DJ Storm

Few nicknames in dance music have been as rightfully earned as DJ Storm’s “First Lady of Drum & Bass.” It all began in early ’90s London, when Jayne Conneely discovered the weird and wonderful world of UK rave thanks to her close friend Valerie Olukemi A Olusanya. The pair soon became regulars at Heaven, the London club where jungle would eventually be born from the clashing of breakbeats and techno. They learned to DJ and involved themselves in the scene, eventually crossing paths with a young aspiring artist named Goldie. By the end of the decade, Kemistry & Storm had become a well-respected DJing duo, and the quiet force behind Goldie’s Metalheadz empire. After Kemistry passed away in a car accident in 1999, Storm continued to strike it out as the rare female role model in a male-dominated scene.

In this public talk as part of the 2018 CTM Festival in Berlin, and held at the Red Bull Music Studios, DJ Storm sat with Torsten Schmidt – 20 years since they first spoke at the inaugural edition of the Academy – for an inspiring conversation about the early days of drum & bass, life with Kemi, the joys of the mix and the trials and tribulations of maintaining a DJing career.

Hosted by Torsten Schmidt Transcript:

Torsten Schmidt

My name is Torsten Schmidt and I had the privilege to be amongst the people that founded the thing called the Red Bull Music Academy, in a different millennium.

Actually, we’re here today because what we do a lot is speak to people because we want to hear their stories, what they experienced and what we can learn from them. It is with utmost pleasure that I’d like you to welcome a person that I personally learned a fair bit from… introducing the original first lady of drum & bass, DJ Storm.

DJ Storm

Hello everyone. It’s nice to be back. I was at the first Red Bull Music Academy, wasn’t I?

Torsten Schmidt

That is true as well.

DJ Storm

Kemistry and Storm.

Torsten Schmidt

[It was] just down the road, actually.

DJ Storm

Wow, in that big house.

Torsten Schmidt

Not too far away, in Friedrichshainthat was a little different but not that much has changed the book is still there [gestures to a book on the couch], there’s decks…

DJ Storm

The studio’s kind of changed.

Torsten Schmidt

They kind of do.

DJ Storm

Yeah. But what was lovely about that was we met two of our heroes, me and Kemi… We met John Acquaviva and Richie Hawtin, and that was fantastic, so thank you for that.

Torsten Schmidt

In which regard were they heroes?

DJ Storm

Well, we sat with them and Richie Hawtin started getting angry… sorry John Acquaviva started getting angry, said he was so annoyed when people came with their vinyl and they didn’t check the Technics, and then they wondered why things started jumping and so on. So, it was interesting and me and Kemi came out, we were like, “John Acquaviva’s our hero.”

Torsten Schmidt

Probably introduce the person that’s sadly not here with us, but as the Persians would say, their spaces is open.

DJ Storm


Torsten Schmidt

Who is Kemi, or who was she to you?

DJ Storm

Kemi was my DJ partner. We were friends for years before we started to become DJs. I had moved away to train in Oxford to become a therapeutic radiographer and she moved to Sheffield, [in the] north of England. Her boyfriend had been employed, he was one of the first graphic design companies that ever was set up in Sheffield, and she went up there and she was doing make-up artist work, and then she worked for a guy called Jarvis Cocker. She worked for this label, FON Records.

She happened to move down to London about two weeks before I qualified, and I needed a place to stay, so I could go and do some work placements. She said, “I’m living in this big Victorian house, the bedroom is massive. We’ll just buy another little mattress. Come and live with me, and we’ll share the rent.” Then she’d be going out to all these [places] – I don’t know what she was going out to – and she’d be coming back and sitting on her bed and singing tunes and laughing and I was like, “Where are you going?”

She said, “I’ve discovered this thing called raving.” I was like, “Oh, OK. I’ve just come from Oxford… come on.” I was like, “Electronic music’s not really for me.” She said, “You need to hear it.” So, she bombarded me with every pirate radio station that you possibly could. So, now my life was full of I suppose we called it hardcore then.

Me and my other friend Nikki, who was also a radiographer, we decided, “Let’s go and see what this raving’s all about.” We actually really realized that we were really loving the music. So, I became the driver for her and her big crew from Red or Dead, the shoe shop, where she used to work]. The guy there, who was the manager, he would decide every week where they would go. They’d find a new place to rave, or something would happen. I became their driver… We’d hire a big vehicle and I’d take them, and we’d basically watch them raving, and listen to the music.

Then, I think it was 1989, and the manager of Red or Dead had heard that there were these two DJs Fabio and Grooverider in this club called Heaven that had been bought from the upstairs room to downstairs. [Apparently,] they were so good that they made all the girls take their tops off. So, of course the guys wanted to go to this place and we’ve just went along for the ride basically.

Torsten Schmidt

[Heaven] was basically a gay club though.

DJ Storm

Rage was basically a gay club, yeah absolutely. I think it was Kit Kat Club before. That was known as a gay club, and the guy running it was a gay guy, yeah, absolutely. So, the first time we went down there you had to go through all this rigmarole of membership, and we only got to hear this guy who we’d heard once before – he was called Grooverider – and we’d realized that we really, really liked this guy. When it came to New Year’s Eve that year, we couldn’t find a rave to get into, so we were going to go home, and I was at the petrol station filling up my car, and these guys say, “Where are you going?” We said, “We tried this rave, we can’t get in. We didn’t buy tickets, we didn’t think about it.” [One of them] said, “Don’t worry there’s an illegal rave in this Panasonic warehouse in Slough – follow us."

So, off we went, and we heard Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold and lots of big people that night. But the one guy that really stood out for us was Grooverider. I suppose their story at that time was that you weren’t supposed to mix house with acid or mix house with techno. But they liked it… Carl Cox was like, “It’ll never work.”

So, we got turned on by that and, growing up in the time that Kemi and I grew up, we were always vinyl junkies – Kemi and I, our vinyl collection was vast already. So, we started buying this stuff. In 1990, we went on a year of really, really hard raving. We were at the Ice Valley ice rink in Lea Bridge Road [East London] at about, I don’t know, two o’clock in the morning… I was listening to these two tunes, and I was thinking, “We’ve got these two tunes and they’re not the same speed, yet this guy’s making them the same speed. I don’t really understand.” So, I migrated towards the decks, and I was looking at this deck with the red light on, I’d never seen it before.

So, I saw this guy next to me and I said, “What’s going on there?” He said, “It’s called a Technics. It’s got a pitch-bend, they’re mixing.” I was like, “Right.” As I looked across the other side of the decks, there was Kemi doing exactly the same. So, we came out that night and we said, “OK we obviously want to be with this music 24/7. Let’s become DJs.” I suppose that’s how it started for us. We didn’t really engage in the world for about six months at one point. I remember coming downstairs and our landlady said, “Do you realize we’re going to war with Iraq?” We were like, “Really?” We didn’t know – we were just raving.

Our obsession was there, so we had to do something about it. We started making a fund for the decks. I managed to get a job in a private hospital, which was three times as much money as I was earning for the NHS. So, now we had a really nice vinyl fund. Then Kemi was at work one day in Camden, and this guy had come in the shop… she said, “This really strange guy came in the shop today and he had gold teeth.” I was like, “How do you mean?” She said, “Like the whole thing, gold. He [Goldie] has asked me to come and do a photoshoot at his house tonight at eight o’clock.” I said, “Eight o’clock?” I said, “That’s like a date, right?” She said, “I don’t know, but pick me up at 12. Don’t leave me there.” I said, “OK.”

She told me now he’s this graffiti artist and she had to pretty much lay down the law to him to say, “I think for the next few years I think I’m going to be quite selfish. I’m into this thing called hardcore. I want to become a DJ, and I think I’m not going to have too much time for relationships. I think I’m going to have to make a lot of sacrifices, but if you want to come along and hear this music, fine.”

So, we took him to Rage and he’d just come from his art exhibition – that’s why he came back to England, because he had this big graffiti art exhibition and this film had been done about him called Bombing. He was getting a little bit… there was a lot of notoriety about him and we were a bit clueless really, because we weren’t into hip-hop, and we weren’t into graffiti at all – we were just into this raving thing.

So, anyway, he came to Rage and he wouldn’t come downstairs to hear Grooverider or Fabio, and we were quite disappointed in him really. We’re like, “What’s your problem?” He’s was like “What happened? There’s black people and Chinese people and Indian people.” We were like, what are you on about? He said, “I’ve come from Miami where there’s a black club, there’s a Hispanic club, there’s a white club and we don’t [mix]…” We were like, “You missed the summer of love, where we all came together, raving in fields, and we became quite anti-establishment, because they wanted to stop us dancing – they wanted to stop us enjoying music and we didn’t want that to happen.”

I suppose this hardcore scene had become quite antiestablishment, really. We just wanted to do our thing and we didn’t really care about the government, so we’d all come together and it didn’t matter where you were from, what you looked like, what you wore. We were all joined by music. In Rage, people only really said “Tune,” to you and then carried on raving… There was no last dance, there was no snogging in the corner. It was just people really loving music and coming together with music.

