DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
My name is Ayesha, also known as Ayes Cold and I’m a DC-based DJ. In June 2015 I founded Ayes Cold Productions, and recently began producing events and creating my own music.
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
AC: To me it means doing what I love (DJing) everyday – as a profession and a livelihood.
I started DJing two years ago as a hobby here in DC. (DCF: Which I had no idea when I first heard her DJ, I was obsessed before the first down dog!). In June of 2015 I decided to leave my day-job and pursue it full-time. It wasn’t an easy transition as I used to work in international development, and leaving that world involved several sacrifices, both personal and financial. I’ve also had to completely change my lifestyle (like cut my rent by half). (DCF – we may need to find out more about how that was done…)
Yet every time I do a gig I’m reminded why I took the plunge, and I feel blessed that I had the mental clarity and determination to do it.
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
AC: I’ve been fortunate to have many amazing folks rooting for me – whether it meant booking me for my first gigs, coming to my shows, or just sending positive energy. For example, I’ve received a lot of support from amazing people in the creative community, including: DJs Underdog and Native Sun, the guys at Art Under Pressure, the folks at DC Music Download, Busboys and Poets, Kelly Towles and Virginia Arrisueno, Morgan West, and Rose Jaffe. My mom has also always been my day one fan <3 (DCF: If she made you than I’m sure she’s pretty amazing but I’m still have a creativegasm at all the names you just drop #GoodPeopleDC)
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
AC: I’ve moved around a lot growing up – I grew up between India and the United States and I attended over 5 different schools, including boarding school in India. (DCF: I went to boarding school too, and no that does not mean we were trouble…). Travel has really instilled in me the value of having hobbies – things that I loved pursuing, and could occupy myself with, relying on nobody else. Music was definitely one of those passions.
I’m also pretty comfortable taking risks and leaving my comfort zone – something that growing up in constantly changing circumstances equipped me for.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
AC: Listening to other DJs always inspires me to continue practicing, and expand my horizons musically. For example, I’m a fan of diversity as far as selections go, so whenever I hear another DJ, I’m always inspired to keep digging and discovering new music (DCF: there is so much music in the world, a bottomless rabbit hole to fall into and explore, I love discovering new sounds).
However, after I began spinning professionally I find myself inspired by so many more forms of art… I recently stopped in Amsterdam for 3 days on my way to India, and spent several hours at the Van Gogh museum. I didn’t expect it, but I was super inspired by Van Gogh’s personal journey as an artist, and in awe of how much hard work he put into improving his technique over time. For instance, Van Gogh’s early paintings that depict peasant life drastically differ from his later work – you wouldn’t think of his earlier stuff as typifying his legacy. I was really fascinated by how he changed his painting style over time to incorporate more color and movement.
Yeah, so I definitely find myself inspired by a wider range of creative work, because unifying all art is a human story: a process, a journey, or a struggle. It’s also wonderful to know I live in a city with so many museums. I can’t wait for the National Museum of African American History and Culture to open – the building is insanely beautiful, and designed one of my favorite architects David Adjaye. (DCF: You and me both girl!! I remember my mom working on the project when I was a child, so happy to see it finally coming to fruition.)
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
AC: To be completely honest, since I started spinning professionally the lines between work and play have totally blurred. I put in more hours per day (and night) doing what I love, than I used to while working in elections. So naturally, I find myself seeking more balance on a daily basis. I am definitely meditating more than I used to, and I make sure I run in Rock Creek Park at least 3 times a week, weather allowing. This year I’m also hoping to get back into cooking.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AC: I left a relatively stable job with a decent salary, so I downsized my living expenses by half. I left my comfortable apartment in Bloomingdale for a creative group house in Brightwood, and now I live on a pretty tight budget. (DCF: ahhhh that’s how you did it!)
Personally, I feel like I’ve had to sacrifice my free time. I’m never not working, and this can be pretty isolating, socially.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AC: There are many struggles women face in male dominated industries. As a woman DJ, my biggest battle has been one of perception. I’ve had to deal with a lot of skepticism among club owners, promoters, and other DJs – many who think that women DJs like me get booked because of our gender, sex appeal, or image. Fortunately I’ve been able to prove many of them wrong, but that’s only happened after a lot of time, hard work, and consistency.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AC: “Know yourself” I can’t remember anyone really saying this to me, but growing up I always saw it as a running cliché as far as advice goes. I never really gave it too much thought.
Looking back, my greatest mistakes in life have stemmed from not really knowing what I want in life, or what makes me happy. I’ve been able to get closer to the answer recently, and right now I definitely feel the most self-aware I’ve ever been. (DCF: Yes we have to make our own happy sometimes!!) Yet that’s taken a lot of discomfort, isolation, and reflection.”
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AC: Choosing a career path that my heart wasn’t into. A career path I left, after two-years of hard work in a pretty structured office environment. During these two years, I learnt that a lot about the work environments that I thrive in (and don’t). Most importantly though, I learnt that in order to do anything well, and pour myself into it, I have to really love it.
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
I’ve been fortunate to spin at the 930 Club, Howard Theatre, and at Trillectro this year (DCF: grew up with the dudes that started it Trillectro, awesome event!!)… However, opening for one of my favorite producer/DJs ever – Tokimonsta– at U Street Music Hall takes the cake. Not only did she headline, but the show also featured Two Fresh and Anderson Paak. DC rapper Goldlink made a surprise appearance too.
DCF: So where’s somewhere we know we’ll find you??
AC: Well, right now a highlight is definitely (DCF: insert drumroll here because I’m OBSESSED) Daybreaker – an insanely spectacular early (DCF: but totally worth it) morning dance party. My friend Tim and I produce them here in DC, and our next one is on February 17th at Rock & Roll Hotel. Their resident DJ from NYC is flying down and it’s going to be a v-day themed blast. Wear red! Get your tix here.
Definitely follow me to stay up to date with events and new music <3
DCF: Thanks for a great interview Ayesha, I’m off to listen to all this music you just put me on!!