EXCLUSIVE MIXTAPE #003 – ALINKA
Ahead of her trip to Europe for spring, we caught up with Chicago based Alinka and asked her to provide us with the third in our exclusive mixtape series, where we deliver you exclusive DJ mixes from the finest female DJ talent across the globe.
Alinka recently came on to our rader when we discovered her productions on her own label Twirl, which she set up with ex Hercules & Love Affair vocalist Shaun J Wright off the back of their clubnight in Chicago of the same name. We spoke to Alinka about her label, productions, influences and plans for her trip.
Can you describe your sound in 5 words?
House music sounds like Chicago
What first inspired you to take to the decks and how did you get your first set?
I listened to dance music on the radio in High School but didn’t really get into the DJ scene or know much about it until 1999 when I and went away to college. I accidentally stumbled into a club called Orchid in Champaign where I was going to school. It’s only 2 hours south of Chicago so they had DJ’s from Chicago coming down to play regularly. I quickly fell in love with House music and became pretty obsessed with it. I started doing research, buying lots of music, and going up to Chicago to go to raves regularly. After a year of being an eager fan I finally decided to try DJ’ing. I went back home that summer and worked at the local pool as a lifeguard, double shifts all summer, and at the end of the summer got my Technics and Pioneer Mixer and went back to school fully geared up. I then basically stopped going to class so I could practice 8 hours a day which was probably not the best decision (sorry mom) but I really didn’t want to be doing anything else with my time once I discovered my passion for DJ’ing. About 6 months later I got my first gig at that same club Orchid opening for DJ Colette of Superjane and then went on to play there regularly before moving back to Chicago at the end of the school year and continuing the pursuit from there.
What’s been the most difficult part of establishing yourself as a DJ?
I didn’t really have a hard time in that sense because I had an amazing support system of artists and mentors in Chicago that really helped me when I was starting out. Back then we all played vinyl and there were far less DJ’s in the game, so if you were good and a nice person you earned people’s respect and support. I was fortunate to have people like Justin Long and the Superjane girls believe in me and support me early on, as well as everyone at Smart Bar. I think the difficult part for me was not recognizing the importance of the business side of the industry early on. I got to play some amazing gigs, and started touring in Europe when I was 24 and only 4 years into my career. I was really young and just eager to play, I didn’t really think about developing myself as an artist and making it into a proper career. I didn’t think about the next step or have the proper guidance, which led to me getting really burned-out and eventually having to take a break from dance music. I think that it was a necessary growth period though, and luckily I’ve gotten a chance to do it right the second time around.
You’re based in Chicago arguably the birthplace of house music, has this influenced your music and how is the scene in Chicago today?
It’s definitely been my biggest influence. It’s such an epic city and full of so many inspiring people. It’s impossible to grow up here or be involved in the music scene in Chicago without being greatly influenced by it. I’ve definitely cried on the dance floor a few times haha. I think the scene today is thriving. There’s really something for everyone. There are lot of people in different circles doing great things from festivals to clubs to loft parties. We have it all here thanks to a lot of hard working people and their relentless efforts and passion for dance music.
You’re heading to Europe for a couple of months, what are you most looking forward to about your trip?
There are so many things! Catching up with old friends is always amazing. There are a lot of online friends I’ve yet to meet in real life so this trip will be the time for that. I’m really looking forward to seeing new places and meeting new people that’s always been one of my favourite parts of this whole music thing, its ability to connect us. I’m still great friends with the people I’ve met the past 14 years around the globe because of dance music and that’s pretty magical to me.
What’s your favourite club to play in Europe? And one on your hit list you’ve yet to conquer?
Dalston Superstore is my new favourite club it’s pretty fantastic! It reminds me of home. Everyone involved is really wonderful and they’re like a family. I really love it there. They made me feel very welcomed when I was over in December and I look forward to my return.
I don’t really have a hit list as I’d like to play everywhere but if I had to choose I’d go with Sub Club. Got to see Derrick Carter there on my 25th birthday and I thought it was the best club ever.
How does playing in Europe differ from Chicago?
