DJ, Producer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, promoter… E-Lisa wears many caps in this game. Often several at once.
Currently flexing on Dubplate Dread with a series of deep cuts that smoulder with soul but still carry the heaviness and darkness Ray Keith’s label is synonymous with, her sound is unique, rich in references and prone to exciting twists and turns. Above all, it’s the sound of a talented individual who’s finally able to express herself and explore her musical roots with no boundaries. Something she hasn’t always been able to do.
Last spotted on the label with good friend Ruckus, and now deep into the creation of her debut album, 1 More Thing caught up with E-Lisa for an interview and this exceptional mix. A journey through the styles and sounds that she’s embraced since her return to drum & bass over five years ago, it’s a full-flavour excursion with beats ranging from the likes of Sub Focus to Sl8r and stacks of E-Lisa’s own music, culminating with a beautiful unreleased collaboration with the late great Skibadee.
Check it out right here, get to know E-Lisa in the interview below and scroll right down for the tracklist.
Thank you so much for the mix! From what you told me, it sounds like you made it while juggling many other things in life. Not that you can tell!
Haha. Summer holidays innit! The minute my kids clock I’m on the phone or in a meeting then it’s, ‘Mum, mummy, mum, mummy!’ To be honest I think I work better under pressure. I need deadlines. If people say, ‘Take your time’ then it won’t get done. If I set myself a deadline then it’ll happen. It’s hard but I make it work because I love it. I don’t do it for any other reason. I’m not trying to be famous or big or anything like that. I just love it.
The best things happen that way, it’s not contrived, you’re doing your thing…
I think so. I just love the music. It keeps me focused. I’ve started so many things and given up but the music has always come back full circle for me. And all the things that have happened as result have happened naturally. I’m not manifesting it or trying to make it happen – I’m just plodding along in my lane and when cool stuff happens it’s like, ‘Wow okay’. I think some people get into this for validation and when things don’t happen as quickly as they’d expect, or they’re not getting the breaks they expect, that’s when they give up. Like, ‘This is too savage, this isn’t for me’. And it can be savage. It does take a long time. It’s not very fair. That’s why I’m as honest as I can be on my social media.
Realness is so important
Realness to yourself as well. Being true to yourself is so important. My mates take the piss out of me sometimes; I write the music, play the music, sing the music… You know? Like the comedy sketch. But that’s good for me. I get bored easily. So when I feel like I’m not making progress in the studio, I’ll do a few singsongs, when I get bored of that I organise an event. I’ve not been diagnosed with it but I’ve got a bit of an ADHD brain. I get bored easily, my attention span isn’t great, I have to be doing something to keep engaged. I know it confuses people; am I a singer? Am I a DJ? Am I a producer?
All of them! You’re coming into your own…
I’m a bit hit and miss with my singing if I’m brutally honest. It’s hard focusing on singing, producing and engineering.
Yeah usually that’s a process shared by multiple people
Yeah it’s double the time! That said, I also work with some amazing producers sometimes, like Ruckus who’s on my new single. He’s incredible. I come from a classical background but Ruckus is very technical and brings a different skill set. I bring the keys, pianos and melodies and all that and he’ll bring some really sick drums and get that snare perfect. We gel really well.
That’s wicked. You mentioned the classical background. I know the first E-Lisa tunes came out a few years ago but take us back further to your musical roots…
I got back into electronic music in 2016. I don’t want to get too deep with it but I was in an abusive relationship. I got out of it and finally I was myself again. I’d been prevented from doing anything I wanted to do in my life but I could be myself. I hadn’t been able to do that for so long. So with the classical stuff, that was me as a kid doing music lessons – playing the piano, playing in the orchestra and learning various instruments. The singing didn’t come until much later. My school teacher told me I should never sing again because I sounded so bad.
Yeah! That stuck with me for so long! But anyway I got back into electronic music because I’d moved back to my area in Essex where I used to grow up. I reconnected with friends I used to DJ with back in the 90s. We’d do pirate radio and local gigs back in the day. That was the Urban Takeover days, Micky Finn, Aphrodite, Adam F, all that stuff. The first thing I listened to when I came back into it was a Drum&BassArena compilation, then I heard Hospital Records and started checking all the liquid stuff and thought, ‘Oh wow this is a right bit of me!’
I had some friends who had a studio and they asked me to work on a track. We were talking about vocals and I started humming this topline. They said, ‘Can you sing that?’ I was like, ‘No way, I’m not singing that!’ But I did and it got played on BBC Introducing. It was mental! So I started teaching myself production- watching Ableton tutorials, I set up my social media pages and it grew naturally. I did a release – the Survivor EP, which was the first EP I wrote after coming out of that relationship. Then I linked up with Ray Keith…
That’s got to be an Essex connection?
No I just went up and badgered him at Hospitality In The Park! My mate knew Roger IC3 who Ray was with so I was really star struck like, ‘Oh my God it’s Ray Keith’. Me being me , I went up to him and was like, ‘I write tunes’. He was like, ‘Oh yeah? Send them to me. I’ll have a listen.’
