We've managed to take a lot of interviews in our short history. But this is the first time that we have no real idea how to start the publication. The reason for that is we invited Joanna Syze for an interview. We asked her questions about Renegade Hardware, her participation in a new release for Eatbrain, the development of the DnB music and the Bass cuture, her future projects and plans, etc. Topics transitioned from one another and Joanna has left a piece of herself in every reply that she's given us. This is, quite frankly, one of the deepest interviews we've had to date, so, without further ado, here's the conversation itself:
Hello, Joanna! In the moment you're an active part of the management of Renegade Hardware. How did you start working for the label and what are your job functions?
Hi there, thanks for including me in this interview! I'm sure it seemed to many a bit out of place with my involvement at Renegade Hardware, but actually when I ran Bassline Agency 2004 - 2008 I had to work alongside Barcode and Renegade Hardware with Clayton and Chris Renegade very frequently. My job back then was to ensure promotions for the Barcode and Renegade Hardware releases, organize tours in the USA for these project and represent the many label artists. Around the same time I was also working for Defcom Records with Kryptic Minds. Later on as Chris Renegade and the guys started Lifted, I had my foot in that as well. So you could say I've been working behind the scene on bussines and with labels and artists for many years, since 2000 actually. I knew that Renegade Hardware was planning on closing it's doors very soon and was asked by Clayton and Giles to help them in these final projects. The transition to RH was seamless, as we'd all known eachother prior for years. One thing lead to another and I was given a vital A&R and label management position. My tasks have included everything from scouting for artists, working with established artists, PR & Marketing, art directing, managing projects and releases, plus a lot more behind the scenes work that goes into keeping the Renegade Hardware machine working alongside Clayton and Giles. At the moment our main focus is on the Final Chapter LP. The last and final release as we lock down the Renegade Hardware doors.
As far as we gathered from your Facebook page, you're participating in the Final Chapter LP with an original track. A party with the same name was held at the start of the year and it put and end to the label events. Is this going to be Renegade Hardware's last release?
I will actually have two releases on the Final Chapter LP. One is alongside Leon Switch, the second is a track with Katharsys remixed by Sinister Souls. You're also correct, last year was an end to the big Renegade Hardware events. Some people seemed confused why the label has still been releasing music after the end of the events. What people in many parts around the world weren't aware of was that Renegade Hardware had been putting on frequent events in London for many years, so last year saw an end to those RH parties. The label side of things being separate however were going to take a bit longer to slowly shut down. With that being said, yes the Final Chapter LP will be Renegade Hardware's final release. Many artists are participating in this project, for some it's an opportunity to have a release on the label before the doors close, for others it's a moment of gratitude towards the label for being a part of our own individual connection to Drum & Bass music.
Renegade Hardware's and Fabric's shutdowns are hard hits on the Bass culture worldwide. How much do you think is the absence of these colossi of the scene going to reflect on to the whole culture?
When I first came on the RH team I had a huge hunger to try and change Clayton's mind to keep the label open. But as the year passes I've come to realize that it's better to sometimes close the doors while you're still respected and people have those good memories to always hold on to. I can't speak for how Fabrics closure will effect our scene, but the same theory works for both venues and labels. Where one door closes another opens. Drum & Bass has always been an evolving growing machine. When we are told "NO" we gather the cliché "D&B soldiers unite" and create something bigger than what was lost. Maybe it's part of our D&B dna, an inner drive to always prove the world "we aren't the side room, we are here to stay and we are many, dnb will never die etc." So where the doors of RH and Fabric close, new labels will take over, other labels will be born. Same with events and clubs. I wouldn't worry, instead use all that energy to contribute to our scene and movement going forward.
Another release with your participation was Nick Bee's Gears EP for Eatbrain. You're doing vocals for two of the tracks. Do you ever participate in the production of the tracks?
Nickbee "The Gears" EP feat. Joanna Syze for Eatbrain has been a lot of fun to be part of. For this particular project I had recorded and edited the vocals only. Since Nick had a very strict idea of the flow of the whole E.P. However, I have noticed there seems to be a good deal of confusion on my participation on tracks, as I'm often only labeled as a vocalist. Unbeknownst to people of my production or passed dj work, especially prior to my health crisis. My last album Rodina was a good example of myslef putting in countless hours of not only vocals on each track but also co producing many of the songs, editing, sequencing vocals etc. All of my current unreleased work seems to vary. Some producers only ask me for vocals due to their very personal view on how they want to brand their own sound design. There are other producers who seem more open to collaborations and we do more combined detailed work on our tunes. I have a lot of music ready to be relase this and next year, very excited about my collaborations with Barbarix, Volatile Cycle and Mob Tactics since these are artists I've put more work with on the songs.
When can we expect the release and what should we expect from it?
