A couple of weekends ago, SF saw a genius cluster of female DJs headlining various parties: Honey Dijon at Public Works, Carrie Morrison at Polyglamorous, and, at F8, exhilarating new-ish female- and trans-promoting DJ/producer collective Discwoman. It was a wondrous conjunction, one that we’re slowly starting to see more of, but one that still requires not just the deliberate hand of promoters but outstanding support of the local community.
This weekend, we’re about to get hit with more excellent, female-powered dance floor energy, this time courtesy of Honey Soundsystem at Public Works, Sat/16. That rapidly rising queer collective is bringing in two of the biggest names in techno right now, Steffi and the Black Madonna. But they’re also bringing in someone who’s been burning up the underground for decades — including with her pioneering Women on Wax project that sought 20 years ago to bring more equity behind the decks: DJ Minx.
“Twenty years ago the atmosphere was so very different,” Minx told me over the phone from Detroit. “There was such a lack of bookings for female DJs. In fact, the major reason I started Women on Wax was that so many frustrated women were approaching me asking how I did things, how it was that I was getting gigs and traveling, how to establish themselves to be successful. I realized there was a lack of anything out there that specifically promoted women.
“And I really feel we all helped boost each other up from those days. However, the fact that there are a few more women out there doesn’t mean it’s necessarily gotten any easier. There’s still a lack of respect out there for female DJs that still goes on. That’s the the only way I can really describe it: a lack of respect. As they say, it’s a man’s world. But as I say, ‘If you can bring it, you can do it.'”
Minx was long a fixture on the Detroit house scene — as a resident of the legendary Motor club, she opened for everyone from Derrick May to Africa Bambaataa. She hosted the essential Deep Space Radio show, and was one of the DJs to perform at the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000.
But she got a surreal international big break when one of her tracks off a 2004 EP she put out started taking Europe by storm — completely unbeknownst to her.
“I got this text from Berlin from (former Detroit DJ and label head) Magda saying, ‘that track is really slaying out here!’ I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. And then Richie Hawtin’s manager Tim Price called and told me he wanted to know more about that one track everyone was playing, and if I had any more like it. I heard Richie in the background yelling ‘I want to meet with you next time I’m there!’ I still had no idea what they were talking about,” Minx told me, laughing.
The track was “A Walk in the Park” — a simple, addictive, yet uncanny groove that Minx told me she put together in a matter of minutes. Little did she know that it was ruling dance floors in Berlin, Amsterdam, and beyond.
“Richie told me, ‘You have no idea what this track does to dance floors.’ I finally got to meet up with him and hear him play it — in fact, he had just finished playing it when I arrived, but he said, ‘Watch this,’ and threw it on again, and the place went absolutely crazy. I couldn’t believe it,” Minx told me.
“A Walk in the Park” was eventually released on Hawtin’s Minus label and remixed by Ricardo Villalobos, and is now regarded as a minimal techno classic. Since then, Minx’s Women on Wax label has released a bevy of deep and groovy yet singular-sounding records that have upped the profile of several other women in the techno world.
Minx herself brings an intensely glamorous energy to the decks, bouncing around with her fan in hand, one side-step away from vogueing as she works the EQs. Although I’ve followed her for years on the deep-and-soulful underground circuit, it’s been a treat to see her reach new audiences via what’s been labeled “the new gay underground,” and to continue building momentum while remaining true to her hometown, Detroit.
“Let’s just say about 85 percent of my bookings aren’t in Detroit,” Minx told me with a bit of ruefulness. “It’s not like the days of Motor, there is nothing like that now, although the scene is still here.”
Instead, she’s been in demand at queer parties like Hot Mass in Pittsburgh (“They dance hard as hell at Hot Mass, so much the walls drip!”) and Honey, where she headlined Pride last year, and now will join the all-female headliner line-up on Saturday.
“When I heard it was all females playing this party and gay people organizing it, I knew I had to be a part of it,” Minx told me. “I can’t wait to be out there with you.”
“I think one of the keys to my success is that I don’t just stick to one particular genre of music,” she continued. “I play stuff that makes me jump around. And when I can play a party and look out and see a broad spectrum of people, every kind of person dancing out there with me … well, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
HONEY SOUNDSYSTEM WITH DJ MINX, STEFFI (LIVE), AND THE BLACK MADONNA
Sat/16, 9:30pm-4am, $20
Public Works, SF.
Tickets and more info here.