‘The Hangover III’ ...
Interview with Amanda ...
Awake Is Still ...
JT to tour ...
Gotye urges Communications ...
Ex-Vogue Australia editor ...
Last year record label EMI launched ‘She Can DJ’, a nationwide talent competition to discover Australia’s hottest female talent. The contest was so popular it went global – She Can DJ was launched amidst considerable fanfare to discover the hottest talent behind the decks in Italy, France and Spain and there is talk it may go even further afield. This year’s finalists saw Leah Mencel, one of last year’s original entrants and the only representative from Adelaide go up against the countries best to take out the prize – an international music recording contract and the opportunity to play alongside acts like The Chemical Brothers, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5 and David Guetta. Patrick Lewis talks to Leah on her new found success and discovers why she’s ruined any chances of improving her snowboarding moves.
What does it mean to win She Can DJ? Did you think you would win?
I’ve been working really hard and it meant a lot. It’s a massive leg up in the industry. Money can’t buy a prize like this. I wasn’t sure I could win. You never know. I went into the final having worked hard for two years not knowing, fingers crossed, knowing there was nothing more I could have done. There was a lot of pressure. It was the main topic on the day with everyone asking and guessing. A couple of people were saying to me “you might win”. That adds a lot of pressure. Even before they announced the winner I held my breath.
What was going through your head when they called your name?
It’s one of those things I can’t remember. In the video I watched afterwards I just had a big smile from ear to ear.
Who did you see as your biggest threat?
That’s a full on question. NatNoiz or Alley Oop- she’s a Tech House DJ, and NatNoiz is Bounce Electro and she killed it. We all had very different styles. There was a lot of talent. Everyone had their own strengths; none of us played the same sound. Some of the best contenders played very different music.
What was it like to lose in the first competition?
Last year I didn’t have much pressure on myself to win but this year I did. I had pressure from myself and everyone else although I kind of did know I had another shot. Losing is not the right word, but losing two years in a row would have destroyed me. I learned a lot last year and formed some really good relationships. If I had lost again I was going to finish the rest of the snow season at Falls Creek then go to Bali. I was going to bury my head in the sand.
What did you do differently from entering last year?
Last year I was the youngest and the least experienced person there. I was still finding my sound and I’ve played a lot of different sounds. I’ve played just strictly Hip Hop and just strictly Dub Stop and quieter House and last year I wasn’t sure where I wanted to be. I’ve found myself and my genre. That was an advantage. EMI wanted to find someone with direction.
How do you describe your DJing style?
It’s my genre I call it dub hop trap hip step (laughing) it’s all bass music. It’s all heavy stuff. When I’m playing it’s fun for me and I think it’s fun for everyone else.
On your Facebook Fan Page you haven’t been coy about your admiration for Russell Brand. If he was in your club, what would you play for the lively English comedian?
I love him so much! Everyone has that one person from High School they hyperventilate over. I seriously could not talk to anyone when I found out he was coming to Australia. I’ve got tickets for his show. There’s no way I’m going to miss Russell Brand. If I had to play for him? I wouldn’t play anything I’d put on a mix tape and jump on him.
Once I played a private show for Usher. I know he’s a massive Michael Jackson fan. I don’t know if it was really cheesy but right when he walked in I played Billie Jean and he looked up so it was a moment of approval.
Favourite tracks from your best ever set? Your favourite DJ’s?
Niggas in Paris by Jay Z and Kanye and I do this a live mash up face down a capella which goes into Big Sean into Skrillex and Nicki Minaj. I like big DJ’s like Skrillex and lots of little people like Candyland. I love Bavarian Marching Affair and Zomboy.
What do you think makes a great DJ? What advice do you give to aspiring DJ’s?
Energy and track selection. You have to be able to read a crowd well. I don’t think it’s hard to do but a lot of people get it wrong. There’s nothing worse than a DJ playing tracks you really like but they’re just standing there tapping their foot. Listen to heaps of music. So many people want to say they’re a DJ but just want to use it as a status thing. There’s nothing worse than talking to another DJ about music or a latest release and they don’t know it. That’s embarrassing.
Best ever moment as a DJ? Have any DJ’s given you advice?
Stereosonic. I played after Major Lazer. Any festival stuff is always a really good experience. I played skoolies the last couple of years. Kids are fun because they have amazing levels of energy. And I met Tiesto, there that was really cool. He gave me a hug. That was better any advice.
What got you into DJing?
Last time I answered this question I said I love music as much as Kanye loves Kanye but how I got into DJing? I was working in a bar. I used to talk to DJ’s in my break and I’d always ask questions which was probably really annoying them. I would always ask for a spot to mix a track on a busy Saturday night but they were afraid I’d turn it into a train wreck. The biggest thing for me was to buy my own equipment, as long as you have a laptop you can play I guess but I saved up the coin, about two or three grand.
That’s the biggest expense to find out if you enjoy it or you’re any good at it. I wanted to learn how to scratch and battle. It sounds really cool. I’m glad I did that- you don’t’ see it anymore. I bought turntables six months after I bought the CD players. I’ve now sold my Panasonic CDJ’s but I’ve kept my turntables!
Take us through a typical week. How much time do you spend preparing/planning/downloading music and how much time do you spend marketing yourself and booking club spots?
When you first start out your main thing is networking. Forming relationships, meeting people in clubs, I would spend every night out from 10pm to 4 in the morning. That was where most of the time in my week went. Now I spend 4 or 5 hours in my studio answering emails. I put out weekly mixes. I have Wednesday and Thursday deadlines and I have to find the music to go on those mixes. Time disappears. I spend 4 or 5 hours searching for music on blogs and on SoundCloud. And you can’t put a time limit when you’re with synthesizers and playing with tracks. You can spend hours getting nowhere and you can’t put a time limit but sometimes I had a deadline due two hours ago. I have 4 or 5 weekly residences. I’m there before my set and an hour after. Trying to use your time wisely is my biggest challenge. It amazing how I find time to sleep. I’m stressed getting pulled in different directions.
How has this changed since you won the competition? What contact do you have with Electrical Musical Industries? What are you doing with them?
Setting up touring dates, working out tracks for my compilation album and getting them approved. I’ll be talking to the mastering guys. One guy he’s like a mentor and shows me stuff that he’s done differently. Then there’s the publicity team. I’m pretty much on the ball. If an article goes up that I haven’t noticed they’ll tell me and monitor my Facebook. I haven’t had that call yet ordering me to take something inappropriate down!
What’s next for Leah Mencel?
I’m off to Amsterdam for a week to play the biggest music conference in the world, the Amsterdam Dance Event. And I’ll stop off in NY and London. I’ve been asked a lot now if I’m going to move cities but I believe I can do whatever I do anywhere in the world. I talk to my EMI family 4 or 5 times a day and sometimes it would just be easier to go in the office and talk to them but I don’t even have time to move house for at least six months.
Pictured (below) Leah Mencel with the rest of the She Can DJ finalists for 2012.
(Simply key in your email address and click Subscribe)