Vixen Sound is a dub, reggae and dancehall selector hailing from Glasgow in Scotland. As well as being a resident DJ at Mungo’s Hi-Fi weekly night ‘Walk n Skank‘, Vixen has also shared stages internationally with the likes of David Rodigan, Charlie P & Dubkasm. Read on as we discuss her rise into the scene, what it’s like to be a woman in the music industry and of course, sound system music...
SSC: In your own words, could you tell us a bit about who you are and what it is that you do?
VS: Hi! I’m Vixen Sound. I’m a sound system culture selector – I like to say that as it encompasses all the styles I play; reggae, dub, dancehall and everything between. I also run three club nights here in Scotland and occasionally sing/MC.
SSC: So, how was the journey? What started it all off and how did that lead you to where you are today?
VS: It’s the biggest cliche, I know, but music has always been my driving force. Every day going to my tiny school in the middle of nowhere on the bus with my earbuds jammed in; stomping everywhere with my headphones firmly on, blaring everything from emo to drum and bass, to rock, to metal and jungle. Reggae was always in the background as my dad loved it, but I didn’t know anyone else that liked it and it wasn’t exactly an easy genre to explore when you’re a pre-teen with dodgy Scottish internet, so back then I mostly listened to music that let me headbang out my teenage angst.
There was nothing to do in my town, so music became what I spent all my time on, building playlists on my iPod. When my friends from the next town along decided to start a community radio station when we were around 16, they asked me to come and get involved and host a weekly show. I was delighted to, and that kind of changed everything for me – here was a potential profession where I could talk all day, about music, two things I’m pretty good at – and so I started working super hard at making radio my career. Back then, my radio show was all about new music, every style I could get my hands on. I continued presenting, getting a show on the student radio station when I moved to university in Glasgow and by the summer of my second year I had been headhunted by Radio 1 to be the understudy for the presenter for their show BBC Introducing, who at the time had a Scottish radio presenter.
So I did that for a while, hoping to get my own BBC show eventually, which I did in a roundabout way; I’ve presented a few dance anthems style shows and continue to do a lot of voiceover work for BBC Radio Scotland. But then something happened. One of my friends went to another university in Glasgow, The Art School, which at the time didn’t have a student union and so a now shut-down basement club called Chambre 69 was their unofficial union for a while. My friend invited me out one night to something that was on there; she was very vague about the details as she’d been out for a few drinks and so had I, so I agreed to go along. We met there and I was very confused. Alllllll these punters were here… for reggae?
Some dude kept stopping the hefty dub that was blasting, so he could get on the mic to hype up the crowd, drop more versions of the tunes, really getting you to appreciate the thumping bass. I soon realised his name was David Rodigan and I remembered hearing his name brought up a few times between my dad’s friends who were listeners to his own radio show when I was younger. He’d been brought up to DJ in town by a collective called Mungo’s Hi-Fi.
I loved the night so much I had a quick dig around to see what other nights Mungo’s ran. They’d actually started one just a few months earlier, called Walk n Skank. I started to go pretty much weekly and never looked back… Fast forward 4 years and I start playing out live, 5 years and I’m running the night… yet if it wasn’t for Walk n Skank I’d definitely not be a reggae selector. It’s pretty mad to see how much it has influenced my whole life!
SSC: Who are the main influences for you, doing what you do?
VS: Unsurprisingly, as you may have guessed above, Mungo’s Hi-Fi. I found Walk n Skank and felt like I’d found my tribe. I’d completely suppressed my natural attraction to dub and reggae when I was younger as I couldn’t find any avenue to express it; as soon as I went there it was like the real me had been unleashed. My radio shows quickly changed from all genres, to strictly reggae and all of its sub-genres. In 2017, after much bullying from friends, I finally started playing out live and set up Walk n Skank radio with Mungo’s, with me presenting; that led to my residency in the club.
