We all love our mums as much as we love our drums right? But do always appreciate how much they’ve sacrificed, albeit loving and willingly, to bring us up?
As a female who started out in the drum and bass industry 12 years ago, back when the playing field was cut a little less evenly, I changed my pen name to something gender neutral. In those days it was harder to get people to take you seriously as a drum and bass journalist if you happened to clock up two X chromosomes.
A couple of years later DJ Mag offered me a job as their regular drum and bass reviewer. I was 8 months pregnant. There were problems with my pregnancy and I ended up being carted into hospital an ambulance and gave birth prematurely. While laid up in hospital recovering from a traumatic birth – and with a super cute, freshly-baked human at my side – I donned my headphones, propped open my laptop, and, to the boisterous protests of the entire midwifery team, powered though my first set of twelve reviews.
Wrestling with the juxtaposed emotions of being grateful for the opportunity while simultaneously being terrified of losing it, from the very first moment I knew that being a Mama in music-land would be tough.
All parents, in any industry, work tirelessly to strike a balance which enables them to provide financially for their children while carving out time to connect emotionally with them, but it needs to be highlighted that, according to statistics, mothers are still (willingly or not) sacrificing their careers at a disproportionate rate to fathers.
- 28.5% of mothers with a child aged 14 and under said they had reduced their working hours because of childcare reasons, compared to 4.8% of fathers.
- 56.2% of Mothers said they had made changes to their employment for childcare reasons, compared with 22.4% of fathers.
- In working families-
47.6%- Fathers working full time and mothers working part-time.
46%- Both parents working full time.
3%- Mothers working full time and fathers working part-time.
(source: Office For National Statistics)
Societal pressures coupled with the unconscious, misogynistic bias of the music industry makes drum and bass a tricky space to navigate for all parents, but more directly mothers. While the scene is taking great leaps in creating even footings, there’s still a long way to tread on the road to equality.
With this in mind we had a chat to some of the industry’s marvelous matriarchs about the high and lows of motherhood in an industry which – by its pupil-dilating, eardrum-damaging, all-night long raving nature – is definitely not designed for kids.
Please read on and celebrate all the mamas in music as I speak to Mantra, Missrepresent, Pyxis and Iris.
Right, deep breath! How was home-schooling?
Missrepresent: It was awful. At the moment I have to drop my boy off to nursery, then I tend to have to go out to do food shopping or doctor’s appointments as my little boy is quite poorly, and then I can’t always get to the laptop. When I do manage to, my little girl is so bored. I have to send huge music files and video projects, plus streaming Peppa Pig on one phone with Netflix usually on somewhere else. Thankfully my internet is wicked!
Pyxis: Well… let’s just say I’m glad it’s over! I’ve got 6 kids, but one is an early-years educator so she’s been at work looking after other people’s kids instead of here helping her poor mummy out. It’s been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do, and that’s saying something. Never Again!
Mantra: Better now that it’s ended! My middle boy has been at nursery so we’ve been with our 7 year old and our baby who’s 7 months. As long as the eldest isn’t on a screen too much it’s all good. He’s really into his art and loves dossing about the house so he’s done quite well this lockdown. I haven’t put too much pressure on homeschooling. We read a lot, make stuff, get outside quite a bit so he’ll catch up on the academic stuff in his own time.
Iris: So for better or worse our child isn’t quite school age yet. He’d just started preschool which we pulled him out of about a month later when it became clear things were about to go very badly. We were very lucky to be able to get our nanny back and incorporated into our bubble so both my husband and I could continue to work. The downside for him will be the lack of socialisation that’s so important around his age, I am trying to take a deep breath and remind myself that this virus will leave a mark on every child in the world and it’s going to be ok.
Over the years of austerity in the UK, with schools and authorities having less and less money for creative education, how do you encourage music and creativity in your children?
Mantra: I tend to find as long as the screens are off they’ll gravitate towards creativity themselves. My eldest loves art so when he starts drawing or painting my 3 year old will also get involved. They’re really into imaginative play and den making and all that kinda stuff so if I can keep the chipmunk Youtubers at bay it’s all good. They need to go through the phase of ‘I’m bored’ and eventually they’ll get into their creative flow.
Missrepresent: My daughter loves music, so she is starting piano lessons. That’s at a halt due to COVID but as soon as we can, we will. She has toy pianos and we set her own playlist up on Alexa so I really do encourage it. As soon as she can, we will be writing music in my studio but I want her to understand basic music theory first.
Iris: I’m in the US, but this is also a problem that our schools face here as well, pulling back funding for arts in schools is very common. Music and art is very important to our family though so regardless of school we know that will be a constant thing in our household. We have a full studio, he loves poking at the buttons on the synths and some of his first toys were a Fisher-Price turntable and set of shakers.
