Equaliser is a newcomer to Leeds’ already rich nightlife, but a welcome one indeed. Although currently in its incubation period, the birth of Equaliser is imminent, with the opening party on its way to Wharf Chambers on 30th September. Its inherent ethos of inclusivity and diversity that is apparent even in its name promises that Equaliser will cater to every musical need. Self-described as a “party for everyone”, it’s refreshing to see a club night that doesn’t restrict itself to producing one particular genre, but rather recognises that variety is the spice of life and aims to reproduce that on the dancefloor.
Outside of the club, Equaliser is branching out to deliver monthly DJ workshops for budding female and non-binary DJs, providing a safe space in which to practice and hone their skills. The lack of diversity in lineups across the country is shocking, and it is grassroots movements like Equaliser that are bound to change the way we treat newcomer DJs by inspiring and creating opportunities for the new generation.
To gain a bit more of an idea about Equaliser’s rising star, we chatted to its creator Ranyue Zhang to find out more.
Where did the idea for Equaliser start?
For the workshop, this idea came from my friend Thao. At the beginning of this year, she told me she went to a DJ workshop for girls and women in Berlin and learnt how to DJ, and I thought it was a very very good idea. At that point, I was preparing for a 15-minute presentation about women’s participation in music industry for one of my courses so I looked up a lot stuff about gender equality in music industry and thought a workshop would be something helpful to start up. An all-female lineup was just to balance it and to provide a platform for girls, women and other female-identified people. I think the whole idea is from the community sense in Leeds; it came from everyone who’s trying to push it, really.
Your opening party is in a couple of weeks’ time at the dedicated safe-space venue Wharf Chambers. How are you feeling in the run-up to it?
Hmmm, it’s a bit slow to be honest because I’m working on my master dissertation at the moment, so I’m just running the event bits by bits. I’ve got the party lineup ready, posters ready, gear ready and I’m working on the workshop at the moment. Hopefully this week it’ll all be done. And I got a lot help from our charity party Brudenell Groove and other girls and Leeds-based female DJs etc. It’s great to see so many people are up for it!
Leeds has a vibrant and varied nightlife, from dub and reggae night Subdub to techno bastion Wire providing for everyone’s clubbing needs. How do you see Equaliser as fitting into this?
The music styles of most parties are fixed, they’ll have several different music styles but these styles are not too far from each other and it won’t have a big contrast. You can hear disco, house and techno at the same party but you probably won’t expect jungle, drum ’n’ bass or footwork from the same party. I love it, but it feels quite safe. As a party, Equaliser will still focus on music, good music: that’s always number one. But it’ll be different music styles every time. This party is a platform for all female-identified DJs, and that means you’re all welcome, no matter what music you play or listen to. I just want some uncertainty and surprise. The first party will be funk, soul, world, disco and jazz stuff, but the second party will be different. It could be anything: house, techno, electro, or some crazy footwork. But always good music, because quality comes first.
There are some fantastic female DJs gaining more and more visibility at the moment, from big names like Helena Hauff and Nina Kraviz to Leeds’ own stalwart of the scene Lucy Locket. How do you hope to inspire the next generation of young women to take to the decks?
I want to show people more possibilities. So mixing is part of DJing, but that’s not all of it. For people who are into mixing, keep doing it and enjoying it, but at the same time there are so many things you can do when you’re DJing. I want to encourage people to be more creative behind the decks, not just limited to one form. At one of the after parties I went to recently, someone mixed a yoga record into the dance music and we all sat down, took a deep breath and stretched for 40 seconds. Then someone else mixed in an acid track or something, and everyone just jumped up and danced. I want to see something like that happening on a ‘serious’ dancefloor. I’d like Equaliser to be a place for DJs to be creative and brave, to try out different ways of doing things.
It’s certainly early days, but what are your plans for Equaliser’s future?
It will be a monthly party and workshop. My plan is to have a workshop and a talk every month to show different technics and ideas. Then I want to find a place for people who go to the workshop to practice every week because you need practice all the time. One workshop per month doesn’t do much and it’s quite expensive to buy a full set up. And after a while, when a round of workshops finish, they should play at Equaliser. They deserve it! So my plan for Equaliser is mainly to be sustainable and be actually helpful. Maybe also start workshop to teach people to produce one day.
Image courtesy of Ranyue Zhang