Fashion Rocks: Dapper DJ Series with DJ Whitney Day

Fashion and music have a longstanding, mutually influential relationship. Some of the most notorious fashion icons are musicians. With the biggest international DJ talents descending upon New York City for Pride 2014, we thought we’d give a special nod to the dapper DJs of Pride in series of music/style interviews with some of these world renowned artists. Last week, we interviewed DJ Mary Mac, a world-renown DJ who has spun for Madonna and who will also be featured at WHITNEY DAY Presents: ** THE PARTY ** @ MARQUEE NIGHTCLUB, the GRAND FINALE Event for PRIDE 2014! Sunday, June 29th from 5PM-2AM (RSVP here).

This week, we are featuring international DJ and event producer, Whitney Day. Whitney Day is the mastermind behind the largest. most popular women’s Pride events in NYC this year: 

  1. Hot & Wet Pool Party at the Dream Hotel Downtown on 6/24 from 5-10pm (RSVP here, advanced tickets required) 
  2. Yes HOMO Hip Hop Party at Avenue Nightclub on 6/25 from 8pm-2am (RSVP here)
  3. THE PARTY largest post-Pride-parade women’s event (RSVP here

In addition to producing the entire event, she will also be behind the decks providing phat-beats. So, we sat down with Whitney to find out how she says swag with her busy schedule and how she combines fashion with music:

 

dapperQ: Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

Whitney: I’m a DJ and Event Producer based in New York City. I’m a born-and-raised Manhattanite with a background in music beginning as far back as I can remember. These days I’m often globetrotting for ‘work’, deejaying festivals, pride events and clubs in Europe, Australia and across the US. At home in NYC, I’m focused on bringing the highest caliber of nightlife events to the lesbian and GBTQ+ community.
dapperQ: When did you start DJing – and what or who were your early passions and influences?

Whitney:  I had an early start in music. Like many kids, I started off with piano and singing in my school chorus, but at age 10 I began playing the trombone (yes! really!) which quickly lead me to playing at Carnegie Hall (twice, by age 12) and was awarded a scholarship with the New York Pops Orchestra. I was also accepted to LaGuardia High School for Music, Arts & the Performing Arts (the school featured in the movie ‘Fame’). There, I studied jazz, classical, theory and got my first taste of music production. I went off to college at Umass Amherst to study Philosophy (yes! really!) and was offered a small scholarship to continue playing trombone. Halfway through college, I auditioned for the university’s all-female acapella group, where I met my long-term girlfriend and now wife. Around that time I became very interested in a completely different side of music, namely music production, recording and technology, and I began a few courses that sparked my interest in those realms. Throughout college I interned in the summers at various recording studios in both New York and London, and once I graduated I began working for a film score composer in NYC. There I learned sound design, mixing and composing music for TV and film. I wrote for MTV, the Discovery Channel and mixed a film that was in the Tribeca Film Festival. It was all pretty exciting for a fresh college grad. I only had one more ‘regular’ job after that, before deciding to take the plunge and work for myself.

I always had a particular love for dance music. And as a kid growing up in Manhattan, well before I was 21, I was checking out clubs and raves in the city and deep in Brooklyn. I started to become fascinated with the DJs. The concept of completely re-imagining a song by mixing and blending different bits together completely inspired me. So one day, feeling motivated, I went out and bought two turntables, a mixer, speakers and began practicing. It wasn’t before long that I had my first gig and was hooked. The night I debuted outside of my bedroom was the start of my DJing career, and I haven’t stopped since.

whitney day 4

Photo by Erica Camille 

dapperQ: How has your work evolved? 

Whitney:  Greatly. As I began to play more, I got better and better, both technically, and business-wise, and started to nurture my own following. When first starting out, I played 5 nights a week for 6 hours a night. A rigorous but very beneficial DJ ‘bootcamp’, that I did for about a year . Then, after some time, I was able to cut back and only accepted the gigs that allowed me to play the music I love. Doing so provided me more time to focus on developing my sound and creating my own events.

While I will always consider myself a DJ first and foremost, my career has expanded also to event production. Today I spend much of my time searching for new, fantastic venues, negotiating contracts, finding and hiring up-and-coming talent. This is because my goal is to bring options to lesbian and lgbtq nightlife that are unique, high-caliber and well-thought out.

dapperQ: How would you describe your current musical style? 

Whitney: This is always a hard question. To a certain extent it depends on the situation – the venue, the crowd, the location, my mood. Will I play the same style of music at a pool party in Orlando as at a warehouse in Brooklyn or a massive festival in Germany? No, but I do think that I have a distinct style of playing that is recognizable, common thread in all of my performances. Overall I like music that takes you on a journey of ebbs and flows, that creates an elevated ‘one-ness’ vibe in the room, and most of all, music that motivates people on the dance floor.

Cutting my teeth as a DJ in NYC I’ve learned to be flexible and ‘open format’, and that meant learning how to spin to any crowd – everything from funk and soul to pop and hip hop. But I have always injected my own spin on the music by selecting interesting remixes of popular songs, or sampling a vocal from a soul track and teasing it into a hip-hop beat. Sometimes I’ll experiment with a new genre like ‘trap’, and test the waters by incorporating it into my set. As a DJ, I think an important part is to expand someone’s musical experience. To give them something that’s creatively more than what they’re used to and hopefully something memorable and exciting.

