Kemistry + Storm
Years before Goldie began his ascent to stardom, pre-DJ Kemistry was taking him down to the parties where Grooverider was performing for kicks. Time shortly saw Goldie becoming one of the world’s most famous drum & bass producers/stars and head honcho at Metalheadz, while Kemistry and another friend, Storm, dug into the scene as well and became two of the best drum & bass DJs.
Eventually, Goldie backed down from his duties at Metalheadz and asked Kemistry & Storm to take over running the label. The label was run from their home for over two years, but have since moved into offices with Kemi taking care of the DJing side of things (bookings, etc.) and Storm working as press officer and A&R. This, with the additional help of a label manager who takes care of the contracts and accountancy, has seen Metalheadz turn into the powerful vehicle for the drum & bass scene that it is now.
When and where did you two meet and how long have you been DJ-ing together?
Storm : We met quite a few years ago, when Kemi was at fashion college, and my niece was at the same college. I went to see their end-of-year show, and I met Kemi then. We lived in the same town, but I hadn’t really met her before. We became friends for a while, then we kind of moved apart — Kemi lived in Sheffield, which is in the north part of England, and I lived in Oxford, and then we both got back together again in 1989, when we both moved to London at the same time. Kemi was heavy into raving and the music, while I’d been stuck in Oxford studying, so I hadn’t seen anything of the early parts of the rave scene. When I got to London, Kemi just bombarded me with music, and took me out a lot, and I was…converted…overnight. We started raving together quite heavily for about a year and a half, and then one New Year’s Eve we went to a party and got consumed by what the DJs were doing there. We’d heard Fabio and Groove quite at lot at Rage and we realized that they were doing this thing called “mixing” in the middle of the tracks, and we were like, “Oh, we really want to try that.” We bought our own decks at the end of 1991, got on a pirate radio station after about 5 months, and I think it just kind of took off from there.
I read somewhere that you had a background in radiology, that you went to school for that? Did you pursue that career at any level after you became a DJ?
Storm : Well, I was actually qualified for it at that time, and I had to carry on doing my job for about 3 years after we started playing, because, of course, we had to keep some regular money coming in. So for a while, I was DJ by night, and therapy radiologist by day.
Did you have any musical background prior to DJ-ing?
Storm : I used to sing quite a lot, and was a backup singer in a couple of bands, and I think I’ve always been around music. I learned to play a musical instrument when I was about 7 or 8, and I also started dancing about the age of 3. Music has always been a very big part of my family’s life. There was always music playing in the house, my mother and sister would both sing a lot. When I met Kemi again, she was going out with this guy who was in a band, and the guy I was going out with was in the same band, so we used to go on the road with that band and I kind of did some singing with them myself. So I’ve always been around music, it’s always been an important part of my life. I think, without music, I just couldn’t exist.
What instrument did you play when you were growing up?
Storm : Oh, dear. I don’t normally say, but I’ll let you know — I used to play the accordion. It’s very Irish, you know. And quite geeky. I was in an Irish marching band for a few years, too, when I was growing up. I did a bit more classical accordion playing later on. It gave me a good background for understanding what music is all about. I obviously learned to read music, all the scales, all that stuff, and I suppose that gave me a really good musical background about rhythms and keeping time and it was almost second nature to me once I got on the decks then.
I honestly thought I’d be able to make a resurgence as an accordion player when Bjork had an accordion player on the stage, because I thought it was coming back in style — but I don’t think it is.
Is there any sort of DJ community in London, and do you think you get treated any differently as women than if you were two guys?
Storm : Well, I don’t think so. I think because we came into the community with reinforcements — Goldie was already well-known in the community, and he pretty much introduced us to everybody with the insinuation that he was going to be a big time producer and we would be playing his tracks and that we would be his top DJs. So I suppose we were given respect right from the beginning, especially when Goldie became so successful so quickly and we rose through the ranks right along with him.
A lot of DJs, especially some of the more established DJs, really wanted to take us under their wing and look after us. They still talk to us that way, like, “If you’ve got any problems, we boys can sort it out for you,” while in reality, Kemi and I could probably find a solution to whatever it was more quickly by ourselves. They nurtured us, really, especially Randall — we met him early on and he gave quite a boost to our career in the early days. I think they’ve all been really fair to us, all in all. They’ve seen that we really work hard and that we’re really dedicated, and I think that if people see that, it doesn’t matter who you are, they’re going to respect you for that.
What do you think the big difference between audiences in America and audiences in the UK is?
Storm : They’re no different. The crowds in the US were giving us the same vibes as the ones back home. But I think sometimes in America, people are afraid to dance right off the bat and spend a lot of time waiting to see if someone else will start dancing first so they can hit the floor. Of course, in places where the club scene’s been established for a long time, like in San Francisco, they were dancing the second we started playing. New Orleans was really good as well.
What do you like to do with the little bit of free time you get?
Storm : Totally chill out, I guess, watch films, TV. Listening to drum & bass relaxes me. Getting together with friends, most of which are also into drum & bass. We always joke about being trapped in a drum & bass bubble. We’re completely surrounded by people who are into the music, who create the music, the scene in general — we’re always playing the music around the house. It’s all drum & bass–let’s just hope the bubble never bursts!