meta-scriptDJ Charlotte De Witte Talks Exploring New Sounds In Belgium Lockdown, Her Rise To The Top & Sexism In The Industry |
Charlotte de Witte

Charlotte de Witte

Photo: Marie Wynants


DJ Charlotte De Witte Talks Exploring New Sounds In Belgium Lockdown, Her Rise To The Top & Sexism In The Industry

"I never would have dreamed of being where I am now. I mean, no one can fully grasp what has happened," the Belgian DJ/techno producer said

GRAMMYs/Jan 28, 2021 - 05:34 am

At 28 years old, Belgium-born DJ/producer Charlotte de Witte has firmly established her place as techno royalty. Soon after discovering her love of underground dance music at 16 years old, she began DJing local clubs. Just two years later, in 2011, she won a DJ competition to open the main stage at the massive Belgian dance festival, Tomorrowland. She's been on a roll ever since.

After taking over her home country, she swiftly made waves across Europe in 2016, including in dance club hotspots Berlin and Barcelona. That same year, she played her first stateside shows—in Brooklyn, of course. By 2017, she was one of the most buzzed-about new underground DJs in the U.S. scene and played both EDC Las Vegas and Detroit's iconic Movement Electronic Music Festival in 2018.

In addition to her in-demand tour schedule, she's released hard-hitting techno banger after banger, launched a label, showcased her effortless style in a collab with TOMBOY, and cultivated her ever-growing fanbase on media content (she currently has 1.7 million followers on Instagram).

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And while 2020 meant much more time at home in Belgium than she's had in years, it was still a triumphant one for the powerhouse producer. In November, she was named DJ Mag's No. 1 Alternative DJ, and the following month she celebrated the one-year anniversary of her label/event brand, KNTXT. recently caught up with de Witte to learn more about her journey to the top, what the 2020 slow down felt like for her, her experience with sexism in dance music, and more.

You were named DJ Mag's 2020 No. 1 Alternative DJ, what does that recognition feel like for you?

It's a pretty big milestone to hit, especially in the year that's as weird as 2020. It felt like a massive hug from the scene and from the people out there. [It felt like they said], "Hey, thanks for being connected and thanks for sharing the music." Carl Cox was always No. 1 since the beginning of this alternative list [in 2018]. So, to knock someone like Carl Cox off the throne is really massive. And I mean, there are so many incredibly talented people on there, so it's still pretty surreal actually when I think of it. It's incredible.

You're the first woman to get to the top of the list and while it does feel like things are shifting a bit, I'm curious what you think needs to happen within the dance industry to keep lifting up more women, and people of color, to the top?

Well, I'm a firm believer that the dancefloor and the dance scene should be a place of total freedom, a place where you can express yourself no matter your gender, your color, your beliefs, your sexuality—it doesn't matter, it should be a place of freedom. I think there's still a lot of work when it comes to equality and fighting for those rights. I think you can always do more things, and it's very important to keep an open mind and to keep an open conversation about these things.

I can speak a lot about gender inequality because obviously, I've been having these questions since I started DJing. I don't think there should be necessarily a 50-50 equal division on the lineup, but there should be equal opportunities and equal chances, and you should treat people the same. So I think there's still work to do, but it's getting better. You see more and more female DJs popping up as well and getting a lot of opportunities same as male DJs, but there's still a lot of work. It's important to keep an open mind and keep the conversation going, always.

"I'm a firm believer that the dancefloor and the dance scene should be a place of total freedom, a place where you can express yourself no matter your gender, your color, your beliefs, your sexuality… So I think there's still a lot of work when it comes to equality and fighting for those rights."

One thing I think about a lot is the term "female DJ." Do you have instances where people say, "You're my favorite female artist?" How do you deal with that? I'm sure that that can be pretty frustrating.

It is, it's incredibly frustrating. And it happens all the time. A very annoying thing that happens as well is, when people online tend to compare DJs, 99 percent of the cases, it is between two female DJs. And indeed, they refer to you as a female DJ or "DJane," that's also a word.

I've been DJing for 11 years now and it's bad to say that I sort of got used to it. Not that it doesn't give me the chills, I mean, if someone in my close surroundings would say something like that, I would probably say something about it, but I realized that this mindset is a very slow one to change in people. Also, people don't fully realize what they're doing with saying those things—that doesn't make it right—but there are much worse things you can say than referring to someone as a female DJ. I mean, there are a lot of other battles to fight.

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I remember you getting a lot of buzz in 2017, and, from the outside, it's seemed like you've had a steady, rapid rise since then. What has the journey to where you are today felt like for you?

It's always sort of fascinating to look back at it myself because indeed everything has been a massive rollercoaster from where I was 11 years ago. How I started, I never would have dreamed of being where I am now. I mean, no one can fully grasp what has happened. In the beginning, it was really the tiny clubs in a tiny area where I used to live and then just massively going with the flow and doing what [felt] right. And I think having a lot of luck and being surrounded with the right people and doing things at the right time together with the right kind of motivation and ambition that you need.

I think those aspects really made the difference and got [me to the next level] in Belgium, first of all. And then things just started heading off on a worldwide basis. And indeed, for the past three years, minus this year, I've been touring non-stop and I've been probably one of the DJs touring the most in the world. And it's incredible. So it's been a rollercoaster, but touring really made me happy as well. It gave me so much energy. It was extremely exhausting, but it shaped me so much as a human being.

What has it felt like to finally have some time at home and off the road to reflect on all of it?

Well, 2020 has been a bit strange. I was lucky to be with people that I really love, very close to me. I think without them, I would have fallen into a black hole. There is no doubt about that. Even now, mentally, it's not easy, but that really kept me going. Also, having the time to have a normal pattern in my life, a normal sleep cycle, healthy food, because you don't have to eat shitty airport food again, [has been good]. So I'm trying to be productive. And [I'm] resting a lot. I did realize that my body and my mind could both use the rest at the beginning of the lockdown, so we rested.

