• Samantha McDougal

Monthly Boss Q&A ft. Elle Onyx

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

The world needs more Elle.

DJ music producer New York City


The way I see it, a DJ is an entrepreneur. They're constantly working to create, promote, network, market and sell. They're essential too, because we can all agree that there's no great party or show without a good DJ. But the majority of the time when we see them, they're behind their booth putting in work. Have you ever taken the time to ask them anything besides a request to play your favorite song? That's why this week I wanted my girl Elle Onyx to be my Weekly Boss Q&A feature. She's a talented DJ and even stronger business woman. She's traveled the world building herself and her brand. As her IG states, "Neon Witch | DJ | Producer"... But there's way more going on behind the scenes, and I want to hear what she has to say.

s: I want to start with a very broad question, so feel free to answer any way you’d like :) — Why Elle Onyx?

e: That’s actually a great question! When I moved to London, I decided to change my name because no one could hear my given name in loud clubs, or they would pronounce it incorrectly, and I was trying to make a good first impression! So I chose Elle, because its very simple and memorable. The Onyx came later when deciding on a DJ name, Onyx is a stone that is supposed to free you from your fears, leaving you to lead a fulfilling life.

s: When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?

e: I got my first little controller when I was around 13, I asked for it for Christmas. I started mixing little bits then, but I finally started getting onto bigger equipment when I was 18 or so. DJing is something that just takes personal practice, so I taught myself most everything, or I learned by watching others. I was influenced by all the DJs in the clubs in London, and was really lucky to be invited behind the decks at a lot of events, which I used (and still use) as time to study what the pros were doing.

I’m often not taken seriously, I’ve been asked “who’s girlfriend are you” at parties I was playing at, or connections I’ve tried to make with DJ’s have been brushed off because they think I’m trying to be some groupie.

s: What are currently your main challenges you see in the industry, and do you have any tips for overcoming them?

e: My biggest challenge since moving back to the US is how dismissive people in the industry are of me, mostly because I am seen as just some girl at a party. I’m often not taken seriously, I’ve been asked “who’s girlfriend are you” at parties I was playing at, or connections I’ve tried to make with DJ’s have been brushed off because they think I’m trying to be some groupie. I immediately lose respect for a DJ if they dismiss me, so it makes it hard to work with male artists sometimes. It’s been incredibly difficult to combat the extreme misogyny I’ve dealt with from booking agents or club owners, as well. Recently I was backstage at a party and introduced myself to the manager of the DJ, I told him I was working in management as well. I asked him for his contact information as I had work for his DJ and he responded “Oh sorry, I’m married.” And showed me his ring! Like, okay dude, good for you?

s: What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets? Is there a criteria other than pure subjectivity, for selecting what to play at a gig? e: For a long time I was trying to be a crowd pleaser and playing what I thought they wanted. Now I play what I like and curate playlists based off of my current moods, and that tends to go down better with a crowd. If the DJ is into the music, then you will be into it too. DJing is actually a very self-centered gig. It’s basically like saying “you are all here to hear ME and what I have to say through music”. But also it’s a lot of giving the crowd what they need to hear.

s: When I reached out and asked if I could interview you, I originally wanted to ask about your label, DJing, etc… but you mentioned your artist development and management company. I would love it if you could tell me more about that!

e: So for my entire DJ career, I have also discretely provided management support and development to artists of all sorts. As an artist you are a company, you have to treat it as such, and like all companies, you can’t do it alone! My main skills are networking and technological business start-up ,which many artists struggle with, so I create a bespoke plan to help them form their business around themselves and their brand. I like to keep it discrete so the light shines on the artist. However, I recently moved to the west coast so come August I will be accepting new clients in this area!

s: Which part do you find yourself enjoying the most… DJing, producing, management, creating and building a label…?

e: Oh that’s easy to answer, DJing completely. DJing is the most freeing and positive experience I’ve ever done, there is no greater feeling than being the center of attention in a loving crowd full of beautiful dancing people.

s: I have to ask you this question. What do you say to people who look at Dj’s and producers, and assume all they do is “push a button”?

e: There’s two kinds of DJ’s, ones that DJ live and ones that “push a button”. These push-button DJ are more like entertainers for the night, their shows are fully connected, lights, fireworks, etc. and need to be pre-planned in order to work correctly for the audience and the DJ is miming. However there is an insane amount of planning and pre-work that goes into these shows that most people don’t realize. So it’s not right to dismiss DJ’s that do this, instead it’s important to understand why you are at the show. If you’re there to watch a show, usually the DJ is going to be pushing a button so you can experience the best cohesive light/music/art show. If you are there to socialize and not worried about always looking at the DJ booth, the DJ is usually going to be spinning live.

s: Whether you’re serving us face, fashion, or music…it’s always something amazing. So I’m really excited to ask you what you have in store for us next.

e: I’m so glad to hear that my work is shining for you! Honestly, this pandemic has turned the world of live entertainment upside-down. The likelihood of having major events is low until a vaccination is made. So my current main focus is production and releasing as much music as I can!

I have a couple tracks coming out within the next month, one is a tech house track labelled “Ohlaw” and that’s coming out on Origami Limited on July 23rd. The other is a repost of my latest track “No More Mirrors”. It was picked up by European label RaveUp Records and will be released on their main deep house/progressive house label 'RaveUp Alley’. The b-side for my last E.P. Majka will be coming out soon too, three remixes done by the awesome Luke Sandler. So yeah, a ton of new music coming your way in 2020 from Elle Onyx :)

This was such a fun interview! I knew I'd be able to bring a new, different perspective to the industry by interviewing Elle. She totally exceeded my expectations! You can really get a feel for someone's passion just by reading their responses to a few basic questions. And as an entrepreneur, if you don't have passion for what you're doing, forget it. Besides that, check out Elle's latest track "No More Mirrors" because it's amazing. Stay up-to-date with all the new music she has coming for us in 2020 by giving her a follow @elleonyxdj.

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