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Interview with DJ YUKI

Your journey in the music industry has been quite remarkable, amassing over 10 million streams and performing at prestigious events. Can you share some insights into what inspired you to pursue a career in music and how you’ve reached this level of success in such a short time?

Thank you so much! I knew from around the age of 5 or 6 that I was going to have a career in music. I loved to perform and would always sing to my family and would make mix CDs for my family and friends, without them asking me to by the way. I would just make CDs of tracks that I thought they should be listening to or tracks that I was loving. I am lucky as I was exposed to so many different genres at a young age. I grew up with disco, jazz, r&b, funk and house playing at home and it made me get into singing, from singing I was always around producers and most of the producers I knew often had decks at their studio. As time went on, I found myself gravitating to the decks more than the mic at sessions. I started by learning the basics of DJing and music production on my own, experimenting with different genres and styles. It was challenging but I was so passionate about it, and that’s what kept me going. I began performing at local clubs and events, building a following one gig at a time. London has such a vibrant music scene, and connecting with musicians and producers allowed me to learn, grow, and gain exposure as well as get bookings. My early bookings came from people that I had met on the London scene and I am so grateful for those promoters for believing me and giving me a chance. Social media and online platforms also played a crucial role in expanding my reach and connecting with people worldwide. Performing at prestigious events and having over 10 million streams on my tracks have been incredible milestones, I’m truly grateful to everyone who has ever listened, streamed and supported in any way. I remember when I released my first track and I had to download Spotify for my mum on her phone and made sure she had that track on repeat in order to ensure that I got those listens in so I’ve come a long way since then. However, I believe there’s always room for growth and I have so many goals that I am still yet to achieve. I am excited to see where my journey takes me next.

You’ve played at some of the UK’s top festivals and filled club rooms across the country. What’s the secret behind your ability to connect with the audience and create such high-energy performances?

I get so nervous before every gig and over the years I’ve learnt that I have to take that nervous energy and turn it into excitement. I would say that’s my secret to it. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious, and when I’m genuinely excited about the music, the audience feels it too. I choose tracks that resonate with me and the crowd, creating an authentic and energetic atmosphere. Being able to read the crowd when performing and playing music that resonates is one thing. However, I think to truly connect, it’s about stage presence. Whether it’s through eye contact, gestures, or just simply singing along, I connect with the crowd. We dance together, sing together and rave together. It’s a vibe.

Dance music has a rich history, and you’ve mentioned being influenced by disco and queer culture. How have these influences shaped your sound and approach to DJing?

The influences of disco and queer culture have played a huge role in shaping my sound and approach to DJing. I love disco inspired basslines, riffs and vocals as well as infectious disco grooves and frequently incorporate those sounds into my sets. Queer culture’s emphasis on self-expression and authenticity has empowered me to express my true self through my music and performances, being unapologetically me, playing the music that I want to play and refusing to be confined to a box. My approach to DJing is super visual and the visual and theatrical elements I incorporate into my sets draws inspiration from and pays homage to both disco and queer culture. It is not just enough for me to draw inspiration from queer culture, I also have to do my part in promoting inclusivity and acceptance and when DJing, I aim to create an inclusive and safe space on the dancefloor where everyone feels welcome and free to express themselves.

Being a black artist in the dance music scene, have you encountered unique challenges or opportunities? How do you navigate and contribute to the diversity of this genre?

As a black artist in the dance music scene, my journey has been shaped by a combination of challenges and opportunities. Challenges such as historical underrepresentation within the dance music industry have required resilience and determination to break through and gain recognition. Additionally, stereotypes and preconceptions about the type of music black artists should produce have at times meant that I have had to really speak up to get my voice heard as there were many who didn’t, and still don’t, get it. Many dance music subgenres, like house and techno, have strong roots in black music traditions, allowing me to draw from this heritage for my own music. To navigate these dynamics and contribute to diversity, I prioritize authenticity in my music, regardless of stereotypes or expectations. I also take the time to educate myself and speak about representation in dance music as I believe education plays a vital role in challenging these stereotypes and broadening industry perspectives about black artists’ contributions. 

Fashion seems to be another integral part of your identity and career. Can you tell us about the intersection between fashion and music in your life, and how it influences your DJ sets?

Absolutely. For me, fashion and music go hand in hand. When I am putting together a set, trust and believe that as well as selecting my tracks, I am also selecting which skirt goes best with which top and what accessories I should wear. That doesn’t mean that I am style over substance because that is not it at all. I take my craft very seriously and as part of that it’s about the storytelling and what I am wearing when I am performing is part of that. 

I would say my style is disco fused with Y2k style. I draw inspiration from Donna Summer’s iconic disco era fashion, which was all about glamour and sparkle. Donna Summer was known for her sequined gowns, flowing dresses, and captivating stage presence. Sequins and shimmer were the staples of disco fashion, and I make sure that I always add a bit of shine to any outfit I wear, when I am performing. On the flip side, I’m equally inspired by the bold and eclectic Y2K fashion of artists like Ashanti, Destiny’s Child, and Brandy. Y2K fashion was characterized by its vibrant colours, unique patterns, and futuristic elements (think TLC’s No Scrubs music video). 

This fusion extends beyond fashion; it mirrors the musical fusion I bring to my DJ sets and productions, blending different genres to create a distinct sound. This fusion allows me to convey a sense of empowerment and confidence, just like Donna Summer and Y2K artists did. Although completely different eras, they were all about embracing their individuality and self-assuredness and to me, that is so important.

