In conversation with Rebekah
Words and interview by Patrick Boyle
Rebekah is a British DJ who has been behind the decks for over 20 years. Known for her relentless sets and hard sounds, Rebakah has established herself as one of the leaders in the scene, lauded by peers and fans alike. Taking influence from Birmingham, the city that she grew up in, Rebekah’s music is rooted in hard techno and hard dance sounds. Away from performing, Rebekah has worked tirelessly to help make techno a safer space through the #forthemusic campaign against sexual harassment. In anticipation for her upcoming set at Neopop this month, we chat to Rebekah about her influences, the techno industry and her upcoming projects.
How did you first get into Djing?
I started going out in 1995 to some local clubs in my city of Birmingham, my parents knew the door security firms and I was let in despite being underage. I fell in love with clubbing and the whole freedom of what it represented. It was my escape from my troubled teenager years. I suppose the thought of djing was a way I could keep this feeling with me and possibly share it with others but the likelihood was that I wanted to be centre of attention as my parents were divorcing and being in the middle of that can be really lonely. In 1996 I saved up my money from my first job cleaning hotel rooms so I could pay for my DJ set up, the first and last time I saved for anything in my life! Seeing how serious I was about it my Dad bought me a set of turntable 1210s for my birthday that year. Then it was the long upwards battle of learning to mix vinyl.
What influences have you taken from the techno scene in your home city?
Birmingham was thriving for techno in the 1990s, we had events like House of God, where Regis and Surgeon cut their teeth whilst creating the Birmingham Techno sound, and Atomic Jam at the notorious Que club, where I first discovered techno music, the night I was changed! These events and sounds of industrial techno will always be with me and the recent influence of hard dance and hard house within techno has its roots in Birmingham too and in my past where I worked for a hard house night called Sundissential. It’s fun seeing how the kids are digging these throwbacks and being influenced by it, back in the day hard house always had a sinister vibe to it but definitely felt like a cheaper alternative to techno. It’s interesting to see how divided the techno scene is now becoming and the parallels to the late 90s/early 00s.
How would you describe your individual sound?
Currently I am playing a real mixture of hard techno and hard dance but leaning to more industrial hardcore. The intensity and sound design seems to be more interesting for me slightly outside of techno right now.
What do you think of the current state of techno?
I think it’s the healthiest it’s ever been to be honest, so much variety and choice with sub-genres within it. It’s wide open for artists to come in with their own influences and interpretations and for it to be well received.
What do you believe are the most important steps in establishing safer spaces in the techno scene?
The first step is for venues can adopt a zero tolerance policy around any form of abuse and then work in a reporting system with clear communication and signage to the club goers on how to adhere to this. In our experience this works really well as it highlights very quickly where there are failings and venues have opportunities to start making subtle changes with what works and what doesn’t. Culturebox in Copenhagen have an amazing system in place which has been co-implemented with Goodnight Out which also addresses the safety for their staff too. Festivals can be more of a challenge but not impossible, would be awesome to see more of them partnering up with initiatives where information and ground rules can be communicated the second a person purchases a ticket.
In recent years you have been performing sober. What was your catalyst for this and how has it changed how you approach your sets?
To be honest I had hit rock bottom from partying too much over the years. I was in a place with no career, direction or love in me and I couldn’t see a way out but slowly I met the right people who inspired me to get clean and to finally make changes in my life for the better. Learning to DJ sober was swift, I built a new habit replacing alcohol with red bull and
realised that the DJing part of my DJing was actually all I needed to be satisfied and content. The music became the most important part of my life, exactly how it should have been from the start.
You have previously played a live set at Neopop Festival. How was this experience for you and what are you most looking forward to about returning this year?
I played live back in 2019 and I loved it, there were some syncing issues where I had to stop the music and resync again but the warmth from the Portuguese people kept me going and was quickly forgotten. The last ten minutes went really crazy as the DJ that was following me was late so I freestyled more with the modular and to everyone’s surprise and delight played some gabber influenced beats for this finale, the irony being that this sound is most popular with the kids now! Returning this year I am hoping again for the clubbers to have a warm heart and an open mind musically.
Can you tell us about any future projects that you currently have in the works?
I just released a remix package of an old track called Pop Pop which from back in 2011, asking some of my favourite producers of now to give it a well needed update. My studio work has seen me collaborating with other producers such as hard techno and industrial artist Cancel, electronic and sound designer AJA, hard techno and live drummer Malke and
returning collaborator X-Tension, these and more will be released over the next 8 months as ongoing project. Another longstanding collaboration project is with visual artist Malika Maria where we showcased our new project Neuromance at Dour Festival a few weeks back, a visual/audio show delving in to what post-techno looks and sounds like. Gone are the more gothic and BDSM vibes of our past projects replacing with vibrant neon pallets and a more playful feminine feel. Super excited to do more shows in 2024.
Photography: Keyi Studio , @keyistudio www.keyi.eu
Styling: Izabella Chrobok
Artistic Direction: Grzegorz Bacinski
Make Up & Hair : Lau @lauperrea
Assistant: Wiktoria @she.is.shai
Interview: Patrick Boyle @patrickboyl