Story by Kimberly Manzanares
Turntablists in Chicago are not all that rare, but try finding a Latina turntablist in Chicago and you would have to look pretty hard. If ya’ll exist in abundance, I apologize profusely. Lia is my new hero for kicking ass and also for being a DJ—she even helps to teach the shorties!! I sat down with her for a couple minutes to ask about her skills and to learn some new vocab. Be sure to check out the links below for more info on some of the work she’s been doing.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. First of all, can you tell me about yourself?
My name is Ophelia. I go by the name of Lia. I’m originally from the Quad Cities but have been living in the Chicago-land area for the past 10 years.
How did you become a turntablist?
I always wanted to learn when I was younger, I just never had the resources at the time, up until the time I met Jam. He’s the one that pretty much taught me everything, along with my boyfriend. I learned a lot from him and a bunch of the turntablists from around here.
How long ago did you start?
I started early 2011 I believe, so a little over three and a half years.
Are you a part of any crew? Do DJs roll in crews?
No, not part of any crew but so far I’ve only worked with Richard Crooks and Jam One. Yes some do, some of my favorite battle crews are the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Beat Junkies, X-ecutioners, The Allies.
Can you talk to me a little more about your learning process and some of the techniques you use.
As far as learning process, it’s a lot of repetition, just trying to get the basics down, clean. A lot of practice.
Do you usually practice with people?
Yea, I usually practice with Richard Crooks and Jam One. We try to get bigger sessions together whenever we can with other tablist. It never really feels like practice, but I always pick up something new.
What was your biggest challenge in learning?
The biggest challenge was learning from someone who scratched regular style. I felt more comfortable scratching hamster style.
What is hamster technique?
Hamster is when you reverse the cross fader, so you cut the sound on the opposite side.
What’s your biggest challenge now that you’ve been playing for a few years?
I’m still learning a lot. The biggest challenge for me is getting my cuts clean. I always have to remind myself to slow down when I learn a new combo.
What are some of your favorite techniques to do?
Definitely flares are my favorite. I tend to use them a lot in combos.
What kind of experience do you have doing shows?
I’ve done a few shows with Jam and Rich—a few art galleries that Jam has thrown, and a couple of weddings and other gigs like that. Nothing too big.
Who are some of your inspirations and influences?
DJ Shortee, Tyra from Saigon, DStyles, QBert, Craze, A-Trak, Rocc Raida.
What’s your experience being one of the few females who DJ—do you know many others?
I know of a couple DJs, but there’s really not too many female turntablist around here that I know of. I’ve always been the only girl when I’ve sessioned with other DJs.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in that regard?
Not really. Everyone that I’ve met has been really encouraging and accepting of me actually being there and trying to learn and putting myself out there.
What’s your opinion of the scarcity of women DJs in Chicago?
There are plently of women who DJ here in Chicago, but I’m not aware of many female turntablist. I had few female students in our Turntablism 101 classes last year, so I hope the interest in grows.
I know you are helping to teach a turntablist class. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Jam One, Richard Crooks, and myself taught Turntablism 101 at a couple of schools last summer. We teach kids a little bit about the history, the equipment we use and the basics of scratching and beat juggling. I hope that the classes spark an interest in turntablism for the younger generation so we can keep this art form alive. If there’s anyone interested in learning more about the classes you can go to the website.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you again for taking the time to interview me. It seems the turntablist community is growing and I hope it continues to grow.