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"Never stop trying if you love it, don’t do it at all if you don’t": Getting to know DUCKY

24 August 2018 | 2:07 pm | Holly O'Neill

LA based producer/DJ DUCKY describes herself as “a cartoon girl in a made up world”. With a history in the music scene as diverse and wild as hers is, we would not contest that definition. After getting involved in music production through a school project and later working and playing at a local club with the help of a fake ID, she found inspiration in the underground raves and party scene of her hometown New York. Now the rules of traditional genres do not seem to apply to Ducky, as she applies her hypercolour EDM stylings across dynamic soundscapes that range from straight dubstep to spacious experimental club.

She’s built her own niche label Rave Toolz, launched collectives like Club Aerobics and put on her own huge raves, all while releasing a prolific level of dance bangers. Across everything her passion and genuine love for the scene shines through, promoting classic PLUR values and sharing them with club kids and rave fiends of the 21st century.

Now after cosigns from big names like ANNA LUNOE, DIPLO and SKRILLEX and playing a slew of huge festivals in the US, Ducky has brought her high energy dance juggernauts and headbanging EDM to Australia. Midway through her local shows across the country we got a chance to talk to her about her beginnings, her creative process and what to expect when you catch her live.

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You just performed at Hard Summer. Can you tell us about your experience at the festival?

It was amazing! It was the big debut of my all original set and it was just incredible to get to play this brand new set that was entirely true to my vision to thousands of incredible, super receptive people. A dream. Plus I got to do a second set of just bangers. It was the whole package.

What made you want to produce your whole set from scratch? What did you learn from this huge undertaking?

Honestly I just wanted to do something special for HARD because it’s such an incredible event, and I was so frustrated with trying to find new music I liked, and it kind of occurred to me that, hey, I could really achieve my vision for my set if I just made it from scratch! It was basically an insane whim that I ran with. It was a huge learning experience. I’ve grown so much as a producer from doing it and it’s really helped me clarify my vision and my sound.

There's always been flavours of harder genres in your music but now it seems you've totally thrown yourself headfirst into the rave/EDM scene. What drew you in that direction?

I’ve always loved harder music. The first rave I ever played in high school had a gabber room and I basically spent the rest of the night in there. My strong suit has always been melody and lyrics, so I think it was natural that I started there and as my production skills improved I started to experiment more with introducing aggression and intensity into my songs. The intention has also really changed with my writing - I started making music as a deep catharsis and I had a lot of things I needed to get out. Now I find it’s more about expressing my vision and creating what I want to hear in a live set, trying to curate what I want people to feel, and this is sort of where I’ve ended up naturally.

Your back catalogue is so colourful. You’ve explored sounds ranging from dreamy (‘Bliss’) to more traditional rave sounds (‘Headfirst’) to juke/footwork inspired (‘Hack The Club’) to house-influenced bangers (‘Work). Is this versatility something that you’re conscious of when you’re creating, or do you tend to work with what you’re feeling at the time?

I just go for it! I think you should never limit your creativity. Yesterday I tried to write a banger and ended up writing a dreamy melodic piece. And that’s cool. My approach is to write it all, select it down later. I will say I am being more decisive and specific with what I end up choosing to release these days, though.

And on the topic of colour - the visual aspects of your releases are always so heavily curated too and it’s cool to see that you’re finding ways to link your gaming interests in with your music. Is curating the visual aspect of your releases just as important as the sounds you’ve created?

Absolutely, the music and visuals go hand in hand. My designer Sydney Jones and I work very closely together on crafting a narrative through the visuals that we’re slowly beginning to unfold.

What is it about rave culture that interests you?

I started raving when I was quite young, maybe 14, and I was instantly drawn to it because it was such an accepting and inviting community. You were absolutely welcome to be who you were, as strange as you wanted. I really needed that. I wasn’t one of the cool kids, I was an awkward nerd from a messy home and all I wanted was a place where I felt safe, accepted, like I fit in. Raving gave me that.

You’ve been producing since you were 13 & DJing since you were 14. Looking back on your career, how does it feel to have spent such a large portion of your life enjoying and creating music? How do you feel your sound has changed over the course of your career?

Honestly I can’t imagine it another way. I needed this long process to get where I am now, I’m not one of those people who watches youtube tutorials for 6 months and suddenly has the skills and vision to create something incredible. There weren’t even youtube tutorials when I started producing! And I’m glad for that. My artistic journey has been long and winding and that space and time has allowed me to authentically develop in my own unique way. My sound has changed quite a lot, obviously, if you listen back to what I was making 5 years ago or even 2 years ago I think you can really hear the growth. But what’s always remained the same is the honesty and emotionality I bring to the writing process. Hopefully I keep that forever.

Has your move to LA changed the way you approach your production?

It’s definitely afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with a lot of artists I respect and admire, which in turn has changed my production process. I think that’s the quickest way to learn - work with another artist and pay attention to what they do.

If you could change something about the wider music industry, what would it be?

More women producing, more women running labels, more male artists taking women on their tours, more women in charge.

RAVE TOOLZ has become a staple in high-energy club culture across the world, and originally began as an outlet for a whole bunch of bootlegs you created across a variety of genres. I don’t think there’s many other projects/labels who actually give this format a platform. Did you have any idea this platform would become so semi-nal?

Nope! I literally just started it because people were asking me for my edits and I thought hey, it’d be cool if I released this stuff. It’s crazy how it took off. I’m sad I don’t have time to give it the attention that I used to, but I am planning on doing a pack of edits on there soon.

Is your process surrounding creating bootlegs different to that of your original tracks?

Absolutely. It’s quite different to start a song when you’ve got some stuff you like already in place. I find it much quicker than writing originals, which I’m sure is true for most people.

Have you ever been to Australia before? What are you most excited to check out while you’re in the country?

It’s my first time here! Honestly I’m quite happy to be doing what I’ve been doing so far, just working in the studio and collaborating with some Australian artists I like.

Your club tune 'Work' has been rinsed hard in the Sydney club scene. Are you excited to see the reception to your tunes in Australia?

Absolutely! It’s my first international tour so it’s so cool just to see how different the scene is from the states, so far the reception has been great and I’m just stoked to keep playing and having fun.

As someone who's dipped their toes into throwing events, running labels and collectives and producing music, what tips would you give to up and coming producers and music creatives?

Never stop trying if you love it, don’t do it at all if you don’t. Take some time for self care and know that you can work hard without killing yourself for it. Make friends outside of the scene that will keep you grounded and check you if your head gets too big. And if you have a cool idea, run with it! The worst thing that happens is you fail. Which you will, again and again, in this industry. Learn to love the process and pick yourself back up.

Tour Dates:

Fri, 17 August - The Office, Townsville

Sat, 18 August - CBD Maguire's, Mackay

Fri, 24 August - Bassic, Sydney

Sat 25 August - Capitol, Perth

Fri, 31 August - Snowtunes, Jindabyne

Interview by Holly O'Neill and Caitlin Medcalf