What inspired you to get into DJing?
I grew up in Glasgow and everyone liked Blink 182 and everyone followed pop music but I always found I was into urban music like Destiny’s Child and RnB and although everyone around me was like ‘Ah you’re gay no one likes that music” I was like ‘whatever’ I just liked it.
It wasn’t really like I collected records because I’m only 20 so I missed the whole vinyl collecting phase, people could argue that I still could but it just wasn’t around me, my parents aren’t musical. Then a friend of mine, who was a DJ, would play indie and electro music and I’d just go and hangout while he played. I looked at him DJ and thought ‘Ah that’s easy’ and so I thought I just want to try. So, I just started buying CDs and playing. I used to watch him mix and he’d teach me a bit. I remember once, he was chatting to someone and he had his back to me so I grabbed one of his CDs and just put it on and mixed it and he heard the mix, turned around and saw me and was like ‘Is that you?’ and that was my first ever mix and I was really pleased. Whenever he’d go to the toilet I’d play a couple of tracks and that was probably house music. Then the club promoter let me start playing in the second room, which was the RnB/Hip Hop room before the warm-up, I was warming up for the warm-up for free.
What did friends/family think when you told them that was your dream?
Well, my dad wasn’t pleased. I’m half Iranian and my dad left Iran to come to the UK to be an accountant and study accountancy from when he was 19. So, he did a degree and a masters and all those kinds of things. For him, it was like you go to university, get a degree and come out and get a job so he wasn’t pleased, he was like ‘How are you going to pay your bills? How are you going to make a living?’ But at the end of the day it’s what made me happy, so I think they’ve accepted it. Obviously my friends thought it was cool, they don’t really think of the long-term things but yeah my parents were a bit iffy in the beginning. But, I stuck to my guns and now it’s like I don’t have a plan B. It’s this or nothing. So, yeah I’m driven, I’m really driven I don’t really think about ‘What if’. I’ve just got my eyes on the prize.
How did you get your first break?
It took a couple of months at that club I mentioned, warming-up for the warm-up but I ended up having a falling out with the promoter and he just sacked me, so I was kind of stuck for a bit. There was this other club that had a Friday night and I knew it was only one DJ the whole night, I didn’t know them but I approached them and was like ‘Look can I warm up for you? I don’t mind not being paid’. So, I went along the next week and had a trial and the promoter tells me now: ‘Even when you came,’ he said, ‘I was never going to let you play. I was just going to give you the trial and then say no but you came and you played three or four old school 90’s tracks’ because now I know that’s his thing, he said ‘it convinced me that you should play here.’ So I went under his wing a bit, he’s like an old G, he was the guy that brought RnB and Hip Hop to Glasgow, he sort of burst that whole scene in Glasgow. He really supported me, so it was from there, he put me on the flyers and made sure I got paid. It took about 9 months to a year but it moves quick when you’re a girl. There’s so many advantages but there’s hurdles as well.
Are you 9-5ing alongside or are you living the dream?
No, I’m living the dream but I mean there’s other things I’m pursuing as well like presenting and stuff that I’m trying to get into. I’m lucky at the moment because I moved home I don’t have the bills to pay and I’m kind of taking advantage of that if you know what I mean. I don’t have to go and do a 9-5 and I can focus.
Did you have a moment where you felt like you were starting to break through?
I supported N.E.R.D at the Roundhouse in London last November. Even though I’m friends with Shay from N.E.R.D, I didn’t want to ask them, I don’t like to ask. I just went straight through the people that were putting on the concert and I sent them an email and was like ‘I don’t know if you have a warm-up act but I’m a DJ’ and I just lied and said ‘I’ve done this before and I’d love to just warm up the crowd if you’ve not got an act.’ and they we like ‘Yeah cool.’
So, when I got to the Roundhouse there were flyers that said: ’N.E.R.D, support DJ Yasmin’ I was like ‘Wow’. I got on the stage and played to THAT crowd, just me on my own in the middle of the stage with decks. It was so crazy, and certain tracks made people go nuts. That was really like ‘Wow this is what I need to do.’
What’s the journey been like moving in a predominantly male arena?
It helps being a girl, it does. Sometimes you just get given the chance just because of how you look. I mean I don’t mind using that, taking that opportunity as long as when I get there no one can say you don’t deserve to be there. As long as I can play as good as any guy behind the deck, then I think its fair game. It’s a ruthless industry and you’ve got to use whatever way you can to get ahead. I know there’s some female DJs I mean glamour model DJs, that wear the tiny dresses and their boobs are out and they’ve got big hair extensions and the whole shebang, then there’s other ones I know that just dress really like grimy and grubby and they just want to not be seen as a girl and basically be seen as a guy. I’m just me at the end of the day. I turn up to gigs dressed how I want to dress in an everyday sense. So, it’s like you get treated a certain way and guys will just try it cause guys are guys….
