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Get to know Sally C, the DJ playing raw, bumping house from the '80s and '90s

Sally C's DJ sets are a lot like a 1988 Chicago block party

  • Words: Kristan J Caryl | Photos: Max J.Abauzit
  • 24 May 2019

“I love being a dancer,” beams Sally Caithness from a sunny Berlin. “I didn’t even have to be on drugs at all, I was just always properly at the front.”

Now 27, Sally C is remembering her student days at The Reading Rooms in Dundee. It was there that she honed in on her own specific, high-energy tastes after years of being obsessed with hand-me-down Andy C and Roni Size mix CDs from her older brother. Experiencing the raw and direct impact of US acts like Tyree Cooper and Fast Eddie first hand lead her to a new obsession: she began collecting house, hip house and ghetto records from that late 80s and early 90s period, and still does to this day.

Her first gig came on New Year’s Eve 2013 with then counterpart Rebecca B, as Sister Swedge. It was in the bar where she worked and she remembers turning up with “a list of the records we would play and a copy of Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton’s book How To DJ (Properly)”. After two more years DJing around Scotland and running her own Waffles parties after her degree ended, she moved to Berlin in 2015 for further inspiration.

Since the move she’s found herself playing “even harder”, and certainly knows how to pump out a high-velocity set of sleazy house that bounces and bumps along in thrilling fashion. “I love a good vocal that rolls with the tune and almost makes you laugh,” she explains, adding that lyrics about weed are a personal favourite. “The way they work with a heavy beat and will almost confuse people – I’m a sucker for that.”

Now full time in music after four years working service jobs in the bars of Berlin, Sally spends her days digging in local shops – specifically Bikini Waxx, a huge influence on her collection – and working on production. Having focused on DJing until now, perfecting her “vocal-heavy, chop and change” style, she feels comfortable enough to be making her own tunes on one of the same MPCs that defined early house’s roughness – and with a similar style to the 80s/90s tracks she DJs.

The plan is to self-release them under the Big Saldo’s Chunkers banner. It’s a nickname from friends that she thinks fits perfectly with these early playful experiments, but admits she is still at the “finding my feet stage”, and will eventually look to move into a sound that is more her own.

All this is a long way from the Marketing Degree that took her to Dundee from her native Ireland, but dodging the corporate world—despite, at the time, a quiet sense of guilt about not getting a proper job—is really paying off. This summer Sally has some big festivals lined up so is working on transitioning from playing vinyl to digital for festival season. It’s quite a challenge, she admits, but with the extra focus she says she gets from smoking weed, it’s one she’s well on the way to surmounting.

Sally C plays Baltic Weekender in Liverpool on May 31 and Lovebox on July 12

Read this next!

Sally C in The Lab LDN
The 30 best vocal house anthems ever
The 20 best piano house tracks ever

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