PlayPlay On

Teach. Transform. Techno.

By Nora Rothman

PlayPlay (NYC, they/them) is an energetic, transformative voice in the American dance underground. In 2018, they debuted their EP release “It’s Only 3am” on Knightwerk Records. PlayPlay is also a music scholar & activist. They have been teaching DJ’ing & music production for several years, with a particular investment in mentoring women & gender non-conforming DJs / producers. PlayPlay is a long term artist-in-residence at Flux Factory, a Queens-based gallery.

Describe PlayPlay in 3 words:

Fun, focused and freakyyyy.

Can you tell us a little bit about your playlist?

The majority of people on this playlist are womxn and gender non-conforming artists I know and love, who are making mind-blowing music for the club. This one is hype!

Photo by Sholeh Asgary

Photo by Sholeh Asgary

What’s your favorite thing about yourself today?

I’ve been going to clubs and raves for over 20 years now and somehow still have a ton of energy, so I guess I’d say my resilience :)

What’s your favorite thing about DJing?

Connecting with people using a language much more powerful than words, and then having them come up and hug me drenched in sweat afterwards. The dancefloor is one of the most magical places on earth to me - if the conditions are right, we can literally become possessed by the music and forget everything that was weighing us down when we walked through the door. The club is like some kind of portal to another dimension (lol but really). I often can’t remember much that occurs during my DJ sets because I’m like in a trance.

The club is like some kind of portal to another dimension.

Why is it important to create spaces for femme and gnc artists?

Because cis men are still taking up too much space in the music industry; more spaces for the rest of us means more skill-sharing, more networking, and eventually more resources as we learn and grow from each other.  Also it can be really inspiring for artists just starting out to see someone like them on stage performing. The whole reason I started DJ’ing back in 2009 was because I was seeing more womxn behind the decks in my local scene and one graciously offered to mentor me. I’ve wanted to DJ since the 90s but didn’t know it was something accessible to me. Seeing someone like me behind the decks made everything feel less intimidating. At this time, it was mainly cis white womxn behind the decks, so it is super important to be training Black and Brown womxn, gender non-conforming artists, and artists of other trans experiences to DJ and produce music so everyone has access and so that aspiring artists will be less likely to have to go through a white cis person as a point of access. Also, I have since come out as trans and gnc, and I have been noticing how heavily many promoters still cling to the notion of binary gender - like if you’re not a man, then you clearly must be a woman because there’s nothing else. There’s a whole bunch of us gnc DJs out here that need spaces where we can just play and create slamming music without worrying about being misgendered.

Photo by Sholeh Asgary

Photo by Sholeh Asgary

What’s special about teaching?

Teaching is KEY to keeping music scenes thriving, and will actually make you even better at your craft because you have to explain to someone else how and why you do what you do. Also, the more underrepresented artists we teach, the wider our spaces open up and we all end up benefiting from a more diverse music scene.  I’m constantly inspired by the people I have taught how to DJ, and I hope we all keep the knowledge flowing.

Teaching is key to keeping music scenes thriving.

What advice do you have for other artists?

When things aren’t going your way, like if your demo gets rejected by a label, or you get ghosted, zoom out and look at the big picture. Hold space to celebrate what you’ve already accomplished and know that there are many more good things ahead if you keep it moving and don’t let these disappointments distract you. These setbacks won’t matter a year from now or 5 years from now. If you’re in this for the long haul, shit will inevitably happen over the duration, but you can choose to let go of what’s not working and dive into what is working. This has helped me to prevent burnout and keep the flame littttt.

Oh, and getting enough sleep and staying hydrated has been super important for me!

Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?

ZenSoFly! One of the most innovative artists in my home state (NC) right now.

PlayPlay’s Upcoming Shows

Wed, Feb. 6 - H0L0 - NYC - monthly DJ residency - special guest DJ Help

Thurs, Feb. 28 - Flux Factory - Long Island City