For Gina Turner, being in a male-dominated field isn’t bothersome one bit. Instead, she embraces the minority status she possess as a female DJ and claims she’s just one of the boys, hanging in the same circles with the likes of Junior Sanchez, Diplo, Switch, Laidback Luke and more. The New York-grown Turner has been involved in music all her life. With a strong passion for radio, Turner’s skills first began as a radio station disc jockey before she transitioned to the big leagues after she moved to the City of Angels.
I really liked how I was able to control the mood in the room by looking at how people reacted to the music and it was like sort of telling a story for me through what tracks I would play.
Now a global musical force that is highly noted for her various podcast radio shows, amazing production prowess and high-energy sets, Turner may be one of the few females powerhouse DJs out there, but she’s certainly making an impression on the electronic dance scene and its legion of fans. She’s not afraid to be herself and not conform to anyone’s standards but her own, providing the rest of us with some insane sets and shows, amazing productions and an inspiration for other soon-to-be DJs (men and women) as she continues her calling to provide the world with exceptional tunes and feel-good vibes!
What made you want to take up DJing?
Since I always wanted to do radio, I studied audio production in college, but never really saw my audience. I was always in the studio and then all of a sudden, I was asked to play a live gig in Boston, which was my first in front of actual people. It was such a cool experience to actually see the faces who I’m usually DJing for while on the radio, that I thought it was time to do more of it. I really liked how I was able to control the mood in the room by looking at how people reacted to the music and it was like sort of telling a story for me through what tracks I would play. From there, I then started working on my own production since I wanted to really further my music career, which then led to collaborations. It turned out great because I’m a born performer, so it’s nice to be multifaceted.
When I’m not making music or out DJing, I’m totally a yoga freak. I love yoga and it keeps me grounded.
That must have been quite a transition from no audience to a huge crowd. How did you handle it?
When I first started in radio, I was working for Top 40 music stations and really wasn’t able to play the music I loved, which was electronic stuff. So I was craving to play it in some way, so that’s when I decided it was time to get in front of a crowd. That’s what really inspired my transition to push that live side of my career forward. But the transition was a bit tough because one moment you’re DJing in a room or studio by yourself to all of a sudden playing in front of so many people. But I’ve been able to switch that performer side of me, so I wasn’t too worried about doing it.
Besides music, do you have any other passions?
Basically music is my No. 1 passion. But, when I’m not making music or out DJing, I’m totally a yoga freak. I love yoga and it keeps me grounded. Basically, I’m always doing something related to music—with my radio show, working on new tracks or whatever.
So does that mean you’d be a yoga instructor if music weren’t your career?
Don’t know, really. That’s a tough question. I’d love to be a yoga instructor, but as a main career probably a party planner or something like that and just be the boss. I can see myself being a wedding planner because I like organizing things like that. But seriously, all I’ve ever known is music.
What’s funny is once I started DJing more in clubs thats when I was offered these radio station gigs…It’s like everything has come full circle in my career.
Can you mark the moment when you felt your career reached a whole new level?
Well, can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I think it was when I moved to LA and started DJing with some of my musical heroes. That really helped me change my focus from radio and do more club stuff. Also, making my own music and getting it out there during live shows really helped for sure.
Are you still involved with the radio side of your career?
Yeah, I still do radio a lot. I actually have three radio shows: one for Scion, iHeartRadio and one on Underground FG, which is based in France. What’s funny is once I started DJing more in clubs that's when I was offered these radio station gigs, which was so cool ’cause it’s my No. 1 passion. I have my travel mic with me so I can do them anywhere I travel. It’s like everything has come full circle in my career.
How is each of your DJ radio shows set up?
The Scion one is called “Below the Baseline” and it’s really my three-hour show that’s broadcasted all month long that I mix, have guest interviews, guest mixers and stuff. The iHeartRadio and Underground FG are straight mixes and an hour long. Each has new and different material each week and it all depends on how I’m feeling. But I never play the same DJ sets twice or at least try not to. Really, I also never plan my sets and like to just do them on the fly. It’s more fun that way.
There’s no one way to really describe that feeling when you hear a song you love in a club or when you’re driving in the car. I think of it as a way to create memories and a way to express yourself in the most amazing way possible.
You know what else would be fun, bottling your sound up as a scent, a signature fragrance as it were. What would you like it be called?
It definitely would be spicy but sweet. I think I’d name it “Chameleon” because I can adapt to different sounds or not only stick to one genre. It’s also as if my life and career are like a Chameleon, too, since I do so many things within music
Given your radio shows and DJ gigs, how often do you produce?
I definitely produce as much as I can. It’s actually my main focus right now. I love making edits as well; it’s really fun for me. I’m always working on my laptop wherever I go, so that makes it easier to fit them into my schedule since I have to commit to radio shows every week. I always try to squeeze some extra time in!
Out of everything you’re currently doing, what’s your favorite right now?
I think it would be more of the producing aspect because it’s a really good way to express yourself and get your music out there and stuff like that. I just really enjoy doing it and it’s interesting finding my own sound then allowing others to hear and like it, too.
