Making waves with her infectious beats and captivating performances, we need to talk about SIREN.
With a busy 2023 already underway, she has been focused on creating music with several tracks ready for release and more promised throughout the year, including an unexpected collaboration with Right Said Fred. But her musical endeavours don’t stop there. Beyond the studio, she has booked for an array of shows in the UK and Europe, and at the time of interviewing SIREN was preparing for an exciting milestone in her career—a debut tour in Australia and New Zealand, which she’s now embarked on. Not content with just shelling the dancefloor, SIREN has also ventured into the world of radio, recently landing a drive-time radio show with the esteemed Kool FM, where she combines her vibrant personality with banging tunes, creating an interactive experience for her listeners.
We dive deeper into her early musical influences, her decision to pursue drum and bass as a career, and her journey into the world of production. From self-releases to label collaborations, she has taken control of her musical vision, constantly learning and refining her skills to produce tracks that resonate with her audience.
Hi, how are you?
I’m very well, thank you. I’m excited to be talking to you. It’s been a busy 2023 so far, my primary focus has been on making music, I have several tracks ready for release throughout the year, some of which will be coming out on some well-known labels. My amazing agent has been keeping me busy with lots of shows in the UK and Europe and I’m just about to head off on my debut Australia and New Zealand tour., Festival season is just around the corner so I’m looking forward to and planning for some exciting shows this summer. I am also very excited about my drive-time radio show with Kool FM, my first show went really well, and I had a lot of good feedback.
Amazing. How did you get involved with the Kool FM team?
I’ve known Jess (Label and curations manager at Rinse FM) for some time, we first met in Ibiza when I was the Artist Liaison for Together at Amnesia. We built a friendship and maintained it. When Jess was the Label Manager at Elevate she invited me to play at a few events at Box Park in Shoreditch. She was impressed by the personality of SIREN, who is different to me as day-to-day Gemma, and felt it would be a really good opportunity to get some of that personality across on the radio and offered me the drive time slot which I do every other Wednesday 5-7pm.
How does the show run? Are you having a chat, having a mix, inviting guest mixes?
I want to do something different and interactive and not just play out mixes, it has more of a radio host vibe where I’m having a bit of chat and playing some banging tunes in between. I want to share some insight from myself and established acts, the behind-the-scenes bits you wouldn’t normally hear about, from production to DJing and everything in between. One thing I am particularly excited about is giving new and emerging artists a platform to showcase a mix or have a track played on the radio. Anyone can reach out to me on socials and I will listen to their mix or tune and potentially play it on the show. I think if you have a platform it’s important to shine a bit of light on someone new.
The Kool FM relaunch has been great, how did the first show go?
I was nervous when the first show went out, but I had great support from the production team and received supportive and complimentary messages online from people who tuned in. When I listened back to the show I even said to myself I like this SIREN chick, it’s strange how that’s a totally different personality to me.
Did it take you a long time to prepare it all?
The first show did take me a while, one because I wanted it to be perfect and two because I did it remotely at home. You can go into the studio and put the show out live, which is what I’ll be doing as often as I can. One of my shows will clash with my tour in Australia, so I have already booked a studio in Brisbane to pre-record the segments. After the response from the first show, I have a good feel for what people liked and what music they want more of, luckily for me it’s anything dark and hard!
Can you take us back to your early musical influences?
It’s completely different from drum & bass, but once I found d&b, I didn’t look back.
When I was younger, I listened to a lot of hip-hop and 90s garage and was mostly going out on the commercial scene. Then I met my partner who was going to festivals and introduced me to the scene, it was at that point I realised there was more out there in the world of music and that raving and d&b has its own culture which I immersed myself in.
What festival was it ?
I was 23 when I went to my first rave, I had no idea what to expect and ironically it was a great collaboration of my early influences and d&b. It was a Modestep gig at XOYO in London and Big Narstie was the support. At the time I was more into Big Narstie than Modestep. It’s crazy to me now, that I have since played shows and supported Modestep.
The next rave that sticks out to me was Wilkinson Live at Electric Brixton, that must have been about 2015, I was having the best time ever and I just spiralled into the d&b world. Another pinch-me, full circle moment is that I’m now supporting Wilkinson on his headline Australia tour.
When did you start following drum and bass as a career path? When did you think this is what I’m going to do?
In the summer of 2015, I spent 3 months in Ibiza going to the drum & bass night every week, as well as following certain DJs around the UK and Europe. I felt dedicated to the scene and I supposed I was looking for a way to go to the shows, be part of it and get paid! I started doing industry jobs behind the scenes, Artist liaison, Logistics and day-to-day management. Then one night in Ibiza I was watching Chase & Status play. I just thought ‘You know what, I want to be on their side of the decks’, so I pursued it from there and here we are.
In 2018 my boyfriend brought me my first set of decks, CDJ 400’s. I can’t say they were the easiest to start on but I did learn a lot. I hadn’t found my SIREN alter ego at that point so my confidence held me back a bit and it wasn’t until the following year I really got into it and knuckled down. My friend invited me to a couple of local shows in my hometown of Reading at Sub 89 to see how I felt performing in front of people, fortunately, I loved every second. I went back to the island that year and played my first professional show.
Was the first proper show in Ibiza?
Yeah, it was the Andy C ‘All Night’ event at Amnesia playing on the Terrace, I played the opening slot before Harriet Jaxxon.
That’s a bit of a big one for your first professional show. It really shows people believed in you to put you on a platform like that…
I was thrown in at the deep end, I was lucky for the opportunity, but I worked really hard for it too. I built up a relationship with the promoter and the venue, there was a lot of groundwork behind the scenes that led to opportunities and playing that show allowed me to show them what I could do. Turns out I was actually quite good and they offered me more shows in Ibiza that year and the UK that winter.
