Interview mit Alley Cat

Am 16.01. lud die Cuba Crew zu ihrer Palm Breaks Veranstaltungsreihe dieSkunkrock Records Botschafterin Alley Cat ein. Einer sehr guten Party folgt nun das via Internet-Messenger geführte Interview. Die exzessive Smiley-Nutzung wird dabei unterschlagen… Die lockere Atmosphäre kommt sicher auch so rüber.

Please tell us something about „Skunkrock“. What is to be expected?

Do you mean what can people expect from the label in general?

Yes.

Well I think what we are into is variety. So you might hear something breaky from us, like from Alpha Omega, something rolling and soulful — from bigger and smaller artists. I hope people will just see the name Skunkrock and think thats quality music and give it a listen. That’s my goal anyway but I think we have a ways to go. But I guess you could say we are into good music, what we like, no matter who the artist is.
De-bug magazine once described our sound as Breakbeat Soul. Which I think is a huge compliment.

What makes a tune for you judging it „breakbeat soul“?

I guess anything that moves me. For example I might play something from Calibre that I think is really soulful — which people might think is more of a liquid-y sound. But then I might hear something from Amit or Digital or Spirit which is kind of dark but to me still has an emotional side. So that’s what I mean by soulful. Not necessarily one kind of sound.

The decision for a new release is made by…

The final decision isn’t mine. Mark owns the label so I bring ideas and we talk about them. But he makes the final word! But I am more responsible for A & R because I am networking with all the artists.

How would you describe your career starting in San Fransisco until now in a nutshell?

My career was probably a combination of being in the right place at the right time, and lot of luck! It stared in 1997, as I had been buying records for a couple years. Anyway got into DJing and tried to build my name up in the States. In 1999 I came to Europe – met the Skunkrock crew — and really loved it over here. Later I moved to London to work for them and try to build a career. I had no idea it would work out the way it did. I think I was given some really great opportunities and I had to prove that I could do it. Hopefully over the last 5 years I have done that. I am really lucky to be able to do what I do. I love it.

How important are relationships to other people in the drum & bass scene? Give us an example.

Well in drum’n’bass I think it’s important. It’s such a close-knit scene. I think for me I like to be in contact with people and see what they are up to. A good example would be this whole AIM thing. Nowadays it’s a great way to network with producers and try to get tracks off them. 5 years ago, everyone did this at music house…and now its all over the net!
But it’s a great way to see what people are doing all over the world, especially now since d’n’b is so much more internationally recognised!

Are there moments you would say it’s more than a business network?

You mean more like friendships?

Yes.

Well drum’n’bass for me is pretty much my whole life outside of my family, so yes it’s great to have friendships build up that last through the years. Especially with people you have so much in common with. For example I met my mate Sage in San Francisco, we both began DJing at the same time — and now 7 years later we are really close. She even stayed with me for a while in London. So it’s great to share this with people. But there are lots of other people in this scene I would consider friends, rather than business collegues. Storm would be another good friend but there are some guys in there too I would consider mates. Daniel Savine is like a brother too me and I wish he lived closer!
But also it’s great to go to different cities, and get to know the local DJs and promoters. I feel so excited to hang out with new people and also come back again, having met them already. It’s like coming home to all these great places.
I know it sounds super – cheesy, but it’s true!

Speaking of Daniel Savine – Will you producing tracks again in the future? With him or other producers?

I hope so. The problem is that Daniel is living in Germany and I live in London, so it’s hard to get together. Especially now that I have my daughter I can’t go away for too long. And Daniel has 5 children now so family is his number one priority. But he’s still making tracks with Rio under their name Native Minds. I would love to work with more people, but a big goal for me would be to make some tunes on my own. I want to learn more about engineering.

What style can we expect?

Good question. I really don’t know I just have to get myself into it and see what happens. Probably something combining all the styles I enjoy : deep, soulful, breaky and rollin‘

Imagine Adam F is doing a collaboration with P Diddy. As a result they have a top ten chart hit. Of course a track with tempo around 170 bpm. It’s speculation only, I know, but how would that influence the scene in your opinion? Is this scenario too far off?

LOL — no actually it could really happen! I think so anyway! Do you remember when Jonny L did that track with Dane Bowers and Posh Spice in the UK? It was number 2 in the UK
He did it under the name True Steppaz.
But I don’t think that influenced the d’n’b scene at all, it was more of a garage track. But I think some headz probably thought Jonny L was selling out. But tracks like Shy FX’s Shake UR Body got in the Top 20 in the UK. It was funny to see him on Top of the Pops.
But I think tracks like that one from Shy and LK from Marky & XRS brought dnb back up to another level.
It was good promotion for our scene, and I think those were 2 great tracks.
But I don’t think some hip-hop dnb collab would influence the true d’n’b fans too much, it just might bring our scene to a new audience.
Not sure if thats a bad thing or a good thing. Oh and just for the record, I think Jonny L is an amazing producer, one of the best of all time. But even Barcelona from D Kay got in the Top 20 in the UK so it shows you don’t have to do projects with big name hip-hoppers to get your stuff in the charts — if that’s what someone wants to do !

Johnny L’s release on Metalheadz „Synkronize“ does not only sound like „we can synchronize“ but „we can say goodbye“ which could be a statement for beeing back in the scene. My interpretation was – he was done with the industry. But maybe that’s too much imaginary…

Hmmm could be. I mean I think he was doing garage and stuff to pay the bills, which I can totally understand. I think it’s cool he kind of keeps to himself — one he can stay out of any drama, and two he can do his own unique sound without being influenced by current trends in the scene. Big ups!

