INTERVIEW | Ayes Cold

Ayes Cold has taken the District by storm by building a reputation around her eclectic selections and her innovative style of mixing, which seamlessly blends very disparate styles of music.

While speaking with her, I noticed she has a confident, yet laid back demeanor. She kept it real with me, allowing us to have a candid conversation about her progress thus far as a DJ and producer, where she is headed in the future, and what she means by her powerful statement, “Don’t believe the hype.”

K: If you had to pick between CDJ vs. vinyl which would you use?

A: If I had to choose between the two, I would pick CDJ. I actually started off using a controller. I prefer MIDI over analog route. Now, I use Serato control vinyl. It allows me to use turn tables, but still use a MIDI interface. It’s a more tactile experience. You can do some scratching. I’m not an old-school scratch DJ.  I grew up in the digital age. And so, I am just true to what I came up doing. I have records, I just don’t take them out, that’s not how I started as a DJ.

K: What is the best crowd you’ve experienced?

A: There were three shows actually. There was the U-Street Music Hall show with TOKiMONSTA, Trillectro, and spinning at 9:30 Club with D.C. Music Download.

K: It’s incredible that you’ve accomplished so much in two years. 

A: I feel like the city was at the right moment and time for someone like me to come on the scene. Currently, there is a market for women DJs in DC. I came from the perspective of doing it in my bedroom and at house parties. Then, I decided to take it to another level. Looking back, what helped me stand out is taking that risk. Fortunately, many in the District take notice of new ideas and things that have not been done before.

K: So with regards to getting started and making substantial progress thus far, do you have an inspiration when it comes to being a female DJ?

A: My inspiration comes from the undiscovered. Music I was listening to on the internet was not being shared or showcased in real life. There was a disconnect between the music I was hearing online and the music I would hear spinning in the clubs. The undiscovered producers who make dope music inspire me; I have the desire to showcase their music. For example, at Broccoli City Festival, I heard Sango and a few other producers on the Soulection label. Are you familiar with future R&B or future bass?

K: Yes, in a recent meet up with the contributors of Blisspop, we discussed future bass. How would you define this genre?

A: I don’t want to speak for all the artists out there, but from what I gain as a listener, it’s bass music, for sure. You have a saturated kicks, heavy 808s, a groovy bass line, a range of filters with a saw synth, and details in automation. You’ve also got nostalgic sampling from the late 1990s to mid 2000s.

Future bass is being produced by people who grew up listening to the music of the early 2000s, in particular (i.e Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, TLC)… look up Soulection, you’ll get a sense of future bass. It’s a nostalgia for those years. Now, there are so many off-shoots and directions of the genre.

I also recently joined a label founded in the District, Fête Records, which does release music in the vein of future bass.

K: Tell me about your experience with Fête Records?

A: The guys who run the label are friends of mine. I met them at Trillectro. Like any label, they were looking for DJs to be a more tactile part of the team because they are looking to build a physical presence in the District.

Currently, many of their producers are popular on Soundcloud. They are trying to branch out from their strong internet presence of two million plays this week and upwards of 18,000 Soundcloud followers. Although statistics don’t entirely define how a label is doing, it’s a great indicator.

K: I read in a article that a DJ uses instinct to influence the mood of any atmosphere. What kind of mood / energies do you convey to the audience?

A: I’ve been in situations where the energy is low and I just want to get people dancing. There’s that mood, get hype right now. I’ll play bass heavy bangers and people will have no choice but to shake their asses a little bit. That’s when I play hip-hop and dance hall.

Another mood is ethereal music for a laid back atmosphere. I switch to more lounge music. This music is more internationally influenced, in terms of the playlist. I’ll play samba music. I’ll mix that in with a little bit of chill hip-hop. I find old school hip-hop and samba work well together. I love to play Chicago club music, juke music, footwork, drum and bass, dub and reggae.

