Listen up: it’s International Women’s Day.
Yeah, we might not be able to agree on what constitutes a banger, if rollers are a genre, or how much flamethrower is enough flamethrower (looking at you, Dimension), but we can all agree on one thing: there are some seriously impressive women in the bass music scene.
Seeing women better represented in the industry feels great, and is something we want to see much more of – so we’ve asked some well-established industry greats to share their secrets to success.
Whether you’re a producer, a DJ, an artist manager or just a raver with a deep love for the music, keep reading for some mega inside info.
Slovakian drum & bass producer B-Complex has been making beats and waves since the young age of 12.
With an impressive backlog of releases and events, and an upcoming track on the music anticipated H25PITAL – Hospital Record’s 25th anniversary album – there’s certainly a lot to learn from B-Complex.
Favourite hardware: “For production, it’s my Nord Wave synth, and for DJing my Sennheiser HD25 headphones. If I destroy them or lose them somewhere, I buy them back straight away.”
Favourite software: “I’m a tracker head, so I’m still using Renoise. I would say it’s one of the best tools for making sample based music, and it’s still evolving.”
Music that reminds you of why you love the scene: “Stakka & Skynet – ‘Clockwork’ was the most influential album for my switch to the D&B scene. Concord Dawn, Teebee, John B and D Kay / Ill.Skillz were also big influences back then.”
“When I started out, the jungle and D&B community in Slovakia was super open minded. Then when I came out, I got great support from Tony Colman and the whole Hospital crew. Actually, I think the first time I really felt like I had made it was at a Hospital set at Matter back in the day. The club was packed and everyone was raving their hearts out – they all knew my music and it was just an amazing experience.
I’m trying to recreate that feeling of support myself, by making my gigs a safe space for all of the other misfit junglists. I want you all to know that you are loved and welcomed just the way you are.
It’s important to take breaks and to try not to stress too much – making time to regenerate avoids burn out. I always say ‘be yourself, and do yourself’. When I feel like I have something to celebrate, I eat. It’s one of few recreational things I do to be honest.
When I released my first vinyl I invited my parents and sister to fancy dinner, but actually I don’t really celebrate much. Perhaps I should!”
Mollie Collins’ climb from height to height as a producer, DJ and label owner have left us beyond gassed that today marks the release of ‘Remedies’ with Ruth Royall – her latest track, and her first UKF release.
Hardware: “I’m pretty minimal when it comes to hardware, but I need a good midi keyboard to write keys on. Native Instruments keyboards are quality – their Komplete ones have a screen on the keyboard that you can run the sounds through. Other than that, Massive & Serum are my go-to synthesisers.”
Software: “Logic Pro x is the DAW I learnt on and the one I know the best. I know that Ableton is also quality though.”
Music: “This is a tricky one because it probably changes all the time as more music comes out. Any sort of liquid dnb gets me in the feels though, and makes me love the music and the scene I’m part of even more.”
“A lot of the artists in the scene definitely made me feel at home when I first started out. Macky Gee, IC3 and Danny Byrd have always got my back. Nowadays there are some wicked communities about, with a really welcoming vibe – EQ50 in particular are really doing their thing for the women in D&B.
The music industry can be brutal, so you have to have support and a strong mindset. If I could give my younger self some advice, I would probably say don’t be so doubtful in yourself or the things you’re trying to do. I’ve learnt that a lot more as I’ve gotten older, that’s for sure.
Nowadays, when I feel like I’ve achieved something cool I make sure I celebrate with a good beer! That and writing more music – my achievements give me a real vibe to want to work harder and write more tunes.”
Charlotte Toney is the Director and Facilitator of BJA (The Black Junglist Alliance), a community portal designed to help unite black artists, professionals and creatives from the jungle D&B world. First and foremost though, Charlotte is a raver, who like many of us found her place in the scene through an obsession with music and events. We asked Charlotte for a run down of her best rave etiquette, and we certainly weren’t disappointed.
