Editorial: Strictly Stress, Misstress Barbara Finds Her Voice

By Aaron Binder


Consider this:

You awake one day in a cold sweat. The person you once were has disappeared completely and you have been replaced by something new. Your skin, eyes, maybe even your gender has changed into that of a striking, early-30’s woman. Your thick brown hair flows down your neck just past your shoulders, your deep brown eyes hold an undying ambition about them, your mouth betrays an encapsulating smile every so often, and your words are direct and straight from the heart.

Bold becomes brash.

You’re considered one of the top DJ’s in the world by your peers and listeners. You’ve sold out clubs across the globe, been featured with industry legends, profiled by magazines, television shows and have managed to win awards for the skill, the natural ability you have been given. You’re at the top of your game; every night you have people listening to you spinning music that they could listen to elsewhere, but they are in attendance to be in your presence.

Comfort becomes cruise-control.

The challenge is gone. You can come up with new ways to spin, you can include your own elements into the mix, but it’s still not truly yours. The burning desire to create something of your own is swelling up inside of you. The awards and accolades are nice, but it’s because of a creation that is only partly yours. Angst begins to penetrate your very being, you need to do something but you’re not sure how.

Death becomes determination.

Your father dies. You begin to write. Where most people would write about grief and loss, you instead choose to focus on love and hope. Death becomes inspiration and motivation. Where once you had a question on a card laid out in front of you, the card has been flipped and the answer is ever present.

Create, create, CREATE.

Welcome to the life of Misstress Barbara (the typo is indeed quite intentional) the consistently ambitious, undyingly tenacious DJ and now producer. Considerations aside, it’s a good time to be in the driver’s seat. After years of cruising by, watching the scenery, the woman that made a name for herself behind the turntables has flipped the record and become a guitar player, a bassist, a sequencer, a vocalist, a producer.

The most important thing, above all else though is the challenge of it all. Being able to say that she did it, accomplished it, and attempted something new is ultimately her greatest prerogative.

“It’s not only about the butterflies, it’s about the difficulty. For me, being a DJ is easy and it’s been easy since pretty much day 1, it’s probably a natural gift. I’m not a singer, I learned to put my voice into my production because I’m a producer so I wrote my album from A-Z. The words, the lyrics, the music; I programmed it, I played the instruments. To put a voice in an album that you produce, it’s just like another instrument, so I don’t comment as a singer, I comment as a producer.”

She is pushing her limits, not just creatively, but physically as well. She didn’t start toying with the idea of including vocals with her productions until just a few years ago and once she started, she found it hard to stop. Once you give a mute person a voice, all they want to do is sing.

Even though the vocals may be just another part of the production, they are the part that the reborn Misstress Barbara feels the most connected to, sending her reverberating undulations out into the ether with the haunting austere of an eastern European choir. Her vocals really do haunt the air in a venue and on album, raspy and powerful; they cut out an intriguing puzzle that fits so well with the rest of her production that it is a surprise she didn’t incorporate them earlier into her sequences.

Sequencing is something that does come natural to her, she has been around the same equipment for over a decade now, but the way she is utilizing it now is again soul-warming to her and the listeners that have been along for the ride. This is the best type of progression too; the butterflies are back, and not just for her. If you take a look at any of her fan postings, they all hark on the same message, this new direction is incredible and sensual and a huge step forward for one of the most popular DJ’s out of Montreal.

“That’s also another battle for me. You know when I told you there are so many challenges in doing this? That’s another one of the challenges that I know, to bring my voice to that stage…to perform the way I should be performing, I need to bring my mind to a zone.”

Huge steps always come with the possibility of staggering from a misstep, tripping on their own ambition or landing exactly where intended. This is a rather large step for Misstress Barbara, a completely new area and she knows it. The knowledge that she may not succeed is one of the driving factors though. If she fails, she fails, but at the very least she tried.

When she speaks of challenges and battles her eyes tend to harden, the cold steel of determination sinking itself deep into your soul. You want to believe that she will succeed based on her temerity alone. When you’re watching her live, that same boldness is showcased in her eyes and in her body movements. Every once in a while, if you’re watching closely enough, you can see her slip into that zone where time slows and her mind is in balance with the universe.

At other times you can watch her eyes lose the cold steel veneer and slip into despair. That is part of the performance too; it can’t always go the way she wants. Great steps often come with missteps, and that is one of her biggest challenges.

“Pushing, pushing, that’s who I am.”

Missteps can sometimes be overcome by sheer strength of will, and if there is one person that seems as though they could push through, it is Barbara. Her own expectations have far been exceeded just months after the release of her first record. Her eyes may slip into despair every once in a while, but for a woman that refuses to give up, it is easy to tell the mood will only be temporary.

As she continues the brave push into new territory, new challenges will present her with decisions to be made. They may not always be the right ones, but if there’s one thing that Misstress Barbara has learned, it’s that no matter what the outcome, if she keeps pushing, something will happen. She may not know the answers, but her eyes are open with wonder, amazement and determination. Push, push, push:

Something conquers stagnancy.


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