Issue No 17

London is Burning

BY Stephen Whelan

By day, 1985 contributor Georgie MacEchern heads up an eclectic and compelling collection of London's most creative talent in her role as Head of Sales for ahead-of-the-curve production company Caviar. By night you're likely to catch her spinning a unique blend of tunes under the guise of her alter ego, DJ Miss G. With residencies at many of London's leading hang outs including Shoreditch House and a raft of international sets under her very trim belt, it's safe to say she's not one to turn down the chance to set moods soaring and pulses pounding.

A professional powerhouse and close friend of mine, I had the pleasure of interviewing her, and (forgive the pun), turning the tables a bit on the sartorial guru who hustles by day and spins by night.

Stephen Whelan: You always seem to have an eye on the horizon even when you're owning the moment. What inspires and interests you, visually and musically? 

Georgie MacEchern: To be honest I feel very lucky to have grown up when I did, just with what we have access to now by means of travelling on planes to pretty much any place around the globe. More so though in terms of what we have access to online both visually and musically – it’s a feast that never ends and is constantly feeding my music addiction. 

Soundcloud I couldn't live without, and all the other platforms that give me access to everything that is breaking and allows me to keep my fingers on the pulse. People love my sets as I totally mix it up with cool covers and remixes they haven't heard before, and Soundcloud feeds a lot of my inspiration and introduces me to the latest work of some incredible producers and remixers. It’s time consuming though and it’s something I have to keep on top of daily otherwise as the saying goes "You snooze you lose". 

Technology and the world of digital is moving so fast that if you are not part of it and constantly on top of it you will be left behind pretty fast – part of the reason I’m launching my new DJ website which is under construction as we speak but should be going live very soon. I have managed to do pretty well so far just through word of mouth in my DJ career but now it’s time to up my game, 2015 / 2016 I am on a mission to really push my DJing and take it to another level and also get into the world of production and start making my own remixes. So, exciting times ahead!

SW: Tell us a bit about your background - were you creatively driven growing up? Did you grow up in an unusually creative household compared to your friends do you think? Did you study a creative subject at university?

GM: I spent my childhood in London and then my parents moved us out to the countryside for our teenage years to keep us out of trouble.  If I look back I’ve always been creative at heart despite languages being my thing. Music has always been a massive part of my life.  I got into piano (age 6), guitar and drums as a kid (and yeah, I was in the school choir too but don’t ask me to sing these days!) so without realising it, it has always been in my blood. My mum is very arty; botanical painting is her thing and one of my sisters is a super talented artist despite having not pursued it career wise. 

SW: How long have you been DJing and do you remember the moment you made the pivotal step from mixing for your mates to bringing an entire crowd together at a full on club night? Was there one set in particular that changed things? What’s the best tune you’ve dropped to evoke a reaction from the crowd?

GM: I got into DJin when I was at uni in Bristol. I have always had a major love for music growing up – think I inherited that off my father.  

I worked in the local Po Na Na by night while studying, which was a lot of fun and it was there I played my first live set.  Back then I played off vinyl and I vividly remember my first gig with my mixing being a bit all over the place but as with anything the more you play the better you get and more confident you become.  It just grew organically from there.

I then setup a night with a mate and it rocked. I was DJing in this little stable DJ booth and just came into my own and I remember everyone going mental and that feeling as a DJ watching the crowd totally go mad is by far the best feeling in the world.  It was there my love for DJing and entertaining people kicked in and knew this was what I wanted to do.

I was lucky a lot of my friends worked in the nightclub industry so on leaving Bristol and moving up to London, my DJ career took off - playing vinyl and DJin in most of the big West End clubs and for the coolest parties and events such as Scarlett Johansson's 80s themed birthday party.  Back then I think I knew one other female DJ on the circuit, whereas these days there are a lot of female DJs, which I love and am a big supporter of.

Fifteen years on and I still get nervous but excited before every gig. To me the day that anxiety, enthusiasm & passion disappears, is the day you should question whether you should carry on with that career.

SW: You've worked, rested and played in some of the most fun cities in the world, from New York to Cape Town. What is it about getting into different places and meeting new people that connects with your personality? Do you have a favourite international destination?

