Laurie Charlesworth is a British Drum and Bass DJ who has been kicking up a storm, especially since she became the first ever female D’n’B DJ on BBC Radio 1 – a huge achievement. Her career to date is hugely impressive and having worked at 1XTRA, Asian Summer Network, Vibe FM, KISS FM, she is has made quite a name for herself as The D’n’b DJ. We were thrilled to catch up with her for a Q&A session and ask if she had any words of wisdom for our Higher National students.
As a DJ and presenter, you are highlighting and promoting artists - how important is diversity to you? Do you consider this in your choice of music?
Yes! Absolutely. I believe it’s the easy way out to just pick tunes that you like from obvious labels. Of course, you could do this, and you should always play something you think is good that will fit into your set, but if you dig deep enough, you will find what you’re looking for from an array of different people, not just white, middle aged men. Soundcloud is great for finding undiscovered new talent.
Diversity is, rightly so, currently at the forefront of issues within the scene. I am all about pushing people from marginalised groups forward. Whether that’s guest mixes on my radio shows or tracks in my DJ sets. We have a long way to go, but the more we have prominent figures in music providing platforms and opportunities to ensure the music industry is inclusive and representative of everyone, we will get there.
There has been increasing conversations and discussions around climate change and the importance of reducing our carbon footprint. As individuals, there are many things we can do, but what role can or does, the music industry play in this?
I believe there is a lot to be said about touring. I am not a touring DJ, however, I have worked and toured with DJs whilst working in management and have recognised that there is an issue with not only flying, but with obscene set designs, merchandise with copious amounts of plastic packaging, riders with 24x plastic bottles + other ridiculous requests. There is a lot of unnecessary little 'extras’ that have traditionally come with touring, that could be stopped.
I believe the whole industry simply needs to be more conscious when making decisions. Flying only when necessary, minimal rider requests so there’s no waste, requesting a plastic-free site or tour, donating a percentage of their fee goes towards planting trees or a charity helping to fight against climate change, putting a small fee on all guest list concessions where the money will be donated to said charity. There is so much we can do, and it is happening, slowly.
It’s all about continuing the conversation and having it at the forefront when planning ideas, travel, events, merch etc. Climate change and our efforts to combat it are so incredibly important. We must use our voices and positions in the industry to make change and raise awareness.
And is there anything you do in your role to either raise awareness or in fact reduce your footprint?
I make a conscious effort to talk about it whenever possible or when opportunities arise. I make sustainable requests like no plastic bottles, happy with tap water etc. It’s all the little things. I also support as many groups and movements as I can. One of the groups I follow is called Music Declares Emergency, which has been built up by people in the industry coming together to discuss the issues within music and to combat climate change as best as we can. I am also an avid public transport fan! Which is a personal choice but one I know is beneficial towards combatting climate change.
The #metoo movement has, among other things, increased awareness of what is considered professional behaviour and standards. Which has arguably been questionable throughout the creative industries since they began. As a female in a male dominated industry, has this impacted your approach to you work in any way?
We still have a long way to go when it comes to sexualising women and sexism in music. I’m very assertive in the way that I present myself and work with people, in particularly with men. I have a very ‘no bullsh*it but we’ll get on because I’m a good person and I’m good at my job’ kind of vibe, so I’ve often found myself quite well respected. However, I too have experienced unpleasant situations where men in the industry have abused positions of power by sexualising and objectifying me. It doesn’t matter what kind of woman you are, what you wear, what you say, these men will unfortunately still exist. Don’t let this put you off!
We are seeing some really positive, game changing movements happening right now, including the #MeToo movement which is highlighting the extent of this issue. More women are speaking out, more men being held accountable for their actions. Just look at the recent Erick Morillo case. I don’t feel anymore intimidated in the music industry, as a woman, as I do walking down the street. Our society has a long way to go, it’s still a problem we are seeing in most industries.
There are not many high-profile female DJs – how important is visual representation?
I believe it’s important, but not for everybody. Some people are happy to walk into a room and go for it regardless of who they are, where they come from, what gender or sexual preference they may be, whereas others may, understandably, need a similar figure to lead the way, to ensure their dreams are achievable. Everyone is different.
Dance music and Drum & Bass for me was (and still is very much so) all about the music. I didn’t see male, female, black, white. I loved the music and knew that was what I wanted to do. Period. I didn’t notice there were very few women in DnB, I was just confident that my knowledge was good enough for me to excel in that industry and then went for it. It wasn’t until I was a few years into my career that I noticed how severe the gender imbalance was.
Annie Mac was a huge inspiration to me, as a radio presenter and a DJ. The head honcho of the prime-time Radio 1 dance show, a fiercely knowledgeable female with buckets of charisma and a super strong character. Although her specialty was house music, she absolutely played a huge part in who I am as a presenter and DJ today. I guess I didn’t ever see her as visual representation, but maybe her being female not too dissimilar from myself helped me see my dreams were achievable.
And talking of visual representation, you do a lot of work supporting charities etc. How important is it that we utilise our platforms to raise awareness of societal issues?
It is extremely important! Every voice with a platform should use it for good. Unfortunately, the world has an abundance of issues. If everyone with a voice actively encouraged compassion and made a point of educating people, people who would then go on to educate other people, on the issues and suffering in the world, the world would surely be a better place. It can be quite overwhelming seeing the severity and variety of issues we have in our society and across the globe, but we can’t do anything if we continue turning a blind eye.