Interview: Sasha Grey
Talking Turkish electronic jazz clubs, her industrial goth band and Slayer.
Porn star-turned-author-turned-model-turned-actress-turned-DJ (not all in that order) Sasha Grey touches down in Australia in a couple of weeks for her upcoming Here I Am DJ tour, and we were fortunate enough to get a little bit of chat time in between her traversing the globe. As mentioned in the tour announcement (check it HERE for all the show dates), the time for getting sulky when someone you know from a different career turns to DJing is over. As long as they can back it up with actual skill, it's fair game. I guarantee at least one person in your friend circle is a DJ. I guess we'll see in a couple of weeks what Grey's got, but until then you can find a little more about how she got started in the clubs, what we can expect for the shows, and her knowledge of Australian music.
Hey Sasha, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! I’ll start with a pretty basic/annoying one – your DJ career is a relatively fresh one (especially given the myriad other bows to your arrow), can you tell us a bit about when you first started getting into DJing and electronic music?
I love music and thankfully come from a family where everyone enjoyed different genres, so I was never subjected to just one sound. I guess my first real exposure to electronic music was industrial electronic and experimental music as a teenager. I also collect records and have always, for fun, had some exposure to mixing. But it wasn’t until a few years ago when agents started reading my blogs and listening to aTelecine that I got offered to DJ. At that point I was barely 21 and hadn’t really stepped foot into many clubs and made the mistake of playing no-wave, and factory records 80’s era of dance music. I’ve learned a lot since then!
Obviously up until a couple of years ago you were in aTelecine, an industrial/goth kinda band, was there something of a natural progression moving from making music in a band to DJing?
They’re two totally different genres, but both are electronic-based. It was interesting to realize how many people share a mutual love for music, but not necessarily the band, which is why I was being booked in the first place. So I’ve tried to find a happy balance and medium, which has been a refreshing challenge.
I have read you don’t wanna pin down the kind music you play in your sets, so this is a two parter:
1. What kinda stuff have you been playing out lately?
I probably have said that a lot in the past, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that in the end I don’t want to alienate anyone. Lately the audiences and places I get booked to play lately for are much more big room sounds.
2. If there were no expectations or crowd vibes to read off, what kinda music would you/do you most enjoy playing out?
Then that wouldn’t be DJing! But if there were a time and place where I could play straight up funk a la JB, Zapp, The Ohio Players, Pfunk, etc and a post-punk break, I’d be very excited.
Is that kind of a challenge for you when your playing shows – like when Calvin Harris rocks up to a club you have a fair understanding of what you’ll get musically, whereas a large portion of the crowds for your tours would most likely know you from your adult film/acting/modeling background – and perhaps really have no idea what to expect?
In the past 1 ½ years this has changed a lot. People used to show up to my shows frozen, staring, and taking pictures, and only a small group would dance. One hilarious example is a Turkish electronic jazz club hired me to DJ, and for over an hour I must have switched between five to seven sub-genres. Finally towards the end I decided to take a risk and threw on Slayer and people went mad. It was hilarious, and I never would’ve expected that, nor will I expect it to happen again. But maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon, this is my first time to Oz to perform..
You’ve never shied away from the adult film side of your life, but how does harnessing that fanbase change when it comes to something like DJing – a crowd that can be a lot harsher to win over than say people interested in your erotic novel from last year or an acting career?
Something a very good friend of mine told me when I was 18, “never read anything about you”. I didn’t listen right away… but when I did, and when I focused on my work; it made a huge difference in my discipline. There will always be people who don’t like me and I’ve accepted that.
Do you kinda just have to ignore the negative “oh another porn star DJ” commentary and get down to just playing music and making sure you’re doing it well? Or is that kind of attitude becoming less of a ‘thing’ in 2014?
Some people said the same thing when I was in aTelecine, as if we are a subspecies incapable of anything but drooling on ourselves. Pun intended.
There’s a fairly constant conversation about women in the electronic music industry – their role, why aren’t there more girls doing it, why do some girls doing it have to rely on their image to get shows etc. – I’m really curious to get your view point on it. As someone who literally used to sell sex in the adult film world, to the DJ/electronic music world where a lot of female artists can be frowned upon for using their image as a sell-point – it seems like a pretty difficult balance to navigate?
I’ve always been a tomboy. When I did porn I always fucked with imagery, meaning I attempted to be ironic and my aesthetic was a lack of aesthetic. I wanted to poke fun at clichés. Now, since I’ve moved on I’m still interested in imagery but it’s not my main focus. To put it simply, I want to look put together but I don’t want that to be the main attraction.
Back to the music! I noticed you’ve got a Soundcloud with a heap of followers but no tunes as of yet – is production something you’re keen to get stuck into/have already started doing so?
Yes! I just produced my first dance track with Jayceeoh, called Heat Of The Night and I’m working on a few remixes and original songs while on tour.
What are some tunes that have been getting some heavy spins either in your DJ sets or just your iTunes of late?
I’ve been listening to this artist Deepchord non-stop that my friend Lustmord turned me on to. Specifically Deepchord & Echospaces’ Liumin.
You’ll be in Australia very soon for some shows, are you very aware of the electronic scene down here – any Australian artists that you’ve come across recently you’ve been digging?
I don’t know about recent finds, but there’s a lot of great music out of Australia that I’m a fan of… Cut Copy, Wolfmother, Knife Party, Empire Of The Sun, Dirty South, and of course Nick Cave.
And I know above I talked about not having too many expectations from a Sasha Grey DJ set, but any hints as to what we can expect?
A funkin’ good time, I’m gonna take you higher. Sorry, had to throw in a little JB for you.
And finally what are you hoping for with the shows down here, and with future DJ exploits?
It’s my first time spinning in Australia so I’m curious to see what the audiences respond to. Every country and every city is different, and it’s always fulfilling to be able to go back to a place I’ve been before with even more confidence.
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