Ana Sanz gets the low-down on Hospitality's promising new resident, LENS, and puts DnB's gender problem under the microscope.
Although recent years have seen women begin to steer the male-dominated underground music scene, some genres are still struggling to dislodge their deep-seated gender prejudice. It struck me during the prep for a club night that our headliner - a woman spinning Drum and Bass - was a rarer species than most. As a keen follower of Hospital Records and a woman who DJs, I knew I had to chat to her.
How did you get into DJing?
I actually had a DJ teacher when I was about 12 who taught me how to scratch. Back then it was pretty much hip hop and sort of weird rap that I was learning how to scratch with in Brighton. I stopped shortly after then when I was older started going to DnB parties and I just loved it.
I knew back then that I wanted to do that for life – music.
Talk me through joining Hospitality, how have the past few months felt?
I never thought I would be opening for some of my idols in the industry. It’s been insane. I was SO scared at first. It’s terrifying to be with such big names on the record label. Warming up for such big people. I wouldn’t eat for days…But the intimidation wears off when you realise how nice everyone is. In my experience, I’ve encountered lovely people!
Do you feel more aware than you should of your gender?
It’s sad but people are expecting you to be shit when you start off, so you have to be good. And it made me love it and made me want to practise loads. I’m from Brighton originally… Knowing that there were no girls, it made me even more inspired, and although it’s intimidating I just knew I had to be better than the average girl.
Who has been the biggest idol of yours you’ve met? And what’s next on your list of objectives?
Someone that really sticks out for me is LSB, he is a master and all-around incredible at what he does. The crazy thing is that he doesn’t think he is amazing. He is so down to earth and he is obviously one of the greatest for me. He sticks out for me.
I’m trying to make music at the moment. I think jungle is the most difficult thing to pursue. You have to just do it every few days otherwise you forget and it’s a constant search for inspiration! I know it will take a while. It would be sick to play more festivals. Liquicity would be so nice, or Outlook or Boomtown… But my main focus is to make the music that I love, and for it to get released and it not be shit.
For aspiring female DnB producers, LENS’ words could provide the encouragement they need. Industry heads such as DJ Storm and Sweetpea have pointed out that the producer-led nature of drum and bass can inadvertently alienate girl DJs, who often lack the resources or confidence to produce their own tracks. In contrast, other electronic genres foreground mixing ability; for example, although queen of techno Nina Kraviz produces, she’s known primarily as a DJ. Combined with the widespread harassment and bias faced by women in the music industry (or anywhere for that matter), the barriers for women to move up the ladder of success are immense.
These obstacles are exemplified by the appalling gender stats for the biggest DnB labels. In 2017, Critical hosted 90 male sets to 3 female ones, and that’s a good figure in comparison to Metalheadz’s ratio of 75:1, and Hospitality’s excruciating 251:2. The gender disparity in DnB underlines the call for labels, promoters and employers as a whole to revive dance music’s foundational rep for inclusivity, connectivity and love.
DJ Storm & Kemistry, co-founders of Metalheadz label (1993)
That is not to say that opportunities should be determined by anything other than merit. Tokenism and PR stunts are inherently flawed; efforts to level the field cannot rest solely on a single all-female lineup once a month, if the rest are going to feature next to none. These one-off gestures undermine real talent. Likewise, having no females on the lineup implies there is no talent at all.
I'm currently loving KCDC, a collective run by Kyrist and other girls, that delves into the depths of Dubstep, UKG and DnB. Find their soundcloud mixes here.