Madeleine Byrne: Thanks for the interview today, I appreciate your time ..
Sweetpea: Not at all, thanks for asking me ..
MB: As you know, people really liked your set at the Launch Collective gig I went to back in August (pictures from the show at Bar 512, London) and what they kept saying to me was that you were really clever in the way you constructed a set, they loved the progression of it. Could you talk a bit about your thought processes before a show ?
Sweetpea: To be honest, I have a bit of a rough idea of what kind of tunes I want to play, if there's anything new out or tunes from my friends, but I never plan a set - I used to back in my early days - but from playing out, I've found out that it never goes to plan, really. I literally just go and play whatever comes from my hands and Cd wallet. When I'm Dj-ing, I'm a massive fan of mixing and blending; I love hearing two tunes in the mix together. You know I got so much good feedback from the Launch night, it really touched my heart and I was glad that everyone was feeling it ...
MB: It was very generous wasn't it, I mean I was impressed by the atmosphere of that event ...
Sweetpea: Yeah, lots of good vibes. The Launch crew are absolutely amazing anyway! It was really nice that night - all my friends were there just going for it, and as a DJ that is exactly what you want; you want to see people dancing their hearts out and a cheek to cheek smile on their faces.
MB: When you're talking about the sponteneity of it, can you just talk that through for the people who are not DJs, not producers ... What do you mean by that, are you saying you're in the middle of the experience and you just decide on the moment what you're going to play, is that right ?
Sweetpea: Yeah, I guess so. You know, you'll just have a flick through your cd collection, your vinyl collection, or if you're using a laptop and you'll have a look at what you've got. I'll be listening to the tune I'm playing and then think about if I've got a tune that will sit nicely with it, or that might help it build up; when I'm mixing I do like to make it a bit of a journey.
When I dj I play what I'd like to listen to as a raver. You want to see how everyone is feeling; you play something upbeat you might want to keep that vibe or switch it up. There are so many different types of DnB (subgenres); you've got rollers; you've got halfstep, you've minimal, you've got tech, you've got liquid ... It's nice to flow through them all really. It's spontaneous for me, a completely in the moment kind of thing.
MB: You just referred to the fact that you're looking at the audience and seeing what they're reacting to and I think this is what people were telling me, you were really clever in the way you were able to read the crowd. Is that something you've developed over the years being a DJ/producer ?
Sweetpea: (pauses) Luckily, it was really nice I had a lot of friends there, and most of them were in the front as well. If someone is appreciating your music, and they come and interact with you, I'm not going to ignore them because I'm DJ-ing, it's nice to give them the respect they've shown you back. Appreciate them appreciating it. It's a party, it's there to be enjoyed not only the crowd, but the DJ as well.
MB: That collective, sharing thing between the DJ and the crowd, was that specific to that night - something about the Launch ethos, or do you think it is something general about London and the DnB scene ?
Sweetpea: I think the Launch venue was great, because the DJ was eye-level, a lot of clubs the DJbooth is either up, or tucked away so you can't see, or out of reach, I was on the floor with the people as well. You do come across DJs and producers who prefer not to interact as much, but everyone's different. But you know, it's DnB, we all love it; you love it, I love it, let's all love it together (laughs)
MB: So let's focus in on that mixing and blending, because I was listening to your music before, I could sense an almost RnB aesethetic, it's quite elegant, you know, quite smooth, would that be called 'liquid' ?
Sweetpea: Yeah, the smoother more vocally DnB, you'd label that as liquid. I like deep liquid, really, really sweet stuff, with a nice warm bass-line running over it.
MB: We'll come back to the deep liquid talking generally, but let's zoom in on what you've just said as this is what really struck me about your music: what you could often call its gentleness.
You know I was listening to it, you'd have this deep bass and then you'd have quite high-pitched elements playing against the bass, what was missing for me and I'm wondering if you could comment on this, was the very hard mechanical beat. You know that beat was something I had always associated with DnB - until recently - does that make sense? You know that bang, bang, bang kind of really macho stuff ... (laughs)
Sweetpea: It's all preference, there's such a variety of DnB. I guess what you've just mentioned is maybe what you'd call the stereotypical view. That is if you hadn't heard that much DnB you would tend to think that DnB is really hard with really aggressive sounds, but actually even with some of the aggressive sounds there's still such beauty in it.
Sweetpea: I think that's what a lot of people get wrong about DnB, you do think about it being really dingy, aggressive, fight music almost but actually it's the complete opposite. That's what I love about underground DnB.
MB: Ok, so underground DnB is this something you're talking about as a London scene or is it a subgenre as well, cause there are so many of those (laughs)
Sweetpea: It's completely worldwide. In Europe, especially over in Belgium there's an absolutely massive scene! When you're talking about underground it's the linked to labels - Metalheadz, Renegade, Flexout Audio, Proximity to name a few. Bredren is one of my favourite producers, pumping out absolutely amazing music. And the 'underground' is about the club nights that go along with them.
MB: Can we now return to this idea of 'deep liquid', can you talk to me about that ?
Sweetpea: For me, it's liquid which is what you'd expect to be a summery vibe to be, with a shade of deeper drum and bass linked in. Usually with the female vocals to go with it. There are some really good vocalists around- My good friend Hannah Eve, Riya, Colette Warren, Wednesday Amelia ... The vocalists have really been pushing it this year and they don't disappoint.
MB: I'd like to see if you can think of an artist - doesn't have to be DnB - who has taught you something about the construction of sets, what's interesting for me is the way you move between different moods. Now I know every single DJ does that, but this is something that people have recognised as a particular skill of yours, so is there an artist who you've listened to and learnt from in this way ?
