House and techno DJ Cassy Britton is the definition of a globetrotter. She performs at clubs throughout the world and is regularly on the move, free of the urge to set down roots in any city. When we spoke with her over Skype, she had just enough time to give us some insight into her transient lifestyle before heading to a studio in Switzerland, where she planned to work on a remix with Swiss producer and sound engineer Lad Agabekov of Caduceus Records.
Cassy’s craving for frequent travel was likely inspired by her multicultural upbringing. Born in England, she moved to Austria with her Caribbean father and Austrian mother at a young age and, with their help, was introduced to music. She went on to study drama in London and then returned to Vienna to work in theater. But she soon soured on the acting profession, turned off in part by its exclusivity:
“First of all, I’m half black and half white… Then I’m a woman, and it makes it even more difficult. There are more parts for men. If you look at a Shakespeare play there are ten parts for men and two parts for women and none of them are half black and half white.”
And so, Cassy turned to music. She first delved into electronic music as a vocalist, and ultimately took up DJing after some nudging by Electric Indigo, a fellow Viennese DJ and a long-time supporter of ladies behind the decks. She found the electronic music world far more welcoming:
“As a producer or a DJ you can always just work on your art… It seems far more free and far more independent, where I can be completely myself and not have to conform to things.”
Eager to improve her craft and immerse herself in music, Cassy moved to Berlin, Europe’s techno epicenter. In the ten years since, she has gained a reputation as a near-flawless vinyl DJ, has started her own record label, and has worked with industry heavyweights including Steve Bug, Ricardo Villalobos, and Luciano. Today, she is a resident at Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Amsterdam’s Trouw, Paris’s Rex Club, and New York’s Output. The woman has been busy.
Panorama Bar is one venue in particular that demonstrates the unpretentious and inclusive vibe that Cassy came to appreciate about electronic music. Part of Berghain, the Berlin power plant-turned premier techno club, Cassy describes Panorama Bar as “a club that you might be able to compare to clubs in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s where the people of all different backgrounds and age and sexualities just go to hang out and listen to music. It’s an extremely underground thing and at the same time very popular. You go there because you can just let loose and dance and no one cares where you’re coming from and no one cares what t-shirt you’re wearing. It’s a way of celebrating and dancing or letting loose and having fun in a club that people were more familiar with in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
Of course, the electronic music scene is not without its flaws. As a woman in a profession vastly dominated by men, Cassy has encountered gender bias over the years despite her talent and notoriety.
“Male DJs are extremely competitive. Male DJs — or men in general — are extremely intimidated by women who don’t conform to a certain way of behaving with them. If people doubt a woman’s ability, I guess it’s more because their ego is too big or their penis is too small.”
With her frank, cheeky attitude, Cassy is clearly well-equipped to handle the occasional sexism with a laugh and a shrug, choosing to simply brush it off and focus on preserving her own identity despite the naysayers. She suggests that aspiring female DJs take a similar approach:
“You should love music so much to just not care about all the stupid things that you sometimes have to care about, and just keep on going — keep on being extremely courageous and brave.”
Between traveling for gigs and studio work, Cassy currently resides in Ibiza — she was unable to bring herself to leave the island paradise after a fantastic summer of DJing at its legendary clubs. She is working on a number of remix projects and earlier this month released Fabric 71 for the seminal Fabric mix series. This January, Cassy will be playing the 2014 BPM Festival in idyllic Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where she will be featured at the Circoloco Showcase and Guy Gerber’s Wisdom of the Glove. It’s safe to assume that she won’t be slowing down any time soon.