I am beyond excited to share this amazing woman with you on Inemesit Chats. To many, she is known as Missanova, bad ass female DJ that is revolutionizing the industry, but to me, she is Taya, one of my dearest friends. Taya and I have known each other for what feels like forever and it has been my absolute pleasure to see her talent blossom and grow. Her passion for music and unrelenting drive to bring diversity to a male-heavy industry is nothing short of inspiring. In just a few short years, Taya has made waves in the DJing community in Hamilton, Ontario and she has no plans of stopping anytime soon. I had the pleasure of getting behind the camera for a change in order to capture this strong spirit in her signature blue lips. Read below to get an insight into her journey so far as well as find ways to support her music movement!
1. When and why did you start DJing? Who were your first teachers/early mentors?
I started playing around with music at a really young age, around 13 I would say. Music has always been my escape when I was growing up. You know, moving around different countries, I couldn’t get a firm rooting anywhere I went because I expected that we would end up moving somewhere else in a few years anyway and I would have to start from scratch again. I was severely bullied throughout my elementary and beginning high school years, and without really realizing it, I had turned to music as my means of coping. I used to imagine myself DJing in front of a crowd of people while I was dropping tunes on Windows Movie Maker on my computer at 15. It was one of those things that I had full control over, and it gave me a sense of peace and self-fulfillment.
After I had decided that I wanted to pursue a DJing career on the side and had taught myself how to use software mixing programs, I turned to my cousin who has been DJing for years, and she taught me how to switch from a computer program to a physical mixer in front of me. Whenever I would visit her, we would dedicate a day where I would practice on her equipment and she would give me little tips here and there based on her own expertise and experience. I have to say I’m quite lucky to have her as a role model.
2. How much has the scene changed since you started DJing?
I’m relatively new into the techno scene, and it took me a while to find my niche. I experimented with Top 40, hip-hop, big room anthems, trap music, etc., at night clubs. Although in those settings, it meant I had to play certain songs and genres to appease everybody, like taking song requests, and it got boring very quickly. So slowly, my personal scene had changed as I became exposed and delved into the underworld of techno, tech house, and deep house. It was during my gigs at those shows that I had found my alter ego and thrived over being able to control the crowd exactly the way I wanted to, and played my own music. Both scenes are very different in terms of atmosphere, people, and mentality, and I found that this one worked best with my personality and tastes.
3. In your opinion, what does it take to be a good DJ?
Every DJ is different, with their own style of mixing, producing, and partying, but I believe there are certain criteria that need to be met in order to classify as a good DJ. Other than having the skill to beat match and overlap tracks together with minimal train-wrecking and obvious mistakes, there are certain ethical considerations necessary, in my opinion. So typically in a night you have an opener, a headliner, and a closer. It is the opener and closer’s jobs to cater to the headliner’s sound, since event attendees are going there for the headliner. An opener should be able to create an atmosphere that prepares the crowd for the headliner, so that means not playing a heavier set than them. It becomes a selfish act, when the lineup should be a team effort to support each other. It amps up the vibe too much, which makes the headliner’s job very difficult in maintaining that, and puts a lot of pressure on the closer to continue afterwards. There should be an almost natural progression throughout the whole night, because it’s like a domino effect. The opener could have a killer set with great effects and smooth-as-butter transitions, but if they aren’t working to create an overall vibe of the night, then to me that just means they’re there for themselves and the night wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it can be. They should also be personable, open, and social. Yes, you’re there to do a job, but this job is supposed to be a fun time for everyone. The DJ shouldn’t be uptight; they should acknowledge the crowd, vibe out, and socialize. After all, they’re there for the crowd first and foremost.
4. How do you juggle your professional career with your DJ career?
Honestly it fits in almost like a puzzle piece. The 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working hours leaves evenings to shop for music and past-time mixing, and weekends for gigs. I do enjoy having both careers separate from each other, so the time slots really help with that.
5. Have you found being a female DJ has influenced your DJing career path? If so, how?
It definitely influenced it, sometimes negatively, and sometimes positively. As a female, there is harsher criticism. So if I make a mistake, more people will likely comment about it or be turned off by my ability than if a male makes a mistake, because there are much fewer females in the industry. I’ve been met with blatant disrespect of my abilities, whether it’s an automatic assumption from the get-go that I will suck, or hearing commentaries during my actual sets from others who “want to help” and they start playing around with knobs assuming that I would be okay with it. Some event planners wouldn’t even respond and give me a chance, and some said they would “try to get me in”, with a catch, which tend to be sexual in nature. It’s been a bumpy ride to say the least, trying to ensure that I am taken seriously and judged only based on my performing ability, and not anything else. It’s constant networking with as many people as possible to show them that I am more than just what they see, and that given the chance, I can set a place on fire. I’m a hard worker and it’s demeaning and invalidating when I’m judged because I have one set of genitalia versus another, you know?