Sweetpea: I think it comes with time and listening to a wide range of people, I don't think I could pick one in particular, but on the liquid side though, there's Calibre, he puts an absolutely beautiful set together. I would say he's never had a bad set, that I've seen; he smashes it every single time.
MB: Can you focus in on one set by Calibre when you thought, man this is just amazing ?
Sweetpea: It'll probably be back in my early days, Its was my first ever holiday, I'd never been abroad before and me and my friends went to 'Sun and Bass' over in Italy - in 2009 . It was Hospitality versus Bunch of Cuts; Hospitality was a liquid label and Bunch of Cuts was more darker DnB. Calibre rolled into that deep liquid, I was like wow, okay you can mix the two and make it sound absolutely amazing.
MB: So that was 2009, that's six years ago, were you working as a DJ at that stage ?
Sweetpea: I was 20, I was still very much the enthusiast and enjoying buying music, I mean I used to spend one hundred pound a month on buying vinyl, just cause I loved the music, loved mixing, just loved everything about it. That was the beginning of it, a year later, I moved to London and that's when it all started. 2009, was the calm before the storm (laughs).
MB: Let's now talk about one of your most popular mixes, the 'Soul in Motion Promo Mix' I thought that was really lovely for the use of the vocal line, it seemed to have a reggae/dub influence ...
Sweetpea: I had good links with Flexout Audio and was asked to do a showcase for 'Soul in Motion' which, at the time, was a new night. I thought it'd be a good idea to do a promo mix and I was just thinking about the name 'Soul in Motion' That said to me, soul, vibes and I chose a liquid mix. I had a lot of fun doing it.
MB: Thinking about the vocal line, can you tell me which track it's from?
Sweetpea: Its a Villem and McLeod Remix of Kolectiv's 'Living in the Red' on Flexout Audio.
MB: Would you say that this mix is representative of your sound ? If people were asking themselves to choose something to sum you up musically would you say this is a good choice ?
Sweetpea: I do really enjoy playing jungle and dub-influenced DnB, but I'd probably say something like @ IVY LAB 20 Questions is more of a Sweetpea tune.
It was released on Critical and I think when I recieved the promo I played it 100 times! The whole EP was amazing but I just loved this tune. Ivy Lab are unstoppable at the moment.
MB: How about remixes, is that something you do ?
Sweetpea: I remixed Taelimb's 'Wookie Song' that was released on Flexout Audio just over a year ago now. It's still available as a free download on my Soundcloud. I love Taelimb's music, he is a is a very clean cut, crisp producer.
MB: Can you talk to me about the Automate mix ?
Sweetpea: I used to play on the radio with Deficit, who's the owner of Automate, the mix is a bit more techy, harder if you like. At that time I was pretty much playing vinyl so that was a vinyl set.
MB: How would you compare the experience of doing a live set and remixing; what are the different kinds of skills you need for both ?
Sweetpea: Well, it's very different - when you're playing out, you're playing out to a live crowd, but when you're remixing songs, you're in the studio, getting ideas together. But it just depends, everyone's different. Some people prefer to make tunes than playing out, I prefer playing out to making tunes, but that's just my preference. Still, when you remix a song - you listen to the original and have all these ideas, how can I make this sound completely different; or I want to make it sound a little bit different, or do I want to turn the tune on its head and make it sound completely different. Some remixes like to pick one sound stands out, like the vocal.
MB: Just to finish our interview, can we just talk a little more about your aesthetic, cause what's really striking to me when I listen to dnb is that you can hear the personality of the producer coming through; you've got a particular sound. When you're thinking about your sound, I know you like the smooth mixes, the blending etc, is there anything about technology you're experimenting with in terms of developing your own aesthetic ?
Sweetpea: To be honest, I kind of almost wish I could go back in time and do a music production course, I'm lucky to have a lot of really good friends around me to show me the ropes, I've only been producing for about a year and a half now, not very long at all. There's so much to it, I'd probably class myself more as a DJ than a producer, even though I have been making tunes.
I know the kind of sound I want to make, I hope eventually I get there, but it's really just trial and error and keep on doing it. When I make things, it's probably more of the Loxy deeper sound than what I play, but I hope to eventually get to the point where I can make the tunes that I play in my set. It's all experience, it's practice; I'm hoping this winter to lock myself away a bit in the studio and get back in and get back making some tunes. I have some releases lined up in the coming future.
MB: You're being really humble. I've been listening to a lot of different DJs from London it's very much 'shout out! badadabadowa!' you know announcing a track and then they go babadadada, it's very upbeat, party-feel whereas when I'm listening to your music it feels quite introspective and I'm wondering if it's something you're trying to aim for; a different kind of mood, a different kind of feeling. You're talking about the music you want to create in the future, is this what you mean ?
Sweetpea: Yeah, I know exactly the kind of DnB you're talking about those kind of Mcs that just go 'babadabdaba' for ten minutes (laughs) I really can't deal with them. I really like an MC called K-Eye. There's another called Blackeye, my friend Hainesy, they're really good at hosting a set, to let the tunes breathe a little bit.
What I mean is you got to give yourself a breath (as an MC), rather than just getting out as many words as possible. I think as much as the DJ, it is the host or the vocalist as well, you do need to let the tune breathe a bit. If you want to subgenre again, I really love minimal tech, because it's not the techy really hard stuff, it's the bit in-between. I love a rolling bassline, and then the minimal techy sound over it.
Check out Sweetpea's weekly radio set, each Friday on www.Rudefm.com between 6-8 pm or find out more about her music here