WORDS

We Need To Talk About Silva Snipa

Originally from the outskirts of London in Croydon, Silva Snipa has been making a name for herself over the last few years within the underground scene mixing predominantly drum & bass records from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, with some Jungle and UKG here and there. Having been massively influenced by the pirate radio sets that sparked her love for old skool D&B, she fell into mixing vinyl whilst sharing a collective love for those sounds with her friends. Now in her third year of DJing out live and on radio with a sweeping record collection, Silva Snipa is making waves in the scene with a residency on newly relaunched Kool FM and having played at Fabric and for Metalheadz this year. 

Her sound, style and skill captures the excitement of retired ravers and younger generations alike. Silva Snipa is definitely a notable figure in driving the resurgence of the old skool sound, whilst being an inspiration for other young women in drum & bass and beyond. 

That being said, we were definitely overdue to catch up with Silva Snipa about her influences and inspirations, and life as a DJ so far.

Hey, how are you doing? Would love to hear what you’ve been up to recently. 

Yeah, I’m good thanks. I’ve been quite busy as I’ve had quite a lot of events out of London recently. A lot of my weekends have been either working at the pub or doing sets so I haven’t really had many weekends to myself. Couple weekends ago I played my first Metalheadz show, which was sick. Played after Goldie who did an insane set, the pressure was high, but kept the dancefloor alive and played loads of classics from the label. Yeah, it went really well even though I had a nightmare whilst playing. Bucket list ticked off! The previous weekend I played at a charity event for mental health, organised by my collective Burna Records the following weekend in Manchester as well, and went B2B with my good mate Lodge. I’ve been quite northern at the moment. This year’s been mental for me in terms of music. Just finished my final year of university whilst juggling weekend sets, so it has been mental for me also mentally. My first fabric debut I went B2B with Mantra, and played for Joy Orbinson and on Kool FM Super Sunday Carnival Special, B2B with Marlie and hosted by Mekar and Herbzie. 

Love to hear it. Where did the name Silva Snipa come from? 

Probably about four years ago now. Yeah, 2019 winter. I was always just called SS by my mates, because that’s my initials – but there’s already an established SS in the scene ain’t there. I always liked the name Silva, and one night we’re at my boys, and the group of us 

were cycling through names to go with it. And I was like “Nah, don’t like that, don’t like that”. Then G goes, “Oh, what about sniper?”. And I was like, “Silva Snipa, yeah hmm

alright”. I wasn’t really sure about it for years, but it kind of got to the point where it’s stuck and now people know me, so I’m just like fuck it, that’s what it is now. 

Do you remember the first record you ever bought? 

Oh, I don’t actually know what the first one was. I know what one of the first ones was – Decoder & Substance – Heist/ Curvature, from 99. That has always been one of my favourite tunes. Decoder’s got mental productions. He’s a sick producer. Yeah, sick tune. That’s one of my first ones. 

When and why did you start collecting records and learning how to mix? 

I started collecting probably about four years ago just before I got my own set of decks, and I was learning to mix in my friend’s uni room in Shadwell, that’s where his dorms were, same place we come up with my name. I just really liked old skool drum & bass and you can’t really get good digital rips of it, you can sometimes but not a lot, especially underground stuff. I just started buying records and then learnt how to mix, playing with tunes that I wanted and then yeah, just sort of fell into it. I just started understanding it and learning how to beatmatch. I did start with digital for a bit but I never really liked it as much. My mate BC from the U.S. initially showed me how to beatmatch on digital, we covered the BPM with debit cards. 

Obviously you’ve got a very certain niche in music. Can you tell us about that and what you love about old skool/90s D&B? 

Yeah, I think the reason I’ve got what’s called a niche taste is because I play underground stuff. When I first started listening to drum & bass, I feel like everyone starts on jump ip, that’s the stepping stone to take when getting into it, haha. But yeah, during college, I was out raving all the time – probably every weekend. I remember I started listening to old Bagley’s sets of Shabba and Mickey Finn and that. I heard ‘Nasty Habits – 4 Da Cause’ and that was one of the first tunes that got me into that old skool sound, and then I just started listening to a lot of pirate sets. DJ Chillum on Ruud Awakening, his style is what pioneered my love of them really underground unknown tunes, that still even now when I find them they’ve only got 10 views on YouTube. His style and the way he mixes, he loves riding tunes out really long and he kind of phrases all of his tunes quickly, they double drop at the right time and the breakdowns are the same. It’s really technical, he’s a magician. I’m still not that good yet but hopefully eventually! Maybe. 

