through the top of my head. Just from music. Nothing else.

Do you tend to embrace or struggle against community? Both. I’m a social anorexic. I spent 15 years in nightlife. I am a very social person, but that doesn’t mean that I like or want people to get close to me. Luckily, that’s changing, and so is how I navigate the music and nightlife world. I make it a healthier experience. I like playing gigs that end by midnight or 1am. I need to go home, sleep, and get up for yoga. Being functional during the daytime makes me a much greater contribution to society and “community” than being a vampire.

Where do you feel at home? I’ve traveled a lot in my life. Mainly through dj’ing. Getting out of New York was a struggle, but I did. I’m happy to be back, and I’m happy to call New York my home. It is truly one of the greatest cities in the world, though I don’t prefer cities at all. I prefer the beach. Nothing brings me closer to bliss than a beautiful beach with warm waters.

When you DJ, I v We… I’m not into I v We. I am there to serve and to make people happy. To connect them with the divine. To help them experience joy. I get extremely shy when I DJ because I invest so much into selecting music that I LOVE. Not just like. Not just play because I know it’s a hit. I F’ing LOVE every single track I play, and I play if for a reason. To make you dance and fall out.

You lived and DJed in Germany for several years. Would you tell us about the black + female + DJ experience in Deutschland?  Germany is awesome. Europe in general is awesome for music and musicians. Particularly black musicians. People love music there and really really show their enthusiasm for what you do. There is a long tradition of black musicians in Europe, finding themselves and feeling more at home and appreciated that they are/were in the states. I ran into some famous black jazz musicians once on a flight out of Amsterdam and we spoke about that. I recognized that I am not special. I am not the first. There exists a long tradition…

Was it any different than the black + female experience in Deutschland? To be honest, I felt like the Queen of Sheba in Berlin. Particularly East Berlin where I was hanging out. The people looked at me with more humanity and appreciation for my individuality than I had generally experienced in the States, where I am just another non-remarkable black girl.

Who are the artists that excite you now? I’m always on the lookout for new comers and have the luck of “bumping into geniuses” a phrase Danny Goldberg coined. I saw a Japanese noise and metal band called the ZZZZZ’s at the Tinderbox Festival, one of my clients put on a few months ago at Webster Hall. Threetiny Japanese girls who look Amazing and are all virtuosos. Killer. Sick. Noise.

I bump into really amazing unknown artists all the time.

Do you make your own music? Yes. Started to. Working on collaborations. That’s on its way out.

Could you share a few of the stranger musical requests that have been made to you while you were at work?  I think I appreciate stranger music than anything that’s been requested for me to play. I don’t do weddings so I’ve been spared a lot.

What don’t people know about DJs that they should?  I remember being interviewed in Stuttgart, Germany once and being asked the question, “Do I consider myself a Shaman?” I was like b*S! I’m not a Shaman. I take that back. DJ’ing, a good DJ is a channel for something much bigger than themselves. A DJ who is able to open themselves up to this energy consistently is like a magician or shaman. They are truly collaborating with the forces to do something remarkable.

Which gig will you remember forever?  Some town in Norway, a few hours drive north of Oslo. Must have been 1999. The venue was a picturesque inn in the middle of nowhere. They had an actual metal cage around the DJ booth, because the farmers (the people who would frequent the venue on weekends were actual farmers) would get drunk as hell and were known to throw their glass beer bottles at the DJ.

I made the front cover of the town newspaper. My visit was headline news.