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EDITORIAL : Interview : An Interview with Shortee  

  An Interview with Shortee : Queens of the Jungle
Submitted by Shejay
(August 15, 2008)

It would be hard not to label the drum & bass world a boys only club. The leading DJs, label owners and all round scenesters are all guys.

But then again it's easy to look at sub-genres and label them stereotypically, which in our modern day music climate drum & bass often succumbs to.

In actual fact if you've been to a drum & bass party recently you'll realise it's not a "guys only club' anymore; one only has to look at the dance floor.

Major leading ladies within the scene include Tali, DJ Flight, DJ Storm, Shortee and Annie Mac.

When you compare drum & bass to its contemporary genres, it does appear that female DJs have opted for deferring musical styles. In house you have the likes of Colette, techno's dominated from the likes of BPitch label owner Ellen Allien, through to Miss Kitten and Monika Kruse.

Breaks' leading lady Annie Nightingale goes up next to Baby Anne and Reid Speed whilst dubstep is spearheaded from Mary Anne Hobbs though to Immigrant Recordings owners Dot and Subeena.

One of the first leading ladies within drum & bass was the mighty Storm. With her, now deceased DJ companion, Kemistry, they were the only female DJ duo within the scene, and helped set up and run the Metalheadz label.

More recently Tali blew up the scene when she flew in from New Zealand and joined the Full Cycle collective.

Having such big hits such "Lyric on my Lip" and "Blazin'", Tali is still a massive integral figurehead, and won "Best Female MC" at this years Drum & Bass awards.

Over in the States now DJ Rap, originally from the UK, has been pushing drum & bass and breaks to mass audiences, and was voted no.1 DJ by

Also over in the States is Shortee; not only a big D&B DJ, Shortee is also a head professor at the Scratch DJ Academy, co-founded by Run DMC's Jam Master Jay.

One half of Urban Assault, dubbed "Queen of the Scratch World" by DJ Times Magazine; Shortee is part of the Queens of Jungle collective, with DJ Reid Speed and MC Tali. Having recently completed a UK solo tour and performing as support to Pendulum, Beatportal got chance to catch up with Shortee and ask her some big questions:

How did the Queens of the Jungle collective come about?

I had an idea to form a dope female D&B production/performance group with 2 skilled female DJ/producers on four turntables with a sick chick MC holdin' it down on the mic.

Honestly, I just felt that hasn't been done in drum & bass as of yet and thought it would be a fun project.

Reid Speed and I were already friends and she's a really dope DJ & producer so I asked her if she was down to do it.

She thought it was an awesome idea & our mixing & production styles are different but they compliment each other so it works well.

Tali is the best female MC in D&B and generally just a super cool chick so we asked her to join. Not only is she lyrically on top of her game (recently voted best D&B MC in the 2008 drum & bass awards) but she also sings, too, which is a bonus as far as MCs go.

Ultimately, regardless of talent, personalities matter most in a group and we all mesh together really well on stage as well as hanging out so it makes working together a lot of fun.

I built us a website and we started touring together as a group. We are also currently in the studio producing tunes for release in the near future.

Drum & bass has been regarded for so long as being a "boys only club" how would you react to this?

I personally wouldn't call it a boys "only" club because technically there have been females in it since the beginning, but I would definitely call it a "boys club" because there aren't that many females in D&B and it is mostly dudes.

I'm used to being one of the only girls in a musical genre cause I came up in the turntablist scene where girls who scratched on the level of the boys were very rare (and unfortunately still are).

It's like people don't believe a girl has skills in a male dominated field cause they aren't use to seeing' chicks doing it to the level of the guys and doing it well.

As a female in that situation, I always have to prove myself because peeps simply don't believe it until they see it. It's just human nature and it sucks.

Fortunately, there are a lot more female drum & bass DJs than there are females who scratch & beat juggle so it's not quite as challenging in drum & bass but it's definitely still a male dominated scene and can be frustrating at times.

Yes, it still gets annoying to always have to prove myself again and again, but ultimately that just makes me a better artist because I'm constantly perfecting my craft, no matter what genre.

I still get the "Oh how cute", a girl DJ who's booked to play D&B, but then it's up to me to just kill it with sick mixing, double drops & scratching skills.

My goal at every gig is to leave them with their jaws dropped so they don't know what hit "em.

Fortunately, nowadays, the playing field evens out somewhat 'cause some promoters are down to book a female simply cause it's rare, however, you still can't rely on femininity alone 'cause you wont get booked again unless you are good.

What was the major influence that got you into DJing; and how did you get so god damn good at scratch DJing?

I grew up playing drums, percussion and piano.

In high school I started going to raves and by college I was heavily into electronic music.

I had messed around with my friends' turntables but I wasn't interested DJing seriously until I met DJ Faust and saw him scratching.

He was playing all these crazy rhythms that I played on my drums so I immediately related the turntable to a percussion instrument and I was hooked.

Around the same time I was playing drums in a punk rock band and Faust came out to see one of our shows.

