Sounds of Detroit: Stacey Hotwaxx Hale
With more than 25 years of DJing under her belt, Stacey Hotwaxx Hale is a pivotal piece in Detroit’s dance music history. The first female DJ in Detroit, Stacey has dedicated her life to her craft and her community. In addition to a time-consuming tour schedule, she makes time to pursue local endeavors, including non-profit work and support of the arts. As if this wasn’t enough to do, Stacey is also heavily involved in music side projects, Nyumba Muziki and Black Women Rock Band. We caught up with miss Hotwaxx to chat about her endeavors and see what’s next for the Godmother of House Music.
Robotic Peacock: What made you want to start DJing during a time where females weren’t in that role? What was the motivation behind that decision?
Stacey Hotwaxx Hale: I love music and that started at a very young age. When I was 16, I walked into a club and Ken Collier was playing alongside Duane the mix Bradley, and Morris Mitchell, they called themselves True Disco. I was already playing music at home and I knew I wanted to play music for people, but I didn’t want to be a radio DJ. So when I first walked into this club and saw these guys spinning records, it was an “aha moment,” and I realized that’s what I wanted to do. And I made it my business to do that.
You were also involved in Girls Gone Vinyl. There’s a lack of women in this industry in particular…why do you think that is and how can we encourage women to be proactive and get involved?
They are getting involved and they are doing it, but because they’re seeing men do it, they’re turning to men for advice. You tend to want to follow their advice, but they do not always want to help you. They’ll look out for their boys way faster then they will for you. Therefore we have to do it ourselves. And that’s part of what Girls Gone Vinyl is all about and the same goes for DJ Minx’s Women on Wax. Us women need to stick together and work together. No one helped me get overseas…I did it all myself. As women, we need to help each other make our own opportunities because they’re not being made for us.
Tell us about your non-profit involvement and community work.
Starting in November 2013, I began donating my time to teach kids how to DJ as part of an after-school program. I went to various schools in Metro Detroit. So I found myself teaching them about different kinds of music, confidence behind the decks, projecting your voice, and scratching, of course. I realized I was teaching them so much more than just how to DJ, but life skills that aren’t taught in schools.
As far as my nonprofit, LOCS Network, that’s on hiatus at the moment, but our goal is to mentor young black lesbian women in the local community. Unfortunately, one of the core founders of the organization moved away and it became very difficult to run the program by myself. If there is an opportunity to resurrect the organization we will revisit that when the time comes.
You’re also the Assistant Music Director for Black Women Rock band…
Jessica Care Moore put a group of women together that are the best in their field- musicians, DJs, and singers. The focus is to have black women sing rock-which is something you do not see very often. And this appealed to me because we were playing music that I really like that’s not played on the radio. The artists that Jessica knows from around the world come to Detroit about once a year to perform, and we usually have about 5 artists who bring their material. She asked me to be the DJ and assistant music director. It’s her brainchild but I do the mechanical work in the back. At first I was thinking what is a house DJ going to do with this genre of music? But it made me raise the bar and I figured out a way to make it sound good. I added a different dynamic to the performance and I look forward to it every year.
Tell us about your live side project, Nyumba Muziki.
Nyumba Muziki means “House Music” in Swahili. I love playing with musicians. I love fusing classical and African/Latin rhythms into music I make and play, primarily house music. I started having a couple of parties where these classical musicians would come and jam with me while I played house music. It started getting better and I realized a group was kind of forming and we weren’t really trying. It was very organic how it happened. Now we play regularly all around Metro Detroit and you can tell that it’s really a different kind of music listening experience for people.
Speaking of playing, what are some of your up-and-coming gigs?
I’m playing a 70’s theme party tomorrow at Snookers (July 25), TV Lounge on Saturday (July 26), and Panacea Gallery on Sunday (July 27). I’m really excited for next weekend when I’ll be playing at Charivari, an amazing free music event featuring the best of Detroit dance music’s DJs and artists. Also, Nyumba Muziki will be playing at Hug Detroit, then I’ll be heading to Atlanta, and finally off to the west coast for a 10-day tour.
Watch her “Spin Cycle” interview in preparation for Charvari Detroit: