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Upfront: Brooke Powers is being recognised not tokenised

The Melbourne DJ has always been an unstoppable force

Posted by Mia Besorio

Brooke Powers spent her formative years undertaking rigorous ballet and contemporary dance training. After coming out as female she found solace in club culture, where she inevitably discovered techno and house music. Finding dance music was revelatory in her narrative, leading her away from the regimented format of ballet and into the fluidity of DJing.

In the past year, Brooke Powers has risen to prominence in the Melbourne music scene. While she agrees that conversations surrounding equality along with the queer and trans community have assisted in bringing her to the forefront of booking agents minds; she doesn’t feel tokenised. Brooke Powers is simply being recognised for the technical abilities she has always possessed. She’s played memorable sets at Paradise, Golden Plains, and Freedom Time but these days she’s keeping focused on her forthcoming performance at Red Bull Music Academy’s ‘Transliminal’ and the second instalment of her own party ‘Spank!’

How did you get into the clubbing scene?

I was 22 and had just finished eight years of full-time ballet and contemporary dance training. I had just started telling everyone that I was now a girl, and I had no idea what I was doing at that point in my life. I felt very sheltered and young and was just starting to discover things that the world had to offer.

Adjusting to life as a trans girl was a pretty rocky journey for me. One of the only things that made sense and one of the only positive things I had at that time was clubbing. In the club I was able to be this femme queen, fabulous goddess, that I always wanted to be. I would dance for hours non-stop. I was connecting with all these new types of people I’d never encountered before and opening my mind to a whole new way of life. I had never listened to disco before—it blew my mind. Then I found house and techno, which truly changed my life and my perspective. I fell in love.

Outside of the club I was terrified to walk down the street. Back then no-one knew about trans identities, I had no representation. The world didn’t understand who I was, so the club became a sanctuary.

Melbourne feels quite progressive in the way it approaches inclusiveness and diversity compared to say five years ago. How do you think things have changed?

I’ll start with what it’s like to be in the trans music scene. I’m always so blown away by it and in the last two years or so the acts that have come out of the queer/trans scene are fucking incredible. Trans people have started to receive a lot of success in Melbourne. I don’t think it’s because we’ve just started getting really good. We’ve always been this good. I think people are finally seeing us and that has been because of the push of discourse and conversation when it comes to club bookings and safe spaces.

I feel like in the last couple of years certain pockets of people have been trying to work out how to create this idea of ‘safe spaces’, or book in a diverse, intersectional way without letting politics rule or ruin the night. I think that’s been really great. I remember a mate talking to me about whether the Golden Plains bookings for HABITS and myself was potentially tokenising. I disagreed straight off the bat. We are that good and we are at that level.

We’re finally being seen and people are taking us seriously. People can respect our identities because they know about us now. The information people need to understand us and our identities is circulating more and more. It’s less unsafe for us to travel and thrive outside of our cocoon.

Some of the best artists in Melbourne are from the queer/trans community but I don’t segregate that in my mind as “queer or trans performers”. To me they’re artists that are just part of the music community.

Totally, I’ve always said that. Above everything else, the most important thing for me as a DJ is that the music speaks first for me. I know what I represent is important, but before people admire me for my identity or book me for the sake of diversity, I want my music, art, and hard work to overshadow all of that. I really feel that a lot of people do see that and respect that.

You’re playing at Red Bull Music Academy’s ‘Transliminal’ at Dark Mofo next week; you must be excited about that?

I’m really excited. I’ve never been to Dark Mofo before, I didn’t realise the scale of the show when I first got the booking. It was very exciting to find out about it being a huge warehouse rave. I try to keep a level head about gigs and not get too stressed out so that I can go there and concentrate without letting my nerves get the better of me. I learnt that at Golden Plains, when I was fretting and worrying so much about how to plan my set. Then I realised, I just need to pack as many great records as I can, get up there, and just let it happen. That’s how I play at clubs and it always works.

It’s such an honour to be supporting Juliana Huxtable; I’ve followed her for a long time. When I first came out I used to look at her Tumblr. She was one of the first examples of a trans girl out in the world, living, working, and thriving that I had ever encountered. She embodied this incredible sense of style and creativity, I didn’t really know that was available to people like us. I can’t wait to meet her.

Juliana Huxtable is also going to be playing at your new club night ‘Spank!’ Can you tell me more about the night?

I ran ‘Spank!’ as a one-off day party at Shimmerlands in summer and it went really well. My friend who books the Night Cat asked if I want to continue doing it, so I teamed up with my friend Wheat and now we run it together. It’s really important to us to be creating something that’s more than just another DJ night.

It features predominantly queers artists, but the space is open for anyone. We are building relationships with visual artists and performers to be able to create this world for people to step into. We mix live electronic acts with DJs, the order of the night is really deliberate to allow people to experience a musical journey. You’re not supposed to step in hoping to be easily won over by some four-to-the-floor beats, you enter our world and let whatever we want to present to you happen to you. Its so ambitious what we’re doing, and we’re working real hard at it. I think it’s just going to build into something really unique and special. At the first ‘Spank!’ our crowd was so loving and expressive, people felt so free to just behave however they wanted, we had people just automatically coming onto the stage to perform all night, without us even asking. It was perfect.

The Juliana Huxtable booking just fell into our lap. We’re so honoured to be working with Crown Ruler and to have them put their faith in us. The whole line-up is phenomenal, including myself, Simona Castricum, HABITS, Kandere, and Anuraag. It’s going to be a real special night.

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Brooke is playing Red Bull Music Academy’s ‘Transliminal’ at Dark MofoShe’ll also be hosting the second instalment of ‘Spank!’ on June 17th.

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