Klute named his label „commercial suicide“. Ain’t there any possibility for a living? Or is it just irony?

Klute loves being ironic. He’s one of the smartest and wittiest people I know. But I think he means that he releases tracks that might not be ‚commercially‘ viable — ie that will sell or market well. He just releases what he likes. He doesn’t give a shit if anyone else does. Luckily Klute has a wicked taste so people end up loving the tracks. But he doesn’t care about sample clearance and all that marketing and promotion stuff. He just does it for the love.

Yeah, one can feel he is coming from the punkrock side!

He’s totally punk rock. I guess you know about his past?

We have something in common: we were both drummer in a band.

WICKED!

Another crazy drum-addict were playing live in Leipzig last weekend: Paradox. What do you say about his approach to be an „musician as an outsider“?

I have a lot of respect for Paradox, and also people like Danny Breaks. I have always been a huge Reinforced fan so that’s mainly how I came to appreciate Paradox. I think the tracks on his new label Outsider are brilliant. He was definitely one of the originators of the breaky stuff — but for him I imagine it’s probably annoying that now it’s become kind of trendy to make these kind of tracks — when he should have been appreciated years ago. But yeah it’s cool to just do your own thing, not worry about being too involved with everyone else is doing. I respect that.

I would say he is not only different from the rest of the producers he also don’t want to be considered as a part of the „d & b business“…

Yeah I can imagine that. I guess everyone has to do what is best for them and what makes them happy, so staying out of all the drama is probably the best way for him to do his music.
Sometimes I don’t feel like going out — it’s nice to see people but I don’t want to be too influenced by what other DJs are playing — and rather create my own sound.

Do you mean „drama“ as a word for dubplate business, headz talking, v.i.p. behaviour and stuff?

I guess — I mean I don’t know Paradox personally so I am just psychoanalysing! Best to ask him I guess.

Is this a hot topic?

Not for me! I am boring. I try to live life as drama free as possible. I just hope everybody else does too — as we are all really lucky to be in this business.

I understand. You are part of the HipStep Sistaz network. How come?

Hmmm … I am not part of their crew, I just put my bio on there.

So what does it mean for you to be somewhat involved at least with your bio?

I didn’t really think about it too much, they just asked a lot of women to put their infos on there. I used to be affiliated with Sister, in San Francisco. That was years ago, but nowadays I am really ‚undecided‘ about the whole female thing when it comes to promoting myself. On one hand, I can’t help to be seen as a minority, but on the other hand I just want to be a DJ like everybody else.
I want to support other female artists — but I try not to do too many ‚ladies nights‘ as I think it takes away from the most important focus, which is the music.
But it’s good for us ladies to support eachother — and not see eachother as competition. There is room for everbody in this scene (I hope).
There’s also another website, called Junglistic Sistaz, that is founded by Shroombab from Vienna. So there seems to be lots of dnb women out there!

So how do you support other females? I mean, do you promote parties at all?

I probably don’t do enough. No I haven’t done an event since 1997!
But thats the thing, even if I did a party, I wouldn’t book DJs based on them being females — I would book whoever I wanted to play.
I guess the goal of a female DJ is to be seen as a wicked DJ — not a wicked female DJ.
Is that possible?


I share that point of view. What kind of DJ-skill changed the most in the last years for you personally?

Well I think everything changed — my style of music has evolved — and my mixing — technically and style wise has gotten a lot better.
I was saying to Doc Scott that I think there is always gonna be a way to become a better DJ. I don’t think you get to a certain point and everything just stops. You can always be more creative with how you mix and try different things. I hope he didnt think I was crazy.

Does he comment on this?

Yes he did. He said that was a really good way to look at DJing. It’s a good attitude to have. I think he’s really professional and he works really hard so I respect his opinion.
I think at the beginning, when I was DJing just as a hobby, I was into all kinds of d’n’b. Then in SF I got too influenced by local people and sounds. Then when I came to London I went back to what I was originally into — a variety of stuff, not just one straight line of dnb.

You said you enjoyed the last gig in Leipzig a lot beside the fact that the PA situation was not really perfect. So why?

Oh I thought the PA was fine actually. I just had to get used to where the monitors were located and know the best place to stand. But for me it was all cool.
But yeah it was good, because for me I was nervous as it was my first headlining gig in your town.
So I was happy that people showed up, danced, and it was busy for the 3 hours I played. It was cool to be able to play all kinds of sounds and people would dance. But I have to big up you guys because it’s the locals and how they play that open up the people to whatever the guest DJs bring forward.

Is Skunkrock open for demo tracks? Do you have any advice for producers how to come up with new stuff?

We are always into hearing demos, and try our best to give feedback as long as we have time. It’s good for new producers now because more and more labels are open to new people from all over the world. I guess the best thing to do is to send demos out to as many people as possible — DJs and labels. If you don’t know how to do that you can hand out CDs when a DJ comes to your town. Another great way is to get in touch via AIM and send tunes that way.
It’s always good to send your stuff to people who do radio shows — internet and regular because it’s good promotion and maybe someone is listening that likes the tunes.

Some last words?

I just want to say thanks for the support — big ups to the Cuba Crew and I hope people had fun when I was there recently. I would love to come back someday.

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