Suzanne Chesterton and Sue McLaren have done more to shape modern Trance than you probably know. Radio producers and vocalists have a way of flying under the radar in the electronic music world even when they produce huge shows like Paul van Dyk‘s VONYC Sessions like Suzanne, or provide vocals for artists like Aly & Fila like Sue. As in so many other areas of life, women are the beating heart of this industry. However, with their new single, ‘Beautiful Lie,’ on Amsterdam Trance Records, they are moving towards becoming the face of this genre.
‘Beautiful Lie’ speaks to the Trance-lover in all of us. The vocals are infectious and relatable, which, given Sue’s talent and track record, is no surprise. Her voice seems to pique listeners’ lizard brains, igniting a feeling of familiarity and emotional connection. While you probably never realized it, Sue has been featured in the soundtrack to your life; she’s been with you on your musical journey for years, her voice guiding you along your way. She is a legend in her own right, a fact which this track further solidifies.
Suzanne, of course, has paved listeners’ ways as well. Her arrangement in ‘Beautiful Lie’ creates that same warm and familiar feeling that only good Trance can bring. While this release is the pinnacle of the genre, it does not signify all that you should expect from this duo. Their goals, in fact, are looking firmly towards the future.
SISKIN wants to shake up the industry not just with their existence as women, but with their presentation of the genre. “Trance might be ready for something different,” Sue rightfully points out. “We are bringing live sets to a club setting, and sometimes owners and promoters get a bit scared of the tech of it.” This very issue brings to light something that has stagnated Trance for years: “There isn’t a progression for Trance vocalists, because it’s set up for DJs,” Sue says.
“You go to Amsterdam Dance Event, and Sue and I are in the minority. If you’re new to the industry it’s easy to be put off or overwhelmed by 90 percent being men,” Suzanne says. SISKIN’s role in the industry may be more than just producing quality music; it’s changing the expectations we have of what is standard fare in the genre.
What is the future of Trance? This question underlies every release, every performance, and every project these two undertake. Their future relies heavily on circumstance because they appear to be an anomaly; two women, producing Trance, all on their own? Some are shocked. The plight of women in music is often based on assumptions that they lack the credibility to be doing what they’re doing. Suzanne, who boasts decades of experience as a radio producer, still has to field questions from uncertain male artists and industry people who are surprised to see a woman in her role.
“I was speaking for the first time with a new client about mastering his radio show,” Suzanne remembers. “When I said it would be me that would be mastering the files, he questioned it. He asked whether I was qualified, if I’d ever done that job before and also said, ‘Why don’t you just get one of the guys to do it.’ At that point in my life, I had been doing radio production for almost 20 years, and I reassured him with my level of industry experience. In the end, I made sure the final product was flawless, and he was very happy.”
As a vocalist, Sue has been subject to the same assumptions: “There are many hurdles to progressing in the industry but particularly so for women,” she says. When dealing with these sorts of issues, her modus operandi is to be calm, cool, collected, deciding to not “respond emotionally.” This represents a huge issue that women in the industry face. “If you’re too much on the offensive you get alienated. You’ve got to strike a real balance,” Sue says. And she’s right. This unique challenge of mitigating emotional responses to asinine questions and comments falls squarely on the shoulders of women. These two are up for the challenge.
Having a conversation with Sue and Suzanne is at once intimidating and fulfilling. The pure intelligence and self-assuredness they demonstrate with every passing word further clarify how they are producing such quality Trance music. It’s amazing that they find the time, honestly. How do they do it? Sue is a CBT/EMDR therapist with a partner and two children. “When music it’s part of your life, it’s not a job, it’s part of you,” Sue explains. “I have to find a way to get it out. I’ve made things fit together.”
“I work in music full time,” Suzanne says. “I do A&R for Distorted, so I hear a lot of music. Out of the thousands of tracks I listen to there ends up being roughly 25 that really excite me.” Suzanne’s exposure to new music has shaped her inspirartion and selection process for SISKIN. It’s unconventional in that she is on the lookout for tracks that ignite something in her, not just for what is popular at the moment or topping the charts.
“Distorted gets every genre, about 42GB a week, from Deep House to Techno to other genres like mashups,” Suzanne explains. “It’s not just Trance, but a lot of elements of Trance are in Techno, Deep House – even Tribal House has wonderful breakdowns. I have a feature on my (Voyager Radio) show called ‘The Black Hole,’ and I even put a Drum and Bass track in there. We’re not tied to Beatport or anything else.”
“I reap the benefits of that,” Sue says. “Suzanne is exposed to lots of new and unique music that rounds out our vision. It’s quite freeing to do what you want to do.” This diversity of sound makes SISKIN marketable for many venues and scenes as evident by the duo’s first live performance last week – a small women-focused festival called Muma Moonshine Festival in the northeast of England.
“Our first show was amazing,” Sue says. “We stuck to what we love, and the crowd went nuts. I was so energized by that. I can’t stop writing!” This energy is what keeps these two going, and what makes their music so enticing. But they couldn’t do it alone; there is a synchronicity between them that is essential for their success. “It’s not often you find someone who gets your style,” says Suzanne. “I send Sue a song, and an hour later, she sends a melody, and it’s incredible. We connect on the next level. That’s why this works.”
SISKIN have found their vibe with each other, and next will be their vibe in the scene. “We love Trance. We just want to share, celebrate, and promote good music,” Sue concludes. What they really aim to do is “help shape the scene to hopefully create more opportunities for women coming through, whether in production, DJing, vocal performers, or all three like SISKIN! To work alongside promoters and labels to create more equity and harmony in the scene.”
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