I think the appreciation for the Chicago sound is sometimes more apparent when you leave Chicago and realize the affect it’s had on the rest of the world. I used to mainly know my records from the album art on the sleeve but when I’d come play in Europe the kids would recite the artists name, label, the story behind the record, when it was made, and etc. They really knew and loved the music and it always blew me away. It’s obviously progressed even more since then. I think we’re so spoiled in Chicago it’s easy to forget how lucky we are at times. I love playing in Europe and seeing people react to House music, how much they love it, and how well versed they are in it. It’s very inspiring.
Tell us about Twirl, your night and label and your collaboration with ex Hercules and Love Affair vocalist Shaun J Wright, how did it all come about?
Shaun and I met in 2012 through my band manager at the time, Scott Cramer. He knew I was a big fan of Hercules & Love Affair so he made the introduction after Shaun had moved back to Chicago. We bonded instantly over our love for Cajual records and Dajae, and became fast friends. This was in the period I had taken a break from dance music so it was a really life changing moment for me. When I quit Dj’ing a few years prior I was really down and feeling unsure of my place in the world. After discovering Hercules & Love Affair I listened to their music and it got me through all that, it was really inspiring to me. Everything about it felt fresh and unique. Also I know this may sound strange but I didn’t really know any other queer kids that were into House music at the time and seeing them was like whoa there’s this whole amazing world out there, and it sort of made me feel like I belong. Shaun inspired me to make the music I’ve always wanted to make. He gave me the confidence I needed to get there. It was like the pieces finally fit, and though I’ve got a long way to go and am always learning I feel like I’ve finally reached a level where I can communicate through sound. He’s been the most inspiring person in my life and an amazing friend and music partner. I really owe him the world.
Twirl started out as a monthly party in 2013 at Berlin Night Club in Chicago. Our residents were Mr. White, Shaun J. Wright, and myself. We had a lovely host named Sissy Spastik and Scott Cramer of Stardust helping us organise everything. We got to bring in some of our favourite DJ’s like Derrick Carter, JD Samson, Eli Escobar, The Black Madonna, and Tiffany of Midnight Magic. It was a great time!
We stopped it as a monthly party last August in order to focus our attention on the label. We spoke of starting a label as we were finishing so much new music and wanted to have more creative control over it, and so Twirl Recordings was born. Our first release ‘Journey Into The Deep’ had remixes from Kim Ann Foxman and Stereogamous. It really helped launch Twirl into full gear. We were fortunate to have a great review from DJ Mag and features from Annie Mac and Heidi on their shows on BBC Radio 1, as well as lots of great DJ’s behind it. Since then we’ve had Eli Escobar, Newbody, Lil’ Mark, and No Dial Tone on the label so it’s been a really great start for Twirl and a dream come true for me.
So far the releases on Twirl have been yours and Shaun’s tracks, do you have plans to release other artists work label and what’s your plans for it’s future?
We would definitely like to feature other artists’ original work on the label in the future. I think it’s just been great to have an outlet to get our music out in the world at our own pace and also feature people we love as remixers for that material. We hand pick people for every release based on the music and it brings a whole other sense of creativity when you get to be involved in the entire process. I know we’re both looking forward to selecting original music from other artists for the label in the future so I’m sure that time will come soon.
Do you have any exciting releases or remixes scheduled we should look out for?
I just had a remix come out for one of my favourite producers Joshia Iz featuring the lovely Marissa Guzman on his label Vizual Records, it’s called Like Gold.
I have another remix for my friends in Spain, Zulos Club Records, for Gaol’s track Everywhere that will be out April 30th. The next Twirl release ‘ Love Songs ‘ will be out March 30th with remixes from The Carry Nation and Harry Cross of Men’s Room. We have our follow up EP for Classic Music Company, Twirl Volume 2 coming out this year. We’ve also got Twirl releases lined up every 2 months and they’re all pretty exciting so stay tuned!
Here at Lipstick disco we like to give the girls a shout, so tell us who’s you’re favourite and most inspiring fellow female DJ?
Kim Ann Foxman! The best.
And finally, What’s your drink of choice?
In the studio red wine, in the club vodka soda or Redbull if I’ve been naughty.
So there you have it, sit back, enjoy the mix and if you get a chance to come along to one of Alinkas sets, grab her a Vodka and soda!!
FOLLOW ALINKA: Website / Soundcloud / Facebook / Twitter
FOLLOW TWIRL: Website / Soundcloud / Facebook / Twitter
blogged by Michelle Manetti