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In Conversation With: Charla Green

The UK jungle scene hasn’t stopped for a breather since the 90s, and it’s not shown any signs of slowing down in recent years. But you don’t get the decades of progression it’s had without fresh ideas from fresh faces. One producer who can be thanked for contributing towards this pool of freshness is Sheffield’s Charla Green

As one of the first EQ50 mentees in 2020/ 2021, part of their mentorship scheme aiming to address the gender imbalance in the music industry, Charla worked with Rupture’s Mantra and Function RecordsDigital which perfectly suited her breakbeat and soundsystem focused sound. Since the start of the scheme, she’s collaborated with Digital for a single on Drum&BassArena before delivering an EP on Off Me Nut which showcases her jungle and ruff n raw D&B signature style.

Considering all of this, it could be easy to think that she’s new on the block, but Charla’s musical presence stretches back to 2018 with her debut five-track EP on UK Jungle. She also has more strings to her bow than just being a 170 producer, as her talents also include dub and dubstep productions, as well as singing over hers and her peers’ tracks.

2022 will see her productions go from strength to strength as she’s just released her four-track EP on Function. The All This Love EP shows off Charla Green’s ability to fuse dark and light elements into her trademark jungle sound in the form of two solo tracks and two collaborations, one with C.L.A. and another with Digital. We sat down with Charla to find out about her musical journey, her work with EQ50 and experiencing the Iration Steppas rig at the age of 15. 

It seems like 2021 was a pretty important year, you had quite a lot going on especially with your EQ50 mentorship. How did you get involved with that?

I saw that Flight and Mantra posted about the mentorship on social media and I really look up to them as artists. When I saw that they were involved I thought I may as well try. 

They’re definitely two of the best in jungle and dnb. Why did you apply for it?

I started making music around nine years ago but I only really started pushing it and focusing on my production for the last five years. It sounded like something I could use to develop myself. To work with Steve [Digital] has been amazing, I was paired up with him and Mantra for the scheme. 

What was the mentorship about?

Steve’s been helping with the industry-side of things, but I wanted to mainly focus on production. The nitty gritty and technical side of things. The mentorship is finished now but I’m going to carry on working with Steve. 

It’s great that it’s formed relationships which will last longer than that one year. 

Yeah, I think we’ll be involved with the next year of mentees as well. Almost mentoring and helping them too.

So it must have been pretty successful if it’s happening again. 

Yeah, it’s been really good! They’re doing it again next year with some other labels which says a lot.

A lot of your mentorship was during the pandemic. Did that help and give you time to knuckle down and make use of the skills you were learning?

I think it hindered us if anything because we couldn’t all meet up. We were meant to have workshops in-person and all of that had to be done over Zoom. The only time we were able to meet up was to play at Fabric in December. I did meet Steve when I went down to his studio, but the whole group wasn’t able to meet unfortunately. On the whole though, I make tunes anyway so the pandemic didn’t really affect me other than that. 

The EQ50 takeover of Room 3 in Fabric signaled the end of the scheme. How was the night?

It was sick, especially because I hadn’t been to Fabric. So just being there was nice. 

It looked like it was buzzing!

Our room was vibes all night which was wicked. Fabric booked us a super fancy hotel too, when I got there I wasn’t sure if it was the right place [laughs]. I’m used to a sh*tty Travelodge, which is fine, but this was a pretty boujee. 

Sounds like a wicked way to end the year! Last year you had your EP on Off Me Nut, but also your collaboration with Digital on Drum&BassArena which must have been such a good experience. Was the tune a result of the mentorship?

Steve asked me if I had any tunes that I’d started which we could work on together. So I sent him the intro and first drop of that tune. We took that and worked on it together. It was really nice because I felt like I had a proper say in the production. Then I went down to his studio where we worked on the mixdown together. 

So the first sections of the tune actually ended up sounding pretty similar to what you initially sent him?

Yeah, we tweaked bits of it and developed it together. Steve obviously had his input, but he didn’t rip it apart and redo all of it. It could be easy to worry that people who’ve been in the industry for a while will just take control of everything and then let you put your name on it at the end [laughs]. That’s not my vibe. Steve was really supportive and it was such a good experience. 

Do you think that you from five years ago would go crazy knowing that you’d end up working with Digital on music?

I’ve looked up to Steve and Function for a long time. To work on a tune that came out on Drum&BassArena was amazing. 

And now you’ve got an EP coming out on Function too! Tell me about the tunes.

The EP is titled All This Love, two of the tracks are just me and two are collaborations. I wanted to bring some other people onto the release as all of my previous EPs have been solely my own productions, so it felt refreshing to be able to work with others. The vibe is a reflection of my taste in jungle, which ranges from the more chilled out vocal and pads style like in All My Love, to the harder dancey amen tunes like Riddim Bizness. 

