Meet triple threat Maddie Ross; DJ, artist manager and nightlife programmer at M for Montreal. I've been wanting to feature and interview all around cool girl and inspiring babe Maddielonglegz aka Maddie Ross for a long time now. After the Last Daze of Summer shoot by Goodbye Jane we finally got a chance to chat a little about her inspirations and some of the challenges she's faced working in the music biz.
AK: What’s your earliest memory about music?
MR: That's pretty tough, I'd say music is somehow tied to all my early memories. I significantly remember my obsession with MJ, Aqua and the Hanson Brothers (who had a track on their first album called Madeline... big deal at age 7). I distinctly remember walking into my sisters bedroom, I must have been 7 or 8 and she was listening to the Fat of the Land album by the Prodigy. I was so overwhelmed by it, it was just so in your face and aggressive, I was in love.
AK: How did you get into djing?
MR: I still can't believe that I actually make a living out of it, I don't think there was a set moment in which it happened. I bought a little controller when I was maybe 17/18 and kinda played around with it until someone finally gave me a gig at our campus pub at SFU - I was so bad. But I always always had a love for playing music, so it kind of began with high school house parties, I was always hovering the sound system with my shitty little ipod mini.
AK: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about djs?
MR: Biggest misconception is that there’s one way to do it. It’s pretty cool job, there are so many types of DJ’s so many different skills that can go into it, the more you put in the more you get out. You can diversify in so many ways, it’s really such an awesome job if you really do everything in your power to do it your way.
AK: How is it working as a woman in a pretty male dominated industry?
MR: The music industry is definitely a boy's club and it's been pretty well documented in terms of being a girl dj. The typical stuff of them thinking you aren't actually good at your job just because you're a girl. A lot of gatekeepers are men too, so it makes it tough to build a career from the ground up. On the other hand, there are also a lot of people working to abolish this stigma. It was funny when I first started a few years ago the amount of men that would come up and be like “wow so cool, I didn’t know girls could DJ, did your boyfriend teach you?”. Or when I’m with an artist and get disregarded as a groupie. But honestly I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by some super positive men and women that really encourage me when I have moments of weakness. This type of shit will likely be a constant in our lifetime, you have no choice but to rise above it one way or another.
AK: Wow that's awful. How do you overcome that that kind of closed-mindedness?
MR: I mean yes - it’s awful. But to be honest I feel super super fortunate in this life. I’ve been lucky enough to be born into an insanely supportive family who encourage me to follow my dreams no matter how financially unprofitable they seem to be. I’m lucky enough to have had an amazing education, been raised on some very sturdy values. So the way I see it, if being talked down to or discouraged because of my sex is the only major challenge I face in this life I’m doing pretty okay. Nothing and I mean NOTHING inspires me more than being told I can’t do something. There is always a way, and Montreal is such a supportive community that the extra challenge only makes the rewards sweeter ;) I think most women who have worked their way into this industry have the mentality to just work hard and focus on the music, and eventually this won’t even be an interview question.
AK: There is a lot of pink in this shoot, do you want to expand on why that's important with reference to you?
MR: Yeah, well when we originally spoke about doing this interview, we talked about what it means to be a woman entrepreneur, and the restrictions that come with it. A big restriction for me in the past has been coming to terms with my own stigma against being portrayed in a “feminine” way, essentially, the stigma about my femininity being my greatest weakness. I always hated the colour pink because of this, pink, as the "colour for girls", was programmed to equate "Barbie", "Blonde", and "vapid". I've always worked so hard to protect myself from being affiliated to this projection, but to the point that I realized I had suppressed my own identity with it. I wanted to find a way to embrace how I identify as a woman, accept that I can have feminine interests without being afraid of them making me seem weak.
AK: Ya I get that, a lot of people tend to associate sexuality and nudity with stupidity or crassness, which is so frustrating. As if expressing yourself through your appearance and your body means that you’re vapid and dumb. We’re women, we’re multifaceted, we can be what we want, we have so many layers, we’re not just the tomboy, the bombshell, the nerd, etc. We can like the colour pink and wear crop tops if we feel like it and still be intelligent or kick ass at sports or be serious businesswomen. Like stop holding my femininity against me as if I’m supposed to feel bad about it.
