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Globetrotting DJ The Black Madonna is an artist typified by autonomy. From releasing records on her self-built imprint label to her candid views on women’s representation in dance music, Marea Stamper has made quite the name for herself.
Hailed for her powerful and positive force within electronic music, her mixes splice together techno, disco and house samples from an archive of over 50 years. The same could be said for the generation-and-genre spanning guests who feature on her latest record, from Chicago house stalwart Mr Principal to Shaun J. Wright of neo-disco bunch, Hercules and The Love Affair. The Black Madonna preaches a strong message to euphoric club-goers not seen since the youth culture of the 1990s: unity.
Growing up the daughter of a music teacher, how did you find your way to the decks? Did you ever flirt with the idea of another instrument?
Clubs have a kind of stratification built into them, but with radio, it’s accessible to everyone
I played many instruments. I actually attended music school. I studied upright bass, guitar, played piano casually. Sung in musicals. Auditioned for the Mickey Mouse club but didn’t even get close to getting in; I would say that my audition was patently bad!
You’re now acting as ‘Spiritual Director’ of smartbar, hosting regular pop party, We Still Believe and spinning records over on Radio 1. How has your monthly residency been going over there?
It is the joy of my life! I love radio. It gives you a way to connect with people in a level way. Clubs have a kind of stratification built into them, but with radio, it’s accessible to everyone. It’s free and it comes right to your home or your car – that part is really exciting for me.
Accessibility is clearly a theme for The Black Madonna. How does it feel being a de facto activist, challenging preconceptions around electronica?
Nobody’s perfect, I am certainly not. I still feel a little thrown into things
Selfishly, I felt bored with a world where dance music is only coming from one group of people. This idea aligns with my beliefs about the world, in general. Inclusivity makes for a better party, you know? It would be easy to overcomplicate the issue of women in electronica. It always shocks me when I’m asked to talk about the subject because to me it seems so obvious.
In 2018 so far, only a quarter of artists booked across 23 of the summer’s biggest fests are female or groups with at least one female member. What do you make of the numbers?
Sure, we’ve started to do the headcount, but there has to be deeper investigations. It feels like change is slow. And it is. You’ve just gotta keep doing it as much as you can. Nobody’s perfect, I am certainly not. I still feel a little thrown into things. You get appointed to speak on topics, but at the end of the day you’re just a person. Of course, I have strong opinions. I talk about what I believe and push for the change I can but there’s another side where you’re like ‘shouldn’t you guys be talking to a professional?’
To celebrate its 25th anniversary issue back in 2016, DJ Mag produced a special edition focusing on the 25 pioneers from the past 25 years. Not one was a woman. Why do you think that is?
They issued a caveat when they released the series about how they knew there were no women because none of them were deserving and I was like ‘Was Björk unavailable?’ Donna Summer had the first major electronic record ever. Why is it that we value Giorgio Moroder and not Donna Summer in the same way? We don’t let women go to greatness. We’re okay with women being the new hot shit but not that kinda God tier.
What can people expect from your Down The Rabbit Hole set this weekend?
Anything could happen. I really don’t make plans. I like to allow for a certain measure of chaos.
The Black Madonna plays at this year’s Down the Rabbit Hole Festival The Fuzzy Lop stage on Saturday, 30 June.