Toni Tambourine of Listen-Up PR was good enough to send us an interview they did recently with New York native Scarlett Etienne. Scarlett used to be a resident DJ at the Soundfactory and Sullivan Room (where we caught her a few times along with an opening gig she did for Sasha at Matter a few years ago in London). As the years have past, she has catapulted into the forefront of the European dance scene headlining gigs all over the place including spending summers in Ibiza. She recently did the Big Questions section for DJ Mag, and also did a super kick ass RA Podcast (RA 013) a few years ago for Resident Advisor that we still listen to. Read on for the interview.
Words Toni Tambourine
Scarlett Etienne is one of a rare breed – an inimitable talent and an artist that is impossible to pin down. Her musical credentials are self-evident: In-demand techno / electro producer, label owner, classically trained musician, lead singer of Scarlett and The Pixels, the list goes on… Carried through by her inexhaustible passion and undeniable talents she can be found regularly touring far and wide, from Berlin to Hong Kong and just about everywhere in between. Her prodigious creative talent and flair doesn’t stop there either, with a sense of style that is almost as innate as her preternatural ability to work a dance floor. The self-professed fire-cracker in high heels’ finds herself similarly lauded in the fashion world as muse, tastemaker and style icon. And to top it all the lady is a vamp. Read on to find out what all the fuss is about…
Everyone finds this difficult to answer but how would you describe your djing sound so we can get a feel of what you play. Be as varied as you with your response.
Technolectropop. Sometimes it’s more techno. I like playing full-on festival sets where I might channel Boys Noize, and I also like a small, sweaty room, where I can play slow and chuggy tech house or disco.
Who are your DJs hero’s both contemporary and classic?
Danny Tenaglia, Tiga, Jaques lu Conte, Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein.
You are a self confessed nomad, which cities have you lived in so far?
Hong Kong, Seoul, New York, San Francisco, Calgary, Austin, Ibiza, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and London and a few others here and there.
London is your current home, what is it about this city that keeps you here?
I’m not sure! She’s cold and expensive but I still love her! I’ve been cheating on her with Los Angeles. We’ll see how that pans out.
Is it true that you are a classically trained musician? How has this helped with your djing and production career?
I was classically trained as a concert pianist, I then gave it up for years and years to pursue electric guitar and electronic music. Two years ago, I began taking lessons again, both classical and jazz improv. I love being able to play Beethoven again. I also learned back my singing and playing skills. It definitely helps with song writing and producing to know a bit of music theory.
Do you wish you could perform acoustically live as well as DJing?
I do perform acoustically! I’ve done a few piano performances this year at places like Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire, and will be performing live, acoustically, as Scarlett and the Pixels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during the Formula One this year.
Your touring schedule is relentless, tell me about some of the places you have visited, who you played with, how you felt and what was the vibe was like?
I’ve been very lucky to visit some wonderful places this past year. Berlin, Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mexico. I love the hustle and bustle of Asia, there are so many people and cars and restaurants, and the cities seem to get no sleep. I feel like Hong Kong was built perfectly for people with severe jetlag! I also adore the vibe in Mexico, the only word I can use to describe it is “magical”. Berlin is also one of my favourite places to visit, I’ve been playing there for a few years now at YES! with Mitja Prinz, always followed by some festive revelling in Panoramabar. I always come back very inspired after a trip from Berlin.
Is the touring experience all sex drugs and rock and roll, or is it more of planes, trains, Holiday Innes and Burger Kings?
It’s been good, I can’t complain. It definitely isn’t as easy and glamorous as it looks, though.
Your love of fashion is as passionate as your love for music, would you agree?
Absolutely. I’m not as obsessive about fashion as I am about music. I like statement pieces in fashion, but to be honest, I never go shopping as I can’t be arsed. I wear the same things over and over, it doesn’t bother me. I do however, love to create clothes. I have a lot of visions for my House of Starlett fashion label.
Where did your love of fashion come from? What are your favourite labels and designers?
I love Alexander Mcqueen, Matthew Williamson, jewellery by Zoe and Morgan.
What designers do you know and have you played at their fashion parties, do you create catwalk music?
I have compiled and mixed catwalk music in the past, as well as composed electronic soundtracks for short fashion films. I know Matthew Williamson and have been attending his shows for quite a few seasons! I have had the pleasure of playing at Matthew’s last few London Fashion Week after-show parties, the last one was held in the Tate Modern museum!
You have your own label and you release your own music, tell me about the highs and lows of that?
Sometimes I wish I had more resources for the label to create bigger and better things. It’s difficult as these days it’s nearly impossible to profit from the sale of the music alone. However, it seems with each release, I’m able to “find my sound” a bit more, and I’ve been lucky to find amazing artists like Etnik and Daniel Avery on the last release to give their interpretations through remixes. It’s nice to have control.
What are you working on at the moment and where can we see you play soon?
Remixes for French bands: We Are Knights and Total Warr, More Scarlett and the Pixels originals, and loads of other songwriting projects. My forthcoming gigs are in places like Snowbombing, Austria; Kuala Lumpur during the Formula One, The Wood in Brussels.
Check out her blog too over at http://blog.scarlettetienne.com/. It’s an interesting page where she discusses her other likings, mainly fashion. Her latest mix is also available: http://societeperrier.com/articles/societe-perrier-dj-mix-scarlett-etienne/