Pirate radio seems to be a big influence, who else in the scene has inspired you?

I think Chillum was definitely my biggest influence, Dylan & Facs as well. Basically everyone who played on Ruud Awakening an’ that. Others like Target, XS, Kenny Ken, loads of people just all over. They’re all inspirations, all of them old DJs who are still sort of about. I think a lot of my inspirations are from that time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I just only like music from then. But, there was about 3 years where all I listened to pretty much was old skool drum & basshaha! I used to rinse them sets, knew bare of them off by heart, from track to track. My old mk4 Fiesta had a cassette-player, and since it had no bluetooth or nothing, I’d listened to one of these United Nations tape-pack 20 times over. 

How would you describe your experience as a DJ so far? How have things progressed? 

I think I’ve actually been quite lucky actually. I’ve had a lot of good opportunities for sets, playing festivals like Outlook UK, at Fabric and Metalheadz. And it’s mad as well because when I first started DJing I never ever dreamt of it being something that would be a career. I think also that’s a self confidence thing, I just never expected it to go down this route. I still question if I’m even good most of the time. I guess when I started playing with Singularity, that was when I first started getting sets and then from that I got exposure and then over time got really good connections with people. And yeah, I got given really good sets on lineups and then it kind of just took off from there, it’s been a nice sort of domino effect. I never wanted to ask people for a set or anything, I hate pressuring people and stuff. It just happened and took off. Maybe I should sometimes ask but, I’ve been lucky to get that you know. 

When Wavey Garms put me on their lineup at The Cause a few years back, that was probably the first big event I’d played at and definitely gave me a lot of exposure. Andrés gave me that opportunity, and we connected over that love for that darkside, pirate radio sound. I guess as well, when you’re playing that sort of era and style, some people like myself properly identify with it and it’s nostalgic for them, and I think it builds this unique connection with people. That’s how it feels for me anyways. You feel recognised by others and it’s exciting finding more people who are into it to connect with. I did a proper Techstep set at Egg once, and Robin (LS Dare) came up to me and we started chatting about the music. He said you should come down to do a set at Planet Wax (PKA Disc World) and got me in touch with Sicknote and Dexta, and from then on have built a great relationship with them all. 

You’ve got a Kool FM residency now, this is sick! What does this mean for you? 

Yeah I remember actually getting the email about it just after I’d played Fabric, and I pick up my phone and read the notification off the screen, and it says we’re gonna relaunch Kool, are you interested? I remember reading it just off my homescreen and I was like “Oh my days!” It’s a dream come true, it was mad and I was just flattered to be asked. It’s just mental. Kool was such an important stepping stone for drum and bass getting put on the map and exposure for tracks and DJs. It’s got a mad following as well from the drum & bass community which gives me more exposure and it’s nice to talk to people. I’ve had some nice feedback about my sets, and on the Youtube set I done with Kool not too long ago, even though my mixing’s a bit shit. Gotta big up Miguel for getting me involved and all the team running Kool, always have fun playing there and being given a platform. 

Love that. Can you tell us about the collectives you’ve been part of? 

I’ve been part of a few collectives, Singularity was the first I was part of and they’re still smashing it, doing really big raves and it’s always fun playing parties with them. Really nostalgic for me because that was the first group that I was really connected to music wise, Nu World Order was one of the first as well. I’ve been in quite a few collectives, and most of them I still play for and am a part of, like Burna Records and Semtex. I know all of em through drum & bass and music as a whole and get on with them all really well, all these collectives consisting of a bunch of really talented DJs, producers and artists. We’ve got a nice mesh of different creative abilities in all the groups. I think all of these collectives have been really important to like, how I feel part of the drum & bass community and just music in general. 

Are there any venues and events you’ve played that are memorable to you? 

100% I mean, I’ve played at quite a lot of venues but one that was important to me was The Cause, before it shut down. The first ever event I played was there with Singularity in the March before COVID, the last week before people went into lockdown so it was really weird timing. Then in the summer when events started coming back, I was always playing at The Cause because Singularity did weekly Wednesdays parties for ages, we were just there all the time. I remember the first one we ever did, it was packed, the whole room was rammo and sweaty as fuck, you know when the club is just raining down. That’s definitely where I got the confidence to play out more and I got really good feedback when I used to play there. It was nice being a part of this community, always mixing and recording live sets, I’ve got loads of archives from those days. Yeah, it was great and it was really a big part of where I built my style and a lot of my personality in a way. 

