​Bass and space: Eich is bringing her UK underground influences to a new generation - Music - Mixmag

​Bass and space: Eich is bringing her UK underground influences to a new generation

The partygoer turned party-thrower has delivered a mix which is an ode to 808, the intimate Norwich club night which sparked Eich's love for underground dance music

  • Words: Tibor Heskett
  • 27 December 2023

When you speak to Eich AKA Harriet Bliss, one thing that keeps coming back in conversation is the importance of connections. The way that she speaks about her practice makes it impossible to separate the DJ from the crowd that come to see artists play. To the London-based producer, there is a deep privilege and responsibility in cultivating formative experiences for ravers on the dancefloor.

While Eich has asserted her place in London's cultural fabric through performances at some of the capital's biggest clubbing institutions and her residency at Rinse FM, a radio station at the heart of the underground, her music stems from a different place entirely. You cannot talk about Eich and her sound without talking about her years spent in Norwich, particularly her nights spent at Hideout and the 808 parties hosted there.

The intimate venue hosted the likes of Paleman and Zed Bias, artists who blurred the lines between UK bass, techno and house, during Bliss' early years on the dancefloor and you can still hear the profound effect on her music now. The groove, vocal samples and overall minimal approach to production are all prevalent on the Norwich native's releases on More Cowbell, Woozy and, most recently, Rinse.

Through her record label and community More Cowbell, Eich throws nights which aim to capture the essence of 808 and bring that to a new generation. It is imperative to the label boss that she can pass on the special moments she celebrated. Beginning as a Facebook page where Bliss and others would talk about tunes, nights and all other walks of dance music, More Cowbell is, at its essence, all about bringing people together.

We spoke to Eich about her DJing, production and the trials and tribulations of throwing a party in the modern era, without forgetting why, at the end of the day, it's all worth it.

How did you get into DJing?

I've always been really into going to raves. I grew up in Norwich and there was a little basement club there where everybody used to go on Thursday nights.

It isn't really a thing anymore, but I used go there a lot and it's where I properly got into dance music. There was a night called 808 which got me into Swamp 81 and all those kind of sounds. People like Zed Bias and Paleman would play there, DJ Zinc even played one time I think.

That was the introduction kind of how I got into the sound and the music that I make and play now and from there I discovered people like Hessle Audio.

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I moved to London seven years ago, landing a little box room in Miguel's house in Homerton. Miguel now works as a radio curator and strategist at Rinse FM as well as the booker for FABRICLIVE, and I had actually met Miguel before at an after party at Hutch's house where I was with Chloé Robinson and a couple of other people that I know and we had ended up chatting about music then too. On the first night that I'd moved, we were having drinks, chatting about tunes and he told me that I needed to learn how to mix. It blossomed from there really, I learnt to mix on Miguel's little set up in his living room where there were decks and by playing at house parties. I was probably playing at house parties for two or three years before I even played out. The rest is history, and he's managing me now in a full circle moment.

It's been almost a year now since your first EP came out and 18 months since your first track came out on Woozy, how did you get into production?

I started getting into it during COVID, a lot of people had so much time then. I really wanted to learn and spent three years locked in working on Ableton. It took me a long time to actually be able to finish stuff. I met EMA, who runs Woozy, when we did our b2b for Keep Hush two or three years ago. Our set was amazing and she came back to mine after the show and I showed her some music that I had been working on. There was one track where she was like "this is sick, you need to release this."

A week later she tells me that she's putting a Woozy compilation together and that she wants me to be on it. I had two months to finish the tune and, having never put anything out before, it gave me a bit of a push. I feel like I need deadlines for these things. Otherwise, I just get lost in it and I just will never put anything out. So yeah, that's how 'Induction' came about.

The More Cowbell EP was weird to be honest as it was quite an easy one to finish, it was all a bit of a blur. I think the tunes were sitting on my laptop half finished for quite some time when I showed them to my boyfriend, Charlie, and he told me I needed to put it out. 'Red' came about first which is the A-side on the EP.

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I really like this sound in it which has that kind of old school Paleman kind of vibe, who's a massive influence to my production. I felt like I was getting somewhere with the sound that I wanted to create, and it was actually quite a quick one to finish to be honest, which is unusual for me.

I knew I needed to have something alongside 'Red', and that's how 'Untitled', the second track on the EP, came about. That track is really inspired by old Boddika and Joy Orbison, with really fast, perky stabs in it. I just thought they went together really well and decided to self-release it on my own, which I'm glad that I did. I've always wanted to release on my label.