He was impressed by my drumming skills and suggested that I learn to scratch. He taught me the basics and I took it from there.

Bear in mind, this was like 14 years ago so there were no crabs or flares back then.

None of the new skool cuts were invented yet so we learned those together as they came around and we practiced constantly.

In 1997 we formed a DJ crew with Craze, Klever, Shotgun, King James and T-Tock and I learned a lot during that time period.

I was fortunate to come up with a crew of such talented turntablists, some of which went on the win DMC multiples times, or produced the first turntablist albums ever released.

Faust gave Craze, Shotgun and I our first release on vinyl by featuring us on his debut album "Man of Myth" and that gave me a bit of an opening to go on to release multiple solo and joint albums, EPs and singles in the turntablist, hip hop, breaks and drum & bass genres.

Nowadays I still practice scratching as much as I can to stay on top of my game and keep learning new stuff.

Bottom line, I just enjoy growing as a musician and practice is essential to that.

Are there any major differences you can notice between the US and UK D&B scene?

Yes, I have a lot of experience touring extensively in both regions and it is very different.

D&B started in the UK and they claim it as their own music. When I talk to Americans about it I relate it to hip-hop as a contrast.

Hip-hop came from the US and Americans treat it as their own. It is very difficult for an American D&B artist to break through in the UK just as it is difficult for a UK hip hop artist to break through in the US.

That being said, D&B is very accessible in the UK which explains its popularity.

It's on the radio constantly in the UK and most of the time the average person knows what it is even if they aren't part of that scene.

Over here in the States you barely hear any electronic music on the radio, much less D&B.

The D&B scene is very small in America.

Los Angeles has one of the biggest D&B scenes and I am very fortunate to live here but no matter where you are in the US you can't play a gig downtown and then play another gig an hour away, say for example, in Orange County or Long Beach and not have them compete with each other.

The preferred sound also seems different between the US and UK. In my experience, the most popular subgenre of D&B in the UK is jump up.

My theory about that is that the age of the D&B club goers tends to be a lot younger because of the different laws in the UK.

For example, they have full on raves in the student union buildings on campus at their universities with full bar and cheap drinks. (That would NEVER happen in the US).

In the US, they do like jump up quite a bit but they also seem to be way more open to the harder techy stuff & melodic tunes.

I mix it up in both the US and UK but I always notice the differences in the response to each subgenre. I also really notice it on the forums.

The Americans diss jump up on forums like there's no tomorrow! They can hate all they want but unless they start getting more people around the world to buy the techy stuff, like it or not, jump up still remains the tops selling subgenre.

The popular American producers also tend to create more harder stuff. Some of my favorites are Evol Intent, Dieselboy and Ewun; some techy dancefloor stuff such as Terravita and Subsonik. There are very few that make straight up jump up like Heavy Hittaz and Faction.

Labels in the UK ask us to sound more like UK jump up producers when we produce cause that's what sells the most in the UK. Problem is we are not from the UK and we aren't trying to be someone we aren't which obviously puts us in a tough spot trying to get our music signed.

The techy peeps feel it's too jumpy and the jump up peeps don't think its jumpy enough. Talk about frustrating - put that in your pipe & smoke it!

The bottom line is that there is no way you can become a global name in D&B without breaking through into the UK scene because the music originated from there and they won't give you the time of day unless you pay your dues like everyone else.You simply have to be well known there in order for them to take you seriously.

I learned this reality very quickly the first time I played there which is why I do such long tours there multiple times throughout the year. Once you break through, you still may not get paid as much as you do in the States but it's worth the work to gain the respect and notoriety on a global level.

One bit of advice: If you are touring over in the UK be sure to get paid in Great British pounds.

What are your plans for the future with the Urban Assault and Heavy Artillery projects?

For those that don't know, Faust and I are also known as "Urban Assault" which is our D&B production alias. We have released a few drum & bass singles on some UK labels.

I recently did a mix CD for Phantasy, "Jungle Story" on Easy Records.

DJ Phantasy liked the original production we did on that album so he asked us to do another 12" which will be releasing soon.

We also have a few tunes releasing on Skibbadee's upcoming album so be on the lookout for those too.

I recently have been asked to do another label mix CD for Sudden Def which I am looking forward to as well.

As far as our own Heavy Artillery Recordings imprint goes, we have built up a library of over 300 unreleased drum & bass tunes and have plans to launch the label digitally on our new website in the coming months.

We are also very aware of the power that vinyl still has so we also have plans to release hard copy vinyl releases of select tunes in addition to the digital releases.

Our first vinyl release on Heavy Artillery will be a 12" single with a tune called "The Mighty' featuring vocals with a phenomenal upcoming UK MC named Tonn Piper.

This tune starts with a wicked hip-hop intro leading into a heavy D&B drop that smashes the place with instant rewinds every time I play it, so I'm def stoked to release it on our own label.

We also have a sister label called 5star Records that concentrates on hip hop, battle break records, scratch DJ tools & instructional DVDs, so look out for those.

Thanks, Shortee!

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