I met DJ Annalyze at Thud Rumble’s Spin the Battle event in San Francisco. She was there to represent the females in showcasing her scratch skills. A few weeks later I reconnected with her in a Brooklyn coffee shop for The Career Cookbook interview. She spoke about the nomadic lifestyle of DJs, the challenges of being a female turntablist in a male dominated scene, and offered practical career advice on DJing.
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as a DJ?
Annalyze: Probably when I was nineteen going on twenty and I just got my first residency. (A residency is a regular gig at a club.) I was in college and I had a full time job but I was making more money DJing a week than at my job. I was supposed to go on some tour and it never happened so I started putting together a lot of mix-tapes, working on different projects, and got into scratching.
CCB: How did you get into the DJ scene?
Annalyze: I used to go to a lot of raves and clubs when I was younger. I was really into b-girl and dancing. One day I was at a party and I saw a girl DJ and I thought,” Wow, girls do this too!” (Enthusiastic) This was back in ’99 and I had never seen a girl DJ before. I was amazed by it and thought I want to do that too. (Big smile) I left the party and got turntables.
CCB: How did you learn about DJing initially?
Annalyze: I learned mostly on my own. I was too nervous to ask anybody. I learned on my own and then finally months later I put down my guard and started asking people because I had no idea what I was doing. I started asking people and getting little pointers here and there from people in my hometown. (Rochester, New York)
CCB: You were a club DJ, what made you switch over to scratching?
Annalyze: I was club DJing and I wanted that extra icing. I got into scratching and just wanted to learn your basic chik a chika Slim Shady scratch. Just to have something different. There were these kids in my hometown, around sixteen years old, and they were getting all these gigs and they could scratch like crazy. I loved the energy that they had. I wanted to learn how to scratch and I did. Then it kind of took over my life. (Laughs)
CCB: Are there big differences between club DJing and scratch?
Annalyze: Scratch DJs are just nerds. (Laughs) They just nerd out on cuts and learning new cuts. It’s not even an insult to be called a scratch nerd. They keep up on beats and new cuts/scratches. A club DJ is completely different! Your job as a club DJ is to keep the floor packed and the energy high!
CCB: The audience is different too.
Annalyze: A scratch event is more of an underground kind of event. Jeans, hoodies, and backpacks welcome! The crowd is filled with people who appreciate the art, come to show support! Now at a club, people are there to get drunk, dance, and let loose!
CCB: What appeals to you about scratching?
Annalyze: Everything. It’s like another language. It’s like articulating words. It’s a release for me. Having a rough day I can just go in a room and cut. It’s so versatile that you can make up your own scratch. You can add like one little wiggle or baby scratch to something and it’s almost your own scratch. You can be as creative as you wanna be… You can press a little harder or let go sooner. It’s trial and error. Always learning stuff.
CCB: Is there a typical day on the job?
Annalyze: It depends. A lot of traveling involved. A typical Friday for me is I wake up from my residency the night before and go to the airport. I get to where I need to go, take a nap, and do sound check. Play, leave the next morning, and go to the next spot. Play, leave.
CCB: How often are you doing shows?
Annalyze: I have a residency Thursday and then I’m usually booked at least one day on the weekend. Usually on the weekends I’ll fly somewhere and play a gig whether it’s San Fran, Texas, Canada.
CCB: How do you go about finding other gigs?
Annalyze: I do a lot through myspace believe it or not. People contact me. I hand out demos, word of mouth stuff.
CCB: A lot of that comes from you?
Annalyze: Yeah, constantly pushing the name.
CCB: Do you find you are treated differently as a female DJ?
Annalyze: I’ll say yes and no to that one. You are treated better in that you can get things easier like sponsorships. Female scratcher, we’ve never seen that! Oh, my God, girls are doing it to! They love it. But, at the same time I get hated on a lot because dudes will come to shows and think a girl can’t be better than them. They will critique my set and find anything they can wrong with it because I’m a girl. I think it goes both ways. You are treated really well on the industry side of things but then you get hated on. She’s only getting that because she’s a girl.
CCB: Are there people that have influenced you?
Annalyze: A lot. DJ Shortee. She’s just amazing. She is my partner in a group we call Twice As Nice. Huge influence.
CCB: That’s the first female scratch duo?