What really gets me is when I tell people I’m a DJ. The norm, especially for men, is the next question is ‘Yeah but are you good though?’ Well, If I told you I was a hairdresser, I don’t think you’d say ‘Yeah but are you a good hairdresser?’ and if you tell me if you’re a DJ I wouldn’t say: ‘Yeah but are you any good?’ They immediately don’t think you can do it and there’s always ‘that’ guy. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s ten times easier for me to go and ask a promoter to get a gig than some guy who’s been DJing in his bedroom. But I think there’s wee differences, there is all the male DJs and male promoters and they’re all like ‘I’m going to let him play cause he’s my homie’ blah blah blah… So, as a female you can’t really get that close to those people ‘cos they’re not interested in being friends with you. In reality, if they’re not having sex with you then they don’t really care. It’s just really not an attractive quality.
We’re you aware of the pitfalls of the industry from the outset?
I mean, I guess so. I’ve always seen through a lot of it. I think growing up where I grew up, in Scotland, when I came to London and even when I DJ’d in places like Movida, you see big money and you see champagne, models and footballers but I just wasn’t phased by it and I wasn’t impressed by it either. I’d be like, I don’t know why you’re spending tens of thousands of pounds when someone could buy a house with that or pay their mortgage. I’m just not impressed by it, I see through it. I see the girls trying to get with this guy, he’s not having it so she goes to that one, then she goes home with this one at the end of the night. I can see it all and then I see the way people act and I just think you know what ‘No’. I mean I am naïve and I think everyone’s nice and everyone’s great but at the end of the day I try and keep my distance from that as much as possible. I don’t go out a lot and when I DJ, I just DJ and go home, I don’t stay and drink champagne and party.
Are you good at separating the job and the lifestyle?
It’s hard. I’m young and I’m living in London and there’s a lot going on, there’s parties all the time. I try really hard to separate it, for example I don’t just want to go DJ, then go get wasted. I barely drink when I DJ just because i try to keep the professionalism, I don’t want people to say ‘Yeah she came but then she got wasted after her set’ and all that.
How do you strike a balance between retaining a sense of femininity and holding your own on the scene?
At the end of the day, I’m just me. I’m a girl and I love clothes and yeah I wear make-up and that’s me. I don’t dress up and I don’t dress down, I just go and DJ the way I am. I think there’s some people, like I said ,who are very dress down and just want to be seen as a guy and are very grungy and then there’s other one’s like glamour model DJs and they just play up to the fact they’re a girl and they wear tight little dresses and they stand and mix. I think just being myself and that’s really the only advice I can give to anyone else. For example, it was funny, the other day I was saying I bought a backpack, it’s quite a nice backpack, it’s patent black and it’s nice. I was joking that you can’t make backpacks look sexy, I was like ‘Nah you just can’t make them look sexy’ and someone was like: ‘Yeah, DJing’s not meant to be sexy’ and I was like: ‘Well why not?’ It’s what you do and who you are and I’m just myself and hopefully that strikes a balance for me.
Do you find yourself getting more hardened or defensive because of your environment?
Yeah, when I first moved here I’d do a set and people would come up to me and be like ‘Oooh I want to get you to DJ here. I want to fly you over to Dubai to do a set for two grand’ and I was like ‘Wow’ and I’d go home and be like ‘Mum, someone wants me to go to Dubai for two grand.’ and she’d be like: ‘Great’ but nothing would ever happen. So, what I’ve become more accustomed to and hardened to is the bullshit, so much of it is talk and I used to really believe everything that everyone said, I was so naïve and now, now it’s just like, ‘Yeah I’ll believe it when I see it’.
Do you find people try to pigeonhole you or make assumptions when you tell them what you do?
Yeah, like I said earlier, people say ‘What do you do’ and when I say ‘I’m a DJ’ and they say ‘Yeah but are you a good DJ?’ I’m like why are you saying that? Is it cause I’m a girl? Is it cause of the way I look? Becuase people say ‘You don’t look like a DJ’ and I’m like ‘What does a DJ look like?’ like what is that meant to mean? So, yeah they do try and pigeon hole you. I like that though, I kinda like that people don’t expect me to be a DJ. I think it adds to the whole being different and yeah I kinda like that.
As a young female clearly focused on doing her thing, how do you find females peers approach to you?
