'Dooj' / Toni Yotzi, Roy Mills, Seb Marcu & Nick Saw
Image captured by Jarred Beeler.
Dooj is a collaborative event that aims to thread inclusivity and community into the shackles of Melbourne’s dance scene while maintaining the philosophy of dancing freely, openly and weirdly. Created by DJ Toni Yotzi, Local Knowledge’s Roy Mills, ex Lucid resident Seb Marcu and overpast’s Nick Saw, Dooj has taken an approach to marketing that relies on strengthening the bonds of human and face-to-face connection by eliminating facebook's marketing function from their promotion equation. Their first event on the 9th of August is bringing US turntablist Detroit in Effect to the depths of Sub Club while featuring the warmth of local legends Hymns, C.Frim and Ricci. In an underrated cafe drinking my favourite underrated milk (oat), I spoke to Jo (Toni Yotzi), Henry (Roy Mills) and Nick Saw about the event, uncovering some sweet surprises along the way.
So, before we get onto Dooj or Dooj or… say it how you say it!
Nick: It’s say it how you say it
Henry: It’s open for interpretation
Nick: When you make up a word, everyone has their ownership of it: I’m dooj [duj], there’s dooj [douge] and dooj [doooj].
Jo: It's a word taken from my friend Rania. At Golden Plains we started communicating in “dooj” and it really stuck on. I have her permission.
Nick: That’s not what we want from the party - for people to be communicating in strange, robotic tones. But if it happens, we’ll appreciate it.
Jo: It was an appropriate reaction to things: “Oh dooj” like “Oh sick”.
Nick: And how it’s formed - it’s got its onomatopoeic qualities. We use it as a verb. You can be doojing, something can dooj or also you can go for a dooj. Jo also runs a festival called Doogs in Perth so she obviously just loves d double o.
Before we get on (again), tell me a little about yourselves as individuals and a collective.
Nick: What’s great about Melbourne, especially in the Dance community, is that even if you’re not explicitly working with people you still brush ideas a lot - everyone is bouncing ideas and has a feeling of each other’s flavour before even getting to work with them. I worked properly with Jo at Lounge and through various parties have become friends with Henry; before working together we had a decent understanding of where we were all at.
Henry: I think it’s very easy to understand each other’s music tastes because it’s accessible; you can listen to a mix or whatever people are sharing which is how I knew how everyone was like personality wise.
Nick: Seb who’s not here so I’ll speak for him - I’m not sure if he’d ever approve of that but we’ll run with it - he and I did some touring and event stuff as Overpast and we had a vision to expand. We always wanted to create a community with good people to work with involved since that translates to the people you want to come to the party, which is how we came across these guys.
Jo: I was putting on parties in Perth for a long time and moved to Melbourne a few years ago. I have still been working on Doogs over in Perth the last couple of years and have always been keen to put on parties again but for whatever reason the timing didn’t feel right for me. So I’m excited that this has come about because it feels like the right time with the right people so I’m glad I didn’t try to make something fit that didn’t.
Nick: I think that relates to what we all agree is the ethos of the party. We haven’t set out for this party to be “every four weeks” or “this venue” - everything needs to fall in place. The line-up needs to work with the venue and the timing and we all appreciate that we have other projects outside of this so we don’t want them to overlap too much but we also want to put in enough energy into this to make it as good as we can without forcing it.
Henry: I came from Local Knowledge which has always been about bringing up-and-coming emerging people through and creating a vibe which was something that was and always will be important to me. Nick and Seb approached me and they had very similar ideas which struck a chord with me.
Nick: Head hunted the head.
You’ve all mentioned a community focus, how else would you consider the concept behind Dooj?
Nick: It’s not finished yet. While we’ve got a pretty good idea of what we want to do, we also don’t want to put a ceiling - we want it to constantly develop. The main crux is what everyone initially sets out to do; to have a party that is very high quality in all areas: the music, the art, the people, the production - it’s about how everything hits the senses. It’s not just about someone getting behind the decks and playing songs to a full room but it’s also about how everything feels. We’re really trying to foster a community from when you speak to the door host to when you’re getting a drink at the bar, a very holistic kind of feel. We’re keen to develop it based on what works. The music is the driving factor but we don’t want to pinhole ourselves to certain genres.
Jo: Fun and late night, a loose dance party. Attention to detail on all fronts. To my own detriment I find running parties stressful because I find it difficult to switch off - there are the little things that make parties work like changing the lights when it needs to be done, changing the sound for different sets.