I can definitely hear the Paleman influence, it sounds like you're drawing a lot of inspiration from the groovier side of old UK bass or whatever you want to call it. This is especially pertinent on 'Bleak', the track that came out on Rinse this year. You've said that you're paying homage to your early formative days listening to the station, referencing shows like Hessle Audio and Swamp 81.

Yeah, the first show that I ever used to listen to on Rinse was the Mark Radford show. He would play what almost sounded like tech-house but felt like deep house too, it was very dark. It was quite similar to what Swamp and Hessle were doing at the time. Me and my mate Jordan used to drive up to Norwich from where I was living to go to this club and we'd listen back to Rinse shows in his car, I still listen to those shows now to go back and dig out old dubs.

How's running More Cowbell been going?

Really good yeah, we did a party recently at Pickle Factory with Client_03 and Solid Blake and it went really well. I have a thing in my head about the parties I throw where I want them to be a very specific thing. I want them to be at dark little basements and I want there to be a headsy crowd, which can be especially difficult in London with so much competition and all that kind of thing. I went away from the Pickle Factory night and I was really pleased with the crowd and the venue and everything. Everybody was just there for the music which is what I exactly what I want.

As I mentioned before, I started going out to this night, 808, where everybody people would turn up religiously every single Thursday. You'd bump into the same people every single Thursday and I wanted to emulate that a little bit in the More Cowbell. I started with these parties at Spanners, a wicked venue in Brixton with little TVs that show the waveform of the tunes you're playing. The people that own it are absolute gems.

For the series we had a special guests for each night. Kode9 for the first one and then Mosca and Ikonika for the next two, which was amazing. I don't know how we managed it, but it was really cool with a super headsy crowd in the perfect kind of space. We do have more parties coming up next year, which hopefully should be announced soon in London, and we might have something going on in Manchester next year as well.

Events is only one side of More Cowbell: it's also a label which has been putting out releases since 2020. What made you want to start running your own imprint?

I've always just been really interested in A&R, I think that I've always wanted to do that from a career perspective and also just a personal perspective. I'm quite specific with the sounds that I like and I wanted More Cowbell to be the one place that you can get this sound. I didn't ever want it to be a multi-genre label. I was listening to an interview the other day with Loefah, Youngsta and Sgt. Pokes where they're talking about dubstep, UK bass, techno and drum 'n' bass. They spoke about how, even though these genres are all so different, they all have one thing in common: bass and space, which is something that I to highlight in all the More Cowbell releases.

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I started it in lockdown, probably not the best considering clubs weren't open in hindsight, maybe I probably should have started a little bit later. More Cowbell originated as a community page on Facebook where a lot of the artists that we've eventually signed were on there chatting about tunes. The label is basically a bunch of mates.

The first release we had was from Monir, a Manchester artist who goes by Mercy System now, and then Spektralsound and PAS1. We'd had a few free downloads and that kind of thing in between and then, post-lockdown, we started releasing more regularly with myself. We just had a tune out with Berwick, an amazing live artist from Bristol. I just saw some videos of his live set at The Love Inn the other day and it looked crazy, he's a really wicked producer.

We've got another artist from Manchester releasing with us in January and then another release lined up for March. I'm hoping to do another release on the label next year too, pending I finish anything!

You've given yourself a deadline so you should be alright.

Haha, yeah. I'm also looking to do parties more regularly as of 2024, but it's so tough in this climate especially in London as venue fees are so expensive and DJ fees are through the roof. Once you've sorted that it's not even going to guarantee you ticket sales with all the competition that is here.

It's funny because we've been chatting to another brand in Manchester for the party we're doing there and what works in Manchester and what works in London are two completely different things. Together we're going to do one with us here, and then one with them up there.

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It's a really tough climate for independent promoters right now. There's all these massive companies just pricing everybody out and it's scary for the underground. I don't really know where people go from here, DJ fees are rising and it seems like you have to have two grand in your bank just to put on a party.

I'd love to be doing a monthly party but, to be honest with you, it's just not financially viable anymore. I do wonder how much it used to cost to throw a rave.

We've touched on your A&R work a bit, I also wanted to chat about the 'fabric SELECTS II' compilation which you played a part on.

Yeah, I basically curated that comp. We managed to secure the first Skream dubstep track since maybe 2010 or something.

And look at him now!

I know! We also had Bluetoof, LUXE, Mani Festo, dBridge and some other great producers. It turned out to be really wicked compilation, I think my favourite tune is the Le Motel and Flowdan one. I couldn't have done any of it without the help of all my colleagues.