It was quite a different thing at the time … The second time we took Goldie, we made him come down. Then realized, and that was it. We came home that night and he said, “Right. I want to make this music. I’m going to become a producer. You two are going to play it. We’re going to have a lifestyle kind of label, like Stussy. I can do the art work.” I suppose, for the next few years, we really did just live that dream… and of course, I [remember] him running up on the stage for a very famous record label at the that time, Reinforced Records, who had this big hit out called “Mr Kirk’s Nightmare”…

He ran on stage right in the middle of their set, and we were mortified. But actually, it changed our lives, really, because they took us on board. We had to get mixing really quickly. I mean, another thing was we didn’t have a lot of money at that time, but when Goldie got signed, he bought us our decks. We’d had a fund, I think we’d got it up to about £250, so we at most probably could nearly afford half of one deck, and we came home one day and he’d bought us our decks.

We didn’t really know what to do with them, and a couple of days later when Randall came around and watched us have a little mix and he said, “It might be easier if you take the rubber thing off.” Yeah, it was quite embarrassing, really, but that’s how we started, really, me and Kemi.

We made a series of tapes that… I know a lot of people were making tapes at that time, but we decided to have a CV, and Goldie wrote it all in wildstyle, and he gave us a piece of artwork to put on the tape. My boyfriend worked at his father’s company, so him and Goldie would break in at night and copy our tape covers for free. Yeah, by any means necessary.

Yeah, I suppose that’s how Kemistry & Storm were born. I mean, Kemi’s name was easy to come by. We spent a lot of time thinking about mine. We had lots of different thoughts. Deck Jammer, Sidewinder, Mix Matcher, and then…

Torsten Schmidt

So, basically every grime rave there ever was?

DJ Storm

Exactly. Then my friend said to me, “Oh, you’ve got quite a stormy nature.” So, we were like, “Kemistry and Stormy?” We were like, “Oh, no, Kemistry & Storm.” The other thing about that was, I suppose we didn’t want to show that we were women. We just wanted a name that seemed kind of unisex. I mean, not that we were feeling any kind of oppression being women, but we could see that there was only really one female DJ out there – that was DJ Rap.

Yeah, like I say, we were incredibly lucky to be picked up by Reinforced, and we’d got a pirate radio show, something like three months after getting the decks, so we just had to practice and practice and practice. It was a graveyard shift, six until nine on a Sunday morning. You had to go take your decks and put your decks through this hole that would just kind of fit, and then the next DJ would come and bring their decks, and you take all your decks out. It really was pretty underground, and I think if you’re going go to those lengths, you know that you really want it.

I think then, Kemistry & Storm started getting a little bit of notoriety, and obviously Goldie started making tunes with Reinforced, and people just used to say to us, “Do you know that crazy guy from Wolverhampton with the gold teeth?” And we’d be like, “No. Who is he?” You know what I mean? And then obviously people realized he was with Kemi.

I suppose, because Goldie had that different confidence to us. I do think that’s definitely something I’ve learnt over the years, as a woman, that guys tend to have that bit more confidence than us. They go, “Right, I’m going to do something… let’s do it.” Whereas, I think women, we think about it a little bit more. Maybe you can overthink things. So, we learnt a lot by looking at how the guys were, and how they got work. We would watch our friend Randall, he’d talk to the promoter, and we were like, “OK, we can do this.”

I have to say, we did get a lot of work off those promotional tapes. We’d turn up and they’d go, “Oh, you’re women.” We were like, “Yeah.” They were like, “Well, we can’t change it now.” That’s the thing that people want to see, I suppose, from a woman DJ, as opposed to a guy DJ, especially when it was quite a novelty then – that we can do the job.

I think that was the thing about us – we were always able to do the job. We’d got our skills together and people started to say, “You’ve kind of got a style.” You needed a style then, because it was all about… you had the DJ here, and the producer here, and the producer provided the music, and the DJ played the music. There was no producer/DJ back at that time, it was really just pure DJs.

Skills were really important and having a style. People started to say, “Oh, you’ve got this kind of rough with a smooth kind of vibe going on.” So, now we had a style. Once we’d had quite a few warm-up sets and our first residency… It took us six months to get into the next position of not warm-up, but that’s the best kind of grounding you can ever get, I think, is being a warm-up. There’s not many people there at the beginning of a dance, but if you can make them stay, and start to get them to dance, then you’ve done your job as a warm-up.

Once you become a good warm-up DJ, then you can start to progress, and hopefully the promoter will come and listen to you. Not always, but back in the day we had some very good promoters that would listen to our tapes, and would give us advice about what to do, which I’m not sure is around now. Then, it was kind of important to us.

We had residencies and slowly, slowly we started to get noticed. Yeah, you’ve got to say that, “Yeah, maybe we did look a little bit different. One black, one white. She’s got the blonde dreadlocks and I’ve got the dark hair. I think people kind of were a bit curious about us, like, “What are they going to be like?” Yes, we only got half the money each, because we were a unit as Kemistry and Storm, like Randall is a unit on his own, but that didn’t really bother us. Obviously, Goldie started the label, and we started to run that with him. That was amazing.

Torsten Schmidt

On the up note, you always had a travel companion.

DJ Storm

Of course. I have to say now, after all these years, and doing a lot of talks in the last year about being a female, I’m not sure if I’d have found it that easy on my own. We always had each other, and when there were problems, you always had someone to talk to. We could work it out together. I think we were quite blinkered as to being women, because we were just doing our thing. We didn’t really stop ourselves and we were lucky to get picked up by Reinforced. It was the hottest label, but once they booked us, then we had to deliver the goods, if you get my drift.

Even though it was scary, and I’m always still a bit nervous now when I play… I think I would worry if I wasn’t a little bit nervous. But some of the gigs we got, it was proper panting, and sitting in the car, and, “Are we going to be okay?” You could turn to the other one, and it was easier. I have to say, it was easier having the two of us, rather than just the one of us.

I suppose, since Kemi’s passing, I’ve lived that being on my own again, because I did have to kind of reinvent my career after she passed. There was work pending, but a lot of people did cancel the work, because I think they always thought that I was maybe … I don’t know, a lot of people said they didn’t want to see me upset, and that kind of stuff, and I suppose that’s a difficult one.

If you met Kemi, as you know, she was a really unique individual. She had a certain glow about her. There was a certain glow about her, a certain golden-ness about her. I think she had a really old head on her shoulders, almost. She was very wise, and I was always the go-getter with the real confidence, and I think we were very yin and yang with each other, and that really worked.

So, after she’d gone, it took me awhile to do this on my own. Of course, we shared one set of records, and we never played each other’s records. There was one Dillinja 12", she would choose one side, and I would choose the other. When we were going to cut stuff, you know dubplates, I would bring some stuff home for her and say, “I cut three tracks for you,” and she would do the same. We kind of knew, and I don’t know how we knew, but we did.

My first gig back… obviously, after she passed, I had to play her records, which was really bizarre, because we’d never done that. I had a lot of support from the scene, I have to say. A certain guy called Bryan Gee just basically said, “Well, this is where you decide you really want this, and boy would she be angry if you just gave it up.” I said, “Yeah, she can haunt me and fling things at me, maybe dubplates, or something.” They’re quite painful, you know?

Torsten Schmidt

You don’t want to be slapped with a dubplate, no.

DJ Storm


Torsten Schmidt

Nevertheless, it’s something that gets rarely talked about, because everyone wants to be on a cover of a magazine, or on the loading page of whatever blog, and get a gazillion likes, and this, and that. At the end of the night, you’re going home alone most of the time. You’re there, and if you’re playing multiple gigs a night, you have to always get yourself back into that zone of being center stage, and then be like a very on-your-own kind of person.

DJ Storm

Yeah. I think we realized straight away that being a DJ is about being a performer. I mean, our first few gigs, I’d love to see some pictures of us, because we couldn’t look up for love or money. It takes a while to finally look up at the crowd, and make eye contact…

OK, so you’re at home, and you have your radio show, but that’s very controlled, and you’ve got no one around you looking at you. When you get out on the stage, there are people looking at you, and then what happens is people want to come and ask you questions. You’re like, “Oh, OK, I’ve got to answer questions now.” I think that was again easy because there was two of us… I think a lot of people found us quite easy to get along with because you could just come and ask us questions, and we would tell you, you know? We weren’t precious like certain DJ’s that wouldn’t put the name of the track on a dubplate – and when we started to run Metalheadz… well, we’re trying to sell this stuff, so, we’ve got the name of the artist and we’ll tell you when it’s coming out, because we are going to release it. We know what the schedule is – you know what I mean?

You start to realize then actually, yes, for that time you’re booked, you’re the performer, you’re the entertainment. And I think there was that moment there where the DJ kind of became the new live act, you know? There weren’t so many live acts around, and it was all about the DJ.

Obviously, you had your big people like your Oakenfolds and Pete Tongs, and that was, I think, much more of a performance than we were doing on the drum & bass scene, but actually once you start to engage with the crowd, you see those people with their smiling faces feeling exactly as you’re feeling, and that’s a great feeling because now you know you’re able to transmit what you’re trying to say through music.

