The London-based DJ Sherelle likes to go fast. She’s made that much clear over the last couple of years, splattering speed-demon breaks, high-intensity grime flips, and fluttery footwork tracks across her regular slots on the local tastemaking radio station Reprezent and in club gigs across her home country. Perhaps you know her need for speed from the grinding she’s been doing in those realms, but if not, and you follow basically any DJs on Twitter, you probably know it from her February Boiler Room set. Clips of the ripping tracks she played – and a raucous crowd response that verged on a mosh pit behind the decks – went viral on the techno-loving side of Twitter the night afterward. Standing in the middle of the maelstrom was Sherelle herself, grinning, swigging from a bottle and sporting a shirt that advertised her allegiances. In big block numerals it read “160,” a Crank-worthy BPM, to say the very least.
The rapturous social media response was, at first, full of effusive praise for a hard-working and well-liked scene leader. Bitten by the electronic music bug as a kid watching Daft Punk videos on MTV, Sherelle’s been spinning in various forms since her teens, over the years making friends and fans of lovers of heavy and heady tracks worldwide. The Boiler Room set was, and remains a crowning achievement, but curiously the aftermath also spawned this strange social media furor over a moment in her set. Caught up in the energy Sherelle was conjuring, another DJ who played the event, Riz La Teef, reached over and rewound the track she was playing – a traditional compliment in some DJ circles that read to some viewers as a man trying to take her spotlight. Riz deleted his Twitter amid the uproar, but when he returned, he and Sherelle shared a photo as final proof that there was no harm done. Still, the incident spawned thinkpieces and podcast episodes. Not willing to let loud people on the internet ruin her moment, Sherelle now jokingly refers to the whole incident as “rewindgate.”
It was an ordeal of a scale that was likely unfamiliar to Sherelle, which felt a bit unfair, because the set itself – and her work in general – feels worthy of the same attention. Though her blending of speedy sounds across genre lines has forebears (she specifically cites a Machinedrum mix as an inspiration), she uses the approach in this ecstatic way that makes it feel as though the whole world around you is getting motion-blurred. It feels pretty peerless, which is why, before the Boiler Room set, we asked Sherelle to put together this week’s Noisey Mix. It’s a little spacier than you might expect if you’re a close follower of her sets, but it’s still full of unreleased jams and jittery junglist freakouts. Listen to that below alongside an interview with Sherelle about her love for fast tracks and the complicated feelings that the aftermath of the Boiler Room inspired.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Sherelle: There are 3 potential settings:
1. In a warehouse rave surrounded by friends.
2. In the pits of your room. It's dark and you're alone. Netflix is boring you and need something fulfilling.
3. In your office – post lunch… You need something to get you through till the end.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
For me, the mix is a constant build up to my last track. I have found a lot of inspiration re-listening to Lemon D recently. Mainly the way he lays out a track and the surprises that are in store when you listen to one. I feel the mix represents that. The mix is also very reflective of how I feel [after] my Boiler Room.
Do you have a favourite moment on this mix?
Bringing in the real break-heavy tracks from both Mani Festo and Sully. They are really amazing UK producers who always manage to top every release they put out.
I haven’t seen that many interviews with you out there so I wanted to get some of the early parts of your story if possible. Where did you grow up? Did you have much of a musical upbringing?
I grew up in East London with my mum and sister. Both of them have instilled a strong work ethic in me from young and always pushed me to think bigger. I didn’t really have a musical upbringing but I was always fascinated with music from a young age. I would switch between Cartoon Network and MTV. So that would be watching the Powerpuff Girls and Daft Punk's latest music video. “Digital Love” is one of my favourite videos of all time.
I would stay up really late and watch all MTV party zone playlists and pretend I was DJing, picking up mannerisms by watching a UK TV show call Ibiza Uncovered. I first fell in love with acts like The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx through the party zone. I was the only child in my school playground singing ‘Romeo’ from the top of my lungs in 2001!
When I was in high school I wanted to learn to play the drums but lessons were quite expensive so I found my way into DJing through Virtual DJ. I was playing football at the time but I gave that up due to my GSCEs and whilst studying I was listening regularly to BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. It was then I wanted to be on the radio and be a DJ too.
My first set was in an abandoned warehouse for my best mate Flo at her 16th birthday with my new controllers. Fast forward a couple of years and I joined Reprezent, CassKidd the producer and DJ first showed me how to use the CDJs and the rest is history. Little did I know I would find myself two and half years later opening for The Prodigy with fellow Reprezent DJ and my best mate Naina.
