For any body that’s been lucky enough to catch one of Collette Warren’s live performances; whether that be at the beautiful Bal Harbour at Sun & Bass, or one of the many drum and bass events she’s performed at around the country, I don’t think I’m alone in emphasising that she puts on an entirely breath-taking and memorable show. Her voice is quite simply stunning, she is able to build upon the atmosphere of an event in a manner that adds an element of charm and dark glamour.
Collette has had an incredibly busy few years, writing with some of the finest producers in the scene including Klute, The Insiders and Mr Joseph – she is an exceptionally talented lyricist and adds a unique dimension to the music she’s involved with. Through the intrigue and enthral of her vocals, she is able to evoke emotion in a way that truly enables listeners to connect with and feel her music. I must admit, having heard a few previews of her forthcoming work with Skeptical this is sounding like my favourite Collette Warren music to date, and I really am incredibly excited about everything to come from her.
Here’s what happened when we caught up with Collette Warren….
Hello Collette, how are you? Over here at In-Reach we’re big fans of your tunes and live performances, how would you describe your sound and style?
Thank you. Yeah I’m good thanks. I’d say that my sound is dark, smooth and sassy ha-ha! I like to think that I bring a bit of glam to drum and bass, I mean drum and bass is seen as so underground and grimy but the thing is it doesn’t have to be, not everybody in drum and bass is grimy there are loads of glamorous girls… And guys and yeah, I guess I like to think I’m bringing that to the stage.
I like to think I’m quite versatile with my sound as well, rather than just doing one style all the time its nice to try out different things with my voice.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to recently?
I’ve been doing quite a few things actually which is great, out of everything so writing, performing etc. my favourite thing to do is perform, and I’ve had quite a few gigs. I did my first hometown gig in Birmingham which was great, at Liquid Sessions. I recently performed at Genesis and I did Fizzy Beats in Brixton, they were both a lot of fun. I’ve also been working on some new tunes and some new bits and bobs with people I haven’t worked with before, which is really cool. I’ve also been working on acoustic versions of some of the d&b releases I’ve got coming out in the next few months, rather than just putting up the Soundcloud links, it’s a different way of promoting the track. I want to do a couple of videos also, just me and the guitarist, as this is a way that people outside of drum and bass will see it and maybe think oh I like this, this is cool, and then they’ll see that there’s a drum and bass version already out. I’ve also just joined Empress Management, it’s a new management company, and its ran by Lucie who does Genesis and the Drum and Bass Diaries, and I’m really happy that she’s asked me to be a part of it.
Doing acoustic versions sounds like a really great idea, you mention you’ll have a guitarist – can you play the guitar? Is this something you’ve ever thought about doing?
I have got a guitar and I really wanted to learn– I think I did about two lessons ha-ha! I don’t know what happened and do you know what scares me the most… It’s the tuning of it, I can’t even tune it, you can’t play anything until you’ve tuned it so I just think ah forget it! It’s definitely something in the pipeline but you really do need so much time, and I can’t put all of my eggs in one basket, I’m going to have to pace myself, but it’s definitely on the cards, maybe one day!
You mentioned that you got to play your first gig in your hometown of Birmingham the other week, can you tell us a bit about what it was like growing up to drum and bass there? Would you say there is a strong scene?
Yeah I mean the Birmingham scene is small, but it’s definitely there, it’s got me where I am today so I can’t thank it enough. It was a lot of fun growing up to drum and bass there, obviously there weren’t as many nights as there are in London, but we had enough. There was this fortnightly night called Broken Minds, they used to have the massive names there, and then there was a club called the Q Club which is a massive old church that’s been converted into a club – and I definitely would say I grew up raving in there. Then there’s a place called The Custard Factory, the nights there were more for the liquid heads. There was a club called Code, they used to do a night called Accelerated Culture and that would be more jump-up nights, so yeah, they have everything there really and it’s like a family, everyone knows everyone.
You’ve obviously become involved in the genre now on the professional side of things as opposed to strictly raving, would you say your feelings about the genre have changed at all?
I wouldn’t say my feelings about the genre have changed, but I’d say that my feelings about the scene have changed a bit. It’s a lot more pressure being an artist; I mean I’m still a raver, you know what I mean, but when you’re a raver you can go out and get fucked and you don’t have to worry about anything, but when you’re an artist it’s almost like you have to behave a bit more. I can’t just go out and get stupidly drunk because it doesn’t come across very professional; you have to be more aware, especially as a woman. As a woman in drum and bass people have stuff to say about you, good and bad, it’s kind of like your throwing yourself into a lions den, ready to be attacked almost.
