One half of Chicago's Twirl, partner-in-crime to Shaun J Wright and celebrated DJ and producer in her own right, Alinka finally joins us here at Superstore for B(e)ast! Having just quit her day job to focus on making music alongside launching Twirl Records with Shaun, she took a moment out of her busy schedule to talk to us about dancefloors and DJ booths, the importance of her hometown, and of course, the Classic Music Company and Derrick Carter...
Who are your UNSUNG house heroes and why do they warrant more appreciation?
Well I’m very much obsessed with Hard Ton and Mamacita’s music right now. I wouldn’t say they’re so much unsung heroes because they’re doing amazing things and are definitely out there in the world, but I think they deserve all the attention and more because their sound is so unique. There’s so much music coming out these days and so much of it just sounds similar or fits a formula. I think what they’re doing is really creative and special, and I really want everyone in the world to hear it and appreciate it as much as I do!
My unsung DJ hero is definitely Michael Serafini who owns Gramaphone Records in Chicago, he’s by far one of my favorite DJ’s. I’ve known Michael for about 14 years now. I used to skip school to go hang out at the record shop when I was starting out. He would help me pick out tracks, and put away little side piles for me because back then you’d have to fight for all the new stuff and you know I was young and quite little haha. He’s finally getting the attention he deserves. I know he just played Panorama bar recently for the first time and has been traveling quite a bit. He’s just a great person and an amazing DJ that deserves the spotlight.
Let's have some positivity instead of eliciting a DJ rant... what makes you full of love?
Shaun J. Wright makes me full of love! Since we met and teamed up, the series of events that have transpired, the people I’ve met, the music we’ve made, all the experiences collectively have been the most amazing and significant in my life. I’m very grateful for that. It’s just been really positive all around and I know that energy and love flows into the music we’re making. I’ve definitely sat down and cried listening back to songs in the studio, and we’ve had many moments where it just feels really magical. I don’t think I ever really quite fit in or found people I completely relate to musically and in life until the past few years because of meeting Shaun. Not to say I didn’t have great friends and mentors prior, but my newfound little music family around the world has really inspired me and made me feel complete.
We previously had your sister-in-Twirl, Shaun J Wright, playing at B(e)ast here at Superstore- how do you plan to turn it out even more than he did?
Ha! Shaun is an amazing DJ and performer! I don’t think I can honestly say anyone would turn it out more than Shaun, but I’ll do my thing and give you a little piece of Chicago!
What's had the biggest impact on your sound- the city of Chicago or Shaun J Wright? Or are they inextricably linked?
They are definitely linked! I’ve lived in Chicago since I was eight years old. It’s tattooed on me in a few places, I would say it’s in my blood at this point. I learned from watching DJ’s like Derrick Carter, Heather, and Justin Long so I think my style of DJ’ing is very much influenced by Chicago. Chicago house is what made me fall in love with dance music and basically give up any chance of a basic life (thank god). Shaun has had the most impact on me as an artist. I had taken a break from dance music for a few years because I got really burnt out and I wasn’t feeling inspired by the music that was coming out at the time. I was really down and unsure of where I wanted to go musically and in life. I really didn’t feel like I fit in with what was happening around me. Hercules and Love Affair was pretty much the only electronic music I would listen to at the time, I thought it was so epic. It got me through some difficult times and made me feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I never actually thought I would meet any of those guys, it was never a goal or anything I just really loved their music and it was monumentally important to me.
Flash forward a few years… I was in this band when my manager at the time Scott Cramer said "Hey Shaun J. Wright just moved back to Chicago you guys should do something together". I looked at him like he was crazy for not thinking of this earlier and keeping this info from me haha! Three years later here we are. I was so nervous to work with him because I admired him so much as an artist, it really pushed me to become a better producer. He gave me the confidence to finally make the music I always wanted to create. He really brought it out of me. He’s constantly inspiring me to grow and evolve as an artist and a human. I would say meeting him has been the most impactful thing in my career and my life generally. As you can see there’s a lot of love there haha!
Can you talk us through the evolution of Twirl?
Twirl started out as a monthly party from Shaun, myself, and our good friend Mr. White, with the help of Scott Cramer and our host Sissy Spastik at Berlin Night Club. We started it because we wanted a fun space to DJ together and wanted to showcase some of our favorite DJ’s and friends that weren’t necessarily playing in Chicago as often as they should. We just wanted to do something unique that fit our style. Berlin Night Club and Scott allowed us to really be creative and do our thing. We were fortunate to be able to bring in Eli Escobar, Lauren Flax, Heather, Derrick Carter, JD Samson, The Carry Nation, and a long list of DJ’s we really love. It recently evolved into a record label because Shaun and I were making so much music we wanted to give it a home of its own. We love working with other labels, but nothing compares to having full creative control over your own tracks and really working on every part of the release from the ground up. It’s been really amazing curating remixers and just being involved with every bit of what goes into the process. Luckily we have a great team that works very hard and supports one another. It’s gotten a pretty amazing reception thus far so hopefully we’re doing something right!
You're taking us out in your hometown... where are we going, what are we doing? What are your Chicago musts!
