On The Decks: CARLOS

In this series of articles, we’ve asked several amazing female DJs around Leeds to tell us about their experiences of being a woman in what is undeniably a very male-dominated industry. The first to take the stage is CARLOS, the moniker of Charlotte Bickley, a DJ who is relatively new to the scene but making waves by playing at local Leeds institutions: KMAH, Brudenell Groove and Love Muscle. 

In many ways, this is a great time to be a female DJ or producer, especially in Leeds. This isn’t to say that sexism in electronic music culture is anywhere near to being eradicated – I’ve experienced enough of it to make such a naïve assertion: from the numbingly common sexual harassment in clubs to the infuriatingly patronising emails from the so-called ‘tech experts’ suggesting I don’t know how to use my equipment when it’s clearly faulty.

However, the curation of more diverse line-ups is now a priority for those in the scene who are truly invested in improving equality and creating varied, stimulating nights of music. It’s also becoming incredibly fashionable in general, and when I’m at my most cynical I can’t help but entertain the depressing thought that I am just being asked to play somewhere because the organiser wants a woman’s name on their line-up, even after adopting CARLOS, the playful nickname bestowed upon me by my housemates, as a moniker to avoid being used as a token.

Even so, whether the organiser’s intentions are genuine or self-serving, beginning to play out over the last few months has inevitably boosted my confidence, and that’s definitely been reflected in my approach to music. Despite loving to go out and dance to house and disco in clubs, I have previously found myself uncomfortable when discussing dance music, usually with men, for fear of being judged on my taste or being exposed for not really knowing enough about certain artists or labels, although I am surrounded by some of the most wonderful and supportive male friends imaginable.

Upon reflection, this has potentially affected the music I play. While I’ve always been interested in unusual sounds and experimental music, perhaps subconsciously I have concentrated on searching for more peculiar records in a bid to separate myself from dance music collectors, who are predominantly male and amongst whom I’ve never felt like I could truly fit in. However, over the past year or so I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of amazing female DJs and producers who are just doing their own thing, and it’s helped me to realise that the only important thing is whether I’m enjoying myself or not. All music is interesting in its own way, and as long as I like the sound of it then it has worth and doesn’t need justifying – even if it’s experimental trombone or Radio 1 trash.

Charlotte Bickley

Image: Amy Jones, used with Charlotte’s permission

Check out Charlotte’s playlist of top recommended tracks by female DJs below:

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