Courtney Clarke, aka CC:DISCO!, is one of Australia's most prominent and most exciting DJs. Having enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past twelve months, it hasn't been an overnight success. With ambition and hard-work on her side, she's slowly but surely worked her way to the top having been a DJ for nearly ten years, and working in radio for 18 years.
Starting out at her local community radio station thanks to a chance encounter during her grade's work experience, she was offered a show at the end of her week's work, and never looked back. Fast forward to 2018, and she's played around the world including iconic festival slots at the likes of Splendour In The Grass, Dimensions, Strawberry Fields and her personal highlight, Meredith.
2018 marks a new change for CC:DISCO!, as she tries on a new hat thanks to teaming up with SOOTHSAYER to release First Light. A compilation curated by Clarke herself, the record comes in two different formats, digital and vinyl, with individual tracklist for each release. Both records serve as a preview of where Australian dance music is heading, and the future looks incredibly bright thanks to this. Featuring previous singles from JACE XL and JAMES I.V as well as the most recent and arguably the most special release from SUI ZHEN, First Light is the end result of a year of emails, phone calls, "fan girl moments" and chance encounters to create a record of exclusive tracks. Similar to a CC:DISCO set, the curation is impeccable, and takes you on a journey just like one you'd embark on if you were watching Clarke up on the decks. Not only does it further amplify CC:DISCO!'s deep love for her local community and her unwavering support for homegrown artists, but it also shines an important light of artists coming through that well and truly deserve our attention.
I caught up with CC:DISCO! on the eve of not only the release of First Light but also of a massive tour across Australia and beyond to talk the future of Australian dance music, special moments during DJing and what's still to come.
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Your compilation comes out tomorrow! How are you feeling about it?
Pretty nervous, pretty excited. It’s a project I’ve been working on for ages so I’m really glad it’s seeing the light of day.
The track listing is so awesome, it’s kind of a snapshot of the future of Australian dance music. Can you talk to me about how you went about putting this together? I read that there were a few fan girl moments and chance encounters.
There was a lot of that actually. It covers a really broad spectrum. I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into any one genre because I don’t play just one genre, and I think Australia is so incredible at the moment for producers who are not doing the same kind of stuff so this compilation definitely encapsulates that new movement towards more electronic or balaeric tracks in there. Obviously Sui Zhen’s record is very different to the rest of the album. Coming across that was really special actually. Most people might know the backstory of it already, but when I first listened to it, I loved the track itself. This was six months ago and maybe a month after, she posted about her mother having cancer. I put two and two together and realised the song was about that. I sent her a message saying, “Oh my god, that song is about your mother isn’t it?” She said, “Yeah, I wrote it when she was first diagnosed and we were coming to terms with it.”
I think having a song so special like that is incredible because I love storytelling in music. There’s a big GoFundMe for her mother to go do a dragon boat race because she’s really into dragon boat racing. She’s going to go do one in a couple of weeks. It’s been really good to see that track get some traction. These photos of her mother are incredible, her smile is so amazing so it’s really nice to have that on the album.
One track that I came across, drunk at a festival actually, was from Manuel Darquart. I was in London and these two boys came up to me and asked if I was CC:DISCO!. They were like, “We love you, we’re from New Zealand and we make music!” We got to talking, and then I said to them, “Boys, send me some bloody stuff because I’m putting out this compilation,” and they ended up sending me a bunch of music which was all incredible. ‘Dream Sequence’ is the one I picked for it, and I’ve been playing it in every set ever since I got the master of it.
Were you collecting tracks for no particular reason, or had you originally set out to put together a compilation?
I met with Soothsayer at the start of 2017, and it’s been a year long project. It did take a long time, there’s a million emails and obviously I wanted to include a million more people but timing or other people’s records being released on other labels, it sort of made it a little more difficult coming across the tracks as they’re exclusively made. You can’t get them anywhere else which is kind of great, but it’s been a long process and lots of emails and phone calls. The moment when you sign the contract to get that track, you’re so stoked.
