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On track

Techno lures Sidwell teacher to new career

(Published July 30, 2001)

By ANDREW BRODHEAD

Staff Writer



Juliette Siegfried, also known as local techno music DJ “Zelda,” shows off some of the decor by CyberQuest at her new Metatrack Studios near Logan Circle in Northwest Washington. Siegfried said her training and recording studios for DJs are one-of-a-kind on the East Coast and may be the only such business outside of similar studios located in Los Angeles.

The building is empty and dark, with only two plastic patio chairs sitting in what will be the lobby. A disco ball lies in bubble wrap in a cardboard box. There is a knock at the door as the technician arrives to install the DSL service.

It is hard enough to start a business, but when there is only one other such business in the country, the excitement and anticipation is heightened.

"Since it is such a new type of business, I don’t have any models to follow," said Juliette Siegfried, founder and owner of Metatrack studios located at 1404 Rhode Island Ave. NW. "There is one other place like this in California, so we will be learning a lot."

Metatrack, which held its grand opening July 28, is not a nightclub, but rather a studio for aspiring nightclub DJs to come and learn the trade from professional DJs. Seminars for people who have no previous experience as a DJ are among the course offerings as a way to introduce people to all different genres of techno music, including hip hop, trance, house and techno. Production classes are led by seasoned DJs who will teach producing, mixing and how to use state-of-the-art digital mixing equipment.

The faculty will be able to teach as many as five classes and 25 aspiring DJs at once. The studios are equipped with top-of-the-line equipment for mixing and producing and may also be rented for $10 an hour for recording.

"A lot of people believe that DJs teach themselves -- the legend of the self-taught DJ -- but when you work with someone who knows more than you, you learn what might have taken you months or even years to figure out on your own," said Siegfried, who is also known locally as techno DJ "Zelda."

Everyone on the staff has at least four years experience, she said. The studio has an agreement with a nightclub, The Edge at 56 L St. SE, for the club to take the talent from the studio and have them perform on a regular basis.

The staff is headed by Siegfried and includes Washington-based hip hop DJs Caz and Edan and Baltimore-based DJ Gil Yaker, who is currently one of the area’s few ambient-experimental DJs. Tony Hainsworth, known as hard house DJ "Tyke" from the United Kingdom, will teach courses in production. Hainsworth is internationally known for his hard, dark trance music and has played large D.C. venues such as Nation (Buzz/Sting), Tracks and the Edge.

Siegfried, 32, taught middle school students at Sidwell Friends School in Northwest Washington, but left her job after the end of the last school year to focus her energies on the studio.

Siegfried, who has been a DJ for four years after she became interested in techno music, also created an e-mail list at www.amtrakdjs.org, which has grown to become one of the largest online resources for techno music and includes over 300 DJs from around the world.

The site is for people who love to listen and talk about techno music as a way to teach themselves how to become a good DJ, she said. Siegfried said the site got its name because when a DJ does not turn two records at the same time, it sounds like a train wreck.

The online discussion list topics range from software and hardware to mixing to how to promote yourself as a DJ. DJs participating online come from the United States as well as Ireland, Croatia, England and various other European nations.

"The list was what inspired me to do this. I learned a lot on my own. That was the idea -- teach me, but teach others, too," Siegfried said.

She said she took the advice of the thousands of people who visit her site yearly and began to pursue the DJ profession on her own. She now has been spinning for three years under the name "Zelda" and has played at various clubs in the region, including the Buzz party at Nation in Southwest Washington.

Siegfried first performed about six months after she started spinning, which is pretty typical, she said.

"My first performance was so scary, because it is so different from your bedroom -- the lights, the sounds, the volume," she said.

"In the club, you have to be able to hear your music well and be able to hear the two sets of beats. Normally at home you can do the highs, the middles and the lows, but when you go to a club everything is just a big boom and you have to be able to distinguish between the two beats. It took a good two years before I wasn’t terrified at the gigs."

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator