Mix: Making Waves #3 – DJ On Air

DJ On Air photo.jpg

For the third episode of the Making Waves mix series, The Waveform Transmitter’s Léa Ben Saïd presents DJ On Air. Expect a journey through Milly’s collection; a testimony to her roots and her influences. 

Milly Chowles has always been passionate about music. From a young age, she was obsessed with records and cassettes and started DJing when she was 17. It is not an activity she pursued however, and she went into radio for most of her professional life, focusing on speech radio rather than DJ mixes. Today, she’s ready to commit to the craft again. I found out about her recently, after listening to one of her mixes for Bristol-based label Happy Skull. Through her mix for The Waveform Transmitter, she explores the sounds of the city, heavily influenced by its sound, and looks back at the first tracks which caught her eye.

Waveform: How did you prepare for and record this mix ? 

DJ On Air: I thought about it for a long time, bought loads of new tunes, dug out a load of old favourites, played around experimenting with tracks, recorded it quite quickly, then scrapped it, then started all over again. I thought about it some more, accumulated a massive folder of tunes, then lost the usb the folder was on, argh, so made another folder, then stayed up all night and recorded it, re-recorded, and re-recorded it again…. So I would say my process recording this mix was slightly chaotic but very enthusiastic, which is how I approach most things in life!

I recorded it at home in Tottenham in my bedroom on a DDJ-SB2 controller. I’m lucky that I have access to turntables and CDJs at my part time job in a community music project in Brixton. I usually stay behind at work and practice, I’ve made a lot of progress in the last year and I’m now at the stage where to continue moving forward I’ve decided to buy decks and get back into vinyl. I’ve been spending many hours on Ebay this week, and I’m going to look at some 1210s tonight, some hopefully will be bringing them back home with me! 

Waveform: Did you have a specific idea in mind when you recorded it?

DJ On Air: Not really. To be honest, I just wanted to record something that felt true to me, that reflected some of what I’ve been feeling recently and also through out my life. I wanted to make a mix that could be listened to and enjoyed at home, in the park, on the bus, or wherever….it’s summer so it’s got a slight tropical feel and is maybe a bit lighter and housier vibe than some of my previous heavier mixes, although as always it gets pretty banging towards the end.

I get bored easily so I like to experiment with different eras, genres and tempos, put things together that might not usually be mixed. I basically try not to play anything boring, that sounds obvious but that’s about the only rule I have, I might be making life difficult for myself as a new DJ by not just sticking to one genre or BPM, but that’s how I like it, it seems. There are some tunes in there that are very special to me, that I’ve chosen for quite personal or nostalgic reasons and have been with me all my life, others I just thought, yeah that bangs I want to include that!

I generally do start with a couple of tunes that I’m obsessed with, and have an idea where I’m going to start and where I’m going to end, and then build it around that in a way that makes absolute sense to me (but quite possibly not to anyone else!). My mixes at the moment usually end up where it began for me; with some early 90s rave and hardcore! I like to mix almost equally old and new stuff and, as you can probably hear, I don’t really give myself boundaries in terms of genre or bpm.

I properly re-committed to DJing about a year ago, even though I first started learning when I was 17. I didn’t keep it up and kept stopping and starting. Even though music has always been at the centre of my life it’s taken me a while to actually find the confidence to do my own thing. I often thought ‘it’s too late, you’re too old, you’ve missed your chance”; self-defeating shit like that. But it felt really sad that I wasn’t actually doing what I have always wanted to do! I realised that was all bollocks and so started DJing again and, in the last year, I’ve been really consistent with practising and dedicating time to it. It’s actually pretty cool being a bit older, because I’ve got a lot of history to draw on and give way less fucks than ever before! 

Waveform: Who have been your major influences ?

DJ On Air: I think Bristol has been the biggest influence on me, really. It’s got such a rich heritage and vibrant musical scene that growing up in that area, raving, and living there, over the years has been a huge influence musically. I definitely have a tendency to veer to the bassier side of the musical spectrum.

I grew up in a small town in Wiltshire, near to Bath and Bristol and I was pretty obsessive about music from a very young age. When I was about 12 or 13 I got hold of a cassette tape of DJ Sasha at the Pleasure Planet Universe in ’92. I wasn’t old enough to go myself but some older kids who had been bought it back with them and I would say that was the moment I fell in love with dance music, I couldn’t wait to start raving! That was pretty influential and that mix is still probably my number one of all time, I’ve actually included a track from it in this mix as a little nostalgic nod of respect. 