The way you set the compilation out, it’s like your sets in how diverse it is. Do you think that where Australian dance music is becoming more and more diverse as well? The scene is so strong that it’s diversifying in this way.
Yeah! Especially with my radio show, I play a lot of different stuff. Even in clubs, I can’t play the same kind of thing and I think we underestimate audiences sometimes because they don’t listen to one genre either. Especially with that record, it starts really slow and there’s some big dance music moments in the middle and then it comes down again. I think people are appreciative of a journey and different types of music because we’re so inundated with music now. Everyone’s got such a big education on it and people don’t want to listen to the same thing for too long which I definitely appreciate as well.
Totally. It definitely does feel like a journey just like being at one of your sets. How important was it for you to be able to set out the tracks in a way that you can take the listener on this journey without you actually being there?
That was really important, especially if you’re listening to it on vinyl. That was the main thing having the tracklisting giving you those moments of chill or dance. What I take from a lot of records is there’s nothing worse than when something’s really not placed in the right position and it shocks you a little bit and you’re like, “I might turn the record over.” Hopefully when people listen to it, they can just listen to the whole thing, turn it over, listen to it again and it will flow for them.
It definitely felt like that for me when I was listening. It’s awesome that you continually champion homegrown artists and you’ve got such a big love for your local community. It’s something we do at Purple Sneakers as well, so I really appreciate that. Do you believe that your ethos of “less chin stroking, more dancing” plays into this love of your community as well? Less following international trends, more just embracing and loving the community around you?
Yeah, a hundred percent! Especially travelling and playing overseas more, I get really proud and it gives you inspiration when you see big artists who are killing it overseas like Mall Grab and Tornado Wallace, Harvey Sutherland, Tash Sultana for christ’s sake - she’s the biggest thing in the world! We have such a great thing and we often forget that. Especially with touring and festivals, we don’t place the biggest emphasis on local acts and I feel like we’re really turning it around now. You’ll see on festivals, locals are in fact playing the main stages now. I just have this pride in Australian music, I’m from here and I would love to push it more overseas and really get our community to support local music more.
I think the attitude of people in music is changing as well. It’s less about looking to London or America and more about realising it’s all in our backyard now.
Totally! Hopefully the rest of the world catches on too, I get a little disappointed when I see so many giant European line ups with no Australians on there. We’ve got such a great scene and we’re very well respected overseas, but it’d be great to see more Australians playing those big festivals and flying the flag for us all because it gives us somewhere to kind of hope and dream to. When you’re a DJ or an artist, if you’re not seeing people to aspire to, that can kind of hurt you a little bit.
Are there any local artists that have come through the ranks you’re super excited about or any artists that aren’t getting as much love as they should?
Jace XL and Silentjay are two of the most talented artists. I would love to see a light shone on them overseas, I think they’re incredible. Silentjay is one of the most amazing producers and talented people ever. But also, I’d like to shine a light on Roza Tenerzi - she’s on the digital package and she has a huge year ahead of her. She’s really inspirational to me, she’s got an amazing motivation and output for music and I really love what she does. She’s got a few records coming out now and a few big festival bookings coming up so I want to see people just gravitate towards her because she’s an incredible DJ and musician as well.
Looking at your career now - obviously over the past 12 months you’ve had a huge rise. You talk a lot in other interviews I’ve read about special moments that happen in your sets that you’ve been moved to tears or things like that. Are the same things that were special to you then still special to you now? Do you still get moments like that?
Bloody oath. I really do. I was just in New Zealand and- it’s really different when you play overseas because you don’t have the hometown advantage, but when everything starts to lock into place and there’s that one tune you want to play to everyone and you love it so much, I still get goosebumps. I still get really, really nervous as well. I don’t think that will ever change. I’m often really anxious and shaky before I start on those big stages. I think every single DJ set is still so special to me, and I want to make the most of them. Maybe not hopefully bloody cry again, I think that was New Years Eve one year but it was a very long set and it was a very emotional set at the end. It’s really great. It makes me so happy to be able to do this.
You said in the interview for your Resident Advisor podcast that your DJ journey has been a dream come true so far, and you’ve done so much since that interview! Is there anything else on your bucket list for CC:Disco! that you’re hoping to tick off? Any other major goals?
