With the kind of pedigree DJ Wildchild already boasts within drum & bass, you might reasonably expect her to be brimming with confidence at the launch of her own label, Wildstyle. Even though to some outsiders it might all seem very easy for someone who has spent a decade in the d&b scene to steam in and clear up, Wildchild, or Emma to her friends, this is still an almighty leap of faith.
“It feels good…” she tells us over ultra-civilised afternoon coffee and cake close to her home in St John’s Wood, West London, “good, but a bit weird at the same time. I’ve been in d&b all my working life, I know it inside out, but now I’ve jumped in at the deep end and I’m actually doing it on my own it seems so strange. But it’s great only having one label run rather than ten!”
Admittedly, her career in distribution, handling labels like Ram, Hardware, Ebony, True Playaz and many, many others at SRD and Alphamagic, has set her up with contacts and connections that money simply can’t buy. Not to mention the kind of kudos you get for playing on legendary pirate Kool FM alongside Skibadee as far back as 1994. But, equally, she’s seen how tough it is to actually succeed in an area that is always highly competitive, and currently particularly overpopulated with newcomers at the moment.
“It’s always been difficult for the smaller labels,” she says, “it’s always been the way that the bigger labels sell loads while many of the smaller ones are struggling. And yes, I know it sounds funny because I’ve just started one, but there are probably are too many labels out there at the moment.”
For Emma, of course, the key is to elevate Wildstyle to the heights of the scene’s premier league as soon as possible. Judging by the tunes she has lined up for the first four singles on the imprint, it shouldn’t be an impossible task. The first 12″, which hit the shops earlier this month, was a studio collaboration with Audio titled ‘Cyberdine’ that also boast“ed a meaty Simon Bassline Smith & Drumsound remix. The second, due out imminently, comes direct from the mixing desk of that boy from Brazil and Marky collaborator XRS, and is as breezy and smooth as its predecessor is hard and moody. After that, expect Loxy to put in an appearance remixing the third single, ‘Humanoid’ by Wildchild herself with Damage.
It’s all part of Emma’s plan to give Wildstyle a wide musical agenda that should stop the kind of pigeonholing that can sometimes stop a fledgeling new label dead in its tracks. “All the tracks will be for the dancefloor,” she says, “but beyond that I really want them to be as different from each other as possible. I don’t want it to be just dark or just fluffy, which is why I’ve gone for a hard track to start with, then the XRS and so on. Apart from anything else, I want it to reflect the way I play out too, which is a bit of everything. It’s something you don’t always get a chance to do in the UK, when the sets are an hour, but when you go abroad the promoters insist on an hour and a half or even two-hour sets, so you can’t just bang out whatever the big tunes of the moment are, you have to take people somewhere.”
The other key, of course, to the Wildstyle mission is Emma’s own production work, which, as anyone who caught debut offerings like ‘Punk’, ‘Snow’ and ‘Cliffhanger’ for the Invader stable last year will tell you, is sounding very promising too. She’s equally happy to work alone in her studio at home or collaborate with other artists. As well as teaming up with Audio and Damage, she’s lining up sessions with a number of names both big and small.
“It’s great working with someone else,” she admits, “because everybody sees it differently. Everyone has their strong points, and if your strong points and their strong points complement each other’s, it really make the whole thing work. And it’s just more fun!”
Together with Damage, too, she’s recently ventured into producing a vocal project for long-time friend Melissa, with the first fruit of the relationship, ‘Forbidden’, set to surface on the fourth Wildstyle release. But actually finding time to get into the studio in between the countless meetings and phone calls it takes to run a label can be hard work. Not to mention her exhaustive DJ schedule that’s seen her lug her box of vinyl to everywhere from Tokyo (which she says is “amazing, not just as a DJ, but also just being there and seeing it”) to Lithuania, Hungary and Australia.
She is, for instance, still recovering from the Winter Music Conference in Miami the previous week, when we meet. Lots of taxing business powwows, can we presume? “Actually, it was pretty much non-stop partying,” she laughs, “every night we were there there was something on – Ram, Virus, World Of D&B, Tremors, which is Skynet’s thing, and the ‘Skool Of Hard Knocks’ party that Trouble On Vinyl did. Most of us were in the same hotel, a beautiful hotel too, so it was a laugh.”
Her bodyclock had been further battered by the fact that she’d got her head down as soon as she returned in preparation for a gig she had booked for the day she returned, only to find out it was cancelled mere hours before she was due to play. All part of the, excuse the pun, skool of hard knocks that Emma has inducted herself into, but she seems experienced enough not to let it put her off or get her down.
