Shining bright as one of lockdown’s finest drum and bass success stories, Kara is already a household name on drum and bass line-ups across both the country and the globe – and for good reason.
As the increasingly popular DJ livestream filled our clubbing void and plastered our social media feeds during lockdown, Buckinghamshire-based DJ Kara took advantage of this to its utmost potential and took her skills online. You may remember the iconic moment her parents jumped in on a livestream for a quick rave, but more importantly, we remember the energy, the unique blends, and her clear passion for all strands of drum and bass and jungle, new and old.
As we discover in the chat below, it was her parents that stoked the fire and taught her the foundations of what she can now happily call her music career. From her mum’s lessons in DJing using her expansive drum and bass/jungle vinyl collection, to her dad’s ventures in music as a minimal tech-house producer, music runs deep in the family and has been passed on to the next generation of talent. Her broad knowledge of drum and bass and tight mixing skills quickly led her to playing sold-out raves, international tours, festival shows, and appearances on the likes of Kiss and Radio 1.
Now, her sights are set beyond just the decks but also firmly into the world of music production. Her slick jungle-tinged remix of DJ Phantasy and Doktor’s Junglist released last year on Viper Recordings has already amassed near one million streams on Spotify, and her bootleg game continues to grow, with recent tracks like her Biscits – Your Body bootleg obliterating raves. It becomes apparent we can expect much more of this to come.
Check our full chat below to read all about Kara’s past, present and future plans in music.
You’ve had an incredibly busy summer it seems… probably your biggest so far.
Yeah! It’s come out of nowhere to be honest. Over lockdown I started to post clips of me mixing online, and before that I had played out but only small local nights, pubs and friend’s events. I came out of lockdown and was thrown right into the deep end, which was a lot to take in, but it was amazing. I learnt so much last year, and this year has been an even bigger step up. It’s such an experience, I hope it never ends.
Incredible. Seeing the progress from the early days in lockdown with the live streams to where you are now is so good to see. It’s all happened super quick.
Yeah, I know… it’s crazy. It blows my brain.
Do you ever get a moment to take it in?
Yeah sometimes! I’ll often have a lot of gigs on the weekend, and I’ll get to the Wednesday after and be like… wow I played that. It sort of hits you when you stop all the travelling and you’re sat in your bed.
Not only did you have your first international show this year, but on top of that you had a whole New Zealand tour. Tell me more.
I got to travel so much this year which was amazing. I did Barcelona, Prague, New Zealand, all over the UK, and I’m about to do Belgium. t’s been full on, and I don’t think I’ve processed it yet. New Zealand was so good. It’s beautiful out there and everyone was so lovely.
Is this tour life something you’ve found difficult to adjust to? From an outside perspective it seems like a big shift.
I am a true raver at heart, so before all of this I was out every weekend raving anyway! Not much has changed honestly, apart from being on the other side of the stage.
Where does this love of raving come from?
My mum! She had me quite young, so there’s videos of me as a kid in the back of her car raving to jungle. I was brought up pretty much strictly on jungle and house music. When I turned 18, my mum took me for my first rave which was Goldie and his live orchestra at Camden Roundhouse. After that, we started going out to all these nights like 31 Records, RAM and Metalheadz. While she doesn’t get to come out raving as much anymore, she comes to watch me play sometimes which is really special.
Does she DJ too?
Yep, she taught me to mix on her turntables! I still have the same headphones that she used when she was about 16. They’re my lucky pair. I remember, she was like ‘you’re not allowed any of that digital stuff in our house. You learn how to mix on vinyl and then you can have it.’ For my 18th or 19th birthday I got a little DJ controller and that was when I started to venture into new school music rather than purely mixing classic jungle and drum and bass.
That’s become a big part of your signature mixing style. Anyone that’s watched you will know you love the older tunes mixed with the new stuff, so It’s great to hear your parents influence on this.
Yeah definitely, it’s all in my upbringing. All these classic tunes have a special place in my heart, and I’ll always include a few of them in my sets. Most people know them, but then there’s the new generation that don’t know them and they get to hear it for the first time. It’s important to me to keep that old school flavour. It’s just where I’ve come from, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing them. One day I’ll do a strictly old school set…
It looks like you’ve got a big vinyl collection on this note.
It’s my mum’s! I’m lucky. Her eagle eyes are on me when I’m going through and touching all the vinyl. It’s literally all hers apart from one Kings Of The Rollers EP I bought in 2019. I do want to add to the collection, but we need to service our decks first.
Would you ever do a vinyl set out?
I’d love to, but there’s the fear of it. It’s very easy to mess up playing out on vinyl so I’d need to be fully confident in it. Me and my mum are in the process of recording an hour-long b2b vinyl mix, so hopefully it’ll be done by the end of this year and I can stream it around Christmas time. It’s been a long time coming.
Was DJing ever a career possibility in the days of your mum teaching you how to mix?
