Miles to go my friends, there are miles to go. But to the extent that strides have been taken to make commonplace the “woman DJ” in event line-ups and create a climate in which the tide is slowly flowing in the right direction, Chicago’s Superjane collective played a big, big role in it.
Organized by DJ Heather, Colette, Lady D and Dayhota in Chicago in the late 1990s (and following in the footsteps of pioneers like Lori Branch, Psycho-Bitch, DJ Val and others), Superjane had an unequivocal message that DJ Heather spelled out nearly 20 years ago: to “re-educate people to forget the mystique of being a female DJ.” Or as Colette says today: “to prove that women DJs were more than a novelty act.”
This year, Superjane is marking their 20th anniversary, and 5 Magazine took the opportunity to interview the four original and sole members before they came back home for an anniversary show September 2 at Chicago’s Smartbar.
“We thought if we started throwing parties that had an all-female lineup, it would show that it wasn’t such a rarity for women to play records. Our main focus with Superjane was to prove that women DJs were more than a novelty act.”
I was just moving house a couple of months ago and came across the Spin article David Prince wrote about Superjane from 2000 (I also keep the issue around for stories about “the Nu Metal Explosion”). I never appreciated how much media exposure you guys got early on! Was that amount of exposure in the early days – Spin, XLR8R, MTV – helpful in the early days?
COLETTE We were lucky to have so many folks interested in Superjane right away. I think the best thing about all of the media exposure is it opened the doors for many other women to see that DJing wasn’t just a boy’s club. I still meet DJs all the time who said they were inspired by our group and started playing records after seeing us live or reading about us. It’s always very humbling to hear that.
“Superjane was a platform for us to express ourselves when there wasn’t one readily available. We did that. We owned it & it will be a part of us forever.”
Are the “foundation myths” that were reported back then — how you guys met, why you started playing together — more or less accurate?
COLETTE When Shannon [Dayhota] and I first met, we’d both just started playing vinyl. We forged an instant friendship and started practicing at Shannon’s loft whenever we could. Heather and Shannon were roommates at the time and we thought if we started throwing parties that had an all-female lineup, it would show that it wasn’t such a rarity for women to play records. Our main focus with Superjane was to prove that women DJs were more than a novelty act.
There is a really strong connection between Superjane and the people. Like I don’t think it has to be promoted hard or at all – just a xerox’d flyer would probably do. Why do you think you made that kind of connection with your audience?
LADY D I’ve always thought as an ensemble we each bring something different to the table, and we each have our own strengths. It’s almost like a pie plate graph how four quarters combine to make 100% – something perfectly whole and fulfilling. At our events, there is something for everyone. If you stick around long enough, you’ll get a chance to experience something that speaks directly to you and you might just discover something else new and enjoyable, along the way.
The connection was made, for me, in that people could see us working together, harmoniously. We each had our fans individually, and all together it became a much more powerful force.
Superjane hasn’t been super-heavily exploited (not in the bad sense – I liked the shirts!) but I mean if you asked me I would think it’d be a lot more interesting to see a “Superjane DJ Stage” at a festival rather than, you know, a “Vitamin Water Stage.” I don’t even know what a “Vitamin Water Stage” is supposed to be but I could guess what a Superjane DJ Stage would be like. To put a question mark at the end of this: what place in your lives & careers does Superjane occupy now?
DAYHOTA First off – I’d like to see a Superjane stage! And that’s a pretty great question. What’s always been amazing about the women in this group is that they are all focused on their own projects… defining their own journey. It’s what has always made us strong.
You have to know Superjane was a platform for us to express ourselves when there wasn’t one readily available. We did that. We owned it and it will be a part of us forever and… as you can see… something near and dear to our hearts still. That’s why we are celebrating it in Smartbar where we got our start together. It’s rare to find people you share the emotional experience of music with… and for 20 years? That’s what we have done. We’ve been in a relationship for 20 years. We’re married. For better or for worse… annnnnnd luckily it’s been for the better!
LADY D I have to agree, there could/would be more recognition if it was possible to perform together more regularly. I’d love to do more outreach as a group. I think about Beverly Bond and Black Girls Rock. Something like that appeals to me personally. Plus you make a great point – a Superjane stage at any festival would rock!
COLETTE The thing I love most about Superjane is that it’s always been about promoting solid music. No gimmicks or crazy costumes, just a fun night from start to finish. I think a Superjane stage would be a great addition to any festival. It’s still crazy to me that we started playing music together 20 years ago, it feels just like yesterday that we were throwing our first party at the Funky Buddha Lounge.
DJ HEATHER We are fortunate enough to see each other outside of the club quite often considering how far we live from each. Colette and I tour annually and throughout the year under the Second City Sessions umbrella.
“Anniversary Series” is a great way to describe the Superjane experience. Makes our playing together more of an “event” rather than just a regular happening. Always gets a good buzz when we announce parties. Definitely grateful for that.
Heather, you said something in I believe the XLR8R story that was kind of amazing – that Superjane’s goal was to “re-educate people to forget the mystique of being a female DJ.” That is really one of the best ways I’ve heard this put. Do you think we’re there? Are we closer? Will we get there?
DJ HEATHER Teaching by example, subversive activity. Still waiting for the day when women aren’t put into a sub-category of “female deejay,” [as] sub seems to denote “lesser than,” not “equal to.” “Parallel” but not “equal to.”
I think as the number of women, who are involved in every aspect of electronic music, continues to grow a break through will happen. Steady progress seems to be winning the race.
Memorable Superjane gigs?
LADY D Every gig at Smartbar has always been memorable. Joe has always welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home there. I also have to say Milwaukee has been like a second home. When we played Summerfest there the first year they had an electronic music stage, there was a palpable electricity in the air. Riding the limo into the festival grounds and the way the crowd received us was definitely a highlight for all.
What tracks would be on a Superjane essentials mixtape?
01. Ron Carroll Feat. Lady D You Rock My World (Mark Simmons Remix)
02. Pete Heller – Big Love
03. Chez Damier – Close (Derrick Carter Mix)
04. Lady D & RC Groove – High Again (Felix Da Housecat Thee Glitz Mix)
05. Studio 45 – I Like the Sounds
06. Cajmere feat Dajae – “Brighter Days” (Gene Farris Mix)
07. Afro Medusa – “Pasilda”
08. DJ Mes – “Friends ‘Til The End”
09. Steve Silk Hurley – “Jack Your Body” (Gettoblaster Remix)
10. Colette – “Best of Days”
11. The Girth (Joey Youngman) – Chained To The Bed-Blue Label
12. Cevin Fisher-Music Saved My Life-Maxi Tracks
13. The Purpose Maker (Jeff Mills) – The Bush- Axis
14. Method Men – Disco Biscuit – Camouflage Recordings
15. East Coast Boogiemen & DJ Heather – Picture of You (Hodges Remix) – Blackcherry
16. Larry Heard presents Mr.White – “The Sun Can’t Compare”
17. Dnote – “The Garden Of Earthly Delights” (X-Press 2 Supavox)
18. Derrick Carter – “Where you at?”
19. Global Communication – “The Way” (Secret Ingredients mix)
20. Anything by Colette, Heather, Lady D, Gene Farris, Tim Shumaker, Diz, Luke Solomon, Paul Johnson, DJ Sneak, Lauren Flax, Ron Trent, Mark Farina. Mark Grant, JT Donaldson, Mystic Bill, Alinka and Shaun, East Coast Boogiemen…anything on Paper, Classic…where does this list end? How lucky we have been coming from the best music city in the world?
Superjane celebrates their twentieth anniversary this September 2 2017 at Chicago’s Smartbar.