I sent them to him and he said, ‘You’re not there yet, but I can hear something special here.’ He gave me loads of feedback, I took his advice on board and came back with a load of new tracks. He was like, ‘Rah! You’ve listened to me, these are great.’ It was the Craving For You tune which he was really into first. He’s been integral to my development; he’s been hard on me but I need that. I need to know what I can do better as a producer and get over my sensitivities and learn and develop.
I love how this new chapter for you has come about from going back to your roots
Totally. The craziest moment for me in that sense was with Skiba. I met him at Rough Tempo and he told me he moved to Southend which is where I live. We started jamming a lot and became friends. I had my 40th birthday during lockdown and we were doing this online nightclub called Zoom Dance to help people get through the times. I did a stream and asked him to come up and host and he did. To do that, having my ultimate idol come and MC on a set for me – that was mental. That was a real full circle of reconnection with my youth, with my passions and what was happening to me now. That blew my mind.
Wow that’s lush. How did the tune come about?
Well he was interested in what I was doing musically because it’s a bit different. It’s not mainstream, it’s not about big drops or big dancefloor bangers or any of that. I’m not doing this to sound current, I’m doing this to make sounds I want to hear. There are deep sounds, Amens, jazzy elements. It’s not very consistent but it’s what I love. And when I played it to Skiba he said really liked that about my sound and I think he liked the idea of working over it so he could show his versatility. His non drum & bass music was so good and it’s really sad he never got that out into the world. Anyway we planned an EP and wrote that tune in November last year. Sadly he passed away in February. He touched so many people didn’t he? He wasn’t a gatekeeper, he didn’t keep people out, he would work with anyone who he believed in.
He empowered so many people
He did. And not everyone is like that. Some people won’t work with you unless you’re a certain level. I’ve been approached by certain artists but their label has declined it because I’m not the right level or look.
I hate hearing stuff like this!!!
Well it’s why I do my own thing! But when someone comes along and breaks that barrier it’s very encouraging and positive. But I’ve done it, too. Some people send me things to collaborate and I’ve had to do what Ray’s done with me and give them very honest and real feedback. But that’s important and hopefully I’ve helped them learn. It’s hard in this industry isn’t it? We need to be honest with each other and be real. You see someone blowing up much quick than you and you think, ‘Rah! Why hasn’t that happened for me?’ And I’m not even being competitive! I’m not even doing it to blow up! But it’s very natural to have those thoughts and make those observations. It’s okay to feel like that – you just need to get yourself back to the reason why you’re doing it. Don’t focus on the end game, focus on the journey.
Love that. Your mix is a journey too!
I think I mix a bit like a vinyl DJ to be honest. Going back to the confidence thing I worry I’m not being technical enough but for me it’s selection. It’s cool to chop things up on six decks and go crazy but it’s just as cool to let the music play and bring things together in different ways. I try and bring things together that people maybe don’t expect to go together and use my musical ear in that way.
It definitely works! So what’s coming up from you next?
I’m working on my album for Dread. That’s the next thing. So there’s a lot of things happening there and a few things you can hear on the mix. Then, after that, who knows? I’ve also started doing events in Bristol. I was doing nights called Fluidic in Essex and a liquid brand called Method with my friend Adam InForce and now I’ve teamed up with friend in Bristol who’s got this brand Whomp Central.
I don’t think small clubs need big headliners – leave them for the big events and festivals and build up a community of local DJs and charge low. We got T-Lex and Oko in for the last show for example and it was rammo, there was a massive queue. Our next one is a freshers one in October with Euphonique, Bisco, Chronic Drop, Dizzy, myself and a few other guests. I’m looking forward to that. So yeah the events is something I’ve been doing for about four years now and that’s started to pay off. I get really nice feedback about the vibe. That’s really important for me. Even if only 50 people turn up but they have the best time then it’s a success.
Vibe is the most important thing!
It really is. Without that, what else have you got? It’s the vibe that keeps me coming back for more!
1 More Mix 006 : E-Lisa
Sub Focus – Off The Ground
Sl8R & Alibi – Break The Machine
Vibe Chemistry – Baddest
Sl8R – Hot Like Pepper
Winslow – Swing and Miss (Note Remix)
E-Lisa – Craving for you VIP
Jappa – No Retreat
E-Lisa – Night Rhythms
E-Lisa & Ruckus -Can You Feel
E-Lisa – Love Struck
TC – Found My Way
E-Lisa – Hold Me
E-Lisa & Masson – Dreams
E-Lisa – I Feel Love (bootleg)
E-Lisa – Music Saved My Life
SMG – Bango
Ogstan – Stronga
Oversensitive – ID
Wilkinson – Used To This
Bou – Warning
Jappa – Can’t Run Away
E-Lisa – Who Are You
Vibe Chemistry – Living Like This
Klue – Dark Arts (Alcemist Remix)
Covert Garden – Hold Tight VIP
E-Lisa Cut the pain VIP (Ruckus Remix)
Paul T & Edward Oberon – For Our love
E-Lisa & Ruckus – At Night
Illmatika – Oshun
Sl8r – Look At You
Harley D – This Is
E-Lisa & Skibadee – Take It Back
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