For our 90th Truancy Volume we’re proud to present Dakini9, a New York based producer and DJ, whose work as one half of Plan B Recordings alongside DJ Spider (of recent Trilogy Tapes fame) has made her a long-standing figure in New York’s deep, underground music scene. Joining Plan B after its first release in 2008, Lola Rephann has been responsible for helping put out more than thirty records from the likes of Amir Alexander, Chris Mitchell and Hakam Murphy, as well as productions from herself and Spider. Having set up Deep See; a weekly Tuesday night she started with E-Man in 2000, which lasted a decade, Lola has witnessed and been part of many cultural and stylistic trends in music which has matured her into a fantastic talent behind the turntables. With this and the news of her starting a new label called Sound Warrior with Jenifa Mayanja we decided to hit her up for a mix and interview which she kindly delivered hot off the back of her recent European Tour.
Want to start with asking you to tell us a little bit about you time growing up in New York and how you first got to be involved in the music scene here and starting nights such as Deep See? “I was actually born in New Haven, CT, but moved to NYC to go to school at 18. I started going out the first night I moved to NYC. I had already been turned on to house and techno at this point, and part of my decision to come to NYC was so I could be closer to the music and culture that moved me so much. I went out for many years, to Limelight and Palladium, Twilo and Mars, Shelter or Arc, Nell’s, Soul Kitchen, and Giant Step, before meeting Eric “E-Man” Clark. He was a local DJ on the NYC scene at the time, with history in the legendary NYC parties like Paradise Garage and the Loft. He was a very diverse DJ, dropping house, reggae, classics, funk, etc., but that’s also how NYC was at the time. He went on to release several big house records in the early 2000s, like “It’s Yours” on Chez Music.
Anyway, he was doing this event called “Bang the Party,” a real underground house party for heads and dancers, and it was my second home, I barely missed a Friday night for years. Some of the best DJs played there, as well as many locals. That was one of the hallmarks of BTP, local jocks always had a chance to get on the decks and E-Man nurtured a lot of talent that way. Observing this, one day I told him I wanted to become a DJ, so that I could better understand this relationship between DJ & dancer that I was so into. House music was always about getting free for me, that’s what attracted me to the music and culture, the feeling of freedom, so this is what intrigued me about DJing. How does the DJ do that to us? We (dancers) are so connected to the DJ. What is the relationship like in the other direction, from DJ to dancer? This really fascinated me. So I got my decks, and that led to me and E-Man starting “Deep See” in 2000. It was a weekly Tuesday night that sometimes went on until 4:30 or 5am, after the club was technically closed. We had so many of our friends and associates play: Rick Wilhite, Keith Worthy, Jovonn, Osunlade, Todd Terry, Patrice Scott, Mike Huckaby, Dennis Ferrer, Fred P, Karizma, Daz I-Kue…the list is long and we had so many incredible nights. Deep See was a huge part of my life, 10 years to be exact.
I understand you had a residency at Pacha NYC at one point too? I had a residency at Pacha NYC in the mid 2000’s as part of the group Stimulus Response. It was a group of 4 DJs and one promoter (Gabe “Silverbull” Mayorga, who is still active on the NYC scene). We played in Pacha at least 4-6 times a year, and that party lasted 5 years. Between Deep See, playing to small, tastemaker crowds and Pacha, playing to large, more diverse crowds, I got a lot of experience playing at different times, in different rooms, to different crowds.”
In a past interview you stated “since we (Deep See) were around so long, we also experienced many “trends” in music, stylistically, culturally, and technologically.” I was hoping you could elaborate on some of those if possible. “Certainly. When Deep See started in 2000, NYC was more or less a unified scene. The sub-genres of electronic music hadn’t really broken apart into strands and there weren’t the number and variety of parties you have now. Competition wasn’t as fierce and generally, the parties that did crop up at this time lasted a while. Some are still around, like Danny Krivit’s 718 Sessions. When we started Deep See, all venues had turntables and DJs were expected to play vinyl. New York City had amazing record stores, like Vinylmania, Dancetracks, Satellite, and Sonic Groove. Although the CDJ had been invented by this point, it had not achieved the status it has now. It was probably 2007 or 2008 before a guest of ours brought a laptop into the booth. So we went through this whole thing, bringing bags and even crates (yup!) of records to our gigs, to seeing things slowly, and then rapidly, turn in favor of CDs, then laptops. Deep See took its last voyage sometime in 2010…
We experienced many trends in music, like nu-jazz, broken beat, soulful house, minimal techno, and so on. Thing is, we always had a diverse taste in music and approach to our DJ sets, so we were always eclectic at Deep See, doesn’t matter the genre so long as it’s good music. I always felt we were ahead of the curve with that party, as we were playing Detroit techno and harder-edged house music for years before it became something that became widely appreciated in NYC.”
How did you move into production? From what we’ve read DJ Spider had a massive influence on you in this aspect. “In the mid-2000s, I was still only DJing. I had experimented with stuff I’d record into my computer using whatever rudimentary programs I had and was playing with mics recording sounds, and even bought a sampler that I fooled around with, but I hadn’t yet gone into anything remotely resembling production. DJ Spider joined Deep See (in 2007) to help us with the event. I had known him from around the NYC scene, but it was through working together on the party that we became friends. I always appreciated his energy and passion for music.
