Feline Crew interview: Storm, Flight, Alley Cat (2012)
DJ Storm, Alley Cat and DJ Flight are talking to Tina about being female players in a male-dominated drum and bass scene.
Disclaimer: The following interview conducted by Tina was originally published on ITSYOURS in April 2012. The website is currently offline and the republication with kind permission of Tina serves the purpose of documentation. Both Tina and I have written articles and conducted interviews for ITSYOURS, and since 2015 we have been working together on Defrostatica Records.
(Tina) Here comes the interview with DJ Storm (Metalheadz), Alley Cat (Kokeshi) and DJ Flight (Play:Musik) that I did with the three of them after the Feline Night in March at Werk 2, Leipzig (Germany). As they said themselves, the interview situation was probably not exactly everyday: the opportunity to talk to three about being female players in a male-dominated scene was obviously also something special for the Feline crew. That will certainly be one of the reasons why the interview turned out to be very extensive.
Tina: There was an article on Kmag.co.uk for International Women’s Day highlighting the Top 20 Women in Drum’n’Bass and the article said that in an industry that is predominantly male female DJs have had to push themselves twice as hard in order to achieve the same recognition as their male counterparts. Do you agree with that?
DJ Storm: I think, yes, to a certain extent. I mean for my kind of history Kemistry started to see Goldie and so Goldie wanted to get into this scene and by meeting Goldie I suppose we met our first Drum’n’Bass family which was the Reinforced crew. And I suppose for us we found guys that respected us for our ability and by not what sex we were and we were very lucky for that and I suppose they took us on the road very early in our career. I also think that getting a radio show, getting a pirate radio show was very good. It was the kind of thing you needed in London at that time. But on the whole, I’ve always realised that things have always gone from when time started, that men were always the dominant kind of race of the two of us. And I think that women are happy to kind of – if they want to achieve something – they’re happy to go that extra mile and I think, yes, you do have to think about your steps in your career a little bit more carefully. I always say that men only have to go to the comma in a sentence, where a woman needs to go to the full stop.
Storm: I always say that men only have to go to the comma in a sentence, where a woman needs to go to the full stop.
So you have to think about all the angles and I think you have to have a plan before you make your moves. But on the whole I have to say most of the guys do respect us for what we do, but I think over the last few years things have changed even more to make it even more difficult because not many women produce music and I think that’s the way it kind of has become now – that you’re more a product than just being allowed to be a DJ which I think is a little bit of a shame because some of the art of DJing personally for me has been lost. But I still believe in what I’m doing and I think if you believe in that you’ve got something to offer you’ve got to try as hard as you can to stay out there.
Alley Cat: I agree with what Storm said. When I was starting in San Francisco there was a lot of female DJs. There was just loads and there was a couple different collectives doing things. So me being a DJ and being a girl was no big deal. It was just because there was lots going on there with women so that wasn’t really an issue at all for me. And then coming to London, I feel like I worked hard. I don’t know if the guys work as hard as we do, cause I only know of my own experiences. But yeah, I think nowadays it’s more about you have to have the whole package: The branding and all the stuff you need to have going on. I think that’s whether you’re male or female. Whereas in the early days it was just like “Oh yeah, I DJ Drum’n’Bass and I’ll throw a little party and I’ve got some gigs going on ...”.
Alley Cat: But I’m sure some people just did book me and some of the other girls probably because we were women and they thought that was quite cool. But you know you have to just sort of go with it and see what happens and hopefully people get past that eventually. And I think it’s good for us women to support each other, but I would like to see like the press talking about us more in general not just like – I know they mean well, their intentions are good to do the Women’s Day thing – but you know, we’re still here the rest of the year doing stuff as well. So, I just think that sometimes they forget about us because for whatever reason. Or there’s some new guy who’s got some hot tune out, so they’re gonna talk about that person, but at the end of the day we just have to push ourselves and as artists really and if we keep doing that it should hopefully be ok.
DJ Flight: I agree with what Storm and Alley Cat have just been speaking about. I mean when I was first started learning how to mix, I just used to go out with a group of guys all the time, like it was good friends and I went to school with some of them. The girls that I had been friends with at school and college I kind of lost touch with them because they weren’t really going, they went straight into work and I was all about raving and records. I mean I guess in that respect I’ve kind of always used to be around guys and it never really struck me that I was doing anything different because I was female. I just started learning how to mix because I thought it looked like fun. I wanted to just give it a go really, I never said out “OK, I’m gonna be a DJ, I want to be a female DJ” It was just something that happened and I just happened to have a pair of breasts. So I never really used to think about it, but as I got more involved in the scene and as my career kind of started to build, that’s when started noticing little things just about – I guess it’s probably been more in the last few years, just when I’ve got older as well. You know it’s kind of what you’re booked for, what you’re not booked for. You might have the same kind of credentials as man but the man will always be offered a lot more work than you as a woman. Just in terms of what you’re paid as well. It all differs.
