Robyn Chaos: “I’d like to create balance as Mama Chaos” (UnCut)

Categories Interview, Music

Robyn Chaos, the First Lady of dark drum and bass, the Anger Manager had a Therapy Session gig in Budapest in May. Right before that, we chatted about some “male” topics such as music, management and business as well as several “feminine” ones like aging, children, cooking, gardening and painting

How are you today?

I’m good, thanks. Happy to be here again.

What have you been up to lately?

Well, today we’re organising a new EP for Therapy Sessions Recordings,  which actually has a mix from Counterstrike, from Sect and from Peter Kurten and the original track by Fortitude and myself. So I’ve just been finishing up all the masters and the artwork for that because hopefully that will be going in for scheduled release on Monday (16th May). So funny enough, the person who mastered the track is Raiden, so I’m testing out the track tonight, so that he can here as well – the Master! (laughs) Last week was London, next week is Poland, so yes, it’s quite busy… and I forget what happens after that! (laughs)

As being the main organiser of Therapy Sessions, what do you consider the reason for success of it? 

I think it’s because it comes from the heart. I’ve never really been good at pushing things that I don’t believe in. I’d only get involved in projects that are close to me, despite the main trend of people get behind things they don’t really believe in, just for the commercial/materialistic or ego aspect.   I fell in love with the music when I first started getting to it in about 1995, especially the darker side of drum and bass. It’s like an extension of when you were in high school and the 90s grunge, the underdog, the alternative, leftfield… — it’s the d’n’b version of that that I’m proud to be a part of. I don’t feel I own it, I’m just the overseer, a conservator. It’s similar to having a really nice garden you look after, an old mansion house that hopefully will be there for another generation. Or some people come back to me and they say (this is the loveliest thing I’ve ever heard) that Therapy Sessions is the music, the soundtrack to their youth. That’s amazing for me to be any part of the soundtrack of someone’s youth, just like Sonic Youth or Beastie Boys… I think it’s simply honesty and loving what you do.

What is the most challenging part of this job?

It’s probably the same for everybody: keeping things fresh. Moving with the times, modernising, not getting stuck. But also at the same time, not being so led by trends that you forget about yourself or what your own idea is. Not letting other people pigeonhole you and decide who you are. There is a bit of a dance with it. Sometimes you need to sit back and reassess everything on a regular basis, so that you don’t get too stuck in one thing, or get too complacent about anything. I hate to be complacent! I always think I know when to stop but I don’t know that’s not going to be. (laughs) I’ve been saying it for years, every year is “oh, this is maybe the last year”, then it’s 4 years later…

So are you planning to finish?

Sometimes you feel like you should. All good things come to an end. I read a lot of literature, philosophy and I do believe in history: when it comes to great civilisations, the pattern is always the same. Building and falling. Usually, they fall in a spectacular way because someone is holding on, not letting the next generation or whatever the next thing is supposed to be – but that should be natural! Nature is like that, constant changing. So I just try to keep on top, not let anything get too hardcore. But who knows?   It’s going to be 10 years in Budapest next year and it’s been 15-16 years in the UK. Most of our regular Therapies are hitting double digits now. There is a middle ground between that people want and what they don’t know but they might want. It’s always about finding this tiny gap.

It’s about shaping the taste as well, so a mission in the meantime.

Yes. It’s not that we give everything what they want. We’re quite strict about it, Dylan before me was quite strict, too, so I try to carry on that tradition. Really think about everything that we do, invest in, work with, rather than just do it for the sake of it. I’ve never liked “just for hard sakes”.  

2013 marked the ten years of Therapy Sessions – what changes would you name in these 16 years?

The scene itself! Back in the day, we were complete underdogs. This was nowhere near this amount of mass acceptance in so many places. There also wasn’t much competition. The entire dark side was locked, it was just us basically. Now it’s funny: a lot of other places, with acceptance comes some other challenges, but I’m happy, on the whole, that the scene is healthy enough. It’s nature again. If you grow something, it should grow onto a field. You can’t expect to grow a flower with just keeping it – that’s not healthy for nature. I’m glad that the field’s growing. But again, it opposes more challenges, to really know where your niche is within that field. It got stronger, there is all different styles of music injected into it. That’s why I’ve always liked Therapy and the darker style so much: it took influences from so many different perspectives and mushed it all together.