Nor is she tempted to head down the easy route taken by many a female house DJ, namely playing on her femininity and manufacturing herself into a wank mag pinup rather than a DJ who gains respect for her tunes rather than simply her looks. “I have noticed that that doesn’t really happen in d&b,” she says, evidently pleased that, despite being naturally very glamorous and no doubt the subject of the affections of many a red-blooded d&b fan, she won’t have to flash her bits in Loaded in return for a few record sales.
It’s the eternal problem for female DJs. While no-one bats an eyelid at male artists using their sexuality, along with their talent and whatever else they can employ to get along, when a woman does it then people line up to slag her off. Although the d&b scene seems well populated with DJs like Rap, Storm, Spice, Dazee, Jo Jo Rock, Wildchild herself and Flight, Emma isn’t convinced that the females in the scene still don’t quite get all the support they deserve at the moment.
“People often ask me this,” she says, “and it’s difficult to tell whether being female is a help or a hindrance. Personally, I think that while certain things have definitely been a lot easier for me as a female, there might well be other things I’m being restricted from that I don’t even know about.”
That said, she readily admits that the scene is as wide open as it’s ever been, partly because, as Emma says, before the advent of the internet and the AIM software that Doc Scott was enthusing about so vociferously in the last issue of Knowledge, getting tunes was so much more difficult and expensive.
“It used to be that you’d have to know someone well enough to ring them up, go and meet them and pick up a DAT that you’d then have to cut onto a dubplate,” she tells us, “now they can come down the line from anywhere in the world in MP3 form and you can just burn a CD that’s good enough to play out there and then. I do still cut dubs, but it can be very expensive, and so I have found I have been playing more and more CDs.”
So, while we can forgive Emma a few first-night nerves at the birth of Wildstyle, don’t confuse that with a lack of ability. Indeed, the competition would be very wrong to underestimate her intentions or the creative firepower at her disposal, especially with help from some of her previous contacts.
There couldn’t be a better time, in her own words, to jump in at the deep end, because the world of d&b is looking very much like her oyster right now.
DJ Wildchild’s cover CD – blow by blow:
XRS – Crowds In Clouds (Wildstyle)
This is the A-side of the second release on my label. This is by top Brazilian boy and good friend XRS. This tune is MASSIVE, absolute class – check it out!
Loxy & Dylan – Fraggle Rock (Raiden remix) (Renegade Hardware)
This remix is an absolute killer! Already getting played by all the top jocks, this will be huge. Raiden does it again!
Audio & Wildchild – Cyberdyne (Wildstyle)
Everywhere I have played this it has been going down really well, heavy Reece tear-out! This is the first release on my label and is out now! On the flip is a Drumsound & Bassline Smith remix – pure dancefloor bizniz!
Klone – Europa (Ultrasound)
Klone brings this amazing bassline roller. Forthcoming on his new Ultrasound label, this is class – check it out.
Zen – Kebab Knife remix (Grid)
Soon to be released on Twisted Individual’s Grid label. This is a heavy roller, definitely one for the floor.
C4C – Paranormal (C4C)
This crew come with a wicked dubby roller, a dream to mix! Soon to come on their own C4C label, baaaad tune.
Omni Trio – Renegade Snares (High Contrast remix) (Moving Shadow)
The original is an all-time CLASSIC, and this remix is one of my favourites. It’s so uplifting and really works in the middle of a set… lovely!
Audio & Wildchild – Helms Deep (Zombie)
Another release from myself and Audio, this will be the second release on Twisted Individual’s new Zombie label. This is hard and dark with some samples from one of my favourite all-time films.
Rascal & Klone – Powerpill (Noizworks)
This is an awesome duo, and here they give us a pure dancefloor tear-out tune. Getting a brilliant response wherever I play it, look out for this one…
Raiden – Reactor Vipizzle (Renegade Hardware)
MoreP class action from Raiden, the VIP mix of ‘Reactor’, soon to come out on Renegade Hardware – heavy!
Zen – Turnstyle (Baron remix) (Grid)
This remix is Baron at his best doing exactly what he does best – a rolling dancefloor anthem!
Audio & Wildchild – Ultra Orange (Zombie)
This is the flip for ‘Helms Deep’. Some different vibes from myself and Audio.
Moving Fusion & Andy C – Think Crazy (Ram)
Another quality tune from the Ram camp, out on the Ram Raiders EP vol. 4. Pure funky drum & bass – love it!
XRS – Cold Hand (Wildstyle)
This is the flip to ‘Crowds In Clouds’ (Wildstyle002). This is definitely one for the ladies and the summertime crew! Beautiful!
Laroque – Goldfinger (Hospital)
This is one of my favourite tunes at the moment, the bassline on this is amazing! I really love the whole vibe and theme of this tune – check it out!