DJ Flight: You might have the same kind of credentials as man but the man will always be offered a lot more work than you as a woman. Just in terms of what you’re paid as well. It all differs.
Alley Cat: I think that is probably in any field in business or whatever like this probably …
DJ Flight: Yeah, but I mean women just seem to be more accepted in other subgenres of dance music, like House. There are more women, probably because it’s slower. The scene is also a lot more glamorous, there’s a lot more money around than in Drum’n’Bass. But I don’t know with Drum’n’Bass, it’s just we still seem to be a novelty. And it really does my head in sometimes, but I try not to think about it too much. But you can’t help it, I mean …
DJ Storm: I think the thing is: It’s there, it exists. But in order to kind of become successful, I think you have to almost push that to the sidelines, because if you let it get you down you maybe would never get on.
DJ Flight: Yeah, you just end up bitter and twisted. And that’s why these articles – I mean if I can say the one that was on Drum and Bass Arena – myself and Alley Cat actually refused to participate in that. Not in a bad way, but it just kind of felt patronising and condescending. Because they don’t really support any of us throughout the rest of the year as Alley Cat just mentioned. So, for them to do an article just because International Women’s Day is coming up in a few days, I just thought, well I’d rather not be lumped with the other women just because it’s this day coming up and I said that to the guy, I was like “Look, I wouldn’t mind being featured for stuff that I’m doing on my own like of my own merit, but I don’t really like the angle you’re coming from.”
Alley Cat: I was talking to Flight about it and I was just saying like I really could use the promotion and stuff, but on the other hand something just feels weird to me. And so I just said I didn’t wanna do it and I said but I’m gonna be doing this and this and this in the next coming months, so it would be great if we could do something separately and just talk about that or leave it.
DJ Storm: I mean I did that interview, I didn’t even think about it like that, do you know what I mean?! But at the end of the day for whatever people want to go on about the Drum & Bass Awards that have just happened, in one respect they do support women, in one respect they don’t. The Drum & Bass Arena don’t even feel there should be a female DJ kind of award. So I mean some of the things I said to the guy, I was a little bit maybe harsher with my opinions than I would normally doing a thing about a female DJ. Because I feel a lot of the time when I’m asked about being a female DJ – I think the people that want to talk to us like yourself are interested – but there are some people as Natalie (DJ Flight) said, it’s like the novelty value and it’s almost like we should be grateful to get this kind of exposure.
DJ Flight: And that’s the vibe I got from the Drum & Bass Arena thing. It just wasn’t sitting right with me, so I thought I don’t really wanna do it. And I kind of I appreciated the Kmag one a little more because she’s done that on her own accord. And I know that she is really interested in the women involved in the scene. It just felt a bit more authentic. It’s like it’s 2012 for God’s sake it’s like, just get over it!
DJ Storm and Alley Cat: Yeah! (laugh)
DJ Flight: We’re women DJing what is the big problem? I don’t understand it.
DJ Storm: If we were really – I mean we would be totally hated for doing something like this – but if we were really, really canny and did what most other industries have done and talked to the Sexual Equality Board about what are the rules and regulations of how many males and females you should have in a club. They would most probably have to make most of the clubs give us more work. But of course we would be hated for it. But you wonder, if it was the other way around, would the guys would do something like that?
DJ Flight: Of course they would. (Flight and Alley Cat laughing)
DJ Storm: And I think they would. Because we don’t have – and I think that’s sometimes difficult for women – we don’t always have that forthright push that a man seems to have. You know that “in your face”.
DJ Flight: Well, we just get on with things.
