meet the female kiwi producers taking on the boys of soundcloud
i-D checks in with the New Zealand women making waves while making people dance.
Somewhere along the way, the idea of what a woman in music looks like got stuck. Images of girls with guitars or glittering pop stars come to mind when the topic is broached, but rarely do we picture female producers. Despite being able to merge tunes with intensive tech prowess they're often obscured in a scene laced with sexism and gendered expectations.
In New Zealand, a smaller population and physical isolation compound these issues. But a handful of women are proving that you don't need to fit in to stand out, and are making waves while making people dance. i-D caught up with the producers taking over the scene, one Soundcloud bro at a time.
When did you start making music?
I was 15 or 16 when I started experimenting: It was just me playing around on my dad's synths and keyboards, figuring out how to play melodies and occasionally making little riffs. I was 17 was when I fully started to "produce" music.
Your dad sounds awesome.
My parents introduced me to music at a young age. My older brother and I would go to almost every Big Day Out with them. When I was eight I watched Kraftwerk on my dad's shoulders in the Boiler Room. That honestly blew my mind; I would say it was the moment I became destined to create electronic music.
After that super supportive introduction, have you struggled with misconception about female producers?
Yeah, that our music or sound work isn't of as high a caliber and females are simply unable to grasp the technical side of music. When I studied audio engineering, all of the women in my class were excellent! I noticed they were incredibly patient, and always paid great attention to detail with every project.
From the outside it feels like there is a lack of women in New Zealand producing music.
I don't think there is necessarily a lack of Kiwi women producing music, but more a lack of women wanting to put themselves out there in such a male-dominated industry. It's intimidating, and it can be hard work just trying to be taken seriously. Unless you fit the mould of being a singer-songwriter-woman-with-guitar or a big production pop star, you can become tokenised for being female. Sometimes people treat you like a novelty.
Considering all that, who do you look up to?
My number one would be Claire Boucher (Grimes). She's a great role model because as an artist she won't let anyone else define her. She wrote, produced and engineered every track on her latest album. To me that is incredibly inspiring and has definitely helped me realise that if I have the technical skill to do everything myself, then why not do it?
What's next for you?
I'm slowly putting together my EP, it'll be releasing in late July. Stay tuned.
How did you get into producing?
I started playing classical piano at age seven, I used to take pieces of Brahms and Beethoven and make my own songs out of them. I moved to LA in 2010; went to school for audio engineering, songwriting and production and found a studio in Hollywood after I graduated.
Did you leave New Zealand because of a lack of support or opportunities?
It's a hard game and it's even harder in a small place. I don't think this problem is isolated to New Zealand though, 95 percent of music producers or engineers in the industry are men. It's male dominated due to environment, lifestyle and gender stereotyping. It's not glamorous to spend up to 14 hours a day in a dark, smoky studio, hunching over a computer or mixing board. But I really like to encourage more females to get into production.
What are you aiming for long term?
My ultimate goal is to one day win the Grammy for producer of the year and be the first woman to do so in the 57-year history of the awards. But the main focus right now is the production and writing of my first solo album. It's based around my history, my life and the different cultures and people that have come together to create me.
Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I was basically born in the studio and backstage at shows. My Dad was the bass player for the Commodores. I was drawn to the fact you could impact so many people in a positive way through music. I remember being eight-years-old and meeting Michael Jackson and going to his show with my family. I was astonished at how he could captivate people with his music.
Has music always been a big part of your life?
Yeah, from recording made up piano tracks into a shitty tape recorder when I was five to learning drums and attempting to start a band in high school. It took me a long time to priorities actually making tunes, but the love of music has always been there. It has shaped me by being an outlet for creativity, emotions and more recently, its ability to bring people together and foster community.
Speaking of community, tell us about being a woman in the New Zealand scene.
There's a lot of shit to deal with: some people think we don't know what the fuck we're doing, or that we need male help. I played a gig once where I was told to leave backstage because the bouncer couldn't believe I was playing. Another time I had to get a male pal to talk to the sound guy when he wouldn't listen to me. New Zealand is pretty backwards when it comes to changing dude's opinions that women can't be capable musicians.
Is that why there is an under representation of female producers?
It's a similar problem to why there aren't more women working in tech jobs— historically the industry has been very male dominated and if there isn't an active push to change that. More visibility is necessary to change the game.
Who do you find inspiring?
Holly Herndon for her amazing sonic compositions, Laurel Halo for playing one of the best live techno sets I've ever seen, Shanti Celeste for being a dope DJ and producer, and the Discwoman crew for building a supportive and inclusive environment for cis and trans women to play and make music.
Photography Imogen Wilson