As Women in Vinyl continues to grow we’re lucky to have the opportunity to meet so many amazing women all over the world sharing their work behind the turntables and yet we’ve barely scratched the surface; which we’re reminded of when we meet this week’s guest feature. We’re thrilled to introduce Los Angeles-based vinyl DJ and musician for 17 years, Edwina Aguayo aka DJ Edie. Edwina is in her second year spinning on the roster for Coachella Music Festival’s Art Studios Tent DJs, and is also entering her second year as a resident all-vinyl DJ for Superfrico inside The Cosmopolitan on the Las Vegas strip. Over the course of her career she’s held down DJ residencies with The Echo, Footsie’s, Soho House, No Vacancy, The Standard Hotel, and more. Edwina just started a new monthly residency with Bigfoot West in Culver City and guest spots throughout the city along with private events. When she isn’t moving a room behind the decks, she’s moving it with her music as a guitarist and songwriter.
When not working Edwina loves reading, dancing, watching movies, and hanging out in art galleries. “…going to shows. I also love to travel, whether I take a short spontaneous local trip or a thoughtfully planned trip overseas, I try to see as much as possible. Doing nothing and enjoying stillness are absolutely crucial for me as well. I have a cat and plants I love very much, so relaxing at home with them and a gripping book brings me immense joy.”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Creativity has always been a defining part of my identity, so I knew early on I would make a living in the arts. As an expressive, rebellious high schooler living on O’ahu in Hawai’i, I found myself going to all the local punk shows I could. I got my first electric guitar when I was sixteen and jammed with my friends, covering songs by The Ramones, Bikini Kill, and The Strokes. Pink Cadillac in Honolulu is a venue that will stay with me forever. I saw Bratmobile, The Locust, Hot Hot Heat, and more perform there as a teenager. I became a follower of local bands like Das Muchachos, The 86 List, Black Square, and The Sticklers. Never tiring of their shows. The punk scene in Hawai’i totally consumed me. This is the period in my life where I knew music and I were completely inseparable.
My friends and I would exchange CD compilations regularly. I had friends who collected rare punk vinyl and my mom had some Lionel Richie-type, adult-contemporary records at home. I hadn’t consciously become a record collector yet, my music collection was mostly CDs which grew considerably once I started college in southern California. I continued to go to show after show until I was introduced to the club scene by a friend I met on MySpace, a Los Angeles native, so she knew what was up. (Thank you, Melody) Just like in Hawai’i, I started to go out religiously, following DJs instead of bands. I would dance from start to finish and eventually caught the attention of a DJ I admired, Dia Becker. She and I chatted before the doors opened one night and from that point forward she added me to her guestlist. This was about 19 years ago on the steps of Club Bang! and I remember it like it was yesterday. She was and still is a bad ass, and I knew that’s where I needed to be.
Everything changed for me when I met a successful club promoter, Scarlett Casanova. I met her when I was 20 years old, I’m 37 now and we are like family. I was a club kid and we bonded over our love for different genres of music, indie specifically. She trusted my taste and gave me a chance to DJ a new night she picked up in Hollywood. I learned how to DJ on my first night on the job. After that night I was officially hired to be her resident DJ for her main, massive monthly party called Hang The DJs at The Echo, an iconic Los Angeles live music venue. I also helped her scout for bands and guest DJs. I loved being part of the booking process. I started DJing with CDs and eventually moved to adding all-vinyl sets to my repertoire. I had a modest collection when I began, but that didn’t stop me from pulling what I had for my first vinyl gig. A friend invited people to bring their music to DJ for her birthday one year, open table style, so I pulled what I could from my tiny collection and never looked back, even though my hand was trembling from nervousness as I laid down that needle. This collection included Missing Persons “Spring Session M,” Otis Redding “The History of Otis Redding,” Stevie Wonder “Original Musiquarium I,” The Rolling Stones, Devendra Banhart, Donna Summer, B-52s, and only a few others. Promoters and DJs would check out my sets and book me for their nights, leading to amazing collaborations and friendships, and that’s how it all began.
I had friends who only used Serato or the like, so they would let me play around or share their computer at gigs until I caught up and used my own equipment. I’m forever grateful for their generosity, because it’s expensive to get your start in this business. I was a full-time student during this time, earning my B.A. in Literature at C.S.U.L.A. and I also worked as a waitress part-time. I don’t think I slept much.
What is a day in the life like?
I like to get my day started early with a cup of tea and a smoke. I first go through my notes to see what needs to be taken care of that week (records to purchase, gear to replace, emails to send) then I go through my calendar to see what events are approaching. Lately, I’ve been designing my own promo materials/fliers for events, however, I do like to hire a graphic designer when I can. I connect with DJs in my community to check their availability when I need guest DJs or someone to work an event I’m unavailable for. Depending on the volume of my work, I might have to spend time sending pitches to new venues to lock in a new residency. I’ll set aside time to research places I would love to spin.