And people used to always say to me and Kemi, you know, “Do you feel like you play for yourselves?” And we were like “Yeah.” And they’re like “Well that’s kind of selfish,” and we’re like, “Yeah, hang on a minute though. It’s what I would like to hear if I was out there as a punter.” Not “OK, I have to play because I work for Metalheadz, I’m just going to play Metalheadz.” That was not what we were about at all. We played every label, and maybe we did highlight… I mean we got Metalheadz stuff really early, so we were actually lucky, because dubplates were the thing then. It was what you had in your bag, as to how people would book you. It was important then – What kind of labels did you have in your bag and what artist did you have in your bag and have you got the hottest tunes.

And when you were going abroad, you were kind of conscious of, “Well, we are trying to export this music from the UK right now, and we hope you get it.” I think a great DJ will always take you by the hand and walk you through their set. I think that is one of the best compliments you can ever get, it’s that, “I didn’t really like drum & bass before, but now I’ve heard you, you’ve made me understand it.” And you’d be like “Yes! Another convert.”

Torsten Schmidt

I mean, then, scarcity was actually a USP for you getting work, getting gigs. Now it’s rather the opposite and there is an abundance, an over-abundance of things. How do you navigate that?

DJ Storm

Well, I think it took me a long time to get my head around social media. A big DJ had a really good shout at me a couple of years ago, and just kind of put me in my place about it because I, maybe naively, didn’t realize how social media works. You know we had a very face-to-face scene years ago. We’d go to a place called Music House, where we’d cut our Dubplates. So not only would you see people from London, Marcus Intalex would come from Manchester to cut his dubplates. Roni Size would come from Bristol. You know Simon Bassline Smith would come from up north, in Derby.

So, now you had this community [that was very] face to face. Everything was done on the phone. We had a fax machine, that was pretty much how you communicated back in the day. To kind of see the way social media has changed things and almost you see some artists now be packaged you know… they become… I think the producer/DJ changed a lot of things, because obviously when vinyl was really, big back in the day, when we started Metalheadz, you know, when we finally got established, we were maybe selling 50,000 to 75,000 pieces of vinyl per release, so the engineer at home was happy with that money.

Now, when things changed, a lot of producers decided they needed to become DJs because they couldn’t get their money out of labels. It’s a very underground scene – there was never a lot of money around in our scene, only at certain points. You see drum & bass kind of go on a little bit of a roller-coaster every now and again. I think then once … It’s like Dillinger always said, “The worst thing I ever did was DJ, because the money was in my hand. And now I can’t turn my back on it, because getting my money for my release from this label or this label, maybe you never ever got it…” So, it was a way of, yeah… People grow up, they have children, you have to sustain a house and live.

So, the producer/DJ was kind of born, and I think a lot of the DJs really got their noses quite out of joint a little bit, and I suppose, for me to sustain my career, I had to think differently when social media came along.

Like I say, quite a big DJ had a really big shout at me, and told me kind of what to do and what it was all about. I kind of knew it, but I kind of resisted it because I’m very old-school. I mean obviously dubplates were no longer being cut, we’d moved on to CDs. It was a very different thing. You really didn’t have that dubplate any more, and I suppose we didn’t have this community where we all saw each other. We were now, I don’t know, talking on Facebook and talking on… What was the first thing we had?

Torsten Schmidt


DJ Storm

Yeah, MySpace. Yeah, Yeah Tom. Tom on MySpace. But there was a messenger thing that people use to use…

Torsten Schmidt


DJ Storm

Yes, exactly and I never used that. I never knew what that was all about… I suppose I’ve always been quite physical. I mean, even getting a laptop and having a smartphone was a bit much for me. And now I’ve embraced it – you have to; it’s a global thing now.

I mean it’s interesting. I look at when Kemi passed, that’s what all we had – MySpace. I have two A4 books of faxes that people sent from all around the world to the Metalheadz office. Then I look at when Marcus Intalex passed last year – it was like overkill. I had to turn it off for a while, because it was almost too much, but the whole world did want to commiserate, of course.

But I suppose what I don’t really get about social media, is the negativity behind it. I’ve always been quite positive, even if I’m feeling maybe angry about a subject and I’m doing an interview, I will still always be positive because I think that then translates to people that are reading the interview. I want you to come join our scene. I do think drum & bass is all-comers-welcome, and I want you to come out and feel comfortable. I think that’s been a different thing for me…

If I have to say something and be controversial and I feel really passionate about it on social media, I will. But I kind of see it now for me as a business tool. I do think, over the years, I’ve realized that DJ Storm has her own persona and Jayne has her own persona, and lots of people can get to interact with DJ Storm, but not everyone gets to know Jayne. I’m definitely two different people. I’m definitely a performer when DJ Storm starts to happen. Don’t phone me and talk to me when I’m getting ready and doing my DJ Storm rituals. I’m not going to answer you, you know, because once I become DJ Storm, it’s all about being a professional, and it’s all about doing my best job. Whereas Jayne can have a little bit of fun and lark about…

If you are able to spend time with me, and I think doing the Boiler Room really opened my eyes. Wow. There were people that hated me for the whole time I played. And I just didn’t understand it, do you know what I mean? But my friends just say to me “That’s just how it is now.”

I mean one girl, she hated my lipstick, she hated my hair, she hated… I don’t know if anyone watched the Boiler Room thing, but they’d obviously asked me to do this final set, and then they hadn’t gotten a clue about the decks.

Torsten Schmidt

Well if it’s any consolation I was getting a fair amount of email of like, “Hey you RBMA people, get the fat c--t with the German accent off the stage.” And it’s like, “Thanks, you’re speaking to him.” I was like, “OK, all right…”

DJ Storm

Yeah sure, sure. I think doing Boiler Room really opened my eyes, because I had the most hits ever, and that to me was phenomenal, you know? I mean even Goldie phoned me and was like “Wow, you’ve got more hits than me.” And I said, “Yeah, I know!”

Torsten Schmidt

How’d you take that?

DJ Storm

Yeah well. I always act surprised. “Oh yeah, I’m so surprised.” And he was like “What happened there?” I said “Well, I’m not sure if it was just for me.” I think, obviously, the guy who booked me, Mumdance, he’s pretty famous. He’s got a massive following, and Different Circles, his label has got a huge following. It’s interesting, because I asked him “Why is it me that you’ve booked?” And he said “Well, I’ve got that story like you have about Groove and Fabio… You know, when I 15, I broke into Essential Festival at Finsbury Park, and the first DJs a saw were Kemistry and Storm, and you changed my life.”

And I was like “Wow.” He said, all these years on, Tom, who works for his label, happened to work at my agency, and he was sitting in their office saying, “Oh yeah, I’ve just taken on DJ Storm.” Jack Mumdance was just, “Oh my God, I want her on Boiler Room.” So, they approached me and I said to my friend “Oh yeah, this guy’s asked me to do Boiler Room, what’s that all about?” And she’s like “Oh my God, do it, do it, do it, do it.” I said “OK.”

So, I even walked into Boiler Room pretty naive. And then I saw it, and I was like oh my God, [the crowd is] really close. It was really close… Yes, and, of course, the deck didn’t work on the right so, my friend is saying to me, “Don’t forget you’ve got six cameras on you and three mobile ones,” and I’m turning round to her going, “For God sake, get me the sound man and screaming at her,” then turning around and [dancing and smiling].

Torsten Schmidt

If we stretch away the shouting, what did that certain big-name DJ teach you that you would like to share with other people?

DJ Storm

Well, that I need to get my own Facebook page for DJ Storm, not just Jayne. And that I literally had to work it every month, put something on there every month, whether it was just a mix or… I mean, when you think about it, it’s a bit stupid not to realize that you can’t be booked unless somebody can hear you. I didn’t really think, because I’m a bit naive and bit ignorant about social media. I didn’t think about things like that, putting my set up and kind of encouraging people to come and listen to it, and having Mixcloud and Soundcloud, and all those kind of things. So, that DJ taught me a lot about… And even things like that, liking an event … I don’t know how many gigs I’ve got from liking an event and they’re like, “Oh my god is that really you, DJ Storm?” Well it’s like “Yeah…” “Can we book you? We haven’t got a lot of money but…” “Yeah, OK!”

I mean I had those times in the last few years where my career’s not been great, and I’ve just really had to say to myself, “Do I still want this?” And I really do, I’m still as excited when I get on the decks as I first was. I don’t think that will ever leave me. My most comfortable place is in the mix. I love it, and I love creating things, and I love making tunes sound different, and that live mixing, for me, I don’t like tricks…

Really what came out of drum & bass, I think, in the beginning, was mixing and blending. The cross-fader wasn’t used too much before drum & bass DJs came along, and we really took the live mixing of two tunes to another level. And I think if you’re going to do that, then mess around with it and have fun with it, and kind of create something so that you might be going along really calmly in your set, and then you just flip it, and it produces a “Whoa!” I don’t want to be easy on the crowd. I want to make you dance, of course – that’s the bottom line – but I want us to go on a little bit of a journey together, and I think putting sets up and those kind of things got me noticed again.

