By Mollie Denton
Louise Chen the French and Taiwanese DJ is a pillar of Parisian music culture. She is an ultimate variety of a DJ, collective founder, fashion icon, record collector and an all-round kick ass female within the electronic music industry.
With her adoration for music beginning from an early age growing up in Luxembourg, where she would create mixtapes for her family in Taiwan, Louise has been bouncing within her busy schedule of NTS radio shows, DJing at fashion parties and running a female music and arts collective. As the lockdown is slowly being lifted, Louise is in the middle of moving from Paris to London.
Growing up in Luxembourg, Louise spent a lot of her childhood backstage at TV shoots due to her aunt being a singer and actress and explained how that felt very normal for her. Another major part of her childhood was receiving mixtapes from her dad. “That was my way of having him around even though he was physically away – and so very quickly that fed my passion for music, because all of a sudden that was connected to feelings of love and longing and wanting to be with your family. So now, I just equate music to people.”
After being shown how to record her own mixtapes, Louise described how it was ‘game over’, as her obsession with music began. “Because in Luxembourg, you didn’t have the spice girls or whatever big group that were touring, they would never come there. That’s why it felt like everything I’d see on MTV or on television or hear on the radio felt so out of reach – but in some ways, I’m really glad that I had that because it just made me more obsessed! It just made into the collective that I am, the hoarder!”
At the beginning of 2012, Louise started up her own club night, in response to the lack of females DJing and being in clubs within Paris at the time. To put it into context, Louise mentioned that she rarely saw women DJ, and it was the likes of Miss Kittin and Ellen Alien who were around at the time. “Even then, it was too few, and we never really felt that we could look up to anyone except dudes which was really frustrating.”
Louise commented on when she did go out to clubs, she felt no sense of belonging, and that the guys thought she was there for them – not because she cared about the music that was playing. “Back then my boyfriend was a DJ, and he was always saying to me ‘You don’t come see me play!’ And eventually I had to explain – ‘Well, it’s not exactly for me is it, if you look around you, it’s a bunch of dudes playing to a bunch of other dudes, and there are absolutely no girls around you – the girls that are around are backstage.”
After starting up the night and DJing a couple of times, Louise noticed that it was the same group of girls that were returning, they knew the music, and they were dancing and singing along to the tracks she was playing. “They created the identity of the night, they were the crowd I wanted there, they were the crowd that other people wanted to come see. I guess very quickly I just offered to them, would you like to make this a collective and this way everyone has a role to play and can have input, and that’s how it started.”
Eventually becoming a music and art collective with the name ‘Girls Girls Girls’, Louise was relieved at how she had finally found her people, sharing the love for music instead of being assumed that she was in the club to find guys. “It was more of a like, this is me and my girlfriends, almost like the party was a call to arms – and then whoever answered the call, was like oh my god I’ve found my people!”
Having played one of the Girls Girls Girls parties, NTS Radio’s beloved residents since day one Moxie and Louise soon became great friends. “She invited me on to her show a couple of times, then when she went to tour Australia for the first time she asked me if I’d be up for covering her radio show for her.” Louise now has a monthly residency at NTS, where her shows present every music that has stemmed from jazz and Afro-American music. “It’s a lot of gospel, disco, boogie, soul, house, techno, and everything in between. in my head, it’s all connected, it just makes sense. NTS radio has been my favourite radio show since day one, so it was an absolute honour to be covering for Moxie – when that ended NTS very kindly offered me a monthly show.”
As lockdown has ensued over the globe for the past four months, almost everybody can relate to feeling in and out of their funk, adapting to what is now known as the new normal as we experience a strange, unpredictable time. It is obvious that the lockdown has caused either a spark in creativity, or the complete opposite. “I felt with isolation at any time I’d be a little blue or down, it just took ten times longer to get out of my funk – whereas on a regular day, I’d just be able to go out and see my friends or do something like see some art to cheer me up. But there I couldn’t even escape my own self, I hate it!” Louise exclaimed.
Facing a few obstacles, which is understandable during the lockdown period, Louise spoke of the struggle with artistic expression. “Mixes kept me busy, but in terms of music production, it was a dry spell. I just couldn’t do it – like any kind of obstacle became unbearable, like unsurmountable. Every time I got frustrated, it would just last for way too long, but it just wasn’t worth it.”
Keeping yourself occupied throughout the day whilst isolating is key to keep yourself in check. It’S easy to lose yourself, especially when you’re spending every second with yourself, sometimes alone, and in one place day in day out. As mixes were her form of escapism, Louise had recorded more mixes during the lockdown than she would have usually done within a year. “I think that’s probably because now, in hindsight, I was isolating completely alone and I think for me, that was a form of escapism, so I wouldn’t have to feel lonely or scared or any of the negative things, so I would make sure I’d be really busy every day.”