If I did had to choose just one favorite type of music, it would be house – deep, vocal and soulful. To me, house music is the most diverse, versatile and interesting genre to play, to listen to and dance to.

Whitney 3

Image via Whitney Day

dapperQ: The relationship with the audience is important for a DJ. How do you balance between giving the crowd what they want and staying true to your artistry? Do you believe in “reading an audience” – and how do you put it into practice?

Whitney: Reading the audience is a skill that takes time and practice. It’s just as important as track selection and knowing how to use your equipment. I never ever plan a set in advance. I may jot down some ideas, but until I’m up in front of my audience I have basically no idea what I’m going to play. This spontaneity keeps things fresh, keeps me on my toes and allows me to see the crowd’s reaction and build my set instinctively from there.

Finding a balance between giving the audience what they want and staying true to yourself is complicated to wrap your head around at first. But ultimately if you make sure to select great, high-quality music that you genuinely love, and believe in what you’re playing, so will your audience. However, if you play something because you think a crowd wants to hear it, but personally you can’t stand it, then your audience will sense that lack of connection. That’s why it’s important that I play what I enjoy listening to. Because when I’m really feeling the music, it’s contagious, and that energy and passion emanates from the DJ booth to the dancefloor.

Making people happy and keeping them dancing is #1, but there are certainly ways to do so without playing requests all night. Building a DJ/audience trust over time is key. Once you win over a crowd and break them out of the “I need to be able to sing along to every song to have fun” mindset, then you can really start exposing them to music that they may have never heard otherwise. And soon people will begin to follow you to hear something that they cannot experience on the radio or anywhere else.

dapperQ: Music and fashion have always been intertwined. Some of the biggest style icons have come from the music industry, from Gaga, Bowie, Madonna and Beyonce to Andre 3000, Joan Jett, Pharrell, and the Beatles. On the runway, the perfect song has the power to convey the aesthetic of a designer’s work. Alternatively, the perfect outfit or personal style has the power to convey the aesthetic of a musician’s work. How would you describe your personal style when it comes to fashion? Would you say it is influenced by your music? If so, how?

Whitney: I’ve seen a lot of DJs and musicians who wear some crazy shit. It’s great for marketing and of course, for standing out. But, personally, I’ve never really felt as though I need to do that. Or really want to. I pretty much keep to my regular, daily style even when I’m out performing. I’m a city kid at heart, and so my style is very ‘New York’ casual. A lot of graphic tees, funky sweatshirts, a pair of good classic jeans and cool sneakers and perhaps a bling-y watch or bracelet. I consider myself an extremely accessible person, and I want to feel and look like myself when I’m behind the turntables. I don’t ever want to have to try hard to present a style that isn’t a reflection of the real me.

whitney day 2

Photo by Amy Beckerman

dapperQ: Has your fashion style evolved over the years?

Whitney: Ha! Not really. My wife says I wear the same things as when she and I met ten years ago. But I don’t take offense, I had great style back then! I’ve found pictures of myself as a five year old wearing converse sneakers, jeans and a sweatshirt layered under a denim jacket. I will however, say I’ve become more androgynous over the years. For dressier occasions, I’ve been influenced by the dapper style – tailored button ups, suits, etc. I used to switch it up more and wear dresses, high heels too, but I’m way more comfortable in pants and flats, sans lace or frills. Sorry mom – the days of sucking it in and twisting my ankles are long gone!

dapperQ: Who are some of your fashion icons?

Whitney: I love Grace Jones – she’s artsy, sexy, masculine and feminine all at the same time. She is a true icon and taste-maker, in music and style. In more recent days, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea wears some amazing stuff. Lots of graphics, colors, bold shapes and designs, and she mixes it up between ultra feminine and more andro. She always seems to have an edge that keeps me interested in following her.

dapperQ: What is the one article of clothing you cannot live without?

Whitney: Converse sneakers. Period.

dapper: What can we expect next from you?

Whitney: I have some amazing DJ gigs coming up, such as Girls in Wonderland in Orlando, the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, and the Diver/Cite festival in Montreal. At home I’m gearing up for my biggest Pride season yet, with three incredible parties that I’m producing.

On Tuesday, June 24th I’m kicking off Pride week with a never-before-seen pool party at the Dream Downtown hotel called ‘Hot & Wet’. The venue called ‘The Beach’ is a 4,800 sq ft beach (yes! sand!), a gorgeous outdoor pool to swim in, and DJs spinning pool-side.

On Wednesday, June 25th I’m throwing a free, all-night hip-hop Pride party called ‘Yes Homo!’ with 4 other amazing DJs spinning old school, new school, trap, moombahton, R&B, reggae and more at Avenue Nightclub.

The grand finale is on Pride Sunday. ‘The Party’ takes place at Marquee New York, one of the most premier nightclubs in the city and one of the best venues in the country. I have DJs from NY, Germany and Australia and some incredible performers coming from around the world to make their US debuts at this event. Last year’s was the best party I’ve ever DJ’d and the best party I’ve actually ever been to. Seriously. This year, I’m setting the bar even higher. I’m expecting 2,000+ attendees to celebrate the end of Pride month in a big way!! It’s definitely THE Pride party not to be missed!

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