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Get To Know: Mantra

You might already know Mantra. If you’ve been to a Rupture night in London you will definitely know her. A founding and driving force – alongside her partner David Double O – behind one of the city’s most consistent and long-running underground drum & bass nights, she’s been dedicated to the craft for over a decade as a promoter, DJ and artist.

Exclusively championing innovation, Rupture line-ups have always cherry picked from the most exciting fringes of 170 music; Paradox to Equinox, Forest Drive West to Dead Man’s Chest, Fabio to Loxy, selectors across the underground spectrum who know how to draw deep to a loyal passionately headsy crowd who command no theatrics, no big bangers, no obvious tunes.

This forefront fusion is also felt in Mantra’s full-force, floor-shaking DJ mixes, in her rare-but-gold productions such as Powder Of Life on AKO Beatz. Or the forthcoming Nocturne on Rupture’s first various artist album: The Fifth Column. Out March 23, the 16-track document is Rupture’s biggest statement to date. Featuring the likes of Seba, Digital, Sully, Rumbleton, Gremlinz and stacks more, it captures the unabashed energy, daring dynamism and startling atmospheres that drum & bass jungle was founded on and still thrives on in the right hands.

 

Ahead of the release we caught up with Mantra to catch the history of Rupture, the night, the label and its dedication to diversity. Get to know…

One of the things I love about Rupture is how the DJs are knocking around the night. You might bump into them at the bar or in the smoking area or on the dancefloor. You don’t see that at other nights. Do you even have a backroom?

Yeah but it’s usually full of blaggers and not the DJs! You just go up and get a drink and run back down because you’re missing out. Rarely do you find many DJs there.

You don’t hear that from a promoter very often either!

I think that’s down to the whole DIY ethos. To put it simply, we do this because we absolutely love it. There’s no big marketing strategy or business plan. This is us investing in something we really believe in.

It’s not a contrived money-making affair…

No definitely not! Of course there’s an element of planning but when you’re starting something new everything feels like your diving in at the deep end and that’s kind of the point at which we thrive – figuring out new experiences as we go along!

So take us back to the first Rupture. 2006.

It was at Dingwalls. It was during the peak of Herbal. Me and David (Double O) were going three times a week. You’d have Bassbin, Technicality, Hospitality, Metalheadz, Therapy Sessions, Feline. Everyone was there all the time. It was a real hub for all forms of drum & bass and jungle. And I have this vivid memory of us coming back from a Technicality night and thinking it would be amazing to see Gremlinz and Equinox on the same line-up. It felt exciting – mixing a Hardware line-up with a Technicality line-up. We were like should we do this? Can we do this?

We did it on a Sunday and while the music was great we didn’t have the numbers at all. I think we had 80 people but most of them were bakckstage. I got hammered because I was nervous and embarrassed.

But it didn’t put you off?

No way. I loved the whole process of getting the line-up together, even doing the flyering! Like proper flyering – getting up at 4am and going down to Turnmills, Fire, Vauxhall, anywhere the big nights were. You’d flyer, flyer flyer. I hated it but looking back it was a community vibe. You’d chat to the mash-up people and hustle a bit. It was exciting and we did it for years.

How did the night progress?

So Dingwalls had one party but it was too big. Then we found a club called Anda The Bridge with a basement called Six Feet Under. The guy was a nightmare to work with, though. Someone once did a tag in the toilet so he made us paint the whole toilet! We went and did it, didn’t even question him! But that was a great space. 200 capacity and it was rammed. Then one night we turned up and there was a sign saying ‘sorry we’re shut’. This was two hours before the show.

What happened?

We had to cancel it. We had Storm headlining and luckily she was good about it. Then we moved to Public Life which used to be a toilet! It was even smaller but the vibes were insane. Then from there we landed at Corsica Studios which was a massive leap for us. And for them. They were very house and techno and took a bit of a chance with us. I thought if we could meet them and explain about the music and why we do this they let us do one night to see how it would it go. They did and then they asked us to do another night. When I told the owner of Herbal we were moving to Elephant & Castle he spat his drink out and laughed in my face and said ‘D&B in Elephant & Castle? You’re fucking crazy. It will never work’

The rest is history…

Yeah. And once we moved there everything changed. It was the perfect venue for us, the soundsystem is incredible and we could put on bigger line-ups. We can do what we like and it’s such a touch to have two rooms. First we had dubstep in room two but then switched to old school jungle in room two and it goes down so well. It fits us perfectly.

