Over the last 20 years Aliina Missrepresent Atkinson has contributed to myriad aspects of D&B culture.
Committed to the cause since she randomly strayed into the jungle room and converted from a happy hardcore fan overnight, she’s best known as a high-profile DJ in the genre, but she’s also been a promoter, launched and ran an internet radio station and was one half of production duo Silent Code. More recently she’s developed a strong status as a solo producer, she runs the new talent-championing label Sliced Note Recordings and has been supporting the broadest cross-section of the scene running the editorial website jungledrumandbass.co.uk for three years.
Most recently, she’s taken on the most challenging contribution to the scene and set up a Facebook talk group. That’s how committed to the cause she is. We caught her in-between her 300 emails a week and chasing after her little ones to find out her story…
Take me back to the first evidence of junglism in your life….
I listened to happy hardcore a lot, growing up. That was my first taste of rave. I was about 15 and, within a year, I was able to move out of foster care and get properly into raving. I was going to school but living a bedsit and signing my own sicknotes. I thought it was cool at the time but I was in the wrong crowd, getting into drugs, driving in stolen cars and partying too much. I grew up too quickly. Not a great start to life and certainly not what I hope for my own children. I’d left foster home with two black bags and a portable TV. I had nothing but stood on my own two feet ever since.
And raved on your own two feet…
Yeah we went to Garage Nation and the Sanctuary, mainly for hardcore events. I was so into hardcore I had a pet rat and a pet mouse called Force & Styles. I loved it. But then one night I ended up in the jungle room and that was the game changed. It was a warm, bubbly, vibey environment. I was so used to everyone bouncing up and down with glow-sticks but this was much sexier, everyone was moving to the basslines and it just wowed me. People dancing on the speakers, grinding away. And that was me. I stopped going to hardcore nights and started going to jungle events. I remember Nicky Blackmarket dropping Jo’s R Type in an old church, that warm swaying happy vibe, from there I was hooked. I wanted to be like him. So eventually I convinced my boss at Dominos Pizza to buy me decks and a mixer!
As you do…
I needed them! I’d got a scholarship to go to college but couldn’t continue at Hartpury because I was skint. I was trying to pay all these bills, I was broke. But I needed to mix. The boys wouldn’t let me touch the turntables at any parties for obvious sexist reasons – ‘you’re a girl, you can’t touch these!’ – so I had no choice. I begged for decks. I’ve got to say, after I got them and got up to speed almost everyone was really supportive. Within six to eight weeks I was playing my first gigs and within six months I was getting my first European gigs. It was a fast progression. Within a year I was playing around the world, getting paid really well.
Not really. I don’t even think I was that good back then. Hand on heart, I wasn’t that tight with my mixes like I am now. There just weren’t that many women DJs in drum & bass. There was Storm, Flight, Rap, a few more in London. We were a novelty. It’s easy to be a leading ‘female DJ’ when there aren’t that many of you. I hate the term female DJ by the way, it’s DJ.
Amen. Did DJing become your only job, then?
No I was always working three or four different jobs. Basically being in foster care made me fend for myself and become very independent and self-reliant. I worked in finance for a long time, I worked at an aviation company, building societies, car companies. I’ve always been very on it. It’s a survival instinct. I don’t have anyone to fall back on.
That means you make the most of what you got…
Yeah it does. But it also took me a long time to grow up in a way. I’d hang around with older people but mentally I wouldn’t be as mature as them. That gave me lots of problems. At 20 I was diagnosed with a Borderline Personality Disorder and that was from not having the structure of a family to help me and the trauma in my childhood. There was no stability. When I met my husband the chaotic, over-driven, wild side of me suddenly disappeared because I didn’t feel so anxious any more. I had that support. I felt settled.
I guess music was the strongest role prior to you meeting him and settling down?
Yeah, DJing was the only one consistent thing. Jobs came and went but that was the one thing that stayed constant. It’s given me a sense of achievement. Whenever I’ve had a shit day, a mix will sort me out completely. Music has so much of a positive impact for your mental health. I love the idea of vibration theory, I love the idea of energies and connections through music and how you can create an energy by playing certain keys. I love being able to do that. It’s a release isn’t it? I love being part of this scene so much. And I do mean scene in the broadest of senses – every single person who works their arses off 24/7. The promoters and the sound engineers. The guys who are there at the start of the night till the end of the night. Some of us can rock up and go home after an hour.
You’ve had many roles in this. You were a promoter for a long time, right?
Yeah. I was selling tickets for Bedlam and the Valve Soundsystem, then got into promoting nights in Gloucester called Aftershock. They went well, so we started doing second rooms in events across the UK. The biggest even we did was in Coventry. I’d hooked up with Phantasy and started running events with him – big shout to Phantasy as he has been a huge help and support to me and my career. We had Chase & Status, Swan-E, Ragga Twins, Skiba, Shabba, Eksman. That was a big line-up! That was a memorable event for many reasons…
You set up the Aftershock radio station too, didn’t you?
Yeah I was doing some radio bits, heading down to London to play on Worldwide DNB. They were wicked down there. I’d play after Ruffstuff and Kane. But it was too much with the travelling so I thought about setting up my own internet radio station. I got a £5000 loan out and ended up with a two floor office in the middle of town. It was a bit chaotic to be honest, I wasn’t very good at managing people at the time so that didn’t work, so I started running it from my house which became very intense. It did really well but became a full-time job. We were doing events, then second rooms for events all around the UK, then Spain and Germany. It was a big thing for us all to be pottering over to Europe in a full crew. It was good fun. But then I had to haul it all in a bit. You can do too much for people sometimes. Not everyone in this game will give back what they’ve received. A lot of people are out for themselves. And it got to a point when I needed to pull back a bit and look after myself.