But I have to say I think Boiler Room changed things for me in a big way. Because I wasn’t expecting it. And then all of a sudden, I think people are like, “Oh my God, is DJ Storm still alive? OK, let’s book her then. Is she still working?” And I think really, I’d done that to myself by not being part of the whole social media revolution, that was my mistake. And now, that was the best advice that DJ could have given me, to have something on that page, whether it’s an interview, whether it’s a podcast, whether it’s a mix. Every single month, there has to be something of interest, so that people can look at your page. That really helps, because people are looking at things all the time. I mean, it’s a minefield out there. I’ve just had to start Instagram now. I can’t do any more [laughs].

Torsten Schmidt

How did you overcome, and how do you navigate it, so that it doesn’t get too much and you don’t feel like you’re giving away too much? Because, I mean, you literally grew up in a world where it was a lot about keeping your privacy, people would be performing with all sorts of masks a lot, and all these other things…

DJ Storm

Yeah. Well I think you have to be open to it. And I think you have to be happy about what you’re doing as well. And I think … doing a mix, I don’t think is a difficult thing to do – especially not for me, I love it, you know what I mean. I’ve looked at it as something exciting, rather than some chore. I think if I’ve gone that way, the “Oh, God, got to do another mix for Facebook, and meh, meh, meh, meh…” No, you’ve got to change your attitude.

And if you want to be out there, it’s here now – there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s here, all these things are here. And I don’t want it to feel like I’m doing it just to progress my career. I feel like I want to enjoy it as well, so I think I’ve started to enjoy it.

Torsten Schmidt

But you’re clearly differentiating between you as the person and the product that you put out there.

DJ Storm

Yeah, I suppose I am to a certain extent, but I think …

Torsten Schmidt

How many times do you post the hotel food that you had?

DJ Storm

Now, that kind of stuff, I don’t do. I don’t understand that, when certain artists get up and they put a picture of their breakfast and go, “I’ve just had a lovely breakfast,” and I’m like, “Why did you do that?” Yeah, I don’t do that. And I mean, Randall when I played at Boomtown, he did a video for me. I didn’t do one… I mean I’m not great at taking … Maybe you can tell me, if I’m playing to you in the club, do you want to see the picture of that club later, the next day? You know lots of DJs take big pictures of the club, and thanks for playing. And, I mean, I would always, the next morning, thank the promoter, of course. That’s a personal thing between me and them, but do you want to see that? I don’t know. I can’t answer that question.

Torsten Schmidt

I guess there’s way too many pictures of us at five in the morning already anyway.

DJ Storm

Yeah. So yeah, you’re right… I do still see all of the social media sites as a business. Yeah, DJ Storm is definitely a business when she’s out there. I have two pages now on Facebook, Jayne Conneely and DJ Storm. And DJ Storm, the page tends to do the business, whereas Jayne Conneely, she might have a little bit of fun… Everybody knows it’s me, the picture is not that different, you know, maybe a few years apart. But I kind of quite like using them both now. Because I can have a little bit of fun with Jayne, you know what I mean?

The one thing I really love is Twitter. That’s been my favorite one, because I quite like that instantness about it. And the drum & bass community really got behind Twitter. We really enjoy it. And now, obviously, everybody’s got behind Instagram, and I’m just kind of getting my head around it now. My friend put the app on three months ago, but she never taught me how to use it, so I’m kind of navigating my way. If you’re trying to follow me, I’ll get there eventually, OK? Just give me some time.

Torsten Schmidt

Well, the thing that you totally do get is your actual craft and the mixing. You’ve always been known for one of the most impeccable mixes out there and for building the drama of a set and all those things. How much time do you still invest in the actual craft?

Torsten Schmidt

For me, it’s more over the years it’s more in my head. The mixes. I still do that, I still dream of mixes, and then I get up the next morning and do them and go, “Oh yeah, that’s wicked.” You know what I mean? You know, you hear … whether it’s because I’ve been mixing for years now… I don’t know…

It was funny because Digital has just remastered “Space Funk,” and he was asking me to do a little write-up for him, so I said, “Well “Space Funk” is quite funny, because… [Kemi and me] would find mixes for each other every now and again, and “Space Funk” was quite a funny one because we both wanted it, and it was her turn to have the Digital 12". Of course, she went out one day and I think she kind of smelt something, that I wanted to get my hands on that naughty Amen track… Of course, she went out, and I heard her from the kitchen, coming back in and going, “Is that “Space Funk” I can hear?” And it’s all, “Oh Kem, sorry!”” I couldn’t resist.

Digital laughed at that little story I told. And I think that was… again, we did understand each other’s vibe. There were those tunes that we knew we both could play, but we took it in turns, and that was interesting. But I still give as much to my craft as possible. I mean, I still try to work really hard on putting things together a different way.

But I think after all these years, I do hear a lot more in my head of what goes together. You might have a busy week, where you don’t have a chance to mix. So, you go out with new tunes and pretty much normally they always work. And of, course, you can hear in your headphones if a chord is not going to work with another track, and then you have to rush for another tune and think, “Oh no, that definitely didn’t work, it worked in my dream last night, but today it’s not working.” And because I’ve always had that musical background, I can hear it straight away if chords are clashing, and I want my basslines to work as well. For me, it has to work musically all the way along. And, you know, I have to pull this face, when I hear another DJ chord-clashing – like I’m thinking, “Eeeugh!”

Torsten Schmidt

Speaking of listening to other DJs, do you find that mixing has changed with all the visual cues that devices like this [points to decks] provide?

DJ Storm

Well, lots of people go on about cue points now. And to a certain extent, I suppose … thinking about it I’ve had this debate with a few people recently. If there was a beginning that had nothing kind of going on, we would all still play it, and of course, you would rush to the beats – that’s the cue point – and then go back to the beginning. What happens now is that they don’t go back to the beginning, they just hit the cue point.

I mean, I’ve discovered… my partner had Serato quite early, so… He’s a reggae DJ, and I’d learnt about cue points from him. I thought, “I don’t really need them…” I was having this debate with Spirit the other day, and he was saying, “Yeah, but if you got the cue point, at least it’s quick,” and I said, “Yeah, but when I think about vinyl, you could always see… “

That was the beauty of vinyl. You could see the cue point, so you could go straight to it pretty much. Yes, you’ve got to go to it a little bit here, but I would still always go back to the beginning of the tune. I’m still a great believer that because I don’t produce, I’m not going to start messing about with someone else’s tune.

Now, I know with Serato, and with the USBs, I think you can loop sections. I’ve seen it done, but I don’t think I have the capability to do that. Like I say, I don’t produce, so I’m not then going to start to disrespect the tune that you gave me to play by messing about with it. I’ve heard a lot of sets where there’s so much looping going on, they never get to the drop. There’s no atmospheric space, and I still love that. I still want that.

I’ve heard sets, and they just go, and go, and go, and they just come at you, and they just come at you. Obviously, you get a lot of – since the a producer/DJ – a set of tunes that maybe sound quite similar, because they’re their own productions. I think, when I hear that and 30 seconds of mixing, it doesn’t really impress me. I have to gloss over it because it’s here now, but I kind of maybe just think, “Oh, I’m ready to kill you in the mix, now.” [Laughs]

Torsten Schmidt

I guess that’s also a rather male approach, as well. Thinking that because I’m a DJ, AKA God, I can make your tune so much better, and that’s why I need to do an edit of it, and make sure only I know what your tune really sounds like.

DJ Storm

Yeah. I’ve heard that impression. I had a big debate with someone about this at SUNANDBASS last year. They do that a lot. They had heard that I wasn’t too happy about that. I had to explain to them that these are not my tunes. I’m lucky enough for these people to give me their tunes. They respect me enough to give me their tunes and hopefully I’m going to do a good job with them. That’s how I think. Still, if that producer walks in the dance, and I’m mixing, I get a little bit, “Oh God, I hope he likes it.”

There’s another thing, it is mostly guys – what can I say – with production… I’m not sure what’s wrong with us ladies, but maybe we can touch on that a little bit later. This guy was saying to me, “Well, it’s my tune, and I start to think… I just want to change it right now.” I said, “Yeah, but are you looking at the crowd? Are you actually paying attention?” I always think that’s obviously the most important thing.

Not everybody’s going to like every single track that you’re playing. I think, for me it’s a little bit easier, because I feel like I play a little bit of everything, so hopefully in the set somewhere, you’re going to hear a tune that really turns you on.

I hear a lot of sets that sound very similar now. You can be doing all this trickery, but because the tunes sound all the same, I’m not quite sure what you’re achieving. I think it’s easy. This sound that’s around now is very easy. It has a lot of mid-range bass, and it has a lot of what I call the “wah-wah” sound. It’s a bit, “Wah-wah-wah, wah-wah-wah.” It doesn’t do a lot to me, because I think back to some of the early producers that have used that sound, and they’ve used it in a much more exciting way. Maybe there’s a glimmer of it, it’s not the whole theme of the tune. It’s become very mid-range.

Well, drum & bass is about drum & bass. It needs to have bass. It’s not called “drum and mid-range bass”, it’s called “drum & bass”, and I want to hear that. That’s where I’ll be controversial. Some people have said to me in the last few years, “Oh, Storm, you don’t get it.” I said, “Well, I get it, I just don’t want to be bored when I’m playing.” I can’t play something that doesn’t move me in here.

