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Soul and vulnerability: fka.m4a’s storytelling DJ sets are inspiring dancefloors

today14/12/2022 1

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Did you have any weird musical obsessions growing up? Any phases I should know about?

Growing up, my parents were obsessed with Michael Jackson. To put it into perspective for you, my name is Jackson and my brother’s name is Michael. That is not a coincidence! That was the household soundtrack in the ’90s. There was also Prince and a lot of soul, blues and Motown.

When I was 10 or 11, I started to become conscious of my own musical taste – and that’s when I discovered the Spice Girls. I’d sit in front of the screen for hours and hours, learning their routines and singing the lyrics with my fake little microphone and towel hair!

If you didn’t sing ‘Wannabe’ with towel hair… were you even a queer kid in the ’90s? I think it counts as a formal rite of passage.

Totally! That eventually turned into a general obsession with pop divas. After the Spice Girls, it was Kylie, then Britney, then Beyoncé, then Gaga. I think a lot of my interest in performance stems from them. I still love those artists and they hold a space deep in my heart, but I don’t listen to that music often anymore. I wanted to dive deeper into music with more emotion and meaning.

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But you were playing their music when you started as a DJ in London, right? So when did you have your electronic awakening?

In 2018, I came to Berlin and went to the party Buttons – which is one of my favourite queer parties ever – and there I discovered how techno and the crowd really fuse. The way people dance…it’s just so different with electronic music. On a pop floor, people sing along, dance with each other, and get wasted. I fell in love with the show aspect of electronic music and the fact that I could really tell a story.

I know you identify as a shy and private person. Do you ever miss being a bit more of an anonymous DJ, like you were in the pop days?

This industry is full of egomaniacs who are obsessed with fame. We also have the polar opposite end of the spectrum – the DJs who don’t want the spotlight and who just want to keep their heads down and share their music with the world. I’m definitely closer to that end! I think it’s beautiful to have that contrast though, and I do think that in order to be super successful, you have to have a balance of both.

People idolise DJs now in the same way they idolise pop stars and football players. It’s truly crazy to me because when I first started DJing pop, I was pretty much invisible. The crowd was looking at and dancing with each other. Now it’s a sea of people looking at me like it’s a concert.

There are some days when I’m feeling confident and stable and strong, and I have the space to connect with people and perform a bit more. There are also days where my anxiety is through the roof. Even if I’m having a bad day personally, I know it’s still my job to show up and do “the business,” so to speak.

Sometimes in my head, as a DJ, I just play music. I am so touched when people remind me that it’s more than that. I was on the tram a couple of months ago and a girl handed me a note as I was getting off. It said that my music had saved her life during the pandemic. The primary message of my music is about love and conveying emotion, and bringing that together in a room. There’s so much in electronic music that I feel lacks soul. People are so afraid to be vulnerable, but that’s one of the biggest reasons why I do what I do – to show that vulnerability.

In the last year, I realised that I’m a role model for people who look like me – who are a bit chubbier, who are Brown, who are queer, who are trans or non-binary. I didn’t really tap into that power until people started coming up to me at gigs and said “thank you for existing.” I don’t always feel the most comfortable in who I am, but when I am reminded that I am making a difference in someone’s existence by existing, it charges me up and makes me feel really proud and grateful.

When I look out at my crowd, it’s kind of a reflection of who I am. It’s people of all sizes, it’s mostly girls, it’s non-binary, queer and trans people. When I see that, I know that I’m doing something right and that my sound is transmitting to the right people.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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