GM: Yeah am lucky I get to travel a lot with both the day job and the DJing. Foreign countries and cultures are my thing. I’m totally happy living out of a suitcase and disappearing off on my own to a new place – I think that’s my independent side. The DJing, although super fun, can be pretty lonely as you’re constantly off to meet and work with new clients and working alone.  So that combined with a day job where it’s all about teamwork is the perfect work balance for me.

Cape Town will always hold a special place in my heart, as it’s like a second home. For one my sister, her husband and my now beautiful nephew are based there, so any excuse to get over there! But also the pace of the life, energy and outdoor lifestyle is me all over and now having spent a lot of time there I have a lot of very good friends there. Another place I have a big recent love for is LA, having visited it for the first time last October to DJ for a friend's wedding and meet the Caviar LA team & directors. Wow what an awesome city! It has the vibrancy and big city life of London but with 4 or 5 different cities contained within, catering to everyone’s needs.

Amsterdam is another city that holds a big place in my heart. I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time there for work and now have some very close mates there. It’s got that village feel compared to London and is such a bubbling creative hub I love it. London is home for now but eventually I see myself moving to sunnier climates with an outdoor lifestyle you just don’t get in London.

SW: What was your route into the advertising industry? Was it a destination career for you or was it more a field of work that you just found organically connected with your own talents and interests?

GM: I got into the ad industry totally organically in my early thirties following a decade of DJing and being up all night and juggling that with odd day jobs. It was actually a great girlfriend of mine who got me my first job at Cut & Run editing company as she thought I would make a great rep. My current role as Head of Sales is all about client relationships which, when I think about it, is not too dissimilar to my role as a DJ - where it’s also about working with clients to make sure the right atmosphere is created & you provide them with a memorable event musically.

SW: As Head of Sales at Caviar you get to collaborate with some of the most exciting young creative talent in London. Who are some emerging directors we should follow?

GM: Even in the short time I have been at Caviar, there are a couple of guys who have really shown how a director can blow up in a short space of time if they make a couple of key pieces of work. 

Karim Huu Do is a prime example of that. When I joined this time last year he was still a young director, having shot a couple of commercials, fashion films and some music videos.  Then he collaborated with the London urban collective Last Night in Paris and shot "Pure" which was a short film / promo that literally put him on the map and garnered a lot of press and well deserved awards. Off the back of that Drake approach him to shoot a stunning short which came out earlier this year; and he shot his first big global campaign for Adidas Originals "Superstar" through our LA office, featuring Rita Ora, David Beckham, Pharrell & Damian Liliard.  So it really does show the importance of music videos still in our field, despite the majority of the time there being a tiny or no budget with everyone having to pull in favours and come on board as they believe in the director and the project. 

Another really exciting up and coming talent is the super awesome French director duo Dent De Cuir. They have gained a lot of attention with their music video for Dye "She's Bad" and we have just shot our first promo for Darwin Deez “Kill Your Attitude” which launched last week.  Now they are clever guys.

I love my job I get to represent some incredible talent across the board from super up and coming guys as above to some of the biggest names in the game like Keith Schofield & feature directors such as Ruben Fleischer.  Plus working with an incredible inspiring team of people across the Caviar network. 

SW: Any fun DJ gigs coming up?

GM: Summer is my busiest time of year. Not only do I have the best residency at Shoreditch House which I love as I have the freedom to play what I like to a great creative crowd; but, I have just started a monthly summer residency at an incredible Hacienda outside Seville in Spain, which if you get the chance to visit you should its a little hidden gem -

This week is Cannes Lions, which is a big advertising festival in the South of France, which is where I get to mix two of my favourite things. I  Not only do I get to catch up with industry friends from all over the world, make new friends and network;  where unforgettable happy memories are made, but I also get to DJ at some of the best parties. This includes putting on my own party with a friend in this cool little club called Play where I get to DJ my more underground sounds to the best crowd.  Some of my fondest memories are from Cannes where no one year is ever the same.

I can’t complain, my work life balance juggling these two careers is pretty incredible and feeds my passion daily. I am a lucky girl to be able to do what I love best and it’s thanks to everyone around me who helps me achieve that.