I think it's been a very interesting year to work towards the future, but it's confusing because no one really knows what it is—I don't want to [get] too philosophical or too depressing. But I think it's been a year to be productive and to really clear minds, and take the experiences from the past and try and shape the future.

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You released a couple of EPs in 2020—including Return To Nowhere and Rave On Time—and some remixes and singles. Did you work on those before or after lockdown?

I made them at the end of 2019, so everything was already scheduled. When everything happened, we were thinking of holding back the [label] release of Return To Nowhere and Rave On Time until a time where we could go to clubs and festivals again because they're made to be played at those places. But we just decided to go for it. It provides some music in these times.

I made the Bob Moses [and ZHU] remix in March and that one just got released [in December]. So that's the only thing that had a short time span [from when I made it], but all the others were made before. Now we've made some new music that's coming out in 2021, so hopefully we'll be out of lockdown.

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I talked to a couple of DJs at the beginning of lockdown. If you're used to making music for the dancefloor, it's like, "Well, what do I make now?" Some artists talked about not feeling motivated to make dance music when they didn't know when that space would return. I feel like any time good dance music comes out it is a good thing, we need that release of moving our bodies, wherever we are.

I get it. But it is strange to make dance music [in lockdown]. In the beginning, it was still OK because the memory of the dance festivals were still fresh. But after 10, 11 months, when I'm sitting in the studio, it's really tough to make something with a strong kick. I'm experimenting a bit towards more ambient stuff, which is nice as well, to have [during] this time of experimenting. I completely understand what they said, it feels so strange even listening to new music or trying to find new techno tracks. It started to be very strange. I think it makes sense. You're just so distant from it, but you have to keep it alive. [Laughs.]

To that point, what are you most looking forward to when you get to return to the dancefloor?

I think the entire experience. Stepping on to your flights—preferably without a mask by then—arriving at your country of destination, going to restaurants there, the conversations you have with the people there, the promoters, the club's hard-hitting bass—the volume, the loudness that we all haven't heard in such a long time—and the energy, the sweating, everything. I'm sure it will be very magical once it comes back because we will not take it for granted anymore. It will be a new era, we just have to be patient.

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It's going to feel weird.

It is. And I think there's going to be so much energy on the floor and the explosion is going to be massive. Like every single show will be—it already was unique, but it will be incredibly unique and very intense. Hopefully, by then we can look back at it as a healthy reset because people don't take it for granted anymore. I think that is a good aspect. And people are also starting to realize the importance of having clubs and festivals around and nightlife culture—because nightlife culture has always been the ugly sister that no one wants to talk about. Everyone just regards it as drug-filled and dirty. And it is, but [it's not just that]—nightlife is really important. I think we still have a very long way to go [in order] to convey this message to people and for people in charge to realize that we matter a lot.

Recently in Germany, they declared that techno was music.

That was cool.

Now, German nightclubs can get the same funding and tax breaks that other venues do. We've seen the nightlife community come together to ask for relief funding for clubs because otherwise many are not going to survive. You're right, it matters and not just to "ravers," it's important to so many people, including those who work in it and keep those industries alive.

Exactly. There's so much more to it than what an unknowing person thinks. I think it's important that people are made aware of that. We still have a long way to go. I mean, why at the main stage [of a festival, do] you never really have DJs? You can have electronic music acts, but when you talk about a DJ, they are never fully considered a musician. That's a never-ending discussion. So, I think the fact that Germany did state that techno is music is a good start.

You just celebrated the one-year anniversary of your label, KNTXT. What was your goal when you were launching the label and what is your vision with it going forward?

Basically, to find a creative platform for my music, but also music from other artists—that was the main thing, to release good music. And to organize parties, that was also a very important part of it. We did a couple in New York, Milan, Barcelona, and London. They were going very well and we are going to start again as soon as we can.

Besides that, we just want to be a creative place and connect music with other things. For instance, I'm a big foodie, so we are trying to see how we can connect music with food or chefs because a lot of chefs are also big techno fans. It's a very interesting platform to discover things from. And now we had the collaboration with the headphone brands AIAIAI . That was a very cool one. We had a fashion collaboration too. It's just a bit of putting out your arms towards the other creative industries. It's nice, it's very cool.

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To celebrate the anniversary, you released a vinyl box set that includes the new track "Lighthouse." Can you tell us a bit more about the sonic elements and mood of the song, and what else you have in store for the White Label?

Well, "Lighthouse" is the first White Label release. White Label-wise, we still have to explore what direction we want to go with it. I think our main focus is to release EPs like we've been doing, but I think "Lighthouse" was a very nice addition to this collector's box set. I also made that track a while ago.

It's very dancefloor-oriented, it has an acid line in there. Fun fact: in "Lighthouse" you hear a voice saying some things; it's my voice saying the definition of context, and I reversed it. I like reversing things because it makes things sound less common or cheesy. The definition of context is in there. So, you're getting context on context, basically.

Reversing parts of audio is somewhat common in hip-hop—Kendrick Lamar used it a lot on DAMN. Producers will play a drum loop or something backward and it feels like you're like falling backward or dreaming.

Yeah. Some things just sound more interesting in reverse. And I have the feeling that, especially with vocals, it makes things a bit more alienating. If I would just have said the definition of context, it would be a bit lame.

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What do you think are the essential elements of a great techno banger?

It's always a tough one when they ask you to define music because I can give you a Wikipedia-type definition, but in the end it's also very much of an emotional experience and what is best for me, is slow for someone else. But I think techno is a very functional 4/4 beat. It's not necessarily happy, it's quite undeground and it can be quite repetitive and loopy and can be quite stripped. So it's not chaotic or not happy sounding. That's how I would describe it to an audience. It's not like EDM where you can put your hands up in the air. I mean, you can put your hands up in the air, but not because they tell you to.

