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Locked Down with Charli Brix

Yo yo, Meg here from Goat Shed...

 How’re you doing during this strange period of history?

I’ve adjusted, I think, but I’m restless. I miss performing, I miss working. I’m an active person so I’m just filling my time with things to keep me sane.. apparently making macrame keyrings. 

Macrame key-rings? 

It’s the art of knots and weaving with wool – you can make baskets, plant hangers, anything that can be made out of rope essentially. 

Cute, sounds pretty chill.

Yeah, just keeping myself amused mate.

And of course, you’re Bristol based… so it must have been especially weird as it is usually such a musically and socially happening city? 

Mmmhmm. I live in Stokes Croft which is really central, where a lot of the clubs are. It was like ‘Mad Max’ for the first month – very dystopian. It was essentially just homeless people and a couple of people queueing for shops. Since they’ve relaxed the rules, there are more people out and about but it’s sad because no venues are open. It’s a very different landscape. 

I can’t actually imagine it. 

You can definitely feel the difference. There’s normally such a buzz in the air especially this time of year. Summer is obviously the season of day parties so there’s normally music booming and food being cooked on the street, but it’s all very quiet.

Bristol also made history last month by chucking the statue of Edward Colston in the river.  Emotions must be high?

Definitely. Have you seen the replacement? Somebody put an art installation at the plinth – a guy in a bin with a beer belly that says “Just FYI, St George was Turkish”. It’s essentially taking the piss out of the right-wing EDL fans that have been trying to save the statue. 

Yes! 

It’s awesome man. People were wondering whether it was a Banksy, it looks right up his street but I don’t know whether that’s the case. It’s another little ‘fuck you’ to the white lives matter protesting arseholes. Very proud of the city.

Were you there to witness the statue going in?

No I wasn’t. A lot of my friends were, and they said it was fantastic. Hold tight Bristol, big up!

Edward Colston being dashed into the river
I’ve seen some of the footage and there were definitely musical celebrations amongst the crowds. We have a lot to thank black culture for when it comes to music, especially dance music...

100%. As a white woman, I’m not subject to racism but when things like this happen and you actually stop and take stock of just how much black culture is involved in your life… every other artist I listen to is black! My repertoire is more black than white for starters, and then you take into consideration the fact that white artists are singing music that has come from black culture. It’s everywhere. I dread to think about the kind of existence that people would have without it. If you were to strip all of that away, even just for a day, it would be fucking mundane – lifeless. 

There’s a great Youtube documentary about the sound system culture and how it was brought to the UK from the ghettos of Kingston (check it out below). You learn that it was due to the racist restrictions in Western nightclubs at the time that such culture took to the streets; it was the only way of them coming together as a community. 

The lack of access created these outdoor parties and the sound clashes, then they were persecuted and accused of being aggressive or violent. You think well, if we weren’t so segregated and could party with everyone else, they wouldn’t have to do that. The irony in all of it is mindblowing and the ignorance of some people… I’ve had quite a few closet racists make themselves known. It’s been interesting, trying to talk to people that absolutely will not even try to alter their point of view. I’ve had to stop. 

I think the majority of people are clued up and like minded but there have been a few instances within the UK bass scene hasn’t there?

There was a post that D&B Arena put out celebrating black culture and there was a racist comment to which someone had replied saying if you don’t think black culture has affected D&B then you are absolutely wrong. They were then coming back and saying that it hadn’t. I was thinking ‘wow, do you honestly not understand the origins of the music that you are playing out?’ Largely, I think a lot of people within dance music are switched on but it scares me a bit that even some of the younger generation don’t see it like that. Surely you should respect the roots of the culture that you are getting involved in. 

Absolutely, it has shaped the UK bass scene. Look at events such as Notting Hill Carnival and St Pauls, prime examples of taking from the sound system culture. 

Exactly, huge celebrations. I’ve only been to St Pauls twice since living here but they’re crazy man! The vibe is electric, it’s pure. The people there are genuinely involved with, and connected to, the music and the foundation of it. Gutted it’s not gonna happen this year but hopefully it’s back next year with a bang. 

