Music by VICE

CC:DISCO Loves Her Job, Even When It's Making Her Cry

Returning from a European tour to headline Melbourne Music Week, disco queen DJ Courtney Clarke shares some well-earned life lessons.

by Angela Payne
08 November 2019, 2:35am

CC:DISCO is a Melbourne-based DJ who has made some great big waves with her joyous disco sets that make you smile on the inside. Trust us, even your liver will be grinning. CC:DISCO is the kind of DJ who guides you down a blissful rabbit hole where you can forget the worries of the real world and let your emotions run wild. Think of it as a form of self-care with benefits akin to meditation or yoga. Her ever-growing fan base would agree; you just feel good after listening to CC:DISCO.

After an early start in radio at fifteen, CC:DISCO did her time, perfecting her craft and cementing her position as a natural performer at some of Australia’s biggest festivals before taking off to share her music with the other side of the world. As such she’s spent the last 8 months introducing her Club Coco tunes to European ears while enjoying the craziness of life on the road. Right now though, CC:DISCO is back home in Australia to headline Melbourne Music Week with French DJ Raphaël Top-Secret, a show which promises to be a total vibe. In anticipation of her home advantage, we spoke to the candid maestro about the highs and lows of her career and realised she's like the wise friend we should all take advice from.

VICE: What inspired you to spend your life DJing?
CC:DISCO: From the age of 10 I wanted to be on the radio. It was just always my dream and by the time I was 15 I did it, which was amazing. The DJing came a lot later. My inspiration came from going out to clubs and watching DJs do their thing and me being in heaven on the dancefloor. A big memory was watching YO!MAFIA slay one night. Watching her I was like, “She’s just the coolest and she knows how to get the party going. I want to be as good as her one day!” Even though we play completely different stuff, we share the same values and it’s still crazy for me to think that we’ve become great mates as well. She’s such a hard worker and a lovely person, she was a big influence for me. And the last song in my boiler room set was dedicated to her.

You are the queen of disco, house and boogie; why so true to these genres?
These genres often tell stories, they have heartfelt lyrics and I’m just a big soppy girl at the end of day who loves a good emotional tune. I love the way these genres make people smile and dance with each other and not alone like harder electronic genre music does.

You began as a radio DJ and later transitioned to a club DJ. Was that daunting initially?
Definitely! I remember I was shaking at Hangtime, my first gig back in 2009. It was such a different feeling to radio. It’s taken me 10 years to stop feeling so nervous, to be honest. But the rush is crazy, it’s like the best drug you’ve ever taken.

Do you feel like your sets are messages to your audiences in a way?
Totally, and you can feel my moods in my sets, especially if I go really dark. Music has got me through the darkest times of my life so I’m so thankful for it. I think the message in what I do is just enjoy yourself and feel the brighter side of life. But generally, my sets are not so much about going to dark places but more so a joyful place. It’s about connecting with others and dancing away any trouble you have because that was what disco was in the beginning, an outlet for many outcasts and to this day I think it has the same effect.

The life of a DJ can appear pretty glossy from the outside but I imagine there are also the more gruesome realities.
Instagram is often a trap for many, as you only see the ‘amazing side’ of people’s lives. I mean I wish I posted a pic of me crying at the airport because I was listening to Roxette, couldn’t see straight as I was so tired trying to get a 6AM Ryanair flight straight from the club! But I guess no one wants to see that either. No sleep does very strange things to you that’s for sure. But, I’ve worked every job under the sun: I’ve milked cows, worked in call centres, picked fruit, worked on the farm, took speed once for $50 for a medical trial cos I was so broke living in Toronto. I always think about the jobs that nearly killed me (picking fruit is fucking hard yakka) and then all the travel nonsense is just fine. I get to do a job I truly love at the end of the day. Sure some days it’s taken 17-50 hours to get to a job—Punt Road traffic means nothing after my tour—but you just have to embrace the ride and not let it overcome you. When it does you need to talk to your mates about it. Like any job there are always ups and downs.

Is sleep for the weak?
Fuck that, sleep is so good. I used to have the mindset of ‘sleep when you’re dead’ and always wanted to be the last woman standing at a party but you eventually learn sleep is your friend. I’m out like light whenever I get the chance.

What was the craziest thing that happened to you on your recent tour?
Honestly the whole 8 months touring there, playing in a rain storm at Love International, playing Glasto, as well as the back to back with Denis Sulta, was one of the happiest sets I’ve ever played. Playing famous Pikes Ibiza, the sunrise set at Kala Festival on the beach in Albania…I mean, the whole year was just the most amazing and most challenging experience to date.

What’s the one thing you miss most when you’re away from home on tour?
My friends. I really miss just being able to chat with my mates. I’m quite a social person, I adore my friends, so not having them around was definitely one of the toughest things to deal with whilst being away.

What's the biggest life lesson moving to Europe has taught you?
That it’s a crazy fucking market over there and how hard people tour. Some of the schedules of DJs are beyond cooked. They stress me out just looking at some of the tour dates. It’s very full-on and I don’t know how some of them function.

What advice would you give to all the aspiring DJs out there?
Take your time. There is this urgency all of the time with the younger DJs to be this or be that but just slow down, learn your shit, and learn about all music as your taste will change. You should never value your success by comparing to others either, just do you and try and enjoy every gig opportunity you get because at the end of day it’s such a privilege to be able to play to music others, whether it’s in a bar or a club or festival. We’re lucky to be doing it at all.

You’re coming back home to Melbourne to play at MMW with French DJ Raphaël Top-Secret! We’re very excited.
I just landed today and it’s so nice to be home! Super excited about the shows coming up with Raphaël as he is a killer bloody DJ. Most of all I’m excited for the Aussie crowds. We have something special here and the more and more I’m away the more I realise how much talent is here as well. I can’t wait to go and see all of the Melbourne DJs because they inspire me so much. I truly think they are some of the best in the world.

What can we expect from your set?
Good fucking times, I’ve brought back a stack of new music and have so much new music from up and coming producers to play as well. I’m especially looking forward to sharing a few gems that will be included in my forthcoming compilation, First Light Vol II, which I am just putting the final touches on now. Another thing I can’t wait for is to play inside the MMW Kubic hub. The installation is insane, so happy that they have brought it back for the 10-year celebration and really looking forward to playing in the space.

If you could choose one person, dead or alive, to collaborate with that you haven't already, who would it be?
Shep Pettibone - he is the man behind some of the best work from Madonna (Ercotica, Justify My love, Deeper and Deeper), Janet, D train, Duran Duran and many more. He is the master of the dub mix as well, I would love to sit down with him for a week and have a master class. Dreamin’ of that one day.

Super important question. Who do you love on Instagram at the moment?

CC:DISCO! will be headlining Melbourne Music Week which runs from Thursday November 14 to Saturday November 23 across the CBD. She’ll play at Kubik on Friday November 15 with tix available via the MMW website.

Melbourne Music week