Last week 1 More Thing’s featured artist was Reid Speed. This week it’s none other than fellow long-standing ambassador for jungle drum & bass stateside, badass selector and producer Mizeyesis.
A card-carrying protagonist in the North American scene since its inception, Mizeyesis’s journey began as a devout fan before diving deeper and deeper into a creative journey over the last 20 years that’s seen her building an exceptional body of work on labels such as Repertoire, Just Be, Omni Music and Faction Digital. Forever joining dots between the US and the UK, between the worlds of drum & bass and hip-hop and between kindred spirits online as both a radio host and as the US manager of the DnB Girls collective, Mizeyesis continues to blaze a unique trail, armed with a sound that taps deep into the roots of techstep, jungle, halftime and all the best sounds in between.
As you read this Mizeyesis is back on home soil in Boston, fresh from a long-awaited return to the UK which she describes as a musically reviving. Just a quick glance at her Tweets will tell you how much she enjoyed her time over here.
Real talk… When I get home back to the US, and I hear or see one of y’all not dancing to #jungle, I’m showing you clips of how they do it over here in the UK. Stop saying it’s too fast, you don’t get it, etc. Close your eyes and feel it. You just need a heart! Cha! 🙌 🔥
I caught up with Mizeyesis a few weeks back during her time over here to discuss her roots, her connection with vital UK institutions like Rupture, Technicality and EQ50 and the parallels between hip-hop and jungle drum & bass…
When was the last time you were here in the UK?
I got booked for Rupture for 2018. I was meant to come in 2020 but we all know what happened there!
We do. How’s this trip been?
It’s been great. I feel musically revived and I’ve been having some of the best times of my life. I’ve got some very close friends who’ve mentored me for a lot of years behind the scenes and it’s kinda surreal… They’ve been like, ‘You know what Stacey? You’re ready. It’s time. You’re working at a different level now.’ It’s been interesting and very inspiring.
Can I ask who?
Definitely Outrage, he’s been great regarding music production. Chris Inperspective for music business. Brockie has been a really awesome friend. Jumpin Jack Frost as well. They all came over to the US at different points years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. There have been a lot special friendships made over the years. Flight has been an incredible friend and supporter. Mantra, too. There’s a sisterhood there between myself, Mantra and Flight. Meeting Natasha Sweetpea more recently, too, has been great. I really respect them all.
Yes! You’re all together for Outlook this weekend. You posted earlier today saying, ‘Sometimes reality is better than your dreams’. That’s pure goosebump material right there.
Absolutely. I was thinking not so long ago – ‘what are some of the festivals I’d like to play?’ The first one I thought of is Outlook. Then Boomtown. But especially Outlook because of what they stand for and how they push the cutting edge of electronic music. That’s something I want to be part of. I put that thought out there, I got booked for Renegade Hardware and Flight and I were talking. She said, ‘What are you doing while you’re here?’ I told her how long my trip was and she said, ‘Hold that time, I got something for you.’ Then she came back and told me about Outlook. It was like, ‘Oh my God! I feel like I’ve manifested this. It’s something I really wanted to do for a long time.’ I feel incredibly blessed.
Amazing. This is much more than a tour isn’t it? This is a reunion and reconnection…
It really is. I’ve been through some intense healing. Just some things I needed to release. Energetically I’m a very spiritual person. I believe in metaphysics. Energetically where the UK is I believe is the third eye chakra as it shifted from Tibet. And when you look at what the UK is doing in terms of pushing forward mental health initiatives, how you’re prioritising women and non-binary people and have a lot of environmental initiatives and so on… Well that’s filtering to us in the US. We’re starting to go through those changes, we’re not where you guys are but we’re getting there.
That’s so interesting to hear. Being in the UK, under the Tories, post-Brexit, things feel nasty and divisive and greedy. You’ve provided an alternative and much more positive perspective.
I feel like the next big change will happen from you guys first. Something will snap and people will say, ‘No! We’re not going to take it!’ And that will inspire a change globally. Like how Brexit triggered some very negative actions in the US but the positive outweighs the negative every time and I do believe in you all. I really do.
I have goosebumps again! A bit of hope. It’s easy to get ground down.
It is. While I’ve been here I started to get run down by the Roe vs Wade atrocities in my country, and I had to snap out of that. I said to myself, ‘You’re in London. You need to enjoy this.’ I’m glad I did that.
Totally. You can’t let that affect the positive work you’re doing. Tell me about your role with the DnB Girls…
So the whole thing started with Kilma who, at the time, was known as DJ SW@T. The first members were B Traits, Jams and several other Canadian women, because it began as a Canadian collective. B Traits blew up and eventually left the group, then they brainstormed an idea about expanding into the US and around 2012 I got an email from Jams and Kilma asking me if I wanted to join and be the US manager for the team.