I think it really just depends on where you are. When I‘m in the clubs, I get a lot of the girls who really like it and they come up and they’re like: ‘You’re great, we want you to go back on’ and they are supportive but that’s in more of a ‘West End’ scene. There’s obviously other scenes and people are a lot more hardfaced. They don’t really want to see other people doing well. It’s really kind of swings and roundabouts, I’ve not really experienced someone being out and out nasty but yeah the ones I care about it’s always been respect. Like for instance Goldielocks, I’ve been to her nights and I’ve seen what she’s doing and when I’ve met her, even though she’s not heard me play, she still treated me with respect like anyone else. Anyone that’s not going to treat me like that, then I don’t really count them as my peers.
Most memorable piece of advice (good or bad) that someone ever gave you?
As clichéd as it is: Just be yourself. All my friends are different ethnicities and I’m half Iranian. I remember, I cried on my first day of high school to my mum, cause my mum was going to call me Jessica, and I was crying to my mum ‘Ahh I hate you, you should’ve just called me Jessica, when I go to school everyone’s going to laugh at me cause I’m different.’ But it’s like now, I wouldn’t change me for the world. I’m just being myself which is different enough and I just think that’s the most important advice, don’t conform. I’ve had another DJ say to me ‘If you came to work and you wore dresses you’d clean up’ but that’s not me, I’m being myself . The only advice is: ‘Be yourself.’ If you like it then it’s cool, it’s fine.
Which UK DJ’s do you admire?
I really admire DJ Kaper, it’s not even down to her being a female she’s just wicked. She’s someone I saw as was like ‘Wow’ and I’ve never seen a female DJ that good, ever. I was really blown and away and I was like ‘I wanna be just like you.’
Dj Kofi, he’s wicked. I saw him play not that long ago, he’s a next level DJ, really wicked. I have so much love for like Manny Norte and a lot of the radio DJs as well, they’re really supportive and they understand the kind of struggle that a DJ goes through.
What /who inspires you musically?
Nobody in particular, I’m mostly inspired by the old school. I’m just a real fan of that classic sound, like classic Hip Hop and classic RnB, the originators and that whole sound. I’m kinda a sucker for lyrics and beats. I couldn’t DJ house music because I need lyrics and melodies and all that.. So yeah, no one person, more that ‘original’ sound
What would be your dream gig?
Playing to a huge big field of people who just love what I play.
What do you think makes a great DJ set?
Making your audience happy as well as yourself. I can go to certain places and I can play pop music or rock music but I’m not happy, I don’t want to listen to that, so what I think makes a difference is when the DJ’s really enjoying themselves, you just give so much more.
What advice would you give any females out there trying to make their way?
Don’t be hoodwinked. Everyone is quick to give you advice and not even just advice but everyone’s so quick to have their two cents on what you should or shouldn’t do. I’m really experienced in it now, I have opportunities come up and I’m like ‘Yeah that sounds great’ and someone else is like ‘Oh but don’t do that because that will damage this and you potentially couldn’t do that’. If it feels right to you then do it. All this ‘just in case’ or ‘maybe not’, it just doesn’t matter. Be yourself and listen to your heart, your gut will know what’s right. Take in what people say but at the end of the day, it’s your decision and nine out of ten time you’re always going to be right.
What would you say your strengths are?
I’m really good at listening but I also like to talk. So, if you want someone to listen, I’ll listen and if you want someone to talk, I’ll talk.
I know I’m where I want to be when……
I’m just so comfortable and I don’t have any worries and, I don’t know if this day will ever come, but when you just feel like I’ve achieved everything I want to do: I’ve played all over the world, impressed all my peers, when I have the biggest DJ’s in the game coming up to me saying ‘Wicked set’. That’s when I know I’m where I need to be.
First album you ever bought?
Eternal Greatest hits
CDJs or vinyl decks?
I learnt on CDJs but I’ve bought vinyl decks and I prefer vinyl decks
UK or US?
UK is home but if we’re talking music the US has given me more
What music are you feeling right now?
New Jack swing and a lot of Michael Jackson
Personal heroes male or female?
Here we go, a bit of cheese, my mum. It makes it so much easier to deal with all the shit in the world when your mum’s there
Handbag or backpack?
I’ve just been brought into the backpack crew but I’m going to have to go with Handbag. I thought the backpack would ease my shoulder pains but it’s hurt my neck so, I’m going to have to say handbag unless I’m going to gigs and then it’s backpack
Head or heart?
Last thing you read?
Too much or too little?
Too much. More, more, more. No actually, half and half