From founding The List to multiple features on BBC Introducing
It’s been a hectic 2022 for Anna Key so far.
Whether she’s releasing on the likes of GZ Audio, Militant Music or Distorted Records, playing on Rough Tempo or managing the ever-growing beast that is The List – a project that unites all talents in drum & bass across two lists of male and female and non-binary artists to raise money for prostate and breast cancer awareness – Anna has been entrenched in drum & bass this year.
That’s not to mention recent support on BBC Introducing where she recently broadcast a mix showcasing her unruly sonic brew. Unrelenting in its energy, powered by savage breakbeats and tapping into a classic neuro energy with a subtle essence of punky freedom, Anna Key’s sound matches her name. Plenty more is expected to follow. Recently spotted collaborating with Plasmator on the epic and brilliantly theatrical Kiss The Ghost, 1 More Thing checked in to find out more…
What’s your musical background?
I’m self-taught on the drums, but I haven’t played them for quite a while. I learnt a bit of piano when I was younger but my parents weren’t very encouraging with the music side of things. They wanted me to be an accountant or barrister. I tried to do that. I did accounting for a few years but it wasn’t me. Music’s been the one thing that I’ve always seen through.
I hear that. Prior to drum & bass did you have another alias?
I went under the name Corrine and did a few different things. But I actually started off listening to D&B years and years ago. I had a crush on my friend’s brother, he had decks so I asked him to teach me to mix. The minute I put two tunes together it was like a revelation. The crush faded but the love affair with music continued. I played a few free parties locally then went through hard dance and trance and various phases.
Ah many many people have a hard dance chapter in their past.
Oh for sure. I’ve been in the Tidy Studio working with Digital Mafia and we had a track in Mixmag in around 2015. I did it with a friend of mine – Andy Whitby. He was a great mentor and taught me loads about the industry. But the move back into drum & bass has been relatively recent.
So would you consider yourself a new artist?
In all the years I’ve been involved in different things, I’ve learnt more in these last two years technically and about myself than I ever have. I definitely feel like a new artist in that sense, so yeah!
What triggered this level-uppery?
I had some personal things in life I needed to overcome, thought about things for a long time and knew that music had always been there for me. I’ve had a complete change in lifestyle, invested in a home studio and started really educating myself following channel like House Of Kush and artists like Stranjah and getting advice from people in the scene like Coda. He’s amazing, he’s gone so into it and given me so much feedback. Epicentre too. He masters my music but he comes back with feedback on things the track would benefit from.
Artists need that type of feedback!
You really do! And you need thick skin to deal with it. I’ve had Serum and Hybrid come back to me and come back with advice. Having feedback like that is priceless. These people have taken time out of their day to do that! So I learnt about transients and the kick and snare being in mono. I cleaned my drums up and I discovered Fabfilter Pro and it sounds like my drums are made in 2022 not 92 now.
Ha. And so the rabbit hole goes! It’s a dark science isn’t it?
You’re constantly learning. For instance I’ve learnt having drums in key. I used to chuck drum samples over each other without even knowing about key. Now I build all my drums and basses and try and keep things original. I’m getting a lot ore confident with it now.
You’ve had quite a few plays from BBC Introducing, right?
Yeah they’ve been hugely supportive, I’ve had 11 features over the last two years. Being interviewed and knowing my voice was being recorded was quite intense.
This is in Lincolnshire, right?
Yeah, there’s a few of us up here. Coda is round the corner, MC Storm who’s from hardcore is round here. I knew him from going into the local record shop back in the day. We spoke about doing a collaboration, which will be interesting.
I love fusion. I did a post the other day – I had a box with different styles in – techno, dnb, soul, jazz. I picked three out and said that’s what I’m going to make. It was indie jazz and trip-hop which was interesting. But I’m always trying to do different things and bring different elements together. I’ve had duck quacks, elephant screams, Nintendo beeping, soup dropping into a bowl, a zip. I like putting random sounds in there to see if people hear them.
