Ava Delay, Berlin DJ

Ava Delay is a Berlin-based DJ who moved to Berlin over 6 years ago to immerse herself in German culture, and specifically German electronic music. She is most often a vinyl DJ, who has been collecting and spinning records for the better part of 15 years. Her style ranges from techno to electronica, downtempo to pop, or whatever seems to fit the mood. Check out her end of the decade mix for Femmecult and get acquainted with her by reading our interview with her below. Thanks for tuning in. Happy 2020!

Ava Delay 2019

Femmecult:

How did you get into DJing initially, and what drew you to the electronic music genre in particular?

Ava Delay:

I started out as a radio DJ at KPSU in Portland. I found my way to electronic music through electro / rock crossover bands like The Faint and Adult. and very weird experimental electronic sounds / field recordings. I got interested in electropop and electroclash and slowly found my way to techno. Before that I was mostly into punk music, so I appreciated the punk attitude of experimental electronic and techno music. In the early days, this music was made on relatively cheap machines and parties were underground. It was just like, find some gear, find an empty space, find a bunch of people who want to go crazy and stay up all night, fuck the police.

Femmecult:

You moved from Portland, OR to Berlin over 7 years ago. Tell us how each city has uniquely affected your relationship to music.

Ava Delay:

The difference between these two cities is that Portland has a very small, tight knit community of people supporting electronic music and Berlin is overrun with ravers and party tourists. 

In Portland, you practically have to beg people off the street to come into amazing electronic music events. It’s frustrating in some ways because it’s very difficult to achieve a proper vibe. As a DJ and promoter, you have to really fight to get people in the door. That said, you have a really special community of people who all know each other and really care about the music. And when there is a good line up, you better not miss it. Because of the restrictions around closing time and alcohol sales in the states, you end up with some really special afterhours in unique locations or in people’s homes.

In Berlin, you have to reject half the line at the door to keep the clubs from getting too crowded, and you can drink and party as loud and late and long as you want. It’s way easier to get a good vibe, but there is often a disconnect in the crowd because you have so many different kinds of people who don’t know each other, so you lose that community feeling. There is also so much on offer at all times — many parties every weekend, all weekend long, with all the best talent, so it’s easy to get spoiled and forget the passion. 

Ava Delay on the decks.

Femmecult:

Talk about any experiences DJing or promoting events, or other musical endeavors, over the years that stand out in your memory.

Ava Delay:

My first few shows in Berlin were all pretty memorable. After moving away from Portland and taking a 7 year break from DJing, I definitely had some ‘pinch me’ moments . . . like, whoa dude, I am killing it in a Berlin club and people are dancing.

Femmecult:

As you are now working at a music tech company, has that influenced the way you approach your musical endeavors at all? If so, how?

Ava Delay:

No, I still play on vinyl! I appreciate all the technological advances in DJ gear and familiarize myself with controllers, etc., but I feel most happy playing on turntables with records. 

Femmecult:

What, in your opinion, is the role of the DJ in a dancefloor context vs. a listening context?

Ava Delay:

I think in either context, the role should be to engage people and introduce them to something new and interesting. Obviously you can push the limits more in the listening context, which is why I was so excited to contribute to this podcast series. A good chunk of the tracks would never work on a dancefloor, but it’s nice to share them in people’s headphones.

My favorite DJs are the ones that can blur this line — bring the experimental to the club and make it work on the dancefloor.

Femmecult:

What are some things that influence you to purchase vinyl records over any other format?

Ava Delay:

I just love it. For me, it’s the most fun to buy and play vinyl. I don’t feel engaged when I play digital. It’s just a little boring to me pushing the play button instead of taking the record out of the sleeve and cueing it up myself. Also, folders full of wav files overwhelm me. If I have too many choices, I don’t know what to play. I already have too many records. That said, I hate the vinyl vs. digital conversation. It’s just a personal preference and you get a whole range of results from DJs regardless of their preferred format.

Femmecult:

Name some of your favorite DJs and why you like them.

Ava Delay:

Positive Centre – My two favorite types of sounds are heady techno and anything dub related. Positive Centre blends those two things together in the most perfect and heavy way. He has a punchy mixing style without overdoing it and he’s capable of mixing together really weird beats that sometimes sound like they are wrong, but it’s just because they are complicated. Just when you think the whole mix might go off the rails, it resolves itself in the most interesting way. 

Anastasia Kristensen – She has a special way of putting together weird sounds at the high and low end of the spectrum. She always brings these beastly, misshapen basslines and tops them off with unidentifiable bloops and plonks from a bizarre dreamworld, but with all the driving energy of proper club set. 

Courtesy – I think of her as a true selector. She knows a ton about a lot of different genres of music. Her mixing style is no-nonsense, it’s just about playing one excellent track after another. She has an appreciation for beautiful, breaky IDM sounds and she always looks like she’s having fun when she’s playing.   

What are Ava’s Top 5 tips for DJs? See below.

Femmecult:

If you were giving someone a crash course in how to mix well, what are the top 5 things you would tell them, and why?

Ava Delay:

  1. It might seem very obvious, but always check and fine tune your levels. It sounds extremely amatuer hour when a track comes in all hot or shy compared to the last one. 
  2. Don’t care if you make mistakes. All DJs make mistakes. Move on. Have fun. 
  3. Don’t get comfortable on your home set up. Learn to play on a range of mixers and formats and in a lot of different settings. DJing is all about negotiating unfamiliar and/or janky gear, having to mix in your headphones because there is no monitor, not being able to see what you’re doing, having people try to talk to you while you’re busy. You have to be adaptable and chill otherwise you’ll get super frustrated. 
  4. Record your practice sessions and listen to them. It’s hard to assess your own mixes as you’re playing them. 
  5. It’s okay to not beat match. DJing is about playing good tracks and making a nice transition between those tracks. Fading in and out is okay. Stopping one track dramatically and starting a totally different sound is okay. Do what you want as long as the transition is nice.

Bonus tip: bring a little USB clip light to all gigs just in case the venue doesn’t have one. If you can’t see the mixer, you can’t mix.     

Femmecult:

If you had unlimited time and money to do a creative musical project, what would it be?

Ava Delay:

Probably just a quarterly intimate dark techno party with all my friends and favorite musicians in a beautiful private space with an amazing sound system and nice drinks. Or take saxophone lessons and start a rocksteady influenced dub band. 

Femmecult:

Any other things you’d like to add that on the horizon for you?

Ava Delay:

My musical goal for 2020 is to get booked at my favorite club in Berlin. Let’s check in next year and I’ll let you know if it worked out.

Follow Ava Delay online at Resident Advisor!