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In Conversation With: Charlotte Devaney

 

No one can honestly say they’ve done it all in the entertainment industry. However, some people do come close and Charlotte Devaney is definitely one of them. Her journey from dancing at London’s legendary One Nation events, working on music with Snoop Dogg to her role in a Hollywood movie with Megan Fox demonstrates two decades of surprise and adventure.

Charlotte has worked in the studio with an extensive list of British and American artists and is also known for her enthusiasm behind the decks. Over the lockdown period, she’s started the wild and innovative Hologram Sessions, where MCs including MC Neat, Skibadee and General Levy have been on the mic on her sets as holograms. However, Charlotte is so much more than a charismatic entertainer and her role in the entertainment industry stretches far beyond electronic music. As the manager for drum and bass pioneers Fabio & Grooverider, her influence runs deep.

We caught up with Charlotte and talked about bringing through new talent, Simon Pegg’s enthusiasm for jungle and how Borat influenced her career.

 

Your schedule must have been pretty crazy before COVID, has it changed much since lockdown?

Life was very, very busy before with lots of different projects but I’m still really busy at the moment. I’ve switched everything from live to online. I’m shooting Hologram Sessions every month, working on music in the studio and my social media is very busy too, my followers are pretty crazy! I’ve also got merchandise that I’m working on, so I’m not sitting around bored. The focus has just switched and I’ve just adapted!

That sounds pretty full-on, how does it compare to before?

I guess it’s just different, there were a lot of things going on when events were still running. Karma London, which I co-own, also manages Fabio & Grooverider who had an insane amount going on with their live bookings and my own career was also taking up a lot of time so it was really crazy before COVID! Now it’s just as busy in different ways, with filming and planning all the time!

How did you come up with the idea of the Hologram Sessions?

I have to give a big shout out to Skibadee. At the beginning of the last lockdown we were doing live streams when the whole craze was kicking off. I hadn’t done a lot of streams apart from my radio show that I used to do once a month pre-Covid, but when lockdown happened it became a big thing. I come from a drum and bass background and although I’ve always been a multi-genre DJ, I wanted to do a D&B live stream and asked Skibadee if he wanted to MC over it. I had seen a couple of videos floating around on the internet of DJs on one side of the screen and MCs on the other, so I thought that would be cool and Skibba was up for it. However, when I recorded the mix and sent him the audio, he just sent me an audio file back as he didn’t have access to equipment to film himself for the full hour as we were in lockdown.

Because we didn’t have the video, I went to my business partner / manager (we call him the Wizard) and said “Let’s do something creative”. I went online and found a music video that Skibadee had done where he’s just in front of a black background, which we edited and messed around with it. The Wizard was playing with the video edit and suddenly managed to turn Skibba into a Hologram! We released it and people loved it. That was the first one and after that we were trying to figure out how to do it properly. The second one was with Skibba again, but we got him in the studio to do it properly & The Hologram Sessions was born from there! We’ve mixed up the locations and literally shot everywhere. We take the decks, table, speakers and generator and set it up anywhere we want!

Yeah, Ive seen the taxi one!

The taxi is sick, it’s my favourite. DJ Taxi is someone we partner with and there’s another one coming soon which is going to be huge! That’s an actual taxi which has been converted into a studio. Other than that, we did one on top of a car park. It was freezing, like 2 degrees [laughs], and shot another one by a swamp! I definitely think it looks better when you’re out and about!

Its probably the closest youll get to a live feel these days with the different atmospheres. Have you got any more plans for Hologram Sessions?

People have done holograms of dead people, like Tupac and Pop Smoke, but no one has ever done it with a DJ. The sessions are totally unique and I’m so excited to see where it goes! We have another one coming out on 26th Feb and that’s going to be another groundbreaker. It’s going to be me versus me! I do vocals, as well as DJing, and was sitting there thinking “Why not?” [laughs]. So that’s Charlotte versus Charlotte!!

Nice! This has taken the streaming concept to a whole new level with how visually engaging it is.

I’m an all-round entertainer, not just a DJ. I started out as a dancer and I’m a trained actress so I’m used to performing. When I’m doing my sets, I’m very visual and it adds to the whole experience.

A lot of live streams are just DJs just standing there mixing.

Not everybody is a performer, but I am. I love the music and I can’t help it!

I love that! How has lockdown been for you creatively?

Since Hologram Sessions has taken up a lot of time over the last few months, I haven’t been writing as much music as I usually do. But I’m back in the studio now and I have a wicked track coming out with SHOSH from 24hr Garage Girls which is dropping on 5th March, during International Women’s Week. I love it! It’s a unique fusion of tech house and UK garage. I’ve done the vocals for it and SHOSH, me and Joe, The Wizard, produced it together. We also have a crazy video dropping for it which I’m excited about!

I’m working with a lot of artists at the moment, especially UK-based ones. I’ve made a lot of tracks with American artists in the past such as Snoop Dogg, Rich The Kid, Fatman Scoop & Riff Raff but right now I’m trying to focus on working with as many UK artists as I can. I’m working with a lot of people from the UK for Hologram Sessions, so we often end up talking about working on records together too. I’m trying to keep up with finishing the tracks because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to music! I cannot put anything out unless it’s inch perfect!

