DJ Madam X
Getting her start in the Manchester scene, DJ Madam X is an antidote to the UK’s London-gaze. Rising through the ranks of Murkage, she has made pit stops on Benji B’s Headphone Mix and Channel 4’s Four to the Floor. Her mix of dark bass lines, Funk and Disco, popping Mancunian MCs and Grime classics is a selection too broad for boxes which is why you can find her at Brixton Jamm, Leeds Festival and Annie Mac Presents: Warehouse Project. We went on record with Madam X to talk about building a career on her home turf, on her own terms and how she’s bringing new artists with her.
How did you go from Studying English Lit in Manchester to making a name for yourself as a DJ?
I always knew I’d be involved in music in some capacity and I enjoyed English Lit at school, so it made sense for me to study in a city like Manchester with such a musically rich background. Being there really helped kickstart things, and the local Manny scene is so tight, the support system is incredible.
What influences come together to make a Madam X set?
Anything really. I don’t like to focus on one genre because I’m into a lot of stuff. I like to draw influences from all over, and connect obscure sounds and music that might not necessarily make sense together but sound interesting when you execute it. A lot of the music I play is bass-heavy, taking elements of Techno, Garage, Grime etc, and I might throw in a couple Old Funk records here and there, but I don’t usually plan my sets anymore. I kind of just respond and react to what I’m getting from the audience and go with the flow. A lot of it is influenced by the Manchester scene, and I’ve learnt a lot from watching other DJ’s I respect play and do their thing, so that’s inspired me massively as well. Jonny Dub for instance, definitely a huge influence of mine.
From a DJs point of view, how has the scene changed since you got involved?
Depends what scene we’re focusing on. I think ‘underground music’ as a whole is always developing and moving forward in it’s own lane, and there’s definitely more attention and focus getting drawn to Manchester right now which is great to see. But I think just generally, things are moving forward in a positive direction for myself and the artists I play with. Grime especially is drawing all kinds of audiences, from all over the world now, and it’s interesting to see how different the raves were back then, to how they are now. Not bad different, just interesting that Grime is mobilising in such a way that it’s attracting more people to it’s culture.
You said a few years ago that you would play old grime classics and newer instrumentals because you weren’t feeling many MCs at the time. Having collaborated with upcoming artists Novelist and Streema, do you think MCs have stepped it up?
The stuff happening with Levelz right now for me, is the most exciting thing to come out of the UK. All of the lads involved; Skittles, Chunky, Black Josh, Truthos, T-Man, Chimpo, Sparkz and Fox, are well respected in their independent projects so when the whole thing came together, and they joined forces to create one big-ass Manchester super-group, the response was inevitable. Those guys have always been sick though. But in this case, strength in numbers (especially when you’ve got a whole city behind you).
Because of your involvement in the Manchester scene, your sets are different than they might be from a born and bred Londoner. Is there a noticeable difference between the music scenes?
Definitely. London is so big, there’s tons of music scenes doing their own thing, but there’s something about Manchester where the music that comes out of the city has a unique sychnronised energy to it. I’ll always be interested in the music coming out of Manny, but I’ve been living in the city for the last 5 years, so I’m bound to be.
Do you think that each city’s approach to music promotion is different?
I think it’s just different priorities. In London it seems more common to publicly document your movements and utilise social media platforms, but there’s an element of narcissism connected to it that can sometimes make it feel a bit contrived. Manchester doesn’t seem as bothered with that aspect of music promotion. It’s more about recording good music, than recording your social activities. I get it because London is more of a competitive playing field and it’s part of developing brand awareness, but if the product isn’t legitimate, and you rely on your online reality moreso than your art, then you’re discrediting yourself. In Manny if you whipped snapchat out in the middle of a dance, or at some afterparty chilling at your mate’s studio, you’d get shutdown very quickly for being a “knob’ead”.
Social media, and Instagram in particular has become essential for any brand these days. Do you think social media has played a role in helping develop your career?
I’m not sure. I think the audience that listen to the kind of music I play are definitely practioners of social media, so in that sense I can see how connecting or communicating with them helps to move things forward. But I don’t have tactical strategies in place. There’s certain things you can do I guess, to get more followers like selfies, or uploading more pictures of yourself / body etc etc but too much voyeurism makes me uncomfortable. At the end of the day, my main focus is the DJing and music. If stuff like Instagram, or Twitter started becoming my main priority, I’d have to stop and check myself.
How have you balanced using it to get music out there and feeding into the filtered reality?
I try not to overthink it really. Sometimes a new press picture I’ll upload gets more attention than a mix I put up, but that says more about the environment of the industry than anything else. So if there’s a way I can combine the two so the mix will organically reach more people then you might attach the mix to a facebook post with a picture of yourself DJing alongside it. It’s not really rocket science to be honest, but usually if it’s something I’d crease at, I just wouldn’t post it.
Last year you released Kaizen Movements, a compilation on your label. How did that come about?
It felt like the right time. There was so much sick stuff happening in music, and I wanted to draw attention to all the amazing artists I kept coming across. It was more of a selfish venture to be honest because it was 100% all about the music I like and love, so when people started downloading it and getting on board it felt really good. It was a really big commitment for the artists as well, as they all created exclusive pieces for the compilation to put out, so I was really grateful they got on board! Took a good 8 months to finish, but we did good.
The first volume featured many upcoming artists and you’ve also collaborated on community music projects. Is showcasing new talent essential to you?
For sure, it’s definitely an aspect of the job I take very seriously. People look at DJ’s to educate and show them good music, so having that platform where you can showcase new talent is important to utilise.
What can we expect next from Kaizen?
If you weren’t a DJ, what would you be doing?
August 29th – Leeds Festival Oct 16
Fabric London Nov 26th
Annie Mac Presents Nov 27th – Warehouse Project // Annie Mac Presents