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A Sit Down With DJ Reid Speed

11:06 Mar/09/2018

Drum and bass queen Reid Speed has been at the top of her game for years. Since she broke into the scene in the late ’90s, she’s continued to outshine her competitors, not only in drum and bass, but throughout the genres of Dubstep, trap and twerk music as well.


"The excitement of music never fails me."


When did you start to break into the scene? Was it when you were living in Manhattan or Brooklyn?

I started DJing in ‘96, and in early ‘97 I got my first booking at a club called Camouflage, which was a weekly drum and bass party. Actually that is not true, my first booking was at a party called Hot Fudge Sundays. They basically were like ‘Bring five records and you will get a tryout.‘ After that tryout, they said I had done a good job and invited me to be a resident of Camouflage. Then, I became a resident of Stuck On Earth, which was the largest rave company back then. Then, I became a resident of Direct Drive, which was like the next drum and bass party that became the Saturday night drum and bass party. Playing for Stuck On Earth really broke me into the scene. I would play for 5,000 people all the time. They had huge parties and I got to play at all of them, it was pretty amazing.

Who are your greatest musical influences?

I have so many influences, from old stuff like classical music, to The Doors, Nirvana, Metallica, to sample pioneers Negativland, to drum & bass artists like Andy C, Noisia & Pendulum, to all the amazing up & coming producers just starting out, the world is teeming with inspiration.

Back in the beginning, people were often paying more attention to the fact that you were a female DJ than people were paying attention to your actual skills, how has this changed over the years from your perspective as more and more women have broken through into what is still a (unfortunately) fairly male dominated arena?

The scene has changed, and many more women are in the scene, but sadly the mindset hasn’t evolved much here in the USA. When I started there were few women, but the few were very good (Heather Heart, Dubtribe.) Now, for every talented female DJ, there are 6 more trying to make it on looks or sex or by virtue of their femininity alone, with minimal skills to speak of. It seems that Europe is ahead of the US on this, as many talented women are quite successful over there. Here, I have noticed more female promoters and photographers making real progress and doing amazing work. But at the club its the same old “Hey hun, do you need a box to stand on? Let me show you how a mixer works”. All I can hope for is that more women like myself, Shortee, Colette, Heather, Annalyze, Lauren Flax & J. Phlip keep coming up to go head to head with the boys. Only through strength, skills and solidarity can we make change!

I noticed you have a lot of mixtapes on Soundcloud.

Before I'm a producer, I'm a DJ. That's what I'm known for. The whole art of DJ'ing is a very niche market thing. I was lucky to get my foot in the door at a time when the way to “make it” in dance music was to get signed to a label for a mix CD deal. That was cool, I did that, I did that whole thing, that's how I did my first tours and played at all the big festivals, really got established. Because that's what I feel like I excel at, I've just always done that. I've put out tons of mixes because that's what I'm good at and that's what I love doing. I love putting other people's music together in what I consider to be new and different ways. I don't know how many times people have been like, ‘I think trap is whack but your trap mixes are different and so much better.' I'm happy that people have that response. I think it has a lot to do with being a DJ, instead of just a producer that learns how to DJ after the fact and just pushes the sync button or uses a controller or something.

What about Play Me records?

No, for Play Me records, all that’s required is skill and the persistence to get through to us. If you’re really good, and your sound matches what we want, and we can find you, we’ll probably put your music out. Like we don’t care if you don’t have a large social media following, however if you have none, and you are social media illiterate, we probably won’t fuck with you because if we can’t tag you in a post, it’s probably not going to help anybody.

Is it difficult to balance everything?

Yeah, but if you want to do something fun for a living, you have to work really hard at it. One in a million gets to be plucked from nowhere. For whatever its worth, he gets to be famous. For the other 99% of us, it's just hard work. Its hard to run 2 labels, DJ at least once a week, do all the work thats associated with DJ'ing like listening to all the new tracks, prepping music for sets, then going through submissions, listening to all the stuff we have on the label, trying to do new compilations, trying to get videos made, and then trying to produce my own music on top of that. But at the end of the day you're like, I love what I do. I'm really grateful for whatever I get to do. I'm proud of what we've done with Play Me in the sense that all I've ever wanted to do was make a place for people to have a chance to not have to work at some shitty job, and instead, be able to do their art for a living. I feel like, with Play Me, that's really the core of what we really do. We found our niche with discovering new artists and giving them the first platform from which to be noticed. I'm happy when they get signed to bigger and better labels, that means I've done my job right.

Who is your role model? Who was your model growing up?

My biggest dance music role model is Andy C. He started out in the business young, quickly established himself as a top DJ and great producer, started an amazing record label that kills it to this day, and still remains as one of the best DJs on the planet, all while being a totally down to earth guy. One of my role models growing up was Kurt Cobain, but that didn’t end well. His untimely demise was one factor in me being drawn away from alternative rock and into the rave scene.

You have such an amazing list of artist under your label. We’ve actually had a couple of them play for us (DJ Rabbit and Lea Luna) several years ago. How would a new, and up-in-coming artist submit their work to you?

We prefer that artists submit via private soundcloud link to soundcloud.com/playmerecords or by attaching an mp3 directly to us at [email protected] Links to download mediafire, etc, are not appreciated- we will often skip those. If the song has been shared with many others on soundcloud, its not likely we will consider it unless its only a clip, and that clip would have to be amazing... we prefer full songs, if artists are worried about theft they should fade in and out the intros or add drops, but we never share people’s music that is submitted to us.

Do you get nervous before a DJ gig?

I did get nervous for about the first 2 years. Then it was like riding a bike.. pure joy.

How is the health of the EDM scene at the moment in your eyes? Is there anything you wish was different to how it is?

The scene is at a convergence right now….There is an overabundance of music, and therefore crap, but also therefore amazingness. The possibility of a new artist to actually make a living off their art has never been better. So I am stoked, all this mainstream business coming in obviously waters it all down, but helps people live…

What kind of advice would you give to women coming up in this industry or genre?

Work really hard. Don't worry about the boys club and just do your thing! However, in this day and age if you want to become a DJ you need to be a producer first, so if you want to be a DnB DJ you need to be like a famous DnB producer. So study up your Ableton, get your chops, make some tunes and get ‘em out. Keep your head down and the volume up. There’s no one path for anyone. Everyone's gotta find their own path, whether they’re male or female or somewhere in between. Its all the same.


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