Hi Claire! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today. Where are you and how are you feeling? You recently saw the arrival of your first baby so I can imagine you might be a little sleep deprived… How’s it all going?
Thanks for having me! Yes I’m sleep deprived but very happy... and to be fair I’ve been sleep deprived for the last 15 years as a DJ anyway ;-) I’m currently in my home town of Brighton and slowly coming back to reality now as baby just turned 4 months, so I’m really looking forward to getting some new music out and getting back on tour after a 4 month break, spent in what I like to (affectionately) call the “poo and sick abyss” haha.
Ok so let’s start at the beginning…. Why ‘Just Her’? Where did the DJ name come from and what is the meaning [if any] behind it?
Well some people will already know that I was previously part of a male/female duo called Him_Self_Her. We are mostly remembered for a track called “Gone Too Long” which we released on Crosstown Rebels (it was a big one) and we were doing pretty well off the back of this, but unfortunately my partner in the duo suffered from anxiety and became unable to travel, so I was doing most of the production and gigging by myself, to the point where it became clear that I would need to start a solo project.
The name actually came to light in South Africa when I was playing as Him_Self_Her and someone asked me “Where’s the him?". I replied “There's no him tonight, it’s just her” and I realised it was quite a catchy way of nodding to the duo, but giving me my own fresh identity. It’s also a very subtle dig at the gender bias in the industry, as there have been many occasions where people have assumed I didn’t make the music, or that I would be a poor DJ because I'm ‘just the girl’ in the duo. It has taken me a while to establish myself as a solo artist and show people that I was actually the driving force behind Him_Self_Her.
Whilst reading your Resident Advisor DJ bio it states you were eager to play all instruments and spent time crafting mixtapes – Can you tell us about your early inspirations and what kind of music you listened to growning up? Did your parents listen to anything ‘cool’? Do you think any of this has influenced your sound today and if so, how?
Oh gosh it's a bit embarrassing really but yes I was a total music geek as a kid and I used to record my own radio shows in my room and try to mix from cassette to 7” vinyl and back again. I started buying music in physical formats from a really early age too and still have a huge collection of vinyl and CDs, although I threw all my cassettes away years ago which I’m pretty gutted about now, there would have been some gems in there, including some mixtapes from local house nights that would probably have been collectors items now. I’ve still got my Sasha live at the Eclipse cassette though thanks to lending it to a friend who recently returned it to me (thanks Rob!) - one of my all time favourite mixes. My dad threw every genre of music at me as a kid, from blues to opera to pop to hip-hop which definitely sparked my interest. Then in my teens I was really into the whole electronica & trip hop scene like Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack. I guess that is still my favourite genre outside of house & techno now and it definitely influences the stuff that I make.
You are quite an accomplished musician. Not only do play a myriad of different instruments, you are also a songwriter, engineer, lecturer in Music Production and studying for your Masters Degree! Phew.. If this wasn't enough you also run your own brand identity and label called ‘Constant Circles’ – described as “a unique concept in which music & contemporary visual art are combined.” How was ‘Constant Circles’ born? Why did you choose this name and what does it mean? Can you tell our readers what your key to work and life balance is? You seem SO BUSY!!! How’s are you finding juggling motherhood and work?
Haha yes, maybe a little too busy at times! Having a baby has definitely made me look at my priorities and also think about working smarter and outsourcing anything that doesn’t give me absolute joy. The problem is that I do love all aspects of my work including producing, DJ'ing, running the label, putting out radio shows and also studying, and I think work life balance is less of a thing when you really love what you do! I’m definitely the kind of person that thrives on challenges and achieving goals so I do find it difficult to take my foot off the pedal, but I’ve found it really helpful in recent years to exercise and meditate daily, make sure I’m eating healthily and staying hydrated, which is especially important when you are on tour - the party lifestyle is tempting in this industry but it’s just not sustainable. Building a solid team around me to take away some of the workload has also been really important.