Is there a prize for people who hear them and identify them correctly?
Haha. You know what? It’s hearing guys like Imanu and Buunshin and they’re so inspiring. That glitchy sound, it’s so off the wall and fresh. I’d love to pick their brains. So inspiring. I love how they’re so open minded about music and how they push the boundaries. They don’t make typical drum & bass at all.
They don’t! You’re heading to Canada next year, right?
Hopefully! My agent is working on things but there’s a lot to juggle with commitments at home, I’m in university too studying criminal psychology.
Wow. That sounds like a fascinating subject.
It is. Trying to understand what makes people do what they do? I’d love to make a difference in the world and maybe help children – that’s the point in someone’s life when they need support. We cover all kinds of topics around it. I’m currently studying forensic anthropology which blows my mind
Do the worlds of criminal psychology and music overlap in any way or influence each other? If you have a heavy topic do you make heavy music, for example?
Only in the way that I’ll be trying to revise and I’ll hear something in the background and it’s given me an idea I need to work on so I stop studying and go in the studio. That’s what’s happened to me today. I’ve written a very different track – like a classically influenced trip-hop type of thing.
We’ve got so many people to add. There is now a team of people taking submissions both here and in America, it’s been intense. The canvases are finalised and awaiting print. So we’re now looking to arrange an event for where we can get it auctioned. Tarq from Rough Tempo said we could leave the canvases there so people can sign them when they’re coming through.
Good shout. You had a Rough Tempo show, right?
I did play on Rough Tempo a lot but I’ve put DJing on the back burner for just a minute as I’m doing so many things. I haven’t done a show since April but I’ll be back later this year and will be prioritising it more.
Keeping the plates spinning!
Always. Something had to stop for a minute, but only temporarily. I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve made with production so it’s been worth it.
What releases do you have due? There was a great Plasmator collab recently on GZ Audio…
I had an EP on Distorted and a track on Militant Music. Damaged Wires. I might be collaborating with Tanz from Higher Levels. I’ve got the track with MC Storm. I’m collaborating with another producer and always working on new ideas. I must have hundreds of half or quarter finished tracks. I want to collab with more women! There’s been a few cropping up which is brilliant. There’s been so much support with people like Charlotte Devaney being so vocal and championing so many of us.
I love how she’s highlighting the wider world of talent. Sharing spotlight and saying to promoters not to just book the most popular names they always see but to actually dig for talent.
There are so many coming up now. Katalyst is smashing it. Mrs Magoo is coming up with bangers. It’s great to see more and more women coming through. I don’t actually experience very much misogyny from the industry.
It’s in the comments I see it in the most.
Yeah 100% People are really rude and they either don’t care or don’t realise. The recent one has been about what women wear when they DJ. I cover up as much as I can and end up sweating so much. But I want people to focus on the music, not my boobs, so what can I do?
Yeah you’ve posted about that and also how you can post of pic of yourself and get hundreds of likes but then five likes if you’ve posted a piece of music you’re proud of.
Yeah it can be really disheartening when you’ve put so many hours into a tune and really pushed your brain to do that but then a picture in a nice top gets much more interaction. But that’s also the brutal nature of algorithms and what people see on their timelines. But the clothes issue is a really frustrating one that can be avoided. Let people feel free to wear wat they like!
Hopefully that’s changing. And what you’re doing with The List is part of that. People can’t say, ‘Ah I don’t know who to book.’
I hope so and I wish we all could focus on the music. That’s what brings us together. I don’t want to see any beef or toxicity. And I have to say it’s the same in every genre, not just drum & bass. We all like the same thing and want to see it progress so we need to work together. No bitching about people or constantly comparing yourself to people, no hierarchy, just a community of people supporting each other, lifting each other up. Our goals are the same – we love music, whether that’s making it, DJing it, writing about it like you do, dancing to it, putting on events. We all love the same thing.
Love that. That’s the true spirit of anarchy isn’t it? We don’t need an overarching ruler, we can self govern…
Definitely. My dad brought up with those principals!