People say, “Well, yeah, but that producer’s really hot, and you should be playing their tunes.” I said, “Yeah, but if it doesn’t move me in here, then I’m being untrue to DJ Storm.” I don’t play things because they’re trendy, or because this producer’s hot. I play things that move me.

So far, touch wood, I’ve never cleared a dancefloor. I’ve had to come on after some of these producers, and maybe the last three producers, to me, have all sounded the same. Then, I have to think very carefully about how I’m going to start my set now, because I can’t just …

I think I play quite dramatically. When I look at a label like Metalheadz, you couldn’t say … Some people say it’s dark. Some people say… You can have lots of opinions about Metalheadz, but the one thing that Metalheadz had in its tunes was drama. There was a lot of drama, and tension, and even if it was a musical tune, it still had certain amounts of tension, and drama, and it painted pictures in your mind. That’s what I see. I still see pictures in drum & bass… I think, to a certain extent, that’s how I play.

So, if I’ve come on after three, what I feel are quite flat sets, then I have to be careful. I can’t just go “Bam,” and just kind of bring you my drama straight away. I’ve got to work very carefully, so by the time I get to that point, where I really want to get quite dramatic… I’ve got to give you a few tunes… not those tunes that they’re playing, but my version of that, to a certain extent. Maybe something not quite so in your face. Then, I have to build to where I’m going.

The other thing is, when you’ve heard sets like that, that don’t have a lot of music, I have to think now, “Does the crowd like music?” So, I might choose something that’s maybe a little bit older, that people know. Maybe a remix of something that was in the charts. We don’t do many of those, but we have a few… Once I’ve got you with a piece of music, then I realize, “OK, let’s go.” I have to think about my set much more carefully when I’m playing after, three sets that to me that have all sounded the same, I can’t just come in. I might scare you. Then, I might scare you out of the dance, and I don’t want to do that. So far, I’ve done a good job.

Again, I think when you’re a DJ, you need to turn up early to hear what the DJ is playing before, and feel your range of where you’re going. Do you know what I mean? You still will play your tunes, but you might play them in a slightly different order that night just to… You’re always going to start your set and kind of show that you’re here. I think your start tune is incredibly important, as to how you’re going to stand on the decks and show you’ve arrived.

I tend to keep start tunes for sometimes maybe three or four months, so that I come in and people go, “DJ Storm, she’s on.” Now, there’s not so many DJs with different styles. The producer/DJ, some of them are great, but some of them just tend to… like I say, it’s very minimal mixing, they’re not creating too much in the mix, it just goes along for me. I find that just a little bit boring, I want more than that.

Back in the day, when you walked in the dance, I wouldn’t have had to see the DJ, I would have known if it was Grooverider, or Kenny Ken, or Nicky Blackmarket. Now, sometimes I haven’t got a clue. I don’t know, because the sets all sound the same. I can see that the sound … Thousands of people love it, because it’s selling. It’s just not for me, you know what I mean?

Some producers get quite angry with me that I won’t play their tunes, but I can’t play something that doesn’t appeal to me. I can’t do that. I think that’s what makes me individual and I think that’s what makes a lot of real DJs individual … That they play what they feel. If I’m feeling it, then I can do something even more impressive in the mix with it. So, that’s how I feel about it.

I hear a lot of this sound creeping into all labels. I was at a big festival earlier in the year, and I was with a guy from a really, really big label … That maybe I feel is probably a little bit commercial. He said to me, “What is your problem with this sound?” I said, “Well, when I think about how drum & bass came, and how it evolved, and the excitement of it, there really wasn’t a format.”

You look at “Close Your Eyes” by Acen, it’s got a big piano riff, which is from house. It’s got a bit of techno in it, it’s got a bit of acid. It had no form or function, because I supposed everybody was experimenting with sounds. I suppose you have those times that are really exciting when a music is developing.

I suppose that all these years, drum & bass is a little bit formatted. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think, maybe back in the day, it was a little bit crazier. So, I’ve come from a time when there are all different styles, and I can’t really change that. I suppose if you’ve come up in the last few years, where the sound is maybe a little bit flatter, maybe that’s what you’re used to. A lot of DJs were pushed to the side a little bit, because the producer/DJ was where it was at. I do think that stuff is very easy. It comes at you. It doesn’t drop around you. It doesn’t make your head turn.

I mean, when I think about some of Goldie’s first tunes, he could make a sound come from what felt right behind you, bring it to the front, and hit you in the face, and silly things like that. Photek going out with his DAT machine and breaking off branches and recording it – and then making a break out of it? Goldie loved the spinning of a coin, and it’s in his new album now. There’s a coin spin and he also had a glass smash. It was just more exciting, and I want my set to be exciting like that and … There is a place for all of it now. There’s a place for jump-up, which is a really big scene at the moment. There’s a place for, I’m not quite sure what you call the mid-range stuff, but there is a place for it.

I think in the last couple of years, the DJ, especially with someone like DJ Randall, who’s really kind of come to the forefront, he’s made mixing more acceptable again. Now people are starting to book DJs again, but like I say, it goes in a bit of a roller-coaster.

But like I was saying to this guy at the festival, he was saying, “You’re not interested.” I said, “You know what? Ten years ago, maybe even five, you could have given me 10 tracks and said to me, “Storm, place those at a label,” and I could have done it. Now, I couldn’t tell you because you’re all using the same sounds and I thought drum & bass was about being individual and making an impression, and having a sound.”

I think all those old producers who are still there – and there are some new people who are influenced by them – they still have their own sound and there’s nothing wrong with that… Digital will still put effects on a break, which actually makes it harder to mix and it’s very two-step now. I want to hear an Amen break and I want to hear the Apache break. I want breaks on breaks on breaks. If I could have breaks and breaks and breaks, I’d just be a happy girl, and that’s what I try to do… To me, it’s exciting, and maybe to those others, my set is really boring. That’s fair enough.

But I could do what you do. If you gave me your set, I could still make it sing. That’s working hard. You’d have to work hard to make that rise and fall with that sound, but I would do it if I had to, and show you how your tunes could sound because, for me, I’m the ultimate DJ. I want to be there in the mix and making things exciting. Yeah, I see people now. “You have to do this now, in 30 seconds, raise your hands.” I’m not saying I don’t raise my hands. I do sometimes. Do you know what I mean? But it’s taken a long time for me to raise my hands and be … you know what I mean? I see DJs do that now.

Torsten Schmidt

Well, I guess that’s been around for a minute, anyway. Speaking of raising hands, this is probably not the Bible or the Holy Koran or the Talmud or anything [reaches out and picks up a book from the couch], but there’s this book that I’ve always heard about, but never seen in the flesh, and I don’t know whether you ever put it out there in the first place.

DJ Storm

Yeah. I mean, Goldie desperately wants this book. Do you know what I mean? I suppose let me go and let you know how anal I am about my music and my scene. When we first started buying our records, all we had pretty much was a diary. I wrote down, I suppose, all the house and techno tunes we had then. Well, then I got a book. Me and Kemi wrote down every tune and what month we bought them in. This one starts in November ’91 and it goes up to ’97. It’s quite interesting because we didn’t mind filling this out because we loved it. The record shop that we used to go to used to have a book of promos and we were like…

Torsten Schmidt

What shop was that?

DJ Storm

That was Music Power and we thought, “That’s great. That’s fantastic. Look, they’ve got everything logged.” Do you know what I mean? That’s where it came from, and then we wanted everything logged. Before this, I do have a diary from ’88 and I was really obsessive then because you had lots of different mixes on some house things. I’ve even got the timings down of them, just really nutty. Do you know what I mean? We’ve written everything down and there’s my writing and Kemi’s writing. To be honest, I’m kind of glad I have it because when I’m asked to do a ’92 set, I can just go, “Oh, OK. What came out in ’92?”, and I can get it, really. Look. There’s Kemi’s writing, the record count to date… We had 761 records by then.”

Torsten Schmidt

The first track, “Last Train to Paradise,” is not technically a drum & bass tune…

DJ Storm

Yeah. Quazar was a kind of… What would you call it? A techno label?

Torsten Schmidt

Belgian Techno?

DJ Storm

Yeah. I mean, there’s lots of interesting … I mean, Warp really wasn’t a drum & bass label, and it developed into a kind of another label. And it’s interesting to look at this, because you can see how many releases there were per month – it was a lot. And as you go on, it gets less and less and less as the years and the months go on. And that’s interesting because I think, like you say, we drew from different things. Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ became something else and let me think, there’s R&S stuff in here somewhere.

It’s interesting, some things in here are really silly… we’ve just got “Dubplate,” “White [label]”… I don’t know why we wrote in there. It doesn’t mean anything when I look back at it, but we’ve got all the original Metalheadz stuff in here, and it’s quite lovely to look at sometimes… I go back and reminisce and “Oh, remember what that sounds like…” and then I go and try and find it in my storage base of vinyl. It’s been an important book, really, and I love going back to it – this is when we started to play at Lazerdrome, when we kept all our stickers because you got a sticker every time you played.

