Sounds of Detroit: Gabi
Amidst a male-dominated industry, it’s always a breath of fresh air to see a female who can hold her own in the DJ world. Gabriele Schwarz, better known as Gabi, is making history in Detroit. She recently became the first resident female DJ for Paxahau, the production company responsible for developing world-class music festivals like Movement and Moogfest. What’s even more impressive is how Gabi got to this point; the girl is completely self-taught. With a foundation of music theory and classical piano, Gabi learned how to mix vinyl during her teenage years. Fast forward to present day and Gabi is a well-known figure in the Detroit music scene. Whether she’s dropping minimal techno or melodic house music, Gabi’s fierce energy behind the decks combined with a deep love for her city make her DJ sets unforgettable. We caught up with this rising star at Movement to ask her about her Paxahau residency, Women in EDM, the Detroit scene, and her summer plans.
RP: You recently became a resident DJ for Paxahau. Resident DJs are crucial to a party because they really get the night going. Tell us about the art of opening for a headliner…how is your approach to the set different than playing peak hours or afterhours?
Gabi: Usually I like to build up the set for the headliner. I definitely play tracks I like, but I’ll also listen to some of their stuff, figure out what style they play, and try to ease into that. I like to get the crowd dancing for their type of music before they get on.
In a recent interview you said you believe that the electronic music industry has the least amount of women. Why do you think that is and what can women in the scene do to get others involved?
I was very interested in the music when I first saw it being played live. It actually wasn’t until I saw other female artists like Magda and Anja Schneider playing out that made we want to learn. I was amazed and after seeing them do it, I thought, “Hey I can do this, too.” I think the reason a lot of women are not in the scene is that they’re intimidated … the technical side of it is kind of daunting and it does take time to learn, but I feel like technology is so much more stereotypically a man’s thing that women are afraid to get into it. I think that by seeing a woman do it, girls are more likely to say, “Oh, I can do that.” Just seeing another female up there is very inspiring.
A lot of people just get a pretty “snapshot” of Detroit during their Movement holiday, but they don’t really know what Detroit is like the other 362 days of the year. What’s something visitors should know about Detroit and the scene?
I’d say it’s pretty much like one big family. Everybody goes out, we all know each other and there’s just so much love and acceptance. It’s a scene with good vibes, a lot of energy and objectivity when it comes to the music. It’s like a family reunion that brings everyone together, so it’s nice to see people from everywhere come to Detroit to celebrate like a family at the festival.
You’re a DJ/artist by night and a social worker by day. Tell us how you maintain balance with two different professional lives, especially with a stressful job like a social worker!
I think my stress release is the music. And it is hard to balance…I’m living two different lives right now. I would like to get to the point where I can totally support myself with music full time and just travel/make music. If I can do that and live comfortably that’s what I want to do, but it’s nice to have a fallback position.
Any releases/gigs lined up for the summer our readers should know about?
Stay tuned for Paxahau events and out of town gigs announced on Gabi’s Facebook Page.
Feature photo by Nick Hagen.