Let’s talk about lockdown… When it happened there was rightly a lot of worry among artists as gigs were postponed, festivals cancelled and travel restrictions put into place. Being an artist that rarely works alone, it must have hit you pretty hard?

Oh completely, I’m one of these people, especially as I choose to do music as my full time income. I have a couple of freelance jobs on the side but they all happen to be in either events or the music industry whether it’s teaching, singing, performing, writing or bar work. So every single avenue of income dried up in the space of about a week.

Wow. 

Yeah, I’ve had to change my career trajectory completely, temporarily, in order to pay rent. I get royalty cheques here and there and can charge for lessons but it barely covers rent and bills so I’m having to look at different jobs. It’s nerve-wracking and there’s not much work out there as you can imagine. Financially it has fucked me but time wise, I’ve had more to be creative and it’s been great. I’ve tried to be grateful and not stress out over the money side of it, we aren’t gonna get this time again to be able to just be. I’m staying positive but being realistic. It has affected me but it’s gonna take more than that to stop me in my tracks. 

Have you had any projects cut short?

Completely, I was meant to play Hospitality on the Beach – that’s cancelled. Glastonbury, I was meant to be working for them from April – August this year, which isn’t on now. I was playing there too, and Boomtown. I was playing at all the biggest UK festivals, a couple in Europe and there was talk of an Australian tour that got cancelled before we could even get it in the book. 

Such a shame!

I miss the travelling, that’s the best part about my job. However, I’m innately positive and have had a lot more time to write. I’m actually doing an album and we’re aiming for next year to release it. I’ve switched my focus to writing instead of performing, taking each day as it comes. 

A few blessings in there…

Exactly, I can always write. As long as I can make the music, the time to play it will always come around, I’ve just gotta wait a bit longer. It’s all so uncertain at the moment, you don’t know what the fuck is going on. 

It’s all you can do isn’t it… 

Literally, just waking up like “has anything changed? Can I go to my friends yet? Am I allowed? Like what is the deal?” Hahaha no, I’m keeping myself to myself, going on bike rides, making smoothies and writing tunes. 

Idyllic in a way…

It is pretty chilled man, I can’t lie. 

Have you taken up any other new hobbies?

No not really, the macrame, I’ve done before. My friend Marianna (@thatropelife) is awesome at it and she inspired me to do it again. I’ve also taken this time to learn production. I knew the basics from uni but never had the time to put it into practice. I’ve actually been making beats for my album. 

Well excited for that by the way! 

Thanks, me too. I’m nervous about it because it is multi-genre but if you are a lover of bass music, you like my voice and you aren’t a genre snob then… I think it’ll be accessible to a lot of people. If you are a straight up DNB head then you are only gonna like the DNB tracks but if you can have an open mind to it I think it will be, well I hope it will be, well received. 

It’s coming out on Flexout Audio right? 

It is, hold tight Flexout! They’ve been fucking great throughout the whole process. Tom is amazing. He’s hooked me up with some cool producers and we’ve got big plans for the non-DNB tunes. Looking forward to hopefully getting that out in the beginning-ish of next year, that’s the plan. 

Not too far away then at all…

I’ve done half and we are half-way through the year so fingers crossed it carries on at that rate and we will be all gravy. 

Sick. Your band Milk ‘N’ Honey, are they involved in the album? 

So when the album is complete and has been released, the plan would be to translate the tracks into a live setting – and that’s where the band comes in. Everything will be done in a half-live half-DJ set vibe on stage. We’ll have a mixture of live instruments, the band, me, a DJ, etc… that’s how I see it anyway!

How did you find the band? 

I was really lucky. My friend Jake is the drummer and he is funky as hell. He was one of the original members. My friend Courtney used to play bass but she moved away so Ru from Reveux became my bassist. Hugh Hardie is my keys player, again, a good friend of mine that lives in Bristol. We used to jam together, he liked my voice and wanted to be part of the band. So we have bass, keys and drums. We had a guitarist but he also moved away so we’re trying to find another. It’s very much a slow burner, a labour of love.

Let’s talk about your set with us for the ‘Stay at Home Festival’ – I was watching in awe. Mixing whilst singing must be a madness? 

