Ampify Sounds: International Women's Day 2020

Make Music This International Women’s Day. 

Ampify Sounds talks to four of the artists leading the charge with music production in London.

In recent years, new technologies have made great headway in music production and performance. The internet has undeniably acted as a valuable resource for new music makers to access tools, advice and inspiration. But that’s not to say making music is easy. For aspiring producers and DJs, it can be difficult to know where to start, and the vast amount of information available can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. For womxn and nonbinary people, it’s also easy to feel disheartened by the lack of representation in mainstream music culture. We spoke to four of the artists leading the charge in music production in London, to ask their advice on how to get started making music.

Lauren Faith is a Producer, Singer, Songwriter and DJ. She was born into a musical family and grew up listening to her mother’s vinyl collection, which consisted of 70’s Funk, Neo Soul and Go-go. Lauren has carved her own path in music ever since, landing numerous cuts as a topliner and songwriter, including two tracks on Craig David’s UK number 1 album Following My Intuition. Her debut single Just a Little reached critical acclaim across blogs such as Pitchfork, EARMILK, Complex, Indie Shuffle, The Line of Best Fit, Nation of Billions and Clash, while also gaining fans among DJs such as Radio 1’s Annie Mac, and spins on Radio 1 Xtra, Beats 1 and Rinse FM.

How did you first get involved in music?

“I started playing musical instruments at age 4 so it’s really all I've ever known and done my whole life. I started producing at age 16 when I went to sixth form to study music technology, which is where I was first used Pro Tools, but I dropped out after one year. I saved up to buy a MacBook and used GarageBand initially until I got Logic and taught myself from there, but I would say I started taking my production seriously and invested in plugins and hardware at age 22.” 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started making music, DJing or working in the industry?

“Study your favourite producers, writers and DJs. What is it about them that makes them so great? Experiment with genres until you find the genre that is your strongest and go with it, and don't look back.

For producers I would suggest finding a digital audio workstation (DAW) that suits you most. I find Logic perfect for programming beats and recording and comping vocals. Invest in plugins — there are so many amazing ones out there — and if you're into synths save up and invest in one of those too. If you’re more into songwriting, listen to The Beatles and older music — music back then really translated and told stories.

For DJs, go to a record store and pick out random records in certain genres, play them in the shop, explore music you haven't heard before, or even check out Apple/Spotify playlists — having a strong catalogue of music that crosses genres and years does wonders.”

Hannah Holland is a DJ, producer and label boss who has been pivotal to London’s club scene since the mid-noughties. As a DJ, Holland is known for the fusion of Electro, Acid, Techno and House that drive her charismatic sets. Recent appearances have included the Lovechild Vogue Ball (Fabric), and an iconic set for Boiler Room’s Adonis edition (The Cause, Tottenham). In the next few months, Holland is set to make appearances at Berlin’s Panorama Bar, New York’s Paradise Club and Printworks (London). Outside of electronic music, she works on theatre, installation and film music, as well as playing bass for the band Black Gold Buffalo.

How did you first get involved in music?

I went clubbing every week since the age of around 14/15 (in the mid-nineties). Around 18, working and obsessed with the music, I started collecting vinyl, bought decks and practiced all the time in my bedroom, then house parties, eventually bars and clubs over a period of years. I was deeply involved in all aspects of the culture as much as I could be. I was able to make a living from DJing around the age of 26, which is also when I started promoting club nights and eventually went on to producing and running a label.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started making music, DJing or working in the industry?

“Go to as many events as you can, watch as much as you can, start working in the bar at a club you like, flyer for nights, look for opportunities to work in music somehow, intern at a record label, bar back at a music lead bar — anything to get a foot in the door. Take time to learn your craft, dig deep into music, do short courses. Practice as much as possible, play for your friends, start a night, make a podcast, make playlists, build the foundation for the kind of artist you want to be, research the history of the music you love, it will lead to a lifetime of discovery. And just know that nothing happens overnight; it’s a very long process, but worth it if you have the patience!”

Samantha Togni, an internationally renowned DJ, producer and promoter, has played headline sets in super-clubs from Tokyo to Milan. Togni has shared stages with Miss Kittin, Umek, Magda, Boris and Umfang, and is always experimenting with and adapting her sound to electrify any audience.Togni is the founder of Boudica: a London-based label, monthly radio show on Threads, party at The Pickle Factory and platform for womxn and non-binary folk. She is also a core member of INFERNO, a London-based club collective renowned for fusing club culture, performance art and techno. Her next release, ‘Whisperers’, is a new-wave techno single with three hard-hitting remixes by Wax Wings, Third Wife and Neri J.

How did you first get involved in music?

“I have always been involved in music since I was a kid. As a teenager we put together a Hardcore Punk band and that was my first approach to writing music and songwriting. Once moving to London, I fell in love with electronic music thanks to names such as Boys Noize, Modeselektor and Soulwax, just to name a few. The rawness and drive in their sound felt like an organic progression from my punk background.

My music will always be a combination of these two worlds. The attitude and political message that lays behind the sound will always be fundamental to my work, hence why I started Boudica, a platform supporting womxn and non-binary artists that underlines the importance of supporting marginalized groups in music.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started making music, DJing or working in the industry?