Why did you turn to the darker side of drum and bass?

I’ve always listened to darker music. I was never into dance music, for me clubbing meant Metalheadz because I didn’t like happy music. More subtle, introspective side of things. I don’t like my music telling me how to feel necessarily. Even though dark music is dark, it’s not telling you how to feel – however you like. Whereas (sings) “Baby, I love you” is telling me how to feel.

What a lovely voice you’ve got indeed! No wonder you’ve been performing with bands since you were 11 or so.

When I was younger, my parents always tried to push me into choruses, as I had a very stereotypical souly voice. Blues-jazz voice, which I do like but I think it’s just sounded too stereotypical, so I’ve always been trying to play with my voice to see what else one can do with it.

It’s very soulful and rich.

I’ve smoked a lot of cigarettes to get it! (laughs) I used to be really pretty, being a chainsmoker as I wanted to be like Janis Joplin.  

How time-consuming is to be the First Lady of Therapy Sessions?

It keeps me busy and it’s been like that since we started in 2000-1. So it’s a week in, week out sort of situation. Not just Therapy but I also handle solo bookings for a lot of artists, like Audio for example.

You’re getting at your agency, Anger Management, which is the longest running DJ agency (established in 2000). What a stunning name!!! 🙂 How did you come up with it?

Everybody kept thinking that because our music was dark and hard, we were angry and moody – which is, as you can see, absolutely not true. Maybe because we get the let out with the music. But I thought “anger management” was hilarious as I played on everyone’s weird opinion on us at the time.   Even till this day, when I have to give my email address, they think I deal with psychology. (laughs) If they take it seriously and still suppose I’m into it, I just say: “Let it go, mate! If not, you need anger management!” (laughs)

Do you ever have to manage your anger? Or the guys’ anger?

Yes, definitely the guys’ anger but we’re all pretty chilled out, to be honest. We have our little perks. All I have to do as Mama Chaos is to make sure that the crazy is somewhat contained. It’s not so much anger, it’s more just crazy. But that’s what you get when you work with a bunch of artists together. No one is sane. (laughs)  

It’s a great viewpoint for you as you’re an artist yourself, too, so you have insight, too. But still, you’re also an outsider, you’re the responsible manager of them.

Yeah, I like doing the management side but as an artist, that’s why I thought it was good, I understand the DJ’s perspective, the promoter’s perspective, the audience’s perspective and as a female, I like to create balance.

In the name of chaos. 🙂 

(laughs) Yes, exactly! However, when I do switch, I do go a little bit crazy. But I don’t do it too often! Once every 2-3 years. I get angry if someone is unprofessional, I get bullied or someone else gets bullied.   I can’t remember the superlast time but I can the biggest one due to being unprofessional. I was with Limewax and Vicious Circle but he latter had already left, so I was with Limewax in Spain. The promoter showed up but he didn’t have the money. It wasn’t so much for me but for the guys.

Well, I don’t even speak Spanish, so I was amazed at how much I words I could actually speak. They said they didn’t speak English, so I had to solve. I was tactful for a while but after all the excuses, I switched to Spanish and everybody in the room looked over. I started yelling and cursing in Spanish, I have no idea where it came from. (laughs) I looked over at Limewax, his head totally over his hat, trying to be stuck into the couch. I looked around the lobby, where everybody got quiet and was staring at me, so I realised I was causing a scene. But! Ten minutes later, we had the money! I was really sorry I had to do that but we have to be professional.

That’s why I get angry: when people think they can party instead of being professional. You got to to be a man/woman of your word. I’m very big at that. Your word is a bond.   I meant getting bullied in terms of telling you you’re a coward if you don’t do anything you shouldn’t do anyway. I probably start freaking out on those who keep on pushing this.

Who are the up-and-coming talents at Anger right now?

I know I’m a little bit biased as he’s my partner but Fortitude is a really strong contender up-and-coming talent. He’s quite strongly going upward. I also love Hostage‘s  tracks, too, we put out his album. He is really amazing. There are quite a few people but always looking for more.  

