Meet Natty Lou: a one-time world championship winning dancer, broadcaster on Data Transmission, events manager at Concrete Junglists, a dancer for major events such as EDC across the globe prior to covid, a first class graduate of streaming DJs who are now crushing line-ups post lockdown… And an ex-geography teacher!?
From Cardiff to Bristol to Dubai to Hong Kong and back again, Natty (real name Natalie) has led an exciting and varied life that – as she admits herself – is driven by a certain thrill of risk taking. Now she’s applying her same drive and energy to DJing. Already part of the scene since she moved to Bristol as a young student, everything she’s done across her many roles is now being invested in her role behind the decks… And her energy, which comes from her years of professional dancing, is contagious.
Fresh out of lockdown with her first real life gigs happening just hours into freedom week here in the UK, we caught up with the Natty one to catch her story and see where she’s heading…
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I think you were one of the first DJs I know of to play in these current freedom times?
Yeah I played at 1am on July 19. Literally an hour into the new restrictions since lockdown. It was at Lakota. It was amazing and so surreal seeing everyone with no masks on, all dancing together. Yeah I’ll never forget it.
What was the first tune you played?
Submerge by Makoto & Battery.
Sick tune. So you must be buzzing? It’s great to see everyone out raving and DJing again. This is what we’ve been working towards…
It really is. It’s been a year and a half. To have the freedom to dance and hug people and meet people in real life who we’ve met over the internet during time on lockdown. Like real community vibes and real relationships. It’s so nice to see. I’m hoping we’re all sensible and respectful of each other and taking lateral flow tests and not going out if we feel symptoms so we don’t get put under another lockdown. This is great now, I’m appreciating every moment, but in the back of my head I’ve got this thought that you never know what’s going to happen in the future.
Totally agree! So let’s have some history. I think your journey started as a dancer for the Valve Soundsystem right?
Yeah I went to uni in Bristol in 2008 and my flatmate had vinyl and decks set up. He was playing D&B and I was like ‘What is this?’ I’d never heard it before but loved it. He taught me to mix a bit and took me out to all these raves. Every weekend during my uni life was about clubs like Timbuk2, Basement 45, Motion, Dojo, 02 Academy. I couldn’t get enough of it. Early on during this I saw these dancers on the stage at O2 Academy and, having had a dancing background, I wanted to be on stage with them. They were called the Bass Honeys. I contacted them and told them I wanted to perform with them, they gave me an audition and I became part of the crew. My first gig was at the O2 Academy for Infidelity, then I did the Valve Soundsystem, a festival called Noisy Neighbours and loads more. Met loads of awesome people like Jakes and Zomboy and Dillinja. It was such a great experience.
Sick. How long had you been dancing for?
I was dancing from the age 11. I was doing competitions, we won the world championships with my team in 2008. We were quite big, then we all went our separate ways. Dancing was always a big part of my life, but I never thought it would be a career. I actually studied geography and environmental management, then did a PGCE and was a geography teacher for four years!
Yeah three years in London and then one year in Dubai.
Were you still dancing during that time?
Yes I was. I did the London Olympics, danced in that with Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz in 2012 so I was still dancing on the side. I always thought that would be a dream career. Then I moved to Dubai, did a year of teaching there then became a freelancer and professional dancer.
You’ve danced for many raves and brands. You’ve danced for EDC haven’t you?
Yeah I did. I got in touch with them through a friend and danced UK EDC, then with them in India when I was living in Dubai. Then when I was living in HK I danced for EDC in China, Korea, Japan. I’ve danced for them in Vegas and Insomniac’s Escape events, too. It’s been so amazing, I’ve met so many great friends through this. I’m the only UK dancer, they’re all amazing. It’s like a family.
It’s a proper culture part of the culture at big events isn’t it? It’s always been part of original raves too, but I guess it’s kinda lost a bit besides big budget shows
It has and it’s a shame. It is all about budget. Unless it’s a huge festival then there’s not enough budget. I think the characters and dancers that make big festivals like EDC. They add something really special and turns the party into a show.
So being a dancer must influence you as a selector and DJ?
Definitely. A lot of people remarked on my energy. I do dance behind the decks. I can’t just stand there, I have to move to the music. I love it so much. I want to put on a show. If I could have dancers for my set, then I would! I want to bring energy as I think it gets transferred to the audience. It’s really important for me to do that.
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Your transition to DJing happened in Hong Kong didn’t it?
Yeah I met the guys from Unchained. Their co-founder Lyndon Jarr was my teacher. I got lessons from him and he taught me the basics and how to mix but I never had the time to sit down and practice because I was always off touring and doing international shows. He taught me well though and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. The scene is great out there, there are so many talented acts coming out of that area. Gyrofield is a good example of what’s coming from there.
Totally. So I guess the pandemic brought you back to Wales?
Yeah it did. March 2020. There were protests in Hong Kong, covid crushed the entertainment industry before my eyes, I didn’t have any work on so I came back and it ended up being a blessing really. I wouldn’t be DJing if it wasn’t for what happened, because it really gave me the time to sit down and focus. At the same time I taught dance online to students all over the world and that helped bring in some income and gave me time to focus on DJing and mixing jungle drum & bass.
Were you always buying the tunes and collecting anyway?
Oh for sure. Always. Since 2008, I’ve had playlists and bought tunes. It’s been part of my life since then. I really wanted to do start DJing in Hong Kong and I’ve been surrounded by it with my friends and stuff. It was always playing on my mind, but being back home it was like ‘What am I going to do?’ I haven’t looked back since.
What was the first moment during lockdown when you realise it could be a thing?
I got a Goat Shed residency which was amazing, but my favourite stream was the Run & Bass Run Tingz stream. To have Jakes and Maddy V on my set, that was ‘Woah okay, this could be something big.’ And all the support I was getting from everyone online, I’ve made so many friends through the socials who’ve been very supportive, plus the support I’ve had with Concrete Junglists, it’s all pushed me in the right direction.
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You represent Concrete Junglists, don’t you?
I do. Dave Shaw is a beautiful human being and does bits for the scene in so many different ways, I was really honoured to join them too as their events manager, so to have their backing and support is priceless.
Dave’s the man! Proper community vibes, like you said.
Yeah totally. Besides the seriousness of the pandemic itself, there’s a lot of positives to be taken from this. Just being nice and thoughtful to each other and respecting each other more than maybe people did before the lockdowns.
Just like you said – don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Then to go through lockdowns and be one of the first DJs to play on freedom week… mad!
It was. And there’s many more to come hopefully.
Your schedule seems very busy!!
I’m very blessed. I’m a freelancer. As a dancer I go out and get my own work. I’m good at networking, I’ve had to be to survive. And it’s the same a DJ. It’s the same drive for me. I’ve had some agents ask me if I want to sign but for now I’m enjoying creating all this work myself.
Freelancing and being self-employed is the fire of life IMO!
Definitely! That’s how I’ve left my life since leaving my teaching career. I’ve always taken risks. I went to Hong Kong with nothing. No job, no friends, just a suitcase. It’s a buzz. Going out on your own and finding your own work.
That really is full-on freelance life!
And my first job over there was on the Great Wall Of China! I taught English part time for a little while and gave myself three months to find dancing work. That Great Wall gig came along in two weeks. I thought ‘You know what? I’m staying!’
Nice. So even the teaching has paid off in this way. Everything for a reason and all that…
I really do believe that. I’m here for a reason now and I’m really enjoying the journey of becoming a DJ and seeing how it goes. Thanks to everyone who’s supported me so far!