Jo Redd found her calling by accident. She fell into DJing in the nineties and has since had a long career indulging her passion for music, DJing and programming music for venues, and just generally showing people a good time. We chat to her about what makes a good DJ, why she prefers the BBC to Facebook, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mick Jagger and she shares her Love Playlist.
Every second person seems to moonlight as a DJ these days but when you first started it would have been a bit more unusual. How did you get into it?
I first started DJing in the early nineties at the Soho Bar in Potts Point. I’d always collected music and I was programming some music for them and I played jazz on a Sunday occasionally with live bands and they loved what I did. The manager said, ‘I want you to DJ, I want you to bring your records here and start playing them’. And I said, ‘I can’t DJ for a big crowd’ He said, ‘Yes, you can, just pretend you’re making a mixed tape.’ So I nervously came in that night and started to play what I loved and they loved it. And it went from there.
I started at hemmesphere in early 2002. The lovely Bettina Hemmes recognised me from the Soho Bar at a dinner party and invited me to play at a new bar that her family recently opened called hemmesphere. All these years later, I have the great pleasure of still playing for the Hemmes family in a number of their venues on a regular basis. I have to thank Justin [Hemmes] for creating so many beautiful venues and being so supportive of my music and my style of DJing.
What do you think makes Pool Club a unique venue to DJ at?
The atmosphere. It’s such a beautiful venue. The blue skies, fresh air, lovely staff – you feel like you’re on a holiday. One old man came up to me and said, ‘I feel like I’m on a cruise ship.’ I thought that was really cute.
Compared to when you first started out and were finding your feet, have you developed a performance style?
No. I think my performance style is: to have a good time. That’s it. And I do have a good time. Especially working with Merivale staff.
Do you think that’s infectious? Do you think that contributes to the vibe of the room?
Yes. I had a group of women come up to me just a few months ago and they said how nice it is to have a DJ smile and say, ‘Hi’.
And not be too cool?
I’m too old to be cool. I’m past cool now. But if I see people coming I want to wave and say, ‘Hi!’.
What do you love about DJing?
I’m not OCD in any other way except for music. If I hear a piece of music I have to have it, I love it. It gives me the ability to keep buying more music. It pays for me to purchase something that I love.
You mentioned someone jokingly said when they were trying to book you that you should be called DJ Undercover. Do you deliberately keep a bit of a low profile? Or is it just that you’re not on social media platforms?
I probably do. It’s not my generation. So when I wake in the morning, believe it or not, I’m on the BBC homepage. I like to see what’s going on in the world. I’d rather spend my time caught up in finding more music.
Lots of people call themselves DJs very freely, particularly as music is so accessible digitally now. Do you think anyone can be a DJ?
I think anyone can but it’s a matter of taste, feeling a room and being dedicated to your job as well. But it is a phenomenon now – DJing – far more than when I started. It has risen to huge proportions, it’s quite something. When I say to people I’m a DJ, they just look at me shocked because they’re expecting a kid in a hoodie with a gansta attitude or something.
What qualities do you think makes a great DJ?
An ear for production, a feeling for what’s going on in the room, looking at your crowd and reading your crowd. Sometimes you’ll play a song and you’ll go, Oh, that works. Ok, that’s the vibe I’ll go for.
What do you think makes a terrible DJ?
Somebody who’s just in their own little world. And who’s ignoring the vibe of the crowd and trying maybe to impress a few people or their friends without trying to give it to everyone.
How do you respond to people making requests?
It depends on what the request is. If it’s something that pertains to what I’m doing that’s fine, that’s great, I don’t have a problem with that but when you ask me for something that’s totally different I’ll politely say I’m sorry I didn’t bring it with me.
Do you find that people of different ages respond to you more so than perhaps they might a younger DJ?
I find it amazing. Particularly from young people, I get a great response. I think it’s quite inspiring to see someone of my age doing it. And they can see that there’s a future in that career if they’re starting out themselves: ‘Oh wow, I can do this in my 50s and 60s.’
What are your three favourite tracks?
I can’t answer that, as I have hundreds. It varies every day because it’s all about a feeling. But I couldn’t live without Curtis Mayfield, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, James Brown and Al Green – they were my first inspiration. Too many to mention. And Marvin Gaye’s Got to give it up has always been in my party repertoire.
Is there a song you never want to hear again?
A song I could live without is Money by Abba.
What have been some career highlights?
My most memorable times DJing have been playing for and sometimes meeting guests such as Mick Jagger, Jamie Foxx, Keanu Reeves, Owen Wilson, Andre 3000, Beastie Boys, Cyprus Hill, Maceo from De la Soul and many other artists and musicians from the Good Vibes festivals. And finishing a set and going to see Prince play at a private party at ivy.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened during a set?
One of my favourite memories was at hemmesphere and Jamie Foxx walked in and shouted, ‘Turn it up girl’. It was a fabulous night. I was playing House Party by Fred Wesley at the time. He returned a few weeks later and the Cristal flowed.
Catch DJ Jo Redd’s regular sets:
Tuesday and Wednesday, Palmer & Co., 5pm to 7pm
Thursday, Pool Club, 12pm to 5pm, hemmesphere, 5.15pm to 7pm
Friday, Pool Club, 12-2pm
DJ Jo Redd’s Love Playlist
Come Rain or Come Shine – Ray Charles
Simply Beautiful – Al Green
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons – Sam Cooke
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life – Stevie Wonder
When Somebody Loves You Back – Teddy Pendergrass
For the Love of You – The Isley Brothers
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) – Marvin Gaye
My Baby Just Cares For Me – Nina Simone
But Beautiful – Billie Holliday
Harvest Moon – Neil Young