Performing as Menica and Sundae Sue, running Ojoo (which is an event series, a label - briefly an artist agency even), being a mother of a sixteen year old, working full time for Waking Life, and having a fun (yet very secret) project in the pipeline: Menica’s agenda is filled to the brim - to say the very least. “I want to discover all there is to know about the scene.”
︎︎︎ Spotify Playlist
— How was that interest sparked?
Growing up, there was always music around. We have a very music-minded family. My dad plays the guitar and used to perform in a band. He is into bodybuilding and during the weekends he used to be the doorman of many nightclubs in and around Aalst. My aunt and uncle had a bar, featuring tons of 7 inch records. I still vividly remember my mom and aunt - two single ladies - getting ready for a night out, getting their makeup done, soundtracked by Robin S.’s Show Me Love in the background. Up until today, our family gatherings are one big party. And these old timers can really dance - boogie, that’s the real deal.
Long story short, music was (and still is) everywhere. Coming from Aalst, of course carnaval played a role in my formation as well. Not so much the musical aspect of it, but nevertheless, it’s an event that takes me back to my roots and I’m very proud about it.
My family has always had a strong connection to Brussels - one of my grandfathers was from Brussels, my mom worked there, … So naturally, I went out in Brussels as well - I basically spent my young adulthood in the Motion Room in Fuse. The first time I went to a party in Ghent, I was 27 years old.
“ It pays off to keep on pushing your story - even if the crowd doesn’t seem to bite at first. ”
— How did you take your first steps as an artist?
It happened by accident, I guess. It never occurred to me - whilst going out - that I could be the one behind the DJ booth. At the same time, I was always listening to, collecting and buying music - CD’s and mp3’s at first, vinyl later. I bought everything I liked. Beats? Sure. But there was always soul, funk, rockabilly, exotica, … as well.
My first gig was during the one year anniversary of second hand shop Think Twice, somewhere around 2012. Pieter, my boyfriend at the time, and I brought our turntables and records. People seemed to dig it a lot, so we continued to play as a DJ duo. “Dirty Twosome” was born, playing dance cafés like Kapitein Cravate.
I couldn't mix back then, but the music we were playing at the time didn't really require that. When Pieter and I broke up, I locked myself in the house for months and frantically learned how to mix. That was the birth of “Menica” - back in 2014. Funny thing is: I probably learned the most during the infamous Voetweg afterparties, courtesy of my good friend Tom Delabie. He handed me some minimal records that were a bit easier to mix. And I got better. Tuupe was probably the first event I played. It was also the first event I got involved in on an organizational level. I grew a lot, thanks to Tuupe.
I probably learned to properly mix during the infamous Voetweg afterparties.
— Nowadays, you have so many roles in the scene - how are they all linked?
That’s an excellent question. It’s all centered around my passion, no, obsession with music. Music is the best addiction in the world. Why? Because no one can die, claiming “now I’ve heard it all”. There’ll always be something more to discover. You can spend a lifetime chasing as much music as possible.
Apart from that, job-wise, I want to discover as many aspects as possible within the scene. I want to help people get their music out there by providing a platform. I want to know the ins and outs of a good production.
At one point, I left my full-time job in search of a job in this field. It wasn’t easy - I can tell you that much. For four years I was unemployed - I was never out of work though, I never kicked back. There was always something to do; for instance pushing Ojoo to what it is now. I wasn’t afraid.
If I want, I can always return to a regular job - easy peasy. I had been working for sixteen years in HR and I felt like I needed a break to really focus on my music and everything that revolves around it. I wanted to see if I could really make it work. My parents were very supportive as well.
I find it quite satisfying to hear a DJ “work” - when a beat is slightly off, or when something’s out of cue.
— Do your parents get what you’re doing in the scene? Are they proud of your achievements?
Certainly - although they both have their own way of expressing that feeling. My father probably won’t voice it directly to me. But I already overheard him calling my uncle, bragging about me over the phone. So he’s proud, in his own way.
My mom regularly visits Ojoo. You’ll mostly find her right in front of the DJ booth; kicking, screaming and dancing her ass off. She’s still (and probably always will be) a party animal.
— During an Ojoo event, you’re both an organizer and an artist. How does that work for you?
It’s super difficult, to be very honest. In general, I’m a bit reluctant to perform, even. During an event, I’m involved in finance and the organization in general. I would be fixing stuff left and right. The hours pass by, up until the moment where it’s time for my set. My mind is just not in it at that point.
That’s why, over time, I put myself on the lineup less and less. People started noticing that. Some people link Ojoo with me as an artist, so I have to put myself out there from time to time - to not disappoint them, sort of. But I’m not an ego trooper - I’ll gladly sit in the back office, counting money or fixing some other stuff.
I’m always stressed before playing. It’s silly maybe, but I’m kind of an anxious DJ.
The older I get, the worse it becomes. My mind is making up these doom scenarios. “Will people like it?” Also, when playing after a big name. “Will I be able to pick it up from there?”. “Is my technique good enough?” - that’s probably the biggest one.
At the same time, I think a DJ-set should be human - meaning it loses some of its prowess when everything is too slick, too polished. It’s always satisfying to hear a DJ “work” - when a beat is slightly off, or when something’s out of cue. But when it comes to me as an artist, I’m just extremely tough.
And I guess that’s why I find it difficult to promote myself. I would really benefit from someone who can do that on my behalf. So if you’re a booking agent, reading this interview and thinking this could work out, you can always contact me (laughs).
— Do you have a ritual or a preparation before playing?
My preparation starts at home. I shut down my phone and leave social media for a moment. I write down some tracks that could form a story. But most of all, I thoroughly sort my record bag. I have a - supposedly - very special way of organizing my bag. Some of my friends would make fun of that. All my records are labeled by BPM. They would be sorted in three sections: there's a start, a middle (with different possible directions) and a finale.
If the night doesn’t quite go as planned and the story I want to convey doesn't quite work, there are always more records, and a USB-stick - just in case. But sometimes it pays off to keep on pushing your story - even if the crowd doesn’t seem to bite at first.
Words by Hans Empereur