Haha, thanks. It’s like, I can’t just wing it. I have to practice the section where I’m doing both. To remember the whole movement, I had to practice that section over and over because it’s so hard to try and cue a tune in one ear, sing, hold the mic.

You held it down and you looked chill about it.

As long as I’m having fun and I’m not massively clanging then I’m happy.

Charli Brix

Charli Brix on Goat Shed & Onyx Recordings Live from Stay at Home Festival // Community GroupSave the nans: https://bit.ly/save-the-nans Other Platforms: https://linktr.ee/GoatShedStream

Posted by Goat Shed on Sunday, 10 May 2020
The Brix doing her thang at Stay at Home Festival
How do you find time to fit everything in? Are you organised or do you just throw yourself at whatever you are feeling at the time?

A bit of both to be honest, depends what mindstate I’m in. If I’m having a good day, which is most of the time, I’m pretty on it. I get up quite early now. I’m looking at a giant noticeboard I have on my wall, I have everything written out because I am a self-confessed scatty head. If i don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done. Also, Tom from Flexout is essentially my manager, god he is incredible. He will check in, remind me and help me with organising bits and pieces. He helps keep me in check. I do drop the ball sometimes. I either take on too much or I’ll forget a plan or a deadline. A few people will tell you that I can be flaky as fuck, I’m aware of it and I’m getting better!

A work in progress! I’ve gotta say, I love the stuff you have done with Jevon Ives, especially your cover of Etta Bond – #bad4me.

She is one of my favourite singers, she has been so underrated, and the same with Jevon. Jev is one of the first people I met in Bristol, and is someone who would say I can be flaky but he puts up with it because he knows that once you get me in a room, I’ll deliver. We’ve been friends for a good ¾ years and will be doing more music together for sure. He has recently reached out actually, he is one of my favourite artists to work with and I’ve not done enough with him. 

Have you ever performed with him? 

Yeah, that’s how we became better friends. I started coming to his gigs and doing backing vocals, I would sing the harmonies in his band or do vocal parts he had written with another vocalist who maybe couldnt perform. I did 3 or 4 gigs with him, along with his EP launch. He is gonna be on my album too and hopefully when the tour happens, he’ll be one of the guests.

I would love to see that. 

Honestly, playing gigs with Jev are some of the happiest moments I remember in music, the soul and the passion in that guy when he performs… He has this presence that I rarely encounter with many musicians. He’s just so in that moment, it’s unreal and he’s a pleasure to watch.

He’s one talented guy…

Hugely man. The Cosmic Soul lot, the Mood lot, they all run different collectives that branch off with each other. Mystic State, Mothclub they are all best mates and between them… the mindset and the ideas they have are wicked, a really cool bunch. 

He has done a track with Sepia too, on his album.

Again, Theo, absolute don! 

Ok, so despite being an artist of many talents, you are primarily known for your DNB vocals and over the years you have collaborated with Enei, Ill Truth and many more. I bet it has flown by?

It has, do you know what, I had my first release out when I was 20, well first tune put out into the world. It was a free download. I’m now 30 so it has actually been 10 years!

Woah.  

I know right, which is mental when you think about it. I saw a post from Skream recently saying that it takes 10 years to get to a point in a creative/passion led career where you finally feel like you’re making it and I kind of agree. Up until corona, I was comfortable and happy in the trajectory that I was on, in terms of Charli Brix. Quite interesting actually that it takes that amount of time to finally become settled but yeah, 10 years. Gone so quick!

Charli with Russian snare machine Enei
Do you have any memorable moments? 

I think Enei’s ‘Rituals’ album launch for Critical at Fabric, because that is what kicked all of this off. It was 2015, room 1 in Fabric. Oh and the Outlook boat party last year for Flexout, OH MY GOD!!! 

James ‘Amoss’ said the same thing when I interviewed him…

Honestly man, the most magical family vibe I have ever experienced… Flawless from start to finish. Nothing went wrong, everything was great, it was so much fun. 

Mad magic in the air! 

