No excuses for this DJ
JD Samson, a New York-based DJ, visual artist, and producer reflects on what respect means today.
Where does true respect come from? One of the best people to answer this is JD Samson who has spent much of her life questioning gender issues through music, art, and activism.
“Respect is listening first, and hearing not only that person, but everything that person holds: their history of oppression, marginalisation, trauma, and fear,” she says.
Samson, a New York-based gender queer political activist, visual artist, DJ, musician, and producer, is best known for her work with pioneering feminist electro-pop band Le Tigre and art/performance collective MEN, which addresses issues such as gender politics. She has also produced songs for Grammy award-winning artists such as Christina Aguilera.
She identified as a lesbian at age 15 and is known for her support of both LGBTQ and feminist causes. But Samson doesn’t consider herself to be a leader, rather an activist.
“I’ve been happy and surprised to be viewed as an activist simply for being myself,” says Samson. “I am an artist, and I create a lot of different kinds of work. I am most well-known for my music, and my moustache. I can’t claim to be a leader, especially in this moment, where there are so many more voices that should be amplified, and when things have changed so much politically and culturally.”
Samson, who grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio, moved to NYC at age 17 to attend Sarah Lawrence College in the early ’90s and has been part of the change in the LGBTQ scene since then.
“So much has happened, but really not enough,” says Samson. “There was no internet – and don’t come for me, because the internet has helped our community in a number of ways – but the truth is that it has completely reshaped all communities.” Samson says these communities can grow, separate, and rejoin quickly, which can also shut people out.
This creates a potential for shame instead of Pride. “We have a very necessary ‘call out culture,’ that helps us stay on our toes as responsible community members, but indeed, it creates fear and silence from some of our most important voices, and generates a ‘gang mentality’ of agreeing with the masses (or the loudest/angriest) because we don’t want to ‘get in trouble.’”
An assistant arts professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at Tisch NYU, Samson is also currently working on a new music project called CRICKETS with Roddy Bottum from Faith No More and Michael O’Neill from MEN.
“We are an intentionally minimal and conceptual band that challenges masculinity in music by barely playing anything and focusing on the simplicity of patterns, and not stepping on each other’s toes,” says Samson.
Text Katja Pantzar
Photos Kristiina Wilson