Stage monikers, as far as Akua Grant, aka Lady Blacktronika, is concerned, can be the accidental making of you. Such burdensome aliases could possibly carry the weight and worth of a whole career. Frequently tipped as the ‘First Lady of Beatdown,’ you would anticipate forthcoming deep house virtuoso, Lady B, to assume more of a direct and pensive stance to her self-proclaimed title. Yet, as relative her candidly uncompromising releases are, the name transpired from nothing more than a flippant myspace update.
Luckily for Grant, it couldn’t describe her any better. Born and raised in Northern California, Lady Blacktronika has spent her primer years tailoring her own electronic legacy and forging a bulging black book of producer contacts along the way.
A veracious worker, her productivity is unremitting. Not only has she released a throng of densely important EPs in the past year but has been involved with founding Cocaine Records alongside Mattski, developed her own social community, Deep’N‘ Dusty, and has recently set up her latest label venture, Sound Black Recordings. On top of all that, this buoyant entrepreneur is set to make her UK debut at London’s Corsica Studios on Friday as part of Dollop’s involvement with The Garden Get Together’s Eglo Takeover. Lady B will play in Room 2, which is hosted by Phonica Records and Rhythm Section.
Before the party starts, Lady B finds time out of her relentless schedule to speak of her humble beginnings, her imminent prospects for the future, and what we can expect from her in two days’ time – that is if she gets over her sore throat!
First off could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m Akua aka Lady Blacktronika aka Lady B. I’m about realness, creativity and the freedom to be myself. I am currently trying to get over a really bad soar throat before I leave for London tomorrow. I would hate to disappoint because Berlin got me sick.
How long have you been involved with electronic music? How rapidly have your tastes evolved since your prime?
I got involved really in my mind and heart when I first heard of house music in 1988. From then on I couldn’t get enough and I knew one day I would be a producer and make a name for myself in underground electronic music. My tastes are ever evolving.
You have referred to singing as your ‘refuge’. How much has vocal samples and your personal affiliation with singing influenced your stance on producing? What takes precedence, vocals or production?
Production. I love to sing but I hate my voice so I’d much rather produce then sing. But, I am very self-critical.
You follow a common thematic motif in your releases rooted in racial and gender issues. Have you found it a challenge to relay your cultural surroundings in your tunes?
It’s something ingrained in me. These will always be topics of discussion as we are still fighting for freedoms on many fronts race, gender, sexuality or otherwise.
What does it mean to be the self-proclaimed ‘First Lady of Beatdown,’?
The First Lady Of Beatdown started not so much as a self-proclamation but as a joke on my myspace page’s status mood update. Then it just took on a life of its own and who am I to deny the truth?
You have previously expressed your lack of interest for hip-hop and, especially, gangsta rap. Growing up in San Francisco, what was your area of solace? What was it about electronic music that inspired you?
I actually matured with in the gang culture of San Jose and Hollywood not SF. San Francisco was my escape from the reality that I never fit in around San Jose. San Francisco was an hour’s train ride away and it was like Wonderland to me. Then I moved to LA and was in the Hollywood Santa Monica Blvd scene doing sex work for a living. It was a hard life. All my friends were in to Rap and shit I hated but Deep House and Disco was my escape there.
You are deceptively modest about your achievements. Does that transpire from your own conscientious nature or a general fear of the future?
I wouldn’t like to say yes but perhaps on some level. I think mainly it is that I have always been self conscious and very shy on the inside despite my outrageous exterior.
How much do you owe to Matt ‘Mattski’ Avalos in terms of aiding your production career?
He is my brother and in some ways like my teacher when I was younger. He always had the most underground rare and jacking records by producers I wouldn’t have ever heard of. So I owe my education to him and my continued dedication to playing the best and producing the best.
How much of a struggle has it been to get your music heard internationally? How has the initial response in the UK fared in comparison to, for example, Spain?
I can’t really say. Though I put out more records in Spain then any other country I wouldn’t say that is my fan base really. I don’t know about the UK. I think I’m still pretty much unknown there.
What drove you to start up Cocaine Recordings?
Cocaine Recordings was Matt’s and my brain child. I have since moved on to my put out my own label Sound Black Recordings. Cocaine is more a concept now I’d think than a functioning label.
You’ve been praised by Detroit and Juke luminaries such as Mike Huckaby and Dubbyman. Being very much an upcoming artist, how surreal is it to have such established support?
It’s absolutely amazing. I’m always in awe when ever I find out that big names know who I am. Like when I met Theo Parrish for the first time a couple weeks ago, I was shocked to find out he knew who I was and that he actually digs my tracks.
Your tunes levitate from deep house to groove driven disco re-edits. Do you feel Lady Blacktronika has the breadth to explore a vast range of electronic styles or is there a definitive sound you are still seeking to perfect?
I have influences as far flung as Dream Pop Rock like Cocteau Twins and Speedcore so I mean I really place no limits on myself musically. Except of course I don’t ever want to produce pop bullshit.
Do you still utilise social networking communities, such as your now defunct site, Deep’N Dusty, as a source for new music?
Unfortunately Deep’N Dusty closed. I’m much more in to collecting disco records now than disco downloads. Tumblr is my new hobby outlet for disco madness (laughs).
What with your growing publicity, record label, along with a throng of imminent releases and live dates, how do you find time for it all? Will anything have to take the back burner for a while?
I hope not. We’ll see. Luckily my life allows me to focus on my music endeavours however poor I am because of that focus.
What can we expect from your exclusive Dollop debut on Friday? What sort of reaction are you anticipating?
Well, always hoping for great things. I love to vibe off the crowd.
What’s next for Lady Blacktronkia? What do you have in the pipeline?
After this rest then more music of course. Barcelona, Gothenburg and Sweden are next on my list.
Interview by Tom Watson