Mungo’s continue to inspire me every day, not just with the outstanding music they produce but with how they operate as a team; their DJ skills that I genuinely think are second to none; their sound system; their attitude to working and the way they treat everyone around them. On the rare occasion all 3 of them play together you can basically see sparks flying off the booth and each of them have their own DJing styles which influence me individually, a lot. I am so grateful for all the kindness they have shown me and help and opportunity they have given me. I will never ever forget it and I count my blessings for it every day.
Other than that I draw a lot of inspiration from so many different artists around me, big and small. I love watching veteran dub sound systems to see the performative element of it; all the swagger and the clash-talk and the dubplates, I find it all brilliant and it intrigues me to see what I can draw from it. I also have a lot of respect for David Rodigan as his career is so entwined with his radio shows, and radio is still one of my biggest passions; I dream of taking his BBC 1XTRA slot one day, but Don Letts‘ space on BBC 6Music would also do just as nicely haha – I’m determined it will happen one day.
I am also inspired by pretty much any female artist that comes and spins records or touches the mic in the reggae world. It is one of the genres most lacking females and any gal who finds that power within them to not be intimidated should be respected because it can be a tough road.
SSC: What do you consider to be the highlight of your music career so far, and why?
VS: When I got asked to be a resident at Walk n Skank was pretty unreal! To now be running the club is pretty off the chain, too – as are the other two club nights that I was offered off the back of it.
More recently, getting asked to join Sinai Sound System – the first-ever system to appear on Boiler Room – was fucking wild. (Sinai are one of my inspirations too because the system just sounds so bloody clean and crisp and ace, and speaker building/sound is a whole side of all this that I don’t have a clue about, so I have a lot of respect for those who know SO MUCH about it.)
I booked Sinai to play at one of my nights and I played the support slot; the main man Cheff rated my tunes so much he asked me to cover a Sinai gig for him he couldn’t make in Cambridge, so I became the first woman to play as Sinai, and then the rest is history. At the time of writing, I’m on a 2-month international tour with them and without doubt, every gig of that has been a highlight of my musical career, but playing to thousands of folk at Rototom Sunsplash Festival beach in Benicassim, in the blazing sunshine… I have no idea how to top that!
SSC: Any moments you’d rather forget?
VS: Yes and no. Some shite things have happened to me, but I don’t think I’d want to forget them; they gave me so much motivation and determination.
In 2018, I was spiked at a festival I was booked to play at. That one absolutely fucking sucked. One minute I was fine and the next I was definitely not, complete loss of control of my body. It was only by complete coincidence that some friends from Scotland were also playing at the festival and so I had a team of pals on hand to help; if I’d been alone, as I often am at gigs, I have no idea what would have happened. I still had to go back to the festival the next day and play 2 sets, whilst feeling so physically ill, and mentally pretty terrified, as well as being so worried that the festival organisers had seen me in a state the night before and assumed I’d got really unwell by my own hand, and potentially then decide not to book me again… yay for anxiety. It was awful, but I smashed those sets out the park and Don Letts stood at the front of one of them and watched pretty much all of it before giving me some epic compliments. Made it all worth it.
Whilst away on my headline spring tour in Spring 2019 two males in the industry, who I thought I knew and could trust, also tried to hurt me – they attempted to wheedle and manipulate me in a tag team fashion to go back to someone’s hotel room, making it very clear what would be happening there. I had NO interest in that, I was trapped in the backstage area, I had nowhere to go, they kept touching my face and my legs and the small of my back, hugging me, buying me drinks and insist I drink them, which I definitely didn’t want to do. It was so uncomfortable and when I eventually managed to escape I could barely speak to anyone for 2 days as I processed it all.
Add into that the standard day to day of getting sent unwarranted dick pics on Instagram, guys trying to feel you up or demand your phone number in the dance… yeah, being a girl in this world can be incredibly demoralising, but I wouldn’t change the experiences I’ve had. Rather than sit down quietly like I’m sure those men would like me to, I’ve used it to fuel my fire. I wrote a poem in response to being spiked and it was met with such attention that I’ve started picking up a mic to sing/MC again for the first time in nearly ten years. And I met up with one of the guys from my tour who made me feel like shit, in a safe place before I left the city and gave him hell for what he did to me. He was mortified. Sometimes just being brave enough to use your voice is enough to make the change.
