Intersessions is an inclusive sound initiative that creates space to teach those that identify as female and LGBTQ+ how to DJ. The last thing I would ever feel comfortable doing is learning how to DJ or more about DJing from a dude. Mega cheers to Chippy Nonstop, the DJ behind the initiative, hustling to get more gals behind the decks. After going to the Intersessions workshop with CL, Kare, Shifra Rifka, Diana McNally, Chippy Nonstop, and Internet Daughter, I got to learn more about CDJs, Traktor, Ableton Push, and vinyl, and get my hands on them. The need for sessions like these are real -- I may never have started DJing outside my bedroom if it wasn’t for my former prof Diana McNally encouraging me to give it the old college try.
Chippy and I connected the next day to chat all things Intersessions.
Cover photo by Carrie Jade Cai.
Stephanie For each Intersession workshop you put on, how do you determine the programming? Is it based on the DJs that are interested in being a part of the workshop, or are they all run quite similarly?
Chippy Sometime it’s hard. If I don’t kind of personally know them or have met them, it’s hard to know if they’re going to be respectful and good at teaching. I try to find teachers that play different styles, and are at different parts of their career, and use different equipment. I like to have at least one vinyl and one CDJ and one Traktor or Serato. It’s kind of like a mix of all of that: the equipment,what I’ve heard about them, and the style of music they play – in case some girls want to play house and some girls want to play hip-hop, to relate to each of the teachers differently.
S What’s the response been like from the Djing community? Has it been easy or hard to get people involved, to get sponsors involved and to get the workshops running?
C In each city the first one will get so much support. All the publications will come out and we’ll get everyone to help us. And then the second one, I’m on my own. Yesterday was the second one in Toronto so we didn’t have as much help for some reason. VICE sponsored the first one and they came in and filmed it, and Red Bull sponsored it and there was a lot more students, ‘cause there was a lot more coverage. It’s been weird. People have been supportive in being like, “Oh amazing thing that you’re doing!” You know? But in terms of like helping out and donating stuff, the second time in each city has been really hard.
S I don’t want to put words in your mouth but do you think maybe that’s a token thing? It’s like people are super down and then they’re like, “Okay, we already talked about this. Let’s move on,” type of thing?
C Well yeah, I mean like if it’s not benefitting them it’s not really helpful to them. They’re kind of over it. You know? And then they’ve already like been a good person and helped it the first time. I’m sure there’s a lot of factors that play into it. But yeah, it’s kind of frustrating. I think that it’s also that in this movement that’s happening right now, there’s a lot of feminism stuff and it’s all very tokenized. It’s so played up that people forget that it’s a real actual issue.
S I saw something on Tumblr once that was basically saying that whenever I’m talking about feminism, it’s not a political debate or for fun for me, this is my life. This isn’t a topic that goes away for my life type of thing. But I totally get what you’re saying.
C Exactly. Yeah. So that’s the frustrating part because you’re like, “Okay, you covered it and now you’ve got your little feminism post up and now you’re done with it.” You know what I mean?
C It’s kind of frustrating, and I also think that people probably think that we’re doing it because of that too. And it’s like, no, I genuinely want more women in music. I’m not just going to stop because they stopped caring about it, ‘cause this is something I won’t stop caring about.
S So the RSVP form includes a small questionnaire that asks about the role music plays in your life - your goals, what’s stopping you from reaching them. Do you find recurring themes in these forums and why do you collect them?
C When we first started it, a lot of people were just signing up and not coming, or just doing it because it was on a bunch of blogs and stuff. So we want people who are genuinely interested in learning and coming… especially in places like New York and LA, a lot of people, I feel, go just to be seen. We want people who are genuinely interested. One of like the main goals is actually creating artists that are actually interested in pursuing this. Anyone can come and everyone should come. But at the end of the day, we want more women and LGBTQ+ people in music. At the end of the day it’s actually about creating that, so if someone is really interested I think they would want to fill out the form. There’s a process and it’s not just, “Oh, I’m clicking this button. I’ll show up. Maybe I won’t show up.” In the beginning we didn’t have that step.
S How did you come up with the questions? Were these themes you already had like based on your own personal experience?
C Yeah, they’re pretty basic questions. Actually, this girl from New York that runs the venue Power Plant created the questionnaire, but yeah, we went through it together. But, I mean, they’re pretty basic questions -- like why are you interested in music, why do you feel defeated, or what are your challenges in being a female/LGBTQ?
