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Wxmbmates: Meet Michelle of Fèmmme Fraîche

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

1. For those readers who have not seen or heard of your collective yet, can you describe it in 5 words?

Queer clubnight & platform for womxn

2. Can you tell us about what brought you together, your mission, and the purpose that drives you today?

Why is this cause important?

Initially we started Fèmmme Fraîche, as a clubnight for lesbians / queer women, to offer them a space to hear quality Female / Female Identified House and Techno DJ’s in a safe femme positive environment. It was really important for us at the time, because there was a real lack of good quality club nights for Queer womxn, especially ones that offered house and techno. Our party has grown beyond that and as well as our initial focus, we also pride ourselves on creating a platform for female / female identified and non-binary artists of all disciplines – from DJs, Performers, Visual artists and more, with a particular focus on helping to nurture home-grown local queer talents.

3. What is a challenge you've had to overcome so far as a collective? What has been the response of the London community?

I guess one of the hardest things is trying to execute and enforce ‘safe space’ to the best of your ability. We run our parties at one of London’s (IMO) best queer spaces, which does help in terms of making sure the right or wrong people do or don’t get into the venue, as their door policy is that little bit more strict than most – we do try to keep our party as queer female heavy as possible, while still remaining inclusive. It’s a hard balance to find and while the door peeps at Dalston Superstore do a great job, the odd rogue does slip through the net, so while we try to administer a ‘Safe Space’ policy, it’s not always something we can guarantee. We just try our best to ensure that if there are any unwelcome guests, they’re dealt with immediately, without question.

4. If you could pick anybody to collaborate with, who would you choose and why? Are there any other collectives who inspire you?

Right now I’m really loving Eris Drew and Octo Octa’s as a duo: firstly, because they’re both incredible DJs in their own right and both absolutely smashing it right now; secondly, that they’re a mega power couple doing some awesome shit together, and lastly because they’re both trans women, reppin’ hard for women and the queer & trans community! Absolute killer couple, would love to work with them both. Also really loving the work of Sisu Crew, who throw awesome DJ workshops for womxn (I’ve taught at one of them) and some badass parties too. The TUF crew in Seattle are reppin’ marginalized folks stateside, Room4Resistence in Berlin and of course one of the most undoubtedly badass girl crews Discwoman.

5. Looking back, can you tell us about one of your collective’s favourite projects to date? And looking forward, what is something you are currently working on that you are excited to share with the world, and where we can find you over the summer?

Probably one of our best parties to date was in January 2017, when we had Honey Dijon headline our basement - it was absolutely nuts. She really brought the vibes and smashed the whole place to pieces! Sweat was literally dripping from the walls and we were so proud we brought such a powerhouse DJ and such incredible vibes to a queer girl audience. Our next Fèmmme Fraîche party is on Aug 24th. I’m also super excited about our spin-off party Fraiche Fruit, which launched a few months back. It’s a monthly Sunday party at our home Dalston Superstore: we get to open the basement early to offer DJ lessons to queer womxn, particularly focusing on WOC, trans and non-binary folk, who are hugely under-represented. Then there’s a Sunday party upstairs from 9pm, where I get to invite some of the DJs I’ve taught. It’s still new, but we’ve already had over 80 people sign up for the DJ lessons, which is immense! Our next one is Sep 1st and if you’re a womxn interested in learning to DJ you can sign up here.

And some Industry insight…

6. What is your favourite aspect of the music industry and why? Conversely, if you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

There is a real sense of community in the Music industry, especially when you’re talking about particular scenes (like specific genres). Even more so, I’ve found the female house and techno DJs all know each other and all look out for each other, which is great and such a blessing in so many ways. I wish (as do we all, which is why we’re here) that there was more gender equality in the music industry and likewise that it was more intersectional, It’s still very much a cis, white guy, boys club.

7. A 2018 YouGov survey reported that girls are much more likely than boys to say they enjoy studying music (48 per cent against 34 per cent). Yet, in 2013, Creative & Cultural Skills reported that the divide across all music industry related jobs is 67.8% male to 32.2% female. Why do you think this is happening?

