Tracy Young isnít just a standout among globally famous DJs because sheís one of the few females headlining circuit parties all over the world. Sheís also made a name for herself by spinning music as tough as her work ethic, and by repeatedly demonstrating her ear for a hook.
She describes her approach to DJing as versatile, innovative, and adaptable, which explains how she became one of the first successful female DJs in the industry. She continues to be the most requested female DJ in the world, with 8 albums and dozens of remixes to her credit, as well as her own label, Ferosh Records, which she heads.
Based in Miami but soon to be taking up residence in LA, Young is known for hard-hitting dance, house, and tribal rhythms, and for putting her fierce dance spin on everyone from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey to Mary J Blige and Britney Spears.
But really, itís Madonna who put her on the map, and Young will be the first to acknowledge that it was her remix of Madonnaís ďMusic,Ē which Billboard magazine labeled ďan emotional masterpiece,Ē that changed her life forever.
These days she walks the red carpet at the LA GLAAD Awards and is slated to spin with DJ Abel at Fort Lauderdaleís Alegria on July 5, the first time the two have collaborated.
And this weekend sheíll be bringing her pounding, insistent beats to Unity at DNA Lounge on Saturday night, sharing the decks with Luke Johnstone and sharing some of newest music with the San Francisco audience she adores, including her latest remix of Akonís ďBeautiful.Ē
You played San Francisco not too long ago, at Sanctuary, but before that it had been a while.
San Francisco has always been one of my most favorite cities to play in. And thatís how San Francisco used to be for everyone. Everyone used to want to play San Francisco , just like New York City . Itís such a music-driven city, and the scene there is so happening, and I always loved playing there.
But then all of a sudden everything disappeared, and years went by and it seemed like San Francisco just died. Itís only just now that Iím getting calls about playing San Francisco again.
Do you have a specific set in mind for San Francisco, or a particular vibe you think our city responds to?
I donít really change my set based on the city. I think my style is pretty consistent, but it does depend on the type of party. My afterhours set would certainly be different than a beach party, so I certainly adjust. For San Francisco , Iíll upgrade! (laughs)
What kind of music are you listening to these days?
Lately Iím listening to a lot of what goes over well in the Dirty South. Like Iím really feeling what Fedde le Grand is doing lately.
But Iím also moving in a more European direction. I still have all my signature stuff, but Iíve been going to Europe a lot, and all the cultures and sounds have been influencing me. I think itís whatís setting me apart right now. Iím in love with Axwell at the moment, and of course Tom Stefan and Peter Rauhofer.
You often collaborate with Peter Rauhofer, which is surprising considering how different you and he are perceived to be among dance music fans.
Weíre so different that it comes together really well. Peter is so New York City and Iím so Miami , it ends up being really diverse when you put us together, and we attract twice as many people. The parties we play together are insane because you have people from all walks of life: old school, the bears, the club boys, the fashionistas, the drag queens, the tweekers. Everyone!
Peter and I work together very well, and I really think heís a musical genius. I have a lot of respect for him, because I think heís just got it down. Heís also very funny, and I love working with him. His energy is through the roof!
You also have a gig coming up with Abel. How did that come about?
Abel and I are both based in Miami , and weíve often talked about playing together. But every time, the venues werenít right, or the times werenít right, or he had exclusives with clubs, or whatever. Youíd think weíd be playing together all the time, but it only just worked out. Itíll be interesting to see what kind of draw we get, because Abel and I have a very similar following.
How would you describe your signature sound right now?
I donít like to label myself at all. All kinds of music gets me moving, and Iím very open-minded. The best way to figure out my signature sound is by coming to hear me spin!
When I started DJing, I played hip hop, and thatís still very much a part of my life. When I produce, itís not just dance music, I produce hip hop music, too. Thatís why I love being a DJ, because you can play all kinds of music.
But really, as recording artists, we are all at the mercy of a producer, which is a big influence on the way we end up sounding. Being a producer, you have more control over what kind of sound you want to have.
Are you working on producing anything right now?
Iíve taken a break from the studio for a bit. I havenít really been working on creating much lately because Iím planning on relocating to LA. But once I get settled, Iíll go back into the studio and do some more creating.
How hard was it to crack the glass ceiling of the gay circuit, being one of the only females out there for so long?
Well, it really wasnít easy. There was a lot of rejection, and a lot of people slamming doors in my face. Itís still not easy! Thereís still gender issues that occur!
But you know, when you do what you love, youíre not gonna hear the word ďno,Ē youíre just gonna do it, and eventually, somebody will give you an opportunity. I tell younger people all the time, if you can learn how to accept rejection, itíll just fuel you, and make you stronger, more hungry.
Every time I heard ďno,Ē Iíd be like, ďOK, motherfucker, Iím gonna show you!Ē It really drove me, and made me want to prove to the world that anyone can do it, that itís about the music and not the gender behind the turntable.
And then Madonna happened. Do you ever get tired of talking about Madonna?
It was Madonna that finally earned me my break, and honestly, thatís sad. All of a sudden I became fierce. People would say I was fierce even though theyíd never heard of me and had never heard me play.
And then it became ďPeople only like her because of Madonna,Ē but really, I donít pay attention either way. I know people talk shit, and it doesnít bother me, because Iím used to being the underdog. I like that position better than being on top.
Whatís funny, though, is that the only thing that changes is the way people think. I havenít changed at all. Listen to my old stuff, and you can hear the similar sound. I became this instant huge hit of Madonna, but I was right here the whole time.
These days you get a lot of direct feedback from your fans.
Yea, Iím all over Facebook and Twitter. I use those tools because I know a lot of people are on them, and on MySpace too, and thatís where I can find out what people really think.
I wanna know what people want to hear. I donít just use those sites to promote my parties. I also want to see what people want and what they donít want. Iím 38 years old now, and my job is to make people have a good time, so of course I want to know what the kids are liking!
But you know, the kids really donít appreciate what we went through when I was first starting out in this business. Iím so happy the gay movement has gone in the direction itís gone in, but I really miss the days when everyone had to disappear into a nightclub to socialize.
Gay kids today go to straight clubs, and they donít understand the importance of keeping gay clubs alive too. If they donít, gay clubs wonít be owned by gays anymore, and gay night will be just one night a week or something, and then gay clubs will start closing again.
What keeps you inspired as a DJ after all these years?
Well of course I love music, and that keeps me inspired, but thatís easy. Really itís the people that keep me inspired. Iím a giver naturally, and if people are happy with what Iím giving, then Iím happy.
You can feel it when people are sincere about having a good time. And when people come up to me and say things like ďYouíve changed me life,Ē thatís very sensitive and emotional, and that really touches me. I start giving away CDs and stuff and I get yelled at all the time about ďHow are you gonna run a business if you give it all away?Ē But it really makes me happy if I see people having a good time.
Are there any gigs you havenít gotten yet that youíd like to?
You know, Iíve been DJing for 20 years, and Iíve been touring for 10 years. This year, for example, Iíll be spinning in Beijing and Ukraine , among all kinds of other places. I donít want to stop, but I do want to keep it moving and take it to the next level.
Iíve really had an excellent career in nightlife, and Iím at the point now where I want to pick and choose a little bit more. Like Iíve never played Ibiza before, but I get the idea. What Iím really looking for is a new challenge, like TV or film or even commercials.
Like with your Feroshwear line of clothing?
Feroshwear is on hold right now because of the economy, but I have samples and the shirts are really cool, actually. I do all my production at the Ed Hardy factory, and it was really inspiring!
And Iíve got some great new stuff coming up thatís top secret. Keep an eye on my website, and on my Facebook and Twitter!