Spotlight on local music: J-Rawks (Jenny Smith) 

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Pique: When did you first get to the Sea to Sky region, and what brought you here?
Jenny Smith: I first came to Whistler in 1998. I had just learned to snowboard and was an avid mountain biker. I came for a week from Toronto, and a month later I moved back here for good.

Pique: How were you introduced to the art of DJing?
J.S.: I lived in Victoria for a few years and my roommate bought some turntables. We lived in a huge loft downtown that was previously an acupuncture studio with great acoustics, and he was always away which left me to play those tables pretty much anytime. I became addicted. Also, I used to work at Tommy's on Friday nights with Robb Baanks and Mat the Alien, and they were both a positive influence on me, and my music.

Pique: How do you describe your sound?
J.S.: I always describe my sound as old school and underground hip-hop, with some disco and funk thrown in. I call it hip-hop with girl flare.

Pique: What equipment do you use (vinyl, digital, a combination)?
J.S.: I really love vinyl. I love the smell of vinyls; I love looking at the pictures, and touching the grooves. As a child, I was never allowed the pleasure of touching the records. It was frowned upon. Now I can do it whenever. I've started experimenting with digital DJing and it definitely has its perks, such as carrying your music collection on your laptop, but I love the grunt of carrying heavy vinyls for some reason.

Pique: Where do you find the inspiration for your music?
J.S.: One tourist, dancing on their chair, with their ski boots in tact at Merlin's après, is motivation enough for me. If you ask any of my close friends, they'll tell you that I basically cannot live without music. I love good songs that you can dance to. I wish more people danced more of the time.

Pique: It's a very male-dominated industry. Do you often come up against gender stereotypes or issues as a female DJ?
J.S.: I have experienced a few negative situations where I felt a little intimidated as a female DJ, but I just remind myself to try my best and go with the flow. I find most male DJs very supportive and I think they'd appreciate more female DJs in the mix. Many female DJ's are turning up each day, which is great to see.

Pique: There are lots of talented musicians and DJs in Whistler, but how does this musical community compare with others you've lived and worked in?
J.S.: Whistler is really great because it's such a small community and on any given night, there are different social opportunities. There is always a need for DJs and it's quite a tight community, so they all seem to know each other.

Pique: Where have you performed?
J.S.: I've performed at Moe Joe's, Buffalo Bill's, the Longhorn, and various house parties, even the Whistler skate park. I recently did the staff party at my work, which was fun. I haven't really jumped into the Whistler club DJ scene, because I can't quite seem to make it fit with a full-time job, but I'm working on it.

Pique: I understand you have a regular gig at Merlin's. How long have you been playing here?
J.S.: This is my fourth winter at Merlin's. Right now I am doing a Wednesday après ski, which is great for the afternoon/early evening beer and nacho crowd. I love it there because the staff is so great and appreciative of my efforts. It is a very laid back scene and when I go there once a week, it isn't even like work. It's so much fun and I always look forward to the next week. Merlin's is kind of known as a sports bar/pub and there's lots of rock/alternative music. I bring a different sound to the table.

Pique: When you aren't on stage, where can people find you hanging out?
J.S.: At home, the bakery in Alpine (especially in summer), Samurai Sushi (where you always bump into someone you know), Meadow Park Sports Centre, West Van hanging by the ocean, BeatStreet Records, or Whole Foods Market at Park Royal, which I affectionately call "Whole Paycheque Foods."

Pique: Hit shuffle on your iPod - what are the first three songs you come across?
J.S.: Fu Schnickens - Ring the Alarm
Gil Scott Heron - Lady Day
Ohmega Watts - That Sound

Pique: What's been the most memorable performance of your career?
J.S.: Last summer, my good friend Robbie Currie (Nobody Really), asked me to DJ with Maestro Fresh Wes. I listened to Maestro in my Toronto days, blasting it in the car, cruising for house parties. He was a great guy to work with and a complete gentleman.

Pique: What musician (alive or dead) would you like to jam with?
J.S.: It would be great to resurrect the late Thelonius Monk, my favourite jazz pianist. He was pretty unique and I'd love to pick his brain.

Pique: Do you have any upcoming performances or projects on the horizon?
J.S.: I'm working on making my own beats for fun. There are always local rhymers who can use new music to perform to.

Pique: Anything else you'd like to add?
J.S.: Thanks to everyone who likes to get down to the J-Rawks sound. It is greatly appreciated.


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