Huge man, I cried so much. I bawled my eyes out, it was so emotional. The sun was setting and I was singing to this crowd. I sang ‘Just One Look’ and the whole fucking boat sang it back. I had to turn away and put down the mic for a sec. I was like, “I can’t do this, this is too much”, but I love those moments, that’s what it’s all about. My EP launch last year at the Black Swan in Bristol was a huge moment for me too because it was my first body of work. It was a real special event. Hopefully more to look forward to once everything kicks off again. 

The Flexout Audio boat party in question
What would you say is the biggest change or evolution in regards to how you approach laying down vocals on a track? 

I’ve been writing the same way or at least a similar way for the last 10 years and it seems to be going alright so far, but I’ve learned not to second guess myself as much. My musicality has improved because my knowledge base has expanded through working in the industry, also through university. I did a degree in vocals and graduated last year; I learned a lot. Personally, I don’t think I’ve put out a track that shows my full potential. That’s where the album comes in. My songwriting skills, overall musicality and the stories will be nice to showcase. Fingers crossed it all works out. 

It must be a mad feeling hearing yourself in a rave and everyone’s vibin’ to it. Do you still get the same feeling as when you started out? 

Every time! My mates take the piss out of me for it. It’s the same when people come up to me like “are you Charli Brix?” I’ll go bright red but I’ll talk to anybody. I’ll always say hello, unless I’ve just come off stage as I’m normally sweating all over the gaff and can’t see. Sun & Bass last year, I turned up and Break was playing, within ten minutes he’d dropped a remix of mine and Ill Truth’s tune. I was standing with Haden from Ill Truth in the middle of 400-500 people crying my eyes out. Haden’s like, “this should be natural to you now”, I’m like “nooo, it’s still so strange”. It’s the most amazing feeling but it’s fucking weird, in a good way. 

You have just had a fresh new track out with Phaction on Spearhead called Chemistry. He also did ‘Say No More’ on your Kintsugi EP. How did working with Phaction come about? 

He’s a pal of mine in Bristol who I met through gigs and music, he was looking for another vocalist for the EP and I absolutely love his music so it was a no brainer. It’s always good with Alex because he lives in Bristol so we can vibe in the studio together rather than working remotely. I tend to get a different vibe with Alex when I work with him because it’s more collaborative. He’s respectful of my input regarding the beat and where the vocals sit which is refreshing. He smashed that EP. It’s fucking outstanding. 

You can, and really should, buy the Chemistry EP here.

Are there any other female vocalists that you are feeling at the moment? 

Do you know what, a girl called Cimone who is on a track with Unglued called Zen – her voice is fucking incredible. Also Sydney Chapman is an absolute babe, she’s got a great voice and is such a pleasure to talk to, I think that goes a long way in the industry. As for male singers, there’s a guy called Javeon who has been doing some stuff with KOAN Sound. He’s really cool.

Sick, will check them out. Have you got any advice for those starting out as a vocalist?

Yeah, don’t compare yourself to other people. That was probably my biggest mistake for the first 5 years. I wasted so much of my time comparing what I was doing to others and what I thought I should be doing instead of actually doing it.  All that time, I could have invested in doing something. I write music for me, if people like it, great. It is very much about being true to your art form which is tough when you are in a pressured society. You have social media and the pressure to stay current etc. Then again people will see through gimmicks straight away and they won’t buy into you or your music, just be yourself.

I think that’s important. 

Also, ask for help or reach out. I would always recommend seeking support from people that have done it or that have been there. That’s why I love Tom so much. He’s that guy to me. He’s been doing Flexout for however many years, he’s got a lot of knowledge and I trust him. He is my go-to for everything, get yourself a Tom. 

Brix, Bassi, Terrance (from Terrance & Philip) with D&B’s favoruite redhead Philth
Haha, sound advice. Let’s talk about mixing…How long was it before you felt comfortable enough to play out? 

Honestly, when I first played out, I didn’t feel comfortable. I would’ve waited longer if I hadn’t been encouraged by friends. I waited for about 10 months. I ran a night called Shotgun Sessions in an attempt to get more girls on the decks. I put myself on first, I was comfortable in my surroundings, I knew the equipment, the people and the venue; I was lucky in that respect. I was terrified, mainly because people knew me as Charli Brix, the singer. I didn’t wanna risk ruining that vibe by being a shit DJ but it’s like anything, throw yourself in there. I was hooked. I’ve played most situations that you’ll face, where you have to blag it on the fly. Largely, they’ve all been fine. I’ve spent just under a year of practicing and a year of gigging. I’d say that I’ve only just started to really feel comfortable. I can just turn up with my stick now and roll out. 