Your Reprezent show and time with the crew there seems to have been a big step for you. How has that community and platform changed the way you think about DJing or music in general?
At Reprezent we’re all like a family, we’ve all grown together, we all support each other and aren’t afraid to tell each other anything! It’s an open forum and that makes things much easier.
Without Reprezent I really would have struggle to get my sound out there. I came through the ranks, did a training course and within a year I had a daytime show. They pushed me to be different so I stood out from the rest. Reprezent also put me in situations that I really learned from such as playing Footwork and Jungle in the Tate gallery, or doing my 160 set with Novelist at Lovebox, both of which drove home the importance of reading the crowd.
In your Boiler Room performance, you were wearing a shirt that said “160” and you obviously play a lot of footwork and other fast stuff. What is it about higher tempos that resonates with you so much?
The T-shirt I am wearing is actually a label run by an amazing producer called Sideswipe. His Label is 160 Philly. And it’s dope! You should buy a T-shirt. I was choosing an outfit that day and I came across it and was like… That’s the one. Sideswipe has helped me out a lot by sending me tunes and supporting the show. To him and countless others like him who send me stuff, I am eternally grateful.
Anything above 140 truly makes my ears wet. When I was a teen, dubstep and grime really made an impression on me. The whole dubstep movement with Skream, Benga, Kode9, Mala, and Loefah. And for grime, it was first hearing Fire Crew on Westwood’s show spitting their track “No” over Musical Mob’s Bongo Eyes.
My iPod Classic which I still have has all of my old tunes and DJ playlists on there. But I do remember being in the car when I was younger listening to pirate radio at night. I was listening to Renegade Snares which I later re-discovered on GTA Liberty City’s radio channel MSX 98. Then hearing that made me download loads of jungle tracks. And the same can be said for the game Fifa Street 2. Tracks from DJ Marky and Artificial Intelligence really affected me.
I would deffo say that Machinedrum’s mix for Mixmag really changed the game though. Hearing footwork and jungle together blew my mind. That mix is now my template for anything I do and that’s how I first discovered DJ Rashad, RP Boo, and Traxman.
I’m sure you are already tired of answering questions about your Boiler Room set, given the online hubbub it caused, but can you talk about the emotional experience of that whole thing?It was really weird from an outside perspective to first see clips first going around because of how much you smashed it and then seeing the conversation, essentially, become not about you.
No, not at all. I will tell you though that it’s been the best and at times the worst experience. But overall it has changed my life for the better and I am excited for what’s to come.
All I wanted to do was not clang. I wanted to be surrounded by my girlfriend and friends and have a fucking good time. I didn’t realise that it would blow up the way it did. I woke up the next day with my phone blowing up. I checked my socials and I had amassed thousands of followers through the Boiler Room clip going viral. Some of my new followers were DJs and producers who I love and have respected for years. My mind was blown. To read comments like ‘this is a legendary set,” makes all the hard work I put into DJing pay off. I’ve been grafting and pushing to perfect my craft for a while! I really love the music I play and I’m so glad that people got to see that.
Receiving all this constant praise was unexpected but then so was rewindgate... It’s weird to see people talk about you but not actually to you. So it felt like an [out of] body moment. The whole thing literally created a huge debate in the music world. For Green Velvet and Plastician to be have a discussion about the whole situation is proof of how quickly it spread. It was a lot and after a while it took its toll on me.
It was about a week after Boiler Room and I was going b2b with my good friend Big Dope P for his Moveltraxx night in London. After the gig, I didn’t want to stay and I got straight in a cab and went home. I woke up the next morning and broke down on the phone to my manager at work and told him that I needed a day to process everything. I ended up having a week off to clear my head, think about the next steps, and blitz my inbox. I did fuck all and sorted out hundreds of emails that came through after the Boiler Room.
Ultimately though the experience has deffo inspired me to have fun and love what I am doing. Having a conversation with Mistajam, my manager Cal, and Scully (Mistajam’s producer and friend of mine from Reprezent) made me realise that it really has all been worth it. Going through the hard times and coming out on the other end is fucking amazing and I am not stopping for anyone. I will be taking my sound to the masses, bringing a much-needed extra level of energy to the dance music world, shining the light on the next wave of DJs and producers come through and fucking having a whale of time while I’m at it!
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.