Constant Circles was an idea that I had in my head for many years, to combine underground music with visual art, as to me these two disciplines are completely intertwined and in many ways rely on each other to exist. The idea is that each release is paired with a piece of contemporary art that conceptualises the music. As a result we have put on some really cool art exhibitions combined with music showcases in London and Brighton (which I hope to do a lot more of) and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing visual artists from around the world including an Australian native - the incredible Yvonne Cilia. Plus an awesome roster of musicians too. The concept behind the name is that everything exists in cycles - music, art, fashion, life. We take inspiration from the past to carve out the future. We move in Constant Circles.
I noticed that you and your partner recently purchased your own place in the gorgeous city of Brighton in the UK. What a fabulous place to live! I LOVE Brighton! There is such a colourful and long history of dance music that stems from the city. Can you tell us what the scene is like there these days? How do you think the Brighton scene compares to the rest of the UK?
Brighton really is a unique city and there is nowhere else like it in the UK. It has a vibe of acceptance, love and diversity and such a thriving creative scene, particularly for visual and street art. Plus we have the beach and lots of seagulls! I guess I would describe the music scene as compact but diverse - its a fairly small city so there are not a huge amount of venues but you can go out and listen to pretty much any genre of music here.
When did you decided to start producing/DJing? Were you self-taught or did you have mentors around you to guide you? What is it about dance music that drew you to it?
I had always been interested in the idea of DJ'ing which stemmed naturally from my obsession with collecting & listening to music. Unfortunately the music department at my school wasn’t that great so there weren’t many inspiring opportunities and I ended up going down a sport & fitness route instead and studying that at University. When I graduated I got a job at an outdoor adventure centre in the middle of the countryside and there was nothing to do in the evenings, so I bought myself some vinyl decks and spent every night practicing until I could beat match. After moving back home I started hanging out with some other DJs and promoters and travelling around the country with them watching them play, as well as heading out to Ibiza to experience DC10 and Pacha for the first time, and that’s when I really got the bug. Those moments of euphoria & connection on the dance floor changed my life and I knew I wanted to create those moments for others. So I really threw myself into a total career switch, heading back to uni to study music, playing gigs in local bars before getting myself a residency at a local club and then growing it from there. I was relentless and made huge sacrifices - it was a big risk really but thankfully it has paid off and just goes to show you can achieve anything if you really want it.
Speaking of producing…. You have released music on a plethora of formidable labels such as Crosstown Rebels, Selador, Global Underground, Anjunadeep, Colorize, Sincopat, Einmusika as well as your own Constant Circles. How do you think your sound, productions and DJ’ing style changes from one label to the next? Are there any labels still on the wish list?
I try my hardest not to have a specific sound or a label in mind when I start a project, as I find it’s better to just produce without constraints and then look for the right home for the music afterwards. I think one of my issues is that I make music across a wide range of sub genres from electronica to house to the deeper end of techno, so sometimes it’s difficult to place the music somewhere. I’m lucky that Anjunadeep have become pretty eclectic these days and they let me do my thing musically even though I’m on the more housey side compared to some of their catalogue. I definitely play all these sub genres in my sets too and always will - as long as it’s got feeling, emotion and a dance floor vibe I don’t care what genre it is.
One of my very favourite tracks of 2021 was ‘Breathe You’ by yourself and NOLAN which was released on Sasha’s seminal LUZoSCURA LP. The absolute highlight of this track for me was the way in which you guys use the vox as an instrument. Not enough producers are doing this [in my opinion] and I am literally OBSESSED with how you guys made it work so well. How did you and NOLAN come to work together? Can you tell us more about the track itself and the creative process behind it? It has a somewhat 'heartbreak' feel to it...
Ahhh thanks for the kind words! As myself and Nolan are both Brighton based we often get together in his studio for a little jam. We were making this breaks inspired track and we thought that a nice vocal would give it that 'goosebump' vibe. So I dug around my old projects and found this unused vocal that I actually wrote for a singer called Keisha Mair as part of my University degree years ago - as soon as I heard her voice again I knew we had to use it for the track. She has such a beautiful and soulful tone. We then both felt that doing something creative with the vocal would make the track sound edgier, so we threw it into a plug in called Stutter Edit, bounced down a load of different stutters and glitches and then pieced the vocal together again from there. It was a really interesting creative process.