The Eatbrain relase is actually out exclusively on Beatport in Monday and then all other worldwide outlets on October 31st. The E.P has that signature NickBee minimal tech neuro vibe that Nick is so good at manipulating. The two tracks "We Fight" and "Nowhere To Run" that I'm featured on have a bit of a funky bounce and deep bassline to them, alongside my more minimal vocals. I had pictures of a distopian world, watching it being destroyed yet a few trying to save it. These were part of my inspirations for the vocals and what I felt Nick was trying to say with the production. We really hope you all enjoy it!
Months ago you were actively promoting your own album. What happened to the release? Did you manage to finish it?
The project was started alongside my ex husband, as time went on I decided it wasn't the direction I wanted my sound to go into. I also didn't want to involve him with my work anymore. I took the whole project apart and have spent the last 10 months redoing it all alongside some great guys. I can't say for sure currently if it will come out as an album or 3 separate E.P projects. These are all things currently being discussed with a few labels. That being said, I'm very happy with how it's turned out and the many new talented friends I've met along the way. Expect songs to start coming out end of this year and into next year.
You've been a part of the scene for years and you've seen the rise and fall of several Drum and Bass styles from up close. Where is the DnB sound headed and what do you think will the trends be in the future?
With more and more technically advanced engineers emerging some as young as 18 years of age we are currently in a very technically focused moment in D&B liner timeline. However as more artists are grabbing on to perfecting in this huge neuro / tech movement there has also emerged a bigger hunger for artists who don't just only master this technical engineering. There now seems to be a demand for an emotinal, musical, song writing aspect to be implemented into the future of D&B music. We can't get stuck in a epoch of everything and everyone sounding the same. I personally feel the future will see a big wavе of producers who are not only amazing at engineering but who also add elements of old school sounds, techniques and emotinal song structures. I'm now finally starting to see how Ed Rush & Optical circa 2000 and Stakka & Skynet were genuinely ahead of their time, we may be reverting back to those days again with just more epic mixdowns and songwriting. After all, music is meant to make us feel with our souls. We are not robots listening in mathematical sequence.
Every style is developing and changing in time. And each novelty is a step forward in the development of the style. However, is there something from the old school sound that you miss in the DnB nowadays?
I miss the quality control level. Back in the day if you wanted to be released there was just one way. BE AMAZING and get on a proper label. With the emergence of Mp3 online stores we saw a double edged sward. The good - more artists could be heard, locations where record stores weren't avaliable could now get music at the click of a button and our music scene grew in huge leaps. The bad - anyone could start a label and anyone could be released so the level of song quality or label management would go between amazing to utter garbage. What I miss is this more strict control in how we present the music, not only the songs but the art direction in a release. Being able to collect pieces of art visual and sound wise. Yes there are many labels such as Eatbrain, Methlab, Blackout etc. who still do things proper and I'd like to keep seeing our industry go back more into that bussines model.
Some time ago you were planning a return to Bulgaria and you were gathering funds through different initiatives. Were those campaigns successful and do you plan on returning to the country soon?
The campaign was definitely a big one and came at a moment of incredibly great need. I am so forever thankful to every single person who contributed somehow in a positive way to such a dark part of my life. Unfortunately I was not cleared by my Dr's to fly on airplanes and so was no able to return to Bulgaria. I had to then and still to this day currently continue my health healing here in the USA. Returning to Bulgaria has been a huge wound in my soul for the past 4 years. It is as if someone has died inside of me or has taken my child. My connection to the homeland is big, and I feel it's absence in big ways. I am still not in a position to travel. Also being the reason I no longer tour as a dj. I can't wait to step foot in Europe and Bulgaria again. My new husband is British, so it's safe to assume soon as I'm able to travel we will be returning back to Europe and have plans on spending a long time in Bulgaria. My homeland recharges my mind, body and soul. It has always been my goal to live in Europe again.
Do you have anything to add to the interview? Something that's important for you at the moment, but we've missed it?
I'm always finding ways to use my voice in this scene to spread awareness on the power of the human mind and body. I just want the readers to know. We are all fighting some inner battle in life, for some it's a huge one and others a smaller one. But never give up and keep pushing forward because life is an amazing gift. Use art and music as a healing tool. It has been given to us as a gift to give to others and ourselves, just keep things grounded. The ego is a horrible thing so be a humble, compassionate human and it will also reflect in a more positive way in the work you do. Music, friends, art, family, bio feedback and positive thinking are a vital part of daily life towards my recovery.
Thank you for your time! Please, wish our readers something.
Much love to my amazing husband Luke from Mob Tactics, my extremely talented wonderful human buddy Steven Barbarix, those lads Dan & Jimmy Volatile Cycle, NickBee you're great, Clayton & Giles at RH, CООН aka my great advisor and friend, Jef at Methlab, Gabor at Eatbrain. Maztek, Leon Switch, Impak, Hugo Katharsys, The Sect, my brother always Zardonic. The list is long and can't fit everyone, you are all wonderful. Hello to the readers, keep creating and blowing up the system ;)
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