I remember my parents queuing for two hours to buy oranges for Christmas. You had ration books for bread and milk, youd get half a loaf per person per day and theyd tick you off in the book so you couldnt buy two. So if you were hungry and wanted any more, too bad, you couldnt get it. It was very hard and a lot of people dont understand what it means to live like that; But we made it through and what doesnt kill you makes you stronger.
Growing up in Communist era Romania during the 80s, rising trance DJ Claudia Cazacu learned about rationing, picking apples and potatoes and the views and dreams of all powerful dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu via the relentless TV programming his TV channels broadcast.
I was very young during the communist era so dont remember that much, she says, Though I do recall having three minutes of cartoons on a Sunday with most of the other shows about him and his wife and the great things they did for the country.
In 1989 Ceauşescu was deposed (and soon after executed with his equally hated wife Elena) while Claudia set about carving herself a life.
I used to be a model and I was also involved in running a modelling agency but I dont do it anymore, she explains.
At one stage I thought modelling was my calling but it wasnt. In fact, Ive tried many things in my life, I tried to be a tennis player when I was younger and also played piano and I tried to be a singer too. Nothing was right for me but now Ive found exactly what I was looking for the whole of my life- being a DJ is what I was meant to be. I feel fulfilled now.
18 months since her debut gig in Amsterdam shes a headline name at mega gigs everywhere from South Korea to the States, with an itinerary thats included no less than five tours of China in the last 12 months. Chatting to Skrufff, shes clear about her direction and the roots of her drive that have delivered such instant success,
Im definitely more determined because of my background, she declares.
I know what it means to go through rough periods. I was lucky growing up because my parents had a lot but we didnt have what you guys have over here; such as oranges and bananas and being able to watch cartoons when you want to, which makes a huge difference when youre a child. But going without makes you appreciate life more. If you have everything all your life you end up getting a bit bored and believing that youre entitled to have everything, she muses.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Was there one particular moment when you thought I want to be a DJ?
Claudia Cazacu: Id been clubbing for eight years and it was starting to interfere in my day to day life, Id be tired every Monday, feeling bad on Tuesday, recovering by Friday and then starting the cycle all over again. I love this music and clubbing world and I knew that one day I was going to have to stop, so I decided to make being a DJ my work. Before that I never really thought I could do it, Id go clubbing and watch the DJs and think Oh my god, Id never be able to do that. Thats why I didnt start earlier. But then Im the kind of person who never says no until she tries something so I said to myself one day if they can do it, then so can I. Or I can at least try. And since I didnt want to leave the club world, I figured DJing was the best way to stay in it.
Skrufff: How did you get started in practical terms, did you take DJing lesson?
Claudia Cazacu: As soon as I made that decision to start I bought myself some decks, a mixer and some records, because when I started everybody was using vinyl more than CDJs and I started practising at home. I didnt go to school but I had a couple of friends who had been DJing for quite a while and they showed me the basic stuff. I was practising pretty much every single day for eight hours a day. I found it very difficult at the beginning but I persevered and gradually learned.
Skrufff: Did it take you a couple of weeks, a month or longer to crack mixing?
Claudia Cazacu: I waited over a year until I got my first gig which was last April in Amsterdam. The problem was I was practising on vinyl, had no CDs and no idea how to play CDJs and two weeks before going to Amsterdam I got a call from the promoters telling me they werent using vinyl. So I started to panic, I didnt know what to do, but I went out, bought some CDJ players and frantically tried to get all my music on CD.
Skrufff: What state of mind were you in at that first gig?
Claudia Cazacu: I couldnt sleep the night before, the whole night I was shaking, I couldnt talk, I couldnt eat. I struggled to even pick up my CD wallet because my hands were shaking so badly. I was telling everybody I was going to have a heart attack, Ive never been so scared in my entire life. I played for 90 minutes and my hands didnt shop shaking throughout. It was cold too and I was frozen because it was in April. I was playing outside for 90 minutes, wearing jeans but a very small top which left my belly uncovered.
My hands didnt stop shaking, partly because I was nervous initially but also because of the cold, I was frozen and shaking and at one point I thought I was going to faint. I continued to shake until the end of the set but I really started to enjoy it when I saw people were dancing and was a lot more relaxed for the last half hour and I thought I love it.
Skrufff: On your pictures youre always minimally dressed, were you there too?
Claudia Cazacu: I was wearing jeans but also a very skimpy top and my belly was uncovered so I was a bit frozen. But thats how I dress always. This is me. Im not going up there wearing short skirts to make people look at me- this is how I dress. If people would see me in the daytime, this is me. Im the same person every day.
Skrufff: How do you dress when you pop out for a pint of milk in the morning?
Claudia Cazacu: (laughing) I go out in my tracksuit and my trainers.
Skrufff: Youve toured China five times this year, how was it playing there compared to Europe?
Claudia Cazacu: China is nice but its very different, theyve catching up fast but at the moment theyre more interested in the way you look and whether youre in the DJ top 100, for example. They care more about these things than your music and some places you go to theyre not used to dancing. The clubs are filled with tables and they just sit there and watch you. Its definitely more difficult to make people dance there, compared to other places around the world. I really like China and Im back there in February.
Though I had one strange incident when I was being interviewed for a TV channel and they suddenly asked me how do you combine DJing with being a Playboy model? I was a bit shocked and I said excuse me, I dont think youve got the right information. When I got outside and saw my poster it said I was a Playboy DJ so I had to make them understand that Im not a Playboy. I want to be taken seriously. They have a lot of Playboy DJ girls touring China.
Skrufff: I understand you were offered a modelling opportunity with Playboy?
Claudia Cazacu: Yes I was. Its a strange story I was watching a TV program about the Playboy mansion one night and saw they had a DJ there and the girl sounded really cool. Then the next morning I woke up and I had an email from a Playboy manager offering me a US tour playing for VIP parties in America, walking the red carpet and modelling for Playboy. I said no from the very beginning, this is not for me and it not going to be for me. Some people judge me because I dont wear many clothes when Im DJing but Im not naked and theres a big difference. I have nothing against girls that pose for Playboy but its just not for me. I want to be taken seriously as a DJ. In my head I knew a 110% I didnt want to do it because I dont want to be booked for a club and be expected to take my clothes off.
Skrufff: Whats been the toughest gig youve had so far?
Claudia Cazacu: Id say the first one in Amsterdam, I was very scared. Im still a little scared every time I do it but I think thats more about being excited about what Im doing.
Skrufff: Have you had any problems with local resident DJs trying to trip you up, leaving odd filters on or anything like that?
Claudia Cazacu: No, but I always double check when I start my set that everything is set on the mixer the way in want it to be and if its not and I dont know why I;d ask, its better to ask than doing something wrong.
Skrufff: How much is it a problem of sleazy guys trying to hit on you when youre travelling?
Claudia Cazacu: Im taking martial arts right now so I know how to deal with them (laughing). Im not joking, I really am. Generally I stay away from these kind of people as much as possible. It happens, if you give them the chance they will take the chance and come on to you but if you keep them at a distance its usually fine. I think I know how to handle these situations as Ive been through a lot of things in my life. Im friendly but only to a certain extent but thats all. Plus Im always with the promoters so if I go to a place where Im a bit scared I try not to be on my own. China for example is very different. They wouldnt allow me to go the bathroom alone. At one club I had seven bodyguards watching me.
Claudia Cazacus new single Cowgirl (a cover of Underworlds classic) is out now on Couture Records: she also performs at the Trance Awards on December 22 at British club Passion.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)