Reading a bio that includes both the terms ‘model’ and ‘DJ’ can be enough to have your eyes glazing over. The fad of those better looking than you and I – both male and female – getting behind the decks and spinning tunes is a long and not altogether successful one.
But those keeping a close watch on Australia’s busy club scene will know that you underestimate Sarah Robertson at your peril. A model she may have once been, but her biography features other words and phrases that tend to poke you in the eye. Take ‘classical music training’, for example.
“Yeah, I played the violin for maybe 14 years; I started when I was 5 years old,” says a breezy Robertson down the phone line from her Gold Coast home. “I added it up at one stage, and other than school there’s maybe an extra 10 to 15 hours a week of music, whether it be music trio, quartet, or orchestras. I would have been in Brisbane at the Old Museum with the Queensland Youth Orchestra every Saturday for maybe 8 or 9 years. It was pretty crazy. Music ruled my life through my schooling years and my classical music background is one of the fundamentals of my life.”
Robertson still has the violin, an antique German model, stowed in the back of her car. “Yeah!” she admits, laughing. “It’s this German antique violin where the humidity has to be measured all the time – and it’s in the back of my car. But I could never give it away.”
It was this love of music that got Robertson behind the turntables, rather than a cheap offer from a club operator. Indeed, the modelling was only ever a diversion: something to work on the side as Robertson hustled her way through university. “I haven’t done a pure modelling shoot for two years now. And I don’t want to be seen as a model-turned-DJ – that fad that’s been coming through. It’s almost 100 percent DJing now. The modelling was just to earn income while I was studying. It went from promotions to modelling and escalated from there.”
Indeed, Robertson’s modelling credits are intimidating. She’s walked the catwalk for Versace, Calvin Klein, G-STAR, Veve Swimwear, Maneater and Fressh Clothing, and graced the pages of both FHM and Ralph Magazine. An undercurrent of cynicism from club goers might be understandable, then, but Robertson says that these days she encounters few doubters.
“It was a problem for me a while ago, but now that I’ve been around for a little bit, people are starting to know what I’m capable of. I feel I’ve earned my credibility in the industry.”
In a little over two years Robertson’s progression has been breathtaking. She’s held down residencies at the Playboy Club in China and exclusive Hong Kong hot spot, Republik, guested at the Hed Kandi Pool Party in Macau alongside Stuart Ojelay, and toured throughout the Asia-Pacific region with the Stafford Brothers and Timmy Trumpet. Perhaps most impressively, Robertson recently spun a set of banging electro house for a Grammys Post Party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
“That was surreal. I was a bit star-struck, to be honest. I had to walk the red carpet and this gig that I played: halfway through my set the other DJ would come up to me and say, ‘Pamela Anderson’s just arrived,’ and I’d be just like, ‘Wow!’ Then for Paris Hilton, Afrojack, Chris Brown and Busta Rhymes to arrive halfway through my set was pretty surreal. That would be the word for it: surreal.”
As if to drive home her credibility, Robertson was a finalist in last year’s She Can DJ competition, an A&R project from EMI Australasia that was launched as part of a new dance strategy for the region. “Definitely,” Robertson says. “Involvement in music that I like to play and She Can DJ – that was very important to me. Just to be able to share the stage with such talented DJs who have been around for so long. Amber Savage: I think I used to pay however much to go to raves when I was 16 and watch her DJ. But credibility in the industry is much more to me than any image or any paycheque.”
Most importantly, Robertson’s realised in the last year that she can make a career out of playing what she wants to play, rather than what the commercial industry would like to hear. It’s given her the impetus to tackle what was always her ultimate goal: production.
“That’s been fantastic. I’ve been working with a friend of mine – Paul DeLuxe – he’s such an amazing DJ and producer. I’m in awe of him. So we’ve been working together: we both have the same sound that we like and we’re probably halfway through a track. But because I was in India for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been itching to get back and get in the studio with him again. So I’m back in the studio tomorrow with him producing an underground house track that I think will open some people’s eyes to what I’m really about.
“It helps having that background in music, and also the experience I gained through the She Can DJ finals week – just being in the studio with the guys at EMI. Now, I’ve been quite surprised in myself and not at all disappointed with the results we’re getting out of the process as well.”
Robertson’s also been itching to get back to Brisbane for Blaque Friday, Electric Playground’s launch party for brand new event, Girls4Girls. A night for women, hosted by women, Robertson will be joined at the party by New Zealand’s Disko Diva, as well as local talent Dollypop and JaneDoe.
“It’s just going to be my sounds: whatever you hear in my set represents me and my personality and what I like,” Robertson explains. “People seem to really like to share that with me. It’s going to be a great night; I’m playing a longer set than usual. But that’s fine: my sets can be quite versatile. I’ll slip the crowd into it and then maybe push the tempo up quite a bit towards the end into what I want to be banging out on a regular basis.
“I’m looking forward to it because I’m from Brisbane. I grew up in Brisbane. I’m looking forward to getting back and playing somewhere where I used to party and used to look up to the DJs. I don’t want to be famous, I just want to make the music and the sounds that I like and then share it with people.”
SARAH ROBERTSON PLAYS BLAQUE FRIDAY AT ELECTRIC PLAYGROUND FRIDAY, APRIL 13. HER LATEST MIX CD IS INCLUDED ON ‘PUMP IT: VOLUME 5’, RELEASED APRIL 5.