Cassy is the quintessence of a modern day nomad. Her globetrotting career as a headlining DJ has made the world her office and residencies at places like DC-10, Ibiza has meant that home is always a temporary construct in the literal sense. When we dial her up she is back in Vienna. “We’re just here for the summer now, we don’t live anywhere really.” Her accent’s natural inflection towards the habits of the region hints at Cassy’s formative years in the city where she was raised by her Caribbean father and Austrian mother. She refrains from ever referring to the city as home during our conversation, only ever alluding to Vienna as a mere convenience. It was during her time in the city where she first invested in a career towards the arts, both through acting and music, and it was as a singer that she took her first steps into the world of electronic music, adding her vocal to the likes of Zombie Nation’s Unload. Her biography has been well documented throughout her remarkable career thus far, and while much focus has been spent on her production efforts, it is as a DJ that she’s truly engraved her name in the electronic music history books. “I’m not a professional singer. I see myself way more as a DJ than a singer.”
Everything Cassy, or Catherine Britton, seems to approach is never in half measures, and that includes her remarkable beginnings as a DJ. “I was hanging out with Miss Kittin, Electric Indigo and Acid Maria. I was impressed with what they were doing, but I didn’t really see myself doing it too. Electric Indigo convinced me to start DJing myself. I just tried it and I guess I just got addicted somehow.” There’s an obvious natural ability in Cassy as a selector, when you see her perform or hear a recorded mix. It’s something that might have flourished with her formal arts education, but more than anything Cassy suggests her success boils down to experience. “Experience is the type of thing that will always make you the better DJ. In the end there is no formula, or at least for me, there is no formula.” The tools she took from that impressive list of early tutors laid the foundation for Britton to make a sizeable mark in the DJ world with a sound that she finds best to describe as “warm and groovy; whatever that means.” It’s not something she can put in words exactly, but there’s something definitively Cassy in the music she selects and it proves itself time and again when she is in front of a crowd.
Much of her skill as a DJ stems form her ability to read a crowd and Cassy forms a symbiotic relationship with her audience, feeding off their energy as much as they feed off the music. “That’s my job. For me it’s a given, if people pay me to play in the club, and I should pay attention to the crowd. “ And her crowd can swell from the 250 strong she’s played for at Jæger, to the thousands she’s stood before on grand festival stages. “I don’t think the size of the crowd is what makes the difference. It’s the energy or your own state of mind. You can have a great time in front of five thousand people or five people.”
Yet, there’s no pre-determined mood or feel that Cassy strives for as a DJ. “You can’t really go for anything, the energy is something that really only happens in that moment in the room and that is something you have to play with or have to be able to deal with.” She accredits her refined selection skills to knowledge more than anything. “I am relaxed enough to know what music fits where. I love so much music that I don’t have to show something with the music I know. The more you know the more freedom it brings.” This freedom affords her the special convenience of playing new music from friends and trend is very rarely something that she placates too. She is constantly expanding her knowledge of music, emphasising the importance of new music, “but that could be anything” for Cassy. “I could be listening to something that was a trend three years ago, and I actually quite like now.”
The music makes its way in and out through Cassy’s record bag, with glances thrown at the labels, but when I ask the DJ for anything in particular that’s been lighting up her sets, a single title or artist escapes her. “I wouldn’t say one artist in particular; it’s a broad spectrum.“ This eclectic taste, her ability to read the crowd and cultivating a particular energy for specific dance floors are the key ingredients behind Cassy’s success as a DJ for this writer. Above all however, the root of all this success lies with the DJ’s emphasis “to connect with people” through music that “makes people get together.”
Cassy has to stop midway in her sentence, to tend to her son. He is part of the reason she is Vienna for the summer. With her family around the corner, it’s easier for Cassy to be called out to a new booking, making the city’s centrality a suitable port from which to depart. “Now, when I go to Ibiza for a night, I go in and out.” She mentions its always difficult leaving her son for work, especially during the week, but like any true professional in any industry, she is as pragmatic as ever when it comes to hers. “You work so hard to build up a career, and this is how you set up your life and structure. This is how I earn my money; this is my job, so obviously I also want to treat it with respect and love so I don’t get sick and tired of it. It’s about finding a balance. Loving what you are doing is also sometimes hard work.”
Through out all this; travelling, raising a child and playing for various crowds across this globe, Cassy has also managed to find some time to make music. She is currently prepping her debut LP, with a release date yet to be confirmed. Her vocals form the central part of the record, but she wont go as far as calling it anything quite as subjective as a Techno or House album. “It’s definitely an electronic album” but like the music she plays it’s diverse. She ventures for an obscure, “very organic” when asked to describe the process of making the album, but like everything throughout our conversation Cassy avoids venturing into any specific subjective explanations of her music. She leaves everything open for interpretation and there’s a universal approach to everything that is Catherine Britton. From her work as a DJ to her interpretation of what a home could be, Britton is unique in every sense, without ever being esoteric. I leave her about here to get back to her son. I can hear the youngster’s sobs in the background, and I feel like quite the ass having deprived him of his mom during the little time he gets with her.
*Cassy will be headlining NATT&DAG og JAEGER presenterer Frædag med Cassy (UK), g-Ha & Olanskii, Roland Lifjell, Ricky Late & Ollis, Celius. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Words: Mischa Mathys