Ok so I’m a huge foodie and there’s so many amazing restaurants in Chicago, but there’s one I bring every (non-vegetarian) guest to when they’re in town. It’s called Au Cheval and it’s my absolute favorite! Best burger in the universe, though really everything there is amazing. Now that we’re not hungry, we’d have to go to Gramaphone Records and pick up some classics. I hardly play vinyl out of the house these days but I’m still a collector and anyone visiting me likely is as well. It’s just a part of Chicago history you can’t avoid if you’re a music fan. After we’ve gotten that fix we’re off for drinks at Wang’s. Wang’s is my favorite bar, it’s our spot. We have a song called Wang’s On Broadway coming out on Classic Music Company next year, so obviously Wang’s has been an inspiration! It’s just epic. Our friends Banjee Report and Men’s Room have thrown some great parties there. Wang’s is a must. If you can still walk after this there’s obviously some great clubs in Chicago. Smart Bar, Primary, and Spy Bar are all doing great things on the regular so if you’d like to go for a dance then I’d head to one of those. Outside of that I spend most of my time at home in the studio so you’re more than welcome to hang out at my apartment with Shaun and I plus ‘The Ratners’. I have two cats and a dog currently, which I refer to as ‘The Ratners’ or the children. Anyway, you’re all invited!
How did you come to be part of the amazing Classic family?
I met Derrick Carter when I was 19 through my friend DJ Dayhota who was dragging me around town to lots of amazing places I couldn’t get into on my own. Being illegal and very curious wasn’t always easy, but with the help of great friends anything is possible. Her and Derrick were good friends and I was still very fresh to the scene and learning about house music and life in general. I remember I had drinks with her and Derrick one night and then I went to Gramaphone Records a few days later and that record 10 had just come out on Classic with his picture out it. Whoever was working at the time rushed over and told me I had to get this record, and in my head I was like whatever I just had drinks with that guy no big deal, because I was actually that clueless at the time. Then I listened to it and basically bought every record on the label I could get my hands on, and he became my favorite DJ. The label has a massive section in my record collection dedicated to them and Music For Freaks. I’m a huge fan of Luke and Derrick and the artists they’ve had on the label. Classic and Cajual really changed my life.
Anyway, when we finished our first EP we sent it off to Derrick who then passed it onto Luke. We didn’t really know if they’d even listen to it but we like to aim high and luckily they picked it up! It was a dream come true for me honestly, and it was really encouraging that our first project was going to them. It meant a lot. It’s just been an amazing experience working with them, and I’m really looking forward to our second EP on the label and hopefully others to come.
We managed to secure you a time machine and you can visit any dancefloor for any point in time! Where/when are we setting the dials for?
Oh wow my own time machine! First I’d go back and buy all the Air Jordans I can no longer afford, then we can go dancing! To me the best decades were the '80s and '90s and I’d have to get to Chicago, NYC, Detroit, and definitely tour the clubs in the UK. I got to go to The Loft last year thanks to my friend Will Automagic, and that was an amazing experience! Honestly my time machine would probably be flying in circles trying to figure it out with a mild hangover like we were trying to decide on brunch. Life is hard sometimes. Thankfully we’ve had some amazing dance music come out throughout the years to make this decision nearly impossible.
Speaking of dancefloors, who has been your most musically out there guest ever at Twirl?
This is a difficult one. They’ve all been pretty out there that’s why they’re our friends. Musically I’d have to say Tiffany Roth of Midnight Magic. She’s really incredible and her track selection is brilliant and very versatile.
What is your ultimate DJ booth horror story?
Ooh I have a good one! This happened recently actually. I’ve never been one to understand the ‘request’ thing but I try to be as polite as possible about it when it does happen. Like if I’m playing at your house or your brother’s birthday party then fine I could see a reason for asking me to play your favorite song which you just heard 10 times in your car on the way to the party. But luckily we’ve moved past that point in my career when you show up at the crowded club. Anyway, I was opening for Roy Davis Jr to a packed room. About half way through my set I could see this group of girls in front of the booth staring at me like they wanted to have a chat. I knew where this was going so I continued mixing and didn't pay any attention to them. A minute later I could see long dark hair to the side of me in the DJ booth and of course I thought it was my friend because who else would force their way into a tiny DJ booth at a packed club when they don’t know the DJ. Please visualize a tiny space where there is definitely not enough room for two people to stand unless one is being pressed back into the wall.
All of the sudden the long hair started getting closer and I turned my head to notice not only is this not my friend but she’s now pushing me off to the side and leaning over the CDJ’s reaching out to her friends while laughing and trying to have a conversation with them like reality has just left the building. As I’m in shock and staring at this person with a look of confusion while also in the middle of a blend, she elbows the CDJ stops all the music and then continues her conversation as well as hovering and bumping into me and the gear at which point I have to restart the track and everyone is staring at both of us. I asked her if she knew that she was in the DJ booth and why she was there. Instead of having any kind of remorse she turned to me and said “I’m here to make a request” with a very eager look on her face, to which I responded “Absolutely not.” This did not register and left her in shock and unwilling to leave at which point I knew we would never be on the same page. So it ended in her getting escorted back to her circle followed by her making evil eyes at me while all my friends and I shook our heads in disbelief while mouthing “Unbelievable.” She still didn’t understand why anything was wrong with any of this and thought I’d done her a great injustice by not letting her back in or playing her song. I’m not sorry.
Join Alinka for B(e)ast at Dalston Superstore on Saturday 6th December from 9pm - 3am.