Torsten Schmidt


DJ Storm

I think I lived and breathed this scene and, I think, to a certain extent, people say “As a woman, do you have to work a little bit harder?” I’m not sure if you have to work harder, but I think you have to think a few steps ahead of yourself. “Where do I want to go?” And I do think that women overthink things a bit. We’re good at organization and, to a certain extent… one thing Kemi said that was really true, that men are brought up to put their energies into things, like their car. They might even give it a name and they’ll wash it, whereas a girl will go “Oh, as long as it goes, it’ll be fine.” Women are taught to put their energies into people, naturally we’re the maternal things. Now, Kemi and I made that decision years ago that we didn’t want children, but boy did we have some sons at Metalheadz. They were young and they needed guidance and we were that little bit older. We both had careers, so we were able to guide them and Goldie wanted this family. He never had his father around, and he wanted his extended family.

I do think he became a father figure for two of them and I think Kemi and I definitely became motherly figures to them. And if they had problems in their lives, they could call us 24/7 and we’d be there for them. I think because we were that little bit older, that was easy for us. And I do think that’s how the Metalheadz family was born, and most probably the V family and the Moving Shadow family … We always said J Majik was our drum & bass baby. And I think this [book] is a lovely thing to have now…

Kemistry and Storm were properly born 25 years ago, so that’s been quite pivotal for me, to think that I’m still here, and still loving it? That’s the one piece of advice I can give you – you have to know that you want it and – not that you’re prepared to do anything – but within reason, you’re prepared to do anything to get where you want to be. And it’s not always an easy road, and you have to be quite selfish. I’m not sure women are great at being selfish at times, but we have to. I’ve learned a lot from looking at the guys, because they do have that thing that… sometimes women hold themselves back a bit, whereas a guy will go “You know what? I’m just going to go for it.” And they do, and that’s brilliant. I think women are, “Oh, can I? I don’t know.” And I think you’ve got to get over that, and I think that’s most probably where there being two of us together helped. We had blinkers on, a little bit.

Torsten Schmidt

But I guess as far as confidence goes, any breathing human being can learn a thing or two from [Goldie].

DJ Storm

Of course, of course. He was a force to be reckoned with, really.

Torsten Schmidt

How do you navigate this whole thing of when you say you get asked to play a ’92 set or so? Obviously, you are breathing this thing, you have been around all this history is within you, but you don’t want to be a museum relic…

DJ Storm

No. No. You have to draw a line between just becoming an old-school DJ, and yeah. I mean, there are old-school DJs who just play old school, and they’ve never moved on, and that’s fine, because hardcore – that’s still kind of existing… Those events are great to do. But I had to draw a line and say, “OK, I’m only going to do one organization.” I tend to do Moondance. The guy who runs that, he gave Kenny and myself our first residency, and I’m always happy to do something there.

It’s bizarre, because you get a 45-minute set, and I really love playing around with old-school now. I love like playing clashing the eras, and in 45 minutes I’ve managed to go from 1992 to 1998… You have to be really careful when you’re doing that kind of set, because you have to know at some point there’s going to be a rewind. You have to bank on it, because you need to pull up the speed. I quite enjoy messing about with old-school now, instead of just playing a straight set.

Obviously if I’m asked to do a ’92 set I will try and stick into the ’92 parameters as much. As you can see [points to book], in ’92, there was lots of stuff to go for, so again I like messing about with it now. And I think for me… because they asked me to do an old-school set at Boiler Room, I had loads of requests to do old-school sets and vinyl, and you have to just balance it out, because I don’t want to just be seen as an old-school DJ, even though I’ve still got my storage space and all my records, and I can go and get them…

Torsten Schmidt

But I mean it’s kind of interesting, especially a genre that was so much priding itself on being about futurism, the next level, trying to reach new plateaux, trying to figure out what the technology can do, then becoming a stalwart. It’s almost, when we were kids, we looked at The Who singing “Hope I die before I get old,” and, all of a sudden, we’re past 40. So, they still sing it way past 60. So how does the crew around you navigate all that?

DJ Storm

Well, the other thing as well, obviously as we all know, I’m totally affiliated to Metalheadz, and sometimes, if I’ve got, say, a two-hour set, which is a lovely thing to have and a rare thing to have, people will ask, “Well, can’t you just play “Metropolis”?” And I will, but like I say, I like to mess about with it now, and make it a little bit more interesting, because those tunes were very dramatic, anyway.

So, I like to do that. It was interesting when I played the last set I ever did with Marcus Intalex, actually – we played at Recycle in Berlin, at Gretchen, and I think it was 20 years of Recycle, and they’d asked him to do a Soul:ution set, and they’d asked me to do a Metalheadz set. Now in the last few years, things have changed a little bit in Gretchen, because it’s a big club and you’ve got to fill that place, so it tends to have a few more… not commercial commercial nights, but certain artists that you know, the kind of neurofunk thing that appeals to a certain crowd.

So, I suppose Marcus and I hadn’t played in there for a while and they’d asked us to do this old-school set. Now pretty much every time I play “Metropolis,” people will know it, and they didn’t flinch in Gretchen… Marcus went to me “Ooooh, what are we going to do?” I said, “I’ve got no idea, but we need to make these people dance.” He was like, “Right, come on…” So, we just sat there and we thought about it, and we were like “OK, right, right, let me try this, let me try this.” We were determined… We weren’t, “Oh, to hell with this crowd, then.” At the end of the day, they paid money come and see me, too. I’m a great believer in earning your money, you know what I mean? So, I did my next one, and I got them a little bit more, and Marcus was like “I know, this one will work”… and slowly, slowly, slowly we got them…

It was quite fascinating because Marcus was over there on USBs, and I was on vinyl, and I didn’t realize that we’d got two mixers – he’s the producer and engineer – so, the next minute, I’m mixing and he’s mixing on top of my mix. So, he was like, “Oh, we’re like Orital – we’ll, we need to get glasses…”

Torsten Schmidt

Well, he had the glasses.

DJ Storm

Yeah, he’d got the glasses, yeah, but we didn’t have the lights… So, it was intriguing to think, “Wow, I’ve always felt that even if you don’t know the Metalheadz stuff, they stand the test of time,” and all of a sudden it didn’t. It was a little bit shocking, you know what I mean, and then we looked at the crowd and we were like “Wow, OK,” but we were determined to get them. And we did by the end of set, so we were happy.

Torsten Schmidt

But as far as longevity goes, when “Metropolis” came out, someone who’s been playing Ibiza Records or Tom & Jerry records or a DJ Seduction record or whatever, was already considered old old school. That is 20 years ago now.

DJ Storm


Torsten Schmidt

And still people were old enough to still feel that youthful spirit and be invincible and think nothing would ever happen and so on. And now we’re talking… I mean that was the second person that has left us already, who we just talked about, who contributed vast amount of creativity to the scene…

DJ Storm

Of course. Yeah, yeah.

Torsten Schmidt

And how do you navigate this – I mean it is about finding your path in the end. How do you deal with this when you’re planning your year out? When it’s Tuesday afternoon and you’re like “OK, what do I want to do in the next six months and so on?”

DJ Storm

Well, I have to say for me things have really rolled out quite well since the Boiler Room. I do think that did a lot for me. I mean 250,000 people had watched it by the morning, and I do think it kind of reinvented me a little bit, because, like I say I wasn’t great with the social media, so maybe people thought I’d given up or I just wasn’t doing it anymore or whatever, so to a certain extent the thing that I didn’t really understand kind of saved me. And it didn’t come from my scene. It came from a guy who was inspired by me. And I kind of like that… it gave me a platform that I don’t think my scene would have ever given me. I know certain people have done Boiler Room, but I’d certainly never been invited.

But I do think that – and like I say, I have worked hard building up my career with little events and watching what’s going on on Facebook and just liking things, and people going “Oh could we book you? We don’t have a great amount of money.” And that’s the other thing. It’s not always about the money. It really isn’t… and especially when you’re trying to kind of build yourself up again, you may have to take a drop, but I’ve never felt it’s about money. I think when I was first coming over here [to Germany], for example, the wages were quite high and this country was… you could do seven-day tours over here. What’s happened to that? Some of the promoters I know, they’re older, they had their families, and they’re not doing it any more, so you kind of have to wait for the next younger person to come into that territory and hope that they discover you, because they’re into all the newer producers.

So, it’s taken time again to kind of let people know who you are and, like I say, I’ve just hit people up now, and I’ve never been – I think because I’m from the old school where you phone people to get a gig, I don’t mind doing that. People say, “Oh God, do you not get ashamed?” I mean, I remember having to say to one promoter who was really, “Oh, I don’t know,” you know, I said “Come on, I played for you for years, and you haven’t booked me for years.” “Yeah, but you know.” I said “Alright, this is my deal, and this is my bottom line really. Book me. If I clear the dance floor, don’t give me the money. But if I don’t, give me a repeat booking.”

And I said that to a girl, and she said, “Oh my God, did you really have to do that?” And I said, “I really don’t care what I have to do to get there…” I said, “You don’t think the guys are doing it all the time? Of course they are. They’re hitting up that promoter and going, ‘What about me?’ But because they maybe put it in a slightly different way than me, maybe more of an aggressive way, the promoter will give in. Whereas I approach it slightly differently, you know?” I think that’s a good way of saying it, “If I clear your dancefloor, don’t give me the money.” That’s it, isn’t it really? Yeah.

