DJ SuperConductor on Riot Grrl and the Contributions of Lady Gaga

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PHOTO BY JON SCORFINA
  • Photo by Jon Scorfina

Euclid Records employee Anna Zachritz, better known around town as DJ SuperConductor, has amassed hundreds of records in less than a decade. As a DJ, Zachritz is known for spinning underground hip-hop and electro, but at the heart of her collection is riot grrl - the '90s movement that encouraged girls to make their own place in male-dominated music scenes. We met at the Tower Grove apartment she shares with her girlfriend, Melanie, and discussed the lasting significance of riot grrl while her Boston Terrier, Gus, helped model her split 45 collection.

Last Collector Standing: Do you have a favorite record of all time?

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Zachritz: Yes. I have a favorite record of all time. I can 98 percent confidently say that this has been my favorite record probably for the last eight years. So I would say it's probably my favorite record so far. Sleater-Kinney Dig Me Out is [the equivalent of what] Dark Side of the Moon was for my dad. That record to me is probably what made me feel the most connected to music, in the sense that what they were doing when that record came out is completely manifested in the sound that they have on that record along with their lyrics. The melodic pop side of it, yet that punk-y feel that it has... just that blend. I love it. That's my favorite record of all time.

You've been the first collector to confidently answer that question right off the bat.

Really? You know how you go through those phases where you listen to your favorite record and then you stop and you go back to it and it's the best thing ever? I don't have that with that record. I could just listen to that all year round, and I'd be alright. It's my absolute favorite.

There is something so empowering about it. There are a lot of things from that era that I really enjoy, but for whatever reason that is the most universal to me.

How did you first hear Dig Me Out?

The first time that I heard anything by Sleater-Kinney was my first year in college. That was back in 2003. I actually heard it because this guy who was a major feminist on campus was playing it. I thought, "Wow! What is this?" Just Corin Tucker's voice on that record is completely different from any female voice that I've ever heard. That alone made it stand out to me. I started asking him about it and he was actually the one who turned me on to this whole genre of riot grrl, which ended at that time, probably about three years before I had discovered it.

Leading up to that, I always loved music. My father plays music. We've always had music in our lives, whether it was listening it in the living room and having our own family dance parties or him playing a song and us singing along. I just grew up with that, but I will say my choice in music has changed drastically and it wasn't until I heard that record or discovered Sleater-Kinney that I knew what kind of music I liked.

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How did you first start collecting music?

When I first started buying records I wanted to mimic the collection of records I grew up with. I was buying all the staple bands. This was just a little bit before I discovered riot grrl and Sleater-Kinney. I was buying Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, T-Rex, Fleetwood Mac. I will say... when I was a kid I hated them. I didn't understand how this black wax was producing [music]. I thought they were so big and garish. Why not have a little CD you could play in your car? The first CD I bought by myself with my own money was Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the double record. I was in Best Buy and showed it to my mom. She looked at it and said, "Do what you want, but you've come such a long way from the Coolio's Gangster's Paradise single." Which was actually the first CD I ever owned. It was a single [Laughs]

Then I started really appreciating the feel of [vinyl]. The aesthetic. It's just so organic and raw. This really was the first way of recording music and producing it to reach a mass level of audience. I just love the history behind it. For the people who collected riot grrl, do you think that scene has had a lasting cultural effect or was it just a passing fade? Does having that music documented on vinyl solidify its cultural importance?

I think especially in underground movements the significance never dies. What riot grrl did to music; not only did it incorporate the do-it-yourself aspect... completely from getting the word out about shows, creating zines, doing home recordings on tapes which would be later pressed into 45 singles, which was a really huge thing during that movement. I think it was a cheap way to get their songs out, considering that most of their songs are about two minutes long [laughs] You got like four or five on each 45. I think another thing that was really significant with vinyl and that movement was the split 45 between two bands.

Riot grrl was really neat because the way it originated was this mesh of women who were tired of being cast aside in their local music scene. So they said, "Fuck it, we'll do it ourselves. We don't need you." This movement is going to be fired by that passion, to really prove to themselves that they can do it, but to also express so many things that weren't being talked about. It's listed as this third wave feminism, but I think in just sheer expression there were girls who were in school for women's studies or were studying feminist ways of thinking but weren't able to really express themselves. That alone has opened up so many doors for not only where female musicians are today but also just this idea of this do-it-yourself process. So many independent labels rely on that. Fan zines were huge. It was just this whole new way of marketing that like vinyl is connected.

When you hold a record it's tangible. You can see the grooves and different lengths of the tracks. It's almost like you have the music in your hands. With riot grrl what they did was created fan zines, they created collages, they would do all their own art work for every single piece of music that they ever produced. They would just pass it and it was in your hands and it was tangible. I think the heartbeat of that movement is kind of the same of this subculture of vinyl collectors. That heartbeat is in our hands, and I think that's why we love it so much.

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What are the three most significant riot grrl records in your collection?

Bratmobile's Pottymouth. They were the innovator. I would say Bratmobile and Bikini Kill were the two major bands that started it off. However, a lot of its influences came from punk bands in the '70s and '80s, including The Slits and The Raincoats. Even what Chrissie Hynde was doing in the Pretenders. The Raincoats I have a ten-inch of theirs and that's a really important piece to me out of my collection because that is what these girls were listening to, and that's what opened the door for them. Then Sleater Kinney. They really came at the tail end of the movement, but all their members were in riot grrl bands. I have Excuse 17's album, which Carrie Brownstein was in. Then I have Heavens To Betsy Calculated, along as all sorts of 45s from that time. That's not three [Laughs].

Is there a different set of expectations being a female DJ in a scene dominated by males?

The scene is predominately male. There is no question about that. It's definitely a male dominated hobby, but I don't think there is a difference. There shouldn't be a difference in the way I'm received versus a male DJ. What I like to do is set every idea and thought aside once I'm behind the DJ booth, It's just about me and the music coming out of the speakers.

I have in the past gotten compliments about me being a girl DJ from both women and men, which I think is funny because if I went to bar and heard fantastic music I would just go up to the DJ and say, "Wow, this is really great." It's funny when [I'm] up there they like to tack on, "This is really great... for a girl." It's that whole thing that will hopefully one day go away.

What do you think is the state of women in music in 2011?

I don't think it's exactly an equal playing level in most genres. I think pop stars do have a purpose and are important. There is the whole argument of women being sex symbols in music, at the same time I think that most women are showing a younger generation of girls how to be powerful, empowered, expressive. Lady Gaga -- I appreciate what she has done in the eye of the industry. This is a woman who is 22, maybe 23, [Editor's note: She's now 25.] she started playing in little New York dive bars and here she is now transforming the face of expressing yourself. There are so many people who can relate to her songs. The gay community has really attached themselves to her songs, and these are songs that are being played on mainstream radio that are addressing themes like, 'being yourself," "this is the way that I was born." I think that's an important role that she plays, and she does have a responsibility to really back what she says in interviews. Madonna was the same way. Madonna was another innovator of pop music. I think in regards to that, pop musicians have always been kind of the equal playing field between male and female musicians. There is this dominance of male musicians in this industry. Why riot grrl is so important to me, it was a movement that was inclusive to males if they wanted to be included. They didn't need them. I think that's really significant and cool, and can be used and influential to any band that is just trying to be themselves. I don't need to follow this formula to be successful. Here's what I'm doing. If I'm 100 percent passionate about it, how can I ever be unsuccessful?

PHOTO BY JON SCORFINA
  • Photo by Jon Scorfina

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