An evocative mix from a London favourite.
Spend some time scrolling through DEBONAIR's NTS archive and you'll get a good idea of what she's all about: post-punk basslines, grubby EBM, party jams and rumbling ambience. The London-based DJ has been involved with NTS since its inception, and her fortnightly show is firmly established as one of the station's essential listens. Having made her name as an adventurous radio DJ, the past 18 months have seen her become a club and festival regular, too. In 2018 there was a memorable closing set at Unsound in Kraków, plus appearances at Dekmantel Selectors and some of the most talked-about dance floors in Europe (De School, Panorama Bar, Printworks, DC-10) and the US (Hot Mass, Honey Soundsystem).
DEBONAIR's RA podcast lands at the intersection of her two musical sides: meticulous radio programmer and dynamic club DJ. "Bangers are great, but often I connect to sound more when it's sneaky and creeps up on you," she says. RA.677 is full of daring and well-executed changes of pace, style and tone—exactly what we've come to expect from DEBONAIR.
What have you been up to recently?
The first part of this year has whizzed by. Highlights have to include going over to play in SE Asia for the first time, live soundtracking a runway show for London Fashion Week and my second North America tour in March. I somehow seem to have been welcomed onto the underground circuit in the US and have been playing the most incredible parties and treated with such kindness—it's been a dream.
I've also started implementing quite regular breaks to my gig schedule after getting pretty burnt out at the end of last year which has been super nice and necessary, a good time to explore other avenues of creativity too.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I started off recording this mix in my bedroom then moved to the SSR Studios in Camden after my neighbour started making noise complaints. I used two Pioneer CDJ-2000s and a Technics-1210 turntable, as well as a Pioneer DJM-650 mixer. I also went over the mix at the end with Rupert Clervaux who removed some of the harsh frequencies that the older records threw in.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The mix is a very honest insight into my headspace when I made it about a month ago. I tried to show my essence along with alluding to what I might play during various different situations. Bangers are great, but often I connect to sound more when it's sneaky and creeps up on you, so I tried to keep this mix dynamic with both arresting and enticing elements whilst also satisfying the podcast format and dragging everyone along for the ride.
Some of the tracks used I've been rinsing in my club sets for time and needed to exorcise from my canon, others are favourites from my record collection I wanted to shine a light on, and a couple are relatively new finds that really struck a chord. It felt stark and important to feature the heavily political music of Fana from the In Training crew; I met them last year and felt real parallels with how we play and admire the clear connection of their work and beliefs. A nasty edit that I knocked up the other day found its way onto the mix too.
We'd love some insight into your current digging methods. How do you go about keeping on top of music for DJ sets and your radio show?
I guess we're all pretty fatigued by internet bombardment, so touring has reignited my love for record shopping as it's such a grounding way to acquaint yourself with an unknown city and also keeps my digs varied and not too loyal to one scene or sound. Local recommendations are the best—I got a great haul at Invisible City in Toronto recently, and when I'm home Tome Records in Hackney is my go-to. Second-hand records certainly carry the most appeal to me and even searching a new dig online can set you up with a whole new YouTube algorithm.
I've also reached a wonderful point where listeners to my radio show are sending in fantastic music that I'm able to regularly feature on the show—this is truly such a joy. Full-circle.
You're a key part of London's club scene. Which venues, DJs and promoters in the city are exciting you most right now?
Funnily enough, one of the hardest things about touring is feeling less and less connected to London. I certainly did feel like a London clubbing rep a few years ago having fallen deeply for the city after living here for a few years, but being away so much makes that tricky. The programming and sense of community I feel at the monthly Hyperdub party Ø gives me life though, and Chapter 10 also feels like home; I've certainly had some of my best nights there and the first time I played a few years back was a pretty monumental moment in my career.
Ormside Projects, The Cause and Fold are excellent spaces that have opened up in recent years that give me hope for this city! I'm also 100% sure that No Symbols is the best London shubs I've never been to as it's always on when I'm away, but vibe and lineup are so on point. Englesia is putting on those dope Uniti parties and Alien Jams has been holding it down for time with incredibly innovative curation.
I think it's the low-key legends that you can stumble across in London that are a real treat to see as you can feel the years that they have put into their craft. Jaye Ward, ELLES, Gary The Tall, and Elle Andrews are all wicked, and any time I share a bill with Cherrystones, whose mixtapes were blowing my mind and educating as a teenager, is a true honour. Flora Yin-Wong, Shannen SP and Sega Bodega are carving out their own paths which is super exciting, and Pandora's Jukebox's selections are sublime.
I also want to shout The Six Figure Gang—their shared come-up and support of each other has been glorious to watch and it's so heartening to feel that regressive power structures in this industry could be changing through raw talent, sheer defiance and collective power. Bun the gatekeepers.