Nick: I think we would all agree in our personal ventures that we always find ourselves quite under the pump on the night and in the lead up - spinning a few plates trying to get everything sorted. While we’re levelling up a bit here, everyone is feeling more comfortable about having a team on board where everyone has done that solo slot before so we can get together and share the burden.
Henry: And be comfortable with the tasks that are given. Everyone can run on themselves but with four of us it’s multiplied.
Jo: The theme with Camp Doogs is that we never release the line-up, which is the same idea as Camp Alohum in New Zealand. While that was stressful at first, since you’re thinking about how you’re supposed to sell tickets, it ended up being the best decision ever. It means that you could book people that had no profile and no name and people would come because they’d know that the vibe would be right, that it’d be a good party. That created such great artistic and creative freedom and that’s the same mentality and ideas that we’ve used in our choice of not having a facebook event. We’re trying to address that element of community.
Nick: It’s a trust thing as well. We want people to come for the line-up but we don’t want that to be the sole deciding factor. I want it to get to the point where people are coming because they trust the vibe and because they saw an artist they hadn’t seen before. I went to Camp Doogs this year and that was a great aspect. Sitting there and listening to Gordon Koang play South Sudanese folk music with rave kids that were really appreciative and in-tune. We earmarked the fact that while that approach works really well for that festival, it’s not feasible in the club sphere.
Henry: I think also, on the topic of community, staying away from facebook is interesting and a fun risk to take because now we can approach people in a more engaging and human way. We have spent a lot of time brainstorming and troubleshooting the different ways we can engage with people on a human level about this because it’s so important. Selling a ticket face to face to someone means so much more than someone clicking a facebook event.
With the choice to steer away from facebook’s marketing function, what effect have you seen it have on Melbourne’s dance culture?
Nick: You definitely focus so much on the numbers and think that that is how things will go, but there are so many other variables in place. I’ve had events that I thought would break down the neighbours fence because they’d be so busy yet no one has turned up and I’ve had the opposite. If you get pinholed on that and giving Mark Zuckerberg more money to make you feel better about how your event is going then you are losing sight of the actual things that make a good event. If you talk about it as a platform then apart from social reach the only thing you’re missing out on is a platform that encourages bullying and scalping. If people can only connect with your controlled message and what you believe in then it puts the earnest back on the party itself.
Henry: I think it’s kinda freeing taking those metrics away. I felt quite calm after this event launched because we weren’t fretting on what usually happens on the first night which is trying to get all those clicks and the momentum - there was none of that.
What other promotion and marketing avenues have you chosen to go down instead?
Nick: We’re doing some guerilla stuff where we’re gonna go back to the old school.
Margarita: Like pigeons..
Henry: We have purchased 15 pigeons and we’re gonna raid all the venues.
Nick: Detroit in Effect will actually be pulling them out of hats throughout his set. But yeah, we do have a few things in place - divulge in some I won't’. As a whole it’s been good to look back and think “what can I do beyond this?”, “What have people done in the past?”. “Where do our homies go?”. It puts it on us to actually go out, talk and personally connect with people. That’s the best because we can elevator pitch them and get feedback as well. We’ve had a really nice response to it, generally because the Melbourne scene is a really nice, supportive place but also because a lot of people are a little jaded with the way in which Facebook has taken control of the marketing of events. I’d love to see other people go down the same trail if this goes well.
Jo: We’re also testing what works and what doesn’t. Like if people buy a t-shirt we’d want to actually meet up with them to give it to them. For this party we are working with Ella Blou from London who is such an amazing artist with beautiful aesthetics and visions. She has designed t-shirts for us; we’re just trying to work with different people in different ways.
Nick: On that - we understand the limitations that we have without facebook but it means we can put extra focus on the party in terms of other areas of art. We want people to be involved with the brand more than just people playing and posting mixes to get hyped. The irony of us posting on our own personal facebooks, though, is not lost to us. We are all very well aware that once we post about it, it’s feeding back into the machine.
Jo: Some friends of mine tried to put a party on where everything was completely outside of social media and they found it very difficult. This is a sort of in-between. I was worried that it would come off as a bit exclusive and insular but I have a public artist and instagram page where I talk to people all the time so hopefully that keeps it open.
Let’s talk about your first party. Detroit in Effect, Hymns, Ricci and C.Frim. What can we expect?