SSC: I understand that you run a lot of the reggae nights in Glasgow such as ‘More Fire’ and ‘Walk n Skank’ – what’s the scene like for sound systems that far up north?
VS: There’s a bit of a running joke at the minute that Glasgow has more sound systems than subway stops! The city is absolutely exploding with sound system culture. There’s the 2 weekly nights, More Fire! on a Tuesday and Walk n Skank on a Thursday, but on Fridays and/or Saturdays there’s almost always a big dance on somewhere in the city, powered by one of our many epic bass machines. There’s a whole wealth of extremely talented box builders, promoters, selectors, and MCs in Glasgow and we are very lucky that we benefit from everyone being kind and helpful to one another. It is a city where the scene has very minimal competition; everyone would much rather help each other out where possible so we all have excellent events and vibes to share.
SSC: Who should we be keeping an eye on? Any artists or DJs standing out to you right now?
VS: I just discovered producer Dublaw and he is dope, as are the 140 don producers and DJs Imanzi, Dutchie, and LUCY. Also, my Scottish brother Escape Roots, who’s been working really hard at creating fresh reggae vibes which we’ve jokingly dubbed ‘Xanax reggae’: that blaze-up all day lo-fi sound with evident trap influences, and I’ve been loving that.
SSC: Other than the extensive and colourful world of reggae music, are there any other genres you’re feeling at the moment?
VS: I’ve always listened to a wide range of music so I often have other stuff up my sleeve! I love dance music and Bonobo is an all-time favourite so I’m excited by his recent releases, it usually means another album is on the way, which I’m really ready for. At Boomtown Fair I was blown away by a Welsh lady called Rachel Collier who had a live drummer on stage with her and the energy that the two ladies brought together, combined with their delay units and loop pedals and the rest, was very very special. On the rare occasion I’m at home at the weekend you can find me in my room with a G&T shaking my pyjama-d arse to bashment, dancehall, ragga and afrobeat, the more obnoxious the better. And for car journies, you best believe it’s 2000s emo and rock on my Spotify selection, with me singing along at top volume…don’t act like you don’t love it.
SSC: What’s on the horizon for Vixen Sound? Anything exciting coming up?
VS: There may be some mumblings about a wee Vixen heading to somewhere that apples are rumoured to be large… that’s all I can reveal on that one for now, but let’s just say I’m very very bloody excited! I’ve also got some maaaaaadddd tour plans in the pipeline but it’s all pretty hush-hush for now. I’m just about to play at Outlook Festival as well after going as a punter a good few times way before I started selecting. I never ever ever dreamed I’d be DJing there so it feels like a bit of a pivotal moment for me, especially as I have three sets; one on a Walk n Skank stage takeover; one on a sold-out boat party with Mungo’s; and one on the Sinai boat party. All. The biggest parts of my musical life coming together in the best way!
I have been pushing forward with the singing and MCing somewhat though and I have got an EP coming out at the end of the year with Dub Sweat and Beers alongside Leroy Horns from The Resonators; as well as some pretty sick collaborations planned.
SSC: And finally, if you could give one piece of advice for those wishing to follow in your path, what would it be?
VS: No guts, no glory. No cheek, no chance. Shy weans get nowt. You make your own luck.
Basically; don’t be scared to do whatever it is you want to do. I know I know, it’s so much easier said than done, but the feeling of achievement is endlessly better than the feeling of longing and regret and the only person who can motivate you to stop living life within the confines you have set to keep yourself safe, is you. Don’t be scared to ask people to get involved with things, or ask to be taught something; I’m sure there is something useful they can learn from you in return.
Big thanks to Vixen Sound for this interview and the inspiring words. Keep up with all things Vixen via Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/vixensound/