“I’ve never performed internationally, so I don’t know if this counts as international – I think it’s technically international waters?”
What started as a self-taught hobby for DJ Madison True is now putting her on the same lineup as acts like Girl Talk, Matt and Kim and pop superstar Kesha as the latter’s Weird & Wonderful Rainbow Ride cruise casts off later this month.
True – stage name DJ Maddøg – has spent the past three years taking up residency at Bloomington clubs and bars like The Back Door and Root Cellar, spinning bright, 90s-style mixes inspired by the dance pop she was raised on.
Now she’ll take that style to the high seas for what the cruise calls a “cosmic rainbow trip” from Tampa to the Bahamas. It’s a four-day trip with performers Superfruit, Bob the Drag Queen and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, among others.
True says she’s humbled by the process to get her on the Rainbow Ride. Fellow Back Door performer Envy Debeauté was going on the cruise and encouraged True to apply to perform. She did, thinking it wouldn’t turn into anything – until she was surprised by the news she made it into the top 10. From the open voting of the top 10, True made it into the top five, voted on exclusively by the cruise guests.
“All these people who had never met me, never seen me play, don’t know what kind of person I am, ended up voting for me and getting me into the top three,” she said. Those top three DJs are now on the lineup.
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#tbt @londoncallingstl paper planes dance party was a blast!! can't wait to be back in STL on saturday!! #werkwerkwerkwerkwerkwerk #twerktime #twerktwerk #dropitdropitlow #dropitlikeitshot #dj #djmaddog #femaledj #femalemusicproducer #djclockwork #electronic #electronicmusic #electronicdancemusic #house #housemusic #electro #indie #club #booty #music #dance #party #stlouis #pride
Before taking her performing career to where it is now, True had no plans to be a DJ. Instead, she was in Nashville hoping to find success on the merchandise side of the music industry. And while True was working for names like Darius Rucker and Gavin DeGraw, it wasn’t quite what she was expecting.
“I went in going like, ‘Oh man, Third Man Records, Jack White, Kings of Leon – it’d be so dope to do stuff for them. In reality, it was Darius Rucker and country artists and rodeo stuff,” True said.
So True moved back to Bloomington. She was born in Atlanta but grew up in Chicago, Detroit and Florida; but having gone to high school in Bloomington and attended Indiana University, she says it’s the closest thing to a hometown for her.
Then, on her 27th birthday, she bought herself an entry-level DJ controller to start a new hobby. Friday evening porch parties turned into invitations to gigs, which turned into hosting her own nights around town. Soon enough, True had an outlet for something that always interested her: remixing and tweaking the pulsing pop she grew up with.
Even before True took on gigs in Bloomington, she spent years experimenting in free programs like Fruity Loops and Virtual DJ.
“I was totally that kid. I remember taping episodes of [Total Request Live] when I went to school on a VHS tape and then coming home and watching it,” she said. “Just being obsessed with music and obsessed with the beats and being like, ‘Okay, let’s put this obsession into something.’”
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🌈 IM ON THE BOAT!!! 🚢 As the only female DJ on this roster – Im feeling truly honored & ready to inspire+slaaaaay!✨ Sharing a lineup with @iiswhoiis @girltalk_verified @mattandkim @bigfreedia @bettywho @jvn @bobthedragqueen @theonlydetox @thorgythor + many more is insane!! Thank you to everyone who voted, shared, and supported me throughout this competition! YOU MADE THIS A REALITY! GIGANTIC S/O to the LGBTQ+ and Drag Community for going all in on this – y’all are freakin rockstars!! 💕 Hope to make everyone proud!!! ⭐️DREAMS DO COME TRUE!⭐️ #kesha #keshacruise #dj #djmaddog #femaledj #electronic #electronicmusic #electronicdancemusic #house #housemusic #club #twerk #music #dance #party #turntables #cruise #ship #bahamas #dreamsdocometrue
DJing wasn’t just an opportunity to break into performing for True. It was an opportunity to fill a void she saw.
“I’d been going to bars and clubs for almost 10 years,” True said. “I’ve loved dance music all my life. I’d never seen a female DJ. That’s weird to me.”
True has said before that the genre is infamous for over-sexualizing its women performers and not taking them seriously as artists. And she says while that’s improving some on the local scale, there’s more work to do.
She recalled recently trying to arrange an all-female DJ lineup at a venue in Indianapolis, but she was shut down when the owner told her it would be too “gimmicky.”
Even on the Weird & Wonderful Rainbow Ride, True says that of the pool of DJ finalists, she was the only woman. There were no people of color.
True says that’s not just frustrating, it’s untruthful to the style of music on the whole.
“Dance music is based on queer, femme and artists of color. So, I think it is only right to make sure that those voices continue to be heard and respected in this genre,” True said. “It didn’t start with straight dudes.”
Nevertheless, she’s excited to be performing under the banner of an artist and event that’s trying to make its space as welcoming as possible.
“[The marketing has] been really good about keeping it inclusive. You’re on a cruise, everyone’s in their swimsuit; people are being super body-positive, which makes me really happy,” True said. “Being a part of something with that kind of message makes me feel good, as opposed to an average EDM cruise. These people are going out of their way to get environmentally friendly glitter and sunscreen.”
True is looking at the Weird & Wonderful Rainbow Ride as an opportunity to decide where to take her career as DJ Maddøg next. But until that next step, Maddøg says she’s building up her DJ skills and messing around with more vinyl, as well as producing her own music, the latter of which has come with a lot of trial and experimentation.
“I love synths and I love the weird bleeps and bloops that you make out of mistakes,” True said. “I feel like some of the best stuff you get is from tinkering around and making mistakes.”
It’s not lost on True that the cruise shows how far she’s come as a performer. Several years ago, she saw Matt and Kim play in Bloomington to a crowd of about 50. Now, she shares a lineup with them.
If you want to see DJ Maddøg on dry land, you can check her website for performances around town.
Featured photo by Brick Kyle, courtesy of Madison True.