THUMP meets Brianna Price in a recording studio nestled in the Red Bull's London offices. Fridges stuffed with the beverage sit next to subwoofers, mingle with mixing desks. She drinks tea. We drink water.
We've been summoned to said studio to meet Price, better known as B. Traits, ostensibly to discuss her new mixtape. This tape, Red Bull Studios Mixtape Volume II – a compilation that showcases the talents of nine up and coming UK artists – can be viewed as an extension of, and companion to, her Radio 1 show.
Stringing together everything from steely techno to reggae, Price's search for emerging artists is a blended snapshot of the state of things as she sees it. Featuring the likes of Anushkha, DREWXHILL and Lewis Boardman it highlights her dedication to seeking out the hottest new acts from the deepest of crevices.
The dedication to unearthing the new saw her lose countless days to Soundcloud, university prodding, and general deep digging. "It's a throwback to the old days," she says of the project, "an old school mixtape, like they used to be – a collection of great songs put together lovingly." THUMP wondered about the potential for a C90 cassette comeback. "I'd love that! That tangibility is great. I thought it was great that Oneman put out the Solitaire mix as a cassette. We need more things like that!"
Price is an excited and excitable conversationalist, eager to big up individual tunes ("Levon Vincent's "Anti-Corporate Music is fucking AMAZING!"), producers ("George Fitzgerald is going to be huge this year") and DJs ("At the moment, Maceo Plex is the absolute master of crowd reading – he's just mindblowing'") throughout our time together. That enthusiasm seems genuine, unforced, coming from a place of deep appreciation for dance music. When asked about the dangers facing younger practitioners she's keen to offer solutions rather than succumb to pessimism. On young producers, "chucked in at the deep end after releasing one or two records," suddenly being asked to DJ main stages at festivals, she advises them to seek out sets at smaller clubs because, "there's a HUGE difference between being taught how to string things together on Ableton and the actual art of DJing – and I want these guys to be as good as possible." There's no pretense – she means it. Projects like this mixtape further the impression that she's got other artist's interests at heart.
The perils of trying to marry experience and youth are something Price has overcome herself. Her rapid rise from Canadian D&B obscurity to globally known DJ, via stints as Shy FX's first ever Digital Soundgirl and the smash hit single "Fever", is testament to the importance of staying true to one's artistic ideals. The records you make, the tunes you play out, may change, but that initial impulse has, she theorizes, remain the same. "It's definitely easier, in terms of technology, to make music than ever before. But in terms of breaking through as an artist, or DJ, it's harder than ever. You really have to stand out, you really have to know your style, know your sound, try and experiment and stand out. Thousands of tracks come into my inbox each week and I hear so much stuff that uses the same sounds. I hear producers making stuff that's so 'relevant' that it becomes throwaway." She stresses that the artists she gathered for the mixtape making studio sessions shy away from the copycat mimicry that's turned the UK charts into a rote deep house graveyard. "We couldn't have picked a more diverse group." Where, we wondered, does this desire to fit in stem from? Are those shared sensibilities and sounds just party of a adolescent desire to assimilate with peers? "Possibly. I mean, it could be a, 'well that did well and I want to be famous,' thing and that sucks. It's not surprising though. It's the same as everyone wanting to be a DJ. Hell, everyone IS a DJ now," she laughs.
Price clearly loves her profession. There's none of the weariness that occasionally seeps into conversation with longterm selectors. Even the festival circuit – sometimes a sore point for DJs – is seen a chance to develop her talents. "I always check the line up to gauge who the audience is going to be. Some festivals I'll be next to people completely different and I'll plan a…bouncier set? Less hard techno, more bouncy, wobbly house." On the young crowds who come to events without the baggage of historical background or the caluclations that arise from context, she's seemingly envious of their ability to stumble into a set without being paralyzed by expectation and dampened by disappointment. "When you do your research too much you can forget that joy of stumbling across stuff organically. And it's always nice to do that. Like, fuck, who is this DJ!? That happened when I first moved here. I'd go out every night and see these DJs I didn't know. It was mindblowing. People like Jackmaster or Ben UFO – these guys who JUST DJ. It was amazing."
Traits and DREWXHILL
Alongside the radio show and the endless gigs and the festival appearances, Price is planning to make a return to production in 2015. Inspired by the technical limitations faced by the storied producers of house's gestation period and the halcyon days of the mid-90s, she wants to bang out some quickfire tracks. "Here's something I've wanted to do for ages: make an album where I spent a day on a track and that's it. Just crank the grooves. You've just got to vibe with things. I really want to do it. Just to test myself. I think that that kind of concept is incredible. When I think about those Masters At Work tunes being made that quickly it blows my mind." The thought of Price bringing the snappy eclecticism and fast moving free running flow she demonstrates in her DJ sets to the studio is hugely exciting. She thinks we're living through a golden age of dance music. Projects like this mixtape attest to that.
Red Bull Studios Mixtape Volume II - B.Traits will be available as a free download on Februrary 12th - more info can be found here