Out DJ Alyson Calagna travels the world, but spinning at Dallas’ Purple Party — which starts Friday — is still one of her favorite gigs
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
Alyson Calagna has truly earned her spot as one of the most prominent DJs in today’s dance music scene, whether she’s spinning at her homebase of Miami or touring in Asia. What makes Calagna distinctive from other DJs isn’t that she’s a woman in a male-dominated field, or that she’s an out lesbian. It’s that she’s developed a specific style and grown that into marquee status. She doesn’t want to be one of the boys, but she does have them opening for her.
Before her headlining set at the Purple Party Weekend Tea Dance at Plush this weekend, Calagna took a break from her duties in China to offer some insight to today’s DJ scene. She approaches both her music and the industry with a certain amount of spirituality — and balls.
Dallas Voice: You said recently it’s a lot easier to be a girl DJ. Has that worked to your advantage in your career? Calagna: I’m sure I said it’s easier nowadays compared to what it was like coming up. It used to be very tough to try and break into a male dominated scene, but now it’s not unusual to see a girl in the booth.
Where do you see DJ culture is now, at the level you’re in? I think it has become a bit pop-driven, meaning it’s the “cool” thing to do and be now. I was looking at a SkyMall in-flight magazine and there was an ad for a tiny mixer attached to a laptop with a header that says “Be A DJ!” It’s pretty funny when you think about it.
Does that bug you, minimizing the talent it takes to do your job? I still believe that it takes a certain type of DJ to really break through and stay through. A true DJ can stand the test of time, play for different audiences and adapt and evolve in the moment.
How do you tweak your style for Dallas audiences? The great thing about Dallas is there is no tweaking. I have been very fortunate in Texas and I absolutely adore my Texas tribe. They have heard me for years and they know and trust me. It’s truly one of my favorite cities to play in.
So it’s fair to you say you like playing the Purple Party? I feel that Purple is part of my family, they are really good to me and in return I’m good to them. It’s a give-and-take relationship between the board, the boys and the music. I am always so excited to play for them!
You always seem to be playing “for the boys.” Being a lesbian, do the ladies ever try to pull you back in? I have played for girl events before! But I prefer to be with crowds that are more dance-driven. I find the lesbian audiences are more into hip-hop and pop and that really isn’t my thing.
Yeah, the ladies at Sue Ellen’s love them some Jay-Z. So, not to bum you out, but do you ever think about what you’ll be doing when perhaps you’re not DJing anymore? Sure, all the time. I know music and sound will be in my life forever. Music truly is my dharma and I know it will evolve as it should. I do a lot of studio work that is non-dance related. I create music for TV and I would love to do some film.
Any type of film in particular? I like creating really epic, cinematic and dramatic music. I imagine I will eventually head down that road when the club thing doesn’t fulfill me anymore.
Please tell me you don’t listen to dance music when not DJing? I usually don’t listen to dance music unless I’m in work mode or the gym. I tend to listen to everything from indie pop, jazz, chillout, downtempo, mantras —and of course, country. A Southern girl is always a Southern girl.
You travel all over the world. How is it having a relationship while doing this? I believe if you are with someone who is secure enough in the relationship then there is nothing to really be feared. When I’m on the road, I’m working and even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be out playing — it’s not my style. I have enough past karma to deal with from past lives; I need to create good karma in this one.
Oooh girl, dish. [Silence.]
So let’s just end this all right now. Do women make better DJs? I don’t think it’s a better or worse [thing], I think it’s a different story. It’s like mom and dad: Neither is better or worse, they both parent differently — but love remains. I don’t think I play like a woman but I am able to tap into a feminine energy that is nurturing and natural. In the same breath, who I am is very masculine and it shows up in my music.
What makes you a great DJ? My sound is very balanced and it’s something that comes very natural to me. Does that make me a better DJ? That is a matter of opinion. I am just striving to be my best self at all times and take people someplace that they may have not gone before.
Any advice for the club DJs trying to get to where you are? Be persistent. If this is your calling, go for it. Don’t stop until you’ve reached it.
Sweet. OK, now where was that magazine ad you mentioned again?