Catherine Britton, perhaps better known in the music scene as Cassy, is relishing the fact she has had an extra few days in Tokyo to soak up the city and enjoy shifting down into “chill mode”. The English-born, Austrian-raised former theatre student and actress found her way into the world of electronic music lending her vocals to a track for Auto Repeat, ‘What Turned Itself’. A venture into DJing soon followed, and Cassy found herself producing tracks with the likes of Luciano and Mathew Jonson.
“I realised if I don’t want to do acting, then maybe I can so something with music, or with singing because that was always my interest anyway. So I tried to find my way into what I wanted to be, and that happened to be music and DJing,” she says, although she doesn’t believe the progression was particularly serendipitous. “[It probably wasn’t] a coincidence. I don’t believe anything in life is really a coincidence, but it was helping me lead to what I’m doing now.”
With residencies at some of the most revered nights and venues in the world – Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Ibiza’s DC10 and New York’s Output, to rattle off a few – Cassy has made a distinctive mark in the world of house and techno, blending elements of the old and the new with effortless panache. Then there’s the tour schedule that sees her playing to chin-strokers and trainspotters one night and festival crowds the next – although there is a definite answer for what is in store for Cassy in 2014.
“To make lots of music, to concentrate on making music, especially starting now,” she says, before explaining her next moves will take her everywhere between South America, Europe and the US for a trail of shows. The idea of bouncing between continents while trying to concentrate on music-making may be difficult to imagine for most, but travel is something Cassy has integrated into the creative process.
“Travel helps me keep my mind fresh and my attitude fresh. It’s such a privilege that if I’ve had two crap gigs in a row, I wouldn’t get down, because look at my life: I get to do what I love, and I get to see the world. I love being on planes and trains, actually. I like being in between places, it just calms me – I think I’m really lucky,” she laughs.
When it comes to making music, Cassy’s previous releases have come via prestigious labels such as Perlon and Cocoon – and then there was her wildly successful mix for the Fabric series last year. Cassy also happens to be the founder of her own eponymous label, instigated in 2006 as a vehicle to release – by Cassy’s own admission – music her way.
“I only did the label because I was doing tracks back then that I couldn’t give to anyone to release, because people thought they were too strange or weird. I would just release them myself, so I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself,” she laughs. Since the early days, however, her processes have evolved. “[Nowadays] I prepare with a sound engineer, or by myself or I go into the studio with other people, so it’s more of a – let’s say, more mature way of working, more elaborate way of working. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Cassy – it could turn into something else, I guess.”
It’s impossible to think of Cassy without the vinyl format springing to mind; she’s mastered the art form that is gradually becoming a rarity in the digital age. While she accepts the inevitable change and progression technology has brought to dance music, Cassy thinks spinning vinyl pushes her creatively.
“When I hear [DJs] play just vinyl, I just notice that they play far better – and the same goes for me, the sets are always more interesting. I don’t want to characterise it into something that sounds better or makes the people [playing it] better. It’s just when you DJ vinyl it challenges you more, it makes you look out. In the moment, you’re just far more sensitive to certain things that you’re not when you just play files.”
When it comes to the issue of the lack of females in electronic music, Cassy blames the gender imbalance on old-fashioned stigmas. “There’s just not more female DJs because a lot of women are scared of the technical [side],” she reckons. “Or still scared of machines, or of turning knobs. When you go to school, you just know that guys are good at maths, and the girls are good at painting or arts or something. Obviously our society has changed since the 1900s, but … it will still take a while for women to be brave. [But] there are still a lot of female DJs out there.”
The promoters could be doing more to help as well, says Cassy. “There’s a lot of promoters that book women, and then there’s a lot of promoters that are scared of women. A lot of men have ego problems, and issues with women still, when it comes to professional attitudes.” Not if Cassy can help it, though.