Voracious desire: Mixtress' frenetic sets are creating a new generation of rave lovers
Setting off gun fingers throughout the country, Mixtress is uniting the old and new worlds of jungle and hardcore
Mixtress has a passion for potent sounds, that is for certain. She enjoys treating the masses to her brisk mixture of jungle, hardcore, and footwork — sets tinged with raw emotion and full of parallels between the old and new worlds of rave. After growing up around rave-ready sounds in Amsterdam, Mixtress has acquired an extensive catalogue of hard dance favourites across a variety of fast-paced genres. “I’m a selector first and foremost. I like to torture the track ID trolls!” she jokes.
First introduced by both her dad and her sister, Mixtress (aka Rukmini Mukherjee) has been listening to dance music since she was primary-school age. Her memories of music date as far back as when she was three years old and living in India — with her older sister rinsing records from the likes of Massive Attack, Metalheadz and Aphex Twin. The thriving electronic scene and culture in Amsterdam, where she spent the majority of her childhood and teen years, only further exposed Rini to off-kilter rave sounds; though she credits the internet for making her interest a full-time passion project. Over time, she began to familiarise herself with not only artists but also with labels that pushed sounds that inspire her — including XL, Suburban Base, Shogun Audio, EXIT Records and more.
After moving to the UK at 18 for university — Rini took this love for music a step further and began to turn her hand at DJing, after having a realisation with her friends while watching Joy Orbison at East London's Village Underground. She knew that her music knowledge was expansive, and she wanted to make other people feel how hardcore and jungle makes her feel. “So many people assume I learned over lockdown because that was a big trend, but I learned how to mix a long time ago!”
Over the years, she started to make a name for herself and has now performed at festivals and venues such as Westival, Shall Not Fade, RSO Berlin, Boomtown, Corsica Studios, Old Red Bus station and more. As well as playing out, Rini is a RINSE FM resident, has done a HÖR Berlin with Machachi, a Boiler Room stream and had a BBC Radio 1 Dance special show. While playing sets and involving herself deep within the UK dance music scene, Rini forged a community for herself and is now part of the crew Team Woibey alongside Oh My Dais, Ell Murphy, and Fae.
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Now feeling confident in her own DJing ability and influence, Mixtress is ready for a new challenge and is venturing into production, making a label, and delving into her own love of dance music history. She has already teased dubs, short tracks and edits that she’s made in her sets — but the new year will see Rini finally release these tracks out to the public. “I’m still picky about sounds and getting my head around merging all of my old school and new influences,” she says.
Rini talks us through the influence of her family, sweat-breaking a CDJ at her Boiler Room set, introducing kids at Leeds Festival to jungle and teaching her niece how to do gun fingers.
What were some of your early musical influences?
I’m really lucky because my musical influences came from my family. My dad loves jazz and prog rock and I was introduced to this when I was really young. He was a bit of a raver back in the day and had jungle records and all sorts that I listened to as a teen. I even have really memories of being introduced to the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Giorgio Moroder as well as The Moody Blues, and The Who - just proper dad stuff! My dad used to play these records when I was really young before I even moved from India. After that, it evolved because my older sister is ten years older than me so I never really had the option or task of exploring my own musical stuff until later on. I was given a hand-me-down iPod classic when I was eight , which was crazy to me. This iPod had my 18-year-old sister’s music on it — so it was Bristol dub, drum ‘n’ bass, trip-hop and more heavy sounds. I joke about it with my sister but she transferred her music taste onto me. My parents worked a lot growing up, so I spent a lot of time with my sister. She’d play Boards of Canada, Portishead and Stereolab — mad stuff for a small child to be growing up on! That’s what I thought music should sound like, and I really hated most popular music... especially during the bad phase of EDM. But looking back, I’m so lucky to be introduced to this all from a young age.
What was growing up in Amsterdam like, in terms of the music scene?
Jungle and drum ‘n’ bass was huge in Amsterdam. We were very blessed that the city doesn’t know what jump-up is. There was only old-school Metalheadz style and boom-bap. I used to work little jobs when I was in high school and save up all of my money to go to gigs and live DJ sets. I saw a Metalheadz gig and saw Squarepusher all in my early to mid-teens. I went from feeling a bit outcasted as a kid for only liking weird music with lots of time signatures to really appreciating this music. When I was around 15-16, I’d try to find more jungle and old-school drum ‘n’ bass stuff. I’d also listen toColin Faver’s Kiss FM hardcore show. Once I properly found more jungle and hardcore music, I’d just go searching for more! And this was in the pre-Spotify days, so my friends and I would search for these tracks and put them on USB sticks. My friends would ask me to make playlists, I wouldn’t mix but I’d arrange them in an order that makes sense. All I heard was DJ Kicks and stuff like that - and ended up giving my friends playlists which are almost my earliest type of DJing.
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So the tune collecting started early then?