MR: Yeah, no I agree, I’m just hesitant to reiterate that femininity is a thing to be celebrated. The more we emphasize "femininity" the more we are suppressed by gender polarity, which is at the root of the problem. We don't need it to be our feminine identity just our identity in general, you know?
AK: Ya I know what you mean. Any advice for women who want to enter the music biz as either a dj or artist manager?
MR: Just fucking do it. You gotta have a strong back bone and confident in what you’re doing. Demand respect and eventually it’ll be yours. There are also a lot of awesome women's groups designed to support females trying to make it in this industry, Shesaid.so, Nap Girls, for DJ’s just go on facebook and type in “female DJs” and you’ll find the community is huge.
AK: What is your favourite part of your job?
MR: I mean I do it for the music, it inspires me everyday. The fact that I have made money to support myself just by playing music for people is awesome.
AK: Who are your favourite musical artists?
MR: Ouff thats close to impossible to answer. Consistently Roy Ayers in every way - Since the time I fell in love with hip hop I’d have to say it’s The Notorious B.I.G., The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill raised me, Stevie Wonder, D'Angelo, Q-Tip, BB the blues King, Kendrick, Anderson .Paak is killing it. Then the electronic side, Moodymann is huge, Doc Daneeka, Borrowed Identity, Seven Davis Jr, Mall Grab. Also shout out Jay’dore and Ponsolo <3
AK: What are you listening to on repeat right now?
MR: Currently letting this Frank Ocean album to sink in, it’s crazy there are so many levels to it, got my emotions all caught up. On a similar note, I still haven’t gotten sick of everything Daniel Caesar - insane talent on that kid. Gabriel Garzon-Montano has my soul right now and forever. He’s so consistent. Super down with everything Kali Uchis she has that Erykah Badu voice, and Isaiah Rashad just dropped an album I really am excited about. Also been crushin on Princess Nokia a lil bit.
AK: What life motto do you follow each day?
MR: I mean it sounds cheesy - but just keep going. No matter how little or big, every step towards your goals and dreams count.
AK: What's the best advice someone has given you?
MR: None of it matters, so everything you do has to be for you and only you. Decide what you want to leave this world with and be willing to die trying to achieve it.
AK: What do you do (or say) to motivate yourself in moments of doubt?
MR: It's just wayyy to easy to doubt yourself, or compare yourself to others. I think it's super important to just remind oneself that you are who and what you are. You can't change what you were given, you just have to keep trying to better yourself and do what makes you happy when you cut out all the extra bullshit. Don't let anyone else make you feel inadequate.
AK: Current obsession?
MR: Podcasts/radio shows, I was always too impatient to get really into them but when I found some good hosts, who feel like my bffs now and I need to listen all the time. I'm also pretty obsessed with my new niece, she's just over a year and a half and is such a nut. Annnd I just discovered I can have Iridescent nails and that’s still blowing my mind.
AK: What scares you most?
MR: The concept of time haha scary shit. That and snapping turtles maybe
AK: Who inspires you?
#1 Beyonce for life. Lemonade was fucking fierce, she managed to bring so many important topics into the mainstream just when I thought the people weren’t ready for it. And then blew all our minds, she owns her confidence and her insecurities and is exactly the role model I think girls and women alike need.
#2 Is Pharrell Williams - ugh he is just so on the level. I love love love his radio shows OTHERTONE. I’ve listened to every single one and have never been so inspired by musical conversation. He really digs into the emotions and gets on a level of the love for music that just speaks to my soul. Not to get too deep into it but he is just such a G.
#2 I’m reading LA Reid’s biography now, and I wouldn’t say HE in his entirety inspires me, but what he managed to accomplish in the music world, by trusting his intuition, definitely inspires me. He brought up Outkast, Usher, TLC, Toni Braxton, etc., basically shaped one of my favourite eras in “modern” music.
Photos by Jenn Weitzman @goodbye_jane