How can you cooperate with Fortitude then? 🙂

I always wish he wasn’t my partner in my private life in terms of musical stuff. (laughs) Because I always feel I have to remind him to forget we are partners when encouraging him in musical sense, I swear to God. Who is crazy enough to put their business at risk because of that? Do I look like that? (laughs)  

Back to basics”,  what was your main drive for moving to England from the USA in 1995?

My mom remarried to a British guy when I was a kid, at about 8 years old. I stayed in America, went to school but when I graduated high school, the options were either staying somewhere that I knew, or moving to London. So it was a no-brainer: I chose the latter. Then I went out looking at for clubs, stumbled upon Metalheadz… that’s how it all started.  

Can you remember what the biggest culture shock was for you if anything at all?

Probably water pressure of showers! (laughs) There was no proper shower back in the days – now there are power showers but then you had to be underneath the tap, lying on your back. It’s funny, only 20 years difference and it’s completely different.

Was/is there anything you still miss from the USA?

Only the fact that you can see the sky and the sun once in a while, even in winter. You can have a blue sky but then I got quite used to the overcast in the UK. It’s amazing what you can be used to! I like the US in small doses but I’m a lot more comfortable in Europe.

How often do you go back?

Twice a year. But I feel like a foreigner when I’m there. They think I’m British! My accent is said to be British! (which is not true at all – Évi)

I’ve come across an interesting side project of yours: silversmithing. When did you start, and why?

I’ve always liked jewellery and decided to take a course one day. I realised it’s actually not as hugely difficult as I thought it would be. You can actually do it at home, it’s nice to focus on something. I wish I could draw but I’m not that talented but I can do silversmithing. It’s a really interesting mix of alchemy and chemistry. I wish I had paid a lot more attention to chemistry at school because if I had known that mixing certain materials will turn to something new and you can make a ring out of it, I’d have fucking paid more attention to science! (laughs) I wear all my own jewellery, so basically I learnt it because I wanted to make it for myself. If I can make everything myself, I would! I just don’t have enough time for that, you know. So hopefully it’s something I can do when I get older. It’s the same with dance music: I’m not gonna be raving when I’m 60.

Nooo, we will. 🙂

Okay, you’re right. (laughs) But still, you can make jewellery, there is not really an age limit to it. I have a little home studio setup and I spoke to a shop in the town where I’m living, we’re planning to cooperate.

Do you have any side projects which are not music-related?

Making a house, a home. Trying to garden but I’m the worst gardener in the world, actually, I kill everything. Honestly, I think it’s a talent that I can kill things this easily. (laughs) I cook a lot, I love it!

That’s interesting how and why music and cooking are so closely related. I have also asked Ed Rush and Dieselboy about their passion for gastronomy.

They’re cooky people, too. We are planning to make a drum and bass cook-off. We talked about it years ago, funny enough. Although I think they’d knock me out early because they’re really involved, one of them made an excellent risotto, for instance. Well, shitting on it, well done, boys, but get back to me when you can cook one of those that every night of the week! It’s very different when you only cook if you feel like it – everybody knows it, it’s not that hard. But when you have to cook after work every day, it’s a little bit different. So I think women are the unsung heroes of cooking because we do it on a regular basis and we don’t make a fuss out of it. It just has to be done every day. It’s the same with my boyfriend, who cooks once a week, then it’s

It’s the same with my boyfriend, who cooks once a week, then it’s biiiiig dinner, you know. I’m not saying it’s not good but he had time and energy but it’s a different sort of cooking when you have an hour after work, before bedtime and you still manage to make a really interesting meal people want to eat every day. Generally speaking, some people have a bit strange views on it, I think.

Yes but they both actually admitted to me that they wouldn’t do it every day.

Oooh, did they? Great! I had that thought that they think that cooking once in a while equals to what most women do each and every day.

What sacrifices did you have to make for your career if any?

People don’t invite me to birthdays or weddings anymore, I’ve missed a zillion times. I guess, family too but that’s because I’m a woman, whereas lot of my male colleagues have children because they have a wife at home, looking after the children, who isn’t going away every weekend, who isn’t strapped for time, trying to organise life, so I’m a little bit late doing that. But having said that, this is my baby and a part of me is not too stressed out about it, I don’t feel under pressure. After all: life is life, you have to be true to what you really are if that’s you. Don’t let other people tell who you are. If you don’t have a problem with it, I don’t see why anybody else should! I wouldn’t make such a sacrifice if it was big deal to me. So it’s just simple for me. (laughs)

So my intuition was right about your answer for this question.

