Harriet Jaxxon: Beachside Bass
DJ Harriet Jaxxon reminisces on the cold nights at Whitstable’s former bass hub before signing with RAM Records
Those of you who were of clubbing age in Whitstable during the late 2000s will almost certainly know of the Brewery Bar. Down on the beach front, behind the famous harbour, those ready to brave the bitter wind and icy sea spray was a haven of music for a time.
The shack on the beach, and those behind it, were responsible for create a hub of social commotion, with late night drinks and gigs of all kinds – and in particular, it was one of the founding sites that has helped built current, thriving drum&bass scene that exists within Kent.
You wouldn’t believe the acts they got down there, including Whitstable’s own RAM Records prodigy Harriet Jaxxon.
“My first going-out experiences were at the Brewery Bar,” she says. “I was about 16, and it was quite pivotal for me. That was around the time Chase & Status released their first album and I was adult enough to go out and listen to that sort of music.
“There was a group of promoters there, who were putting on quite forward-thinking nights for the area. Booking people outside of London like Nero, Sigma, and a lot of acts before they then blew up commercially.
“You just have to respect people who are pushing underground music in a small town. So many of the DJS were baffled by this building on the beach. There were no bars near it, but there was a real good crowd there.”
Opportunity favours the brave, as they say, and Jaxxon set about making friends with the promoters running the nights, before horizons grew into the shape of the London’s electronic epicentres Fabric and Ministry of Sound.
“My network in that type of music grew into London. And I started going to fabric before I was old enough; getting backstage and idolising a lot of DJs that I actually work with now!”
An A-Level in Music Production at college started off Jaxxon’s foray into getting onto the decks herself, learning the basics from her fellow students. But a natural flair advanced.
“In terms of DJing, I’ve never had any real schooling,” she says. “I was just pointed in the right direction and took it from there on my own, developing the way I do it. You keep learning as you go on.”
Initial gigs at Source Bar in Maidstone, Chemistry in Canterbury and, of course, the Brewery Bar, have led to the Jaxxon technique.
“A lot of people say I do have a certain style,” she explains. “I like to use three decks. I like big build-ups and lots of vocals. I like it to have a lot of impact, so there will be a lot of double drops in there and atmospherical breakdowns.
“I think a lot of people stick within a certain style. But the feedback I get is that people like it when I play across the board. I don’t discriminate against any subgenres, so I can’t categorise myself, I cherry pick from every subgenre. If I like a track, I will make it work.”
Though having signed to RAM Records earlier this year, the 25-year-old former Barton Court pupil hasn’t just walked the industry. It has been a graft.
“There was a good couple of years where I would get the odd gig, but only in Kent,” she says. “Nothing was overnight. I gradually got more gigs outside of Kent, then onto different cities and different countries.”
The turning point was the Ministry of Sound.
“A lot of people have the ability to go and get gigs anywhere. But for me, it was the fact I was on Ministry’s roster; the affiliation with that really helped. Anywhere you go in the world, if you say the worked with Ministry of Sound, they know the brand.”
Having known the RAM Records team for some time, it was after Jaxxon ended her drum&bass set hiatus that they came calling.
“I was playing house and garage at the time. But talking to RAM now, I know they were watching what I was doing, and when I switched back into drum n bass, about a year ago, the label manager just asked me for a meeting.”
Sat having a drink in The Duke of Cumberland pub in Whitstable, Jaxxon shows us the RAM tattoo she has had since her teens.
“It is a bit faded now, and it is proper nerdy, but I am proud of it too,” she says. “I had a massive RAM poster on my wall when I was a kid and I was an Andy C fangirl and now I have the same manager as him!”
She has achieved a dream, but she is down to Earth.
“I quite like the way I didn’t just shoot up overnight and get signed,” she explains. “Everything that happens now feels like it’s meant to because I’ve been taking little steps.
“But then, I do still have points of realisation. Like at SouthBeats, where I played on the RAM stage in between Wilkinson and Rene Levice. They are two of the biggest acts, so that was incredible.”
Neither has Jaxxon forgotten her roots, mingling gigs in the mountains of St Mortitz, Switzerland, with those at the University of Kent’s student union.
“The two sets would be quite different, but as long as you are getting that same reaction and energy, the feeling is the same, whether it’s at a student club or a festival.”
As our conversation drew to a close, and the shoot in a cold corner of Whitstable was finished, the conversation turned to the F word - Females.
“When I started Djing, I remember trying to find female DJs to look up to on Google and I could only find a couple.
“In the first few years, I remember going up to bouncers and telling them I was DJing tonight and there being utter shock. Not necessarily in a negative way, but they just weren’t used to it.
“If I was with a male friend, people would assume that he was the DJ.
“But I haven’t had too many negative experiences. And I didn’t feel weird because of it or looked down upon. More often than not I’ve received respect.”
But while more female specialist genre DJs are certainly coming through, Jaxxon is still ardent that the skills, and not the gender, take precedence.
“You don’t want it to be a novelty thing. I want to be there, not because I’m a woman, but because I’m a good DJ.”