Hardware: “My ears have been and will continue to be my best piece of kit as a Junglist. I had problems with my right ear after being too close to a speaker at Moondance Festival a few years back and it affected my enjoyment of music, be it in venue or at home, out loud or with headphones, for the following year. It was truly awful and definitely taught me as hardware goes you have to look after them.”
Software: “Good kicks on your feet are a must and I don’t mean labels or brands either. Whatever you choose make sure they fit properly, have good support and great cushioning! If you have good ‘soft wear’ on your feet you’re good to go for a full night’s worth of skanking.”
Music: “‘Valley of the Shadows’ by Origin Unknown. The original rather than the Chase & Status remix, although that kicks some serious butt in the dance and is one of those remixes that just devours a sound system.”
“When I came up in the dance, the online communities we have now weren’t in existence. The raving community itself was what welcomed me in. I’m a member of DJBG (DJ Brockie’s Group, an online and in-person community of DJs started by DJ Brockie himself), and my first rave was an event at Building Six. I was a bit broke but really wanted to go, so a member gifted me a ticket to the event, and another member waited at the entrance so I wouldn’t be solo. Later on, that ticket became known as the golden ticket, because I paid it forward to another member, who did the same, and so on. That was five years ago and I can honestly say they’re both still firm friends of mine today.
There’s no such thing as ‘being alone’ at a jungle D&B event. We are a rare group of individuals, and we all ultimately hold and carry forth the same set off morals and ethics. This has always transpired across all parts of jungle D&B. I think it’s what sets us apart really. There is no love like the love of a Junglist.
In terms of advice, I would tell my younger self to “get to the dam dance on time and never miss a set again”. Seriously! I was taught by my elders and peers how to conduct myself in a dance, and all the things I learnt then have carried me through to now. I still use the first bar in an event as the meeting point for the end of the night. I never leave anyone behind and I never leave without knowing how we are all getting home, even if we aren’t travelling together. I was taught to move through the crowd with a smile and a bop in my step, to ask someone if they were ok if they didn’t look it, and to help them if they weren’t. And never, ever forget to carry a pair of sunglasses, it’s raver’s rules 101.
It’s taken me a while to learn to celebrate my own achievements in life. As women we naturally support and celebrate others with ease, forgetting all too often to celebrate ourselves. For me the best way to celebrate it is to live in the achievement, whilst moving forwards towards what’s next. Ultimately, I take a moment to decompress from the work put in, I let it all go, I enjoy and reflect on the moment – and then set my next goal.”
Hannah Helbert is Head of Press and Marketing at RAM Records, and also heads up Elevated Sound – a specialist music marketing service.
Music: “I wrote a whole list for this but then got myself twisted because there are too many tracks I wanted to include. If I had to pick just one album though it would have to be Ed Rush & Optical’s ‘Wormhole’. It inspired so many of the artists I love who got me into drum & bass, and I just love the whole sound. It was definitely a game changing release.”
“If I could go back and speak to my younger self, I’d tell her to have so much more confidence in her abilities, to speak up more and put that imposter syndrome in the bin! Never be afraid to have a seat at the table.
Also, I would tell her not to be scared to ask for support, and to take offers with a pinch of salt – trust your gut always!
Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis make the whole drum & bass scene feel like a community, especially the RAM crew. There are a lot of individuals who have given me guidance and support over the years when I’ve needed it.
More recently EQ50 have been great, especially with their mentorship scheme. They give a space for certain conversations to take place, and I think it gives women more confidence to have their voices heard.”
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UMC Management has seen an impressive score of DJs and producers pass through its doors since its launch in 1993. What began as a means of handling the diaries of a few DJs in the local Leicester area quickly expanded into the powerhouse of music management it is today, representing bass music celebrities such as Nicky Blackmarket and the Ragga Twins.
We spoke to UMC Artist Manager Tania Lee about her experience in the scene.