What was interesting about that was TC Izlam, God rest his soul, had really impressed upon me that I needed to work with more women in drum & bass. Then that just happened out of nowhere. One step after the other, like a manifestation of minds. From there we brought on Iris who is our director of marketing and web design. Then we brought on Al Blair, who is known as TGR Bass, and then Lovelace who is our Associate US manager. That’s now built up to 12 members in the US and 12 members in Canada and it’s such an inspiring collective to be part of.
Totally. A vital time too. I spoke to Reid last week about the bro-ification of D&B and how now, as D&B is rising again in America, it’s important to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Definitely. We advocate each other in a very healthy way. There are other groups like Siren Project who aren’t exclusively drum & bass and do full genres but have the same energy and same vision and goal. I’ve gotta shout out LA Rude Gyalz in California too. There was another group, Sister with chapters in NYC and San Francisco who definitely laid a big foundation in the country in terms of femme run collectives. My early bookings in NYC, some were through Sister who was Strife and Winter at that time. It’s great you’ve spoken to Reid Speed, my second booking was actually opening up for her. This was when she was in New York and we become good buddies. She kinda looked after me as there weren’t many of us doing this then and we needed to stick together. Empress as well, we can not forget her!
Absolutely. Reid really enlightened me on the roots of jungle in America. Those first few years sounded bliss and very similar to what had happened in the UK a few years before.
Right! I actually fell into it by accident in 1996. I didn’t know that was what it was. But 97 I was more present and I knew that’s what I wanted. I knew what it was, I loved it. We’d go to Konkrete Jungle in NYC, then to nights in Connecticut, Massachusetts and then, to bigger raves all over the East Coast.
I was a professional dancer and I loved dancing to house and drum & bass. I had no interest in DJing whatsoever, I just loved the music and would buy CDs and read everything I could about it. Then the transition into DJing came around 2001 when I retired from dancing due to injuries. And 2002 is the beginning of Mizeyesis.
What made me want to get into DJing was that I wanted to hear the sound of drum & bass that I liked. I wasn’t hearing it any more. It wasn’t as musical to me any more. So when I started DJing the first producers who pushed the sounds I loved were Fracture & Neptune, High Contrast, Digital & Spirit. I got introduced to Bassbin, Technicality, Scientific Wax, and the Rupture guys before Rupture was a thing. All these different movements that were just starting. We kinda grew together in a way.
Was there a bit of connection with some of them through early internet radio? Like Jungletrain?
So before Jungletrain I started a collective in Connecticut called Threshold Sound in 2004 and one of the first major bookings I had was Breakage in 2006. That pushed me towards more of the UK heads. We were drawn to each other in the sounds we were playing. But Jungletrain was part of that and internet radio was definitely a platform we all shared.
I’m really interested in the radio shows you did with the Wu DJ Coalition…
Oh yes! So that was interesting. I was approached by Antidote to join Jungletrain and at that time, Elijah Divine, my MC here, is a hip-hop MC as well. He started to work with Wu Tang Clan when they were developing another group Students of Shaolin, and he was brought on as a member. Elijah would promote all of his friends and, Justice Hype, Manager at Wu Tang Management was very interested in what I was doing as he knew TC Izlam, and that I was working with him and Zulu Nation via Hipstep Zulu as well.
One day he, Justice reaches out to me, ‘How would you like to do a show with Wu DJs teaching hip-hop heads about drum & bass and electronic music?: So I utilised the sounds of jungle, drum & bass and dubstep and showcased them from a hip-hop perspective. The show lasted six months. Having that and Jungletrain was a lot. So I chose to stick with Jungletrain. Antidote brought me on there and he was a big mentor for me before he passed away. I’m glad I made that choice. But I do cherish those shows with the Wu DJs.
I love that. For me drum & bass is an extension of hip-hop culture. Like Goldie says, they’re carriages on the same train. Most D&B heads I know are hip-hop heads but I don’t always see it the other way around. Hip-hop heads sometimes need more convincing…
So here’s an interesting thing about the 90s. When I started going out, a lot of hip-hop heads were into jungle. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen footage or heard about Fugees and The Roots going to Blue Note? That actually happened and a lot of that would be down to the influence and information from TC Izlam and Konkrete Jungle. They knew about it, they knew who and what to look for.
In 1999 I met Sean P at a rave and he was a big jungle fan. Dinco D of the legendary Leaders of the New School occasionally would mc with us along with TC Izlam as they were very close. That was incredible as his jungle mcing is amazing. We still keep very much in touch.