But there are many positives! Some event planners love the fact that I’m a female; it adds certain appeal since it’s not common. I got signed up as one of the residents at Hamilton’s O Ultra Lounge after being a part of Hamilton’s first all-female lineup. I’ve also had phenomenal gigs at Club 77 in Hamilton as well. So although there are some negatives, the positives are definitely a large factor and it’s those moments where I can shine and show others that I am capable of creating a sick party.
6. How did you come up with the Missanova persona? Has the branding around this persona been welcomed by your audiences?
I actually came up with Missanova during my university career. It was one of those all-nighters before an exam. A few friends and I had reserved a study room on campus and it was 3am when I decided I wanted to pick a name. Some ridiculous names were suggested, like BASS DROP KILLA, or DJ EXPLOSION, which did not appeal to me. I was studying for statistics, specifically ANOVA, and I remember looking at the name and thinking how I could incorporate it and create a new name. I’m sure if you remember, Inemesit, you were there with me and you were the one who suggested I put the MISS in front of it to add a more feminine touch. And so, my alter-ego Missanova was born! It was also there that I pegged what I didn’t realize would become an amazing branding tactic, and it was the blue lipstick. The blue lipstick and dark clothing became my signature Missanova look, and its uniqueness stuck with everyone who saw me perform. Missanova only came out when the blue lips were on, so it adds a nice and unique barrier between both personas. Some people make some sexual jokes involving smurfs, but I generally receive positive and happy comments from viewers.
7. What has been your favourite show to DJ at so far and why?
This one is hard to answer, because every single one of my shows has been fun and amazing in its own way, but I will tell you 3 of my favorite ones. New Year’s Eve, I won a DJ Invitational hosted by Toronto Rave Community where I had the honor and pleasure of opening up for some of Toronto’s amazing techno talent in a warehouse. That definitely jump started my career this year and it is an unforgettable experience. I had another one where I was part of a full female Hamilton lineup at O Ultra Lounge, where the second opener was ill and unable to come in, and I ended up playing a 3 hour opening set. It was at that point that I proved to myself that I was able to improvise and continue the vibe without prepping, which gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. The third was GLO at Club 77; the vibe was unreal, there were tons of people there to party and I just had so much fun behind the decks. Every gig I have is unique, from the track selection down to the crowd and experience, and I learn something new every single time.
8. What is your routine when creating a new set? What “rules” do you follow from set to set?
Before, I used to pre-prep a set to ensure I didn’t make any mistakes and that I knew each track that came on intimately. But now that I am much more comfortable in my ability, I don’t usually prepare a set in terms of having all my tracks listed in order. My routine consists of searching for new tracks about a week before, throwing them into a folder so I know they’re new, and then practicing on my mixer at home. It’s hard to remember names and sounds from the get-go, so it’s convenient that I can listen to the track before bringing it in and remembering how it sounds and builds. I’m not big on constant effects and warping because I find that overdoing them tends to interrupt the smooth flow of sound, which can become overbearing. I prefer working on extending the transition so that it builds almost effortlessly, bringing in different components of each track to create a unique sounding bridge between both. Most importantly though, it’s important that I have fun. At the end of the day, I have a job to do and I will concentrate and try to perform to the best of my ability, but having an uptight DJ takes away from the performance. I like to dance around, clap my hands, and really be involved in the crowd. If they’re having fun, then I’m having fun.
9. Where do you see Missanova in 1 year? 3 years?
I can see Missanova making it big in the next few years. It’s hard to make a concrete plan on progressing, but I’m hoping to release my first original track soon to get my name out in the international sphere by signing up with a record label. I have been in talks with many event planners around the GTA, so it’s all really about networking. My goal within the next 3 years would be to headline my own show, where people would be coming out specifically to hear me and my music. The day that happens will be the day that I can officially say Missanova made it in the Toronto techno industry. Cross your fingers!
10. Where can people find you, follow you online and keep up with your new music?
I’m pretty active on social media. My sets can be found on my SoundCloud page (https://soundcloud.com/missanova); If you like what you hear, please give my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/missanovasounds) a quick like as well so you can keep up to date on my upcoming shows in the Hamilton/Toronto area! I try and respond to inquiries as soon as I can, so don’t hesitate to send me a message!