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Meet The Winners

An interview with the winners of Pete Tong’s prestigious DJ Academy

Constanza Pucheta

Q1. Congratulations Constanza, tell us where you are from and when you started to DJ?

Thank you so much. I'm from Corrientes, Argentina and I started training to be a DJ 3 years ago.

Q2. When did you enter the Pete Tong DJ Academy, and what lessons did you find the most beneficial on the course?

I entered the academy at the beginning of this year. It is difficult to choose some lessons as the most beneficial, I think the whole course was very well thought out. The lesson I was most interested in seeing was "Multicam HD DJ Sets from our teachers" because I wanted to see how the people who I admire mix but along the way I found lessons like "Building a DJ Set" where the teachers transmit values that many times I don't see in a booth, also they teach you to be as professional as possible, always respecting your place and others, and that is undoubtedly something very valuable.

Q3. How did it feel to play in Ibiza at Dalt Vila? What a huge gig!

Playing in Ibiza I think is the biggest dream of any DJ. I never would have imagined that day would come so soon for me. I still can't process everything I've lived and what's to come. Dalt Vila is a wonderful place, its energy is unique and at the moment of playing only happiness ran through my body, I really wished that moment and I felt a total fulfilment when I was playing there.

Q4. What do you think made you stand out from all the applications?

At the time of making the application, I checked which were the aspects that would be evaluated, which were the presence, the musical selection, and the technique. For the last 2 I was very confident, I chose the best tracks from my record box and applied everything I learned in the academy in terms of technique. About the presence, I tried to do my best and put a lot of good vibes in front of the camera. Keeping that in mind I think made me stand out.

Q5. Can you tell us what’s next for you?

What's next for me is to focus on music production, take as much free time as possible to create music and prepare myself for what's to come, my shows with Carl Cox and Nicole Moudaber.

Liz Somes

Q1. Congratulations Liz, tell us where you are from and how you started to DJ?

Thank you so much! I am from Los Angeles, CA. and currently based in Seattle, WA. How I started to DJ was simply by chance. I was broadcasting for small rock and roll radio stations when a friend, who is a DJ, asked me if I had ever mixed music together. I guess he thought I would be good at it. I said no, so he had me download Virtual DJ and explained to me how to beat match and how to harmonically mix. After a few tries I finally mixed my first two tracks together. A feeling of euphoria immediately washed over me as I created art with music for the first time, and to say I was excited is an understatement, but really, I felt like I came home. As a lifelong artist in many mediums, the possibilities immediately raced through my mind, and I instantly knew this was the ultimate form of expression and communication for me. That was mid 2018, and 2019 I started playing in the clubs and since have completely thrown myself into this artform.

Q2. Do you have any DJs who you have looked up to the most throughout your learning?

Music has always been a way of expressing myself and a way for me to escape. Being a professional dancer for over 2 decades in my younger years, I was naturally drawn to DJing styles and music that spoke to me emotionally and allowed me to become lost in the energy. Monika Kruse was the first DJ I came across that I could relate to as a woman and an artist. The way she plays with light and dark elements always keeps you guessing, she tells such great stories through sound, and she is patient when she mixes. Sasha and John Digweed, together and individually, are masters of the journey. I have been a student of their sound since the beginning. Even today, I subscribe to John's channel and find inspiration in each of his mixes. Nakadia is another great artist I relate to and have studied. I read her book a few years back and have been following her since. She takes you on such a journey through sound in each of her sets. Her lockdown sets were so good! She is fierce, super approachable, always positive and a nice human. Then there is Sama' Abdulhadi, I mean seriously, the woman is the epitome of authenticity in a world of masks. She channels everything she feels into her sets, they are so emotional, her soul is laid bare for the world to see, every time she plays. It is artists like this that have inspired me, so you can imagine how I felt when she chose me for the Sama Award. They all have one thing they all have in common, though, authenticity, they don’t hide who they are in their music, they show you exactly who they are, and it is beautiful to watch.

Q3. One valuable lesson you learned in the last year?