What was interesting in 2013 TC Izlam called me and Meszenjah to do a set at the Zulu Nation anniversary and we were the only ones who played drum & bass. We played ragga jungle, the hip-hop remixes, the pop remixes. We tore it up! I wish I recorded that because that was something serious. Every hip-hop personality who was in that room came up to us and said ‘wow thank you for playing proper jungle and drum & bass.’
We had DJ Red Alert, Grandmaster Flash at the show and then, the entire Boot Camp Cliq was in the green room. Black Rob, God rest his soul, said, ‘Thank you for playing proper jungle.’ I’ll never forget that. So among hardcore hip-hop heads, there’s a very strong love for jungle. There’s actually a video around at the moment, Tony Touch who’s one of the biggest hip-hop DJs in the world playing a R.A.W remix at a hip-hop show and there are kids brocking away in front of him. To see that was just like, ‘Yeah! It’s happening! We’re back!’
Yes! Let’s touch on TC Izlam more. I was unaware you had such a strong connection. He really understood the UK vibe and take on MC culture didn’t he?
He totally did! He was always trying to bring all the communities together have everyone have a good time and elevate things to a higher level. I met TC at Konkrete Jungle back around 1996-1997. When I started DJing he immediately said, ‘I’m going to help you. I can see your potential and I am going to help push you.’ He did, too. He really did. He was tough! He told me there would be a specific type of breakbeat that would be mine. He was right – it’s that techstep Metropolis breakbeat which has become a sound I’m best known for now. So it’s mad he knew.
Like a sommelier or a tailor. Very perceptive. How the production journey been for you? It’s another discipline isn’t it?
Totally. I was studying music since I was nine. My uncle is a classical pianist. When I was young he taught me piano classes, then I went to a music school in Brooklyn until 12, then jazz bands through my regular school playing bass. As I got more into studying dance in my teens, and eventually going to college for dance performance, I put music on a bit of a backburner but when I started DJing it was easy for me to understand the music theory behind everything.
My first Rupture booking was 2013 and I remember sitting with Double O and he said, ‘So Stace! When are you going to start working on the beats?’ I was like, ‘Ummmmm…. I’m working on it!’ But really I wasn’t. I had Ableton 7 Lite and that was as far as it went really.
But he really made a strong impression on me and said, ‘You’ve come a long way with DJing but if you want people to know who you are, start making a few tunes’. So I went home inspired and started soaking up the basics and watching as much as I could. As time went on I got signed to Hexagon Digital working with Skru on the Sea Jah EP, then started a collaboration with Awakefm for a release on Omni Music for the Convergence EP. I then started to finish my solo project on Faction Music Recordings where I released a full EP Seven Systems. I really took learning about music production really seriously. I dived into masterclasses and started pushing myself and I still do.
It’s never-ending isn’t it? A stand out for me from you so far is Sultry on JustBe. Love that one. Tune!
Oh thank you! I guess I have to be better about giving myself credit. I was having this conversation with my friends – who are the dons – the imposter syndrome I dig myself into, thinking I’m not good enough and I don’t deserve this is terrible. I need to stop and give myself some credit and say ‘hey, I’m good at what I do! I deserve this!’
It’s inspiring when people tell you that they like something you’ve made. You telling me you like Sultry or someone said to me the other day they like Call To The Ancestors or this other tune or that tune. I definitely have plans over the next 6 months to release more music.
When you’re back you’ll be bubbling with ideas!
Absolutely. I’ll be getting straight in the studio.
Sick, what’s up next?
There may be something on Pinecone Moonshine an amazing label spearheaded by NicTVG and some other labels. There are a lot of shows coming up and I’m working with an organisation called Girls Rock mentoring kids this summer. They’re young women who have an interest in music production and I love doing things like that. I believe it’s so important to give back. I’ll be doing a lot more course work, too. I’m a student – and will always be – a student at Education & Bass, I learn so much from Outrage and Nurve and Digital. They’re a great school and they’re so comprehensive and thorough in their explanations.
And locally here in Boston enjoying the connection I have to Elements which is a weekly DNB night started in 1999 by Lenore still going string, Vertebrae by Briana Paon who is an amazing dj and producer here, MayDay by Audiofields who moved here from Denmark, Garage Sale by Phibonnaci our garage and 2step Queen and, New England Junglist led by Dig Doug and so much more. There’s a lot of awesome music movements in this area. And we’re all very passionate about expanding music the correct way.
Perfect. When’s your next trip back here?
Probably fall, if not then I’ll back early next year. You guys have such a good scene and everyone is so positive and welcoming. I can’t wait to come back.