It’s True Boys The Girl’s Got Groove
DJ Jenny LaFemme documents sexism in dance-music through Girls Gone Vinyl: The Untold Story of Female DJs.
Jenny Feterovich, alias DJ Jenny LaFemme, is used to being the minority. In 1989, when she was 14, her family fled anti-Semitism in Moscow and settled in suburban Detroit.
As a student at Berkley High School, LaFemme absorbed the popular culture, where Madonna and Michael Jackson were en vogue. But she never forgot her roots. “You want to be assimilated into the culture, but you also want to be with your own people,” she says.
Music became her bridge between Eastern European and American cultures. In the 1990s, she became a fixture in Detroit’s underground music clubs, where she first heard electronic music and the way a disc jockey could meld musical elements that spoke to the crowd and make them dance.
Says LaFemme: “I saw the music. I saw the energy. I saw the vibe, and I just fell in love with it.”
Her desire to create that soulful, carefree environment for fellow Russians was the impetus for a new hobby — hosting dance parties — where she played Russian music, disco and other genres.
More than a decade later, LaFemme has created a side career out of spinning electronic music — more specifically, a subgenre of sexy, melodic electronica she calls “house.” Her day job is as a principal and co-founder at Clawson-based Parliament Studios Inc., a video production company.
As one of the few well-known female DJs in the electronic music industry, an arguably small group, LaFemme says she DJs anywhere she can create a dance environment, including locally in Detroit, as well as in Miami and Moscow.
LaFemme and music-event producer Maggie Derthick have collaborated annually on an all-female DJ lineup that coincides each year with Movement, Detroit’s annual spring electronic music festival. When they met up to discuss this year’s event, LaFemme said she had an epiphany.
“It literally struck me. I have a studio. I have an opportunity to do something very important,” says LaFemme.
The festival, which ran May 28-30 in Detroit’s Hart Plaza, featured only six female DJs out of 107 total acts and was “par for the course,” say LaFemme and Derthick. “It is a very segregated industry,” LaFemme adds. “We are consistently told we’re pretty good for girls.”
The women began planning a documentary — Girls Gone Vinyl: The Untold Story of Female DJs — highlighting female DJs and their challenges in a male-dominated industry.
Derthick, an electronic music veteran, says the industry is slanted toward males for multiple reasons. The most obvious is in the way the industry began: Electronic music production grew out of the basement of music nerds who would mix sounds and edit songs at home.
“Girls at that age are doing different things,” says Derthick. “Boys tend to nerd out in their basements” in their teenage years more than girls do. “There were no other women to look up to,” LaFemme adds. “It was a boys’ club.”
Girls Gone Vinyl aims to inspire women who are interested in the industry, LaFemme says. “It’s not a bitch-fest,” she says, but an opportunity to tell how successful female DJs have made their mark.
“It will give a younger girl someone to emulate and see where they started from,” Derthick explains.
Derthick and LaFemme began filming at the Movement Electronic Music Festival and are seeking seed money for the project on Kickstarter.com, where artists can appeal to the masses for donations.
“We plan to travel around the world and get as many stories as we can,” LaFemme says. “I’d like to go to more than 100 [female DJs] and cover from the ’70s and ’80s all the way up to the modern DJ who just started spinning a couple of weeks ago.”
Girls Gone Vinyl includes the story of Anja Schneider, who began as an electronic music producer for German radio, owns the record label Mobilee Records and happens to be pregnant.
Also included in the interview lineup are up-and-coming electronic music producer Deniz Kurtel, Chicago-born producer Kate Simko and the DJ duo Dollz at Play.
What’s more, says Derthick, the film includes women like her who work in business and public relations for the industry and could act as a touchpad for young artists.
“There’s this whole new generation of people coming into this music,” Derthick says. “Electronic music is going to become more mainstream quicker than anyone thinks.”
Where a lack of female DJs might have scared some women away from the industry, LaFemme says that only bolstered her drive.
“I think differently. I like a challenge. If they can do it, I can do it,” she says. “There’s still a stigma that we’re pretty good for girls. I don’t want to be pretty good for a girl. I just want to be good.” RT