I wanted it to be a party trick really. I wanted to turn up to a party, show all the boys up and go home. That was my first vision of it. Then lockdown happened and I decided to start posting clips online which started to build momentum. I carried on and then my agency who I’m with now saw me and signed me. From there, I came out of lockdown with loads of gigs, and this is where I’m at now. It’s definitely going to be my career going forwards, and I’ve got so many plans for the future. I didn’t think it would come to this to be honest with you.
A big part of building this career was your move into production. Has this been in the works for as long as the DJing?
Yeah, I remember even messing about on GarageBand when I was really young. My dad is big into production and used to be a minimal tech-house producer, so I have grown up seeing a lot of it and would always dabble here and there. I only started to take it a bit more seriously once the DJing started to kick off. It’s been about two years now since I really sat down and tried to make things work. It’s hard!
A very musical family! You’re into your house music yourself, right?
Yeah, I love house music! In the future I’d like to venture out and put out some house tunes. Whether or not that’s going to go under Kara or a different alias I’m not sure, but I’ve still got lots of work to do on it for now.
Nice! Producing other genres is so good for the creative flow anyway, whether you’re releasing it or not.
It is. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring, especially if you’re playing out every weekend. I used to put drum and bass mixes on all the time, and it got to a point where I was needing to give myself a break. I’m a very music-forward person though, so eventually I felt the need to go back to my roots in house and garage and start making these genres when I had time in the week.
I think all the best drum and bass producers have influences from all over the shop. Someone like Lenzman with hip-hop influences, Bukem with jazz… I could go on.
Exactly, it’s great to take inspirations from other genres. It gives you creativity on a personal level, but it also gives your music some individuality.
For sure. Drum and bass like all genres can be prone to becoming stale if people don’t switch it up.
It’s like when the rollers became a huge thing. Everyone was making the same sound and it wasn’t the same anymore. I needed to know what was next and what was fresh. The best tunes are always different to what everyone else is listening to.
Agreed! How do you personally try and keep your productions fresh?
A lot of it is sample hunting for me. I’m looking for anything interesting. My tune Trust on SASASAS has got a sample from Alien in it for example. I often just sit on Spotify Radio and hunt for ages.
Talking about interesting samples, I saw you sampled the Monsters Inc theme in a house tune on your story. Huge vibes!
Haha yeah, I couldn’t get to sleep last night so I started messing around with it. I’ve had so many people message about that, so I’ve got to finish it now. Whip that one out at a house party and everyone will love it.
Definitely. Before this interview I also saw you tease another drum and bass bootleg. You’re a bootleg machine!
I know, right! The thing is with bootlegs is that there’s already such a good vibe to the tune that people know and like from the original. Sometimes if I’m not feeling super creative then it makes sense for me to make a bootleg. It means I’m still being productive and it’s also making me positive and happy about the production process. It means next time I go into the studio I’ll be more likely to get stuff done. It’s all about keeping this positive energy going for me.
Have you got any goals when it comes to production? People you want to collaborate with? Labels you want to release on?
I’d absolutely love to collab with Bladerunner one day, he’s my idol. I love everything about him, his music and his DJing. Aries is another as well. I actually started something with him so hopefully we can go and get that finished soon. I’m also playing b2b with Sota soon so I’ll definitely be pulling him aside and seeing if we can make something together. I want to venture into all sub-genres of drum and bass, I’m a sucker for it all. I don’t think you’ll be hearing just one thing from me. It will range from jump-up, to liquid, to jungle. Not forgetting garage and house of course.
Quick-fire time. if you had to pick DJing or producing, what would it be?
Easy one! DJing, 100%.
I should have seen that one coming.
I’m a DJ at heart. Not that I find it easy, but I can get on the decks and do it comfortably. I hope in the future I can just sit down and produce like that. I know it will come one day, but it is still a massive learning curve for me, and I think every producer is still learning constantly. Producing is more of a challenge at the end of the day, so if I had to pick between the two, I’d happily pick playing out to hundreds and thousands of ravers and making their day rather than sitting and stressing at a computer.
Very fair answer! Secondly, what’s your favourite dub right now?
You know what, this might sound selfish but it’s probably my dubplate of Original Nuttah.
Not at all!
I play it every set and it absolutely slaps. I double it over a Benny L tune and it always goes off. That’s got to be my favourite.
Finally, what shows have you got coming up?
Warehouse Project with Worried About Henry is going to be a wicked one. I’m playing Rampage next month which is going to be sick. I’ve got Printworks b2b with Sota. I’m pretty busy on Halloween, with sets in Bristol, Cardiff, Southampton, Bournemouth and possibly Birmingham as well.
Lovely. Any final bits you want to mention?
I’m currently working on some merch which will consist of a few little novelty bits and some clothing. Other than that, that’s about it!
Follow Kara: Soundcloud / Facebook / Instagram