• Record Collector: DJ: KITTENS

    Lauren Abedini—or DJ: KITTENS—is a fearless genre-splicer who has regularly been referred to in the Los Angeles club scene as a “DJ on the rise.” But after touring with Kid Cudi and working with Usher, it’s clear to us that she’s already worked her way to the top. We met Lauren at her chic minimalist apartment to discuss her eclectic 500 plus record collection, three beloved cats, and why she's inspired to give back to the ladies following their music-making dreams in what can typically be considered a boys’ club. 
    Photos by Steve Gripp, words by Devan Cook

    First, tell us how you got into DJing and music production in the first place. 
    I’ve always been super into music. Growing up, I was going to shows constantly—every genre, everywhere I could. Then, when I was 17 I started going to Low End Theory [an experimental hip-hop and electronic club night] in Lincoln Heights. That’s where Flying Lotus got his start and The Gaslamp Killer was a resident DJ. It was a place for producers and DJs to play weird shit in the post—J Dilla era. There weren’t that many girls, which was interesting to me. It made me want to pursue it a little bit more. I really liked the music and just wanted to be a part of it.

    So how did you break in to that world? 
    I used to go to this spot in Orange County called The Crosby, which was run by these guys who were also part of the Low End Theory world. I told them that I wanted to learn to DJ and one of the guys said, “My cousin is selling turntables. Do you want them?” I saved up and bought them, then saved up even more and bought a mixer. Between Gaslamp Killer and another friend of mine who was an old scratch, beat-juggling type, I had two of the best mentors I could hope for to teach me how to DJ. It wasn’t easy for me to learn. I would call Gaslamp crying saying, “What am I doing wrong? They’re going the same speed, I don’t understand!” It was nice to have people who were super supportive on call.

    How has the L.A. club scene changed since then? 
    It's really interesting because there’s a huge divide between the mainstream stuff and more cutting edge things. You have the bottle service Hollywood clubs that play the exact same things every night—people aren’t there to hear something new or be inspired, they’re there to listen to songs they know with their friends. I find that a little boring. But when you look elsewhere, you can find a night for any type of music—any weird niche sound, there’s a place for it. 

    The music you produce is heavily inspired by dance. Can you tell us a little more about that?
    Dance really gave me a different kind of way to appreciate and interact with music. It’s really expressive, and I think it translates in the way that I play my selections. I jump around genres a lot when I DJ, but everything has a lower body [and] danceable quality to it. Whether it’s rap or hip-hop or dance music, it’s all something you can feel in your hips, versus your arms and upper body.

    You mentioned there weren't many girls on the scene when you were starting out. Was that part of the inspiration behind the female-only DJ workshops you run today?
    I know the struggles of the industry as a girl and that DJing is mainly considered a masculine trait. It’s a little bit intimidating to learn, and to feel confident and really chase it. The way men and women generally learn is different. [For example] girls will get psyched out and not want to embarrass themselves in front of a guy, but if a guy embarrasses himself, he’ll just kind of hate on everybody to make himself feel better. Traditionally, that’s what I’ve noticed. So I figured it would be cool to have a space that was super female-friendly and open, with girls teaching them and only girls in the room. We can talk about the struggles of navigating the industry as a woman, the things you’re going to face that guys aren’t going to face. I just wanted to share my experience and my technical tips and tricks. 

    What are your secrets to making a great mixtape?
    I think the most important thing is to look at it as a story. What do you want the overall theme to be? Make sure you have an introduction, build up, climax, conclusion. 

    What’s on the horizon for you in the new year?
    I have a project coming out with Fool’s Gold, so I’m working on some music for that. Remixes, touring, and I’m hoping to do more of the Girls Only courses and maybe some one offs while I’m in other cities. Oh, and play with my cats some more. 

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