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By Andy Argyrakis
Colette branches beyond DJ beats on new dance disc
Jan. 21, 2008
As a DJ, Colette performs over a hundred shows a year from the diverse worlds of Coachella, the Grammys and an ongoing residency at Chicago's Metro/Smart Bar, while simultaneously setting trends for females behind the turntables. As a recording artist, the switch hitter from Chi-town (who currently resides in California), is the leading lady on dance label OM Records, scored a number one Billboard Dance Club Play single with "What Will She Do for Love" and landed her last disc's title track "colette - Hypnotized" on "The Devil Wears Prada" soundtrack.
The two years between that CD and the brand new Push were a non-stop whirlwind, including cross continental touring in both formats (sometimes crossing time zones multiple times a day), along with getting married to her longtime sweetheart (amidst a flurry of recording activity). "On this record, there was definitely a shorter deadline, which I think was a good thing, but it was crazy," Colette says phoning in from home. "After traveling for so long, it came to the point where we were writing all the time as the deadline got closer and then I wound up getting married the month of! I got back from my honeymoon and realized the disc was due sooner than I originally thought, so it was kinda good because I work better under pressure, but I don't enjoy it. Luckily my husband is super cool and my whole family was really supportive and understanding of the crazy schedule."
Given that realization, Colette also didn't get to enjoy time as a newlywed, literally leaving her newly settled home life within days to hunker down in New York for the eleventh hour sessions. In keeping with the mounting trend during the Push project, the tension escalated even more when she discovered at 2a.m. on the eve of turning in the album that the vocals on the funky club thumper "Call It Out" weren't exactly right. "I was really loving all the songs, but as the last week settled in, I was not 100% happy with that one in particular," she confides. "The challenge with that one was the record was due four hours later, which meant pulling an all nighter to get it right. I guess that's another reason why Push is such a fitting title."
Indeed Colette stretched herself more than ever before, though the ensuring thirteen tracks don't sound rushed in the slightest. Instead there's an urgent tension and sultry insistence that runs through the entire record, from the rippling pop opener "About Us" to the marching band-like beats of "Get You Over" and the seductive nature of "Dance With You." There's also several points of obvious growth from the last time out, from an indie-fied and less breathy version of Kylie Minogue during "If" to the sophisticated chill throughout "Tonight." Some tacks also go under the recasting/remixing knife, most notably the disc's throw down finale "Think You Want It (Fabulous Fab Mix)."
"It's so much fun because it's an electronic album, but it's also really diverse," Colette continues, citing her ongoing fascination with house music of the early 1990s. "The fourth track 'Funny' is a down tempo track that features Black Spade, who's from OM's hip-hop label, which I'm really excited about."
The aforementioned mention of Minogue can lead some to wonder if Colette's crystalline voice is manufactured in the studio or truly the real deal. Anyone who's caught Kylie live can attest to a much more flawed performance style, though Colette is just the opposite on stage thanks to her classical training and constant nurturing of her vocal chords. "I started studying classical voice when I was 9 and house music when I was 10, so the two were sort of existing at same time throughout most of my childhood and teenage years," she recalls. "I really loved studying voice and it's helped me even now! Sometimes on tour, I'm not sleeping a lot, but all those years of lessons have allowed my voice to be in fairly good shape, though I always try to drink a lot of water, try to eat really good foods and sleep whenever I can! I've always wanted to be a singer, and when I was 16, I started singing over DJs at parties. Before college, I figured out music was something I wanted to do full time, and while classical music is beautiful, it wasn't me in the long run."
By 17, Colette started collecting records, and come 20, hooked up with local promoters to hit the night club circuit. Aside from spinning tunes first hand, she also continued singing over other DJs, building up a grassroots following in the process. "I started DJing so I could sing more because it was easier for me to comprehend learning how to DJ than it was to finding a band at 20," she says. "I didn't know at the time that you could've made a band for house music because all I'd seen up until that point was through DJing, so I went from there."
Though it was never even a passing thought initially, Colette soon noticed she was one of the few women in the burgeoning DJ scene of the 90s and often received praise in the press for those early efforts. She eventually started the SuperJane troupe of female DJs (now in its tenth year), which also includes DJs Dayhota, Lady D and Heather. "It's really interesting because I never really set off to prove anything," Colette confirms. "I never focused much on the gender aspect and we actually formed SuperJane not to be some woman's movement, but to show that anybody could do it. We wanted to diminish the whole 'that's so strange that a woman is doing that' approach and build up a reaction of 'wow, they're really good DJs who just so happen to be women.' The totally opposite thing happened, but it did inspire a lot of young female DJs- from Canada to Europe- and we hear from people all the time."
Even with all the attention overseas, Colette stays grounded close to home, concentrating a bulk of her Push promotion at the aforementioned Metro/Smart Bar. She boasts a balance of spinning DJ sets and singing songs from the project backed by a live band. "Coming home to Chicago is always very grounding and I have such as strong connection because of my family and friends," she adds. "Right now I'm in the middle of band rehearsals as we prepare to take the songs to the concert stage, mixed with me DJing as well. We'll definitely be performing a lot from Push and all the singles from Hypnotize, plus a couple old tunes I wrote ten years ago. It's such a fun space and it's great because it's open until 5a.m., which people can take advantage of if they want to dance late. It's very warming to be in that city and play to Chicago crowds. It's where I started and remains really special to me."