Sound Gallery is a Fuss feature where we interview a DJ or producer and invite them to curate a mix which exhibits their style, skill and talents. In this edition of Sound Gallery we feature Drum and Bass denizen, Ella G (Jami Ella Gavin) from Johannesburg. She shares her musical influences, preferences in style, diet, and hairdos, as well as the opportunities and obstacles in being a female DJ who shares a home with one of the best Drum and Bass DJs in South Africa.
You’ve always seemed so confident and comfortable in your own skin. Is that an innate quality or something you had to assume to do the job?
I’m actually rather shy in certain situations, like getting on stage and DJing, but like you say I had to assume a certain confidence when I started pursuing a DJing career. That said, I do think that I have always been comfortable in my own skin and have never let anything or anyone influence me to be something I am not.
What music did you grow up listening to?
Honestly, anything and everything! Having parents who work in music allowed me to be exposed to such a diverse range of music. Obviously excluding a few genres (i.e. Christian rock, heavy metal etc)
What are your current influences and how did you come about being a fresh RnB/Drum & Bass DJ?
Well, I started as a Drum & Bass DJ two years ago, and naturally started playing around with other genres from the very beginning. I have always loved Hip Hop and RnB and girly shit, so I started playing around and mixing in RnB. I really enjoy it.
How would you describe your style of mixing?
Naturally, I put a lot of emphasis on melodies in my mixing and I think that is probably because I come from a hip hop background
How would others describe your style of music/mixing?
I have no idea. But probably rather girly.
Coming from a strong musical background and living with Mr Green, I’m sure that you are given less credit by some for “having it easy”? How do you feel about that?
As far as coming from a musical background goes, I can say that the only way this has helped me in my DJing career is in understanding music, and having a broad taste in music which in itself has been a gift and has helped me pick up on mixing easier. However, I have never used it to my advantage in terms of my career: that was its own unique path, and I think my parents are proud of me for that. Living with Mr Green has naturally had its advantages – for example, if I have a question regarding production and other technical aspects, he is right there to ask. However I think that if people still have this idea of nepotism they should find something else to waste their energy on.
The special thing about the DnB scene is that it never compromises on the quality of what is being played. It does not matter who you are, if you are not good enough, you will not get booked.
That means that I would not have gotten very far if I had not had the passion and dedication it takes to learn a skill. I don’t own any equipment so even just getting decks to practice on required an effort from the get go.
What drives you?
My car (kidding). I guess the passion for the music, and the creativity it allows you to have, especially music production. Just creating and continuing to learn really. One should never stop learning!
Your style and sense of fashion is very unique and playful at times. What cultures, styles or looks do you draw your inspiration from?
I love Japanese fashion, and follow numerous fashion blogs that showcase Japan’s street style. But I think I take a little bit from everywhere, because I have been lucky enough to grow up with friends from such diverse backgrounds and many different influences, from literature to films and television. My style is not something that I put specific energy into: if something appeals to me, I will be inspired.
Who are some of your favourite brands at the moment?
I have always loved my sportswear brands – like Adidas and Nike. I am particularly obsessed with a UK brand called Lazy Oafs at the moment.
You definitely know how to rock your natural hair as well as braids and cornrows. What do you love about these looks?
Haha, one of my best homies and I went to high school together, and, sometimes, we would chill at break and she’d braid my hair – using a pencil. I guess that is how it started. She still braids my hair today, years later.
Are you reading anything interesting at the moment?
I’m reading Lena Dunham’s book “Not that kind of girl.” I suggest every twenty-something year old reads it, her essays and anecdotes are so relatable! And “Vagenda” by Rhiannon Cosslett and Holly Baxter, the spin off book to the feminist blog website http://vagendamagazine.com/
Have you always been a vegetarian?
My mother is a vegetarian so I have grown up not eating meat; I gave up red meat when I was about 11. I am on and off with eating white meat though, only because I got very ill the last time I stopped everything completely – so that kind of sucks.
What are your favourite things about Joburg?
The diversity! In no other city in SA can you meet and mingle with such a unique mix of people as you do here. The parks and lakes. And of course infectious energy.
Have you always wanted to be a DJ?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a vet, because I love animals, but I am bad at maths- so I learnt to count bars instead.
What is/are the main issues confronting women in the music industry?
Being differentiated as a “female” DJ and not just a DJ. Having your music compromised by or linked to your looks. Thinking you have it easy because you’re niche. I could go on but I think the fundamental issue is just being seen as a DJ and not a female DJ. I still have a very girly sound, but that doesn’t define me – it is just what I vibe to more.
I don’t want my sets to be remembered because I am a girl. I want them to be remembered because of my sound and skill.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having an aesthetic, but that should not (again) be the primary thing that defines you.
How do you prepare for a gig?
This depends on the gig. Some shows I don’t plan for at all, I just wing it and those always turn out to be the best.Some I make a loose playlist which can change depending on the crowd vibes too. I like to go find old and new music to buy!
We know that you are in the process of making your own music. Is there a message behind your music, and do you see yourself collaborating with anyone in the future (if so them whom)?
Not necessarily, but I hope it speaks to the soul or at least one person’s soul. I hope to collaborate with vocalists in the future. There is a female MC (TaiRa8z) who I have been working with, just getting practice in. We should be live soon. She is going to MC over my sets and I will be DJing for the group that she is part of. They’re called Zwart and they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
What is on your playlist at the moment?
Chance the Rapper – Surf
Kate Nash – Made of Bricks (it’s been on my playlist for years but I’ve recently rediscovered it)
Haim – Days are Gone
Dr Dre – Compton
What can we expect from you this spring?
A few more hip hop and RnB shows, and definitely some outdoor festivals.