DJ Storm: Yeah, we get on with things and that’s the other difference between men and women: That men are always brought up to put their energies into things and women are more supposed to …
Alley Cat: … nurture …
DJ Storm: … to nurture and to put their energies into people. Because our stereotypical role is to be the mother who has the kids, who runs the household, who organises and the man gets out and gets his … I do think sometimes, because of the big male capacity that’s out there, sometimes you can get a little bit nervous to where you’re supposed to say things and what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to approach things and I think that’s slightly where women go wrong. But if we are forthright they look at us like …
DJ Flight: „You bitch!“ (laughs)
DJ Storm: „Who on earth do you think you are?!“ I mean, that’s exactly true: If women shout, well, we’re bitches. But actually‚ I find the men quite a lot bitchier than us. (giggles) Cause we’re a little bit over it. And the other thing I have to say is that obviously as a woman I can never get into the mindset of a man, never. I can be their friends; I’ve got some friends I truly, truly love, who are my best friends, who are men in the scene. But if push came to the shove, they would most probably choose a guy over me. There’s not many in this scene that would choose me first – there are some – but it’s that whole massive clique that we’re fighting against, you know what I mean? And it’s a very tricky, precarious road that you step sometimes.
DJ Flight: Yeah, it’s still very much of a boy’s club. There’s no getting away from that. But you just keep your head down, I mean we’re all still passionate about music, we love playing out music, so that’s what keeps you going.
DJ Flight: It’s still very much of a boy’s club. There’s no getting away from that.
DJ Storm: That’s the other thing about us. Because we’re – and I’m not saying that to big up any of us or to say that we’re fantastic or anything – but we are good at what we do.
DJ Flight: I think where these articles kind of go wrong and just popping up like once a year or maybe twice a year, is that they think that it’s bigging us up. But it’s actually more important and beneficial for other women just to see us going out there and doing our thing.
Alley Cat: They’re segregating us, that’s the thing.
DJ Flight: Yeah, exactly. It kind of almost turns us against each other in a way.
Alley Cat: Because there it’s like “Oh, there’s only five or ten of us, so …”
DJ Flight: And there are always names missed out …
DJ Storm: I think that’s it: You take a club, say a big club, and they will always have a full male line up, but there will never be – if there gonna choose a DJ they’ll choose one of us – they won’t have like two or three of us. I think the only time with Feline we obviously get to play together. But the only kind of thing in the industry where we get to play is Metalheadz and me and Natalie (DJ Flight). It’s the only place that has two female DJs and that’s kind of sad. That it’s come that far and that’s the only organisation that does that.
DJ Flight: Well I guess, Hardware have got Nyx and Adi-J now.
DJ Storm: Oh yeah, that also.
Tina: What was the idea behind the Feline night then? Did you establish it, because you felt it was necessary?
DJ Storm: Well, over the years I’ve been asked to be in quite a few female collectives and I suppose there was never the right situation I felt comfortable in. And I think it was something that Kemi and I always wanted to do and then I just felt that the timing was right and I had a situation to be able to go into a club that would support it. And to be able to kind of pick. I mean, I always hope that every gig I’ve got, I’ve been picked on my ability. When we first started, obviously you need to get that foot in the door, but you knew as a woman you couldn’t be dropping one beat or you couldn’t do a bad mix or … And I felt that I was trying to find people like that who were conscious about their work, who would turn up on time and who would do a really good job. And I stand by every single DJ and MC that is at Feline.
DJ Storm: I honestly, I mean deeply in my heart and I know it’s true and other people might not say it: Anyone of the girls at Feline could go out there and test any man. They’re all good at what they do. It’s just that we’re never gonna be able to be given that possibility… without I suppose someone like myself who’s at the top of the game. Being able to anchor something like that. I don’t think it would have worked any other way, another set of females. You know, I felt responsible to have to do it and I shouldn’t have to feel like that in this day and age like Flight is saying, but I felt it was a responsibility to do it and to bring us all together. We’ve had have some lovely times on the road together and I do feel – you know, I love travelling with the guys, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we hate men – but travelling with the ladies is a real joy and I don’t know, we kind of unconsciously understand each other. Do you know what I mean? There’s that yeah, there’s that female bond between us, that I suppose the guys feel all the time. And we only very rarely get to feel that. I’m not saying we don’t party or enjoy ourselves or having difficulties getting up the next day and you know we had a really good night. So Feline was a really nice thing to do and I think we’ve done some good events and well, not so good at times. (laughs) But that’s the way it goes and yeah, I’ve enjoyed it. And I would like to kind of bring it back a little bit more. But life is not being able to afford me that recently. Hopefully we can get a little bit more on the road in the next year.
Alley Cat: I think what Storm does is really sweet. Whenever an up-and-coming female DJ would give her a demo-CD or whatever, she’s just really supportive. She feels like she has to nurture them and big them up and really wants to try and include people. And I think it’s really nice because there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t do that – male or female – for a male or female DJ. But she really does care about trying to support up-and-coming people which I think is really nice.
Tina: What do you think what else can be done to support women?