"I am drawn to sort of the 'less is more' aspect of [techno]. You don't need a lot of very audible elements to give you a lot in return. It speaks to me in its emptiness, in a way."

What specific elements are you typically drawn to in a techno track?

I am drawn to sort of the "less is more" aspect of it. You don't need a lot of very audible elements to give you a lot in return. It speaks to me in its emptiness, in a way. It just gives space to a lot of the elements that you use. And that underground side, which is just more interesting to me because it makes me think about those things and wonder.

When did you first start listening to techno? And at what point did you know that you wanted to start producing music yourself?

I started going to these underground clubs where I went to school at the age of 16, 17. I think that's where I first got in touch with electronic music, but also the more underground side of it. Electro was quite big in Belgium back in the days, but it also started getting me in touch with techno music. So, my initial step into electronic music was electro, which you don't hear that often nowadays.

Gradually, by digging deeper into this world of electronic music, I found techno and I'm still there. I think I started producing a couple of years later. I also started DJing almost straight away because I fell in love with the music and I wanted to do something with it. Initially, it was just for me, like I was mixing tracks at home, to listen to on my iPod when I was going to school and never thought of putting them online.

But at some point, I did [put mixes online] and then things just started rolling. Music-making started a couple of years later because I felt a need to not only play other people's music but also to explore this world of beat making myself. Because it's a whole world and it's extremely fascinating to delve deeper.

You dove in, that's awesome.

Yeah, sort of. And I could—my parents were always supportive, they just let me do me. I mean, I wasn't harming anyone with it. They just saw that it made me happy, so they just let me be. It was cool—I was lucky as well. A crazy path.

What are your release plans for 2021?

I've been working on some stuff to release on my label, KNTXT, in 2021. Also, we have a remix that's coming out. I think a lot of people will release a lot of music in 2021 because everyone had so much time. I have stuff coming and I'm very happy with the results.

I really look forward to playing it on the dancefloor and seeing the reaction of the crowd. I've been playing some of the tracks on [live]streams [I've done] but having six cameras pointed at your face—even though millions of people are watching—can not compare with the crowd. So I really look forward to that moment.

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Curtis Jones, aka Cajmere & Green Velvet, performing live. Jones is wearing dark sunglasses amid a dark background and green strobe lights.
Curtis Jones performs as Green Velvet

Photo: Matt Jelonek/WireImage


Dance Legend Curtis Jones On Cajmere, Green Velvet & 30 Years Of Cajual Records

As Green Velvet and Cajmere, DJ/producer Curtis Jones celebrates everything from Chicago to acid house. With a new party and revived record label, Jones says he wants to "shine a light on those who sacrificed so much to keep house music alive."

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 02:19 pm

Curtis Jones is a dance music legend, whose multiple monikers only begin to demonstrate his deep and varied influence in the genre.

Jones has been active as a producer and DJ for decades, and is among a cadre of dance music acts forging a connection between the genre's origins and its modern iterations. Crucially, he  joined Chicago house legends Honey Dijon and Terry Hunter on Beyoncé's house-infused RENAISSANCE, providing a sample for "Cozy." He’s also produced tracks with house favorites Chris Lake and Oliver Heldens, and DJed with Dom Dolla and John Summit.

Jones contributed to the aforementioned collaborations, young and old, as Green Velvet. He’s been releasing dance hits like "Flash" and "Answering Machine" under that name since the mid- '90s. He is also currently a staple of the live circuit, his signature green mohawk vibing in clubs and festivals around the globe — including at his own La La Land parties in Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando, and elsewhere.

Green Velvet is appropriately braggadocious, even releasing the popular "Bigger Than Prince" in 2013. But by the time Jones had released the heavy-grooving tech house track, his artistry had been percolating for decades as Cajmere.

Where Green Velvet releases lean into acid house and Detroit techno, Cajmere is all about the traditional house sound of Jones’ hometown of Chicago. When Jones first debuted Cajmere in 1991, Chicago’s now-historic reputation for house music was still developing. Decades after the original release, Cajmere tracks like "Percolator,” have sustained the Windy City sound via remixes by prominent house artists like Will Clarke, Jamie Jones, and Claude VonStroke.

"I love doing music under both of my aliases, so it’s great when fans discover the truth,” Jones tells over email. Often, Jones performs as Cajmere to open his La La Land parties, and closes as Green Velvet. 

But beyond a few scattered performances and new tracks, Cajmere has remained dormant while Green Velvet became a worldwide headliner, topping bills in Mexico City, Toronto, Bogotá and other international dance destinations. He’s only shared two original releases as Cajmere since 2016: "Baby Talk,” and "Love Foundation,” a co-production with fellow veteran Chicago producer/DJ Gene Farris.

This year, Jones is reviving Cajmere to headliner status with his new live event series, Legends. First held in March in Miami, Jones' Legends aims to highlight other dance music legends, from Detroit techno pioneers Stacey Pullen and Carl Craig, to Chicago house maven Marshall Jefferson. 

"My intention is to shine a light on those who sacrificed so much to keep house music alive," Jones writes. "The sad reality is that most of the legendary artists aren’t celebrated or compensated as well as they should be."

Given that dance music came into the popular music zeitgeist relatively recently, the originators of the genre — like the artists Jones booked for his Legends party — are still in their prime. Giving them space to perform allows them to apply the same innovation they had in the early '90s in 2024.

Jones says the Miami Legends launch was an amazing success."Seeing the passion everyone, young and old, displayed was so inspiring."