Great Question. The most valuable lesson I have learned is to believe in myself and not compare myself to others. There is only one me. The universe gave me this gift for a reason, so who am I to question why I am on the path I am on. My only job is to enjoy the journey, keep making music and share my story through sound with the hope that others get inspired to follow their dreams, no matter what that dream is.

Q4. Lockdown was particularly hard you mention. Can you tell us more?

Thank you for asking this question and giving me the platform to speak about this. As an artist who 100% thrives on the energy of the people I am playing for Lockdown was really hard. I don't think any of us expected it to last as long as it did. At first, I thought, ok, I will live stream while we get through this, however, the more I livestreamed, the more I realized how empty and alone I would feel once I shut off the computer. One night, I had just finished a livestream and even before I shut down the stream, I could feel everything in me screaming that this was not healthy for me and after that night, I walked away from music for almost a year. I realized, from being a professional dancer, that DJs are no different than any other athlete. Too much adrenaline and endorphins and not enough dopamine is a quick highway to depression, anxiety, and even physical issues. I spoke out about it on Facebook and to my surprise so many fellow DJs and artists thanked me for being so open, as they were also going through the same thing, but were struggling with the why of it all. I am grateful to have made it through the isolation of covid. Sadly, though, many did not, including family and friends; but it was very hard mentally, physically, and emotionally for me and so many, especially those living alone, like me. My hope is that the industry doesn't forget the lessons we all learned during that time and the PTSD and trauma that some faced. Mental health is no less important than physical health and I would hate to see us lose any more artists because we sweep mental health under the rug for fear of having the hard conversations.

Q5. Can you tell us one of your favourite tracks right now we can hear in your sets?

Scrap by Matias Freccia. Simply love the minimal, dark hypnotic sounds of his track, his music is very cerebral, and I could completely get lost in most of his work.


Q1. Congratulations Damian, tell us where you are from and how you started to DJ?

I was born in Poland and spent most of my childhood there, until 2011 when I moved to a small town in Germany. It’s there that I started to DJ, about 4 years ago, but this was always an interest to me since a younger age. Firstly, with mixes and then DJ software, recording and selecting music.

Q2. Had Adam Beyer always been someone you look up to? Tell is why?

Yes always. Since I was young, I always listened to Adam Beyer and Carl Cox. For me, the two of them are always on top, they are legends and I feel can teach everyone so much.

Why? What I feel is very important to me, is when I listen to or watch Adam in action I think of Drumcode then I have those childhood memories and the same vibes and feelings. ("This Is Code Red" or Drumcode 09) Oh it was time. Drumcode and Adam Beyer have evolved since then, but the vibes are still the same. I still have goosebumps so many years this is art. Incredible!

Q3. Can you describe your sound?

I think my sound is a mix of everything I listen to, what I feel, what my day is like, sometimes very raw industrial, deep, sometimes very euphoric, groovy, very rhythmic. In my sets, I just go between these sounds. I'm trying to give people on the dance floor something to live through.

Q4. Before the academy, have you been self-taught when it comes to mixing and producing?

When it comes to producing and mixing, yes, I'm self-taught, it's trial and error to see if something fits together well and many hours of working with hearing and sound. I'm a perfectionist by nature and that bothers me sometimes.

But somehow, I've always had this hearing sensitive to different music, what fits together what not, sometimes I listen to 500 tracks and pick 14 - 17 for a one-hour DJ set, but the first 3 are the most important, they drive the rest. But for 4 years before Academia, I have DJ friends like DJ Siasia Poland or DJ Marvelles Germany who have their DJ schools and huge experience and are always there to help me if I have questions. It is very important to exchange experiences and listen to the opinions of listeners, so I can be even better.

Q5. Do you have a dream label you’d like to release and a dream club to play?

OMG :) it's good that dreams are not punished! My dream is, as I'm sure you already know to release on Drumcode. As for clubs, I have so many to list, but I had to choose just one then it would have to be Printworks. Sadly, it’s not closed, so that will have to remain a dream. Warehouse Project at Depot Mayfield and Hi Ibiza are also two more that are VERY high on my dream list!


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