BY: ULISES VARGAS
The elements that make up bass music can be very jarring to the ear. Heavy drops, fast-paced beats, and aggressive undertones are prominent in the genres of dubstep, trap and hard bass. The hostile elements are easily portrayed by the DJs that produce the records. Artists like Skrillex, Svdden Death, Borgore, and Gammer are prominent names in the EDM bass community and they all have one thing in common— they’re men.
The percentage of female representation in the electronic music scene is small, and that number is downright minuscule in the bass community. The dainty, graceful and poised stereotypes women can often be defined by can easily be juxtaposed against the very grungy and barbaric aspects of bass music, narrowing its womanly presence.
In recent years, the genre has exploded in popularity, and girls in particular have adapted to the neck-breaking dance moves the genre is known for. The style of music has opened the door for the not-so-polished females who take a liking to the edgier, more restless kind of music.
Enter Kenzi Sway. The Dallas native has thrown her hat into the bass ring, showcasing her talented production skills and killer looks. A former cheerleader and nursing student, Sway never fit in with the rest of the crowd and eventually switched gears to pursue music.
Not afraid to strut her stuff, Sway is known for her high-energy performances and head-banging beats. Apart from performing, Sway produces her own radio show titled “Beauty and the Bass”. The show airs weekly on Wednesdays at 7PM PST/10PM EST on Jack’d Up Radio and Thursdays at 4PM PST/7PM EDT on Dash Radio’s ElectroCity channel.
Sway opened up to BPMFIT about her high school years as an outcast, the male-dominated industry, and how all of the negativity fuels her success.
Q: You have a BSN degree, how did you go from years of studying nursing to changing career paths all together?
KENZI SWAY: I graduated nursing school and while I was studying for my board exams, I needed something to keep my mind off the exam so I bought my first controller. The controller became an obsession for me and I learned how to DJ that way.
I decided last minute that nursing wasn’t for me, I needed to be happy doing something and the one thing that was making me happy was music. So I just decided not to go that route. I’ll always have nursing but music is where I belong.
Q: Your Instagram bio reads “Fitting in is overrated”. Explain that.
KENZI SWAY: So I’ve never fit in. I was a cheerleader in high school and college but because I have tattoos and I’m very edgy looking, I never fit into that category. Girls in high school were mean to me so I was always known as an outcast and no one ever accepted me. That taught me that you don’t have to fit in to be happy.
Q: You have impeccable fashion sense. Where does that come from?
KENZI SWAY: Basically not knowing what to wear and wearing everything at once.
Q: The industry is very male-dominated, do you get intimidated at all?
KENZI SWAY: No, absolutely not. I wanna ride with the big boys. They don’t intimidate me.
Q: Did your gender ever get questioned when you opened up about following the DJ career path?
KENZI SWAY: Nobody has the balls to question a female trying to do something.
Q: There’s an article in the Chicago Tribune that states only 9% of EDM is produced by females. How do you get that number to grow?
KENZI SWAY: I feel like that is a very true statement. A lot of females get ghost producers, it just is what it is. I think that being a female DJ is growing but being a female producer is not because it’s so much more work for anything other than based off your looks. You can’t fake producing based off your looks, you know what I mean? You have to have talent, and a lot of females don’t run with it. You have to stick with it. I think that’s how you get your numbers to grow— stick with it.
Q: Is it your responsibility to answer these female-focused questions? Or will you take the Alison Wonderland route and shy away from the gender questions, because it’s not about the gender?
KENZI SWAY: I understand Alison Wonderland, I get where she comes from, but I don’t shy away from those questions because people wanna know.
I feel like someone has to be the role model for any up and coming female producers that want to make it and that need someone to look up to. If these questions aren’t answered, who are they going to go to answer them? They can look up to me. I’m gonna answer these questions for those girls.
I was 22 before I even decided I wanted to do music and I was looking up stuff and looking for somebody who I could relate with that has done it. Someone’s gotta stand up.
Q: You approach your performances with very high energy. Where does all that spunk come from?
KENZI SWAY: I am fueled by the energy of the entire production. Everything together creates this positive effect on my energy. It’s hard to go into a room full of people blaring music and not be excited. Plus I get excited to show people what I created— you get to talk to people to through your music. Right after those shows the adrenaline goes away, so I don’t live my life completely high strung all the time.
Q: There are plenty of EDM genres and sub-genres out there, what attracted you to the more bass-heavy side of the spectrum?
KENZI SWAY: I started off listening to Metallica at a very young age, my dad used to blare that stuff and we would jam out to it. Plus I’m an aggressive human being so it channels my energy a little bit. I mean, I’m Puerto Rican and Italian, I came out the womb swinging!
It’s just so me. Dubstep music matches my personality.
Q: “Dooms Day” is a very eerie track, especially with that devilish voice in the beginning. It eventually gives way to some serious neck-breaking beats. Why approach the track in a frightening way?
KENZI SWAY: Oh my God, Yes! That’s exactly the feeling I was trying to give. The theme is that something so eerie and something so dark can also be so beautiful. It’s not always the shiny things that are beautiful. I love those melodic eerie beginnings, I like those things that are gonna surprise you. I love putting those aspects in my music because it depicts my personality.
I would like that track to be the theme to my life.
Q: I’m a fan of melodic sounds in music, which is why I enjoy “Out Loud”. It is also a very different track than the rest of the singles you have out. Explain the production of “Out Loud” and how it differs from your other bass-heavy singles.
KENZI SWAY: ‘Out Loud’ is the first track I ever produced and when I first started producing, I was really into all the melodic sounds—- the pianos, the synths, the soft bells and chords. ‘Out Loud’ is my baby, it was what put Kenzi Sway into motion.
I like to take people on a journey. From ‘Out Loud’ to ‘Dooms Day’ I’ve developed not only as an artist but who I am as a person. That track is a part of me because I still keep a lot of those melodies and the beautiful aspect in my sound, instead of just bass-banging music. My music process is showing that journey into the woman I am today.
Q: Where does your motivation come from?
KENZI SWAY: To be honest with you, people who doubt me are my motivation. People who brush me off or don’t take me seriously, or just the negative ones. I will never ever ever look at a negative comment as a negative, because I love that shit. Go ahead, give me the hate. I don’t care! It’s all positive. People have to say what they feel sometimes and sometimes it’s a lot more aggressive than it should be.
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