Curtis Jones Talks House, Cajmere & Green Velvet performs at Legends Miami

Curtis Jones, center, DJs at the Miami Legends party ┃Courtesy of the artist

The first Legends party also served as a celebration of Cajual Records, the label Jones launched in 1992 as a home for his Cajmere music. Over the past three decades, Cajual has also released tracks from dance music veterans such as Riva Starr, as well as contemporary tastemakers like Sonny Fodera and DJ E-Clyps. 

Furthermore, Jones’ partnership with revered singers such as Russoul and Dajae (the latter of whom still performs with him to this day) on Cajual releases like "Say U Will” and "Waterfall” helped to define the vocal-house style.

Like the Cajmere project, Cajual Records has been moving slower in recent years. The label has only shared four releases since 2018. True to form, though, Jones started another label; Relief Records, the home of Green Velvet's music, shared 10 releases in 2023 alone.

Jones says he's been particularly prolific as Green Velvet because "the genres of tech house and techno have allowed me the creative freedom I require as an artist."

Now Jones is making "loads of music” as Cajmere again and recently signed a new distribution deal for Cajual Records. The true sound of Chicago is resonating with audiences in 2024, Jones says, adding "it's nice that house is making a comeback."

Jones remembers when house music was especially unpopular. He used to call radio stations in the '80s to play tracks like Jamie Principle's underground classic "Waiting On My Angel,” only to be told they didn’t play house music whatsoever. In 2024, house music records like FISHER’s "Losing It” were certified gold, and received nominations for Best Dance Recording at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. Jones is embracing this popularity with open arms.

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"The new audience it’s attracting is excited to hear unique underground-style house records now. This is perfect for my Cajmere sets,” Jones says. "I never saw Green Velvet being more popular than Cajmere, and both sounds being as popular as they are even today.” 

While Jones is finding success in his own artistic endeavors, he points to a general lack of appreciation for Black dance artists in festival bookings. Looking at the run-of-show for ARC Festival, a festival in Chicago dedicated to house and techno music, legendary artists play some of the earliest slots. 

For the 2023 edition, Carl Craig played at 3 p.m on Saturday while the young, white John Summit, closed the festival the same night. In 2021, the acid house inventor, Chicago’s DJ Pierre, played the opening set at 2 p.m. on Saturday, while FISHER, another younger white artist, was the headliner.

In 2020, Marshall Jefferson penned an op-ed in Mixmag about the losing battle he is fighting as a Black DJ from the '90s. He mentions that younger white artists often receive upwards of $250,000 for one gig, whereas he receives around $2,000, despite the fact that he still DJs to packed crowds 30 years after he started.

Jones is doing his part to even the playing field with Legends, and according to him, things are going well after the first edition. "Seeing how much respect the fans have for the Legends was so special,” Jones says. "Hopefully they become trendy again.” 

The story of Curtis Jones is already one of legend, but it is far from over. "I feel it’s my duty to continue to make creative and innovative tracks as well as musical events. I love shining the light on new upcoming and emerging artists as well as giving the originators their proper dues,” Jones says. 

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Nia Archives On New Album 'Silence Is Loud'
Nia Archives

Photo: Lola Banet


On 'Silence Is Loud,' Nia Archives Creates A Jungle Of Emotion

On her debut record, British jungle artist Nia Archives plays with contrast. "Jungle is so chaotic and intense," she says, adding that her music is often emotional. "Bringing the two together always makes something quite interesting."

GRAMMYs/Apr 10, 2024 - 04:15 pm

Since Nia Archives came on the scene in 2020, she has been making noise.

The 24-year-old native of Northern England produces jungle — the dance subgenre known for its loud, raucous breakbeats — and her achievements in her short career (figuratively) match the volume of her chosen style.

Over four years, Nia Archives has released tracks with tens of millions of Spotify streams like "Headz Gone West" and "Sober Feelz," started her own event series, Up Ya Archives, and become friends with the jungle originator Goldie. Nia also closed a stage at Coachella 2023, and opened for Beyoncé during the London RENAISSANCE tour show.

Nia’s also made significant strides for equality in dance music. In 2022, she wrote a letter to Britain’s MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Awards imploring them to include a dance and electronic music category. In response, not only did they add the category that same year, but Nia won it.

For as much noise as she’s made in recent years, Nia always makes room in her life for contrast. Out April 12, Nia Archives' debut album, Silence Is Loud, the singer, producer, and DJ shows that there is just as much power in the quiet.

"Silence can be weakness for some people: You didn't say what you wanted to say; you were too weak to make noise," Nia tells "But it can also be powerful. Keeping your silence. Holding your tongue and not saying what might not have been beneficial." 

This contrast is central to Nia’s music, and sees new heights on Silence. Her sweet, ringing voice counters the heaviness of jungle beats, while lighter genres are layered over fast-moving breaks. On tracks "Cards On The Table" and "Out of Options," the melodic foundation is built on Britpop-esque acoustic guitar chords. On the album's title track, Nia contrasts massive kick drums and high-pitched squeals, with softer, heartfelt lyrics detailing her dependence on her little brother. spoke to Nia Archives about finding balance in contrast, her writing process, and making noise in the near-silent U.S. jungle scene.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The hallmark of jungle music is busy breakbeats. How do you incorporate the concept of silence into the genre?

Jungle is so chaotic and intense. That's one of the things I've always loved about the music — the hectic drum patterns. But in my music, the songwriting is always quite emotional with a lot of meaning in it. Bringing the two together always makes something quite interesting. 

With this project, I really wanted to focus on songwriting. I took the time to research the great songwriters from the Beatles to Amy Winehouse, Radiohead, Blur. Kings of Leon were a huge inspiration to me throughout this project as well. 

In the past, a lot of music I was writing was quite surface-level. I wasn't going as inward as I could; maybe out of fear. The process of this project was different. 

I'd write the songs in bed in the morning, and then make the drum patterns on my laptop. I’d take my little demo [to my friend and producer Ethan P. Flynn] and we’d make the song in like three hours. That process really worked for me because it meant I could really get deep. 