I studied music production at university, and in my class of 30+ I was one of two girls. That was over 10 years ago; my partner is studying music production at university now and she’s also only one of 2 or 3 girls in a class of 30+. I would have thought things may have changed in that time, but not so. I think that when it comes to the more practical and technical side of music, from production, engineering, mastering, even DJ-ing, women just simply aren’t encouraged enough, nor do they have enough role models (more so with DJs now) to show them it’s a real possibility for them, so they just don’t see music or the music industry as a viable option.

8. Among the 75 female songwriters and producers interviewed by the University of Southern California in 2019, over 40% admitted their colleagues dismissed or discounted their work or skills and 39% have experienced stereotyping and sexualization. Have you ever had a negative experience in the music industry specifically because of your gender? Alternately, has it ever been an advantage that has worked in your favour?

I first became interested in DJs when I was about 14: a couple of the lads at school played DnB and used to DJ and MC at all the house parties. I really wanted to have a go, but they kinda laughed and dismissed me. I could sing along with the MCs, but DJing was exclusively for the boys. That was the first negative experience I had based on my gender. I never really thought about it at the time and just took it at face value, believing DJ-ing was the boy’s game. It wasn’t until about 5 years later, when I saw a female DJ that used to regularly play the clubs in Brighton, that I actually gave DJing another thought. To be honest, I’ve had a few dickheads coming up to the decks saying complete utter crap about this or that in my time, and I wonder if they would have done the same if I was male, but otherwise I’ve been fairly fortunate on my journey not to encounter too much sexism. I’m pretty quick to shoot that shit down anyway. If anything, I do actually feel on some occasions I’ve been given DJ sets to make up female numbers. I try not to take any DJ sets that appear to be too tokenistic: I’d rather be booked on my talent than just because I’m a queer female and tick that box, but likewise I’m also happy to rep the girls and the queer scene and give as good as I can, to show them we can pack a damn punch too!

9. A 2019 study (University of Southern California) examining the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 2012-2018 found that women only made up 21.7 percent of artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2.1 percent of producers. Some advocates have promoted gender quotes as a means of placing external pressure on promoters to book more female artists and to ensure more inclusive programming. Do you agree with this? What more could be done to reduce sexism and create more balance in the industry?

I think every little helps. The new PRS-led Keychange initiative has seen 45 international festivals spanning varying arrays of music - from classical, to jazz and contemporary - sign up to pledge they will move towards achieving or maintaining 50/50 gender balance by 2022, which is a huge leap in the right direction. I hope that this will spur, encourage and perhaps put pressure on other festivals, club nights etc. to follow suit. Even if 50/50 isn’t reached, there’s really no excuse anymore for these male-heavy, male-dominated line-ups at music festivals, club nights etc. I also fully encourage the continuing calling out of these male-heavy line-ups. In doing so, I hope it will embarrass, educate and spur on some change, some insight and some thought for those who aren’t currently falling into alignment, and at least shed light and continue conversations and dialogue about the matter. It doesn’t take much to think about diversity - it should be something we’re all constantly consciously aware of and the awareness is a step in the right direction into a more equal school of thought. We also need to really be more aware of encouraging and nurturing more talent at grassroots level. Rather than continuing to complain about the issue, we should simply be doing more to create more opportunities for women and marginalised folk to learn the skills they need to get a start in the music industry.

10. Any parting words of wisdom for folx out there looking to pursue careers in the music industry?

It’s not the easiest of industries to break into, but my advice would be follow your passion and your dream, and don’t lose sight of that in spite of what anyone else says. Set your goals high and keep them moving forward and work, work, work, work, work and never give up! Find yourself a mentor you admire and respect, who is willing to teach you and take you under their wing. Build a network of talented, inspirational folks around you and collaborate with as many people as you can to get yourself out there. Hustle, hustle, hustle - never be afraid, or too shy to ask for gigs, jobs, experience etc. because if you don’t ask, you don’t get! There’s no such thing as a ‘lucky break’ - you’ve got to put yourself in the right places, at the right times and be speaking to the right people to create your own luck and opportunities. And finally, don’t be a dick! Be confident but humble, and be kind courteous and fun. People will want to work with you again and again.

For more from Fèmmme Fraîche follow on :

Come meet Michelle Manetti in person at our Femme Summer Fête taking place at Grow, Hackney (E9 5LN) on Friday 30th August, 6pm-2am!


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