There’s so many. There’s a lot of stuff I still want to do. Obviously just keep doing what I’m doing, but when I ticked off the original bucket list last year, I was with my agent and I was like, “I’ve done everything now! What am I gonna do now?” But I think I’d really love to spend more time in Europe and learn more about DJing. I feel like I’m still a baby even though it’s been almost ten years, and 18 years on radio. I just want to learn so much more and I get so inspired by going overseas. Just partying as well. I get so inspired watching my favourite DJs and seeing the scene over there, going back to back with people and just keep trying to be a better DJ.
We did a podcast with you that’s still in the works, but in that interview you spoke with us about how when you first started it was hard for you to find your feet in a way and it took a while. I’m wondering, now where you are looking back at where you started, do you think that period helped you learn the resilience you needed to keep moving forward and to keep that ambition going?
Totally. There’s people like, when I was in school my principal, Mr Cooney, he told me, “You don’t have a voice for radio and let’s be honest, your ATAR isn’t up to scratch to get into uni.” I was kind of like, “Dude that’s a bit harsh, that’s what I want to do!” But it’s people like that who say things like that who make you work harder. It might even be a country girl thing as well; if you want to do something your parents tell you that you have to to work hard for it. I’m glad I haven’t gotten all these gigs overnight and that it has taken ten years to get the bucket list ticked off. It makes you appreciate it more and embrace it as well.
Absolutely. It definitely makes you appreciate it more when it’s not an overnight thing where you’re like, “Where did this even come from?” You know where it came from because you’ve worked really hard to get there. Looking forward now, you’re about to kick off your tour which is huge - you’re playing some awesome venues with some fantastic support artists. Do you have any other big plans for the rest of the year or are you just taking it as it comes after this tour finishes up?
I go to Europe and the UK until the end of April, and then I’ll come back here and have a bloody week off, finally have a week off because I haven’t had any time off since October. Then I’ll do some shows, I’ve got a few things lined up in Australia, but then I go back to Europe again. It’s worked out well that there’s all these bookings at the end of the year for end of summer over there. Hopefully also playing more festivals and working on more projects.
First Light is out now via Soothsayer.
A1. Angophora - Settled
A2. Rings Around Saturn – Abarth
A3. Jace XL – Really Want That
B1. Chord Memory Band - Reachin’ Out
B2. Love Deluxe – Ivan’s Hymn
B3. Sui Zhen - No More Words
C1. Manuel Darquart - Dream Sequence
C2. Ben Houghton – Don’t Worry
C3. James IV - Freda’s Jam
D1. Adonidia – Intermission Theme
D2. River Yarra + Tom Baker – Babylonia
D3. Nite Fleit – Al Bebe
1. Angophora - Settled
2. Rings Around Saturn - Abarth
3. Chord Memory Band - Reachin Out
4. Jace XL - Really Want That
5. Love Deluxe - Ivan's Hymn
6. Adonidia - Intermission Theme
7. Patch Free - Thirstiest Man I Know
8. Simon TK - Never Follow a Druid to a Second Location
9. Manuel Darquart - Dream Sequence
10. Ben Houghton - Don't Worry
11. Roza Terenzi - Infrared
12. James i.V. - Freda's Jam
13. Nite Fleit - Al Bebe
14. Midnight Tenderness - Shavasana Dub
15. Sui Zhen - No More Words
Catch CC:DISCO! on tour:
Fri 9 Feb
Oxford Arts Factory | Sydney, NSW
With The Possé (Live), Andy Garvey and Love Deluxe (Live)
Sun 11 Feb
Laneway Festival | Fremantle, WA*
Fri 16 Feb
Canberra House Social | Canberra, ACT
Sat 24 Feb
The Foundry | Brisbane, QLD
With Chord Memory Band and Emma Stevenson
Sat 3 Mar
Fairfield Amphitheatre | Melbourne, VIC
With Jace XL & SILENTJAY and Rings Around Saturn
* Not a First Light show
Interview by Emma Jones