Very early! This is pre-Discogs. I’d just find the tune and write it down, by hand, and I’d collect vinyl or try to find them on YouTube or even Dogs On Acid, the drum ‘n’ bass forum! So yeah, I’d go through forums and all sorts. So many of the drum ‘n’ bass edits I play even now people ask what it is - but it’s from my iPod from when I was a teenager. I played a track from 2008 in a Shall Not Fade set and so many people were like “how do you have that”, and it’s genuinely because I’ve had it on my iPod from 2008. I still have everything. I lucked out because I have my collection of random shit, I still have a random Papa New Guinea breakcore edit.
How did the transition from USB playlists to actual mixing happen?
One of my friends had Technics and I learned how to try and make two tunes blend together while I was still a teenager. But I never recorded a mix or played a set or anything like that until I was 18 and in the UK. I had friends who had CDJ 350s. I jokingly say that I still don’t know how to beatmatch. I wish someone taught me how to DJ properly, but I feel lucky I learned in the 350s, that was some hard mode shit! Then it just went from there. I guess a lot of people don’t know that I’ve been DJing for like over six years now.
Your family clearly had a great impact on your music taste and selections, what do they make of your DJ career?
My family, you know, coming from a South Asian background were initially like “what is this behaviour?”. But when I did BBC Radio 1 Dance in January they recognised it, and they saw my face on DJ Mag for Ones To Watch and they were like “oh that’s you in a printed magazine”, so they realised it was legit. My mum actually came to my show in Village Underground where there were 750 people. I was closing up and it was fucking sick and my mumsie was there and she saw me DJ to hundreds and hundreds of kids.
How did you start coming into your own as a DJ?
I became more comfortable as I stopped prepping. I will prep for two things, anything that’s live-streamed or recorded — such as this mix. If I want to show a certain sound or show how my sound is evolving, I want that to be heard properly. But normally, I have track folders that have all sorts of stuff and sort by BPM and go from there. Part of DJing is winging it, reading the room and bouncing off the vibe of people. I came from classical music, I played the violin from like age six and I’m a grade 7 which is so quintessentially Asian of me! But I see DJing as being a conductor. Everyone has a different take on this, but I DJ not only because I love music but also not to show off. I don’t want to show off blends, I want people to go through their “oh wow” moment, I like watching that. For example, in my Boiler Room set, I was playing some old-school breakbeat hardcore and then wanted to move it into a Moving Shadow jazz remix, proper dubplate, and everyone was getting riled up with the hardcore and then when I played the jazz everyone stopped dancing for a bit. I love it when other DJs do that and make you think.
What appeals to you about hardcore, jungle, footwork etc, whether it be sonically or contextually?
For me, I spent so long listening to 4x4 and that era of lo-fi house and stuff adjacent to that. It was like the dance music equivalent to shoegaze! But things like footwork, hardcore, and jungle were that it was faster. You can dance freely and crazier to it and it’s not about looking cool or a certain way. You won’t hear this music on a yacht in Ibiza - there’s a context to the music. It’s political and it’s always been about fuck the system and fuck the police. It coerces people with the same political views to come together. It happened in 1994 with the Criminal Justice Act and Public Order act, we can see it happening again now. That on a non-sonic level, that’s what it is. On a sonic level, I like that it helps people not take themselves seriously and I see people laughing and happy when I play it.
How’s the Rinse FM show going?
It’s good! It’s so fun because it’s no longer just a hardcore-specific show anymore. The last one I did had some techno and drill and I did it b2b with Tom Jarmey who is a great producer. I like exploring different genres like techno and dubstep. I had Mella Dee on the show, which is such a great crossover. I’m excited to play more things too.
What does community in this industry mean to you?
Well, there are so many not-good people in this industry. So being around good people is crucial. I found community over lockdown, especially with Team Woibey. With OBFC, we have a 17-person group chat, it’s all of us and our friends. It's a support group and you know that when you go to a new city a couple of people can roll through so you know you’re not alone and it won’t be shitty. Throughout the pandemic, the others in Woibey would rely on each other throughout all the in-betweens of the lockdowns. Daisy and I already knew each other a little bit through a Facebook group called Hard and Nasty where we posted tracks that were above 150bpm, but not techno. We had a cute little community, I think SHERELLE was part of it.
Cute! I mean your friend Nia Archives invited you to do a Boiler Room with her.
Yeah Nia and I have been friends since before she, deservedly, blew up. She wanted me on her Boiler Room, which was great. We were on a train together to We Out Here Festival. She opened for the first Keep Hush that I did. Imagine that, Nia Archives was the opener! She had just learned how to DJ and I was like “mate!”. It was such a good night and I stayed out until 6:AM just to be with the vibe of the night and she told me had just learned a month ago. I’ve done a few streams, but that Boiler Room was so good - I kept it selection heavy to keep people on their toes. I even had Pete Cannon tell me he almost didn’t know what a tune was. If Pete Cannon doesn’t know, I’ve done my job well. But usually I give track IDs out, but there were a lot of “you had to be there moments”.
Do you have a favourite set you’ve done this year?