Would you say there are any certain spaces that have shaped you? 

I would say actually my first flat that I lived in from 2020 to 2021 when I went into my second year at uni, it was my first year doing my music course because I was doing architecture before I changed. It was still weird restrictions, but I used to always have my boys over and we would mix and live stream for literally like, three, four or five hours.

Every time they came round, which was at least two or three times a week. I think that’s where I got quite good at mixing vinyl because we were just always practising. Also when we were live streaming it gave you a little audience, you got used to playing with people listening. It was a tiny little room upstairs with three external walls the neighbours couldn’t really hear so we could just blast it all the time. That’s a really nostalgic period of time that I think back on. Pirate studios as well, we’d be there all the time in 2018/2019. I remember we used to get free sessions because one of the rooms didn’t turn off, we would mix there all the time, it was just great. 

D&B can be quite a masculine and male dominated scene, how have you found navigating that as a woman? 

Yeah, this is an interesting one, actually. I’ve always had my good girl mates but people will say to me that I’ve got a very masculine energy, call me a geezer bird and that haha. I just tend to be a part of more male-dominated social groups, probably because I’m interested in things that typically men are interested in or associated with. When I read about other women’s experiences, I sometimes find that I don’t relate but I can completely understand. I’m lucky that I haven’t really felt discriminated against for being a woman, but it is definitely still prominent and occurs, and I’m not ignorant to that. There have been times, especially because sometimes I dress kinda feminine, that people don’t expect me to play the stuff I do. And thinking about it, there have been a few times I have thought to myself, “Would you have done that if I was a fella?”. In general I’ve never really felt it’s affected me in a negative way. In my experience, being a woman has more benefitted me and makes it even more of a niche thing, and my friend suggested that it changes this perception that women don’t play dark, gritty music. 

But then the negative of that as well is that sometimes I worry that people just like what I’m doing, because I’m a girl doing it rather than me actually being really good at it. And then I’ve questioned my abilities and got in my head about it a lot. There has been some times, I guess this isn’t exclusively just because of music, but I’ve been playing a set and I’m asking all these people to leave the booth because it’s too small and they just ignore me, then my mate who’s a fella will ask and they’ll leave straightaway. But other than that, personally I’m quite lucky to have not felt like I’ve been treated unfairly, you know? I think it’s difficult for women to get into male orientated circles. I guess because maybe I play this kinda sound I have more common ground and that kind of gives me an invitation into male-dominated circles, if that makes sense. 

What do you think is being done to make the d&b scene more inclusive of all genders? 

I think nowadays it’s great as social media has played a big part in making people aware about lineups being inclusive of women and minorities which is great to see. You’ve got groups like EQ50 and Rupture are always trying to make sure they’re inclusive of gender, race, and sexuality. EQ50 has held workshops for women and those identifying as non-binary to make sure people have a fair chance and a space that they feel comfortable in. I think maybe for some, it can feel like you can ask more questions when surrounded by those who identify this way. I think some feel more comfortable in spaces without men. I feel like that sort of originates from gendered social constructs that has taught men to be brave and ask questions and has made women question themselves more, not pushing themselves as much or having more self-doubt. I don’t know, it’s just the way it is. I think as well everyone’s becoming more aware about the difference it makes about making sure that everyone’s got equal opportunities. Even when you go on Instagram, I avoid Instagram a lot because it’s a lot mentally, but everyone’s being supportive, sharing each other’s stuff and commenting, it feels like a very inclusive scene now to what it once was. But with some festivals abroad, I’m seeing that there’s still lineups that could be way more inclusive. 

Having played free parties, what do you like about the culture as a raver and a DJ? 

Free parties are great to play at, I mean, I don’t really go to free parties at the moment, mostly because I just don’t want to drive and I’m always designated driver. I also dunno if I can hack being at them for 24-48 hours. But the parties that I’ve played at, ain’t gonna name em haha, are some of the best nights I’ve ever had. I think it’s because when they’re far out you only get heads who are dedicated to it and make the trek down. I remember there was this one that we did, probably back in 2021 I think, out in Surrey and we had a big white gazebo. It wasn’t loads of people, but it was a good amount, probably about 100. I brought my Technics there, god I regret it but I also don’t at the same time, we managed to sort them out and I did a set during sunrise from about five to six. I was down to just bring it out and loved playing wax out and the energy was fucking mental. That was one of the best parties, it was sick being able to play in the medium I like and also the people who are just there. It was such a nice feeling, felt like everyone was united. And because it’s outdoors no one’s really hot, you could just dance and you’re not getting too sweaty. I think it’s a great scene, I’d like to go to free parties more but not when I’m the driver and I also can’t really be arsed to dedicate two days, three days to being all crusty haha. 