So, I think for me in the last few years, I’ve just been following a lot of different things and I suppose I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I played Norberg Festival a few years ago, and I met a young lady called Nina – who I’d heard of her and I’m pretty much sure I met her years ago – and she was like, “Oh, I’m doing the Golden Pudel club in Hamburg.” I hadn’t been to Hamburg for years, so that was interesting, and then the guy who booked me last week in Geneva, he was at the same event, and he’s waited this time to come and get me and he finally got me, so even those chance moments, you know I do think some of your career is chance, you know, and you’re in the right place at the right time. And I don’t know why that happens. Maybe that’s fate, I’m not sure.

But I think because I do my job with integrity as well, people can see that, you know, and again it can’t be all about the big bucks and the big wages, but if you want it, you’re prepared to do those things. So, I could do a lot of things for friends, who are starting out. They’d say, “Oh, you know I’ve only got this much money.” And I’d say, “Yeah sure. Why not?” It was the same as I suppose, Feline [the female-centered drum & bass night]. If I wasn’t going to do it, who was? You know, because before, female nights had seemed tacky. And I still see women say today … Even in the article that was done from Clare from Red Bull in England, she was saying, “You know, certain DJs had said, ‘Oh you know I don’t really want to do female nights.’” Why not?

I’m not ashamed to do a female night. I’m happy to do a female night. Why not? You know, I’ve done lots of female nights in the last few years, where, abroad, there’ll use me as the headliner and they’ll bring in all their local DJ’s. Why not? Why shouldn’t I be supporting them? If not me, then who?

You know, I am the first lady of drum & bass, and I should want to encourage the ladies, because I understand how hard it is. And especially abroad, in Europe… in England at least there’s a big scene set, but it’s not always the way. And I hear them, and they’re great DJs. I heard a girl, playing in Zurich, the other week, and she’s still playing vinyl, and her set was sick really. It was a really interesting set to hear. I’m so glad, you know… she might not have moved on from a certain era, but she’s doing it really well, and she had every right to be playing, and the crowd were going crazy for her.

I don’t shy away from the female thing because… well, I am one, and, at the end of the day, you know, as for Feline, it was the first point in time, where I had enough DJs that I could do something monthly, and not just have the same five girls. I think we had seven or eight or nine of us. And I was able to share that kind of love around a little bit. And they were all great DJs, so I could just rely on them to do their job.

I didn’t have to worry about them, and they all turned up on time. None of them were ever late. When we went abroad, they were up in the morning. No having to get the DJ out of bed or leave [them behind]…

Torsten Schmidt

No naming other names.

DJ Storm

No, no, no. But it was interesting… I was playing in Leeds on Friday, and one of my dearest friends from the scene came up to me, afterwards. Again, I’d been asked to do this specific Metalheadz set, and he said to me, “You know what, you’re the only girl in this whole scene that mixes like a guy.” And I said to him, “Wow, do you know what? That’s the most sexist thing you’ve ever said to me.” And he was like, “Oh no, I didn’t mean it like that.” I said, “I’m going to use that in Red Bull in a couple of days, OK?” You know, I won’t name him but…

Torsten Schmidt

I wasn’t going to say anything…

Torsten Schmidt

He didn’t mean it like that. But that comes out of peoples’ mouths. And I think what women do, is then sometimes go, “Oh my God…” I was doing this interview. When was it? About three years ago, me and another lady and she was saying, “Oh I’m really pissed off about what someone put on Facebook. This guy put, ‘I can’t wait to go and see these ladies do their thing tonight. And it’s going to be lovely because they’re more attractive.” She said, “How sexist is that?” I said, “Well he’s right. I’m going to have a little lipstick on, a little bit of an outfit.” And I said, “You see, if you get kind of pushed back by those kind of things… I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.”

That kind of thing is absolutely throwaway to me, after all these years. I don’t look at it like that. And you know a lot of women feel like they’re left out. And I think… even last year. I got a lot of festivals for the first time. Well, instead of going, “Oh finally. Thank God they booked me.” I was just like, “Oh I’m really excited. I’ve got Audio River in Poland. I’ve got Field Maneuvers. I’ve got Boomtown. I’ve got Shambhala.” It was exciting. I did a great job, everybody loved me and it was fantastic.

People might say, “Oh well, you’re a bit naive.” I say, “Well, it’s done me good to be consistent, being positive about things, rather than having all the negativity about being a woman.” I don’t think you need to be negative all the time. Yes, it’s tougher. But I mean, now we’ve got Kyrist. Now she’s producing. And she’s coming like crazy. You know what I mean? And I’m not sure… we have Mollie Collins too, I suppose, who’s disproved the fact that I always thought, “I’m not sure if you can just come as a female DJ,” but she has. And it’s interesting to watch her rise. OK, to a certain extent, she’s been a little bit packaged, but she’s doing a good job when she gets there. And Kyrist is interesting, because she’s making this stuff… I don’t really play this kind of stuff, but she’s doing it really well. And now the boys are like, “Oh God, have you heard Kyrist? Her production skills are really good…”

So that’s all encouraging, at the end of the day, that, finally, women… I mean again you could say to me, why haven’t you produced? And I can’t give you an answer, really. I don’t know. I mean, Digital’s definitely going to make me come into the studio this year. So, we shall see. I think that’s most probably a fear for me, because I’ve never been the most technically orientated person. It’s like we’re talking about today, that I’m still on CDs. I haven’t gone to USBs yet. I know I’ve got to do it. But I’ve never wanted to be a knob-twiddler. I want to, you know – I’m a bit physical when I play. So, I’m going to have to learn a way to be physical as well as doing that.

You know for me… I sent a really angry message out to Pioneer when they started doing this [points to CDJ]. I said, “Why are you taking the art out of my mixing ability?” You know, at the end of the day, I want to be able to do something physical, whereas this USB thing seems a very producer kind of thing. I don’t know, I could be wrong about that. But to me, it seems more production than throwing something in and playing it. You’ve got to load it all up, you’ve got rekordbox… and then you twiddle knobs and go back. That’s the key apparently, the back button. Yeah, so I’ve learned that one already. But I know I’ll have to do it at some point, because there is now piece of equipment that doesn’t come with a hole for CD’s any more. So, I’m going to have to do it at some point.

Torsten Schmidt

As you mentioned that Boiler Room spot being such a turning point, if you don’t mind … If we could go back a few months maybe before that. Can you remember what you felt like then and what you felt about where you were going artistically?

DJ Storm

Well I suppose before then, that year… I suppose hadn’t been… Let’s go back a little bit before that, because by then I’d managed to get my career a little bit more solid. But again, you have to look at those kind of things. My agency’s huge now. You know? It’s a kind of big animal now, my agency. And it has, you know… ESP originally was about very pure DJs – Marcus Intalex, Klute, myself, Reinforced were on there. And as time’s gone on and they’ve had families, and they’ve had to buy a house, and they’ve had to pay their rent and their mortgage and whatever else, it’s grown into a huge thing. I suppose I felt a little bit lost there and a little bit forgotten.

Then Marcus left and Dom left and Tom left. And I had to sit and really think, am I at the wrong place now? Are they not respecting me? You know, and I went to Marc after Kemi, and I brought a lot of stuff to the table, if I’m honest. You have to have those really frank talks with your agent at times about, “Can you support me? Am I viable on this agency?” You know, they’re really serious things to think about, and you don’t want it to be true, that you’re kind of lost somewhere when you’ve worked really hard all those years and you’ve actually brought a lot to the table. A lot of those original DJs, I encouraged to come to that agency and they were feeling the same, so they left.

So, I had a really frank talk with my agent about it. And I’ve always wanted to be loyal to him because he’s done an amazing job for me over the years. But I felt… yeah, I felt lost in the scheme of all those people who were more producer/DJs, and maybe on a slightly more commercial tip than I’m on. Do you know what I mean?

They brought in someone to deal with that underground – he actually wanted to keep it. And it’s interesting isn’t it, because that was Tom, who got me to Mumdance. So, was it fate? I do think that it was, a little bit. And I think that before that, though, I started getting a lot of my own work. I would say my own work was more 70% what they were getting, and I was doing it by hitting people up on Facebook, looking at who’s around in Europe… I don’t know if I could go and do just a day job any more, after all the years I’ve been in this business. I still truly love it and it’s my passion.

You know, I’ve always said to Goldie, “When are we going to stop?” He said, “Well Rodigan’s the benchmark, isn’t he?” Once Goldie said, “Even if we’re got a Zimmer frame or something… as long as we can go like that and like that [makes mixing gesture], we should be all right.” I said, “Yeah but will we be able to hear?” Goldie said, “We’ll just get one of those old trumpets, you know, from like years ago, put it on the monitor…” [Laughs] So, we’ve got ways around it. But yeah, it was a tough time. Those couple of years before that, I wasn’t… I’d maybe have a couple of months where I wasn’t doing any work, and it was really worrying.

Torsten Schmidt

And did you consider it calling it quits?

Torsten Schmidt

No. I just had to think. Sit down, think about all the contacts I’d got over the years. “Right, who can I hit up? Who can I hit up on the phone first. Who hasn’t booked me for a while.” Then you go on to Facebook and you look at all the events. “OK, OK, OK, OK…” And you start… I suppose I devised a little plan, really – which is how, I suppose, me and Kemi built our career in the first place. I think, because I’ve got those skills… and like I say, I think women do block themselves – “Oh, I can’t go and ask for work, that’s like begging…” Yeah, I’m going to go and ask for work, because I haven’t got any. I think you’ve got to do that.

It’s an institution like Fabric, who hardly book me, and when they do, they want me not to work in London for three months around here. I’m like, “Hang on a minute Fabric. I’m a prostitute of music. I can play it wherever I like, at the end of the day. You don’t dictate to me where I’m playing.” I really don’t like that attitude, and it’s most probably why I don’t get booked there any more. At the end of the day, I’ve done my time in Fabric. I’ve played there. I’ve ticked the box. Yes, it would be nice to play there, but …

I found it interesting them doing the Smirnoff thing that they tried to do with women. It felt a little bit contrived. Number one, Smirnoff wants to sell alcohol to you at the end of the day. I had to ask the question of Fabric… They were asking all these questions about outing festivals and saying, “You’ve only got this percentage.” So, I emailed them, and I said, “Well, after 18 years, what’s your percentage? Because you’re not making that clear.” And I know that I was one of the only females that worked in Fabric. I think only Metalheadz were able to have two of us on the lineup. There’s the other thing that’s difficult for women… Why will they only let one through? Why can’t you have two on the lineup? Then you get precious about saying “All-female lineup”. Well, it is all-male lineup, normally. But we don’t worry have to say that.

It’s almost like as women, we have to … I’m not sure what the answer is sometimes. But I know for me … just like reaching out to people, old promoters, new promoters – and again, maybe I hadn’t done my homework for a bit, and I really needed to get on it – but there was never a thought of doing anything else. No. I just had to work hard and go back to basics. I think sometimes you have to go back to basics. As long as you feel like you’ve still got the goods and you can still do the job, then I think you’ve just got to push, push, push, and that’s what I did for a while.

I think my agent was really noticing that – that I was getting more work for myself than they were. That, of course, doesn’t go through their books and I had to say that to my agent, “If I’m getting all this work, I’m not then going to turn it over to you for 15%, when I’ve made the deal, booked the flight, whatever else.”

That’s why I think it made him… and because he lost a few people in a very short space of time – and he is a good guy – I think he does respect my loyalty. He sent me some flowers the other day, a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates, saying, “Do you realize it’s 20 years today, since you came to the agency.”

And because I’ve turned it around, he respects me now… I made a deal with him a long time ago saying, “Look, I’m getting smaller work now, I can’t give you that 15%.” So, we made a deal of a top line of money. All the other guys were like how is he doing that with you. And I said, “Because I’m not screaming and shouting at him. I’m just talking to him. Whereas you’ll come on the phone, “Where’s my f---ing work?’” I don’t deal with him like that. I say, “We need to have a serious chat.”

Because I moved out of home a few years ago to look after my mother, I wasn’t face-to-face with him, which I would have love to have done, we had to have a serious chat on the phone. Because he still wanted to keep me, we made it work…

I remember me and Kemi after… we had Innovation – this is our first residency, and we’d been there for a few months, and we got 25 quid. That was our wages. And after about three months, we were like, “Do you think we can ask to go up to £30?” And we were like, “What if he doesn’t book us any more?” And we felt, “Oh my God, it’s just going to take a lot for us to say this,” but because of the way we approached the guy, we actually got £40. We were really excited now. We’d actually got more than we thought. I think, again, there’s certain ways to approach things. And, yeah, we say there’s competition for the ladies. But God, there’s competition between the guys as well. How many more people have come in the last year?

When I think about how many people that Kemi reached. You think about, when Marcus passed, how many more people he’d reached. And how many more territories he’d traveled to. I think for us, because of K7, the [DJ Kicks] album, we actually got to places that most probably people wouldn’t have got to in that time of their careers. And why K7 picked us? I don’t know, but they hunted us down for two years, and that was amazing. People say – this is not my words – people say it’s one of the best drum & bass mixes of all time, and when I go back and listen to it, I think, “Yeah, God, we worked really hard on that.”

It was the first time that we played each other’s tunes, because we had to. We couldn’t do a run of things without it… Kemi would get to a certain point, we’re like, “Oh, OK, you’re going to have to use one of my tunes that’s going to fit in there.” If anybody can tell me who’s doing what in the K7 mix, I’ll give you a copy. I’ve got about ten at home. If you ever want to email me that, or hit me up on messenger.

Torsten Schmidt

Well … all of that in the end, gave you a reign as the first lady of this genre longer than Angela Merkel’s, which is probably…

DJ Storm

Oh, controversial. She’s a nice lady, right?

Torsten Schmidt

She does a helluva job, and I don’t want to have her job…

DJ Storm

Yeah, exactly. A poor Theresa May… But yeah, I suppose it does come with responsibility as well… I was having this conversation for the Red Bull thing, and the lady was saying to me, “You’ve always helped the females. You’ve always tried to encourage them.” And of course, I said, “Yeah, but I do that for guys, too.” I’ve never gone all, “Well, because you’re a female, I have to help you.” But normally, obviously females feel that they can approach me, and that’s great. I’m glad that they feel I’m open to talk to, because I’ll try and encourage you as much as I can, because I know it’s a tougher road…

I did the #NormalNotNovelty thing in Leeds for Red Bull. I met some lovely girls up there, and people have already started sending me mixes, so that’s great. One girl had a plan. She’s going to go on a cruise ship for two years … earn some money. She’s taking her decks with her, and the first year there, she’s just going to get her skills together. Then, she’s going to start sending out mixes. Hopefully, by the time she’s come back from the cruise, she can start getting work.

See? You have a plan, you want it, you’re seeing ahead… that’s the way to do it. You need to go a few steps ahead of yourself for guys or girls. That can work. And I think women plan…

Kemi and I did for sure – we definitely tried to plan a few steps ahead. But I suppose for us, again, Metalheadz, Goldie, Timeless, Reinforced… we did have a few advantages that other people didn’t. I can’t say it was all down to us. But, even with Metalheadz, when it first started, I couldn’t book us every time. I see that happening a lot more with labels. Where the label manager will book themselves. I couldn’t do that.

I very much did hierarchy lineups, when it came to the Blue Note. Kemistry and Storm for Metalheadz were the warm-up for quite a long time, because we had other DJs, who were our peers, who needed to be part of that… Doc Scott, Randall, Grooverider, Fabio… they were above us, Peshay, all those kind of people who were first there at Blue Note.

But that was interesting, doing lineups, and I realized I’ve got a skill for that as well. That was great. That worked hand in hand with Metalheadz. I was able to do the lineups really easy. I did Goldie’s first Metalheadz tour. Again, we were again lucky. London Records gave us their mailing list. They wanted our mailing list, and we were like, “OK, yeah.” And they were like, “OK, you can have ours.” “Oh, thank you.” That was invaluable to us – who knew that was going to happen.

And obviously, people at the time were having problems being signed… Goldie was like, “I don’t want to let the scene down. I want my girls to come in and meet Pete Tong and all the people at London Records who were doing my promotion, because I want them to have it first.” We had his album for, I think it was four months, before London took it on. We went into this big meeting at London Records, and there were people with books and pens writing things down that we said. We were like, “I don’t know. We don’t know. We’re just doing what we do.”

And again, of course, that clever move that Goldie made giving them Metalheads with an “s”, and we were Metalheadz with a “z”. It was a brilliant thing to do, because everybody thought we were just one big company… and all those things would come through our door. The next minute Laurence Fishburne wanted stuff for his movie, then we had beer commercials, and all kinds of things that other labels didn’t have.

In one respect, yes, we were a novelty. And we were the first female duo to come out of it. But we had a lot things that happened by fate, I suppose… I suppose meeting Goldie. That was a game-changer for us. And I’ll always give him that. And I think to a certain extent watching him in action… It was like the dubplate thing. So first of all he embarrasses us with Reinforced, yeah? And then he takes a dubplate to Grooverider and comes back and says, “Oh, Grooverider is really angry with me.” And we’re like, “Oh no, what have you done?”

He said, “Well, I took the dubplate to him to play and then tried to take it back, like a soundsystem, right? You take it back…” I said, “And what did Grooverider say to you?” “That’s mine now. I played it. That’s mine now. You go and cut another one, young man.” “Yeah, but I haven’t got much money.” “Well, that’s your fault.” We were like, “Oh Goldie, you’re mortifying…” But he thought that’s what you did… “Well, that’s what you do in reggae.”

We said, “Yeah, yeah, this is drum & bass. Once the DJs touch that and played it, that’s theirs, yeah.” “25 quid!” he was like. I was like, “Yeah, you better get your money out.”

Torsten Schmidt

Speaking of planning and scheduling … as you can see the lady’s very approachable and will stick around for a bit. But our schedule is actually moving on very soon so we’re going to have another conversation here starting in 10 minutes or so. We would like to give everyone a break, but not without giving a very, very big hand to DJ Storm. [applause]

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