first sets, favourite venues and quashing misogyny in music with eclair fifi and nightwave
Eclair Fifi and Nightwave, two of the the industry's most in demand DJs, meet me in a Japanese restaurant in Glasgow's Merchant City. But in a few hours, the kitchen will turn into a cloakroom. At night, this ramen joint (owned by several people including Jackmaster andPaul Beveridge, one of the Numbers co-founders becomes La Cheetah: a hotspot for sweaty club nights that attracts a slew of techno-obsessed Glaswegian kids.
As we settle down and order, Nightwave (real name Maya Medvešek) is hugging members of staff as they run past. We're in Glasgow, where everybody knows everybody. The club plays host to Nightrave: her monthly residency that shuts down the city with a collection of sought after DJs as well as the eponymous lady herself.
The last time she linked up with Eclair Fifi (Clair Stirling when she's not behind the decks) was a few weeks back, when she guest co-hosted the DJ and artist's NTS Radio Show. Although she now lives in London, Clair cut her musical teeth in her home city of Edinburgh with her LuckyMe label mates, and so the two DJs have proud ties to the north.
Some dim sum arrives, and Clair and Maya are trying to think of how to start the conversation. "I've never heard about your first set," Clair confesses.
Nightwave: It was pretty bad! I was 15, naive, and I thought that just because I could practise at home that I could just go out and DJ. I put on the night and convinced this guy to rent us out the bar!
Eclair Fifi: What [music] did you play?
N: I can't remember. [Everyone played] hard techno back then. I was trainwrecking so bad, dressed like a mad raver wearing feathers and mad blue make up!
E: That's amazing! Like proper club kid stuff?
N: Yeah! What was your first set like?
E: I was 17 [and at the time] my auntie and uncle ran a club. They're a wee bit biased, but they'd heard that I was practising [mixing, and] were like "I think she could actually pull it off!" I don't think it was great, but it got me into that place where people were like "Oh… ok! We saw her name on the flyer so we can start booking her now". That's all it was.
N: I progressed quite a lot from [that first gig].
E: You need that first scary set, you know?
N: It's terrifying, yeah.
E: You think everyone's analysing you. I mean, they probably are, but you get over it! So when you do sets, are you playing for your fans out there or to the crowd?
N: I always play to the crowd.
E: Same. [My fanbase] come up and say hi before or after my set, [and] there are a few songs I play that I can tell, as soon as I drop them, [the fans] are gonna be like "Yaassss!" because they recognise it from [a set I've done before]. It's always important to be nice to someone that takes their time to come and say hi.
N: Some guys will take time to come and tell you you're shit as well!
E: I know! I think it's a flirting thing, sometimes! It's weird.
N: Do you have a stand-out career moment?
E: For me, it was the BBC [Radio 1] show. I abhor BBC's biased news coverage [so] I would rather my money was going to BBC Music. I don't actually watch television anyway so I don't pay it. That can go on record!
Sorry! Anyway, the Radio 1 show was amazing but looking back I was terrified. I don't wish that I hadn't done it but it wasn't as good [as I wanted it to be]. What about you?
N: When I was a teenager back [in Slovenia], I was dreaming about it – then everything that I wanted happened. I'm especially proud of the stuff I've done as a producer because everyone was telling me that I couldn't make music. DJ wise, I've done some really amazing shows. Being on the main stage at Movement in Detroit was amazing for me, because I love the city! I was crying when I was playing! Same with Sónar.
E: Aw yeah! I saw you play at Sónar. Was that the same year I played?
N: I think the year after.
E: It's so weird. I mean, I've been b2b with [Kanye producer and LuckyMe label mate] Hudson Mohawke, but looking out over those thousands of people… woah.
N: Someone had a sign, didn't they?
E: Yeah, it said "Clair's barry! [Scottish slang for great]". They had no marker pens, so they used a bed sheet and a bit of bread dipped in red wine and wrote it with that!
Are there any venues you like playing?
N: I have a huge connection to here [La Cheetah], where I do my nights. There's something about it; the energy you get from people is just really overwhelming.
E: I think you get that feeling about most places in Glasgow.
N: Yeah, Glasgow in general is just a great city.
E: I used to play in Vienna a lot, and every time is just supercharged. Pratersauna is always super fun. Almost every time I play in Paris it's fun too, but yeah. I dunno if Glasgow's got something in the water.
E: Haha, exactly! [Glasgow's] had a bit of a bad rep recently, though.
N: I've lived here for five years, and I'mso metimes the only girl around ten tough guys in the DJ booth; I know that can be intimidating.
E: Even if their harmless! A girl might actually be welcome behind the decks.
N: They really need to sort out the ratio of bookings. I'm not taking the excuse that there's not enough women. If you're that worried about selling tickets, put a girl on warm up – just do something!
E: I'm worried about the dangers of booking women as tokenism.
N: That's what they've been doing! They want a fucking medal for it and it's tiring. It's been happening for ages.
E: It's a boy's club!
N: When I headlined [a show recently], the bouncer thought I'd stolen the beer from the DJ booth and he tried to kick me out. I had to explain to him: I'm fucking playing tonight – I'm headlining! It's those kind of assumptions we need to get rid of.
Have you ever been asked to for advice from young women starting out?
E: Yeah... Put mixes out! Send emails!
N: It's good to try and find a mentor, and educate yourself. If you like music, think about learning production. We [Nightwave and fellow producer E.M.M.A.] ran the production workshop [for young women]. You have to work really fucking hard.
E: I've been DJing since 2000 – 17 years.
N: Longevity is worth a lot more than hype. I think about quitting all the time, but I could never bring myself to [do it].
E: You're right, it's so erratic. In the industry, [we've] been conditioned to be pitted against each other.
N: That comes from all those years of thinking that there was one spot we had to compete for.
E: In the beginning, I didn't even know any other girls who DJ'ed, so I was just competitive against men. "I can play harder than you," I'd say. "Fuck you guys! I can play harder than any guy in the whole of Scotland!"