If you weren’t into mixing, what other hobbies or passions would you invest time in? 

I’d still want to work on production but sometimes when I’m having a really shit day, or go through periods where I feel I just don’t want to DJ or do music anymore, which is a lot at the moment, what I would love to do, is to just be able to paint canvases and sell them for a good amount of money, and that just be my job. Do a couple shifts at the weekend at the pub, do a bit of DJing and just do painting. I think with art, it’s always been something that when I have that final result I know if it’s good or not, and I don’t always think that with music is like that. I think when you make tracks especially, I’ll get there eventually, but tracks

I’ve made I’m never happy with them and it’s harder to hear if it makes sense. It’s a whole different thing, but when you’re looking at something physically it’s so much easier to know. I definitely want to get back more into painting because I haven’t in quite a while, so that’s definitely something that I would be doing more if I wasn’t DJing. I’ve also always wanted to sail. I’ve got loads of different things that I’m interested in, I’m going travelling next year, and I sort of just think, “Will I ever come back? Will I just live off the land or something?”. 

I get you. In terms of painting, what art inspires you? 

A lot of the art that I like is not anything like the art that I do. I’ve always been able to copy things exactly, but not been able to do illustration and more cartoony things, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be able to go down the route of what Mode 2 does, his artwork is fucking mad and he does a variety of different styles. At the moment I do photorealistic art, it’s trying to get out of that perfectionism and everything looking exactly like a real image. I want to branch out and do something different, you know. 

What are your future ambitions? 

Not to be cliche, I know self doubt is normal but I think my future ambition would be to get to a point to just be happier with the work that I produce, no matter what that is. And to stop caring about everything so much letting stuff go, I’ve got a lot better at it but I think I would like to master the art of letting go a lot more. But yeah, that’s kind of my only ambition because I don’t really know what path I’m gonna go down. But if that’s the mentality that I have, then I think anything whatever I’m doing will be because I’m happy doing it. Whether it’s travelling and not living in the UK or, just anything. I think that would be the main goal that I have. 

How do you dig for records? Have you got any favourite record stores? 

Discogs, honestly, is pretty much the only way that I record shop. I think I’m a bit lazy and with Discogs it’s easier because you can just go on, you can look at sellers and you find tracks that you’ve been looking for easily. It’s also knowing what record shops to go to. Are they going to have drum & bass? Are they going to have the drum & bass that I like? I don’t want that later shit. Yeah, but on Discogs I’ve always found that I can get records easiest that way. But it does mean that I overbuy records and now got a shit ton that I don’t want/ don’t know/ haven’t listened to, you know what I mean? That’s the only con is that I’ve got too many tracks now that I don’t know. But my favourite record store is Planet Wax, I’d say. I go there to do sets every now and then, and I always browse through their stuff. They’ve always got good records there and I’m always going to trust that Lewis and Chris have brought in some sick tunes. They’ve got a sick selection and they just know what they’re talking about,

and Sicknote has just got the exact same style to me when it comes to drum & bass. Always makes my day when I see them too. Love you guys! Haha. 

What are some of your favourite tracks for people to check out? 

One that always comes to mind that I try not to rinse too much when I’m playing is ‘Optical – To Shape the Future (Remix)’. That’s just one of my favourite tunes of all time and it means a lot to me as well. It’s like everytime I listen to it, it brings me back to when I was first getting into this drum & Bass and I remember the first time I heard it. What else? Can’t even think 

there’s so many that I’ve been playing. I think ‘DJ Red – Killahertz’ will always be one of my favourite dark side tracks, 100%. ‘Future Forces – Strontium Jazz (Dillinja remix)’, is just one that will always be one of the best drum & bass tracks ever made. I think it’d be quite hard to top that one to be honest. Yeah, I don’t know. I can’t even think off the top of my head. I’m trying to look through a mental image of my record bag. Oh yeah, Flynn and Flora, Bristol duo. They were more known for their jungle but their drum & bass. Check out ‘Flynn & Flora – Psychomantis/ Movement’ from ‘00. Sadly I read that Flora passed away in 2014, RIP Flora. That record is one of those tracks I listen to and it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time, so evil.

Follow Silva Snipa: Instagram/Soundcloud