London-based DJ and radio presenter, Tash LC, is one of those people you could talk to forever. Firstly, because her aura combines two things that often don’t seem to exist in tandem: she’s both refreshingly unintimidating and effortlessly cool. But also just to see how she’s done it – because she makes you feel like you can, too.
After witnessing a DJ combine West African music with electronic beats at the legendary Boomtown festival (“The first music I started to proper rave to was Drum & Bass with my friends from back home,”) she gave presenting and DJing a whirl on her university radio before fumbling her way onto Radar radio despite not knowing how to mix yet. But this self-taught approach meant LC cultivated a distinctive sound of her own. Blending underground electronic sounds spanning the globe from Europe to Africa, into her own melodic concoction, the now KISS FM presenter already has a BBC Radio 1Xtra Residency under her belt, played Boiler Room– multiple times, and started her own progressive label and club night, Club Yeke. Being a female DJ in the industry, another feat in it’s own right, she’s become a face many young women eagerly look up to, something she can relate to all too well. “I remember hearing about Mollie Collins,” she says. ” She was one of the first female DJs I knew in Drum & Bass. I remember hearing her name around and I was like, ‘Really? There’s a woman DJing?’”
Prepping to open the doors to another club night this summer – her third to be exact – Wonderland sat down with our generation’s offbeat answer to mixing music the right way. Speaking from her house in Camberwell, Tash LC talks carving out new spaces in the industry and how self-love is the most important ingredient to becoming the best you can be.
Hey Tash! How do you feel when you’re behind the deck DJing to a crowded club? TLC: It’s the best feeling! I get such a special feeling when I’m listening to other people’s music, let alone getting to play it in a club. It sounds cheesy, but I’m creating a story through my set a lot of the time. I love connecting with people in a crowd, knowing that you’ve got somebody’s attention or you can almost see their eyes light up when they discover something they haven’t heard before. When I have those reminders that people have come to see me [play] – I feel blown away. I’m like, ‘Really?’ It’s like an exchange – a giving and a receiving – I love it.
What are some of the most memorable interactions you’ve had with people after your set? TLC: People that have come up to me and been like, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing!’ I especially love connecting with women after my set because they come up to me and they’re like, ‘You just look sick up there.’ Although obviously it’s still a compliment, and I really appreciate it, some of the time it can feel like there’s this undercurrent of disbelief when a guy does the same thing. Almost like he’s saying ‘well done’ for just being a woman DJ.
What do you think are the biggest barriers women face in taking up DJing professionally? And why do you think for so long there was a lot less representation of women DJing? TLC: At the moment, it seems like the barriers are loosening up a bit. But I think that for a lot of women, it can seem intimidating. A lot of it is about not knowing where to begin, and that carries across the board for every gender. Part of it is to do with access and visibility, which has been brilliant over the past few years with places like Pirate Studios popping up with studios that are actually really accessible, easy to book, and quite cheap. It’s been really great seeing Scuffed Recordings doing a recent production course for women and non-binary people, as well as Jaguar and FutureDJs Future1000 scheme [addressing gender inequality] that she started as well. I’m seeing more and more of that, which is brilliant. I think it’s a combination of lack of representation on lineups. The festivals are often the absolute worst. Schools need to bring in people from the industry so that people – especially ethnic minorities that are from poorer or working-class backgrounds – see this industry isn’t out of their reach. But I definitely feel like access is getting better, so shout out to all the people that are doing really great things in the industry at the moment, because it’s all about the future.
Do you feel a sense of pride to be part of the process of carving out a space you didn’t see for yourself in this industry growing up? TLC: Yeah, definitely. I remember doing early club nights that I was playing and I would be the only woman most of the time. And to be honest, I had to learn to get out of that discomfort, and then it made me feel really empowered. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna come here, I’m going to do my thing. I’m just going to boss it.’ It feels like there’s a big wave at the moment, especially over lockdown, I’ve seen so many women around me getting into production which is wicked, banging music and banging EPs…it just shows me that everyone’s bossing it and not even just musically, but in terms of branding and creativity. It’s sick. It’s really sick.
What do you feel like DJing has taught you about yourself? TLC: I think I’ve always been confident. But I think it’s definitely taught me how to hold my own because you are putting on a performance at the end of the day. You’re curating a night, you’re setting the tone. It’s taught me to know my worth and learn my worth. It’s also taught me humility in a lot of ways because within DJing there can be a lot of politics. Obviously, a lot of it can revolve around ego and line-ups and where you sit, and it’s okay not to have everything at the same time. Let things come slowly. That was a big thing for me, especially when I was a bit younger, and I was constantly getting frustrated about where I was sitting, and who I was sitting next to in terms of line ups, and never feeling like anything was enough. It’s something I’m still trying to learn and that’s definitely part of the process.
Tell us about your club nights Club Yeke and Boko! Boko!. What do you hope to achieve from creating them? TLC: I started Boko Boko with my friend Mina and Juba in 2015, and Juba joined us a couple of years later. Our thing is pushing sounds from the Global South to Global Club Music, a lot of polyrhythmic stuff from South America, Europe, and a bit further afield as well. Hopefully, we’ll expand when we’re back together again into doing things like workshops and festival takeovers. It’s always been about inclusivity and equality. Our agenda isn’t necessarily about just having all-women lineups, it’s about having a balance. Our lineups are predominantly 50/50 women to men, and we’re really happy that’s happening subconsciously. We think that’s the most progressive way of working: working in harmony and showing equality is possible across the board.
In 2018, I was ready to start building my own platform so I created my club night and record label Club Yeke. What I’m really focused on with Yeke is the fusion of cultures and genres of different countries and sounds. I wanted to start it because I just wanted another platform that I could basically take all of the experience I had with radio shows, putting on people that I rated on the radio, and bring that into a club space to see what that would look like on a dance floor. And I think it’s worked, it’s been so so fun. I’m looking forward this year to starting a new club – I’m gassed.
What does the concept of success mean to you? TLC: Success to me changes a lot. In some moments for me, success means being visible. It means doing loads of stuff visibly and in the public eye – doing the TV stuff or the big gig. But then I think at my core, success is doing the things that I love and doing them with integrity. I want to be continually putting out artists that I really rate and continuing to build a platform for those people. I’m really passionate about community work as well and working with those that are less fortunate. So I think that’s important to me, I can’t really feel fulfilled without feeling like I’m contributing to something bigger. My biggest inspirations are Jamz Supernova, Annie Mac, Gemma Cairney – women who use their brands and their voices to shout out the people.
How do you strive to be the best you can be in your industry? TLC: At the moment I’m doing weekly shows on KISS FM which I’ve found challenging – I did similar shows at uni but this is obviously on a much bigger scale. So for me to be the best I can be, what I try to do is think: how can I make this different? How can I make this stand out? How can I make this impactful and make people want to listen? I will try and channel a lot of effort into how I’m approaching the shows, and sometimes that can be exhausting and I lose momentum. But when I start getting it together, I get really excited. It’s about making sure that I’m putting in the work to make sure that – even if no one is listening – I’ve still done the best I can do. And also looking after myself outside of music is the big one; trying to run, trying to meditate. If I don’t do those things regularly enough, I will have no capability to be the best I can be. It’s a combination of self-love and thinking outside the box with whatever I’m doing.
Finally, the clubs have opened. What song will you be playing first? TLC: “One More Stripe” by Family of Intelligence.