Photo: Lexi Sun (Jenny Cara)
It’s been a busy year for Jenny Cara. When not stepping up to the decks at Zürich’s Zukunft or Bern’s Kapitel Bollwerk, the Swiss DJ has been touring throughout Europe extensively. Even though she wasn’t as active before the pandemic, hers is not the (now-typical) story of a DJ who made a name for herself with a slew of online mixes during lockdowns, but that of a tireless worker in the nightlife industry who is finally getting the attention she deserves. Having, in her own words, “done every job there is in and around the club” in the past one and a half decades before getting her break as a DJ, she has recently started two new programmes, Studio Kali and eXchange, both of which aim at creating a more inclusive and egalitarian club scene. Jenny Cara’s mix for our Groove podcast showcases her skills on a rotary mixer on three decks. This is what you can expect from her during peak time—even though, of course, you need to expect the unexpected with a DJ like this one.
How did you get into electronic music in the first place?
I’ll admit that for a long time I wasn’t interested in music because I was neither born into a musical household nor did I have a very musical environment. When I moved to Lucerne, I first got in touch with electronic music through a very close friend of mine at that time. This friend was a DJ and took me to his gigs. Through these club visits, I started to get interested in the people behind the scenes and wanted to know who these DJs were and where the music they played came from. So my interest in electronic music and club culture started to grow. A downside, however, was that my grades at school got worse.
You’re a resident at Zürich’s Zukunft but have also worked behind the scenes there, most notably as a booker. What did your first steps in the club scene look like?
In the last 15 years, I have probably done every job there is in and around the club. I’ve handed out flyers, worked at the wardrobe, behind the bar, at the door, as a host or as a runner. All of that was before I started working at Club Zukunft. Working there I did the internal bookings together with Alex Dallas. Later I was also responsible for managing the staff and the club. On the side, I also organized various parties at off-locations and had my own night at Zukunft called “CARA”, which is where my DJ name came from.
When did you start DJing?
This friend from Lucerne also showed me how to DJ with Serato back then and was always assuring me that I would become a DJ one day. He kept pushing me to follow this career. But when I moved to Zürich, I put DJing aside for a while. Actually, I never wanted to become a DJ and always struggled with the idea. But it turned out differently and I picked up DJing again during my time in Zürich. In the beginning I didn’t take it too seriously. But as my friends liked my selection, they motivated me to invest more time into DJing. Shout out to Lexx, Belia Winnewisser, Dominik André and all my friends who always supported me. A few years ago I recorded my first set for 45rpm.ch, which then got some attention. Thanks to the internet and COVID! One thing led to another naturally.
Aside from your musical activities, you’re also the co-owner of the recently launched counseling centre for equality and anti-discrimination called Studio Kali. Who is part of the team and what do you do, exactly?
Studio Kali is my friend Emine and me. We offer consulting for gastronomy, festivals, clubs and cultural institutions with the goal to create low-discrimination spaces. This includes various types of work such as an organisational analyses in which we support our clients in changing discriminatory structures internally. We also offer workshops for organisers, club owners or even private individuals who want to create their activities in a discrimination-sensitive way. We work intersectionally and, for example, cooperate with our network or external experts in the case of forms of discrimination that do not affect us.
Together with Belia Winnewisser, you have also launched the eXchange programme, offering DJ and music production workshops aimed at FLINTA*. What was your motivation you start this initiative?
With eXchange, Belia and I try to teach more than just the techniques of DJing or producing. For example, we just took the class to the SMEM, the Synthesizer Museum in Fribourg. The students were able to try out all the equipment and have it explained to them. Our intention is to show as many aspects of the music world as possible. DJing and producing do not just consist of dragging a few samples into a DAW or mixing two tracks together on the CDJs. We also talk about the history of electronic music, share our experiences in booking deals or talk about how to prepare for a gig as an artist or DJ. Belia and I started this project on the one hand because we are friends and wanted to create a sustainable project together, and on the other hand because this is exactly what we were missing when we started DJing or playing concerts. It feels good and right to pass on our knowledge to make it easier for FLINTA* to get started in this business. We don’t just see the students for a workshop, we are able to accompany them intensively for half a year.
In addition to that, you host a regular show on EOS. What’s important to you in terms of programming the show?
The radio show gives me the opportunity to collaborate with friends, whether we are in the same place or not. I met a few of my guests via social media during the pandemic and we’ve kept up an active exchange since then. Personally, I also use the show to experiment, that is, to play music that I like but am not yet sure how it would work in a club or festival setting. I’m very grateful to Gergana, Oli and Pascal from EOS for trusting so many artists and offering us such a nice platform.
You’re known as a versatile DJ. How do you prepare for your sets.
First I check who is playing before and after me. This gives me an idea of what the promoter has in mind. I think about it and I come up with a playlist, which I then use to play through my set. But everything still depends on the mood at the venue, so it sometimes happens that I don’t play anything I had prepared. In order to create an energy on the dancefloor I always like to play music from different genres. I think knowing every facet of a club, and having spent many hours in the club watching, listening and hosting different DJs definitely helped me to understand what it actually means to work as a DJ and also gave me some valuable insights.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
In fact, there is no real club set of mine online where I show how it might sound when I take over at 3 a.m. But obviously it’s always a different feeling to record a set in an empty club as opposed to playing in front of a crowd. I cut the mix down to an hour because I don’t like to listen to online mixes that last longer than an hour myself. So the idea was to do exactly that, use an hour of time to record what I currently play when I am touring. I recorded the mix at Muting the Noise with a rotary and three decks. I think you can also hear that I learned to DJ on a rotary mixer as I am used to longer transitions and as such have emotional difficulties with hard cuts.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
I have stepped back from my booking jobs for parties and festivals so that I can focus mainly on DJing, the work with eXchange and Studio Kali. I’m looking forward to the energy this will set free and also to announcing new projects soon and hopefully spending more time with my loved ones.
Stream: Jenny Cara – Groove Podcast 359
01. Corbi – Fairy Godmother
02. Karaba – Belly Pad
03. Core Dimension feat. Angie Brown – Feel The Power
04. DJ Crisps – Keep It Up
05. Wildlife! – Work It
06. Ghetto Style DJ – Round and Round
07. Anz – Last Before Lights
08. e-freq – Dream State
09. An Avrin – Paticake
10. Cartridge & Biome – Ricky Rosé
11. Ole Mic Odd – L.A. Gear
12. Lil Silva – Pulse vs Flex
13. Strick – Headbutt
14. Ahadadream – Spaceship
15. HearThuG – Planet Rhythm X
16. Reflex Blue – Gore
17. Archie Hamilton – Kick It
18. Wilfy D – 90s Baby (Original Mix)