I mean I still love the music just as much, it means a lot to me, drum and bass is like a person isn’t it, you fall in love with it, so yeah, my feelings haven’t changed about the genre just the scene. I’ve just become a lot more aware of things, obviously stay yourself but you just have to be careful about how you come across. If you go out every weekend and get smashed, it doesn’t look very good.
“It means a lot to me, drum and bass is like a person isn’t it, you fall in love with it.”
You mentioned in a previous interview that people relate to music through the stories in their own lives, this is a really lovely point, which vocalists/song-writers would you say you have most connected with and been influenced by?
In recent years definitely Amy Winehouse, her voice is so deep and she was such an inspiration to me, I mean bless her, just everything about her you know. Also an artist more from back in the day, Nina Simone, I really like the way she writes and what she writes about. I’m also a massive fan of Jason Mraz, he’s kind of like an acoustic guitarist, really quirky lyrics, its really clever the way he tells the story, and I think it’s definitely nice to get inspiration from male lyrics as well, not just females, you know hearing the other side of the story, women are talking about being hurt by a guy, so it’s good taking inspiration from guys lyrics and their point also.
You’ve outputted some truly beautiful work in the form of collaborations alongside exceptional producers such as Klute, Skeptical and The Insiders– I’m also aware that you’d like to work with Calibre, if you could work with any artists outside of drum and bass past or present who would they be?
Right now it would have to be Disclosure, I would love to work with them, I love what they’ve done, I love their album, I really love the vocal tune they’ve done with Eliza Doolittle and I really like that ‘White Noise’ track as well, right now yeh definitely them. Who wouldn’t want to work with Calibre ha-ha! He is the god of drum and bass and the social networking stuff completely shows how humble he is, he doesn’t need promoting and all that. With an artist of the past, I would definitely like to do a duet with Bob Marley.
You’ve mentioned your friendship with Tali in previous interviews, and also her influence on you and her role as something of a mentor, how did it all kick off between the two of you?
Its quite a long story so I’ll try and keep it short, when she first came in from New Zealand and she was doing her thing with Full Cycle, my best friend Zoe and I were like, “ah wicked there’s a woman in drum and bass and that’s great.” This was about 10 years ago and I remember we were reading an interview she did in DJ Magazine, she was saying that she was getting loads of hate from people, she was getting slated on all the forums, this-that-and-the-other really, and people were saying that she was only getting where she was because she was sleeping with all of Full Cycle. We just thought “aww bless her.” She was coming to Birmingham to do a gig so we thought that we should write her a letter. We wrote her a letter and we were like, “forget the haters, keep doing what you’re doing, you’re an inspiration to women and we love what you’re doing so keep doing it.” So when she was MCing at the gig, we passed the letter up to her. Then a few months later she came back to Birmingham, we were friends with DJ Die and we were chatting with him, she came over, we were introduced and we got chatting. We became really good friends and started hanging out, then one night we were in a hotel and we said, “do you remember the letter we gave you?” she was like, “oh my god, I can’t believe that was you two” – this was about a year later, she had no idea and we thought she knew, she couldn’t believe that it was us two. She was like, “thank you, that letter meant so much to me’,” and yeah we just became really good friends. We went to the Miami winter conference, we were all in the hotel and I was walking around singing, she said, “oh my god Collette, your voice is amazing, I had no idea you sang!” She told me I had to do something with my voice and I wanted to but I wasn’t confident at all at that point, she said that we should work together and then a few months later she asked me to be the backing singer in her jazz band ‘Rogue Noveau’.
I was lucky enough to catch you doing a live PA at Genesis, it really was a brilliant performance and it’s great that you’ve also been involved on the live band side of things, what would you say are the differences between the two and also your favourite parts of both?
They’re both very different, the performing elements, performing in a live band and performing at a drum and bass night, but yeah I mean I love them both in different ways. When I was doing the live band thing you just can’t beat the feeling of performing in a live band because its like real music being created and played right there and then, and I mean it’s all live and it just feels amazing and you just feel totally at home. But then when I’m playing at a drum and bass night, the reaction you get off the crowd is better because their so into the vibe and their so into the music and their really going in ha-ha you know what it’s like, and that gives me a different kind of a buzz. I mean drum and bass is my number one love, so it’s just a dream that I can be singing over it to a crowd and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so it’s just an amazing feeling.
How would you say starting off on the jazz band side of things has influenced your performances now?
Starting off in jazz definitely has influenced my style, like what I said at the beginning my style is dark smooth and sassy and I feel, well I mean I hope that I’ve brought that kind of sassy jazz edge with me. There’s a tune I’ve done with Skeptical called ‘Desire’ and I start off skatting you know the ‘bap baap bap baa’ and you know that’s a jazz thing and I’ve brought that side with me and put it onto a dark drum and bass track so I hope that comes across ok.
I once saw a man crack out a banana in the middle of a jump-up rave, rather surreal… Have you had any surreal experiences whilst raving?
Well this is really cringy, but to be honest the most surreal experience in drum and bass for me is people asking to have pictures with me, I mean I’m still a raver watching people on the stage, but going from watching people on stage to being an artist on the stage being watched is really bloody surreal to me because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for so long and now I’m actually doing it, and it’s mad.
I’m aware that it all kicked off for you in the late 90’s – and in a previous interview you mentioned (like most of us growing up then) before drum and bass you wanted to be a pop star, how do you feel about the commercial music market now?
I still do love a bit of pop music every now and then; I mean I’m a woman of course I do, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of cheese every now and then and I’m not going to lie I do love a bit of Little Mix ha-ha! Also I do like watching the X Factor and stuff, you know I’m not going to deny that it’s just a bit of fun really, I wouldn’t take it too seriously. I do think most of the commercial music market is from these reality shows, I mean if you look at One Direction their from X Factor and their the biggest band in the world right now; but at the same time there are still a lot of credible artists out there in their own right.
Drum and bass is known as a genre that’s pretty male-dominated, what’s your opinion on the male/female ratio and how it affects things?
It’s just the way it’s always been, and it will probably always be like that. I mean I do definitely think that a lot more women are coming through now whether that be producers DJs or vocalists and that’s great. The gender thing doesn’t really bother me to be honest, I’m just so used to it being this way and it is what it is. I mean compared to when I started going raving there are a lot more women in drum and bass and at some raves you go to, yeah, you will get more men, maybe at like the hard drum and bass nights but I know there are some girls that worship that hard stuff. I think the good thing about having more women in drum and bass is that it brings a kind of feminine sexy edge to the music and in the end of the day its something for the men to look at on stage but it’s something for the women to look up to in society.
For female artists, I guess it could be easier for them to come through, I mean it can be seen as a bit of a novelty sometimes for a woman to be DJing or MCing but sometimes I just think, fuck it, just run with it, go with the novelty and get the gigs. Sometimes I think it’s a good thing as it may give you more of a chance, I mean there are so many bedroom producers and DJs out there but as a woman you might stand out a bit more – obviously they still have to be good and talented but it can definitely help as it’s a novelty and people should see that as a good thing, not necessarily a bad thing.
How do you feel about the way things are going in drum and bass?
I think drum and bass is definitely evolving, for sure like all music, in 5 years time it will be different again and there will be new styles and different things people will be into. I mean I still love it just as much as I did when I was younger really, my thing used to be liquid and soulful stuff, and I do still adore that sound but definitely loving the more minimal and deep rollers vibe now though. To be honest if it has soul then I love it.
What would you like to achieve in the coming years?
I still feel like I haven’t really achieved a lot but that’s just me, I will probably always feel that way. I still feel like I have a long way to go, I feel like I really need that big hit and I don’t feel like I’ve had one yet. I’d love to get a number one, obviously not in the main charts, but in the record shop charts and the underground charts like Drum&Bass Arena. I’d love to do a video, I’d like to do some acoustic videos as well and perform at Glastonbury and play gigs around the world, and the end goal really is to have an album, if that that could ever happen.
How do you feel about this Boddika Xmas number 1 campaign?
That would be wicked, I will buy it ha-ha!!
Who is doing it for you at the moment?
There are so many.. I really love clarity; he’s a new guy, I think that he’s wicked and I’ve been trying to get a tune off him for like a year ha-ha yeh he’s really doing it for me, and Calibre, Skeptical, Dub Phizix, Phil Tangent, Ben Soundscape, Philth, Lsb, Mr Joseph, Total Science, Alix Perez, Xtrah everyone’s doing their thing, everyone’s amazing at what they do and it’s hard to just pin down a few, there are so many more I could say.
Any final words?
If anyone out there is enjoying what I’m doing then thank you, I really appreciate it and I hope you continue to like what I’m doing because I love it, so I really do hope that everyone else does, and I really hope to see everyone at a show near you soon.