WORDS

Get to Know Athena

Athena is one of the current EQ50 mentees rightly matched with well-established imprint Shogun Audio, a label that suits her current output of atmospheric and jazzy vibes. Like the Greek goddess Athena herself, when it comes to tunes, there’s strategy paired with wisdom aplenty, and a cultivated musical appreciation that spans d&b and beyond and leaks deep into her musical palette. Athena is slowly but surely certifying legendary status amongst d&b’s latest wave of liquid producers.

Never expecting a release so early, Shogun also liked her music so much they decided to include her skills on their Points of Origin: Vol 4 album, a series that’s highly respected for its fresh talent curations.

Vibe-wise Athena’s output so far flits between the masterful lucious sounds of liquid, to more experimental flavours. Her tune Miss You is a laid-back lilting track featuring clever rumbles of bass and soulful vocals while a recent outing on Mitekiss and Mr Porter’s Goldfat reveals other skills as Next Door Reality plays the role of the weird neighbour to her jazzier tendencies. Both are incredible pieces of work and more than establish Athena for an exciting future as an artist. Another single on Goldfat is about to drop imminently, too.

That’s where she’s heading, but this is where she’s from: Based in the North East of England, far away from the hustle and bustle of bass music hives such as Manchester, Bristol and London, Athena describes a certain connection with nature and her surroundings that influences her deep and atmospheric take on drum & bass music. Time to get acquainted…

That’s definitely a vast and ever changing stimulus to gain inspiration from. Nature, man…

I’m currently based in County Durham, pretty much in the middle of nowhere! I’m very much a person who loves connecting with nature and feel that must somehow unconsciously feed its way into my music. It’s an interesting thought that our own experiences and environment influence the art we create. I fully appreciate and enjoy the vibrancy of city life, although at the moment I’ve been soaking in the peace and serenity of being away from the busyness of the world. Wherever I am I love to make music.

Like a nature scene, there’s a flux in your style between tunes such as Miss you and Next Door Reality.

Yeah, they are quite different! I like to let whatever flows out of me flow out without any restraints as such. I appreciate all kinds of drum & bass and draw influences from lots of corners. I love beautiful atmospherics, emotion fuelled melodics, and natural sounding d&b, but sometimes you can’t beat a dark, growling bass and gritty break.

Next Door Reality came about during the first lockdown when there was a strange and ‘off’ feeling in the air – I think that definitely translated into the music. It’s nice to be able to put external energies andd feelings into music. I’m still trying to really find my sound, but think I’ll always flit between the darker & lighter sides of D&B.

It’s clear you’re not afraid of experimentation…

It’s always fun to experiment with anything you’re creating, I think. I’m the same when I’m cooking etc, I very rarely follow recipes to the T. My music is quite stripped back and spacious – it’s quite unintentional, as when I’m in the studio I love to just zone out and stop thinking, but I like to give instruments and melodies space to breathe in a way that they almost speak to each other.

I’m influenced by quite a variety of music outside of d&b – The Prodigy, The Cinematic Orchestra, Akkord (Synkro & Indigo), The Chemical Brothers, DJ Shadow, Massive Attack… which is all quite experimental I guess – so maybe it comes from there?!

Massive indeed. A vast musical appreciation always sows the seeds for the tastiest of tunes and fusions in d&b.

This is true, it’s nice to mix it up a bit! It’s great to have different music for different feelings and moments. I think we’re always subconsciously taking in music in a way we don’t fully understand, so when it comes to producing it must somehow be subliminally influencing and inspiring us.

I spent a couple of years writing for Kmag back at uni, so have true appreciation for the full spectrum of d&b – it’s quite weird to be on the other side of the article now! I remember choosing Tokyo Prose for the ‘Top 10 Producers To Watch in 2012’, so it’s been pretty cool to see him grow into the artist he is today.

Wow, and now you’ve come full circle to being a respected touchstone of great liquid producers yourself – you must have received some great support…

It’s been quite crazy and a little intense but I’m over the moon with how things have been going – it’s weird hearing that people like my music! I’ve gone from being the only person to hear my tunes for years, to them being in the ears of legends which is very surreal.

Surreal yet satisfying I bet.

Very much so! I’ve always just wanted my music to speak for itself. Making music is a form of therapy and escapism to me and to have it resonate with people around the world is incredible.

I understand your love affair with d&b is a long one… 

Yeah, I’ve been captivated by D&B for close to 15 years or so now, listening to Fabio & Grooverider on their R1 show is what first got me hooked. It’s almost as if it was resonating with my frequency in a way no other music had done. I quickly became pretty obsessed and it was Alix Perez’s debut album, 1984 a couple of years later that really solidified my love for the genre. I had that on repeat whilst at University and think all my roommates also know all those tunes inside out, haha. It fascinated me and showed me that the genre could encompass such a variety of sounds and feelings.

