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DJ Mara Talks San Fran, Fuse Fridays, Yolanda Be Cool, Track Trading, Kubo, and More

Name: Mara Arrieta

AKA: DJ Mara of the E.P.C.S.(one half of the group), the other member being Disko Da.

Current club nights: Fuse Fridays all the way baby.

Genres spun: Electro house, riddim, UK funky, tropical, disco. 

How did you get started as a DJ? Once upon a time in a land not so far away I met some friends who took me to a party. I was instantly hooked and became friends with Mikal, Emile, and Z-Trip. My preferred genre at the time was electro breaks or techno bass. Those three guys really gave me the opportunity to become who I am today. They are my teachers, I guess you could say. I took a break for awhile to finish school. However, I came back stronger than ever.

What's your mantra when it coming to DJing: Track selection. If it doesn't work, find what they are feeling. Go hard or go home!

You tend to wear a lot of baseball caps when DJing. How come? It's cause I love San Fran. I lived there for a long time as a buyer for a big dance distribution label. I had a friend who had this cool cap on once long ago and I thought that it'd be cooler if it was an SF hat. And so, the hobby was born. I am a hobby kinda girl-all my friends know this about me. I come to conquer! My favorite is my purple SF limited edition hat, only 50 were made.

Preferred poison while DJing: Grey Goose orange and 7 up with a lime, please.

Who can dink who under the table amongst the Fuse Fridays crew? Oh, now that is a great question. I will have to say in order of most to least myself, tie between Shavon McKenna and Sol Martinez for number two, Substation, Disko Da, and Hussy Hussy.

How does Fuse Fridays stand out from the other DJ nights in downtown? It stands out because we continually book top talent from around the world, and anybody and everybody who comes to fuse feels welcome. It's a great mix of age, race, and gender. Everyone who comes to fuse is there to have a good time, and that's why they come back.

Feelings about the Phoenix scene? I think it is coming up. We are seeing more and more talent push through the threshold and come to light. I believe that everyone deserve a chance cause when I was young and coming up, someone gave me a chance. Every DJ that has ever given me a demo for fuse I have listened to, and I always give advice on why or why not we picked them to play. The more we all work together the stronger we all become because no one can do it by themselves.

What would you change? The drama! All of the "who's he, who's this, who's that;" my night this, my night that. Hey! Here's an idea: let's share because it's a big town and we need all the support (especially from one another) we can get.

Best experience as DJ? Hmmm, so many great experiences I don't think there is any solid one. I can tell ya my favorite crowd ever was an old school Unity crowd where I dropped "Let it Ride" by Aux 88 into another track. When the bass kicked in every single hand in the entire crowd -- all the way back to wall of the Icehouse -- went up. And at that moment I said to myself, "They get it, they feel exactly what I feel with this song!" At the time I had a rival DJ and I just looked over at him and smiled cause I know he knew it, too. I was able to convey my feelings through my mix and if I can make a crowd feel as excited about a track as I do, then we have made a connection and there is no better feeling in the world than that.

And the worst? DJing at a wedding that my partner Sol talked me and Disco Da into doing as a favor for him and a friend. I had $200 shoes on and they set us up next to the horse stalls. It was raining and muddy and my chair was a bale of hay. And I thought, "if they ask me for one more Kenny Chesney song..." At one point, the horse got upset and started kicking and stuff and I was all, "ok that's enough. I was meant to be in the city." The horse gave me the evil eye!

Why do you think there are only a handful of female DJs in Phoenix? I think there is only a handful due to the fact that there isn't a strong network for women in the industry as a whole. Oddly enough, two of my favorite female DJs are also Fuse residents, Alkemé and ekb*. I believe women are judged more on their looks than their talents. I also think that sometimes girls are intimidated by DJing. Maybe they see that most genres are chock full of dudes and are not comfortable jumping into it like I was. I've always done what i wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, regardless of the sex of my peers.

Is there a certain boys club mentality to the DJ booth? I think maybe overall, yes, there is when it comes to being a dj; but that can be said about so many things like sports, business, the sciences, etc. But, here in phoenix, I feel like we have a good amount of successful female dj's and more and more are popping up every year.

What are your feelings about the term "she-jay"? What term? No dump that what the f... really I don't need you to hire me cause I'm a girl. I am not that token girl DJ. I am here to do one thing and that is to rock this party; it's just a bonus I have tits -- but, I don't need to be on a soapbox screaming about it. I think that it is kind of unnecessary. I mean if the tables were turned would we be calling guys "he-jays"? I highly doubt it. I never have understood why we have to distinguish between the sexes. Who cares? It's about the music, the vibe, the interaction between artists and the crowd-not about what terminology we use.

What sites do you use for music? I get a lot of my music direct from artists and of course the main outlet, Beatport. Mad decent is a great blog they really have a diverse mix of stuff.

Artists you've been championing lately in your sets: Yolanda Be Cool remixes, Congorock, I'm really feeling hard house baton, J-WOW, Mark Knight, and Kubo

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Last song downloaded: Clubzound's "Pac Man" (Dirty Dutch Remix) and it was a trade. I love to trade tracks.  

What other projects are you working on? My CD release this week and our label should be starting later this year. Lots of production work.

Any future gigs you'd like to promote: My favorite DJ, hands down, Tittsworth is coming to fuse on July 9. This is a big deal for us; he's one of the most sought after producer/DJs in our scene.

When not DJing, where can you be found? Helping run my mother's pet sitting business, which is based in Phoenix, too. I like to support my co-workers and peers, so you may see me out at their gigs from time to time. I am a huge advocate of supporting local businesses, so you'll probably see me frequenting those kind of spots.

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