DJ Storm: I don’t think things are gonna change…
DJ Flight: …not any time soon, no. Obviously men still hold the reins. They still got more of the power in terms of putting on events. But there are girls coming through doing their thing obviously. You’ve got Mantra running the Rupture nights and she’s making some good tunes, she’s a wicked DJ. You’ve got Tasha who’s got Neighbourhood. It’s going really well for her at Plastic People. She’s a good DJ …
DJ Storm: … and you have Kokeshi …
DJ Flight: … yeah, obviously, Alley Cat and Kokeshi is doing well. There are a lot more women coming through, just getting on with things doing their thing. So I guess as long as we keep plugging away, things may eventually change. But I can’t see it in the next couple of years to be honest. I mean the whole world needs to change. It’s not gonna happen overnight in the Drum’n’Bass scene. (laughs) It’s just yeah, things in general …
DJ Flight: It’s actually more important and beneficial for other women just to see us going out there and doing our thing.
DJ Storm: I think when I came to Drum’n’Bass, I had my blinkers on. Because I met so many fantastic people who were prepared to help me. I mean Reinforced could have had anybody they wanted but they chose us. I suppose then I naively, I always felt that all the men would gonna be like that. And they’d heard us a couple of times and they felt, well they actually saw our talent, which was quite magical for us really to be part of Reinforced so early in our career. And I think that did a lot of good for that. So I suppose, when we first came into it, we thought all the guys are gonna be like that. (laughs) And as time went on you got a little bit more disillusioned. But because then obviously Goldie gave us the reins of Metalheadz to run that. Again I suppose, we felt we were appreciated. But really that was a pretty clever move because Kemi and I had already had careers, so we were that little bit older and women are good at organisation. Yeah I felt one of the kind of little patronising things that the guy said from Drum’n’Bass Arena the other day. That women seem to want to have to do this organisation thing, that women want behind the scenes and they made the scene work and I don’t agree. I think women are forced to do things to actually give themselves another string to their bow. Just to the fact that we are good at organising things: The first kind of agencies were run by women and they did a really good job. But then I think the guys always thought “Yeah, the girls should be behind the scene, sortin’ my shit out and I’m out there doin’ tha …” So it’s still the woman stays at home and the guy goes out. To break that mode is a very hard thing to do and I think we feel we have to do this kind of things in order to get on. I mean there are certain people like Alley Cat who’s doing her label for the passion and the love. And I think that’s one thing we really can show: That we do have a passion and a love. And I think we’re to a certain extent, we’re a lot stronger than the guys, because we get knocked down a lot more, but we’re still able to get back up again. Whereas things for the guys tend to be a lot smoother – not for everybody – there are some guys who don’t, who are really underrated.
Tina: You already mentioned the labels. All three of you were involved in founding a label or founded a label herself and I wonder if having an own imprint is taking away some of the difficulties because you’re more independent or is it actually an even bigger challenge because people meet you with even more skepticism?
Alley Cat: I think for me with the whole Kokeshi thing it’s just nice to finally do something for myself because I’ve been doing this for like 15 years now. I used to do a label with a few other guys, called Skunkrock which was cool and it gave me a leg-up and stuff, but it was always like their kind of thing that they started and then I got involved later on. And then I was like “Who could I get involved with?” I remember I dreamt of being like a Metalheadz DJ. And I just had all the stuff that I wanted to try and get in with other groups and stuff. When I finally got this whole Kokeshi thing organised it was like “Ok, I really know what I wanna do now.” So I’m just gonna go forward and it’s just my thing and nobody’s kind of challenging me. I can just do what I wanna do assuming that you know, that the records sell …
DJ Storm: It’s just nice to make your own rules, right?
Alley Cat: Yeah, basically. And I do the artwork and I kind of do everything myself. So it’s fun, it’s a lot of work and I don’t have a lot of time. You know, I’d like to put more time into it. But for me it’s also just in terms of DJing – because I have my own sort of brand and things going on. I guess that does help me get more work now. Or I’m doing more Kokeshi events at venues and therefore I’ll get booked to play on my own nights, so that’s cool. Hopefully I get my friends on soon too. But yeah, for me it’s really, I haven’t had any negativity at all really. And the guys that I’m releasing music from they’re all really nice and if there was like a bad vibe I just don’t even go there. Like I’ve had some amazing music that I wanted to sign and as soon as I got like a weird vibe I was just like “I’m not gonna work with this guy” because you know, it has to be fun and pleasant or I just don’t wanna do it basically.
Alley Cat: When I finally got this whole Kokeshi thing organised it was like “Ok, I really know what I wanna do now.”
