DJ Storm is the most accomplished female drum 'n' bass DJ of all time. She tells Time Out about her music style and Alpha set.
How’d you get into DJing? Me and Kemistry [Metalheadz co-founder, who died in a car accident nine years ago] started collecting vinyl in 1989 and it got to a point where for three months we didn’t watch television, we’d just find a pirate radio show and listen to music. So we started to wonder how we could be around this music 24/7.
In 1990 or 1991 we met Goldie at a rave and we all started a fund to get some decks, putting in a little bit of money whenever we could. It took so long that Goldie got really fed up and just bought some. We borrowed speakers and bought a second-hand amp and threw it all together, and we were on our way.
What then? Well Goldie got signed and Metalheadz started and started getting chances. We chose our names, Kemistry and Storm, because we didn’t want it to sound like we were women. We’d phone people up and say, ‘We’ve got these DJs can we send you some tapes?’ We even wrote a CV, because that’s how we thought everything was done. So people would be impressed by all this effort and then we’d turn up and they’d be like, ‘Oh, you’re girls…’ and we’d be, ‘Er, yeah. Sorry.’ But once they saw we could do the job they’d book us again.
It’s no wonder there are so few women DJs. I always feel that women are taught to put their energies into people and guys are taught to put their energies into things. And I think DJing and collecting vinyl is more of a male pursuit, and women don’t always feel that it’s something they can do. I’m not saying the guys don’t respect us, I just think we sometimes get overlooked. It’s one of the reasons I love working with Goldie – he doesn’t see DJs as men or women, he just sees them for their talent.
You’ve been helping out young DJs at the Red Bull Music Academy. What are your big tips? I think you need to listen to a selection of people, learn from them and make your own style. Grooverider taught me how to select, Fabio told me how to structure a set and Randall put the mix into perspective. But the golden rule is to learn your equipment before you go out there.
What will you be doing in Dubai? It’ll be new, with lots of different vibes – I’m hitting up everyone I know right now to get as many tracks as I can. I like to play a little piece of everything in my set, though I’m not into the overly aggressive stuff.
You’ve had a classical music education. How does that affect your sets? I’m always counting the beat. I see bars and times, so I’m pretty accurate with the way I put the set together. It’s always musically correct and very structured; I see shapes when I mix and you’ll never hear me clashing chords when I mix, never!
Can non-musicians appreciate all this? Yes. Sometimes I get people who come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t used to like drum ’n’ bass, but I do now.’ And I think, ‘Yes, I just converted someone!’ That’s the best thing for me.