Cassy’s lifelong love affair with music makes her one of the most respected selectors of her generation. A dynamic, passionate DJ with an encyclopaedic knowledge of electronic music history and a record bag to match it, she can dig deep in any given situation, bringing good vibes and contagious energy to the dance floor. With past residencies at Panorama Bar, Trouw, DC-10 and Rex Club, as well as an exhaustive list of the world’s most influential club spaces on her resume, Cassy is an unrelenting ball of positivity behind the decks, delivering high quality to every dance floor she plays to. A versatile and professional selector with an acute understanding of how to adapt to various settings, Cassy retains that unique touch that only she can provide, never losing sight of her own musical identity and staying true to the art of DJing every step of the way. Born in England and raised in Austria by her Austrian mother and father from Barbados, Cassy was exposed to many cultures growing up and she was surrounded by music from birth. At the age of five she went to music school and, later, she met jazz musicians including Sun Ra, Archie Shepp and Lester Bowie, when they stayed at her parent’s countryside inn on their way to play an Austrian jazz festival. “They left a trace behind of somewhere I knew I belonged, without knowing how to get there,” she says. Artists like Spandau Ballet, Madness, Sarah Vaughan, Talking Heads, The Cure, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Gilles Peterson and the influential label Talking Loud are among the many influences during the early stages of her life, laying the unbreakable foundation that remains today.
When did you start DJing – and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I think it was around 1999 when I started DJing, mainly because of the influence Electric Indigo had on me. She was, and still is a very well know techno DJ from Vienna, she which was my biggest DJ influence and my main influence in the beginning. My early passion I guess was to soak up as much music as possible in clubs.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own style?
I was probably emulating my influences like Electric Indigo, Miss Kittin or any other DJs I was listening to at the time for what kind of music they picked, their professionalism, and how serious about DJing and on their game as they were. My own style, this really took a long time. At the beginning your own style is may be something very awkward and rough and bizarre, and you have to learn how to refine it.
What were some of the main challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
I think the main challenge is because you are directly connected with the people on the dance floor and many different energies, so you have to learn how to read this. Producing is something where you are with yourself, in your studio locked away and it’s a creative process that can take many months to actually see the results of what you’ve been working on. DJing is so direct and it happens the moment you are doing it. Each time you play you get to start afresh and it’s a new experience every time, and you can learn something new every single time you are doing it. It’s something that is always interesting and stays fresh to me every time I do it.
What was the music of your teenage rebellion?
There was no rebellion needed. i was listening to everything possible… the very first record i ever bought myself was One Step Beyond by Madness when i was 6 years old.
Your status as a female in a largely male-dominated scene is a trait that’s often commented on within event descriptions and the like. Can it be frustrating to sometimes be defined by a characteristic that is essentially irrelevant to your skills as a producer and DJ?
I do my best to not be a woman DJ and just a woman. of course i am happy to be a woman in this profession gives me a different point of view… even if it’s extremely annoying sometimes having to deal with latent misogynism and chauvinism… it occurs time and again… but in the end it’s the men’s shortcoming… their loss not mine. i will make my way, can’t be bothered to get turned off or demotivated.
Has your approach to DJing changed since starting a family?
I’m sure it’s changed, because everything changes. It’s a completely different life. Your attitude changes, for sure. I think I’ve become more serious. Maybe even more into it, or more happy that I’m doing it. I’ve always been happy about DJing, but the business aspect of this world, and things like social media, can be extremely frustrating at times. Now I have a child, I’m not so focussed on myself, and that’s really helpful. The most important thing is my child, and I have a more relaxed outlook when it comes to the mundane.
What do you mean by the business side of this world?
Things like managers have become integral, sometimes they’re even considered more important than DJs. It’s grown into a big money making thing, new jobs arise, and it gives new opportunities for people. There’s a lot of bullshit. Having a child is helpful because it means I’m less focussed on myself. DJing is what I do, mixing records is how I define myself, but it’s easier when it’s not all you have. When you’re not constantly going to a party, checking Resident Advisor or Discogs. When there’s more to life than just the business.
Do you think the perception of what makes a good DJ has changed since you first started?
When people are talking about a previous generation, you always have to generalise a bit so it can be wrong. I find it interesting when I go around, and you can be in a completely new country with very young people, and they get everything you’re doing. Then you can be with older people in a ‘happening’ place, you think they should be getting it, but they’re not at all. So there’s a lot of misconception, and the way the business and social media works, you don’t have to be a very good DJ to have a successful DJ career. A lot of the DJs that are very successful now aren’t actually that good. But they have something or they’ve worked hard or they’re selling themselves well. I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily very good, but then is that considered important nowadays?
Who was your first love in electronic music?
At the very beginning, when I started taking DJing more seriously, it was from the first records I bought at HARDWAX. I loved everything Maurizio did, and all this dub techno stuff. I was also a big fan of Theo Parrish and Moodymann. I listened to a lot of soul and R&B, and their music seemed close to this anyway. When I found house and techno, it was like ‘Fuck. It’s like people have listened to the same stuff I like, and made something with it.’ I was looking for something that connected to everything I knew sonically, but it was fresh. I thought Theo was an especially good example of that.
Did you ever receive any valuable advice when you moved there?
Not so much, as it was quite a small minded scene. You had to fit in, so no one would feel threatened. There were so many DJs. When I moved there, the DJs I used to see playing were really good. They’d been playing for many years, and were serious about the sound. They were really amazing house DJs, and there were so many parties you could play at. That’s missing somewhat today. You could listen to almost any style of music and be exposed to really good people. I’d never be who I am now without these interactions. It was a different energy behind everything – they were doing it for the love of doing it, rather than building a profile.