D&B’s soul touching ability to evoke tears, and then simultaneously turn a room into a mosh pit will forever astonish me too. So how did you fall into making your own tunes?

It’s such a beautiful thing isn’t it! I first got my hands on Logic during my work experience at Uni and actually didn’t touch it for a while, but then became intrigued with learning the ropes and messed around for a bit. Using it to make audio documentaries etc helped me to become more familiar with the software and I naturally gravitated to experimenting with making music. I had a couple of big hip operations a few years back and found myself drawn to making tunes more & more – during that post-op period it was so good to have the freedom of a creative outlet and I haven’t looked back since!

That’s clear to see, you’re on a roll right now – with two releases so far, and two Drum&BassArena uploads to match these, that must be a confidence boost for you and your sound. 

Yeah, it’s insane! Hearing that Bukem liked ‘Miss You’ blew me away! It’s very weird, but also very exciting hearing my tunes being played on the radio too. The last few months have been a great confidence boost and it’s good to feel I must be on the right path. Being playlisted by Shy FX, Lenzman & Monrroe is pretty awesome. 

You’ve had a session with man like Monrroe as part of your EQ50 mentorship with Shogun Audio, that must have been wicked! 

It was amazing! I’m a big fan of his music so it was a dream to get a little insight into his processes.  I had one session back in February and he kindly reached out and asked if I’d like to have another one to go over one of his tunes which was super nice of him – he’s an absolute gem. I left feeling very inspired. He’s honestly one of the nicest guys, we had a good laugh amongst all the knowledge he was dropping on me.

Fully deserved though- big up EQ50 and Shogun for driving for equality and aiding truly quality producers in the game.

Absolutely, it’s really refreshing to see different parts of the scene pulling together to make much needed change. EQ50 & Shogun have been incredibly supportive. I also had a great one to one with Pete from Deadline, who is the Label Manager of Shogun – that was also such an invaluable experience, which I took so much away from. Having pioneering women of the scene, DJ Flight & Amy Jayne as part of my mentoring team too is amazing. It’s inspiring to have such a great team behind you when d&b can sometimes feel quite closed off. EQ50 are really opening doors in the scene. I’m excited to keep learning and absorbing as much knowledge as I can. I feel incredibly lucky! 

You’ve also established a relationship with the man with the midas touch, Mitekiss – who runs Goldfat Records. 

Haha! Yeah, it was actually his Feedback Sessions stream on Twitch that got things started. Prior to applying to the EQ50 mentorship I’d submitted ‘Eunoia’ (one of my forthcoming tunes on Goldfat) to the Feedback stream as I was hitting a bit of a wall with production. It was so good to get so much constructive feedback and really helped me to improve on my production – everyone in the chat also helps with tricks and tips, it’s a real community vibe. After that he reached out and asked if I had any tunes for the label, which was amazing and unexpected.

My debut on Goldfat was Next Door Reality on their first compilation album – Full Fat 01, which was a really exciting project to be a part of! There’s some golden talent in the family, for sure.

Whilst we’re touching on Greek Mythology, you’ve chosen a wonderful alias, Athena.

Ah, thank you! I’m really intrigued by Greek Mythology and wanted a name that reflected my heritage. I’m Greek- Cypriot so it seemed very fitting.

Any Achilles heel we should know about? 

Not to open up Pandora’s box, but I do find the spotlight pretty daunting… It’s a bit of a scary prospect to put yourself out there! But I’m taking it all in my stride and have definitely started believing in my ability a lot more since starting the mentorship. Also, DJ Die’s – Achilles Heel is a pretty sick tune!

We’re so glad you took that leap into the spotlight- you’re killing it at the moment – so what are your plans for this year?

My first solo release is forthcoming on Goldfat on April 30. It’s a two-tracker and has already had some great support. When I was writing these tunes last year, I never expected for them to be released so it’s really exciting (and also nerve-wracking!) getting them out there. They are quite the opposite in terms of feeling in comparison to Next Door Reality being more melodic and on the liquid side of d&b. It’s great to have a label that will release such a variety of music from me.

Ah that’s fantastic to hear there’s more music from you just around the corner. With Shogun and Goldfat already under your belt, I’ve got to ask about any dream collabs

It’s a far away dream but a Calibre collab would be insane haha, I’d love to just be a fly on the wall and watch him in the studio. Monrroe, LSB, dBridge, or a tune with DRS would be mind-blowing. One can only wish!

Follow Athena: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud