DJ Storm: The first lady of drum n’ bass

If you’re talking about figureheads that have been essential in defining drum n’ bass over the years, DJ Storm and her seminal Metalheadz imprint is definitely one of the most important. First tuning into jungle in the early years of dance music, she and her best friend Kemistry became a regular fixture at UK club Rage, dancing to the tunes being rinsed out by the likes of Fabio and Grooverider. Soon they both met the infamous Goldie, all three decided to dedicate themselves to the music and the dream was born. Not long after the Metalheadz empire was established.

DJ Storm and Kemistry traveled the world together as a DJ duo, but this partnership was tragically cut short when Kemistry was killed in a car accident when returning from a gig in ‘99. Somehow Storm found the strength to carry on as an artist, and has remained immersed in the music that she and Kemistry both loved so much. Still one of the drum n’ bass scene’s few female headliners, she’s back in Australia to bring a little touch of the Metalheadz to clubs around the country. ITM speaks to the lady herself about her history, her current role in the scene and what’s to come.

Can you remember when you first realised that spinning vinyl was what you wanted to do with your life?

Yes, it was New Years Eve 1990 and while watching the DJs that were playing that night, and being consumed by watching what the DJ was doing rather than listening to what they were playing. I was glued all night watching the different techniques they were using; I looked acroos the decks and Kemi (AKA Kemistry) was doing the same.

How did you meet Goldie? I read somewhere that you actually taught him to mix… Was he a good student?

I meet Goldie through Kemi, she was working in a shoe shop in Camden and he asked her out for a date, she explained that we were into this new electronic music called hardcore and so she brought him to Rage and he saw the light. He grew up DJing watching me and Kemi learn, he was our MC on pirate radio for four years so really grew up on what we were doing and listening to DJs like we did, our hero was Randall the mixmaster extraordinare. DJing was an artform back then and mixing was all important.

What was the catalyst for the formation of Metalheadz? What role did you play at the beginning?

We had a dream, one night after coming back from Rage we sat down and formulated a plan. Goldie would make the music we would play the music we would create a lifestyle label and club…. And so we started living the dream. At the beginning of Metalheadz, Goldie looked after it himself until he got signed by London records, he became too busy and asked me and Kemi to take over the day-to-day running of the label. It was really a natural progression… It was our dream and we lived it.

How exciting were those early days with Goldie, Doc Scott and Kemistry? Did you feel like you were blazing a trail, or were you unaware of the influence you were having?

Even though in the beginning it was hard to get people to listen, we didn’t care because we knew we had something special. It just took the rest of the world time to get it, but we knew what we were feeling and we knew people would feel it too once they were able to access it.

You were the driving force behind the Platinum Breaks series, and now you spearhead the MDZ album selection process; is there something about putting together compilations that gives you a buzz?

I was behind the Platinum Break series but I am not involved now with compilations. Platinum Breaks was easy as I had sooooo much fantastic product, but whether it was Platinum Breaks or the MDZ series, the rules remain the same Goldie has the final decision

Did you make a conscious decision to stay away from the studio and focus on working behind the decks, or did it just happen? It’s slowly but surely becoming a DJ/producer world out there, have you ever felt any pressure to prove yourself on a production level?

I was too busy promoting music and artists, and I did make one track with Kemi at Reinforced and we found it was not for us. I feel no pressure to prove myself as a producer, I think I think I have proved myself a conscientious supporter of the DnB scene over and over again. In my opinion it is the media that has created the DJ/producer by not being able to support a scene without product, and trust me making a good tune does not a DJ make and vice versa.

What other types of music do you enjoy listening to, both in the comfort of your own home and when you’re out for a night on the town?

I am pretty bored by other music, DnB is so emotionally fulfilling I don’t feel that from other genres. I do like to listen to reggae and some techno, I am a fan of Jill Scott, Prince and Bjork, I think I like people that make music with complete passion and sacrifice.

Who are your favourite DJs to watch? Who inspires you…and who keeps you on your toes?

DJ Randall is the ultimate for me he is my absolute hero, he can turn a track on it’s head like no other DJ, I still aspire to be as good as him one day. I love all my lady DJs and MCs at Feline, my female-based night, they inspire me as I watch them all striving hard to be given a chance in a male dominated scene, their passion and diligence inspires me every day I am so proud of what we are all achieving together. There are no egos involved, just a pure unity.

Bailey has a new label Ruffige to promote upcoming talent, something he believes very strongly in. Have you ever considered starting up your own? If so, would it be along similar lines?

Rufige is not Bailey’s label, Inta Sound is Bailey’s label, Rufige is an offshoot of Metalheadz for up-and-coming talent and Bailey is the AnR for that label. Who knows, I am toying with the idea of starting Feline as a label … Watch this space. Also if I hear anything I think is good I pass it to Metalheadz, that will always be my label.

You tour a lot, both in the UK and globally. Do you have any favourite cities or countries?

Every place I play is my favourite, I feel so lucky to be in job that allows me access to have visited so many awesome places all over the world, I have seen some amazing sights and I appreciate everything I experience. Even if you are only there for a short space of time, I can take in the emotion of a place very quickly and there are always the fantastic promoters there to give you the low down on their city.

What have been your best and worst tour experiences?

I don’t see things like that, even if things go a little left on the road you can still find positives. Even if the place is empty and the decks are jumping all over the place, or the journey is hideous and all going wrong you have to find the fun in there somewhere… I am the eternal optimist, not much gets me down.

How would you describe your DJ style? Do you like taking the crowd on a journey or are you purely there to get booties shaking and shoes stomping?

All of these things are important, you are the entertainment for the night, and you are in a party, rave or whatever title you want to give it, but people have paid money to have a good time and that’s what you should be achieving. Yes I want to hurt people in the mix but I definitely don’t like to play one style all night, it’s all about light and shade and being able to gauge when to change the mood and I think for me I achieve that by playing what I would want to hear if I was the raver. I don’t like all these brackets like techstep , jump up, clown step , liquid etc… I just play DnB.

Can you name any fresh dubs that you’re going to treat the lucky Australian massive to?

I got a few things in the bag, I am really loving Goldie’s new album Memoirs of an Afterlife, it is so emotional it has it all. I have been gathering new stuff for the last couple of weeks and I can’t wait to hit the Australian crowds with some sounds and I know they can handle it.

Finally, what does the future hold for Storm and Metalheadz?

For Storm, well after just winning ‘Female DJ of the Year’ at the DnB Awards it’s onwards and upwards. I an also looking forward to more Feline nights around the world. For Metalheadz the same as ever, forward-thinking DnB right on the cutting edge, and as we move closer to 15 years of Metalheadz next year there are going to be some very exciting projects dropping.

Thank you, and Australia here I come.

Catch DJ Storm rinsing it out at the following dates…

Mar 13 – Sydney, Metro

Mar 14 – Melbourne, Miss Libertine’s

Mar 15 – Perth, Rise

Mar 21 – Adelaide, HQ

Mar 22 – Brisbane, Empire Hotel