S Sophomore has been exploring different areas of the creative industries — fashion, music, art — we’re often finding a recurring theme that men are always the leaders in these creative industries, just like any other industry. They are the gatekeepers and hold a lot of the knowledge and power—which I think still think a lot of the young people might not anticipate, or understand, or think that it’s changed.
C [Not everyone has had] to deal with systematic oppression. All they had to focus on their entire life was reaching their goal and they never had to feel any adversity, or they didn’t have any adversity in their path, you know? So they never felt uncomfortable asking for help or felt uncomfortable asking to use resources. They just felt like they deserved it. A lot of women, a lot of LGBTQ+ people, a lot of people of colour don’t feel like they deserve the privilege of asking for something. It’s just an innate thing within ourselves because of systemic oppression, you know—and a white man has never felt that. All they have to do is reach their goal. They don’t have to deal with all those like things in society.
So it’s like that, and it will be like that in so many fields because of that. White men will always have easier access to resources, because they don’t feel scared to ask for certain things or people just give it to them. You know what I mean? So you see that in music, you know like I walk into a club and I walk backstage and no one is assuming that I’m the artist. They’ll be like, “Who are you with?” Because I am a person of colour, female, they just aren’t assuming that I’m the DJ, or the artist, for some reason. But a white man could walk in they’d be like, “Oh yeah you’re the guy. She’s with you.’”
You just gotta push through it and just gain knowledge—enough knowledge to be able to be like, “Fuck you. I know my shit.” So you just gotta be better than all the guys and gain as much knowledge as you can. You gotta just push through it — don’t feel defeated.
S Yesterday a couple of the DJs were talking about safe spaces and throwing your own parties and working with other women to raise yourself up at the beginning. Do you have any safe bars or clubs or spaces in the city that you would recommend that people go out and like support female DJs, or that hire more female DJs?
C I’m kind of new to Toronto so I’m not as familiar with the scene, but I know CL books a lot of parties and books a lot of women and LGBTQ+ people. Kare who was there yesterday, she throws parties with Bedroomer, and they hire a lot of dope artists — male and female LGBTQ. I like going to Bambi’s. But it also just depends on what you’re interested in — what music you’re interested in.
S If people are like looking to help create change in the industry — CL talked about this briefly at the workshop — we need more women as DJs, but also as managers and booking agents, right?
C I was also talking to someone else about this earlier too — we don’t realize a lot of these booking agents are men, and they don’t think about this being an issue. They don’t realize it. So even doing something like Intersessions is giving all these industry people awareness that we actually need help because no one is listening to us, you know? A lot of the people who book festivals are men, and they just don’t think about it. They’re just thinking about numbers and money. Currently, obviously, there’s a lot of white male DJs making a lot of money because they have had resources and they’ve had access to everything. There are a lot more girls being put on lineups ‘cause we’re making noise. I saw a chart recently of the ratio of female to men that play festivals, and it was actually appalling.
S Is there a phrase or a question that you’re sick of answering or hearing?
C I mean, I guess I kind of get annoyed when people ask, “Is it hard being a woman, or whatever, in the industry?” But like, I still want to answer it.
I don’t want to keep saying it’s hard because then it’ll continue being hard. You know what I mean? For example, I’d get interviewed about women’s rights and then the next week I’ll put out a song and no one wants to talk about the actual music. So it’s frustrating. And I’ve seen other DJs talk about this too. My friend Jubilee is a dope DJ and artist, and she put out a whole compilation and she was all like, “No one talked to me about this, but I keep getting emails talking about how hard it is being a woman in a man’s industry.” And then that’s also still focusing on the man. It frustrating sometimes. But you gotta talk about it until you just stop talking about it, and then there will finally be a change.
S True. Is that part of why you also wanted to start Intersessions? To bring in more women in the industry and to move towards changing it?
C Yeah, exactly. Yeah I was talking about this yesterday to CL and everyone. It’s cool and all teaching these classes but then sometimes I’m like, “People are probably leaving and then sometimes never do it again, or never touch anything again and still feel intimidated.” Because it is only a three hour workshop, you can feel overwhelmed by all the information and you can feel defeated again.
So we want to start probably more intimate ones with girls who are really interested and maybe create a platform helping them with artist development and stuff like that, so we can actually move towards the goal of creating more women in this industry, and more LGBTQ+ and femme-identifying people in this community, because people could literally just learn and leave and never come back to it. A lot of it too is taking it into your own hands and creating your own thing and going all for it. The class helps people feel motivated by seeing other people like them teaching and going further in the field.