I’m not against kids but the time was never right, I suppose. That wasn’t my focus. That would mean stopping and changing everything I do now: travelling the world, independent, doing my things; it’s fantastic, the best life ever — to settling down, looking around, hunting for a potential father, just for being appropriate, fitting a category… that’s not me. I’m so much into bunch of other things, I don’t really care. If that happens, that happens…

And you have plenty of kids already in your kindergarten! 🙂

Yeah, all my DJs, oh my Jesus Christ! (laughs) Maybe that’s why I don’t feel I’ve missed out much because I grow up with them. The maternal aspect has been filled a bit perhaps.   But there is more than being just a mom! It’s a really antiquated idea but I get it. I always hear people who make having children beyond; they are usually those who hadn’t done anything else in their lives. Okay, you know, I’m sorry, so what was your Plan B? Doing nothing? Because I don’t see you having a passion at anything else… It’s fair enough if you were in my shoes and you had to choose, make a decision but when all you have to do is waiting for a guy to make you pregnant so you can sit at home, then it was your Plan A, B, C.

And Z.

Exactly! Get back to me when you had to give up something for it! Think about it a little more. It doesn’t really change, it’s just the way it is.

My only problem with it is that they judge us. “You don’t know because you don’t have a kid.” Yeah, and?

That’s true. I know plenty people who are crap parents. Have kids and totally shitty at it.  

For driving, you have to get a license. What license do you need for parenting?

Nothing, unfortunately. True, true. Feeding a 2-year-old with cans of Coke, that’s great. Smoking next to a pram or during pregnancy… I saw it not long ago. I thought to grab that baby (laughs), I’d definitely make a better mom. How are you going to educate the next generation? What’s your passion? But there are so many ways for being mentors and mother figures.

By the way, do you see this scene as male-dominated?

I guess so, yes. I see most of the business as male-dominated, as the world itself.  

But you could be a positive role model, especially with your manager status, for other female DJs who were longing to try themselves.

There are a lot more than used to be but women have to put in a lot more effort. We’re not natural braggers. We’re not so defined by how other people think about us necessarily. Maybe in some aspects but I think it’s a lot harder for us to push ourselves. I never was interested in being a superstar DJ, that ego thing doesn’t really appeal to me. I just like doing what I do. So maybe that’s why, maybe most women don’t have that drive, not so concerned with “by any means necessary”. They want to feel that they deserve it, whereas a lot of guys would do when they don’t deserve it at all. But that’s fine. Women are successful in education and a lot of other walks of life. We make the world liveable and comfortable.  

Which living person do you most admire?

He’s not alive, unfortunately, but musically, it is definitely David Bowie. I thought he was elegant, charming, classy and he wasn’t a hypocrite! I love the story of how he was offered a medal by the Queen, which he refused.

But it’s hard to admire people because from what I know, from working in dance music, it’s such a small scene but it’s hard to admire because you don’t know them. And there are people who are admired by others but I wouldn’t because I know them too well… The people I admire are the ones you don’t know anything about: the ones who bring water to villages and does it without their having names splashed across a paper. I’m suspicious of people who get famous. (laughs) There’s got to be a dark side somewhere. Let me just don’t know about it!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Do you know what I mean?”, it’s going back to London cockney times. I can’t help using americanism: I’m always punctuating things as “like”.  

When and where were you happiest?

I think I’m the happiest now, really, content with myself. I love getting older: as a woman, you feel more secure with yourself, with your treatment. We’ve bought a house in the country, with fresh air. I’m exactly where I wanted to be… or where I thought I was going to be when I was younger.  

Which talent would you most like to have? 

Painting and drawing. If I had that, I’d be some crazy artist, cutting my ear somewhere. (laughs) I’d have a cabin somewhere, just painting all the time.  

Would you also quit DJing?

