DJ Sveta hits the decks
I have always been ridiculously obsessed with music. I started collecting records when I was 10 years old, and seriously collecting them when I was 13. I started a David Bowie record collection at 13, and by 15 I was the youngest employee of Red Eye Records.
I worked at KFC, and anywhere else I could get a job to pay for it all. I literally spent every cent collecting music.
I didn’t think seriously about making music my career until I started studying a Communications degree at Uni and did a radio show on 2SER.
I now feel ridiculously lucky to be able to have access to something that is so wonderful. It’s almost surreal, especially because I came to this country as a refugee. We came to Australia in 1980 from Odessa in the ex-USSR, and had to get a mattress from St Vincent de Paul to sleep on.
I ended up in New York recently because an old mate of mine, Sammy Jo, who has been DJ-ing in New York for about the same time as I have been DJ-ing in Australia, became the tour DJ for the Scissor Sisters. He had organised a gig for me at a night called Mr Black, so when I was in New York for a holiday I did a spot there.
It ended up being a very successful spot. People talked about it and I did another spot there in that same trip. By the second time I played, people were closing down their nightclubs to come and check me out.
Until recently, no one has had much of an interest in promoting Australians to overseas markets. We are quick to take on any international DJ who comes here but, even if you are the most successful DJ in Australia, it’s very hard to get a gig overseas.
The nightclub asked me if I would fill in for Sammy Jo while he was on tour with the Scissor Sisters, so they offered me six months.
I decided not to do it because I have commitments, but I did do three weeks there in October. At the end of that time they offered to fly me back for Gay Pride as a special guest. That was just crazy. I had a half-page photo in the gay male magazine that has almost no women in it, and I was supposed to do three gigs, but ended up doing 11. And I have now been asked to go back again.
I was lucky because I have played at London Pride; I also played in Toronto in 1998 and I was flown to Japan in 2001 to do a World AIDS Day gig. But I think New York worked for me because I really get the music – I have been collecting it for 15 years.
The most regular gig I have is the Sly Fox, which is now called Queer Central. When it was hosted by Sexy Galexy, we called it Kinky Kingdom, though we didn’t want to continue without her under that name. Instead we have taken the essence of what we had, and opened up the performance beyond drag queens and drag kings. That is on every Wednesday night at the Sly Fox.
I have also been involved in Gurlesque for eight years, and I do that with Sex Intents and Glita Supernova. DJ Gemma and I rotate month to month. Gurlesque has been phenomenal – I think it is the only strip burlesque night in the world for women only.
I do Bitch once a month, and also do Renee Schembri’s hip-hop night, Bada Bing, once a month, which has proved very popular.
I have been able to survive as a DJ because the music I play at 9pm is completely different from what I do at midnight. And what I do at a straight venue is completely different from what I do in a fetish venue. I love being able to play a range of music, and that might mean playing Kylie somewhere, because if you play Kylie at the right time and the right place and the right mix, she has got some great tunes too. The excitement you get back from the crowd is what you live for and, to be honest, is what you get addicted to.
As told to CARA DAVIS