I feel you, spending the last 6 years surrounded by lads mixing has encouraged me to get involved too! 

It’s such an empowering feeling, being able to go to an afters, walk up to the decks, put my stick in and rinse it. I didn’t tell anybody for ages because I wanted to do just this. I went back to my friend Jason’s house, I walked on and double dropped. The whole room was like ‘sorry what?’

Your ‘Brix Do Roll’ podcasts have been a huge hit. What inspired you to do this, did it emerge from being locked down? 

The actual act of doing it, yes, but the idea was planted when we did our first KCDC radio show over a year ago. People have always told me I have a nice radio voice and I get a lot of beats sent to me, whether it’s for feedback or just dubs. A lot of them are underrated or unknown artists, and some friends. Lockdown happened, gigging stopped and I thought fuck it! It’s proved to be a fantastic distraction, very well received and from a slightly selfish point of view, I’ve discovered so many cool artists. It’s been really nice to meet people whilst having a platform to talk about things. It’s been a win-win for me man. 

Are they gonna continue after lockdown? 

Hell yeah, I’ve got a permanent slot now on 1020 Radio. The show will now be every 4th Tuesday of the month from 6-7pm and will be uploaded to Spotify and Soundcloud the day after. For the next one, I’m gonna be talking about black culture and a few black artists that have influenced me, as well as talking about some really cool projects that people have been working on. This one is a big one. I’m looking forward to it.

(Have a listen to it below)

You’re a bit of an artist outside of your music career too right? 

Yep, it was my passion when I was growing up. Anything academic, I shied away from. I went to art college for 2 years. I know it sounds bizarre but I have very busy hands. I like textiles, making cushions, things like that. I’m usually a painter/illustrator so I use fine liners and paints but that’s the labour of love, I don’t think I’d ever touch that and make it a career thing. I think that’s my one true sanctuary, it’s just for me. I mean I give gifts to people, but that will be as far as it goes. When I don’t wanna do music, I’ll turn to art. It’s nice to have more than one outlet. 

Brill, that’s pretty much it. I’ve a few random questions to chuck at you…
Most unexpected place you’ve heard yourself on a track? 

Oo, err… Oh my goodness, uni! Fuck me man, I was at UWE. I was with Ru (of Revaux fame) and we were walking across the forecourt. There was a freshers fair and they were blasting out ‘Voices’ by Koherent. I was like “can you hear my voice?” and he was like “dude, you are echoing throughout the whole of the uni.” By the time we had got over to the DJ the song was just about to finish, I said thanks and we had a little chat. Super cute but very strange because it wasn’t in a club setting. Hearing my voice in the outside space, I was a bit spun out. 

Favourite eatery or drinking hole in Bristol? 

Favourite eating place? Shake, Wrap and Roll.

Favourite drinking place? The Social.

If you had to choose anywhere other than Bristol to live, where would it be? 

Holland without a shadow of doubt, straight away Rotterdam. I would open a cafe where, in the day, you make crafts that you paint yourself whilst getting super high. Then in the evening it would turn into some kind of music venue where I would occasionally sing but largely just sit there getting super high watching everybody else have a great time. That is my retirement plan.

Sounds like a plan to me. And finally for my standard question, what are you spreading on your toast? 

Ooooo, do you know what I bought, dont judge me! I haven’t tried it yet but I bought that Biscoffi spread, have you had it, the lotus stuff? 

I think I have you know…

Everyone has been telling me to try it on crumpets and or toast.

It is some good shit, I could probably just eat it straight out of the jar. 

That’s what I am terrified of. I’ve been trying not to buy it because I know what I’m like but we will see how it goes. I’ll let you know the verdict, whether I’m down with it or not.

Interview by Meg Babey Davies

You can follow Charli on Soundcloud, Facebook and Instagram