I think so. I’d just never had time for that, so I’d be just insane and painting. (laughs) So it’s probably a good thing that I don’t know how to draw.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to leave that to the cosmos, to see if there is reincarnation so that you have a chance for a good next life. Seeing the way the world’s going, I’m not sure if I want to be reincarnated at all. (laughs) But can I go back in time?  

Sure. Where would you go to?

It’s tough. Being female and half black, all the eras I’d love to be in, I’d probably be a slave or a woman slave. (laughs) It’d be hard to say that I’d like to be in Louis XIV’s court as I’d be somewhere in his dungeon… Maybe Billie Holiday, but no, she died of an overdose… There are not many choices, they’re all tragic. But I’d love to check out all those eras, maybe as a guy.

What are your roots exactly?   From my

From my mom’s side: African American, American Indian and a bit of Scottish. I don’t know about Irish but someone told me that, too. From my dad’s side: Polish, Russian, English and Irish.

Amazing. So what’s your identity after all?

I’m just a brown woman, a person! (laughs)

Where would you most like to live?

I love Wales and honestly love the UK. But I also love the hotter weather, so I thought obviously, I’d like to move. But I just love the British sense of humour, the sarcasm – it has its drawback as everywhere. I figured out one important fact through travelling: everywhere, once you live there, shows only one side, which you didn’t see when you were on holiday. So I’m the most comfortable in the UK, I’d definitely say that.

Coming back to Wales, do you happen to have heard about Boston?

No, not yet. Thanks for telling me, I’ll definitely catch him. I do love the Welsh, they’re really friendly, good people.

What is your most treasured possession?

I try not to get too attached to possessions and it’s hard as a woman because we love stuff, don’t we?  

And collecting them.

Oooh, sure! But I suppose if I was going to have to go into a burning fire, I’d save this necklace that my stepmother gave me. Or books. I like books and I do collect them. I love fairytale books, I even have a Hungarian one!

How many books do you have after all?

Jeeez, I have no idea! I still have even books in a storage from when I lived in the States. I’m pretty sure the storage cost is definitely more than the books ever-ever cost. (laughs) But I refuse to give them away or throw them out. I don’t know what to do with them, nobody I know wants them.

You could give them to a charity.

But they are my books… (laughs)

Okay, I see. 🙂 Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Any queen. Obviously, Queen Elizabeth I, she’s undoubtedly cool. Empress Matilda as well. I loved the way how they had to negotiate with the dominant male infrastructure and they had to rule; they had to juggle so many balls. I think it’s parallel to my world, I respect them a lot.

What is your motto?

I try to be true to myself and be happy. Be content with the choices you make, don’t blame anyone else for them and never be afraid to make mistakes. I wouldn’t be here right now without a couple of fuckups.

What was the biggest one?

Hahaha… No, I won’t say that. Well, everything has led me to where I am now. Even marriages, divorces, you wouldn’t be somewhere if you didn’t go down those paths. So luckily, I haven’t been involved in anything that maybe too regrettable. Maybe I could have focused more on my science studies at school so I’d make better jewellery. But then I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be able to travel… Lives are journeys, you never really know where you’re going to go, so just try to do the best you can.

You also had ambient project with Dylan beforehand – is it ever to be released?

Currently, I do it with Fortitude. We have almost a whole album now: weird blues, electronica, it’s a bit of storytelling music, I suppose. I don’t know what to do with it, though. We thought to invite others to collaborate, everyone’s really enthusiastic but of course, too busy at the same time, so it’s not easy. But that’s the beauty of music!

Can you imagine making liquid drum and bass, for instance?

Salvation for Metalheadz or No Longer Human were sort of that. But I just get bored with stereotypical liquid, I’d rather make ambient, not drum and bass then. It’s just not me. Good questions, by the way, thanks!

What do you wish to tell your Hungarian fans?

They’re just so much love and support for the last almost ten years. I’m a huge fan of your country. My family is Russian–Polish on my father’s side but I think my dad had always secretly wished he was Hungarian! We used to eat a lot of goulash, so I grew up with a lot of Hungarian influences. I feel very comfortable here, even travel around for holiday, for example to Lake Balaton. So I just want to say KÖSZI for all the support for so long!

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Thanks, Pozsonyi Photo!

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