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Isabela Garcia

Vinyl DJ, Wax Witch

Meet vinyl DJ and promoter Isabela Garcia, aka Wax Witch who is bringing community together through her turntables, and dancing the night away while doing it. Based in Seattle and DJ'ing there for almost a decade, she is a regional promoter, vinyl collector, event curator, and the founder of Babe Night, Seattle’s girl-powered dance party, as well as co-founder of Seattle’s Danse Macabre Night Moves 206. Isabela focuses on spotlighting marginalized artists and queer voices in my community and always weaves in fun and unexpected sounds into her sets!

For Isabela, DJing is both a hobby and work, "...can I say DJing? Meditation has actually brought a lot of balance to my life, and I try to remind myself to slow down and experience the moment versus planning dreams we want to make into a reality. DJing changed the way I consume music, and I am trying to get back to listening to albums all the way through and enjoying the journey".

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

I fell in love with tangible media and vintage picking in early high school. I really enjoyed showing people my film cameras and other oddities, so collecting records in order to share music with my friends in the most obscure way felt like a natural progression. I actually never really thought about being a DJ until my friend Morgan asked if I wanted to play at a bar she worked at when I was 23 or so. I can’t remember how it all went down, but it was something like, "Hey, you are artistic and charismatic, want to play some records?" At the time, I was so blown away that someone would ask me, and I am really grateful that Morgan saw something in me that I didn’t know was there yet.

After the first few times of DJing, I was hooked. I was not only low-key addicted to the high you get from the crowd’s reaction to the music you were sharing with them but also from the thrill of the hunt at the record store. There are only a few things that come close to that euphoric feeling you get after digging through hundreds of 12-inch singles, almost giving up after a long day, only to find your white whale song right before a gig.

I kept playing at the same small bar in Seattle (RIP Speckled and Drake), and then other people started asking me to play at their bars and parties. I always love a theme and curating a party experience that transcends the soundscape, and started putting a lot of thought and intention into the nights I was playing. I slowly started playing more frequently until covid hit, which gave me a lot of time to practice and think about what I wanted to put out into the world.

What is a day in the life like?

I am actually an environmental paralegal by day and DJ / promoter by night, so my life requires a lot of juggling. It always starts with coffee, often made by my partner because I chronically oversleep (thank you, babe), then checking my paper calendar to see if there is a gig that night or a deadline I have and planning my day accordingly.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, but it is an essential part of day-to-day DJ marketing and party promoting. It can feel super taxing to “feed the machine,” and I sometimes wish I could just snap my fingers and play to a room of 300 people without worrying about the flyer, photos, promotion, copy, etc., but that is not the reality.

Most of the day is spent answering emails, getting promotional materials out for different DJ nights we help run, and a lot of dreaming and scheming with my partner on what events we have coming up in the future. I also spend a lot of time digging for new music by listening to different mixes from DJs I admire, going down a wormhole of a producer’s catalog, and bopping around on SoundCloud for underground remixes.

I play a lot of different types of gigs ranging from underground raves to hotel rooftops, so I try to always carve some time out to organize my physical and digital crates. When prepping for a gig, I like to think of the journey I am taking everyone on and how we are going to get there.

In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you've worked on?

Up until recently, Washington State was one of the only places where alcohol could not be served in strip clubs, creating a toxic culture for sex workers who were subjected to unfair business practices and unsafe workplaces, often dominated by male power dynamics. Strippers are Workers (SAW) is an organization made up of dancers and sex workers who were essential in passing SB 6105, which went into effect in April of this year and allowed alcohol to be served in clubs with strippers while ensuring there are adequate safety and security measures in place.

In celebration of the bill passing, we had a giant Babe Night party in collaboration with SAW, where the dance organizers brought a pop-up pole and performed alongside the Babe DJs at Massive in Seattle. I think all said and done we had seven DJs, two tattoo artists, ten dancers, and some 600+ babes who came through for the most silly/sexy party we ever had! It felt really special to host an event where the strippers were able to be seen and celebrated for their art and to create a safe environment where everyone could enjoy the dancers.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

100% time management. It has been really hard to juggle having a full-time job on top of DJing, party promoting, and maintaining my relationships. I DJ'd about 160 gigs last year and am focusing more of my attention this year on sets and opportunities that give me more room to explore the femme euro dance, wave, and underground sounds that are exciting to me. It can be easy to get lost in the grind, and I felt this pressure to really put myself out there to “make a name” for myself. I also feel like everything women do is viewed under this intense microscope by society. We are judged on our appearance, how we hold ourselves, and the art we create under much higher scrutiny than our male counterparts. I am lucky to be seen and supported by my community and want to keep expanding the network as we spotlight more artists.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

...If you are confident and feeling your music, that energy will radiate onto the dance floor and reflect right back onto you.