I'd write loads of sh-t lyrics before I got to the good lyrics. In studios, it’s hard to get all the rubbish thoughts in your head and say them in front of people. So I quite enjoyed the privacy of writing in bed and taking it to Ethan. We’d just have fun and bang out all the tunes. 

How did the work of the Beatles and Radiohead manifest when you were making the album?

I've got really eclectic taste in music. I love jungle, that's my bread and butter, but I’ve always found fun in fusing genres together to make something new. 

I really enjoy deep-diving into the Beatles, Blur or Radiohead, [and] listening to the structures and the instrument choices. There are certain things that make them what they are, especially Blur with Britpop. I was listening to the Ronettes and a lot of Motown. I went to Detroit last year, and I got to go to the Motown Museum. I found that really inspiring; those productions, it's crazy what they did with what they had.

I'll never be able to make music how the people that I listen to make it — especially when you bring in jungle beats and 170 BPM. It's always gonna be a slightly off-kilter version of the original inspiration. But I think that makes something quite fun and unique.

Blur's Damon Albarn also leads Gorillaz, opening him up to all manner of collaborations. What would you think about being on a Gorillaz track at some point?

It'd be a dream come true! If there's anybody that I'm trying to get to listen to my album. It's definitely Damon Albarn. I'm actually gonna send him an unsolicited vinyl just because I really love his music. He's an incredible musician, artist, everything. He's a big inspiration to me.

You’ve said in previous interviews that jungle is "anything over a breakbeat." Why do you think contrasting sounds can fit so well over a breakbeat?

I think jungle, especially in the '90s, was so futuristic. The breaks themselves, depending on how you construct them, are so versatile. The breaks have so much room to go in whatever direction you want. You can go really heavy, or you can go really light and atmospheric. 

All of the original junglists have their own style. They weren't all trying to be the same. They were very strong in their identity, which is one of the other things I love about it.

What kind of modern music are you excited about integrating into jungle?

I quite like a lot of happy hardcore stuff, which is not new. I really enjoy those melodies [and you don't really hear that sound as much. I really love disco; I'd like to do something like that. 

You’re one of the only artists, if not the only jungle artist of this generation who has built an audience in the U.S. You’ve played Coachella and headlined U.S. tours. How does it feel to be a driving force in introducing jungle to America?

Older generations know about jungle. But I feel like a lot of the young kids in the U.S. are definitely discovering it, which is super exciting. It's really cool to build community in America as well. Every time I've played in America I get the proper ravers down. 

A big part of jungle is the culture and the community that comes with it. We have such a rich culture in the UK; we're kind of spoiled. Whereas in America it feels like people who like that music, they're still building [community].

I love playing in New York cause they've got a lot of new-gen junglists. There's a few new producers who are like 20-21 [years old] who I always hang out with when I go to New York. It's really cool to see their take on jungle, 'cause the American producers that I know have a different view of it.

In the UK we have so many jungle nights and so many raves constantly. In America, those jungle nights feel quite special and one-off. I feel really excited to keep coming back and keep building that community in America. I'm excited to see all the new producers that come up in the next couple of years, as well.

Have you supported any new American junglists by inviting them to perform at an Up Ya Archives party or playing out their tracks live?

There's a kid called Dazegxd. I got him on my Lot Radio takeover for Up Ya Archives. Then he actually played at the Knockdown Center [in Queens, NY] for me which was amazing.

I've booked him to play his first London show at an Up Ya Archives party. That's a really meaningful connection to me 'cause he's quite young and he's so excited about the music; he's proper geeking out about jungle. I love people like that because I'm also a geek of this music.

I'm looking forward to meeting more people like that. I love creating friendships and relationships with people and getting them to play my parties. 

Where do you see your career, and jungle as a whole, going in the future?

I'd love to keep building on what I'm doing. My album, I'm hoping, is my flag in the sand moment for who I am as an album artist. There's a lot of fusions, and I'm hoping that people can hear it and understand where I'm trying to go.

I hope to make more albums and keep traveling the world. I've got a lot of exciting touring coming up this year. If I can do what I'm doing now, but a bit better in five years, I'll be a very happy person. 

My goal in life, similar to Goldie, is to do what I'm doing for the rest of my life. They've been doing it for 30 years. People come and go, but they've held it down for as long as they have, and they're still as relevant as they were 30 years ago.

That's what I want in my career. To still be able to play music and make music when I'm like 50. That is the real goal.

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Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn performs in the middle of the crowd at the Lost Boys stage at Cruel World Festival at Brookside at the Rose Bowl, on Sat., May 20, 2023.
Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn performs at Cruel World Festival in 2023.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images


10 Smaller Music Festivals Happening In 2024: La Onda, Pitchfork Music Fest, Cruel World & More

Beyond Coachella and Lollapalooza are a wealth of well-produced American festivals that keep people coming back for their down-home vibes and stacked lineups. Read on for 10 beloved smaller festivals that offer an alternative to major events.

GRAMMYs/Apr 8, 2024 - 01:21 pm

Music festival season doesn’t begin or end with Coachella. Festival fever brings millions of revelers to and across the United States annually for events that cater to every taste, style, and budget.

While Coachella, with its big-name lineups and a magnet for celebrities and influencers, often takes the lion's share of press and social media attention, plenty of smaller festivals equally capture the hearts of attendees who make it a tradition to return year after year.

2024 introduces an exciting array of new music festivals across the U.S., many highlighted in our guide below. Whether you want to see your long-time favorites or discover fresh music acts, there’s a ton of talent to consider. Beyond the music, these festivals offer top-notch people watching and other experiential joys that make this kind of creative and communal culture important to people across generations and backgrounds.