Did you work in Ibiza or were you there to party?
I did 5 seasons in Ibiza and had my main jobs over 3 years. I started out as a ticket seller on the beach, selling tickets for nights I wanted to go to which happened to be at Amnesia and then I started working there as the Artist Liaison and that was how I really built my relationship with the artists on the d&b nights from Chase & Status to Sub Focus, Wilkinson, Pendulum and the promoters. I worked at Ushuaia too as Artist Liaison and Logistics manager, that was a completely different kettle of fish because of the acts they have there I worked with including Diplo, Skrillex, Martin Garrix, and David Guetta. It was absolutely mental some of the things I had to do, the after-parties I attended. It was a good learning curve and taught me a lot about how to handle yourself in different situations and around people.
Don’t get me wrong I did party a lot in Ibiza, but I networked even harder.
There’s so much, like, groundwork and networking, and building things up before you get into showing the world who you are, and what you can do. So in five years, you’ve played in some massive spaces, like Printworks and Amnesia…
My show was in August of 2019, but that was shortly followed by lockdown so along with everyone else I wasn’t able to get out and play any shows. I feel like it’s only really been in the last year that it’s properly been happening for me, it has been a real privilege to have played those venues so early on. I used the time during the lockdown to focus on production, after my first show at Amnesia I made a deal with myself that I would release a track within a year from that date, the following June I released my first track ‘Advent.’ I had never touched production before so I had to really knuckle down and was actually grateful for the time during the lockdown for that reason.
You hit your goal! Did you teach yourself or did you get lessons?
I went to the London Sound Academy and had lessons. I completed 2 of their courses. Initially, I started learning with Ableton whilst I understood everything in principle I just wasn’t feeling the software and then a friend of mine showed me around logic and I’ve never looked back. I’ve continued to have lessons and with each track I’ve released I feel you can hear the progress and a keen listener would probably hear whatever new skill it might have been that I learned whilst making that track. The lessons, from sound design to mixing techniques are important to me because I want to produce good music and I want to do it on my own. I know that I need to constantly be learning and looking for new ways to make what I do better.
When you say you want to do it on your own, is self-releasing an important part of it for you?
When I say on my own I mean that I want to know that I’ve made the tune from start to finish on my own, that track is my piece of art that I’m sharing with the world. Currently, all of my tracks have been self-released and that’s something I’m proud of as I have still managed to do quite well off my own volition. I do have label releases planned for later this year which I’m excited about. My release Amplify was a self-release and that has had over a million streams. I’ve been lucky to have support from other artists playing my music, from Spotify on their editorial playlists, Beatport and of course, my last release ‘Dark Nights’ was supported by UKF and uploaded onto their Youtube channel. It’s a great feeling when people connect with something you made because it’s so personal.
Talk to us about your production workflow. Where’d you get your inspiration? Do you have little studio rituals?
I draw inspiration from various sources, sometimes I explore different music genres and create my own version and sound of the elements I like, just as I am inspired by learning new sound design techniques and implementing them into my tunes as it pushes me to experiment with new sounds and textures. I am also inspired by other producers within d&b, my early influences from 2015 are the likes of Loadstar, DC Breaks and Memtrix, so I try and combine bits of those sounds I connected with at the time with newer sounds like anything that comes out on Eat Brain, I love the music that they’re putting out and the heavier side of drum bass. Sometimes it’s just life and nature that inspires you, a feeling, a moment, or on the treadmill in the gym and an idea pops into my head.
As I listen to your tracks, I can hear both of those elements. You’ve got the catchiness of Wilkinson or Loadstar, but you’ve also got the absolute craziness of Eat Brain.
And you’ve got a remix scheduled with Right Said Fred, which is…
Random, but a great opportunity.
Can you tell us about that?
I met them in my gym and just got talking to them about the music industry. They’ve been really helpful to me and offered me advice as they’ve experienced a lot. They released Godsend and have an album coming out in June and wanted to have someone do an alternative-style remix for Godsend on the album, they allowed me to do that. It’s so funny because they’re these massive pop stars from their time and then I just casually got to hang out with them in the gym and now I’m doing a remix for them, the industry and life are funny like that.
You’re about to start a New Zealand Tour. That’s very exciting…
It’s my debut New Zealand and Australia tour. I feel like it’s been a long time coming, I’ve wanted to go for so long, and I’m really excited to go. In Australia, I will be supporting Wilkinson on a few of his dates. Pitch control, the promoter, invited me on the tour and are helping to build my brand there. In New Zealand, it will be me, Sota and Amplify. The Sub 180 crew are bringing me out, they saw me play at Tomorrowland last year and got in touch with my agent after that set. I’ll be playing 5 shows in New Zealand. I’m keen to get a vibe for the scene over there as drum & bass is so popular and almost has mainstream recognition, I’ve heard the ravers are pretty bonkers so it should be fun!
What else have you got coming up?
This is a big summer for me with club shows and Festivals in the UK and Europe. I’m proud to be invited back to the Nibirii Festival in Germany again this year and to have my debut set at Let it Roll, I’m really excited about that experience. I’m back in Ibiza this summer at Eden with Worried about Henry, Ibiza is a special one for me. It’s all about the music really, I’ve got a few more releases planned, but I can’t say where they’re going as of yet. I’ve recently started working with an American agent so I’m finalising things with my visa before I can commit to any US dates but have plans for Canada at the end of the summer.
Right last question. What should we be talking about in the bass music scene that we are not currently talking about?
Well, that’s a good one.
Personally, I feel sustainability is something we should be paying a lot more attention to. Environmental consciousness is gaining importance in all industries, including music. We could look for more sustainable practices within the music scene, such as eco-friendly festivals, and carbon offset initiatives, or as artists, we could use our platforms to promote sustainability.