For baby DJs who are trying to get out there, go out and support the DJs and performers you admire! The first step from jumping to bedroom DJ to playing for your community is finding where your community is. In my opinion, I’d book a DJ to open up one of my nights who I’ve seen out and about supporting others instead of someone I never met who sent me a mix.

A lot of people have asked me how I am able to express myself so freely while I am performing. DJing is one of the only times when I am not overthinking, it’s almost like a trance state where I am just purely expressing myself.  While there are a lot of things that allowed me to get over my stage fright, the major one was to stop giving a fuck about what other people think of me. I am a loud, proud, and kind of clumsy femme who has too much going on in life to worry about if I am “too much” on stage. August this year will mark six years of sobriety for me, which 100% made me a better DJ. I used to think I needed some liquid courage to perform, but I am telling all the shy girls out there, you don’t need it, babe! If you are confident and feeling your music, that energy will radiate onto the dance floor and reflect right back onto you.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

I started with vinyl and will die with vinyl; like literally, please bury me with my first pressing of Ptah, the El Daoud! (Or maybe Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana, I don’t know—it’s hard to choose which Coltrane). All joking aside though, there truly is nothing like curating and sharing a vinyl set. After eight years of exclusively playing vinyl, I expanded my skill set to learn digital in August of 2023, and while the digital world of DJing has given me so much room for exploration and expression, vinyl will always have my heart. The physical process of flipping through your records, that anticipation before the needle drops, rocking the record back and forth to get the mix just right… vinyl will always be sexier and more intimate than a digital set.

My partner and I have some 2,000+ records, and I think we are at the point of max capacity soon with space. At the start of covid, we had around 500, so we really took that time to explore what kind of sounds we wanted in our collection. I think we spent around 11k on wax last year (big thank you to my accountant for pointing out that deduction). Besides the dance music we collect, I have a particular fondness for vintage French funk and he has found some rare ambient Japanese releases; needless to say, it’s a pretty diverse collection!

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.

Early rave and underground Euro House are some of my favorite genres to play, and I love that the 90s are coming back in a big way. It’s great to see these classic club tracks finally getting reissued on wax! Am I low-key upset that you can get a copy of "Better Off Alone" on HHV for $16 after I spent probably way too much time on Discogs searching for the best copy that ran me $45 + shipping from the EU? Maybe a little bit, but I think reissues are the way of the future for helping vinyl be more accessible.

I think I used to be more cynical of a person in general at the time, but when I first started seeing vinyl popping up at Urban Outfitters and similar stores, I’d say, "Don’t buy records there! Don’t you kids know you have to support your local record store? Don’t you know this is not the real experience?" And while I still strongly feel it is always better to support your record store vs. buying from a major corporation, I think getting the younger generations exposed to more “vinyls” is better for everyone. At the end of the day does it really matter where someone bought something if they enjoy the lifestyle of vinyl and music appreciation outside the digital realm?

Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry? 

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the constant support, inspiration, and collaboration with my partner @repomqn. They pushed me to dream big as an artist and believed in me more than I even did when we first started pursuing our DJ dreams.

So many people in the Seattle scene believed in my abilities and gave me the agency to grow that I will be forever grateful for. Shout out to Kevin Kauer, Joey Nix, Josh Okrent of Punk Rock Flea Seattle, Jesse Ramirez of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), Maria of Easy Street Records, and Steve Severin of Life on Mars Seattle and bumbershoot.

Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you're listening to: 

Community in the DJ scene is so important, and one of my favorite parts of my job is seeing the connections made on the dance floor and how everyone takes care of each other. I am super proud of booking 30+ femme DJs, dancers, and photographers last year for Babe Night and am looking forward to expanding that number even more in 2024. Also! I am really into hard trance right now.

Find Isabela

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