HELENA is a UK born, Australian bread and now Los Angeles based DJ and electronic producer. We sat down with HELENA to find out about her amazing journey and get a few tips and facts about this thriving industry.
Tell me a bit about your journey, I see you travelled a fair bit at a younger age trying to get where you are today, tell me a bit about this.
My journey began quite young, I realized I had a love for dance music by the age of about twelve, I started messing around on the decks by the age of 14 and while growing up I even tired putting on my own dance parties in my local village halls. At 16 I went off to work in Ibiza. I started off playing in back rooms of clubs and at after parties. It began as a part time hobby/passion and it just built over the years and turned into a career. It has been quite a journey, I originally came from the UK, moved to Australia and now I am in LA. I have been very lucky, my work has pretty much taken me to most corners of the earth and the shows are just getting bigger and better every year.
You entered the world of music playing the piano and cello, how was this move from classical music to deejaying? And what encouraged this move?
It wasn’t really a conscious move, when I was younger and all through school I was playing musical instruments, my brother was also a DJ so he had decks in the house, so while I was growing up I use to sneak into his room and go on his decks. A lot of my friends were
DJ’s so that’s what you did, you would just hang out and mix. After school I’d go around to my friend’s house and we would mix in his garage, it was just what I was surrounded with while growing up so it wasn’t really a conscious decision, music in any form was what I loved and what I was interested in and what my friends were into. Everything has just been a very natural progressive, nothing was preconceived, I never even set out to be a DJ it all just kind of progressed organically.
What do you do to amp up your crowd or get the vibe going?
Well, I’m constantly reading the crowd, I think when you’re a DJ your mind is split into so many different places while your playing. Half of you is thinking of what track your going to drop next and part of your brain is concentrated on your mixing, another about pumping the crowd and the other is reading the crowd, you have really got to be aware on so many levels. If I ever feel as though the crowd is lagging I’ll reach to one of my own edits or mash ups. My mash up Weapons is what I go to when I think, ‘wow, I really need to amp these people up’. Or I’ll even reach to a more familiar track, something that has a lot of energy and that I know they’ll know to get the crowd back. You need to have a good balance because you cant try to be too cool and play all new music because it will go over their heads and you’ll lose them. As a general rule, I go for two for them one for me.
How did you feel when girl from the sky became a number one hit?
It was fantastic as it was my first real single and for it to go to number one on the Aria charts in Australia was a huge achievement for me. It encouraged me to develop my sound and find my place as a producer in the market and to understand where I want to be and how I want to represent myself.
Tell me a bit about this Melbourne Bounce and why you’re apposed to it?
I was actually miss-quoted in an interview, I’m not apposed to Melbourne Bounce, I am apposed to Melbourne only playing Melbourne bounce. I was concerned with how it ruined the diversity of music in the city. By just playing this one sound there are many clubs that I can’t play in now because so many of the clubs in the city jumped on this one sound which I found very sad because Melbourne was one of my favourite cities to play in. A little bit of diversity is very healthy.
Are females received differently in the industry or is it an even playing field?
It’s still not an even playing field, simply because of the sheer lack of female DJs. If you look at big festivals there are only a token one or two top female DJs playing, the rest of it being mostly males. So no it is not equal or even close to. It is slowly changing, I do believe I have overcome a lot of things in my career in terms of a female DJ and I do feel that, to a degree, I am getting a lot of the respect I have been pushing for. But yes it is not completely equal, I still face a few issues even where I am now, which is very frustrating. But you just have to keep pushing forward until it’s no longer an issue. I keep saying it won’t be an issue when people stop having to ask the question in relation to it.
Tell me about your connection with big names like Avicii? Have you had the opportunity to learn from him at all?
I know him and have met him a few times and have supported him on tour. But unfortunately I have not been lucky enough to sit in the studio with him and often when we do meet it is in the DJ booth while we are swapping. But he is a huge inspiration, you always look to people like that who are game changers and who are leading the way to find out which way to go with songs.
You did a tour across America, which show would you say would have been the standout?
The stand out show was probably Pacha in New York, I was trying to play there my whole career so when I finally got a show I was so happy, it lived up to all it’s expectations.
How is LA treating you, ever missing your home country, little old Australia?
Of course I miss Australia, it still feels like home to me when I come back. I do love LA but I don’t think I have been there long enough for it to fully feel like home. Show wise, I am having the time of my life in LA, the gigs have been incredible, so much fun to play at but I do miss Australia.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am inspired by a few different artists, generally anyone and anything with great energy and that has some melody to it. I like to get moved by a track so I love creating moments for people and creating a journey. I love to create a really good vibe and for people to go away and be like, ‘wow that was a really great experience’.
How are you feeling about playing at Future Music festival 2014? And can we be expecting any new material?
Well, it is a huge honour to come back and be involved in Future Music Festival, I have played at Future before but it was only the Sydney show, so to be invited back to do the whole national tour is amazing and the line up this year is so strong. Just to be involved with the whole experience and to be on tour with everybody and hang out and get to know them on a personal level is amazing. Gig wise I am playing at the same time at every show and opening up the Sound System arena, it is going to be a really good tour. In regards to the music, I am trying to get a lot of fresh new material and I will actually be playing, for the first time on a big sound system, my new track Levity.
How do you manage to play, dance and pump up a crowed without collapsing, do you have to keep active to keep it up for your whole set?
Yeah, a lot of the time I get off the decks and I am literally dripping with sweat because it gets so hot, especially with the lights up there and I am quite known for trying to stay on the decks for as long as possible, sometimes even playing three hour sets. So it is hard to keep up that momentum to play for an hour and a half, even up to four hours. I do train as much as I can during the week, I love boxing, I often do boxing about three times a week. I do a lot of resistance training and weights, and a lot of cross fit kind of training. I also eat pretty healthy and try not to drink too much when I’m playing, although I do a few shots before I play to get me pumped up. Generally I think these days a lot of DJs are realizing you have to look after yourself, the days where you can just get absolutely wasted every single night are gone because it’s a professional career and you’ve got to treat it that way. You do lose a lot of sleep and your body just cant handle it if you aren’t looking after yourself.
What advice would you give all those aspiring dj’s out there?
I guess advice would be, it’s not easy. A lot of people say, ‘how did you get there, was it just good luck
or contacts?’ But you know what? It’s neither! I have worked really hard to get to this point, it wasn’t handed to me, and I battled my way to get to where I am. You just have to be determined, at the end of the day nothing is impossible if you want it enough, anything is possible. Just stick with it and also just realize you have to put in a lot of time and dedication. You really need to know your stuff these days, in regards to what you do, because there is too much competition to think your just going to breeze through. Just start at the bottom, don’t try to skim your way to the top and know how to mix properly and even learn a musical instrument and do a course.
If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be and why?
In one word… determined. There have been points where it has been real hard, where you really doubt yourself but then you think, ‘I have got this far already’, so if you want it enough you can go the full distance but you have got to have the right attitude and you have to be determined and not give up.
Helena will be putting on her own party in Miami this year on March 29th at Mokai . So if you’re in Miami head down to Mokai for one hell of a party, Also listen out for Levity coming out at the end of March on Ultra Music Records.
Be sure to Like Helena’s twitter, Facebook and Intsagram for updates and more information about up coming gigs.