You have to be these days, once you release something its on the internet forever. You mentioned dancing briefly earlier. Am I right in saying that your first professional experience with music was as a dancer at One Nation?

I started one of the most famous dance groups in bass music, the Narni Shakers. I founded it in 2001 with 3 other girls and we started out at One Nation. Big shouts to Terry Turbo, he gave us our first job! That’s where it first started for me and I owe everything to drum and bass and that scene.

Do you think that the reason you speak so highly of dnb is because you were there from quite early on? One Nation is pretty seminal and people still talk about it.

We’ve come from a legendary time and there are a lot of people who grew up watching the Narni Shakers. The artists that were there, performing or in the crowd as ravers, remember me so I get a bit of a hall pass for drum and bass. I’m remembered from those days, they were wicked times. Dancing was my first entry point to music and the entertainment business & made me who I am today.

How did you actually get involved with One Nation and dancing?

I loved music from an early age and have been going to raves since I was 14, mainly hardcore and jungle. My entry point into the hierarchy of the dnb scene was Mark from Rat Pack. A mutual friend of ours asked Mark to put me on the guestlist for Moondance at Camden Palace one night and I made friends with Rat Pack from there. I used to go to all of the raves with my then close friend Kelly and two other girls that I knew via the rave scene, we were just crazy. We’d stay on the dance floor having it all night at all of the raves, and one night Mark from Rat Pack said ‘Oh look, it’s the Narni Shakers’ and the name just stuck [laughs]. We started going to dance classes run by the head of the TNT dancers who were on the Ali G show.

No way!

Yeah! She recently sadly passed away, so rest in peace Terri. We went to her classes and then got involved with her agency. She was there at One Nation, Best of British and Innovation before us and we essentially took over from them. She sent us to One Nation and we even had some of the costumes that some of the Ali G dancers wore on the show.

Thats a pretty cool link to a legendary show! You dont really see dancers very much anymore, especially in electronic music. Maybe at the odd festival.

You might see the odd podium dancer but we were smashing out routines to drum and bass. We’d spend hours practicing. We were a name that you’d put on a flyer, more than just dancers.

I then became a DJ and artist and was so busy, dancing was not something I was going to continue because there wasn’t time to do everything. The girls do dance still, but there aren’t as many people booking dancers anymore. It’s gone out of fashion which is sad because it does add a new dimension to an event.

Yeah, Im just thinking about how much energy an MC can bring and adding something as visual and engaging as dancers would be pretty cool.

Yeah, and it brings that female edge as well.

Definitely. Do you think that because dancers are more often female, that has contributed to the fact it died down?

Yeah, times change. We didn’t give a sh*t back in the day, hence the name [laughs]. We weren’t scared of our sexuality, we just did what we wanted to do. Times have changed and people are a lot more judgemental now, everyone’s trying to be too cool now. I don’t know though, maybe it will come back but in a slightly different format.

That sort of expression is definitely disappearing.

It is an expression and we expressed ourselves however we wanted. We went on the stage, we were brave and didn’t give a sh*t. Anyone that remembers us will say that. Things like Page 3 have gone now and times are really different, however since the One Nation documentary on Netflix that I was in there’s been a lot of interest in the Narni Shakers, so who knows!?

What other changes have you seen in raves and events since One Nation? Going from dnb being pretty underground to where you are now is pretty different.

It’s become a lot more corporate compared to when I started out. I was really young when I started dancing, 17. We were just kids who were excited. It’s very different now and we’ve not even seen a rave for a year. We don’t know what things are going to be like when events start again, but I think it’ll be different. Events are going to be new and exciting. On the whole though, there’s been a massive change since I first got involved in music. The scene is a lot more serious and segregated. People are more worried about being cool and social media has made a huge difference. Everyone was more free in how they expressed themselves back in the day.

At the same time though, everything has to move on. I’m very forward thinking and want to keep up with things that are new and fresh. Because I come from that time, I love fusing the old and the new. It’s helped my musical knowledge with the different genres that I play. With my dnb sets, my knowledge from the years I’ve been listening to it and raving to it is clear in my sets. They’ve got tunes from the 90’s through to today. All of the bangers that I love, from when I was a teenager until now, are all in my sets. You’ll have Serum mixed with Champion Sound, it’s a journey!

Fast forward to now, it can seem like a huge leap going from One Nation to working with people like Snoop Dogg and Fatman Scoop. Obviously loads of hard work went into it, but how did you get here? Was it always your intention? 

No but I’m a very ambitious, hardworking, crazy person. That comes from the Narni Shakers days and I go for anything that I want and I don’t care how big it is. I fell into playing hip-hop for a while and then moved on to EDM. It was around the David Guetta era, when there was a real mix of urban dance music. That’s when I started making music, around 2011.

I’ve always wanted to push the boundaries and do something nutty, so I made this record called Nice. I’ve always been a Borat fan and had the ringtone on my phone [laughs].

