One of 2018's standout DJs steps out of her comfort zone.
What a year it's been for Honey Dijon. Riding off the success of 2017's debut album, the Chicago artist released two more EPs on Classic Music, soundtracked catwalk shows for Louis Vuitton and emerged as one of dance music's most vital and powerful voices, especially outspoken on issues of race, gender and the changing face of clubbing. But it was behind the decks where she made the biggest headlines. A DJ since the '90s, she took the world by storm in 2018, playing 100s of shows at dozens of the most celebrated clubs and festivals. In her own words, it was a "watershed year."
Dijon has excelled pushing a rambunctious DJ style that leans heavily on golden-era disco, techno and house. Classics abound in her sets. In other words, the perfect soundtrack for a celebratory New Year's Eve podcast, right? Well, she had other ideas. Instead of hands-in-the-air euphoria, she goes dark and dubby on RA. 657, showing off, among other things, her love of minimal and industrial music. Don't panic, though: the next 60 minutes is still Dijon through and through, packed full of inspirational messages and old-school references, plus, of course, a nod to the one and only Grace Jones.
What have you been up to recently?
2018 has been a watershed year for me. Although I have been honing my craft for many years and working in so many different club environments, I was finally able to push through. I have been touring like mad as a result, which I am so grateful for, and doing a lot of creative things that I've always dreamed of with other artists and musicians from other creative fields. I'm so humbled that I get to share music with so many people in so many places around the globe. So sharing time and space with others through music is pretty much what my ass has been up to.
When and where did you record the mix?
I recorded this mix in Berlin. I did most of the mixing at home on my two Pioneer CDJ2000 Nexus 2 players and DJM900 Nexus 2 mixer. A lot of edits and effects for the tracks were done in Ableton in studios from London and Berlin mostly. Berlin has really opened me up sonically, but my roots will forever be influenced by the musical education mama got in Chicago and New York.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The idea behind this mix was to step outside of my comfort zone. I believe that most people have a fixed idea of me as an artist and I wanted to show a different side of myself. I love industrial, techno and minimal dub music just as much as house and disco. A lot of people still associate me with swingy Chicago and classic house and disco, but I can rock dirty rhythmic techno as well. I grew up in dark after-hour clubs where the music was sleazy, dirty, raw and sexy and I wanted to show that side of myself. As soon as people think they know you, it's time to switch that shit up like a motherfucker!
You have many interests outside of dance music. What were some of your non-musical cultural highlights of 2018?
So many. I think mentoring people is very important, especially since women and queer people of color aren't given so much shine. Heritage artists are not passing information, skill sets or even musical knowledge to the new generation because they are still trying to eat from music. I think this is a mistake because there is such a rich history that will be lost if it's not shared. Voices from the Latin queer community, queer women of color, the Asian community. Different experiences enriches and expands not only music but the whole clubbing experience. You need it. We have not had a new musical genre in so long because there is very little cross-pollination. Most people these days are making the same record to get the same gigs with the same DJs on the same festivals or clubs because that's what they think is success is. Create the thing you want to see instead of following the trends. It really takes a very long time to be able to have a voice in music and emulating what is already there is not a recipe for success. Everybody wants to be an instant star overnight but unless you have a great PR person or team behind you it doesn't work that way. We don't need three versions of the same DJ or musical style. That’s why there is so much more supply than demand and things are a bit stagnant. Now is the time more than ever to be an artist or a misfit and to make music people who haven't grasped this yet to push the envelope.
In 2017 I was invited to speak at MoMA PS1 about nightclubs being safe havens for marginalized people. Clubs for me are more than experiential environments. At one time, clubs were where artists, musicians and designers who didn't fit in the narrow confines of the day world could make a living, expand their art, meet other artists, find inspiration. Especially people of color, non-binary people and transfolk. I’ve continued to write and speak on that because clubs are very important spaces for a lot of people to just discover themselves freely. It’s very important for me because gentrification and consumerist culture is killing nightlife and clubbing culture.
Clubs in Chicago and New York in the '90s were exciting cultural spaces where people, to steal your own phrase, would go to "meet, mate, and create." Which of today's clubs still live up to that standard? In what ways?
Kids will always find ways to meet, mate and create but I feel it's no longer in clubs so much. The internet changed all of that. People are connecting more through social media than actual physical spaces. The physical space has become the end result with most of the precursor done digitally. You used to have to go out to have sex, network, exchange ideas, be exposed to things outside of your comfort zone or even experience and rub shoulders with different parts of society. Now everyone stays in their own lanes in my opinion. Club culture has gone from community to entertainment with people only tuning in to their favorite acts or music. That makes things very divisive and monotonous. Things have become a monoculture. Gentrification has also changed the demographics of our major and even smaller cities and made them so expensive to live in, which has changed what clubbing looks and feels like. People consume instead of contribute. They depend on the DJ for the entire experience, which is shortsighted because a great night out is a combination of so many things. The vibration of the music for sure is important but so is the energy between people. You can't really have a full experience when you are more concerned with documenting the night instead of being present in it. Sometimes I feel like what the event looks like on Instagram or the review afterwards is more important than what it actually was like or felt like.
What are you up to next?
I've just begun studio work for my second album, the follow-up to The Best Of Both Worlds, and a mix compilation, both on Classic. And I'm doing the post-production on my next singles with Cakes Da Killa and another with DJ Rush. I am also really looking forward to my other creative projects in fashion and art. I’ve always been inspired by the club culture of New York between 1980-1983 when creative energy coexisted between all disciplines inclusive of music, art, sex and fashion. As much as I love being a DJ and a producer, I never want to limit myself to just being one thing or the other. In today's music climate you can't be anyway. To be an artist today you have to be visual as well as aural. I fucking love that word "aural." It’s so sexy. I've always just wanted to be a creative slut!