In 2008, he put out the first Plan B Recordings release, then asked me to be his partner in the label. I agreed and we are now approaching our 40th release! Anyway, he had a few years of production experience at this time, and I would go to his studio and work on stuff with him. I learned watching and working with him. We did a few collaborative projects together, where I was just using my name, Lola, before I created a moniker and an idea for what I wanted to do. Those were great projects, really raw creative energy. Around 2010, I started producing as Dakini9. Spider has been a huge supporter in everything I’ve done, and he’s also pushed me to keep going and given me tons of encouragement. He’s an excellent engineer and I’ve been able to learn a lot working with him.”
As an outsider, there definitely feels like there is a lot of great music coming out of New York at the moment with the whole L.I.E.S, Mister Saturday Night, White Material and Point Break crew making big movements in 2013. As someone who’s been through a decade of music in the city, how does the current state of music there feel for you from an artistic standpoint? Does it feel like a close knit community? “The NYC music community is definitely growing. It’s great to see people you’ve known for years doing well and staying active: releasing music, running labels, DJing around the world. For those who are enjoying some success now, it’s come after years of dedication and hard work. After 9/11 and during the Giuliani years, the nightlife scene felt dormant. The entire process of throwing parties became very complicated with things like the cabaret laws and “quality of life” police going around ticketing clubs. Then we got Michael Bloomberg, and everything in NYC became even more expensive. Many Manhattan bars and clubs chose to focus on bottle service and other extravagances, and the vibe was leaving fast. As the Wall Street lifestyle kept taking over, the music scene moved underground, returning to lofts, warehouses, and temporary spaces, mostly in Brooklyn. Thank goodness for these promoters who put their time, money, and energy on the line. From this, a new cadre of promoters, producers, and DJs has risen, and NYC’s underground music scene is definitely riding a new energy now.”
Keen to ask what you feel New York’s best kept secret is, that isn’t music related however. “Well if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret ;)”
You recently started a new label called Sound Warrior with Jenifa Mayanja. It’s obviously very early on it’s inception but we’re keen to know the thought behind starting the new label and any directions you and Jenifa may be taking it with it. “Jen and I started this label to help support and develop female artists & producers. We’re conscious of how few women there are in the deep electronic music scene. If men make up 95% of the producers & DJs you see on the bills around the world, on the websites, on the charts, that’s not an exaggeration. Being a woman in the scene, there can sometimes be a sense of isolation as you’re walking an artistic or professional path. Jen actually released an album called “Woman Walking In The Shadows” (on her own label, Bu-Mako Recordings). As far as the sound with the label, we go for tracks with a ritualistic or hypnotic feel: tribal percussion, organic sounds, something mystical or deep in flavour.”
Stream: Dakini9 – Trail Markers (Sound Warrior Recordings)
I was very excited to learn that you’re a dedicated yoga practitioner and instructor. I swear it’s every other week I see a DJ mention on Twitter that they’ve taken up yoga classes and that it’s benefited them tremendously. When did this interest first start and do you feel your yoga has an influence on your music and vice versa? “I’ve been involved in the study of the mind-body-spirit since I can remember. Even as a child I was always bugging my mother with questions about life and death. As a teenager I became interested in metaphysical things, exploring yoga and Taoism, reading I Ching, astrology, and so on. I became more dedicated to my yoga practice over the years, and became a yoga teacher about 4 years ago. At this point, yoga is such a huge part of my life that there’s probably nothing I do that isn’t influenced by yoga in some way. Yoga becomes a way of life, one in which you are constantly studying yourself, your actions and re-actions, your thoughts, aspiring to live in alignment with yourself, to discover your true essence. My music is certainly influenced by yoga, and to some degree, music influences my yoga practice as well. How to have more cross-pollination between these two passions of mine is something I’m trying to figure out how to manifest, what the message is I’d like to bring forth, what it is I’m trying to teach or express.”
Although I’ve never done yoga before I find tracks like “Daemon” and “Dust & Memories” would lend themselves beautifully to it if I tried. Do you base some of your productions around this or can it be a more subconscious process? “Thank you, I actually received a lovely email in the past, where someone told me she was using “Dust & Memories” for her yoga practice. Both of these tracks are very personal but I did not create either for the practice of yoga, although either could be utilized for it.”
Stream: Dakini9 – Daemon (Soul Music)
You recently came back from your European tour that included stops in Tel Aviv and Berlin for Panorama Bar. How did the trip go? “It was an amazing experience that I’m still processing. I loved being able to travel to new places and meet new people, see how people in different places socialize and appreciate music, feel different energies.”
Can you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve recorded for us? “This mix was recorded very spur of the moment, just a few days after returning from my tour to Europe, in January 2014. Most of the selections are records I picked up during my trip. It was recorded live from two Technics 1200s and my Rane mixer.”
What’s next for you, release-wise, tour-wise, music-wise or just personally, etc.? “I’ve got releases coming up on my labels: Plan B Recording’s Underground Sounds Vol. 2 and Sound Warrior 003. This winter, I plan to work on new music as much as possible. I have a few local NYC gigs in the spring, am playing in Hawaii in late April, and hope to return to EU in the fall/winter.
Finally, when was the last time you danced? “I danced a little to DJ Qu’s set at Output in NYC a couple of weeks ago. I opened up the room, then Levon Vincent played, then Qu. I also danced to DJ Spider’s set in the Panther Room that night. But I am due a good sweat fest, that’s the best way to dance.”