I put in time and effort to support others’ work alongside mine, so there’s lots of activity on social media platforms. I’m not the best at it, it’s a work in progress for sure. Scheduling photo shoots have become crucial to my business. Professional photos are regularly requested for work, so the investment is well worth it. Monthly, thematic Spotify playlists are also part of my routine. If I have a gig that day, I set aside time to pull fresh records based on the energy of the day and do a practice session. I make sure my bookkeeping is current, so that come tax season I won’t be flustered figuring out what was spent and why. I stay sane during quieter periods by watching music documentaries, practicing guitar, buying records just for myself, and checking out other DJ events to show support and gain inspiration. I just got some Jeff Buckley, Mazzy Star, and The Cranberries on vinyl for personal listening during slower periods.
And of course, listening to music all day every day, whether it’s my favorite songs on repeat or a new playlist introducing me to incredible music. I recently became active on MixCloud, so I love posting when I can and reposting for folks with amazing mixes.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Wow, so hard to narrow this down! My time with Hang The DJs and joining the Superfrico DJ roster in Las Vegas definitely stands out. I remember being in my 20s, picking up Andy Rourke of The Smiths from his hotel in Hollywood or Los Feliz to do a HTDJs gig with him, driving Scarlett’s car, a silver Scion. I have a very shy/reserved side to me, so she did most of the talking while I drove. I spent much of my early 20s crooning their songs on dance floors and highways on long drives, so it was a very cool moment for me. I don’t listen to them much these days, but that memory will stick with me forever. I enjoy working quietly behind the scenes as much as I do performing. That leads to my Superfrico residency which has taught me so much about the performance side of DJing, for which I have Nina Tarr to thank. In Las Vegas, I spin all vinyl sets alongside amazing circus performers, incredible jugglers, and contortionists. Occasionally the DJs will be part of the surprise performances. Super cool and a dream come true to have a Las Vegas residency.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
I was raised by a military family, so I wasn’t encouraged to take creative risks or to take art seriously as a living. I was expected to find a branch to join, preferably the Air Force, when I graduated high school. Everyone in my household joined the military, I was the only one who didn’t. Maintaining confidence in my path and professional choices has been and still is the most difficult part.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
My advice is: don’t be afraid to let your passions consume you. When we live a life of passion we are incredibly magnetic and inspiring, which is what the world needs more of.
When you DJ music that makes you feel alive and electric, your audience will feel that. It’s as though we are breathing new life into the music that we share with the world when we lay those needles down. Confidence is everything. I’m talking about confidence in your music choices because every second literally counts, no time for hesitation when you’re a live DJ. Which is terrifying, but if you have a calling you better pick up!! That’s the universe.
Everything else will become manageable and even the challenges will be fulfilling because you are doing what you love. So be honest with yourself and the people you work with. I love teaching people the craft and sharing tips. I also know of organizations that offer lessons and have open table events for beginners, like MetroSessions based in East Hollywood. We all have to start somewhere, so don’t be discouraged if you only have 10 records to start with or struggle with the tech side, take your time. Music is the air we breathe, there will always be someone who needs it. Go for your dreams!
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes, I am. The intimacy of listening to records got me hooked. Also, hearing the age, and the wear and tear of a record have always drawn me in. I like to be disconnected sometimes when I listen to music, transported. Sometimes I don’t want my data tracked or every song I listen to pop up for everyone to see on a screen. I love to listen to songs over and over again, just absorbing every instrument. Sometimes I won’t notice an instrument until the 4th time I listen, subtle sounds hidden beneath the layers. So yeah, I like records because they offer a quality of sound that some digital recordings can’t and I like to be alone sometimes when I listen to music, and vinyl is perfect for that.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I love witnessing the growing appreciation for slow listening and vinyl collecting. I’ve seen events throughout the city where complete albums will be enjoyed in listening rooms with records for sale. In Sheep’s Clothing, in particular.
Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?
So many people! I feel so fortunate to be part of an amazing DJ community in Los Angeles. We share our spotlights and opportunities with ease. As mentioned before, Scarlett Casanova and Nina Tarr are two gifted women who have influenced me and helped me at different times in my career. Through them, my social network grew as well as my business skills. Celeste Peterson is a strong force and taught me how any level of support can go a long way for creatives. Before I became a full-time DJ, I worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and my colleagues were very supportive, pushing me to lean more into my artistic side, so it was a smooth and emotional transition into freelancing as a DJ/musician.
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
I love being part of the women in vinyl movement! I have connected with so many talented women across the country and beyond, like Jayda Abello, DJ Waves and Caroline Cardenas, and look forward to seeing what the future holds!