And yes my lyrics do always seem to have a dark edge to them don’t they haha? I guess it’s just easier to draw on those emotions and for people to connect to the themes.
How would you describe your sound in your own words? How has your ‘sound’ evolved over the years and where do you see yourself as an artist in say a decade from now? I know you are starting to sing on more of your own tracks…. How’s that all going? Is it weird to hear your own voice in your tracks?
I’ve always described my sound as ‘house music with feeling’ and I’d like to think that still applies today. For me it’s always about the feeling and emotion within the music and the connection with the listener. That’s more important to me than which genre it falls into and I’m pretty sure that will still be my philosophy in a decade! I only started singing on my tracks fairly recently after years of writing vocals for other people. I would record a vocal demo for someone and they would ask me why I’m not singing it myself. It just took me a while to get used to my own voice and get the confidence to put it out to the world. Now the ball is rolling I’m not only making more vocal tracks myself but I’m writing & performing guest vocals for other artists. I’m also singing on some production collabs, including ‘Blue Sky’ with Nolan that recently dropped on Renaissance and also ‘The Tide’ with Made By Pete that is coming on Nick Warren’s Soundgarden imprint this summer.
You’re a proud advocate for the LGBTQ community in the UK – do you feel individuals of the LGBTQ community and women in general face a tougher climb up the proverbial ladder within the music industry? What would your advice be for any up&coming LGBTQ artists in the electronic music scene?
It’s definitely tougher, but it’s great to see that the tide is shifting slowly, although we still have a long way to go. When I first started in the industry, I didn’t like the idea of ‘representation’ as I would never want to be picked for that reason or as part of a quota. Over the years though I’ve realised that representation is so important in shifting the balance and providing role models to future artists. We just need to make sure it’s done right, based on skill and free from tokenism. My advice to any up and coming LGBTQ artists is to stay true to your sound, be a good human and be persistent, but also reach out to mentors and networks and surround yourself with like minded people.
This April sees you heading to Melbourne and Sydney for the Seladoria tour with Dave Seaman, Steve Parry and Darren Emerson. This isn't your first time touring Oz is it? What are you most looking forward to?
No, I actually came over to Australia a few years ago for a tour as Him_Self_Her. I played Perth, Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne and was lucky to have a few days off to chill in Sydney and do some sight seeing which was ace. I can’t wait to get back!
Do you have a favourite ‘Just Her’ track or are they all your favourite?
Actually it has taken me a long time to really like any of my own stuff. I guess when you are your own biggest critic you end up constantly analysing your work and it makes it difficult to enjoy it. However, lately I’ve started feeling proud of my productions & mix downs (finally!) and I’ve had some moments on stage where I’ve actually cried when I’ve dropped my own tracks as I can feel the emotion myself and I can feel the audience really connecting to the music. This has been particularly true for my recent tracks “Will We Ever Learn" on Selador and “All We Have Is Now” on Colorize. Both were made in the depths of the pandemic and just seemed to resonate with the audiences when I started to play them at the first shows back. I still get goosebumps when I drop either of those.
What track do you wish you wrote?
Every Bonobo track ever made. Also ‘Cry No More’ by Vaults if we are talking about lyrics and melody.
In closing up today Claire, can you tell us what plans you have for 2022? Any upcoming collaborations/releases/events we should know about? What are you most excited about?
I have a single & then a full EP coming out on Anjunadeep, an EP on the amazing He.She.They and some really exciting collabs in the works, plus I am relaunching my label Constant Circles with some new stuff from me & other great artists. Gig wise I’m all over the place, from London to USA to Mexico to India and of course Australia. My 2022 is shaping up to be a big one and I’m really excited.
Thanks so much for your time Claire
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