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Music is in Jenna’s blood with both of her parents in bands. Jenna was DJing on pirate radios when she was 14, and was inspired by underground sounds. She hooked up with a crew called Raggabeats which turned into Subliminal Darkness, and this is where it kicked off for her meeting Future Cut producers Darren and 2D and going on to form Un-Cut. 2003 shot her to fame with “Midnight” which was something I bought on Vinyl. It’s still a brilliant piece of music, standing the test of time and it reached number 26 in the UK charts. It sold out its first 10,000 copy run on Wired Productions and went on to sell 15,000 plus.
Can you go back to 2003 and tell us a little about how things were for you in that decade?
It was very exciting back then, I was young and achieving the goals I’d set out for myself when embarking on a career in music. Working alongside my friends creating music I very much believed in. We had a lot of fun making and touring the album, I learnt a lot about the industry and myself.
When Un-Cut were forming, you starred in the lead role of BBC2’s Strumpet with Christopher Eccleston, directed by Danny Boyle. Have you done any further film or TV work?
We were in the process of being signed to Emi publishing when I was cast by Danny as Strumpet, he thought my own musical journey and experience would lend itself to the character and storyline which pitted the innocence of the protagonists relationship against the evils of the music industry. Afterwards did another film and some TV things but I was very much focussed on music and decided to put all my focus into that. I think I would be up for doing some more acting if the right opportunity comes along. Films are my second greatest passion after music…I watch at least 3 a day when I have the time!
Your parents were in bands. What kind of music was that and do you have fond memories?
They were performing in the 60s and 70s, my Dad in the 50s as well so the music was relevant to those time frames. Do-wop, Soul, R&B, Pop, Funk and Rock to name a few. Their careers in music were over long before I was born but it definitely made for a lively household, music was very much part of family life.
You certainly have great stage presence and the ability to get a crowd rocking. Do you think that your parents experience gave you a good head start in performing?
Thank You, that’s lovely to hear. I guess it must have had some effect on what I do….they never sat me down and gave me any specific advice about music, they were very vocal about their experiences bad and good which I must have heeded subconsciously, maybe!
In Love, released in 2007 was epic. How did that all come about? It appeared first on my debut album For Lost Friends. Chase & Status at the time lived in Manchester and had a studio opposite Un-cuts, being friends they had sent a few ideas for songs which weren’t working so they came up with a loop that 5 mins after I’d heard it the song was written. It was great that they wanted to include it on their debut album 4 years later, testament to how big a tune it was for both of us.
How has 2015 treated you so far?
It’s been different, I’ve been performing with my live project Jenna & The Gs around Manchester a lot whilst working on a live EP to put out over Summer. Its exciting as going back to working with live musicians is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. After my first album I wrote a lot of non DnB songs which up until now haven’t really had an outlet, I’ve also been craving a change to performing with DJs having done it religiously for over 15yrs.
Are there any tracks that you love the most?
Of my own? I guess its hard to say…maybe Beautiful with Phuturistix or the Refix of Fairplay from Zed Bias…I honestly did not think I could sing that tune, the original vocal is such a classic!
You have worked with Doctor P, Netsky, Goldie and some massive underground artists who have broken commercially. What underground drum and bass artists are doing it for you right now?
I just met NCT from Holland after their set at Rampage, such nice guys with a bunch of great tracks. Their bootleg of John Mayers Freefallin is one of my fav tunes atm. I love a well-executed DnB remix. Oliver Yorkes another name whose productions I really like. Kimyans Laws new album on BMT is just amazing also. I also am finishing of vocals for a beautiful Jazz DnB track by Samuel Riser…really loving his production on that!
I know Prince is on your hit list to work with, but why Prince and are there any names in DnB at the moment who you think you would be cool?
Why Prince? Why anyone else! They all are influenced by him he’s just the most creative forever flowing fountain of funkiness, the greatest performer alive. DNB wise I think a collaboration with some of the female artists I respect and adore would be cool or if we could reform Breakbeat Era id be well up for a collab with them…still pinch myself every time I hear my tracks with Die…the Breakbeat Era album was one of my biggest inspirations with regards to DNB so it’s kinda surreal at times to be working with him J
You like to write lyrics that are real. Where do you get your inspiration from?
That’s a nice thing nice to hear because I write about my life, experiences which are very real to me. I always refer to my own song writing as a form of therapy, expressing my feelings, it’s a great release. Sometimes I’ve had to tailor it for example when writing for other artists, you have to do their real or make your real broader, if that makes sense. Someone asked me a few months ago to write for their track but I wasn’t allowed to write about love or a relationship…that isn’t me, I mean without love what else is there? So I didn’t write to the song, that’s pretty real right! lol
Any favourite places you like to write?
My house, garden any where near water. EMI studios off Tottenham Court Road, underground wonderlab of awesomeness. Had some amazing times writing in there. Old Engine-Earz studio in Reading, like a second home just not as clean lol!
You worked with Craig David at the Royal Albert Hall. How did that come about?
Un-cut supported him on his second album tour, I think we had the same agent hence the hook up. It was pretty uneventful to be fair apart from the Royal Albert Hall gig that Bo Selecta came down to as Craig David filming his DVD…the funniest day ever by far!
Manchester being your home city. What is your favourite club there?
Having spent all my life in clubs im starting to frequent bars a lot more as of late, they have seats and serve drinks in glasses. I like alcohol in glasses. My fav bars in Manchester for drinking whilst getting a good bit of tunage would be Spoon Inn, Apotheca, Twenty Twenty Two and The Eagle Inn. Club wise Antwerp mansion is always fun, Band on the Wall is an excellent venue for live just not as integrated with the up and coming Manchester scene as much as it could be me thinks.
And your favourite club / venue ever?
That’s a hard question, I’ve played so many and they all have their own thing that makes them special. The Royal Albert Hall was pretty epic, the Opera House in Geneva was too, Flex in Vienna, +160 at Club Bahrein in Buenos Aires I have very special memories from- the sound and production in both were always as amazing as the crowds. All the selection of venues and locations at Sun and Bass, on the Emerald Coast of Sardinia are just perfect minus the vbars ques. Triangle in Osaka is crazy, I loved climbing down the outside wall to get on stage cause the club was so rammed! Glastonbury, Pohoda Festival and The Secret Garden party are some of my most memorable festivals.
Tea or coffee in the studio?
Coffee for the first hour then herbal tea until I start flagging then we back on coffee :P
What’s on your IPod / MP3 player right now?
Beastie Boys – Ill Communication, Kurt Elling – Live in Chicago, Notorious BIG Life after Death, The 1975- The 1975, DRS Mid MIc Crisis, Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels and paths of Rhythm, Grace Jones – Private Life, Royal Blood – Royal Blood, Neneh Cherry Raw Like Sushi, Ella Fitzgerald – Sings Cole Porter Song Book, Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a ButterFly, Mr Scruff -Trouser Jazz, Me’shell Ndegeocello – Cookie: The Anthropological mixtape, Red Hot Chilli Peppers – By The Way, Tom Waits Bone Machine….all albums and then quite a few random tracks including any demos I’m working on.
If I saw you out, what would you get at the bar?
Depends which bar and what time of year, Spring time at my house bar is all about the G & Ts & Prosecco, thank you!
You have reached so many milestones and goals as an artist. Do you still have goals and what are they?
Oh totally they are constantly changing, my main one has been to put out another album…its long over due and my various attempts in the past haven’t worked out but I’m feeling good about this year. I would also like to learn to speak a different language before I die, if I don’t ill be trapped in a foreign hell I just know it!
Up and coming artists look at you for inspiration. What advice would you give?
Love music, love what you do be well informed in your decisions, learn from the bad experiences and don’t shit where you eat, it makes things confusing for everyone.
Do you think women in drum and bass are underrepresented? Does the ratio of men to women bother you?
Underrepresented, yes. The ratio in the real world is pretty balanced I would say, you just don’t see more than one woman on a line up that’s why it looks out of balance. I played the dnb awards in Birmingham this year, they had around 40 people on their line up and I was one of the two women on it, lol two to 32 is a pretty bad ratio! I’ve also not been booked for a festival because another dnb female was on the line up…that was the actual excuse I was given by the promoter, wasn’t happy at all about that but it is the common practice out there. I’m not for all girl line-ups in retaliation, I just think promoters should book people on there talent not their gender.
Shouts and thanks?
Shouts to Manchester music family, smashing it at the moment Estate Recordings crew, Levelz, Mouse Outfit, ReformRadio.co.uk which you can catch me on every second Tuesday playing new and old DNB and everything else in between, 8Gold Rings & Co who make up the fabulous Jenna & The Gs, come see us in London on the 29th May, performing for Innersoul @ Plan B Brixton. Yourself and the DNB Muzik crew for this interview and my worldwide DNB family X
Thanks for your time Jenna. Really appreciated.