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With that out of the way, let's get into our SECOND mix feature of 2021 !!
Sof Silva is a Montréal-based radio journalist and DJ. She’s a founder of the Stockpile event series and has been active behind the decks for a decade, playing shows up and down the East Coast.
Sof started DJing in North Carolina and moved to Montréal eight years ago, but she has been coming to the city since she was 15 years old. It was in Montréal where she found her love for dubstep, jungle, and dnb.
Aphotik had a great conversation with her, but it ended up being way too long to summarize in a few paragraphs, so we’re taking the opportunity post more of an interview-style feature for a change.
For our listeners who haven't heard you before, tell us a bit about the name 'Sof Silva' and where you're from!
My name is a nod to my Portuguese side. I moved to Montreal eight years ago from Washington, DC, but I was visiting Montreal for well over a decade before finally moving here!
That is an awesome nod to your heritage! I also read on your page that you've been active behind the decks for over a decade, that's pretty awesome! What in Montréal got you into DJing?
I met a bunch of folks in the MTL music scene through mutual friends around 2007. I would visit every few months driving up from North Carolina, where I was going to uni at the time. Shows like Forward night at Bar Passeport, and others at Koi Bar, Silver Door, Café Campus all got me really into electronic music. It was deep dubstep first, and then jungle & dnb that stole my heart.
Those sound like some pretty great times, I definitely remember a couple of those venues! While we're talking about the music scene, where did you first hear dnb?
I remember when I went out it was all dubstep all the time until I caught a jungle set by Vilify in 2009. After that, it’s all I wanted to hear! Between visits to Montreal, I was working at a club in North Carolina that threw electronic music shows, so I got pretty immersed.
That's awesome! As far as DJing goes, I know that it's a bit of a struggle at first (at least it was for me) but do you remember what gear you started jamming on?
I had a good friend in NC, who left his turntables and a bag of old dnb records at my place for a few months so I could start out. My dear friend DJ Soul Almighty would stop by to give pointers from time to time and kept offering moral support. I eventually ended up buying my own gear from the back of a pick-up truck in the parking lot of the club where I worked in NC. RIP my first Gemini mixer haha, but I still have the Numark tables in storage somewhere!
Right on! Going back to Vilify, I remember her. Thankfully my time in MTL crossed over with hers. When I first moved to MTL, I remember her night Bass Drive Wednesdays being one of the first things that I discovered before I knew anyone!
Oh nice! Yeah, it was inspiring to see a woman with so much talent get behind the decks and rock out like she does.
I've only heard you play dnb and jungle to date but you are known to play many other genres. Are there any that you really like to mix these days?
I love trying different genres and mixing them together for more dynamic sets. Breaks is up there for me, also house and nu-disco. I actually have a UK garage set that I did for our June Stockpile event!
Sweet! I know this is kind of a loaded question, but do you remember your first gig? I know it's kind of hard to define 'gig' early in your career.
I think the first 'official time' I played out was at a spot in Greensboro, NC called Brewski's, but I was playing house parties before that. My first time playing out in Montreal (many years later) was at Cabaret Playhouse!
That is dope, I definitely know Cabaret! I've listened to your mix for Conscious Wave more than a few times and it's flawless... incredible selection as always. What sort of vibe were you going for with this one?
This mix was really fun to put together! I went for almost all brand new tracks from producers I love, like Kyrist, Makoto and QZB, among others. I’d say it’s a mix of rollers and neuro with a taste of liquid.
Yes, definitely. That’s a good question. Fortunately, I think things are getting better! I’m seeing a lot more inclusive events, although I know a few newer women DJs in the city who get harassed on the basis of gender… When I first started out, I was always hyperaware that there were more obstacles for women trying to DJ. I was much later starting out than I would have liked, because for a long time no one took me seriously. I did luck out with some encouraging friends, and seeing Jenny do her thing with total confidence was an inspiration.
I appreciate such an honest answer, it can be inspiring for others in a similar situation to hear about your experience.
