As one of the biggest names in the game, Sydney Blu (Joanne Judith-Mary Hill) has done it all.
With experience in a number of differing electronic music genres throughout her years, she sits comfortably on the deeper side of things – spinning her techno-inspired tunes throughout the world.
Kicking off her career in Toronto nearly two decades ago, Sydney Blu has dominated not only the Great White North, but has made her mark in Miami.
Currently, she resides in Los Angeles to flip the script on the U.S. underground scene.
With releases via Mau5trap Recordings, Spinnin’ Records, Blackhole Recordings, and her very own Blu Music Records, Sydney Blu proves she likes it on top – of the Beatport charts that is – providing a seemingly endless array of dance floor grooves.
thatDROP: We know that your DJ name, Sydney Blu, came as a joke, Sydney being your mother’s middle name and Blu being the name of your first pet, a bird. Many people even refer to it as ‘your porn star name or your soap opera name’, but if you had to change your DJ name, what would it be?
Sydney Blu: It would be something that starts with the letter ‘A’ and it would be one word because then I would get billed on top at all of the festivals.
Now, all the festivals are in alphabetical order. Someone, I’m not sure which media outlet, did a piece on festival billing and now, because the fighting got so out of control with the agents and the artists, and reveals how it’s unanimous now that, when all else fails, go alphabetical order.
I actually know of a couple people who are starting their own groups and they’re calling themselves something that starts with an ‘A’ so they can get billed on top.
thatDROP: Do you feel that being a female in an industry dominated by males has helped or hindered the progress of your career?
Sydney Blu: Honestly, it’s both. I don’t ever look at the fact that I’m a female because why think about something like that? The way I look at myself as an artist is as somebody who’s really inspired by music.
I definitely have seen myself in a lucky, elite group because there are not that many girls doing what I do.
At the same time, there are some downfalls to it because some guys don’t like a girl in the spotlight.
They sometimes have a hard time working with a girl who is getting booked more than them. Honestly though, I don’t ever think about it.
I just go work with people who inspire me and who I get along with. That’s the most important thing – if I vibe with somebody when we work together.
thatDROP: What are your thoughts on the current electronic music industry and where do you think it’s headed?
Sydney Blu: EDM is now kind of considered the commercial side of it, and it was definitely a downfall for me. I was pushed into a situation where I was even playing it [mainstream EDM] for a couple years of my 15-year career. I was in Miami and the club I was playing at was really pushing me to play mainstream. Nightclubs were kicking DJs off the turntables if they didn’t play that music. It was people who were buying bottles, who had a lot of money, and who didn’t have any authenticity, who would show up to the club and be like, “I want to hear a Swedish House Mafia song.” That kind of ruined it for underground music for a while.
Next thing you know, I woke up one day and I was playing this music, because I had kind of been forced into it, and I said, “No more.” I realized what I was doing and that I kind of sold out, I guess you could say.
I decided to go back to what I’ve always done, which is underground.
I don’t think I’m the only DJ who did that though. There are several, but all of a sudden people woke up and were like “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
thatDROP: In past years, you’ve taken your label, Blu Music Records, down an underground path. What’s the inspiration behind keeping the sound so tight?
Sydney Blu: The artists that I’m working, the artists I’m playing, and the sounds that I’m liking, I’m signing that kind of music.
The label has completely evolved with me. Everything that my label has done has been a reflection of me.
We’re in a really good place right now. I’ve been working hard to get a real proper sound to it.
It’s got a tech house sound to it that’s legit and we’ve got some amazing releases coming up.
thatDROP: Every two weeks you compile BLUcast, your personalized podcast. Tell me what inspires the track selection of these productions.
Sydney Blu: The bottom line is that I really get inspired by other artists, and that’s why I got into DJing in the first place, but I’ve always wanted to do a radio show and I wanted guests that I’ve worked with and that I like.
When I started the Blu Cast and Blu Radio, I was playing the big-room stuff and it was towards the end of my commercial side. Slowly but surely, over the course of 2013, it basically turned into a full-blown underground radio show. Everybody that I book on there are people whose music I’m playing.
thatDROP: You spent many years as a resident of Canada and now you’re living in the states, first in Miami and now in L.A. What are some differences that you find in the scene between these two areas?
Sydney Blu: I think Toronto is the most legit when it comes to underground music. I’m really proud to be from there. I still go back and have a have a home there, and it’s where I came from. I definitely still am a part of Toronto, but I live more permanently in LA. It’s getting there.
I think the benefit of LA is that the music industry is there. A lot of agents and top heads, and even the DJs who play in Ibiza come to LA for the winter. It’s not the same when it comes to underground music though. They have an okay scene, but it’s not incredible.
thatDROP: You’ve worked closely with some big names and oftentimes talk about your work with Deadmau5. In what ways have you found his influences to be beneficial to your career?
Sydney Blu: I was with him when he was developing his brand. I developed my brand right after I left mau5trap and that is a direct correlation of my influences from him. I was completely influenced by his work ethic and I was also influenced by his way of being a self-sufficient artist. That was very inspiring to me. I also learned a lot, music production-wise, from him. The thing I learned the most about was how to develop a brand.
thatDROP: With your assistance from deadmau5, do you think it’s an industry dominated by the who-knows-who?
Sydney Blu: Sort of, yeah. It’s unfortunate. The thing about that is that if you are really talented, and a lot of people will disagree with this, a lot of people can find a way to get their music into the hands of a legitimate producer and get discovered that way.
Those people end up becoming friends and then they end up being in that crew and it looks all buddy-buddy, but a lot of people get discovered by just sending out their tracks.
You have to work at it. You have to create the music. You have to network.
thatDROP: As a strong influence in the techno world, what kind of importance do you think underground events like Movement and your own “Girls Gone Techno” play in today’s musical realm?
Sydney Blu: I think it’s really important right now, especially because the underground has come back so hard. Festivals like Movement are really, really good for the scene. It’s great that these festivals are still alive and kicking even though they’ve been going on for a lot of years and never stopped.