Sol Blume

May 3-5, Sacramento, California

California’s state capital is home to the now three-day Sol Blume, a festival so laid back that its mascot is a skeleton chilling on its side, throwing up a peace sign. This year’s Sol Blume is headlined by Snoh Aalegra, SZA and Kaytraminé (producer Kaytranada and singer Aminé). 

It’s still at Discovery Park, but now Sol Blume is a day longer than last year’s event, the stages are bigger and there are more food and drink options. There’s also a dedicated wellness area, with daily yoga classes, meditation sessions, and tension release workshops — should you get a little bit too worked up by the whole mass musical experience.

Lovers & Friends

May 4, Las Vegas, Nevada

Once again, Lovers & Friends is set to bring a monster lineup representing the heights of ‘90s R&B, hip-hop, pop, and boy bands to Las Vegas for the third time. It’s hard to overstate the megawatt, dream team, TRL-like quality of this festival. After all, headliners Janet Jackson, Usher, Backstreet Boys and Gwen Stefani have all carried arena tours on their own.

Like many of its single-day festival colleagues around the country, the Lovers & Friends lineup appears to fit what could be at least a couple days of performances into just one, so there may be schedule conflicts that prevent attendees from seeing all of the sets that they might want to enjoy.

Cruel World

May 11, Pasadena, California

A family-friendly, all-ages music festival with a predilection for nostalgia with a dark edge, Cruel World returns to the world-famous Rose Bowl’s Brookside golf course for the third year. This year’s fest features a top billing performance from Duran Duran, plus appearances by Interpol, Blondie, Simple Minds, Placebo, Soft Cell and Adam Ant. The latter rescheduled from last year’s canceling due to a health matter, so he’s just as anticipated as the top acts this year.

Speaking of 2023, a freak electrical storm cut several performances short last year, and a bonus makeup event was held the next night with Iggy Pop and Siouxsie Sioux. The skies should be kinder this year, and those who don’t get their musical fill can return to the same spot the following weekend for a festival called Just Like Heaven with The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, Phoenix and more.


May 25-27, Detroit, Michigan

Launched in 2000 as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and renamed in 2003, Movement remains the world’s pre-eminent event dedicated to techno music, a style created in Detroit and imitated all over the world. This year’s event features VIP pop-ups, classic record label showcases and veteran artists from Detroit and beyond such as Kevin Saunderson, Stacey Pullen, Delano Smith, Masters At Work, Richie Hawtin, Fatboy Slim and. . . Ludacris? Sure, why not — there’s always a hip-hop twist or three happening here, too.

Movement is still the best time to be in Detroit each year in order to celebrate the musical innovations of the city. Beyond the festival, there are a host of official and unofficial afterparties and alternatives to check out. Some people travel to the area to party and never even make it to the main festival, for all the other events happening at all hours.

La Onda

June 1-2, Napa, California

This year, a brand new festival La Onda will debut the weekend after the annual BottleRock festival at Napa Valley Expo with the same event producers. La Onda’s music headliners are Maná, Fuerza Regida, Alejandro Fernández and Junior H. The other acts booked represent a wide variety of Latinx sounds, including regional Mexican, Spanish rock, Latin pop, reggaetón, mariachi, rap, norteño and cumbia.

Read more: 11 New Music Festivals To Attend In 2024: No Values, We Belong Here & More

The Napa Valley Expo is big enough to hold such a large festival with different stages, but it’s not too exhausting to walk back and forth between the areas. And BottleRock amenities like the silent disco, spa treatments, and adult refreshments will be there for La Onda guests to check out as well. 

Roots Picnic

June 1-2 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The annual Roots Picnic takes place in Philadelphia, the original home of The Roots, and is always a passionate tribute to the City of Brotherly Love (see last year’s highlights). This year, there will also be a big tribute to New Orleans performed by Lil Wayne, Trombone Shorty, PJ Morton and more. 

The festival lineup, which is curated by the band, features musical friends like Jill Scott, Nas, and Victoria Monét as well as a special performance by André 3000, who has been touring the country playing improvisational, flute-led music inspired by his recent solo album New Blue Sun. Tickets to that show alone have been tough to get on other dates, and it’s part of the glorious Roots Picnic.

Pitchfork Music Festival

July 19-21, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s Union Park has been home to the three-day Pitchfork Music Festival since its inception in 2011. The annual event, an extension of the acclaimed music publication, attracts about 60,000 people — see the standout sets from last year to get a good idea of the diversity of this mainstay. Artists bringing the heat this year include Black Pumas, Jamie XX, Alanis Morissette, De La Soul, Brittany Howard, Grandmaster Flash and Carly Rae Jepsen

Pitchfork Music Festival is a scorching experience for more than its hot lineup — you can also expect high summer temperatures in the Windy City. Pitchfork’s editorial staff was recently reduced and merged into the men’s magazine GQ by Condé Nast, so the festival’s future shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Fool in Love

Aug. 31, Inglewood, California

Like Lovers & Friends, people questioned whether this new one-day fest’s heavy-hitting R&B and old-school soul lineup was fake when it was first released. Lionel Richie and Diana Ross take the top tier of the flier, followed by Nile Rodgers & Chic, Al Green, Santana, Charlie Wilson and Gladys Knight. And this festival has more levels of enduring talent booked, including stages headlined by George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic and Clinton’s hero, Smokey Robinson

It’s been criticized on social media for booking bands that may not have many or any surviving original members, but that has been a very standard part of certain touring legacy acts for decades. Both the multi-generational lineup and the people-watching promise to be legendary.


Aug. 31- Sept. 1, Seattle, Washington

An all-ages event that began back in 1973, Bumbershoot is one of the country’s staple music and arts festivals. After beginning as an independently-produced fest, AEG Live ran it for four years until 2019. Bumbershoot was relaunched in 2023 by Third Stone and New Rising Sun with Seattle Center, the expansive indoor/outdoor venue where it still takes place.