I really enjoy structuring the project, you kind of structure it like an album or a DJ mix. You have to structure in the right way to tell a bit of a story, making sure it has peaks and troughs.

I'm quite into all of this with my DJing so it was super fun to curate. It was the first professional thing. I've like properly A&R'd, which is pretty cool. I got to put more emerging underground artists with higher-tier producers, which I like to do as I think it's really important to elevate people.

Sick. You've just started your new weekly residency on Rinse FM. In a full circle moment you'll be playing just before the Hessle Audio show every first and third Monday of the month.

It's funny because me and Josie, Jay Carder, who's on before me, will be like "are they gonna show up today?"

I'm yet to bump into them, but the day that I do I'm probably just gonna become a shell of myself. There's many people that I would be starstruck around but Pearson Sound is definitely one. From a production point of view he's my favourite out there.

I did Martyn's 3024 production classes for a while and I was saying to him that I really want to make tunes like Pearson Sound and he went to me "Harriet, you've picked the hardest thing possible because there's not much in it, but every single element is absolutely perfect."

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It goes back to that bass and space thing. He's the master of it.

Yeah, I mean this is why I probably like him. It's a bit mad warming up for the Hessle show I guess. It's just mad to be on Rinse in general after listening to that station for at least 10 years. It has so much history, it's such a privilege to be a resident.

My mate Dash came for my first weekly show and he's known me from before I started DJing. He came into the building and he was just in complete awe of being in the building. Rinse is a big deal to a lot of people but it's easy to lose sight of that when you're in there all the time I suppose. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into the weekly thing.

We're almost at the end of 2023. What have the highlights of your year from a DJ, producer and label boss perspective?

I think producer-wise it was a hundred percent getting my tune played on the Mary Anne Hobbs show. I've been listening to that show every single day for some time and hearing my tune play on there was a full circle moment.

On the events side again, I'm really proud of Pickle Factory night. Sometimes it's really easy to lose faith in what you're doing when you're running a night. It's can be a little bit soul destroying trying to sell to tickets and that but when you're there and you can see that 200 people have come in the door that are genuinely here because they're into what you're doing is really rewarding.

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You worry "does anyone even care about this?" but then when you put the nights on and actually connect with people it makes it worth sticking with it. My aim with them nights is to emulate what I felt like when I was going out raving 10 years ago. I hope that I can provide that to the audiences that do come to our raves, that I can help people discover a new sound that they're maybe not hearing anywhere else. So yeah, Pickle Factory was definitely one for the books.

As one year ends, another one begins. Do you have any exciting things lined up?

Yeah, I can't really say too much but I've got a couple releases planned for next year, I can't say where they are, and then the parties are gonna be a big thing next year. I've got one lined up in March and one in September, and hopefully we'll do something at the end of the year which should be really good.

The Berwick release has kicked off our run of singles on the label, instead of doing EPs as much, although we'll still do EPs, we're going to be releasing singles. These are for tracks that maybe don't have a home or don't fit with something else that people will put out. I make music as well so I understand the struggle to finish a second, third or fourth track so I think it's a win for everybody to release tracks in their own right. I think singles are still a great way to put music out and the idea is to be releasing them month by month.

That's the plan for 2024.

Wicked. Finally, we can't talk to you without touching on your mix that you've delivered for us, what was the inspiration behind it?

When I was thinking about this mix I thought about how locations have such a massive impact on the music that comes out from these places: it wouldn't be grime if it wasn't London, y'know? This mix is specifically about one location, and that's this club that I've been talking to you about in Norwich.

I've kind of curated it based on the fact that I'm playing to a younger version of myself that would have just started going out and raving in that club. It's what I would have heard in that club with a modern twist.

Tibor Heskett is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Instagram

K Wata 'Sling Of Life'
Aeus Dex 'Serendipity' (More Cowbell)
Mike Denhert 'Detroit Switch Back'
Loefah & Boddika 'Thing'
Mike Denhert 'Refillable'
Viers 'Blow'
Yaleesa Hall 'Second Cullen'
Viers '17333'
Facta 'Loveless'
Mella Dee 'Buzzers'
??? '???' [Forthcoming More Cowbell]
Len Faki 'BTX1'
Photek '101 (Boddikas Drum Machine Mix)'
??? '???' [Forthcoming More Cowbell]
Facta 'Rose Red'
Asusu 'M39'

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