More recently, Jane Fitz has influenced me massively, just knowing she exists is a huge inspiration and spurs me on to be a better DJ.

Waveform: What records can we often find in your bag ?

DJ On Air: The second track in the mix which is an old Italo record called LadyBug by Bumblebee Unlimited. I inherited the record as a child from my step Mum, it’s got an amazing riff but its just so weird with these falsetto bumblebees in a very sexy but very sordid dialogue over the top. It’s hilarious but also just one of the sickest records I’ve ever heard. When I listened to it pre-teen it totally fascinated me and still does!

The Vamp by Outlander is another all time favourite, it’s impossible not to put my hands in the air when it drops no matter how many times I’ve heard it. At the moment I live in a warehouse in North London so play more warehouse parties than clubs so always have a good selection of disco, R&B, dancehall and garage bangers to hand too. I mostly listen to disco and boogie day to day, it’s my natural antidepressant.

Waveform: You have worked in radio for a long time now and you are well respected within the scene. Are you trying to tell a specific story or create a specific sound with your contribution in radio, which would influence the way you pick the music to release? 

DJ On Air: I actually make much more speech radio (podcasts, documentaries and reports) than music radio these days, so yes I’m all about storytelling and that is something I can’t help but do in my mixes too.

Because I come from a radio DJ background where obviously it’s all about playing different genres together that has definitely influenced my approach to putting a mix together. But actually to me DJing is a very separate entity from my day job in radio. Music is where I get to express myself, experiment and play creatively where as radio is a job. It’s a job I love but, even so, it’s a very different process, and I’m in a very different mindset when I’m DJing to when I’m producing a show .

Waveform: I have only heard your mixes but do you also produce, or is it something you would like to get into and maybe release yourself at some point ?

DJ On Air: I definitely do want to, but haven’t done yet. I did an introduction to Ableton course this year with Producer Girls. It was a free course and E.M.M.A, Ikonika and Dexplicit were tutors which was amazing, and I was sure I’d keep it up afterwards as I was totally into it whilst I was there and on the train home too.

But, to be honest, I haven’t opened that Ableton session since I did the one day course, I just haven’t had the time or headspace. I will get there though, I have hard drives full of audio from radio programmes that I’d love to sample and that’s always been something I’d like to experiment with, forever on the to-do list.

Waveform: Do you have anything exciting planned ?

DJ On Air: I’m going to play at a festival for the first time tomorrow and I’m really excited about that. Other than that I’m not really a big planner I just try and enjoy the ride and see where it takes me. 

Waveform: Ones to watch ?

DJ On Air: I would say look out for anything forthcoming from the Bristol based Happy Skull and Idle Hands labels – you can rely on both for really interesting, quality releases. There’s just so much good new music coming out at the moment it’s really hard to choose- a couple of producers I’ve noticed recently are Beneath, Lucy and Imre Kiss…and S4U who are a woozy nu R&B duo, there’s loads more but that’ll have to do for now!

Sandy – Student Nights (Invisible City Editions)
Bumblebee Unlimited Lady Bug (RCA)
Simple Symmetry Dervish Euphoria (Disco Halal)
Falty DL Paradox Garage (Aus Music)
JETS The Chants (Ultamajic)
Imre Kiss Love (Lobster Theremin)
Karizma Twyst This (R2 Records Ltd)
David Mayer 1000 Hours (K7 Records)
DJ Lilocox Vozes Ricas (Principe)
Carolyn Harding Moving On (Emergency Records)
Will Saul The Map Room (Aus Music)
Walt J Reborn (DJ Qu’s Journey Towards Birth Remix) (Curle Recordings)
DJ Seinfeld Typeless (K7 Records)
Desert Sound Colony Sunrise of My Mind (Denis Horvat Mix) (Fayer)
Appleblim Life in a Laser (Sneaker Social Club)
Cocktail Party Effect Quite (Cold Recordings)
Skee Mask – Dial 274 (Ilian Tape)
Altern8 – Activ8 (Shadow Dancer Remix) (Network Records)
M1 7 Rockin Down the House (Chill)
Paxton Fettel  Intro (Greta Cottage Workshop)

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