“The best piece of advice I can give is to hold on to your roots and authenticity, in a world where we are constantly drawn into comparison and validation just follow your core creativity and taste. If something is not there, just create it yourself. Don't compromise your art for anyone — it will pay off in the long run.

Be supportive towards up-and-coming and local events and the things you believe in that are happening around you. Your presence will make a difference and won't remain unnoticed. The people in your scene are your family — they will be the first ones to believe in you and the last ones to leave your gigs.”

Michelle Manetti, DJ, vocalist and promoter, is an active advocate for supporting and promoting marginalized and underrepresented artists in the music scene. Since 2015, Michelle has collaborated with Sandra Le to run Fèmmme Fraîche – a female-focused party at London’s prestigious queer hot-spot Dalston Superstore – showcasing female-identified and non-binary house and techno DJs, visual artists and performers. She has played worldwide alongside the likes of Honey Dijon, Roi Perez and Horsemeat Disco, with regular appearances at Berlin’s Tresor plus guest and DJ sets at venues such as Sisyphus (Berlin), Vrankrijk (Amsterdam), XOYO (London), and Ministry of Sound (London)

How did you get involved in music?

“My sister introduced me to electronic music at around the age of 13; before that I was mostly listening to R&B and Soul, but she converted me pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time listening to Kiss FM and pirate radio stations together. Around age 14, armed with a fake ID, she started taking me to big London clubs and I became completely hooked on the vibes, the dancing, the people, the hedonism and escapism, but above all the music, which just resonated with me so intensely. Clubbing rapidly became a regular weekly past time. It was late 1990s and the House music scene was really coming into its own — it was a really exciting, seminal time for Dance music and clubbing, a time when clubs like The Cross, Turnmills and Canvas were still open and would be my regular jaunts, my weekly meccas. I was a vocalist and wanted to work in music, but back then it was a real rarity to find womxn on the decks, so it never occurred to me that it was an option for me. There were lads at school that would DJ at all the house parties, and whenever I asked to have a go, they refused. They said “DJing isn’t for girls”, so I’d just linger round the decks watching and resign myself to being the singer.

Fast forward a few years, I was due to go to drama school to study musical theatre, but for various reasons I ended up deferring my start. I was 18 on a gap year and started working as a session vocalist for a producer, but I rapidly realised I didn’t want to be just a vocalist, or a ‘puppet’ singing other people's music — I wanted to have more creative input and write, record and produce my own music. So the producer I was working with showed me round the studio, I did a couple of short production courses and then ended up studying music production at Brighton University instead of going to drama school.

While studying music production, I always leaned towards electronic music, specifically House. It occurred to me that since most House was essentially made for club play, it might be useful for me to learn to DJ, just to understand about structure, what a DJ looks for in a track and what works on the dancefloor, so I bought some mega cheap vinyl decks off Ebay — CDJs didn’t exist back then — and started practicing daily at home, spending all my student money on vinyl and perfecting the craft. I’d already been living in Brighton for a few years before I started university and was a regular face on the queer clubbing scene down there. One night I chatted to a female DJ called Dulcie Danger after her set, saying I wanted to be a DJ and was learning. A few days later, she called me, saying she was starting a new queer girl party and asked whether I wanted to headline — my first DJ set and I was going to be headliner! It was the first of many… Fast forward 20 years, DJing is my full time job (I still do session vocals here and there too). I also run a queer clubnight, and DJ lessons for queer womxn, nonbinary and trans folk, which allows me to give platforms and spaces for queer wmxn to DJ in the same way I was back in 2000 by Dulcie Danger.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started making music, DJing or working in the industry?

“Practice, patience, perseverance, presence and hustle, hustle, hustle! Carving your sound, which will be ever-evolving, and really knowing your music, is the first place to start. Do your research into other artists, labels in your sound — most streaming sites have really good algorithms for suggestions — digging into the crates and finding the forefathers, innovators and influencers. Live it, breathe it!

Secondly, practice and perfect your craft; put the hours in, watch tutorials, go to workshops, ask friends to teach you, ask online communities, constantly strive to improve and learn new skills. Patience is a virtue. Understand things don’t happen overnight, whether that’s learning skills, building your music collection, getting gigs and ultimately success — understand that it takes years, so be prepared for the long game.

Be present. This is so important, online but most importantly in real life. Go to gigs, club nights, events, panel talks, meet-ups and not just to party, but to be able to meet people. Networking (much as I hate that word) is not about being in the right place at the right time, but rather about putting yourself out there; showing up, being seen and supporting people, clubs, promoters and other artists that you like. Online presence is also important. Get your socials (Resident Advisor, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Mixcloud etc) lit and share gigs, music, events you play or attend. Use your socials to reach out to other DJs, promoters and clubs, but remember nothing beats meeting people face-to-face — I get the most gigs when I’m out and about.

Lastly, the hustle is real! Don’t be shy; don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be humble and modest, but know your worth and skill and don’t be afraid to shout about it and sell yourself. 20 years on I still hustle for gigs daily — if you don’t ask, you don’t get! There're a billion DJs and musicians out there, so if you want to make noise above everyone else you have to be 1 billion percent dedicated to the cause.”