Last year’s 50th anniversary event brought music acts like Brittany Howard, Sleater-Kinney, Jawbreaker and the Descendents. This year’s music lineup will be announced in May, and a full slate of visual programming and activities such a half pipe skateboard program, roller skating and even pole dancing are on the official website now.

Music at the Intersection

Sept. 14-15, St. Louis, Missouri

Music at the Intersection in St. Louis celebrates the lineage that exists between blues, jazz, soul, rap, R&B and rock, and where that takes us into the future. Hosted by Kranzberg Arts Foundation, this year’s edition of the ambitious two-day, all-ages festival features a stacked lineup of talent including Chaka Khan, Big Boi, Black Pumas, Esperanza Spalding and Samara Joy. There’s even a Gospel Brunch on Sunday in partnership with the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

As you may have noticed now, music festivals are thriving around the country in 2024! Wherever your flavor of fest takes you this year, may it be safe, fun, and offer the thrills of familiarity, discovery, and friendship.

Music Festivals 2024 Guide: Lineups & Dates For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo & Much More

Mount Kimbie
Andrea Balency-Béarn, Dom Maker, Kai Campos and Marc Pell

Photo: T-Bone Fletcher


On 'The Sunset Violent,' Mount Kimbie Explore Friction & Freedom

Mount Kimbie members Kai Campos and Dom Maker detail how endless Yucca Valley horizons, Roald Dahl and a culture clash led to their most self-realized work yet.

GRAMMYs/Apr 4, 2024 - 03:05 pm

The album cover photo for Mount Kimbie’s fourth LP, The Sunset Violent, captures a mundane yet curious slice of life: A car nearly tipped over and abandoned on the side of a road lined with towering cornfields. According to members Kai Campos and Dom Maker, it was taken by photographer T-Bone Fletcher as part of a project documenting his travels across the U.S. 

"There was something so peculiar about the whole scene," Maker tells, "and just kind of oddly unsettling whilst being quite peaceful at the same time." Adds Campos, "It's just such a great start to a story as well."

The making of The Sunset Violent could be its own arthouse film. In 2021, the two Brits drove to the California desert at the height of summer. Their AirBnB, with its cornhole board and ping-pong table, possessed the energy of an old frat house. The horizons were endless; entertainment options were less so, which provided the focus they needed to create. Six weeks of melting heat, arid landscapes, and wandering imaginations became sun-baked into the album’s nine tracks  — a collection of surrealist short stories, hazy guitars, and indie-rock textures that feel vast, almost exposing, and deeply rooted in its space.

"I think when you see the horizon just go on forever, it does something to your brain that creates space for ideas," Campos says. "It's definitely the most American record we've made."

Those Yucca Valley creations seem a world away from the London dubstep scene in which Maker and Campos launched Mount Kimbie. Their 2010 debut LP
Crooks & Lovers pushed genre boundaries through delicate and intricate electronic compositions more suited for headphones than subwoofer-rattling. Their next two albums incorporated live instruments, original vocals, and more traditional song structure, and with live shows a bigger focus, they recruited drummer Marc Pell and keyboardist Andrea Balency-Béarn for their touring band. 

Maker and Campos' paths even diverged for a time. Maker relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 and produced for James Blake, Jay-Z, Travis Scott, and others, while Campos turned to DJing. On their 2022 double album MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning, each worked on his half independently of the other, building two worlds inhabited by separate sonic ecosystems.

Their desert reunion showed them the way forward, together, to a sound and style they "want to keep doing more of, which we haven't really had before," Maker says. That included Pell and Balency-Béarn officially joining Mount Kimbie, and Maker returning to London.

Ahead of the album’s April 5 release, Maker and Campos sat down with to chronicle their "inevitable" journey to
The Sunset Violent.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Dom, it’s funny that you made this album, one so rooted in California, right before moving back to London. Is it me or are California albums a rite of passage for bands these days?

Dom Maker: It’s quite strange because we didn't really attach that much to the trip to California when we were out there. But in retrospect, and in actually speaking about this record in interviews and with friends, we started to realize how much that experience really bled into it; sort of the end of an era there for me. So it felt good to come away with a document of that period of time in my life.

Kai Campos: Like Dom said, we hadn't really considered how American in aesthetic it was. I think when you grow up in the UK and other parts of the world, you kind of inherit a lot of American culture at the same time, so you're always having this slightly removed relationship with it. The guitar music that I listened to when I was thinking about this album was mostly American, and it was just an interesting place to think about writing from. Over the last 10 years or longer, [we have] been so associated with London, so it was interesting to remove ourselves from that familiar situation in some ways.

That area of California in particular, so close to L.A., is very accessible and you can be there in a couple of hours in the car. At the same time, it feels really remote and unique and special, the landscapes and stuff like that. 

Can you tell me more about the guitar music you were listening to while making this album?

Campos: Sometimes there's songs or bands that I’ll hear one time, years and years before, and it'll always be in my head that I'm going to try and take whatever experience I had from listening to that and try and make some work. So there's all these little bits and pieces that collect over the years until there's enough of a space where I feel like, okay, I feel like I have a voice in this. Sometimes it's just one song from a band. There’s a track called "Rena" by Sonic Youth that I heard more than a decade ago that’s always been in the back of my head: One day, I'm going to try and rip that off.

Then there's other things to do with the sound of the guitars. There's a band called Land of Talk that has this super flat, compressed guitar sound that just sparked something in my head. And then more jam band, almost comical American guitar music, like NRBQ. All of these things just sit around in the soup in your brain until you find a way to articulate them yourself. I think the record in general is the friction between being British and how you interact with American culture in general.

Can you expand on that?

