Truth be told, the electronic music world isn't exactly teeming with women at the turntables. But don't count the ladies out. This Memorial Day weekend, Movement
has a whole day at the Made in Detroit stage booked with female DJs.
Jennifer Xerri, Michelle Hermann and Jennifer Witcher will all be performing at this year's electronic music festival, which kicks off this weekend in Hart Plaza. The artists have the electronic music CVs to rival the boys in the club, and the chops to keep the crowds moving, which is all that really matters at the end of the day.
As we gear up for the city's annual weekend dedicated to our homegrown genre, we caught up with these three lady DJs to talk about their careers, the scene and the city.The Minx, the Punisher and the artist
Jennifer Witcher is better known to househeads as Minx
. She got into electronic music back in 1988, inspired by Derrick May's DJ sets at the Music Institute. Right off the bat, she had support from the leaders of the then-burgeoning scene: Kevin Saunderson helped her land an agent and an overseas tour early in her career.
She keeps a day job in the automotive industry, but stays in the game through her label, Women on Wax
, DJing "a couple of times a quarter," and remixing tracks for other labels.
Michelle Hermann performs and records as Punisher
, a moniker that belies her petite size. Hermann got into techno in the early '90s at a young age -- she was just a teenager when she attended her first rave. "Through some older friends, I was lucky enough to find out about my first underground Detroit party, where a bunch of Detroit legends were playing for $5 in a loft on Griswold," she says. "The energy was so amazing there is no way to describe it ... I fell in love and knew I had to be a part of it."
Punisher stays busy with her record label, Hej Records
, as well as DJing, performing live and producing. She works at Detroit Threads
in Hamtramck a few days a week as well.
Jenn Xerri also got into electronic music in the early '90s, 1991 to be precise. Within three years she was DJing and promoting. She is a DJ and a fiber artist
-- you can find her work at Eastern Market's Artisan Village -- and splits her time between Detroit and Los Angeles.Pros and cons of Detroit
Hailing from Detroit, the birthplace of techno, has its competitive advantages. "You get a high level of respect from people all over the world," says Minx.
Xerri agrees. "The rest of the world embraces Detroit and gives you a respect that you wouldn't have right away coming from somewhere else," she says. "It automatically puts you ahead in the game."
With that cred comes responsibility. "It provides opportunity, but at the same time more is expected from you too," says Punisher. "Being from Detroit and all, your set better be legendary every time."
Another drawback to being based in Detroit is its relatively small population. As a promoter, Xerri says it can be tough to draw crowds to events, and dwindling crowds forces Minx to travel for gigs. "With everyone moving on, there not being (much of a) house scene, the bad reputation that Detroit has developed and a decline in the amount of producers making music ... the scene is very small, very small," she says. "I don't play out much out at all ... I concentrate on my producing and play out of state."Anything you can do ...
All three ladies agree that, just like being based in Detroit has its ups and downs, so too does being a female in a heavily male scene. "In the beginning, it was a hell of a challenge," says Minx, who once turned down a Penthouse profile that required her to pose in a bikini for the accompanying photo. "I told them, 'No thanks,'" she says, advising anyone in the business to not "settle for anything below your standards."
Punisher agrees, describing the motivation behind her tough-sounding handle. "I had to deal with a lot of respect issues and opportunities given for the wrong reasons," she says. "It's actually how the name Punisher came about -- I needed a tough name that I could build up the right way and earn respect for my producing."
Xerri points out a positive to being the fairer sex. "It can be an advantage because you can stand out more," she says. "I have had many girls approach me through the years who were inspired at my tenacity and attitude despite that it is a male-dominated industry."
No matter the gender, all three agree that they ultimately are judged on skills. "I really believe it's more about your talent than anything else," says Xerri, who is echoed by Punisher. "The struggle of it all is what gave me the determination to make it this far," she says. "I work well under positive pressure and now I can comfortably embrace my feminine side."
Playing the Movement Festival is certainly a career highpoint for all three women. "It's an incredible opportunity and I look forward to sharing the stage with many other female DJs I highly respect," says Xerri.The Movement festival's Made in Detroit Stage is all ladies on Monday. The day starts off with Jenny LaFemme at 3:30 p.m., followed by our friends Punisher (5 p.m.), Jenn Xerri (6:30 p.m.) and Minx (8 p.m.). The day wraps up with Detroit expat Magda at 9:30 p.m. Another lady of Detroit techno, K. Hand, will perform on the same stage the day prior, Sunday, at 5:30 p.m. For tickets or more information on Movement, click here.
Kelli B. Kavanaugh is Development News editor for Model D and is preparing for very little sleep this coming weekend. Send feedback here.
All Photographs © Marvin Shaouni Photography
Contact Marvin here
Minx live on the Made In Detroit Stage
Jennifer Witcher, aka Minx
Michelle Hermann, aka Punisher, at Detroit Threads - Hamtramck
Deep House soldier, Jenn Xerri
A dance revolution