It’s been three years since L.A.-based house DJ Colette was last featured in L.A. Weekly. The Chicago native had been working around the clock for two decades in a bid to get ahead and was finally getting the attention that she deserves. One year later, in 2016, we named her one of the 20 “Best DJs in L.A. Right Now,” and she was fully deserving of that accolade, too.
She hasn’t let up, either, playing sets around the country pretty much every weekend and releasing an album, Retrospective, a year ago.
“It was 20 remixes of mine from the last 20 years,” Colette says. “Everything that was released in the early 2000s we remastered, because those songs were mastered for vinyl. At the time, that was the only way you could release anything. We had to remaster everything because it sounds very different to today’s production. And then there are a bunch of new remixes as well. So it was a really fun project — it was nice to be able to reflect, and rework some of the older tracks as well.”
A two-decade career in the world of electronic music is impressive, particularly when considering the ever-changing nature of that genre and the constantly improving technology. Naturally, Colette has evolved.
“There’s definite improvements in how we produce music,” she says. “So, you hear elements of technical improvements throughout the years. I think the storytelling has always been a certain type that I gravitate toward. It was interesting — in some of the earlier works, I’d write a lot about relationships, both the hardships and positive aspects of them. It was interesting listening to the earlier works and seeing how some ideas weren’t totally thought out but the essence of the song was still there. It was cool, because some of the songs I feel like you can still play today and they make sense, so that was nice, to reflect upon that.”
Colette, while primarily known for her DJing skills, also has built a reputation as a talented singer with a distinctive voice. In fact, she only started DJing so that she could sing more.
“There has been a pretty big change for me from when I first started to now,” she says. “I started singing house music when I was 16. All my friends in Chicago were DJs, because to this day everyone’s a DJ there. I was tired of waiting around to sing. You’d wait forever, and then it’s like, ‘OK, you can sing over this one track,’ and I was like, ‘This sucks.’ If I learned how to DJ, I could sing whenever I wanted, so that’s what I did. I would just do freeform in the beginning and I would use a lot of effects. I was like, echo for days. So I would do a lot of freeform, and from a lot of that is actually how I wrote some of the songs from my first album, Hypnotized.”
Colette has been living in Los Angeles for 18 years now, and has seen the music scenes change. But house music, she says, has never gone away. It may be deeper in the underground but it still has its loyal followers.
“I think L.A. has always been an amazing home for dance music in general because it has such a great amount of people that live here,” she says. “What’s nice about L.A. is that it can support so many different genres and subgenres. I feel like, whatever you’re into, you can find an event that caters to your specific sound that you love. It’s funny because I hear people say that house is coming back, and I always say, ‘It never left, what are you talking about? It’s been here and vibrant and healthy.’ One thing I love about L.A. is that people walk in the door and they start dancing. There’s no waiting around for hours. I always appreciate that about L.A. dancers.”
The DJ and singer does get back a few times each year to Chicago, a city that she says also has a great dance music scene. Slightly different, she says, because of the fact that the clubs are open until 5 a.m.
“People can relax and ease their way into the evening,” she says. “In L.A., you know you’re closing at 2, so that might be another reason people head straight to the dance floor. In Chicago, a lot of people don’t even show up until 1. In L.A., if you show up at 1, the party’s over in 40 minutes. There’s that mindset that the clock is ticking, which dictates how you approach the evening.”
After a few years with San Francisco-based Om Records, Colette decided to found her own label, Candy Talk. Quite simply, she didn’t want to have to fall into a label’s schedule when it came to releasing new music and touring.
“I just wanted to have more freedom,” she says. “I wanted to work with whomever I wanted to work with. It’s really a vehicle for my collaborations.”
This weekend, Colette performs at the Viper Room on a bill with DJ Dan and Lacey IQ for a night dubbed Coco & Friends. The Viper, of course, is better known as a rock & roll venue, and that fact is attractive to the DJ.
“The first time I went to the Viper Room was in 1999 for Marques Wyatt’s [Deep L.A.] night,” she says. “It’s so cozy — it’s a smaller room but the vibe is super-thick. Even though it is a rock venue, it really lends itself to house music. My husband’s an actor but he’s also in a rock band — TNB (Thomas Nicholas Band) — and he’d been doing shows there for a while. This is the fifth party I’m doing there, and I love it. I think it’s cool to be in a space that’s not normally for dance music. It’s refreshing.”
After that show, Colette will continue touring for the “Butterflies” record, which was released last year with Gettoblaster, and she’ll also be touring with like-minded soul DJ Heather. As is the norm for Colette, she won’t stop working.
Colette performs with DJ Dan and Lacey IQ at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, at the Viper Room.