So how about legendary shows over the years? Paradox always get rave shouts doesn’t he.

So he should! There’s no one like him and his live sets are incredible. He can handle a crowd so well. If something fucks up he deals with it. He’ll make the crowd laugh and just chat about the history of breaks. He thrives off that and he’s a showman and his character shines through. Dev is amazing. Equinox is amazing every time, too. I have to say our resident and my mate Panka, too. I’ve never forget when one of our main DJs didn’t turn up for the last set so she played instead and she totally smashed it. It was one of the best sets ever. She killed it. We also had a guy called Flashback who was just out of this world. He’s not particularly well known but he killed it. David always closes our birthdays and that can go on until 7.30am he holds the crowd and is a real master of closing the night. He put so much into his set and everyone felt that.

I think everyone felt your thoughts on diversity earlier this year. It was a big, and important, statement to make.

You know I ummed and ahhed about posting that for so long. I’m not the biggest fan of social media and I wondered if it was too controversial or not but thought why not? It had started to bug me. In the main I had such a positive reaction, I had loads of women get in touch and I’ve linked up with more DJs and found out about new female producers and DJs. That’s all been incredible but of course I got a few really nasty messages, too.

Did you get many?

No more than three. But they stick with you the most, right? One said I’m being divisive and tearing people apart while another said it was for my own personal gain and my music is shit and I’m doing this because it’s the only way I can progress.

Missing the point a bit, there…

Yeah but it was really positive on the whole and seriously needed. There is a huge gender disparity in drum & bass much more than any other genre. There are so many female DJs smashing it in other genres; Orla, Helena Hauf, Nina Kravitz, Willow and all these girls who are so good. Some of them are headlining massive arenas. Then you look at drum & bass and it’s shameful. We’ve gone along sleep-walking and we’re just waking up and thinking ‘hang on a minute! What the hell is going on?’

Women aspire to other women. When I started it was Flight and Storm then Alley Cat. Flight’s 1xtra show was so important for me and my peers and now there aren’t any female figures on that platform. It’s our duty to make sure there’s a situation so female artists can’t be ignored and have to be represented. I love how the Black Madonna speaks out on these issues and what Discwomen are doing to address the issue.

It’s everyone’s duty to address this, right?

It would make so much more of a difference if the big labels did something about this. Look at some of the biggest in the genre. They have no women on their line-ups or releasing music that’s being made by women. And if they can’t find any then they should invest in it. Mentoring women, creating spaces to give them studio time and feedback. Another thing I hear a lot is that people instantly suggest or insinuate that female producers must have ghost writers.

Or that someone’s slept with a particular DJ

Yeah Jesus! Yes, women get with guys. That’s life. It happens, who cares? Who cares who’s slept with who, concentrate on the talent and how we can develop it and encourage more women to get involved. But I have to say it’s not only the gender disparity that I see as an issue. It’s a real source of shame but I doubt two gay men would feel free to display affection at our nights. I’ve seen it with women but it almost plays into some kind of fetishism so isn’t seen as a taboo like it is with gay men. I want our dancefloor to be a place of inclusion, respect and unity for all no matter what race, gender or sexual orientation.

Amen. Let’s finish with some album hype. The Fifth Column is Rupture’s biggest release so far. Tell us everything….

We totally underestimated the amount of work it would take and I still can’t believe it’s finally going to be released this week! There’s so much back and forth between producers, our designer, manufacturers, distro it all takes a lot of time. The album features friends and family of our label so although it will be debut Rupture releases from Sully, Greenleaf, Nucleus, Seba, X Nation, Gremlinz & Jesta, The Untouchables, Dead Man’s Chest. We’ve known them for years and they regularly play at our nights. It also features Double O, Forest Drive West, Theory, Digital, Ahmad and Akinsa, Outer Heaven and Rumbleton. It’s a four piece box set with a poster and has this really cool die-cut sleeve so it looks very pretty! It’s a project we’re really proud of and can’t wait to get it out to the world!

The Fifth Column is out March 23: Pre-Order

Follow Mantra: Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter