B-Traits is one of the presenters of the BBC Radio 1 team that broadcast, for their listeners world-wide, the annual festival they organize every summer in Ibiza. She also played on Friday at the event in Hï Ibiza and on Sunday at Mambo, where she talked to us right after her set.
You were born and raised in the small town of Nelson, in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada, and you moved to Vancouver when you were just 18 years old. Did you start playing records and deejaying after you moved or before?
The thing about Nelson is that it is a really tiny town and there’s not really much to do there. That’s how I began deejaying, because of boredom. I discovered dance music because the fair thing about Nelson is they have an incredible music scene there and the underground dance music scene is so open-minded. There are not so many clubs but there’s a festival there called Shambhala, I have been going there since I was a kid, I used to see loads of UK DJs there and the whole idea there is that it’s all very relaxed. There are loads of hippies in Nelson and everybody is very open-minded about everything and for some reason it is like a little melting pot for artists and musicly-minded people, musicians and DJs. So, it was really easy for me to discover deejaying, and as soon as I saw a DJ I knew I wanted to do that.
How old were you at that time?
I was about 14 when I first saw a DJ, when I went to the first home party and saw a DJ play with turntables. And then, my dad was always collecting vinyl from when I was a kid: things like Michael Jackson and pop stuff. He was always bringing vinyl and playing it to me, and I loved the feeling of it. My dad loves music and he loves to dance. I think that was something I just absorbed as a child. I was one of these kids that are completely music obsessed from really young. I was never watching cartoons and I was always watching music television, and my parents were supporting me. Every year, for Christmas, they gave me headphones and any thing related to music. So, I started collecting vinyl, any kind of genres, but I was collecting loads of trip-hop, hip-hop, speed garage from the UK and then drum & bass and jungle, and I just loved how completely different it was from anything that we were hearing in Canada, because in Canada all the radio stations were very alternative rock music focused. And when I discovered dance music I felt it was very much my thing and I really embraced it, and I was playing it to all of my friends.
When I knew that I wanted to become a DJ is when I started borrowing my friends’ turntables to practice at home. Because I had nothing to do after school, I would literally come home straight and play records for hours and hours. When you are beginning as a DJ, that’s exactly what you need to do. You have to love it that much to practice until you’re really good at mixing. I owe everything I do now to deejaying in those days. Boredom was great for me.
Later on, as soon as I graduated from High School, and because Nelson is so tiny, I knew right away that I wanted to get out of there, because there was nothing there for me. I packed everything and took my turntables to Vancouver. I started to work as a receptionist at a school which happened to be right across the street from the most popular record shop in Vancouver at the time, so I was hanging out all the time in my lunch breaks and made friends with the local DJs in there. I was under age, since the drinking age is 19, so I was sneaking into the clubs, because I wasn’t supposed to be there, and I was watching DJs such as Goldie, Shy FX and stuff like that, loads of drum & bass. It was there when I first saw, properly, a DJ that was deejaying for their career. I never thought that was something that I would do professionally, until I started getting gigs in Vancouver and it started expanding. I started to throw my own night in Whistler, near Vancouver, and we booked a lot of UK DJs, and because Whistler is a famous sky and snowboarding town, and loads of people come from the UK for the ski season, they would see me opening the night, deejaying before the main acts, and that’s how I started to build a name for myself in the UK.
When I finally got my first gig in the UK, there were so many people there that knew me and told me they had seen me in Whistler.
What year was that?
That was in 2005.
So that is your connection between you and England, right?
England was always the music capital for me, for all the genres that I liked, that were growing popular and where they were born. It was always about UK music for me. The whole European idea of dance music fascinated me.
So you were more into breaks and drum & bass and more than into techno and house…
I still played a lot of house music and collected a lot of techno, but for me, playing drum & bass, jungle and breaks was where I felt more comfortable at the time. But I think I was still a very eclectic DJ.
And then you met Shy FX. How was that and how did it help you in your career?
I met Shy FX in Germany, I think in a New Year’s Eve gig.
So you were already touring, right?
Yes, I was already touring and we were doing this tour called the World of Drum & Bass. I was so nervous because Shy FX’s records were what turned me to drum & bass and jungle in the first place. That was really exciting for me. We kept in touch and we were touring at the same time. He asked me if I was making music and indeed I was, but it was so embarrassingly basic, because at the time in Vancouver I didn’t know anyone who was making the same thing or wanted to do the same thing, so I was kind of experimenting on my own. I had no mentor, no one who would show me anything new. When Shy FX heard those tracks, well, let’s call them loops, he thought I was doing something really interesting, but he pointed out to me that I needed to get focused and that I needed some help, and he helped me out loads in the beginning. He helped me learning programs, learning Logic, and helped me by taking me to a more professional level. That was around 2007 and 2008. And because I was in Vancouver and there was no one around me doing the same thing, I became kind of frustrated, although it still took me three years to decide to move to London finally, to give up my life in Canada and put myself in the middle were everything is happening, in terms of music, to really make it, and that’s when everything changed.
True, because that’s when you made your way into BBC Radio 1. How did you get this opportunity?
It’s funny but, apparently, people that live in the UK they like the Canadian accent. I think that was in my favour. At the time I had written this record called ‘Fever’ and it became really big and was in the UK charts in 2012. I think I was in their radar already. They ask a lot of people to do pilot shows, and I did a pilot, but I never heard anything back from them for so long, about half a year, maybe 9 months. But one day they answered back and told me they wanted to offer me a one hour monthly show and I thought it was amazing. I remember being so dedicated to that show, and after two months doing that show, they offered me to do my own weekly show. I was not experienced in presenting, as I was a DJ first, so it was a big switch for me to learn how to speak over music and such.
What were those shows like? Did you play a mix of your favourite records? Did you interview other DJs?
I didn’t do much interviewing because I was still very new to understanding how to interview someone, so my show was music focused. It was about me playing music I felt passionate about and mixing it in a way in that it could be presented on radio nicely, with me talking just a little bit on top. It was very much like a mix show, which is still what my show is now. I have gone a lot better in interviewing people though, and I get the chance now to talk to artists that I love, and new and upcoming artists that I am excited about. It’s taken a lot of learning!
I remember your interview at IMS with Dixon. You are one of the very few lucky ones that have had the chance to interview him!
Yeah, he even laughed! I can’t believe he even laughed.
Yes, your interview with him was brilliant.
Nice one, thank you.
How does it feel to be able to interview people like Dixon, for example?
I was very nervous when I found out that I was going to interview Dixon, because he is notoriously known for being difficult to interview, because they way he feels about press and information is that it is all on the internet, and that if you have a question, you can probably find his answer on the internet and some other press. He wanted intelligent questions and to have an actual conversation. For that reason, I spent ages learning absolutely everything about him, and then, the first 20 minutes of that interview aimed to get him felling comfortable speaking, and I made sure I asked him questions that I, myself, as an artist, would like to be asked, rather than a surface chat, because sometimes it feels like interviews are made of the same questions, and it was important for me to dig a little bit deeper. I think he enjoyed it. I think it was really good, it was a nice chat.
When did you first came to Ibiza to host the BBC Radio 1 weekend and how has it been until today?
I first came as part of BBC Radio 1 in Ibiza in 2013 when I was covering for Annie Mac, when she was away on her first maternity leave. I was a very new presenter then and the Radio 1 fed me to the wolves, because they made me present on stage and I had never done that before. I was so terrified. However, it was the best way they could have done it because they told me I could do it, and they told me to do it. It was a great feeling to know they trusted me to do it and be Annie for that summer. I don’t know if I would have ever picked up a microphone on stage if they didn’t force me to do it, so that was really nice.
And this year has been really nice, because we have done the whole weekend. We’ve done all night Friday, Saturday and tonight Sunday, closing the weekend, on stage here at Mambo. It’s more special than other years because this year it feels like we really got to take over the whole island, which was great. I really enjoyed the three nights. I got to play a banging set on Friday at Hï Ibiza and then a more chilled set tonight to round off the weekend.
Finally, what does Ibiza mean for you? What do you feel when you listen to the name Ibiza?
Ibiza means obviously summer time and very ridiculously hot weather, but I also associate it with crazy parties. It’s an experience that you’re not going to find in places like London or somewhere else like you do here. It’s a very specific kind of partying, it’s quite flashy, there’s a lot of drinks, everybody is sweaty and quite shiny, and having a really, really good time. And also the food is amazing here.