The first floor of Kelly Carter's West End home is filled with stacks upon columns among rows of records. One wall is held up by Carter's twin Technics tables and a copper-plated Vestax three-track mixer. There's also a barely-used Pioneer CD mixer, which Carter only uses for mixing in her friends' tracks.
"I'm uncomfortable with it," says Carter. "I can do without it."
Amidst the equipment are even more piles of records -- the whole floor basically colonized by 12-inches and white labels.
So when Carter says, "Let's go to the record room where it's more interesting," she sounds loopy -- this isn't the record room?
On the second floor, a door hangs ajar bearing a sign: "Milk Records." Magically, this room holds about twice as many records as the entire downstairs, while finding room for bulk quantities of USPS flatboxes, labels and stickers. The records are organized and neat, each fitted into plastic prophylactic bodybags. Most aren't priced -- the damage being negotiated proportionally to the customer's coolness.
"This is about half of the records we had at the Milk Store," says Carter, referring to the Strip District Pink Building property she was recently uprooted from.
This is Milk Records' fourth location since the record store's original home, a bank vault in the asshole of the former Club Level. It next moved to the building where the 16th Street Bridge meets Penn Avenue, before settling in the Pink Building. Now at home, Carter deals records mostly online, via www.milkrecords.net.
Her specialties, dealing and spinning, are house and drum-and-bass of the downbeat variety, though she carries breaks, booty-tech, hardcore and jazz. An outbox holds a pile of records bandaged in "Priority Mail" tape, displaying addresses as far out as Jackson, Miss., Pittsford, N.Y., Mannheim, Germany and Tokyo, Japan.
DJ tip #6455: The post office will give you this Priority mailing paraphernalia -- the boxes (any size), the labels, the customs forms for international delivery -- for free. As much as you need ... delivered to your doorstep ... for free. Carter learned this only recently after fronting gobs of money in her first five years.
Carter bought her first set of turntables 15 years ago, inspired by the local house scene DJ Spike cultivated (see "DJ Spike" Feb. 15, 2006 City Paper). But she barely touched them for those 15 years, instead watching her boy DJ Kevin get nice on them. The burden of the DJ -- keeping asses in motion -- seemed a bit heavy for Carter, who just truly appreciated the grooves.
"If the DJ would slightly mess up, dancers would just sit on the dance floor, and I just couldn't be the person responsible for that," says the coy Carter.
Another factor was the special marquee for the "girl DJ" product, which comes complete with the miniskirt and bikini show. When Carter began spinning, it was on her own terms, not as a sexed-up commodity.
"I did it when I was comfortable," says Carter. "It's still a good ol' boys club out there so I took the female nurturing role and would end up getting my friends booked and taking care of everyone else's business."
Carter sums up the MIA status of women DJs in two words: "It stinks."
"Sadly, most of those girls, y'know, had to date a promoter or date an agent," to get in the biz. By talking to her girl Laura Totten of Great Ants -- formerly the world-renowned drum-and-bass queen DJ Sage -- Carter obtained the wisdom to keep her planted in the culture, rather than get used up by the industry.
To hold herself down, Carter began restoring and renting out properties. She bought a house next to the old West End home she grew up in and basically taught herself how to manage and maintain units. She took this same autodidactic approach to DJing, mainly through observation, then practice.
What it boils down to is that which DJs carry by the crate: the records, or rather, the milk. Carter's abrupt departure in November from the Pink Building put word in the street that she had come up missing. No foul play, though. She was in the house, keeping the milk fresh.