The hyper-sexualization of women DJs is still very real. As a bi woman, I think that has added some fetishization as well. But I’m desensitized to it. I actually had a few queer non-scene friends come support me at a show a few years back and they were really concerned about how people were treating me. I hadn’t even registered that treatment, because I just expected it. I love initiatives like EQ50dnb and Slut Island that are creating safer spaces for women and gender non-conforming folks to skill share and perform.
That's beyond shitty. Our focus has always been to let the music do the talking, but to also remember that everyone in our community has not been treated equally or fairly.
There's a lot of work to be done, but I’m glad to hear that. For some people, this can be a triggering topic, and for others it's an opportunity to chat and use the platform to bring more awareness to the issue.
I definitely get that it can be an uncomfortable discussion and that not everyone has had the same experience getting into DJing. I actually did my Master's on gender representation in graffiti subculture, so I’ve researched how experiences can vary for women and QTBIPOC folks looking to express themselves in male-dominated urban subcultures. There was some catharsis finding women and GNC graf writers and street artists whose experiences I could relate to.
It does sadden me hearing you mention not being taken seriously at first. I do see that actively in more genres than just dnb.
For sure. It’s not exclusive to one genre at all. One way it plays out for me is noticing some folks are more critical if I make a mistake, because they don’t see me as belonging behind the decks, or like I receive special treatment to get a gig. But the truth is I love DJing and have put in the time. No one can take that away from me. I haven’t dealt with a lot of sexism lately, because I fell into a group of fellow DJs who are in it for the music, not the male ego nonsense. But when I was starting out 10 years ago it was really bad. After my first set out, I was on such a high… that a few guys felt the need to come up and tell me the set was fine but I only got booked because someone wanted to sleep with me. It was pretty hurtful and stuck with me for a few years. We all deal with imposter syndrome starting out, but when there’s dehumanization mixed in, it prolongs the realization process that you’re good enough to play out and to keep doing what you love.
Thank you for sharing this all again... I know we've gone over a lot, so I'll just ask you a few more things. I noticed you are active with Stockpile. Are there any other music projects on your plate?
I have lots planned for that series! The next few livestreams are already in the works and we’re excited to move it to a physical venue when the pandemic is over. Otherwise, it's mostly terrasse bookings this summer, as Montreal relaxes public health restrictions. I can’t wait to play in front of a live audience again!
I noticed you are pretty busy with non-music projects. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Oh sure! When I'm not DJing, I'm a radio news anchor. The hours are very early most days (I often start at 4 am), but the work is fulfilling! I love keeping up with what’s happening in the city and getting to help people tell their stories. A few years back, I did a video documentary on vinyl record culture in Montreal and another one on the importance of the Amen break, so I’m always melding my love of music with my journalist side.
I'm only really dipping my toes in now but I can certainly relate to also loving those two things! Before we sign off is there anything else you'd like to add? Any shout outs?
Sof's mix for Conscious Wave is a short & sweet 30 minute mix that leaves you wanting to hit that replay button over and over. It's a refined collection of recently released rollers that promote the melodic sounds of the genre, against a hint of its rich jungle history. It's an excellent combination of flavours over top of the deep, heavy basslines and top-notch production value that us over at CW love to hear on a huge soundsystem.
- Conscious Wave
Remind Me (S.P.Y Remix) - Bcee, Charlotte Haining
Into a Groove - The Skeptics
Timers - Arcatype
Thinking - Maletka
Dope (VIP) - Dub Elements
Bad Omen - Kyrist
Flat Spots - Amoss
Lock & Load - Dedma
Futurecool - QZB
No Compromise - Hugh Hardie
Jah Selecta - Bladerunne
Giving Up - Offlin
Hooligan feat. Mtek - Jappa, Teej
Upload - Hyroglifics, Sustance
Become Dust - Kumarachi
Back To 96 - DJ Hybrid, Mrs Magoo
Digital Murder - Insomniax
Hindsight (DJ Marky Remix) - Blame
Contact - Makoto
CONSCIOUS WAVE LINKS