Tomorrow sees the release of the Waterfalls EP by Mali Larrington-Nelson aka Shy One on DVA Music. She was also the first lady to grace the decks at the 4 To The Floor Sunday Sessions back in February. (interviewed by Kengo)
What was you musical upbringing like?
I came up under an ardent music lover, my mum who is a big hip hop head. So the first records i touched (which I probably wasn’t supposed to) were her records; things like Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest who were very important in our household, as well as Busta Rhymes, Missy…. a lot of filthy language to be honest. My mum had wicked taste – hip hop, neo soul, and around early 2000 broken beat came in, so I was listening to 4Hero, Silhouette Brown and from there it was just a progression of obsession. I started saving up my pocket money to buy singles every week. The first record I bought was Ikonz and Lil Kim’s “Get Crunked Up” (laughs) and Mo Fire Crew’s “OI” with the amazing B side remix.
Dad is also a DJ, my old man’s still doing his ting (Trevor Nelson – you can tell from my forehead innit!) so I listened to my dad on Kiss FM, it was still a pirate in ’93. I used to talk to the speaker because my mum used to say that I could communicate with him if I did. My mum used to send shout outs and my first shout out (on the dancefloor) was the night I was born.
You’ve mentioned broken beat that your mum was listening to. Recently you’ve been playing quite a lot with co-op one of the original parties to push that sound.
Yeah, it’s still a bit surreal and I’m still taking it all in. It’s nuts. IG Culture etc are people my parents know of/were fans of. My mum would have been one of the first people to play me his tracks. She was at Boiler Room raving it up. That was an insane experience because all of my broken beat record collection is by people who were on the line up – so that day I didn’t play that many records. It was humbling and an absolute honour.
Tell us a bit about the transition from becoming musically aware as a child to being an active participant in music.
I was collecting CD singles, and I started buying records before I had turntables. Then Jazzie B (soul II soul) bought me my first pair of decks which were some belt drives in the early 2000s. My dad and Jazzie also gave me some doubles (2 copies of the same record) which were RnB to get me started. I would go to places like Uptown Records and Blackmarket, saving up my pocket money to buy a few records at a time. Those were the days! Around 2004 I had collected enough records including some grime to get me a set on youth club radio. And then I ended up playing the odd random gig – obviously not paid – then went on to pirate radio a few years later. Nothing big yet but chilling behind the scenes but I was getting more and more obsessed.
And how about the production side?
I was about 14 when I got FL studio and started fiddling about with it. I didn’t have access to equipment so my set up was quite raw. I didn’t even have monitor speakers until a few years ago. Anyway, the music got picked up by Scratcha DVA. He used to play my stuff, he wasn’t the first grime DJ to play my stuff; there was DJ Sketch-E and Score 5 but Scratcha was consistent with it and he kept on asking me for tunes on his Grimey Breakfast show on Rinse FM. By the way – that was the best breakfast show EVER. It was hilarious. He had some wild stuff happen! He would have bootleggers come on the show and MCs run up on the set because the bootleggers had ripped them off etc etc … When I was at college studying I.T. I took a bit of a break with music but Scratcha hit me up and said he wanted to put a tune on the compilation he was doing and also wanted some tunes to release an EP. So that was my step up from a bedroom beat maker with beats circulating in the ends, working with a few MCs to being out there properly.
So your first release was?
It was called the “decaffeinated love EP” it was 2 of my tracks with 2 remixes. Shout out to T Williams and Numan who did the remixes. I made that with an Acer laptop with a pair of cheap earphones. No Midi Keyboard, no monitors and someone else just took care of some basic mixing and mastering so it wouldn’t mash up the system in the club and hurt your ears. It was pretty raw.
What can we expect from this release – it’s been a while since your first album. I find it hard to answer this question as I’m better at expressing myself musically than with words. The artwork helps to get the vibe across but it’s basically an oceanic/spacey collection of tracks spanning 130-150bpm with a lush vocal from Aisha Zoe.
In your opinion, what makes a good producer and who are the figures you were looking up to?
I’m not sure if I have the right to say what makes a good producer. I don’t have any musical training. If you have musical training and you listen to my music you’ll hear that I don’t have any of that knowledge – it’ll be all in different keys and that out of tune but I just go by feeling. I don’t like stuff that’s too polished. That’s the kind of music that resonates with me. I like stuff by K15, Henry Wu, 22a, obviously Scratch DVA who is pushing his sound and not sticking to one genre which I’m all about, EVM128, Norvis Junior… I can go on. It has to have some soul in it. It can be broken beat, grime, house – that’ll all be in my set but they’ll all have a thread of soul through it. I’m also about my bass, I like a disjointed drum pattern.
You started with the grime scene and then now you’re moving also in the broken beat scene. Are they two very different crowds?
I think a lot of the younger grime fans just missed out on it the first time round. I only know of broken beat because of my mum. She had CDs by 4Hero, Marc De Clive Lowe, Silhoutte Brown etc lying around the flat. and so I was lucky like that. Not all kids were into music like my brother for example – which actually upset me (laughs). He is now though. I don’t think it’s too much a generational thing, rather with things like bruk and what’s going on now it’s me and Henry Wu who are the younger heads on the line up. I was lucky enough to be exposed to that earlier and it struck a chord with me and influenced me. Now I’m tapping into that sound a lot more. I do have this feeling that a lot of people don’t want to hear what their parents played, but go with what’s popular, what their friends are listening to, or discover music for yourself. It’s a way of finding your own way while respecting tradition. My dad is a soul boy but I grew up with my mum which was more hip hop and garage so if you hear me play 70s soul now it’s something that I’ve started digging in the last few years. I’m going back and learning especially when I go to visit my dad now – Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd and all that good stuff too. I wish I’d had access to that music earlier!
What are you trying to do as A DJ?
Well, not to clear the dance floor first and foremost! (laughs) I like to cross genres – i can’t do that one genre thing so I like to bridge the gaps.
On the dance floor I’ll play a couple of house, funky and bruk tracks then maybe end with a few grime tracks as I think it can all fit in. I don’t want to say I educate because that would sound like I know everything but I do like to mix it up, especially I like to drop tracks that might be outside the expected genre to expose people to different sounds. It’s a journey, a little adventure; but it’s important for me that I’m having fun – I’m a bit selfish in that way that I will only be playing tunes that I love.
The new EP features 4 tracks with collaborations from Aisha Zoe and Single White Female. Out on DVA Music 23rd June on all platforms. Get it HERE
Also catch Shy One on:
Radar Radio 3rd Monday of the Month 6-8pm
Balamii 3rd Thursday of the month 5-7pm
NTS monthly Wednesdays 1-3pm