Annalyze: Yep. I met Shortee in 2003 at the Winter NAMM show. I was out there with Behringer. She was out there with Stanton. I happened to walk around the corner and I saw her. I didn’t even know what to say. I got out my camera and started videotaping her. Do I walk up to her? I was so nervous. We started talking and we hit it off. I was telling her how I had just bought her video and was learning how to flare scratch from her video. She told me to come scratch with her. I couldn’t believe it. Qbert and Yogafrog are over here and I’m cuttin’ with Shortee. It’s this whole dream come true. We kept in contact after the NAMM show and we played together at the Winter Music Conference and she got me hooked up with Stanton and a bunch of other big things. We just became really good friends and started talking more and I learned more from her and other people. I stepped my game up. Then we decided to do a tour and we’ve been doing the tour probably a year and a half, two years now. It’s something we are going to continue to keep doing.
CCB: What is Females Wit Funk?
Annalyze: That is something that Tyra started, Tyra from Saigon. She saw that there was no roster out there of females that can scratch, that bring it to the next level. She made a web site, got in touch with me, Shortee. She looks online and finds all the girls that scratch and brings us all together. It’s like this little community of female turntablists. (femaleswitfunk.com)
CCB: What type of music do you like and is that reflected in the sets you spin?
Annalyze: What I like has been altered. (Laughs) Because I’m constantly playing party rockin’, top 40 stuff I’ve learned to love top 40. I’m a total cheeseball now. (Smiles) I love it. I love dirty South hip-hop. I love a lot of music that other people don’t like. I like stuff that makes people dance. On the other hand when I’m at home chillin’ I love to listen to some real down tempo. I love some really good piano.
CCB: What qualities do you need to succeed as a DJ?
Annalyze: You have to be open minded. You have to watch what you say. Don’t take everything to heart. Like the haters, don’t let it get you down. Make it want you to go practice more.
CCB: Do you have any advice for people interested in becoming DJs?
Annalyze: You have to work hard. Gigs are going to fall through. It’s not 100%. It’s up and down. You’ll have one month where you are slammed. You can’t even sleep you have so many gigs. The next month you are lucky if you have one gig. It’s not very consistent. You have to get used to the inconsistency and be good at balancing your money.
CCB: How about advice as far as trying to break in?
Annalyze: I think it’s handing out as many mix-tapes as you can, networking, meeting people, and having HYPE. Kissing ass but not too much ass. Talking to the right people about the right stuff. You can’t be overwhelming but you have to show people what’s up. You can’t be too cocky, but you have to be cocky enough. It’s something you learn throughout the years. I came out and I was really strong and then I realized I needed to calm down. Then I was really shy, almost would not say a word. I started getting a little more confidence and then I started doing better.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Annalyze: Airports. (Pause) Seriously. Dealing with airports and flights being delayed and connections. (Laughs) That’s probably the only part I don’t like about it. You can talk to any other DJ and they will probably have another story similar to that. It’s really annoying.
CCB: How much of the year do you think you are traveling?
Annalyze: Almost every weekend. You might have two weeks off and that is insane. I could have residencies and stay in Rochester, but I love the traveling. Just hate the airports. Love playing in cities, love meeting people.
CCB: What has been the most rewarding thing about the job so far?
Annalyze: I’d say doing the Jimmy Kimmel show. I was supposed to be there with DJ Quik and something happened where Quik couldn’t make it and B-Real was there because they were going to do a song together. Travis Barker was there. They were like let’s go get B-Real’s instant replay machine and have you DJ for us. I grew up listening to Cypress Hill. To be on stage with B-Real and Travis Barker… That’s one of the most rewarding.
CCB: What are your career aspirations?
Annalyze: I would like to do another tour with another artist. (She toured with DJ Quik) That is something that I really liked. It’s stressful but you get it out in a couple of weeks and the amount of money you make is more steady, you know what is coming in. I would like to be somebody’s tour DJ, someone like Lady Sovereign, Missy Elliott. (Since the interview took place Annalyze was able to DJ a set for Sovereign on MTV’s New Years broadcast) I want to be a tour DJ. I’d like to put together an album of all female turntablists, everyone getting together and doing live instruments. I’d like to do live turntable composition with females, to do a whole tour of female turntablists.
Stay connected with Annalyze here:
djannalyze.net (Her web site)
twiceasnicedjs.com (Her group with DJ Shortee)
femaleswitfunk.com (Female Turntablists unite!)
myspace.com/annalyze (Her myspace)