In an ongoing series, Taipei Trends meets four very different and successful female DJs as a celebration of women behind the decks. We discover how the boundaries of a male-dominated industry are being overcome as these women are coming out on top in Taipei’s music scene and clubbing culture. Each with their own style and sounds, we ask them what it means to be a successful DJ in Taipei and about their journey to get there. This week, we talk to DJ Crystal Q, a familiar presence behind the decks in Taipei’s top clubs such as Luxy and Spark 101.
Despite the frequent adoring male crowds around her booth only trying to catch a glimpse of this gorgeous DJ, Crystal Q in actuality, delivers solid and high energetic sets that never fail to have people getting low on the dance floor. I learn how she is a savvy business woman who has honed her DJ skills and marketed her image to become one of Taipei’s most beloved DJ’s. Though having a very different look to that of Noodles (her good friend), Crystal’s musical influence and knowledge similarly spans a wide range of genres, including hip-hop.
A to Q: Working and Studying in Taipei’s Clubs
‘I actually grew up in a very Taiwanese culture, but I learned how to dance when I was young, so I got close to hip hop culture through that. I just listened to everything so I like every kind of music.’
Crystal threw herself in at the deep end, learning her DJ skills on the job. She started DJing when she graduated and Spark 101 in Taipei was her first club at age 21. While simultaneously practicing DJing and working at the same time, she learnt from international DJs by watching and copying how they mixed.
So how did she end up becoming a career-DJ?
‘I love music. I never dreamt that I would become a DJ. It was just a part-time job, now it’s full-time. I’m really into the industry. I found my passion. It is not for fame or money. I just love it.’
Crystal showed potential through her drive and willingness to learn. On top of that, she was supported by a close friend in her decision to start DJing.
‘It was through a friend of the club owner’, she explains. ‘He said I could try. He was kind of training me as my mentor. Even now we are still very close with each other. He is the one that helped me a lot when I was stuck and didn’t know how to progress, saying ‘If you love DJ’ing you don’t have to think that much when you play!’
DJ Crystal’s popularity and ability to read and please the crowds have taken her far. She is humble of her skills.
‘I have been to some European countries and around Asia. Marrakech in Morocco was one of the most special countries I’ve been to. In Europe the clubs are different to Asia. It was fun. The crowds love old school hip hop. I played club music but played more old school hip hop, open format.’
On home territory she enthuses about the energy of the crowds, ‘I think Spark (now Electro) probably has the best crowd in Taiwan. The people are always energetic. All you have to do is give them a good time and always have fun with them’, she says with a languid smile.
FAQ: X vs. Y
And what about the issue of gender? Surely she must get asked a lot what it is like to be a woman and a DJ in Taiwan.
’I don’t think it’s harder as a woman. I think it’s easier’ Crystal replies.
When asked, as a glamorous woman, if she feels objectified in the scene, Crystal responded:
‘In recent years there has been more attention on female DJs, so we have both good and bad comments from everywhere. But we get more interest that way.’ She accepts the good with the bad and is realistic about her draw. ‘I think it’s the nightclub culture. The top clubs hire female DJs to attract more customers’, but Crystal does have her personal views on this issue beyond her professionalism. ‘I wish they would focus on the music more, not just the sex of the DJ’.
She begins to open up about the issue she confronts more and more in her line of work. ‘Every club in Taipei plays almost the same music, EDM such as Calvin Harris is mainstream and everyone is playing those tracks. There is not much difference between DJs’ sounds so that is why there are more female DJs now. You don’t really have to have skills to be honest. Like I know in China, or other places in Asia, there are so many fake DJs. They just play a mixed tape and pretend to press play when they hear the drop.’
Crystal is not bitter. She speaks from experience having played all around Asia, even living between Beijing and Shanghai for several years. Crystal is very much in control and understands how to use her image and skills,
‘For me, being a good DJ is how you control the crowd, not just play whatever they want. You have your own music style and you teach them to know new music, but at the same time you have to make them happy. It is really hard to take care of both’. Beyond her sweet smile and elegance, she is a very smart business woman.
‘I don’t look glamorous!’, she smiles sitting opposite, looking chic yet casual, ‘but when I play I do. I think it’s part of how you present yourself to the crowd. You have to at least have your own style. Like Skrillex, he is not good-looking but he has his thing. So it’s part of my job. It’s all included, like what outfit I am wearing. I know some girls like to be sexy, but some hate it, so they just wear hip hop style. It depends what kind of image you want to show’, she analyses.
I get the impression she deals with being objectified very well, even marketing it, but she has a firm stance about being a female DJ and she is confident in her ability to silence skeptics.
‘Most people think if you are a girl DJ you must be using your sex, not your skills. That aspect can be a little bit depressing. As long as you know what you are doing and what you can show people, I don’t think it matters. If people do not know you, they may think like that but once you show them, they shut up’ she states confidently.
And Z: Crystal Clear
For now Crystal is just enjoying the ride of her success as a DJ. Will she ever produce her own sounds? ‘Sometimes I am thinking about when I retire’, she laughs. ‘I hope that I can produce in the future, so I don’t have to be in the club all the time. So I think about if I want to have a family one day, but I probably won’t. Then maybe I will produce music’.
Crystal also gives sound advice for girls or women looking to get into the industry and echoes DJ Noodles’ sentiment. ‘Just do it. Just do it. If you really like it, you really just need to do it . You do not have to think about being famous. If you do whatever you enjoy the most, I believe eventually you will reach your dream.’