Photo by Yuko Inoue
I find Soledad Muñoz, wearing no less than three coats, shivering outside the closed restaurant we were supposed to do this interview in. It’s a day and a half after one of the biggest windstorms to ever hit Vancouver, and the city is still recovering from a massive power outage. We walk past darkened shop windows on a bed of mushy leaves to a corner coffee joint filled with laptops and facial piercings. We sit to chat about Muñoz’s all-female electronic label Genero, and how it expresses her feminist values. She was inspired to start the project after a brief stint living in New York, where she realized the underrepresentation of female electronic artists and producers wasn’t just a West Coast thing. “I thought that women in electronic music were put to the side just here, now there’s Discwoman [A New York-based platform for female DJs to plan events and promote their work] and a lot of other things going on. But three years ago it was really hard to find women performers, we went to plenty of shows and it was just guys. I thought, I know all these women in Vancouver who are making music, why not just start releasing their stuff?” She began putting the word out to women in Vancouver’s electronic scene, and eventually recruited six girls to join the newly-formed feminist label.
The word "genero" can be translated from Chilean Spanish as gender, genre, to generate, and textile. As a Chilean woman and textile artist by trade, Muñoz felt the word seemed to perfectly summate the project’s ideals. Genero touches on all the things this label hopes to bring to the electronic music community, generating content for a genre that’s lacking gender equality and creating a more colourful musical landscape in the process. “I work a lot with the metaphor of textile, all the threads coming together to make art textile, which is sort of what we’re trying to do. I feel like there are threads missing in the electronic music textile, and these threads are women. To make it a more complete textile, it needs to include all genders and races,” Muñoz explains.
For the sake of gender equality, idealists, and
who might be confused by the separatism Genero encourages, I ask why we need a label exclusively for women. Muñoz says the issue is comparable to the common cold: When you’re sick, the best way to get rid of it is by jamming yourself with the maximum amount of nutrients to fight the fever. If you’re ill, the best way to cure it is with 300 percent Vitamin C. “At Warm Up, the big MoMA PS1 party, there were about 60 acts, and only six were women. So it’s
, like they’re not even trying. There’s a really big gap to fill, so we need 600 percent more women playing. Having something that exclusively focuses on women producers is vital.” In the case of equalizing the gender landscape of
, it’s not like the talent isn’t there. Rather, the hurdles and roadblocks prove so insurmountable for women in the field, it’s often much harder to break through.
The path for young women in this genre is akin to the journey newborn sea turtles take from the beach to the ocean, the kind you may have seen in a David Attenborough film. These miraculous balls of energy with years of life left in them are swarmed and clawed at by gulls before they are even reach the sea and take on the challenge of life. Muñoz first experienced this sort of discrimination as a kid in the 90s skateboarding scene in Chile. “To all the guys I was invisible, they would skate in front of me and I would be waiting for my turn to do stuff and just wouldn’t get a chance. Other women experience it in other ways, like having to prove themselves ten times more, having to show what they know every time they meet a male producer. Obviously it’s not equal anywhere for women and men, but especially in electronic music, it’s just white guys.”
Like the Riot Grrrl movement revolutionized the role of women in punk music, groups like Genero and Discwoman are currently laying the foundation for female DJs and producers to build a new regime of equality and respect in the electronic community. The girls behind this label took note of the boys club Vancouver artists were naturally forming, and they created Genero as a response. Muñoz notes that it is still hard to find women working in the audio engineering side of production, like mixing and mastering. But despite the long road ahead, she seems confident that a movement is forming and growing. The matter-of-time spirit burns in her eyes. As for the future of Genero itself, she says, “I honestly don’t have a business plan because it’s not a business. I don’t have an end goal, I’m always experimenting.”
As she navigates the unpredictable waters of owning a record label, Muñoz must make the transformation from idealist to businesswoman. A year and three months ago, she was an art school kid who didn’t have Facebook, and now she is trying to understand copyright law. Above all, the sentiment Muñoz wants to leave us with is that action, no matter how small or localized, is the only way to ignite change. “If anything, start making your own stuff, we’ve got to make this change. Yes, check out Genero, send us your stuff, but also make your own shit happen. I know it’s not that easy, I’ve cried and I’ve been happy and frustrated all at the same time with this project. But we have to do it, we have to put our stuff out there.”
While we both squeeze back into our many coats, Muñoz shares a story about the time she first jammed with some of the girls on her label. She explains how they sat in a circle with their equipment for two hours, speaking freely, and without interrogation, the technical language of producers. She recalls coming home after this jam session and realizing with a burst of euphoria it was the first time in her life she had made electronic music with women, and without fear. If that’s not a feeling worth starting a revolution over, I don’t know what is.
Maya-Roisin Slater is writer and reporter based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter