If you’re looking for authenticity amongst the scene look no further. Hollie-May is the epitome of true representation, unapologetically herself through and through, and her pure love for jungle music is the driving force for her DJ career. We first came across Hollie-May a few years back when she kept cropping up on our feeds on guest mixes, radio show and amazing underground line-ups. We decided we needed to check her out. There had to be a reason this name keeps appearing. We listened to a couple of mixes and found an exceptional DJ with a real affinity with the energy music creates, and an ability to curate sets to reach maximum vibes.
Holly also works hard to pour her energy back into the community and helps artists to grown and develop their own space within the scene. We have a chat to Hollie-May about her journey so far,
So How did you get into drum & bass and jungle?
Good question. I was going to free parties when I was far too young to be going out, probably 14! I just remember they’d be playing a jungle set as the sun came up and that would be like the theme of every free party. And that’s the bit that I loved the most, I was just fascinated by these two tunes being put together. So I’d like to watch the DJ quite a lot, and a lot of my mates were DJing as well. Obviously, back then, it was even less females doing it. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, really. I almost thought like well they can do it, so I can do it. I want to go. I just got hold of a set of decks and mixed until, well.. I just mixed and mixed the mixed, basically for a long, long time.
Amazing so it was the free parties that lit the fire, you don’t produce do you? Strictly DJing…
Yeah I do produce a little bit, not enough to put anything out.
Okay, what kind of vibe are you going for?
Jungle, I think. I’m kind of open to whatever comes out, like I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. I’m already sort of affiliated with some good labels. So I would definitely need to be good enough and I wouldn’t put anything out unless it’s good enough for my own sake.
You’re affiliated with Sofa Sound, do they help you with direction of your production?
I do production lessons with Revan he’s part of Ill Truth. Jay [DLR], is basically wanting to get me in the studio with somebody on the label at some point. But I said, I wanted to wait a year when I can come with a little bit more. I don’t want someone to be ghost producing for me or anything. I want to go in with equal knowledge. But right now I’m doing the lessons but I haven’t actually produced much recently.
I really wanted to talk about the community hub you created, tell us about that. You were teaching people to DJ there weren’t you?
Yeah I was teaching and I had a therapy room at the back. I practised the more holistic side of therapy, something called Metatronia therapy. And I was mentoring a couple of young DJs and helping them to figure out what they wanted from the scene and what their goals were. I wanted them to see the reality of a lot of it because it’s very glamorised if you ask me. We worked on more like the life coach side of their musical careers. The trajectories, ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ and ‘How do we get there?’ That sort of thing. I was running workshops there and we were doing art clubs too. During covid we were just given this space in the centre of town, for free, which was amazing. It was in the shopping centre.
It looked really cool. How did you find your mentees?
I just put it out on Instagram and generally people approached me about it. I wasn’t necessarily trying to push it so much. I just put it out there that this is something that I’d like to do with people. I really supported them, and it’s amazing to watch people getting confidence. When somebody has come to you saying ‘I’m so nervous’ and that they don’t know what they’re doing and then they’re smashing sets out. It’s sick.
I think this scene really needs more people looking after each other and helping each other grow. And like you said, the reality of it can be really hard. You see a lot of DJs and people really struggling with mental health or not just DJs but promoters, managers, PR because it’s just so intense. How did you prepare them for those realities? What was your advice?
It’s very dependent on the person and what their needs are when they come to me. Just to go back slightly, I really think this scene really needs its elders to be teaching the younger people . Without being with me as a client. That should be the done thing if you ask me, but it’s not.
But my advice generally was finding your authentic point. What is it that you’re about without everybody else? Without all the noise, what do you stand for? What do you love about the scene? What do you get from it? How do you want to take that and feed that into your life? Where do you sit within all of that? Because everybody can sit differently. Like, for me, I don’t necessarily want to be at the top and in the limelight and all that because it just doesn’t feel right for me, I’d rather be a little bit on the sideline, doing the more authentic kind stuff like mental health talks. That’s where I sit.
It can take a long time to figure that out, it took me a long time to feel like I was adequate. Because somebody can get big quite quickly from certain avenues, which is fair enough, but it took me a long time to find my space. So I think I really wanted to pass that kind of knowledge on. Dig your heels in, be authentic and find out what you like, what music you like and stick to that. I just constantly reminded them why they’re doing this.
That’s a really really good point, it’s massively needed. At the time where people are blowing up through social media or whatever, we need the balance of authenticity as well.
I like the underground. That’s where I belong.
How long has it been since you’ve putting yourself out there as a professional DJ?
I’ve been playing for about 12 years. Probably in the last couple of years, when I found out who I really was and what I stand for, that’s when I said ‘okay, now, I can actually feel comfortable’. Sometimes before I could just feel a bit fake if I was trying to push something that I didn’t really care about. Before Sofa Sound picked me up, there was a point where I just wanted to stop all of this. I hated it all. There was this breaking point. I’ll always DJ for myself, but the scene, for me, through lockdown was just all about how you’re perceived and how you look. And I found that really difficult. I suppose in some ways I’m a little bit shy in that sense.
12 years ago people didn’t give a shit, whether you were male, female, whatever, they honestly couldn’t have cared less and then it turned into a big thing. And that’s when I thought ‘what am I doing? I don’t know where I sit within all of this. I don’t feel very comfortable’. There was a breaking point because it made me think ‘well, what do you want? Where do you want to sit within all of this? What do you stand for?’ And I think having that experience was where a lot of the skills with working with mentees came from. I was ready to stop.
But then literally within a week of feeling that low I played for Sofa Sound. If Khan was the manager at the time. And he told me that the label wanted to work with me. I was crazy because I’d told myself I couldn’t carry on in the scene unless I was working for someone like Sofa Sound. I’d love that. And then it happened. I was just so overwhelmed.
How did they get in contact? Was it just from seeing you about?
It was when they got me to play. I’d known DLR for a long time just from playing out and crossing paths. They liked my set and realised that they needed to bring diversity into the label as well. They’re at the forefront of that. They are really trying to balance stuff out as well as just being aware and putting their hands up and admitting ‘Yeah, we could have done better here or, yeah, we’re trying to do this thing’. I really appreciate that about them. So I think they realised the inequality of their label and knew that they needed to get somebody that they liked. Which is half the battle, it’s all well and good saying, ‘we need to get women on the label’. But you still need to find people that you think are good
I really like that you said that you need to be good, because I’m female, and while I really want to see diversity across the scene in all senses, I’m a big advocate that it will happen organically if we’re all more open. We can’t just force people through if they’re rubbish because- it’s just going backwards.
Yeah, exactly. And it’s pointless. And I don’t want to stand for that. That’s not what a person needs. I don’t see myself as a female DJ. I’m the same as a DJ, and I’ve always felt like that. I felt like that before because it wasn’t a thing. Then it did become a thing and I see the value in it, I think it’s important, but in the same breath I’m just a DJ. I don’t need to differentiate.
Can we talk more about Metatronia therapy? What is it?.
It’s similar to Reiki but there’s more working with the energetic body and working with people’s belief systems and kind of breaking down stuff to help them be more in alignment with where they’re supposed to be. We get caught up in all manner of shit in human life.
Is that through touch or through talk?
The talking part helps, we’re working with them and they naturally start breaking down some of the stuff that they have holding them back. A lot of it is a belief system, we’ve decided to think something over and over again. That’s all a belief is, a thought process that we’ve decided that we think . It’s a challenge to break that down. So I’ll just just have open conversations with people and I might feel something come up that I’ll then bring to the table, and then we’ll have a discussion about that. But the top side of it is just working with what I would say is universal energy. I know there’s a lot of sceptical thoughts about all of this, but for me, I know that we’ve got body, we’ve got an energy. We’re all made up of energy that is science. We can’t deny that. So it’s the same hygiene as brushing your teeth. This is energy hygiene.
It’s the same as going to the gym working out all the nooks and crannies. We need to do that to keep healthy, it’s the same thing. We’re just giving something a clear out. Getting in the shower, getting in an energy shower.
Do you intertwine music, and particularly jungle with healing energies? Do they sit together for you?
For me, Yeah. I mean it’s the only thing that’s been consistent in my life. It’s the only thing that I was always able to turn to when I was younger. I had a difficult upbringing and I was always able to turn to it always. I think there’s something about it being quite repetitive as well. It helps my brain to think. Whatever I was feeling, I was always able to just go and have a mix and lay out in that way. There’s definitely something that’s therapeutic about mixing. That’s why I’ll always DJ, it doesn’t matter if I’m doing it in front of people or not like I’ll always do it because I love it and it’s the only thing that’s been there for me, like consistently throughout my life.
I read a piece about how dance music is very similar to music that was used spiritually or ritualistically throughout the ages. Because like he said of the repetition and how and it can induce that trance like feeling.
And the people making the music, they’ve put a lot of energy into making it. We can’t deny that because music brings a feeling. Yeah, it’s done a lot for me.