Two in the afternoon, two eloquent women and too much history for a two-minute interview. TPOTD’s Vanessa Fisher catches up with Alice Mensa aka DJ A.MEN. -sound girl to west-end superstars by day and DJ superstar herself by night-to talk of freeing creativity whilst trapped in quarantine.
Are you doing any DJing while you are at home?
I had a little turn up in my room the other day. It was lit! I had a drink and everything, it was like I was in a club. But it is difficult to find the motivation. With working, you know it’s something you have to do or else you’re not gonna get paid. I grew up with a lot of fear around doing things outside of the parameters that I was given. It wasn’t until I had come to terms with the fact that I could no longer hide [being] gay. This whole world of exploration opened up to me as soon as I told my parents. But I still battle with confidence and judgement of my own personal projects because of that inherent fear that was instilled in me.
A lot of creatives have been saying to us actors “you don’t have to write the plays guys,” and, obviously, we don’t have to write a masterpiece, but isn’t creating how we express ourselves as artists? How are you feeling about creating at this time?
This is gonna sound so corny, but creating makes me feel alive. Once I’ve got past the anxiety of accepting a gig and I’m actually doing my set, it’s like I become a completely different person. Creating and Djing literally brings me alive and affirms the fact that this is what I am meant to be doing.
You work in the sound department at Hamilton the musical and theatres have been closed for the foreseeable future, are you missing work?
I miss it so much. I was completely exhausted before the lockdown and had taken a week off to recoup, then the moment I get back to work – Quarantine!!! I had just got offered the deputy-head position and so I really want to get back.
Congratulations! I remember a friend in Motown the musical had arranged for me to watch the show from the sound desk. And so, there I was looking for this big, tall, white sound-man to show me the way and then here you come, your afro puff. I was like, “Yay a black sound-girl!!” There aren’t many black women holding these positions in theatre, how did you get into the sound industry?
By accident. From a young age my Dad noticed that I was creative and I loved music. I played clarinet classically and studied music technology at university. My aim was to work in a recording studio, but I was told you start from the bottom – like making tea bottom. I couldn’t be doing this degree to be making tea. Are you crazy? My family is African. So a friend got me some work-experience with the sound department at Hairspray the Musical. I didn’t even know about the world of theatre, let alone that it was an option for me, but by the end of that contract I was employed as part of the sound department.
What have you learnt about yourself after 4 weeks in quarantine?
I am detoxing from everybody’s energy that I do life with, detoxing from pollution and detoxing my body. This has allowed me to have really honest conversations with myself. To listen to myself.
The interview finishes with Vanessa inquiring about Alice’s first forays into yoga and the ongoing success of her skincare brand Cure. Considering Ash Wednesday was at the start of Lent, it might be time to put in an order and cream those ashy knees before you shake a leg to DJ A.MEN’s quarantine mix in the kitchen.
Quarantine Mix By @A.menMusic
Interview By: @VanessaFisherActress
Foreword and Conclusion By: @Kieran_Mcginn