You’ve performed at a variety of events, from fashion parties to music festivals. Could you share some memorable moments or experiences that stand out in your career so far?

Playing my first festival was a truly memorable moment for me. As a DJ, that’s what you dream of and I spent years hoping for that opportunity so when the time came, as nervous as I was, I was going to make sure that I enjoyed every second of it and I really did. That feeling of playing your own tracks and having a crowd singing back to you is honestly unreal.

Another highlight would be playing Ibiza, the Mecca of dance music. I truly don’t believe there is anywhere in the world like it for DJs.

You’ve opened for artists like Craig David and performed at iconic events like London Pride. What were these experiences like, and how do you prepare for such significant performances?

Playing a warm up set for Craig David was a real pinch me moment. I grew up listening to Craig David so it was an absolute honour to get that opportunity. Also, aside from being an incredible performer, not just singing but DJing, as part of his TS5 show, he is also so humble and down to earth. I treat these events just the same as I treat any other event. If I’m playing to an empty room (which I’ve done) or a whole festival, I’m always going to give it the same energy.  My number one thing that I say to myself is ‘don’t fall, just don’t fall’ I’m super clumsy so I’m just trying not to trip up.

With Pride, the atmosphere is filled with love, acceptance, and celebration. To prepare for Pride, I ensured that my setlist aligned with the message of unity, featuring tracks that celebrate love, freedom, and self-expression.

In general, preparation for significant performances involves incredible detail to music selection, attention to visual and stage presence, plans for contingencies (usbs on usbs backed up), and mental preparation. At the same time, these moments go beyond just playing music; they’re about connecting with diverse audiences and contributing to an atmosphere of celebration, unity, and acceptance.

Your music has received support from MTV and been described as perfect for setting the weekend party vibe. How do you go about curating your sets and tracks to create this unique atmosphere?

My role as a DJ and music producer is to bring the vibes and set the tone. For me, I think it starts with not taking myself too seriously and just playing and making music that makes you want to party and when that’s done, find the afters and do it all over again. I try to think high-energy, singalong vibes.

Beyoncé is a significant influence on your work. Could you tell us more about how her artistry has impacted your music and style?

Firstly, if you don’t like Beyoncé, we can’t be friends.

Beyonce is everything. I love how eclectic she is. Her genre versatility, spanning from R&B to pop, afrobeats and dance, has inspired me to experiment with a wide range of musical styles. Also, in terms of fashion, Ms Tina, Beyonce’s mum got all the girls together with the House of Dereon. It was OTT glamour, co-ords galore and Y2K fashion at its finest. Even now, although Beyoncé wears established brands and designers but she is also known for using her platform to champion emerging designers and I love that. She exudes confidence and her iconic fashion choices and visually stunning music videos have significantly influenced my own style as a performer. I’ve come to understand the importance of visual aesthetics in crafting a holistic artistic package that deeply resonates with the audience. I mean, just look at the way people are asking for the Renaissance visuals over a year after the release of Renaissance.

And don’t even get me started on Renaissance and the significant impact it holds for me as a black female in house music. 

What can we expect from DJ YUKI in the future? Are there any exciting projects, collaborations, or tracks in the pipeline that you can share with us?

I have a new single coming out in the next few weeks that I am so excited for everyone to hear. It features a vocalist I’ve wanted to work with for a really long time and is honestly probably my favourite track I’ve done to date. It just feels really good.  

I’ve also been working on a project, which will showcase more of my love for all things disco. It’s actually been a few years in the making but it will be launching really soon. I can’t reveal all the details just yet so stay tuned! 

As an artist, you’ve achieved a lot already. What advice would you give to aspiring DJs and musicians who are looking to make their mark in the music industry?

Thank you, I mean my first release as an artist was in 2021, so it hasn’t been long at all. I am still constantly learning and improving my craft. I would say to anyone coming up that continuous learning and skill development will keep you relevant in an ever-evolving field. Invest time in practising and learning technical skills. Dedication and persistence is everything. You will hear no’s, there will be rejections but what’s for you will never miss you. Holding onto that belief has been crucial for me. Attend events and connect with other musicians and DJ’s. I learnt very early on the importance of putting myself out there and being open to opportunities to collaborate. Understanding the legal aspects of the industry, such as contracts, royalties, and copyright, is so important for protecting your rights and interests. Please read every contract and get legal advice. There are music lawyers who will offer free legal advice for contracts. If something seems too good to be true, it often is. Lastly, stay true to your artistic vision and the message you wish to convey through your music. You may not be for everyone but your authenticity and sincerity will allow you to find your tribe and have your own engaged communities of fans and supporters. 

In a rapidly evolving music landscape, how do you see dance music evolving in the coming years, and what role do you hope to play in its future?

In the ever-evolving landscape of music, I see dance music continuing to adapt and innovate in the coming years. I see artists exploring hybrid genres, blending electronic elements with diverse musical styles to offer new sounds. I also think we will continue to have more established artists foray into dance in the way that Drake and Beyoncé have done. Technology will play a significant role, not just with advancements in music production tools but I think AI will continue to be a hot topic of discussion and debate. Whether it will be fully embraced or not is yet to be seen but I don’t think it is going anywhere. As an artist, I aspire to be at the forefront of these changes, pushing boundaries, embracing technology, advocating for positive change, and celebrating diversity through my music and actions, contributing to a vibrant and inclusive future for dance music.

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