Okay…

My partner, Fabio, has been so instrumental in so many parts of my career. He taught me how to DJ along with others, but pushed me to learn more than anyone else. He always seems to come up with these ideas and has thrown me a few amazing bones. I used to have the Borat theme tune on my phone and he said to me one day, “You should make a tune out of that sample”. So we made a tune out of it and it was actually wicked. We made this video and it’s quite possibly the funniest thing ever. It was me, a few of the Narni Shakers and a couple of my mates, we did a Call On Me parody dressed as Borat. It was mental and went viral at the time. LadBible and The Sun picked it up and we were touring everywhere, going to festivals and clubs dressed in Borat costumes. Somebody who worked with Snoop Dogg saw it, said that it was the funniest thing that they’ve ever seen and asked if I wanted to work with Snoop. I was like “What? Yeah!” The rest was history really.

The track, Flip It, was an independent release and I paid for everything myself. It was then picked up by Capital Records in LA and they flew me out there where I was working with Katy Perry’s team, Beyonce’s choreographer, Madonna’s stylist. It was crazy! I’ve approached most of the people that I’ve collaborated with myself, apart from Snoop, and directly asked them if they’d like to work together. I’d send them a record and ask if they like it. I just think that if you want to do something in life, go and get it. Don’t be afraid and never give up. Don’t think anything or anyone is too big for you.

Yes! Over the last couple of years theres been more of a focus on representation in music, especially electronic music, particularly around gender and race, but its clear that more still needs to be done. In your opinion, what are some of the most important things that need to happen to make the music industry more representative?

As a female who has been a DJ for the last 10 years, I have found it difficult at times but I do think it’s getting easier and that’s wonderful. Over the lockdown period there have been a lot more female DJ’s & MC’s coming through and I love that.

Definitely!

As much as there has been a movement to bring more females through for a while, until this lockdown period it was still very unbalanced. There were females, but they were the same names that everyone was booking. Now, there is a huge choice of female artists. I think it’s getting better, but at the same time it’s not exactly where the representation should be, but let’s see what happens when things start opening up again!

Just looking at drum and bass, there have been a few communities come through recently whove been focusing on these important issues. So the last couple of years, and lockdown especially, have definitely had an impact.

The right movements are definitely being made and there’s so much talent now. I do still think that more females need to make music, there’s a lack of female producers when I look at the music that I get sent across the different genres. Despite that, you could do a full female lineup of drum and bass artists now and it would sell out. There are so many females with huge followings. Of course there are the legendary names, like Storm and DJ Rap who will always sell tickets and are huge inspirations for me, but now there’s a new breed coming through. I hope that when events come back, the new names will be booked and it won’t be the same as before.

We talked about One Nation and how youve progressed since then, but I saw a clip of you in the movie How to Lose Friends and Alienate people with Simon Pegg which cracked me up! How did that happen?

To this day, that film was one of my proudest achievements. I’m trained in everything within entertainment, acting, presenting, music production. I can do everything apart from sing. I definitely can’t sing [laughs]! I played a transvestite in the movie, but they originally casted an actual transvestite who wasn’t trained in acting. They were screen tested but weren’t quite right in front of the camera. I have strong features and a square jaw, which was the look they were after. I screen tested for it and got the part. I got the opportunity to work with Simon Pegg, who’s still a friend, and also people like Megan Fox and Kirsten Dunst. So that’s how it happened, another page in the life of Charlotte Devaney!

Wow, who would have thought someone going to jungle raves as a teenager would end up in a Hollywood movie?

[laughs] I know right, life is funny you just never know what’s round the corner! That’s what I love the most about the business I’m in! I really got on with Simon Pegg when we were shooting the film and I gave him a Narni Shakers calendar [laughs]. In the movie there’s a scene where we were dancing together, but he wasn’t really a dancer so I taught him. When he’s going at it in the movie, that’s what I taught him.

I saw that scene and hes having it large!

Yeah, I taught him to Narni shake! We connected on Instagram the other day and I sent him the Hologram Sessions. He was like “Oh my god! I love this.” He used to be a junglist back in the day and thought it was wicked. Big up Simon Pegg, he’s an absolute legend.

You should get him on Hologram Sessions

Well, you never know! [laughs]. Doing the film was a great experience though.

Last question then. Wheres the first place you want to play when things open up again?

Ah, I’d love to play at Glastonbury. I played there for the first time in 2019 and I loved it!  In 2022, we’re taking Hologram Sessions live. We’re going to spend the rest of this year doing the online series but in 2022 it’s going to go off!

Oh really? How is that going to work?

That’s what we’re currently working on, so you guys will have to wait and see! We won’t just have bass music and MC’s, we’re looking to bring in people who aren’t connected to the scene so watch this space! Hologram Sessions Live 2022 will most certainly be a spectacle!

Is there anything else you want to mention?

There’s loads more music coming out this year as well as Hologram Sessions, which drops at the end of every month so keep an eye out. Also, big ups to my dog Leo who has 100% helped me get through lockdown, he’s a don. Fabio stole him for the UKF pets piece [laughs]! Last but not least, big up the Wavy Gang, my crew of supporters. Something else that was born out of the last crazy 12 months and they are the best! Give me a follow and say hi!

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