After several years dominating line-ups as a DJ, last week saw Harriet Jaxxon step up as a producer with her debut release: The Sound.
A full-on fix of dancefloor diesel, courtesy of Drum&BassArena, it’s the result of years of behind-the-scenes studio studies that actually go right back to the first step in her musical journey as music technology student. 10 years later, many of which have been spent as an international DJ, she’s finally ready to show a whole other creative side.
Plenty more is in the pipeline. Like her DJ sets, we can expect it to run the full flavour range of D&B, too. In fact Harriet’s already thinking about how her debut artist album would sound. And it all starts right here with The Sound.
You’ve been busy during lockdown!
You’ve got to be, haven’t you? I think it’s been a strange time for everyone in so many ways. I’ve really enjoyed live streams actually. It’s a very different challenge from a DJ perspective and my sets have changed as a result. When you’re playing to a crowd, you’re engaging with them and watching their reaction but on a stream you roll it out more. Which has been quite indulging in a way. It’s more about the sounds I just want to play and hear.
You can take more risks too in that way…
Definitely. I’ve played tracks I might not have felt I’ve been able to previously and that’s made me think differently about the selection or do mixes I wouldn’t have tried. I’ve benefited a lot as a DJ and as an artist during this and I think to acknowledge that is definitely a good thing.
And now you’ve released your debut production. Guessing this was planned before lockdown?
I’ve had this track for a very long time, for sure. It’s part of a collection of tracks I’ve been working on for two years and playing and road-testing for about a year. It was the track I knew I wanted to come out first as it was the one I’d had the best feedback on from DJs I’d sent it to and also the one I was happiest with personally.
In January we sent it out to a few labels and the reaction was really humbling. I went with Drum&BassArena and we agreed it all just a few weeks before lockdown, not realising how bad were things were going to get. I sat back for a bit and eventually thought ‘fuck it, I’ve waited too long, let’s get it out…’
Yeah it’s been a really interesting one. Music has to come out, though. It’s going to take more than a pandemic and a lockdown to stop it…
Yeah you’re right. It would be very sad if it did all stop. It’s the same with live streams – when they first became the main outlet for DJs there was a bit of a negative reaction and people were saying they were becoming over-saturated, but they’ve been accepted and I think people are experiencing them in a different way now. Before you’d jump in and out of a stream, wouldn’t you? It would be interesting but not the main focus. Now you get the vibe people are really into them, they’re raving in their front rooms and getting really involved and really celebrating it.
Let’s celebrate your debut production. You actually started to learn to produce before you became a DJ, right?
Yeah I studied music technology but I only scratched the surface. Doing that course led me to DJing and I felt more drawn to that naturally. But I’ve always tinkered with ideas, always thought about what I’d like to do as a producer. It’s funny because I never thought about being a DJ when I started the music technology course, then I met DJs through that and it happened organically. So production went on the back burner but when I got into production I got tunnel vision and just focused on it. It’s a great feeling to reach this stage. I’m very particular and there’s no way it was going to be released until I was 100% happy with every aspect of it.
These things take time!
Definitely. I have very strong ideas on how I want to sound or how I want something to look and I’m not very good at compromising it. If it doesn’t hit, then it has to wait.
You mentioned label interest earlier, that must have fulfilling when labels were interested?
Incredibly. I was extremely nervous. It’s weird for me; not many people get to a level where their career is just DJing. That’s not the typical route anymore. So I’d developed a reputation as a DJ and selector who pushed certain sounds, but I didn’t know how that would reflect in my productions. For me it felt like being a food critic for years and then suddenly becoming a chef.
That’s a cool analogy. A lot of DJs produce to get their name out there. A lot of producers DJ because they have to, to make things work financially. I guess in this way, you didn’t need to produce, so it’s music for music’s sake. Which is the most honest place for music to come from…
Yeah. The way I mix lends itself to production; combining tracks to make something new all the time. 90% of my sets are at least two tunes running together. When I hear a new tune, I’m instantly thinking about what tunes I have that would fit it. So it’s an extension of that, really exploring the roots of that. Making something unique at the end of the day. DJing is like a collage – taking other people’s art and putting it together to make something new. But production is like making an original piece for other collages.
Now you’re contributing art to other collages…
I know! That’s been quite a mind-blowing thought for me. I’ve been mixing my tunes for a while but the idea of other people doing that will take a bit of time to get used to. But the people I sent it to have been really supportive, I was surprised at the feedback actually. I’m very self critical. Too self critical. I’ve had affirmation as a DJ, you get that naturally from bookings and the crowd reaction. Not that I don’t think I could do better as a DJ, but I know where my skills lie currently. But I can’t do that as a producer. I can’t forecast what people would think of me as a producer.
I don’t think anyone can and when you’re deep down the production rabbit hole you can’t see the wood for the trees…
Totally. Producing drum & bass is incredibly challenging. Producing is full stop but especially drum & bass. I’ve been turning my brain inside out understanding the process and pushing myself to get to this point. So it’s feels even more rewarding to get here. All the best things are worth fighting for aren’t they?
Totally. So, knowing your DJ style, I reckon The Sound is just a tease at what’s to come…
Oh for sure. One of the most difficult things is trying to be focused. I’m constantly wanting to make different things all at once. Because I like every end of the spectrum, that’s what I want to make. I’ve been too impatient. You can’t hit all the spots, all the time. I was trying to cram too much into one track and over complicating things too much. It would start deep, then go a bit jungly then a bit dancefloor, then a bit tech. It was too much for one tune. I realised that I can make all those sounds in the future, but I need to compartmentalise these things much more and take my time.
What comes next in time?
That would be telling! There are a few tracks I have in mind and I want to get another one out before the end of the year if I can. There’s so much I want to do, it’s a case of timing and seeing what feels right.
Ridiculously soon to say but with that in mind, you’ve probably already thought about an album in the future…
That’s the goal! I think about it more than I should as a new producer. I think about how I’d approach it, how it would work, how it would sound. That is ultimately what I’m working towards, but I know I need to be ready for it… Or I’ll have a nervous breakdown! But that’s all a long way off. I mean, look at how long it’s taken me to release my debut release!