How did you find collaborating with other producers?

I find it quite hard working with people as I’m a bit of a control freak, which is why I’ve not done many collabs before apart from with Digital and my friend Kid Lib. C.L.A. started sending me some of his tunes a couple years ago for my sets and I really liked his style so we started working on Just Can’t. We found that we got along and had similar ideas for the direction of the song which was nice.

Steve and I worked well together because we’d already collaborated and worked together closely during my mentorship.

It sounds like it all came together really naturally. Just going back to the start, what made you get into producing?

I’ve always made art and I think music is just another form of painting. You’re building layers to make a final piece. I’ve always been creative but I first started making music by going out, recording samples and cutting them up with Audacity. I started making trip-hop and jazzy bits at first, all pretty chilled. Then I moved towards producing breaks and jungle.

So you were going out and recording your own samples when you started?

Yeah and singing too, then putting it all into Audacity. That was LONG because you don’t have any control. I thought there must be a better way … then I found Logic. 

Audacity is pretty ugly and fiddly so fair play for sticking with it! You sing over your own tunes too, right?

Yeah, not all of the time though. I do vocals for other people, but I’ll record them in my own studio and send my stems over. I work with Motiv who’s my friend from Manchester, he’s a really good liquid producer. I’ve done a lot of signing for him, as well as a few other people. For my first EP on UK Jungle I had two tunes which had my singing on. I don’t sing in front of people though. Maybe one day! It’s just one of those things, as soon as I’m in front of other people my voice just goes weird. 

Playing a DJ set in front of people feels a lot less direct and personal than standing in front of them with a mic and singing. It takes a lot of guts. 

Yeah, in a set you can switch up the tune. But if someone doesn’t like your singing, you can’t really change your voice [laughs]. I love singing at home though and I’m working on a sample pack for my mate who runs Top Shelf Audio, so there will be some vocals in there along with other musical samples. 

It sounds like a lot of singing is to do with confidence. I know some people used to drown their vocals in reverb and eventually built up their courage to do live shows. 

I’d love to sing in front of people, but it’s just one of those things I’ve always struggled with. Even if I know my partner is there I can’t fully go at it. As soon as I know no one is in the house, I let loose [laughs]. 

I think I saw an old Calibre interview talking about the same thing. He mentioned someone doing a live show but they had a curtain in front of them so the crowd couldn’t see them performing.

That sounds like something I’d do! But I think I’d have to be in another room. Just knowing other people are there makes it a whole other thing. 

Definitely! Being able to sing over your own tunes does give you an edge over other producers though. 

Yeah it’s really useful in the studio for when I need a vocal for a tune. Even if I need a male sample, I can just pitch it down.

Do you experiment with much outside of jungle or drum and bass?

I’ve had a few dub and dubstep releases before, I love both of them. I mix other stuff sometimes too, a couple of months ago I supported Mungo’s HiFi. 

It’s all connected, especially jungle and dub. 

Yeah, even just the feeling of the sub. I got into sound systems when I was around 15, I went to SubDub at the West Indian Centre in Leeds. I don’t know how I got in but that was the first proper sound system I experienced. I had helped run free parties before and my mate has their own sound system, but that was the first time I experienced a rig where I couldn’t breathe [laughs]. I just remember the Iration Steppas rig, I have no idea who else was playing.  

No way, I can’t imagine many 15 year olds being that lucky these days.

Yeah, I used to go there quite a lot when I was young!

Have you got much else lined up for this year?

I’ve been pretty busy with gigs and music recently, on top of moving house. Another project I’ve been working on aside from my Function EP is a remix for a band called Working Mens Club on Heavenly Recordings. I think they’ve asked some other artists to do remixes too so I’m looking forward to hearing the final thing. I’ve also done a vocal feature on a hip hop tune along with some local Sheffield artists which is produced by DALTS. 

Then I also just submitted the sample pack for Top Shelf Audio, which consists of a range of sounds I made from scratch using serum, synths and my own vocals. There are pads, breaks, basses, fx, vocals and loads more. I’ve also got lots of exciting gigs and other music in the pipeline. Balter with the Off Me Nut crew will be fun and I can’t wait for All Colours in London too. 

Sounds like you’ve been pretty busy which must be so good to see! Any shoutouts?

Shout outs to WubClub, my UK Jungle crew, Off Me Nut, Digital and the EQ50 gang! Also big ups to Caitlin, my studio buddy, for keeping me sane!

Charla Green – All This Love EP is out now on Function Records

Follow Charla: Facebook / Soundcloud / Instagram