Have you done any notable remixes lately?
I just finished a bootleg edit for James Blake and I’m collaborating with a few up-and-coming people right now, as well as some pretty well-known producers like Gianni Marino and more. Since stuff takes so long to get out there these days, I don’t want to tease people, so I can’t really talk about too much stuff because I’m not sure when they’ll come out.
He’s an amazing producer…Our DJ styles are totally different but it’s been fun to get together and make tracks we love.
Is there a method to your madness in terms of your creative approach to music?
I’m kind of, like, scattered. But in terms of how I create music, I just want people to feel as good as I feel when I hear a song. There’s no one way to really describe that feeling when you hear a song you love in a club or when you’re driving in the car. I think of it as a way to create memories and a way to express yourself in the most amazing way possible. I always like to keep that in mind when creating any type of music.
Is there anything that really inspires your creativity?
When I’m recording vocals, I’ll drive in my car and listen to certain songs and sing a long to get inspired to write some cool or weird vocals. I am constantly inspired by everything I hear like listening to weird music that’s not necessarily dance-based. Basically, all types of music can be inspiring, whether it’s R&B, rock, or chill and ambient stuff.
How would you describe your DJ technique or skills?
Definitely high energy. It’s hard to explain because I tend to play as much as I can in one set and I try to go all across the board because I can get bored very easily. I play practically everything in one set so that I don’t get bored and so that listeners can experience more from the music.
What’s up with your project with Laidback Luke, and what can fans expect from you two in the future?
We’re friends and I’d put on the weirdest music and he’d trip out on what I was playing. He always asked where I found those weird tracks and told me we needed to make music together so one day we just did! He’s an amazing producer and it’s been great working with him. Our music has this Latin twist to it, so we decided to call our collaboration “Nouveau Yorican.” Our DJ styles are totally different but it’s been fun to get together and make tracks we love. The latest stuff we have out now include a remix for Luke’s single on MixMash called “Natural Disaster” and then our own Nouveau Yorican “Nueva” track on Defected. The remix package, including remixes by John Roman and Eli Escobar, will be released on December 21, 2011. We plan to make this an ongoing thing and take it as far as we can. We’ll probably keep the Latin theme to the music, but we also don’t want to limit ourselves, so we’ll see how it all plays out in the future.
I’m just always me and have always been sort of a tomboy so I’ve been able to feel comfortable all the time with all the guys. I do, however, try and dress a bit sexy and comfortable when I perform, but I don’t, like, go out of my way to be sexy or anything.
Nouveau Yorican "Nueva"
As a woman in a male-dominant field, what’s it like? What pressures do you face, and are there any misconceptions?
I definitely don’t want to be known as a “girl DJ” but just a DJ, you know? It’s definitely a little tough at times given how few of us there are. It also gives you added drive, being a female, because you want it just that much more so that you can prove yourself, I guess. I’m just always me and have always been sort of a tomboy so I’ve been able to feel comfortable all the time with all the guys. I do, however, try and dress a bit sexy and comfortable when I perform, but I don’t, like, go out of my way to be sexy or anything. I’m just me, and that’s what sets me apart from every other DJ out there.
Any crazy fan-related stories?
I guess one of the funniest things that ever happen to me was when a fan asked me to sign their actual birth certificate…like, their actual official certificate. I was like, “You only have one of these, bro…” and he didn’t care. It was the funniest thing ever.
That’s pretty crazy and weird. What about any memorable DJ experiences for you?
That’s really tough. One was definitely opening up for Tiesto last year. It was so cool, but playing Pacha NY was a dream come true. I love all my gigs, for sure. Just being able to travel the world is the greatest gift for me. Sure, the jetlag and stuff gets to you, but I have my routines and rituals that keep me grounded like yoga and stuff, so it helps whenever I feel drained.
I’d just like to be able to express myself through music and be able to show other young women that they can succeed in any industry, no matter what it is.
What’s been your biggest achievement in your career thus far?
I guess coming full circle after putting radio on the back burner and then being offered these new radio shows has been a great achievement. But really, I think it’s having my family come out to one of my New York shows that I did at the Roseland Ballroom and having my parents and grandmother, Nana, telling me how proud they were has been the best achievement yet!
Is there anything you have yet to achieve then?
I definitely just want to keep on making more music and just have fun playing music for my fans. I’m blessed since I think what I do is the coolest profession I could ever be in! I’d just like to be able to express myself through music and be able to show other young women that they can succeed in any industry, no matter what it is. But, I’m such a work-o-holic that no matter what I do in the future, I’ll always be involved in music…even when I settle down and have a family.
Many question the future of electronic music in mainstream America in terms of its sudden surge in popularity. What are your thoughts on this?
I think more dance-based tracks in pop music have definitely helped people start listening to electronic music. It’s really opened the doors for other sounds and I hope it continues strong. But who knows where it will go. Music always goes through waves and different phases, but electronic music will always have a strong community and will last longer than we think.
Pacha NYC Podcast #110 Gina Turner