Pyxis: I have never forced any of my children to be or do anything other than when they want to do nothing at all. One of my girls is very musical, she’s self taught the guitar, ukulele, and dabbles with a keyboard, she has a good voice too. So does one of my other girls, who is only 9 and has already gone through years of ballet and gymnastics. My sons couldn’t be less creative and musical if they tried. But as long as they are interested and achieving something, I am good with that.
What’s the best thing about being a parent working in the music industry?
Iris: I don’t think I ever realised how many people in the industry have kids and how it kind of connects you to those people. It’s definitely not something you think about when you don’t have kids yourself. I always wanted kids but I was also worried that a kid would cut off a lot of opportunities, but then you meet all these amazing artists that also have kids and it becomes a conversation starter and a way to build a friendship and connection.
Pyxis: My dad was a record plugger from the 60s to the 90s and a DJ. I absolutely loved it, but kids couldn’t be less impressed by it. They’re always asking me to turn my drum & bass down! That said, they are proud of me in varying degrees but I really don’t mind, or need their approval really. The best thing about being self-employed in any industry is the freedom and ability to be around for them as much as I can.
Mantra: I like the fact my kids see me doing something I love. It also means I swerve after parties, well, 99% of the time…not sure if that’s a good or bad thing but it’s definitely healthier!
My girls love drum and bass and, although I’m more of a liquid head, they absolutely love a bit of tear out and are particularly into Mefjus. Do your children like drum and bass? Have they got any favourite tracks?
Pyxis: No! They do like my music but they have no favourite drum and bass artists or tracks. They don’t really have a clue who anyone is.
Iris: Despite the fact that our kid was listening to D&B constantly before he was even born, it’s not generally his most requested genre. Trying to listen to a track we’re working on in the living room can be a challenge as he often screams, “I don’t want this! I hate this!” He really needs to be in the mood for it, and then it’s generally tracks on the more liquid side…That being said Marky & XRS feat. Stamina – LK will have him running around the living room and dancing like mad. The first time he heard it we had to have it on repeat for a full day before we would listen to anything else. Thankfully it’s also one of my favourite tunes or I might have gone mad.
Mantra: My kids like coming in the studio and using the MPC or going on the mic and playing around with the effects but they’re not really into D&B. They love reggae and can’t sleep without Vibes FM on, it’s really sweet.
Missrepresent: My little boy loves it, he likes anything by Hazard, Potential Bad Boy and loves Kenny Ken sets.
What’s the hardest thing about being a parent working in the music industry? For me it’s probably a toss up between arranging childcare for ‘unsocial’ working hours, or having my mum drop them back on a Sunday morning when I’m feeling a little fragile after a particularly good night at work!
Pyxis: I don’t go out raving and haven’t done since before they were born, so that side is good. The hardest thing for me personally is trying to make the actual music, I am interrupted approximately every 3.2 seconds and get really irritable by the constant stop and start when I’m mid flow and trying to get some hook down or cut up an intricate breakbeat and coming in and out of my headphones literally drives me to rage, which doesn’t help with the creativity of it whatsoever!
Mantra: The hardest thing is not being able to make music when I want. It’s meant that my music making has really taken a back seat. There are times when I’m feeling really inspired but we have a 7 month old baby so we’re still right in the thick of unsettled evenings and restless nights! It will calm down soon so hopefully I’ll be able to make music again.
Missrepresent: I have an amazing husband who really lets me get on with everything I need to. He works 9-5, but as soon as he is home he has the kids, and is there if I have to travel abroad. If I need to record a mix, or get in the studio he takes the kids out. Even if I lock myself in the studio they will scream until I open the door so they have to be taken out of the house. Usually over to Grandad’s! The hardest thing was when they were both tiny babies. They wanted Mummy not Daddy, I guess a comfort thing, but Daddy is much more fun than Mummy now!
Iris: Definitely playing a gig late into the night and then having to be ‘on’ for playing with the kiddo the next day. One of the hardest things to get across has been explaining to local promoters that I just can’t play their 4am set because my kid gets up at the same time regardless of how late I’ve been out. Out of town sets are almost easier since there’s usually a few extra hours sleep before getting to the airport. Beyond gigs I’d also throw in just finding time and energy to work on music. D&B isn’t a day job so both my husband and I are working, hanging out with the kiddo and then spending evenings on music, it can be a lot at times.
I live under a pile of to-do lists, without them my life would crumble, how do you manage your work-life balance?
Missrepresent: Oh yes! Huge, huge, huge lists. Today for instance, sending my DJ logos to Ten Ton Beats for an interview, I’ve still got t-shirts I need to promo that’ve been sent to me by #Drumzzclothing. I have label press releases to write which I am behind on, promos to review on Inflyte, usernames to update on JDNB, my website to update… Then I need to get in the studio! I probably get 60 to 100 emails a day, but at JDNB we do have a great team; Chilla manages my diary, Brenton reminds me if I’ve missed anything. I couldn’t do what I do without the team and support.