I hear that. So moving forward a bit, take us to the launch of your website jungledrumandbass.co.uk…
That was 2017. A few of us were running another site but it needed more resources to run properly and it wasn’t my baby, so I had to step away from it and decided to set up my own. I’m so happy with it. I’ve got 10 people working on it, we’ve got a dedicated webmaster, Barry. Brendan is manager and we are about 10 volunteers – Mike, Dan, Lewis who runs the soundcloud, Chilla, Eleni, Mark Connect, Mark Jeffers and Chad, then there is the new moderators on the chat group it’s a big brill team – it’s been great to be recognised and accepted by the big labels who send us their promos and news. When the big guys are on board, the little ones see it’s legit too, so I’m really grateful for that. It’s been running for three years now but it’s been fun.
But you’re not adverse to graft are you?
I’m really not and I think it shows when you haven’t grafted. The people who last the longest in this game and appreciate it the most are the ones who’ve come from nothing and have put all of their soul and heart into it for years. I know things are different now. The internet changed everything and continues to do so but from my experience, the people who’ve had to work the hardest for this are usually the ones who get the most out of it. Not always, but often. Never really being part of a crew, I’ve had to graft extra hard on everything; my jobs, the DJing, the studio….
Yeah take us through your role as a producer…
Obviously I was one half of Silent Code, which is no longer a thing for me because it was with my ex, but we did some music I’m proud of and some of the tracks were licensed to the EA Need For Speed game. But I was mainly doing things on my own. I was shocked because someone wanted to sign my first ever solo production. Critical Impact was really helpful to me on that one actually. I asked his advice and he told me to go away and start again!
Honest advice is the best advice!
Oh mate, the mixdown was so awful. I still think the sounds and vibe in the track were okay. But yeah the mixdown was just wank but still a label wanted to sign it, which was a really good feeling. It made me go away and learn how to mixdown properly. How to make things breathe, how to use metering systems and ways to visualise what you’re hearing. That’s where I felt I’d started to progress. Unfortunately it’s really hard find time for production with everything else in my life, but I do have a track with MC Navigator on Formation called Calling All Junglists and I have a remix of D-Zire’s Me, Myself & I so there are bits flying around. Obviously I want to do more but time….
Plus the label Sliced Note, too!
Yeah, again I’d love to do more but I’m very specific in who I sign and what I want. For me the label has to be about new talent. I could go out there and pay £400 for a remix from a well known artist and get them on my label and raise its profile but I think it’s important to support up and coming artists and raise the label’s profile in an organic way with the new talent. If that’s what you’re going to focus on, that’s how you should grow it.
That definitely adds authenticity. Makes it a lot harder though. There are always so many people shouting…
Aren’t there! And yeah it is harder but I just want to help people out like people helped me. I’ve had some artists go onto sign to labels like Serial Killaz. Guys like Veak, he’s gone on to do some great things. I’ve got my eye on Crooks right now and want to support him. He’ll be one to watch in the same way as Veak. As always though, it’s about how much time I put into this.
With all your other commitments…
Totally. I’m a qualified riding instructor and obviously a mum to a lovely family. Actually that’s one thing I want to say; I was DJing pregnant until it was uncomfortable to do so. And the fact I was still getting booked being sixteen stone and pregnant has always made me proud of the scene. There’s still a push to look good, sadly, but I was booked more than I thought I would be and that was a big thing for me. As a woman you’re treated differently, there’s no hiding this. But that was a positive. Most the time I’ll get to the door and get asked for a ticket because the bouncer doesn’t believe I’m DJing.
Totally. It’s still a massive problem. And it’s often the security who have the most out-dated opinions and behaviours. But you’ve seen what it’s like out there. There are some unpleasant people out there. Especially right now. Have things got better? Yeah of course. There’s a lot more focus on the imbalance and there are a lot of groups and communities for female artists. But that’s triggered awful responses. People saying there aren’t enough female artists. Well that’s bullshit because the last time I counted there were over 250 women DJs, MCs, singers and producers in drum & bass in the UK alone. Then the people saying women have ostracized themselves and ‘what if the men had their own men-only group?’ Well… You have! It’s been a mainly men-only group, all the line-ups or all the rooms the whole fucking time! One or two girls in the mix would not hurt your line-up. It will actually make it better.
But I will say this about female-only groups to try and help people understand…. Some men might not realise that some of these women may have had traumatic experiences, perhaps abuse or situations around groups of men and they might not feel comfortable around groups of men as a result. These groups are safe places where people feel comfortable and help each other to grow. There’s a reason why people want to do things a certain way and people don’t take the time to see that or understand it.
Totally. I think this has been the theme of the last few months or so on the internet during lockdown!
100%! It was. It’s been toxic out there. Everything is heightened but I’ve thought a lot about this and mellowed a lot in my age. DJ SS has become a really good friend over the years. Him and Phantasy are really kind, supportive people, and sometimes I feel isolated – I’m not part of a crew or team, I don’t have much family and I’ve stood on my own two feet – having them there and around is a godsend. There are only a few things you need to do in life: be kind, be understanding, be patient, be respectful. These are the only things you really need to do and if we all practiced it, we’d be in such a better place…