The Science of Sound With Mimi Xu
DateApril 8, 2017
Mimi Xu–also known as Misty Rabbit–is an artist who views DJing as an intricate examination of sound rather than just another party trick. While she loves playing for crowds and hyping up an audience, she is also interested in sound installations and olfactory art, which many would say is rare in this day in age. Although she has experience in the fashion realm, Mimi’s true passion is music, and she doesn’t plan on departing from it anytime soon. Read on to learn more about the eclectic DJ’s background, and what direction she hopes to take her career in next.
After going to school and receiving a Journalism and Law degree, what led you to pursue music?
I studied classical music and played piano as a kid; my dad is an acoustic architect which means he designs music performing spaces. I have always been surrounded by music. After obtaining a “serious” degree and a job as a fashion editor, I had to go back to my first passion which is music.
You were exposed to classical music throughout your childhood, does your work have a lot of classical influences today?
I was a very lazy music student and I hated classical music as it was forced on me by my parents. However, it’s very helpful these days to have that background for my compositions. My work is not directly influenced by classical music but uses some elements of it sometimes.
How did Misty Rabbit come to be and when did you decide that you wanted to start taking DJing seriously?
I was working for a music label in Sydney and my boyfriend at the time had loads of vinyl and decks at home. I learned to DJ in my living room and then when I moved back to Paris, I got asked to play quite a lot and it all started organically.
How would you describe your music style? What genres influence you the most?
When I DJ, I want to take my audience on a music journey. I don’t like one-dimensional sets since I get so bored. I would describe my sets as “electronic disco tech.” Then again, I can change depending on my mood. I love transitioning between two very different tracks and making it seamless and smooth. Reading the audience is so important; knowing how to surprise them and trigger collective memories from time to time is fun too.
“When I DJ, I want to take my audience on a music journey…Reading the audience is so important.”
You also appear to have a strong interest in fashion and art, any plans of venturing into those industries more with projects of your own?
I love culture in general. I find art, architecture, film, and music much more inspiring than fashion. Even science is more interesting. I enjoy fashion as a hobby and a business but I just can’t take it seriously. But, I love wearing sweatshirts so much that I am starting a small brand called Sleeve Nation with a Swedish friend of mine. The company is based in Stockholm and we make a limited edition of sustainable and luxury sweatshirts that you can wear to hang out at home or to go out at night, with some additional accessories.
I also recently did a sound installation with Swedish artist, Liselotte Watkins, in Stockholm and really enjoyed distortion and various methods of triggering sounds. I created an installation where the viewer can trigger one or multiple melodies by passing a sensor and create a unique polyphonic soundscape without even knowing, since the sensors were hidden.
Do you think that growing up in different cultures has attributed to your eclectic style?
Yes, totally. My French-Chinese background along with living in Paris, Copenhagen, Sydney, and London have given me a sense of belonging everywhere and nowhere. I can fit in anywhere but at the same time, I can feel like a stranger. Maybe that’s why my music taste is very eclectic. You pick up new experiences everywhere you go.
Who’s your dream collab and why?
I would like to collaborate with many artists from various disciplines. Dance, video, set design, lighting, poetry, olfactory art etc. I am working on a project called “Awkward Moments,” which allows me to use music as a starting point to build a series of experiential performances. I will also be working on a film score for a Hong Kong-based director which I am super excited about.
Do you have any insight into how the DJ industry has been evolving for female DJs such as yourself?
It’s still a men’s world in the DJ arena. I don’t really do the whole touring thing, as I’d rather spend time making music or creating performances.
For a female DJ, you have to be much better than a male DJ who can get away with so much more. I’ve seen so many big name DJs playing awful sets and people not only don’t complain about it but they pretend to like it, it’s a joke.
On the other hand, there are a lot of terrible female “fashion” DJs who look cute but have not a clue about music, they’re not helping the cause either.
What’s one major highlight of your career as a music director and sound designer?
I am rarely impressed by myself so highlights are still to come. I have been involved in great projects but I have much higher ambition every time. I don’t look back and say “wow, that was great.” I am more like “what can be more creative and exciting next…”
What are three hidden gems in London?
I love food so I can name few restaurants that I love:
Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
Someone like Hannah Arendt, the german born Jewish-American political theorist, is an inspiration to me. But to be honest I don’t idealize anyone.
Photos by: Sonjay Williams