Leeds Festival. I was shook afterwards. I had so much imposter syndrome. Jossy [Mitsu] was with me and she was also shaken, and she’d played big festivals before! She just told me when I got there to not look up on the stage, and I did look up and it was a sea of 12,500 kids. The night we played was one in one out, it was filled to the brim. You couldn’t see the end of the people. I also knew that these kids would have been about 16 and on their first pinger. It was a lot of responsibility! I don’t think I’ll have an experience like that again - not in a bad way - but just because for a lot of these kids it was their first time hearing jungle, ever. And I know they’ll listen to it again because of me.
The next day I was getting a train to Manchester and these kids were on the seats opposite me and they were looking at videos they took at Leeds festival. It was like Megan Thee Stallion etc, and suddenly me. I heard them say “oh yeah that girl the last one, is it like drum ‘n’ bass?”, and another kid replied “nah but it’s got too many drums in it” and then another said “it’s called jungle”. They were watching so many videos and they didn’t stop talking about it. These 15 year olds were born in 2007, that’s not a real year! They were scratching their little faces over it. But genuinely, what an honour to play jungle to the next generation - and they were moshing away. All of the imposter syndrome from the day before washed away.
What are you like as a punter?
I love going out and I make a point that I go on one night out a month, which doesn’t sound like a lot but I keep it separate to the gigs I’m playing. And I do it as I used to at uni, which is to buy the ticket weeks in advance and gather a crew and plan it out and get gassed about it. I always want it to be music I don’t play - I don’t want to go to a jungle night. I don’t want to know half the music. I like going out to 140 bpm and things I don’t normally listen to.
I heard on the grapevine that Mixtress is getting into production. Talk us through that.
Honestly, I’ve been making tunes for a few years. There are some tunes in my sets and people ask for track IDs, but really they’re things I’ve made and I’m too shy to put anything out! I don’t want to put anything out until I’ve felt like I’ve figured everything out and that everything is of quality. I’ve made a lot of bootlegs and stuff, which is I guess what most people start off with, like making remixes. But what I’ve not done yet is send anything big to friends. When I put things out next year, I want it to be a bit of a surprise.
I dropped the first work of progress in my Boiler Room set, Pete Cannon and I made the tune drinking builders' tea and getting excited over hardcore. The concept is around one of my most seminal albums, The Streets’ 2001 original album, and I’ve had this recurring dream that ‘Blinded By The Lights’ should be a happy hardcore or jungle tune. It’s been living in my head as a jungle tune for months and it was really bothering me. [Pete Cannon] had these crazy samplers and had these analogue pieces of kit and we kind of made it in a whim in two hours. That’s what I played in my Boiler Room and I instantly got hounded for the track ID. I was like “hehe, wouldn’t you like to know”. But yeah, messing around on an analogue kit is my favourite thing to do.
What else is next for you?
Label. That’s all I can say. You know how back in the day it used to be the garage room for the girls, which is so sexist? But there’s room for chill and experimental jungle. Soft vocals and more innovation. Also, I’m thinking of possibly starting a podcast on the history of rave and dance music - so that may be on the cards next. Also, hopefully, a stream with two CDJs! Basically, for both Keep Hush and Boiler Room I played tunes on one deck at some point. In Boiler Room the room was so sweaty that the drip from the room caused one of the CDJs there to malfunction permanently. They had a guy mopping the ceiling through the entire set. They put a broom and a Boiler Room towel and were trying to keep it all going. I was doing an Indian dance and had one hand up to protect the CDJ from breaking while beat matching with the other. Tash LC was on the mic and was amazed at how I was keeping my cool!
To finish, tell us about your Impact mix.
The idea behind this mix was to emulate my night out — starting off with bass-y and breaks-y rave music but getting quite intimate and soulful in the end, like we do when we go back to the afters with far less people and much worse conversation. I’ve gone from bassweight-y dubstep to some classic hardcore, contemporary breaks and then into some more meditative drum n bass. Trying to emulate the genre- I think hardcore is more about an energy and of love for everyone and the dancefloor to me, than a certain set of years or bpms or amens. I also like to mix the older more euphoric sounding breaks with more contemporary tracks so I’ve got an Intense tune from ‘93 mixed into some Brazen records. I think some of the older 93 tracks I’ve picked transport you into this dreamlike state, because it was made pre having the luxury and constraints of the internet and accessibility to DAW’s so it’s a bit alien sounding. I wanted to feature music that I listen to at home that’s a bit weird and cross genre - there are a few leftfield IDM backpain-relieving sound design dreamboats, all with a warm jazzy hug.
I ended with quite deep and more soulful dnb cuts. I love them all, if not more now - things like Calibre Sunrise, or Gusts from a very, very important label, North Quarter (big ups Amsterdam), and Vanguard from Alix Perez. Bit of a challenging one to get everything I wanted in this hour but hopefully it’s got just enough nostalgia for my millennials and gen z’ers to smile alike.
Aneesa Ahmed is a freelance journalist, follow her on Twitter
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