Hardware: “It’s got to be my MacBook Pro. It’s my right arm and I would be lost without it.”
Software: “TopTracker is one of my faves right now. It allows me to keep tabs on where my time is spent, and I can analyse how effective I’m being.”
Music: “There are far too many to mention but my top 5 in no particular order are:
- Mental Power – In Ya Soul (Way way ahead of its time)
- Adam F – Circles
- Shy FX – Wolf
- DJSS – Lighter
- Leviticus – Burial
- Roni Size & Represent – Brown Paper Bag”
“If I had one bit of advice for my younger self, I think I would have to say to trust in my own judgement and not be swayed by others with their own agenda. That said, I had a lot of support from the people around me when I was younger. Tracey and Nicky TON Promotions were amazing when I first started out – they were new too and we worked so closely together in the early days. Donovan ‘Bad Boy’ Smith championed me and the agency right from the get go… I think that getting out of the blocks would have been much harder without his endorsement.
Nowadays, so much of my support comes from the UMC Collective, it’s such a huge achievement. I remember the first official UMC meeting at the V office – all of the represented artists were there, and I already knew at that point it was going to be special. The roster had grown to over 30 artists, many of whom came to be iconic names within the scene, like Bryan Gee, Shy FX, Skibadee and MC Chickaboo. We’ve all grown so tight over the last twelve months, supporting each other through lockdowns, and working on various projects together.
I’m so grateful that I’m still here doing what I love. I don’t think any of us would have believed that nearly 30 years later we would still be here doing what we love.”
Former Head of Promotions at Hospital, and Label Manager at Shogun Audio and Elevate Records, freelance Artist and Label Consultant and Broadcaster Amy Jayne shares her wealth of experience as a woman working in music.
Hardware: “Well, I personally can’t live or do my job without both my phone and my laptop!”
Software: “Whatsapp for desktop – Due to having groups with multiple labels and artists, this is the quickest way of communicating. It’s also really handy if you need to share files or copy and paste links/text from elsewhere on your computer.”
Music: “What I love about D&B is the variation. You can dive into so many different catalogs, all subject to your mood. If you’re feeling mellow, soulful vibes then you can listen to Monrroe and Lenzman, or if you want tear-out dancefloor destroyers then Fourward and Noisia are for you – and you can find whatever you want in between! Plus, with the scene growing each day, we’re surrounded by exciting new talent. I’m still massively chuffed to be involved and do it as a job.”
“The drum and bass community as a whole has made me feel very welcome over the past decade or so. I love the fact that even though I’ve worked at different labels, I’ve always connected with other staff and artists who work together to push our scene forward. Back in the day, I was a part of the NCLBeats community which was a forum-based platform where like-minded D&B fans in the northeast would connect, promote local events and discuss releases.
To be honest, if it wasn’t for the community and the friends I made as a young raver – I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
There’s been a few moments in life where I’ve been like – wow I’m a part of this! Big sellout shows like Hospitality at Brixton Academy and the first Hospitality In the Park were definitely key moments for sure. More recently I’ve moved from full-time employment to freelance during a pandemic, which has been a real moment of both achievement and reflection. After all these years I can now pick and choose what I’m involved in and look after number one – myself!
I’ve definitely learnt the importance of self-care the hard way. I wish I knew the impact stress and work would have on my mental health. There were years I didn’t really take holidays and would happily reply to emails on the weekend, even though people warned me, but all work and no rest can really mess you up. Last year I decided to take a step back and learnt to give myself a break.
I can’t remember the last time I celebrated something work-related. I think probably because of the volume of work and the fact I’m used to jumping straight out of one campaign into another. One thing I can recommend though is buying yourself a new house plant – I used to after big campaigns, but I’ve run out of space now!”
Sending out a massive thanks to all the women involved in this article – and to the thousands of others we didn’t get a chance to speak to who keep the scene ticking by. Big up!