Campos: When you're a kid in the UK — I'm thinking early to mid-'90s — America is a bit of a fairytale, and it seems so shiny and exciting. Obviously, because it's a real place, it's way more complicated than that. And so there's a little bit of the fairytale kind of crumbling. At the same time [there's] Dom's perspective as somebody who had been living there for a long time. So it wasn't a conscious thing, but when we reflected on the record, we realized that there may be a theme here.

Maker: For me it was skating. All the skate stuff that I watched was from the States and it was like, oh my god, it's sunny all the time there. And that alone was amazing. 

I thought that America would be way more similar to where I'm from, the way things worked and the people I would be around. And that's completely not the case. That kind of friction, I found, was quite juicy as inspiration — not necessarily friction in a negative sense, but just that abrasiveness between my understanding of the world and the world around me. Even more so when you go to the desert  — the deepest, darkest like Yucca Valley in California  — that really made a lot of this record flourish.

The Sunset Violent is a lyric from your song "Dumb Guitar." It’s a visceral phrase that stirs me even if I can't quite grasp what it means. How do you interpret it, and how does that inform the record?

Maker: Honestly, that's kind of exactly how I feel, the way you feel about it. We picked out a few lyrics that we liked; it’s really not really a well-thought-out sort of title or anything. It just felt fitting for the sound and for that slight friction: The peacefulness of a sunset, and then the violence doesn't seem to fit, but it kind of does in a weird way. 

A big part of the record in general for us, especially for me with the lyric writing, was trying to set a scene that was a little bit unorthodox and maybe even slightly comical. So yeah, "the sunset violent" just felt like the one line that really stuck out. I love it more and more every time I think about it.

Is there a lyrical thread throughout the album, or is each song its own chapter?

Maker: I think each song is definitely its own short story. Some of my favorite writing that I've ever read is by Roald Dahl. A lot of his adult writing is brilliant because each story just casts a spell on you and takes you to a completely different place. With this album, I wanted to really tap into my love of short stories and writing that's very much fiction. It has some grounding in reality, but there's that fictional feel to it. 

I suppose it’s a new thing for me because I've really never written lyrics for this project. There's never been any sort of lead vocal from the band internally. So it was quite difficult for me initially to try and figure out what I wanted to say. Then I was like, well, actually I don't really want to say anything, and that was quite freeing in itself. 

I read about how the Pixies wrote "Where is My Mind?" — I was like, where are these f—ing insane lyrics from? — and he's like, "Oh, I was snorkeling in the Bahamas and I was just writing about a fish that I saw." The idea of just letting go of trying to write about something was really, really good for me. Absorbing surroundings and trying to feed some of the visuals that I was seeing into the writing was the main thing I wanted to do.

What specific visuals stand out?

Maker: I think the world of "Dumb Guitar": The idea of this slowly degrading, failing relationship and it all kind of coming to a head in this weird resort in China on a beach. I've never been to a beach in China, but I imagine everything's a bit artificial. 

What song would you say became the core of the album? The track where you realized, yes, this is the direction that we should go?

Campos: Yeah, there's a few different moments. You need that initial thing to happen where you get really excited and have enough of a vision to move in a certain direction, and that probably was "Dumb Guitar." 

There were maybe a couple of false starts before that. But ["Dumb Guitar"] was the first one that in terms of the songwriting made me a bit uncomfortable. You try to take that as a good sign [that] you're doing something new to you. To me that was more conventional songwriting, which I would never have done in the past. Even something as simple as a chord that leads into the chorus: It makes the human monkey brain feel good.

That was one of the first ones that Dom had written, and that was such an exciting moment to hear the lyrics and song really come to life. Writing [instrumentation] with vocals in mind is so much more freeing. The vocals are doing so much that you don't have to; you can work in a more subtle way and not try and demand everyone's attention all the time with the music. 

I think "Fish Brain" was another one that really came together. That was probably the one that we worked with Andrea very closely in finishing the song and it really helped us push it to another level. 

How would you say The Sunset Violent evolves Mount Kimbie’s sound from your 2017 album Love What Survives?

Campos: [Our goal was to] write in a way that was more direct. Obviously that can mean lots of different things, but whatever the shortest route for an idea to get executed was what I thought would be interesting to do. I guess that really means [being] more accessible. 

But obviously it wasn't a shot at commercial success. It just so happened that the idea of writing songs that were catchy— just really as simple as they could be, while still being interesting and having quality. That was the major difference from the work that we've done in the past… You can kind of see the evolution of the band through the records. To me, this one feels quite fundamentally different in the way that the songs are written.

In what way?

Campos: I think just the simplicity, or the feeling of simplicity. What I realized over the years was that the pop music that I really enjoyed, or the songwriting that I really enjoyed, sounded simple. And then when you dig into it and try to deconstruct it, you realize there's actually these very important nuances to it that make it work, but from the listener's perspective, it just feels right. 

So it was just trying to do that: have these songs that make you feel something in your gut, but you don't necessarily need to understand why. 

Your music has evolved so much since Crooks & Lovers. Looking back, are you surprised where you've ended up? Or do you feel it was inevitable?

Maker: Oddly, I was thinking about this today. I think it was actually inevitable because we were just really interested in and excited by a certain style and scene in music when we first moved to London when we were younger; 2009, 2010, that era. It was a fascination that really is in just a place and time. 

A lot of that reminds me of growing up, us figuring out London, moving from small towns to the big city, and everything about it being exciting. But I think the fact that we immediately were like, we need to play this live said a lot. Through the years that's been a huge thing, the live show, and trying to approach these songs live has always been something we've really enjoyed doing, and we've got so many amazing memories doing it.It sort of naturally has landed us in this scenario where the sound that we have at the moment feels like something that we want to keep doing more of, which we haven't really had before. We've made records and it's been a long process making them, then when you get to the end, it's sort of like, we should find something new. But, this time, we finished the record and immediately there's still this burning energy to keep going with this sound and writing style. It feels really good and exciting, and I'm glad that the road led us to where we're at now. 

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