Nick: Hymns is doing a long open which works for him and us. Musically, we see it working very well. Detroit in Effect is very fun - he loves scratching and turntablism which is something you don’t see very often in Melbourne. We all back C.Frim so much, she’s on a crazy trajectory. Last time she played at Sub Club she chucked on a Balaclava before her set to a full room and just annihilated the place. I had so many people message me that night saying “Who the fuck is this?!”. Partly probably because she had a Balaclava on but also because she’s so good. It was too enticing not to get her to come back.
Jo: Detroit in Effect hasn’t been to Australia before.
Nick: As an artist he experienced a bit of a renaissance when Clone did a re-issue of their records. He cut his teeth being a Detroit house party turntablist DJ and now he’s going around the world blowing people away. He’s coming to Australia straight after finishing his Dekmantel set. We’re pretty excited to host him for his first time here - I think he’ll make it feel like a house party when he’s on.
Jo: It’s meant to be a house party but with a good system.
Henry: A house party with some nice lighting.
Nick: A house party with good neighbours.
Henry: And also Ricci closing…
Nick: He’s really fun. The nice thing when putting the line-up together was that everyone who we asked was very excited. Hymns and Ricci are both not playing heaps at the moment and they like putting themselves into projects that they really want to be a part of. So it was really nice hearing feedback from them that they were keen. I guess you have to come down to feel the rest of the vibe; we have some surprises in store for the art and visual aspects. Once we get there, we are all pretty damn excited for it.
Is Dooj going to have a particular music style or more so be the organic contribution of the DJs playing?
Jo: A mix
Henry: We’ll definitely keep it diverse.
Nick: Dance music.
Henry: We’ve got Detroit in Effect and party electro but we definitely didn't want 4 party electro DJs for the whole night.
Nick: Something Jo raised when we were coming up with the line-up is that we don’t want this to be considered a bass night or a this or that night. The idea of the party is that it’s everyone and everything: if people don’t know when they leave then I think we’ve done our jobs properly.
Going back to the secret line-up dream, what obstacles exist and would have to be overcome for that to become a reality?
Nick: We have to get to a point where we’re pretty comfortable with people coming for the vibe. I touched on earlier when talking about inclusivity and exclusivity, the conundrum between wanting to promote and push the talent but wondering if that is limiting or empowering to them. That’s one to ponder on, at the end of the day we pack out a club and they’re playing to everyone then that’s cool, but if people don’t know who they are…
Jo: The way that Doogs started working was by giving ticket holders a week out of the event the line-up so you could connect more. I found that when people came to the festival and were really blown away by something they did not expect they had a much greater connection to them afterwards. Lots of artists who barely play here are getting flown to Perth to play parties there which is pretty cool.
Nick: Pre-conceptions and expectations are like a virus on the dance floor. Sometimes you have a level that is unbeatable. The time you have is also based on so many things, not just the music. It’s about how you’re feeling, what the space is like, whatever and you may go out one night and have the perfect night so then you try to find that same level the next time you see that DJ which is not good for you or them. So I think it’d be nice to create an atmosphere where people come in not knowing what to expect but for the minute I think that’s going to just have to sit with the art and the sound.
And how are you going to foster this community?
Henry: Community engagement and personally getting people hyped.
Nick: Having similar people involved. Friends of ours will be handling the door hosting and I asked whether they’d be comfortable with us promoting them, personally. They’re a face in an important cognitive venue that often get overlooked. The term “door bitch” is the grossest thing ever and at the end of the day these are people giving up their weekends to make sure that everyone is safe, organised and having a really great time. We don’t want the light to be on us or the DJs we want it to be about everyone involved.
Jo: I think that’s something that especially working at Lounge taught me. I didn’t realise how much I used Lounge as a base - I came in to get a coffee and talk to the bar staff, I’d be in the city and pop in to talk to the security, the door staff. It had such a community for me because of all of those reasons which I didn’t realise were so important for me until it closed.
Nick: There were some teary dance floor times.
Jo: I cried! At 7am!
Nick: Then there’s a lot of drunken videos of us on the balcony, singing along to songs. They will make you cry in a whole other way.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Nick: While it’s a serious approach, the end goal is to get silly and have a very fun time.
Jo: We’re aware that this isn't some crazy, outlandish concept. It was more a decision to set a tone that was slightly different from the formulaic nature of dance music events at the moment in terms of the process of launching an event for promoters.
Interview by Margarita Bassova