Real Talk: Honey Dijon on What it Means to Be a DJ
House queen Honey Dijon shares her perspective about the ethos of the dancefloor.This article originally appeared on XLR8R
Honey Dijon will be performing alongside Ricardo Villalobos, RPR Soundsystem, Black Coffee, Âme, Nina Kraviz, and more at SXM Festival, which takes place March 15-19 in St Martin. You can grab tickets to SXM here.
When it comes to the ethos of house and techno, there aren't many artists alive that better fit the bill than NYC producer and DJ Honey Dijon. Born and bred in Chicago and mentored by Derrick Carter, Honey was truly enamored with electronic music's culture from an early age; DJing and mixing has always been seen as a true artform to Honey, and the club and party scene—especially following a move to New York City—a sanctuary and safe place for performance and expression.
At once subtle, powerful, and emotionally driven, Honey's sets are hard-to-define experiences that shrug off genre constraints with a deft touch. With gigs at some of the best venues around the world including, among many others, Panorama Bar, The Block (Tel Aviv), Sub Club, Output, Smart Bar, and Space Ibiza—not to mention the countless warehouse spaces and gallery's she has played—many have witnessed Honey's dancefloor mastery; and for those who haven't, make it high on your priority list.
Outside of the club environment, Honey and her musical curation are ingrained in the fashion world where she has selected and compiled music for Louis Vuitton's men's shows—a partnership that has seen her collaborate with legendary producer Giorgio Moroder—and dazzled at innumerable parties for industry power players such as V magazine, Narciso Rodriguez, Hermès, Balenciaga, and Givenchy. Honey is also an in-demand speaker on issues surrounding gender in club culture and just this last weekend she performed and spoke on gender and electronic music at MoMa's PS1 alongside Genesis P Porridge of Throbbing Gristle and DJ Sprinkles.
Although a DJ first and foremost, over the years, Honey has released a steady stream of classicist house cuts and remixes on Derrick Carter and Luke Solomon's Classic Records, Stereo Cool!, Rampage, and Nervous Records, and in summer, an album is on the way via Classic.
When looking for an artist to discuss DJing for an edition of Real Talk, it was quite obvious we should look no further than Miss Honey Dijon.
A very well known and respected artist recently asked me what my role is as a DJ. I’ve never been asked that question before, and I really didn’t know how to respond. What drives me to put up with incessant travel and lack of sleep? Where do I find strength to overcome the constant pressure and consistent judgment and criticism, both from others and myself? I flipped the question back on him, “What do you think is the role of a DJ?” He told me that his craft allows him to bring people from all walks of life together. He said that through music we can communicate, celebrate, share, and find joyful experiences outside of the ones we’re familiar with. He dubbed our role as artists as ambassadors of human connection through sound. I thought that was a great answe
The question I’m most often asked though isn’t about my role as a DJ, but rather about how I got there. What do I have to do to become a DJ? is a question I'm repeatedly asked. I always feel like people want a quick and simple answer. There isn’t one. When your focus is on the goal of “being a DJ,” it’s easy to lose sight of what it means to actually be one. There’s a lot of fantasy attached to what most people think a DJ is and does. They see fame and spotlight, the rock ‘n roll lifestyle, jet-setting to festivals and clubs around the globe. True, those things might define you as DJ, but that has no bearing on what it means to make a great artist. A great artist to me elevates the human spirit. Perks are great, but you can’t maintain constant evolution and innovation if you are more concerned about what you get out of it instead of what you put into it.
What many great artists I know have in common is their love of sound. Like my friend said earlier, sound is what connects us. And more than that, it's what excites us. I’m just as excited today as I was when I went to my first club years ago. When I discover a new artist I really love, I get the same goosebumps I've always gotten. Rimbaudian on the underground UK house label Meda Fury does that for me. Just really dirty and funky house vibes that feel fresh. When I started collecting music I had no idea I wanted to be a DJ. I just loved music. I grew up in a home where we shared music constantly. It was intergenerational; my parents would play me music that they loved and were excited about, and my sister and I did it in return. They would throw on Curtis Mayfield for us to listen to and I would play the latest Larry Heard tune. There was no judgment. They never said, “This music was better back in my day,” and we never called their taste old-fashioned. We were just open. That taught me a very valuable lesson early on; to be open to all types music no matter the age, origin, or genre. Time is a continuum. Past, present, and future all coexist together. No matter when the music was released, quality always endures and continues to inspire. I love everything from the soulful sound of Motown, the complex compositions of Miles Davis, the innovative use of arpeggiation from GiorgioMoroder, the quirkiness and downtown sensibility of the B’52s, and the polyrhythmic techno of Jeff Mills. It all resonates with me deeply.