Iris: Theoretically we have a lot of to-do lists to keep us organized but in reality we’re bad at keeping up on these so a lot of house stuff doesn’t get done as often as it should. We do have to keep super on top of gigs, the tunes we have in the works, what’s coming due for labels and mixes. Those all go in a list and calendar we share and I put in reminders a week out so its not left to the last minute. Also, I’ve found in the last year just taking a day off from our day jobs here and there to chill or have a full day to work on music does wonders to give a break to all the extra stuff we constantly have going on. I’m often thinking about how much free time I must have had for myself pre-child and wonder what it was I did with that time.
Mantra: I’m actually not very organised but have got really good at multi-tasking! I never really switch off from music stuff or my work with Rupture & EQ50. It’s an obsession so most evenings I’m chipping away late at night. I’ll often leave my phone at home when I’m out with the kids though. During lockdown I’ve been on my phone more than normal so I try and keep it out of sight out of mind for some of the day. I’m also really lucky as I have a big family and we’re all really tight and live nearby so we rely on each other a lot.
Pyxis: Before homeschooling, my work life balance was basically six hours in school for me to get as much crammed in as possible. After which, I just have to tear myself between work and home life. It’s chaos but I’ve conditioned myself and generally cope fine with it. I do get frustrated as there just aren’t enough hours in the year. I’m a workaholic but I’ve always been around for the kids since every one of them was born.
What are the barriers you see affecting mothers in the scene?
Iris: This is a lot of what I see for mothers in general and being a music scene where there isn’t going to be a lot of childcare support probably just exacerbates it, but a lot of women leave the industry or face a big set back in having kids. It’s not necessarily normalised. Since memories can be so short there isn’t a lot of time to take off before you really need to jump back into it with gigs and production. I also found myself a little afraid that having a kid would kill my time and ability to also work on music. I think a lot of women kind of fall off or leave at this point if they don’t have the support and help of their family or partner.
Pyxis: I personally haven’t experienced any, I also don’t think the barriers are created purposely by anybody. I’ve seen single mothers manage to keep up with their DJing and production, which is a huge achievement. There shouldn’t be any barriers but if childcare is an issue, then of course that can be very debilitating. I suppose the other thing to consider is how tired you always are and how strapped for time you can be.
Missrepresent: Well you can’t fly for last trimester during pregnancy so that puts international gigs on hold for a bit. In general travelling abroad, you need a babysitter with a very young baby and most promoters just won’t cover the cost of two plane tickets, which is understandable. If you have a Mum or Dad who can have the kids, great, but I never have and I wouldn’t of left my baby for 2 days when they are so little, I love being a Mum, but now they are older, it’s all good. Innovation, Renegade Hardware and all the festivals that booked me the summer I was 9 months pregnant and about to burst, really were a blessing and honour. A few people had a pop about me being pregnant, but I turned the monitors the other way around, and actually, for instance the Valve Sound System is way quieter behind the decks than in front of them. I did a lot of research, I spoke to a lot of audiology consultants due to the extreme decibel levels, so I wasn’t silly and loads of women have contacted me over the years saying seeing a pregnant woman DJing is inspirational, it’s been wonderful!
As an industry do we need to help parents become more involved? What can be done?
Pyxis: I mean, you can’t exactly put a creche in a rave! I don’t think it’s really up to our industry to lay the ground work for our own involvement. As parents, we have to know the possibilities, know the boundaries and work with them ourselves. We can’t really generally expect much more from any industry than basic humility, like if your child is sick, you can’t come to work.
Missrepresent: I play for Raver Tots as a resident DJ, which is a family orientated rave promoter that runs events up and down the UK and abroad. It was the first event I could take my 2 under 5’s to, where they could dance and watch Mummy DJ with other children and families. It’s a super experience, loads of sensory lights, smoke machines, lasers and of course good music! To be a resident DJ there alongside such legends is a dream come true. I honestly think if you want to get involved in a bit of underground dance music with your kids, it’s one of the first places I’d point to to start! To come together with like minded DJs and MCs who also have kids, or carers and support workers, it makes you realise boundaries aren’t there and I’ve always had an attitude that anything is possible, having kids is a blessing, they grow up so fast, it’s really only a few years I had to take a bit of time out and that was mainly internationally after they were born, and I’ve been welcomed back with a blast – which was totally unexpected. I expected to have to graft from the bottom again.
Mantra: Promoters need to be flexible if parents have child care commitments. They might need a particular set time or a flight that might be more expensive. Parents often have to shoot off straight after their set so can miss out on meeting people and networking. Having said that I think being a mother has made me a better DJ. If I’m abroad and missing the kids, I always say to myself, ‘make it count’. It’s a lot being away from them, even for one night but the yin and yang of the two worlds feed into each other in a way that works for us.