Lady Starlight

by Charmaine Griffin

The moment you listen to Lady Starlight play live modular synth, you immediately think you were conjuring up retro rock glam and heavy metal. Far from ordinary, the New Yorker born Colleen Martin has a stage presence reminiscent of performance art. Her music is as bold as her look, and she could care less about what you have to say. The former go-go dancer and performance artist has taken her eccentric flair to the stage with major artists like Lady Gaga and famous UK techno-DJ Surgeon — who named her “the techno sister I was separated from at birth.”

When she hits the stage, she takes you on a journey that commands your ear. Her glam rock style alone inspired Lady Gaga’s infamously bold fashion looks. The two’s friendship dates back to their weekly concept show New York Street Revival and Trash Dance. Starlight and Gaga later collaborated for Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue and Lollapalooza in 2007.

Two EPs later, 2017’s Untitled album for Berlin-based Stroboscopic Artefacts label and 2018’s Which One Of Us Is Me? the now Berlin-based performer has no plans of slowing down. She spoke with me to share her insights on performance and techno.

Lady Starlight before her performance at The Echo

Lady Starlight before her performance at The Echo

When did you first realize that you were meant to be a performer?

I’ve always struggled with the difficult disposition of being a shy person who has a lot to say. So the use of non verbal communication was really important during my early developmental stages of learning. Which basically means I've been a performer since I learned how to communicate as a child!

I know that you are a triple threat in a sense: fashion artist, go go dancer and techno performer. Which aspect of your own creativity do you define yourself most as?

It’s all the same thing. I have an idea that I need to express, and everything I do is simply the best way i can think of to express it at the time. 

What was it like being a woman involved in the male dominated scene of techno music?

I feel like a total outsider in every ’scene’ I've ever been involved in. Gender is close to the bottom of the long list of things that contribute to that feeling. But that’s probably because I’ve always found gender to be the least interesting quality of any artist... or human being, for that matter.

You made a drastic change to move to Berlin after staying in New York for your career previously. What was the hardest part about such a life change?

I live in my own world, so my physical location on this earth makes little difference. I simply follow the work, wherever there are the most opportunities to make my creative visions a reality, that’s where i will go. For techno, Berlin was the best choice. The proper answer to that question is pretty boring… the language!  

Where do you see the future of techno going and how is your music going to impact it?

Techno needs to be less mathematical. We need human energy and human error. I believe, as artists, we owe our audience honesty and authenticity. That is why I record all my tracks like you would record a band. Using instruments and performing a bunch of takes. No single take will be perfect. My goal is for people to feel my presence as a human being.

Photographed by Jake Harrison