Everything else I play varies on the crowd. It comes down to the demographics and what the crowd’s musical expectations are and what their exposure is. The demographic shapes what I play, because there’s some music that tells people to dance and some music that people don’t know what to do when they hear it. So, if the aim is to get people dancing, then you play the kind of music to encourage them to dance. But at the same time, I’ve done my own thing and introduced the audience to new kinds of music that they never thought they’d be interested in dancing to.

K: I listened to some of your mixes and I’m hearing a lot of versatility. At first, I started listening to a mix and it starts off with drum and bass and from there it transitions to hip-hop. I hear a wide breadth of genres, which is quite versatile.

A: Absolutely, I would say that through my interest in being versatile it makes me an open format DJ, despite the fact that the open format DJ has received the short end of the stick in our culture. They are misunderstood. When you think of open format, many think of wedding DJs. They think of DJs who play top 40 on the radio. I feel like when people hear I am an open format DJ, they think I’m not serious about music. I hope that what I am doing challenges that assumption.

K: What are some other examples of other formats?

A: When people hear that I am a DJ, their first question is what kind of DJ are you? What do you play? There’s that expectation that you say you’re a house DJ or you say you’re a hip-hop DJ. Or, you say you’re an insert genre DJ. I was really frustrated about this situation when I was visiting my parents back in India, because I got the impression that if I were to try DJing there, I would have to be playing house and trance music.

K: Where are your parents residing?

A: My family is living in Goa, which is on the west coast of India and was formerly a Portuguese colony. Basically, Goa is India’s Ibiza. Sunburn Festival is in Goa, which started out as a trance festival and became an EDM festival. Conversely, EDM blew up in India, as of a year ago. Recently, Major Lazer and Giraffage toured through India. They linked up with this Indian artist, Nucleya. He takes dance hall and Indian music and melds them together, which is cool. Goa is now the epicenter of an emerging music festival scene in India.

K: On your artist Facebook page, you wrote, “Don’t believe the hype.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by that statement?

A: People tend to listen with their eyes more than they should with their ears. When I first started DJing, it was very much about bringing the experience back to the sounds. The experience of being on the dance floor with a DJ, listening to the intricacies of a mix and leaving everything else aside (i.e the hype). The fashion, the image consciousness, and the other aspects that DJs have come to be known for in our culture I am, to an extent, not about. I am a DJ and when I spin, it’s all about the music and everything else can be left at home.

K: I recently saw a popular EDM act perform in Baltimore. There was a huge spectacle of lights and explosions. Is that what you are referring to when it comes to hype?

A: That’s one aspect. There’s that expectation of being into yourself all the time. I see them in the culture of DJ machismo or “DJ BRO-ery.” I think some women DJs internalize that and what that leads them to do is over sexualize themselves, as far as their image is concerned. Or, imitate the DJs around them. When I say, “don’t believe the hype,” I ask people to accept me as I am, judge me by what you hear and expect nothing else.

K: What’s your current priority this year?

My priority is to release good quality, original music, remixes and dance tracks. That’s what I’ve been doing over the past few months. It’s been intense for me. I don’t have a producer background. I have to offer more original content in order to take my business and my brand to another level. I am definitely looking for my sound as a producer. I’m trying to see what genre of music I make best.

Putting myself in other cities is another goal this year. I plan to spend half of every month in NYC, starting in July. I have to find ways to put myself on the map in other cities. I have a lot of love and gratitude for DC. A part of me doesn’t want to leave since DC is ready for me and loves me. But, I have to start challenging myself more and that means broadening my market.

K: What are your upcoming shows or releases that we can anticipate?

I am spinning at Massive Market Block Party this Saturday , June 11, at DC Pavilion on 5th street behind Union Market. Then, on June 30, I am performing at U Street Music Hall for a Kanye vs. the World: a Kanye West dance party. I am about to drop a new mix, The Freezer: Vol. 5, on Femchord this week.

K: You can check out her other music and mixes on Soundcloud and stay connected to upcoming events via her Facebook page.