DJ Flight: Yeah, with play:musik that was kind of something I always had in the back of my mind. Once I became like quite busy as a DJ I thought “Well, if I ever get to the stage where I feel like I’m in a position where I’m able to push artists that I believe in then I would set it up.” And then I did and that was the time that I was on 1Xtra, I just felt like I had a stable enough standing in the scene where I felt it was the right time to do a label. And I knew what the artwork was gonna look like, I kind of had it all in my head, I just needed to find the right designer to kind of get it out. Yeah and it was just another way of me being creative really – to go along with the DJing and producing that I was doing with Breakage at the time.
DJ Flight: I don’t think anyone that starts a label comes on against any negativity really. But yeah, I’ve had a really great response, I mean I love all the music that I’ve put out so far and need to get back on it actually. It’s been a long time since I released anything. It’s just another part of me. There are like people sending new music and you just get really excited about it and you’re like “God, everybody needs to hear this!” And that was another thing: I could see that there were a lot of people, obviously mostly, all guys – I haven‘t released any music by women yet – they were kind of plugging away but not necessarily getting as far as I thought they should. So it goes back to what Storm said about people being underrated. I’m just not very good at the business side of things. I was lucky enough to have someone else who dealt with that.
Tina: Now we talked a lot about being a female DJ and producers and so on, I sometimes wonder if all this is necessary though and if it’s actually important to have female players? Or if it just doesn’t matter because it’s about the music? And if this topic has to be gender-related?
DJ Flight: It does and it doesn’t.
DJ Storm: Yeah! You took the words right out of my mouth. The fact is that it exists. And most of the time you’re hearing the guys talking about themselves, what they’re doing, what they’re dedededede… And you’re not always given that chance. So I do believe that people like yourself, it’s nice that you take the time and come and talk to us, because we respect that and we feel happy, because we have something to say too or else we wouldn’t be functioning people in this scene. But sometimes our voices are not heard and I think that’s most probably why I do the Drum and Bass Arena thing. At the end of the day they are not really supporting me – okay we’ve had a couple of Feline times there – but it’s almost like I have to work around whatever else is going on and of course they promised us one of their nights at East Village. It’s never happened yet, there was always an excuse and an excuse. And I could get really a bit tough about it and start laying down the law but you kind of know it’s not gonna do you any favours. I’d rather not put Feline in that position where an organisation might not even ever do anything for us again. I think I’m older and wiser now. You know, you learned to play the game a little bit better I think. But I do think it’s an issue, because I think us even speaking encourages other people. I mean you have to ask yourself why so many girls don’t get into this scene. You know like guys: They all get together and they’ll buy some CD jays or back in the days they’d get some Technics and it was their thing. Whereas for women to do it was really quite rare. Women were maybe to busy going out at that time, enjoying themselves, buying makeup. And you know, we never bought clothes for two years when we started buying vinyl. But I do think it’s nice to be given the chance to talk because – it’s not like we’re desperate to talk, guys out there – it’s just nice to be given recognition.
DJ Storm: I think us even speaking encourages other people. I mean you have to ask yourself why so many girls don’t get into this scene.
Alley Cat: It’s nice that someone’s interested in us and what we have to say and also doing the nights and stuff. Like I know Booga, who organised the night last night, he’s always supported all of us and he generally really wanted to have us come play. And I think for all of us now it’s kind of like we’re gonna go where we’re wanted and we’re not just gonna go out there and try battling people to prove ourselves. We’re all getting older. You know, if people want us, great, let’s go out and do it! But I’m not gonna like force myself on someone. I mean that’s kind of my vibe with my DJing in general: I wanna go where people wanna have me. It should be sort of natural and fun and mutual, I guess.
DJ Flight: Yeah, exactly. Obviously it’s still an issue because we’re still talking about it in 2012. It’s like what Storm and Alley Cat have just said, that it’s nice when people like yourself show a real interest and actually know a little bit of our history, know where we’ve been rather then just kind of – not to diss the articles again – but it’s just kind of the Drum’n’Bass press or media in general in the UK anyway. You could tell that he didn’t really know much about any of us, there were a lot of names missed out, so I’m quite glad I didn’t do it to be honest. Yeah, it’s just nice to feel general support from people.
Tina: Thank you very very much for the interview, it was a pleasure.
DJ Storm, Alley Cat & DJ Flight: Thank you, too.
- DJ Storm instagram / Metalheadz website
- Flight website / Play:Musik discogs
- Alley Cat discogs / Kokeshi bandcamp