Needle to the Groove
Having been around long enough to have witnessed the early days of Hip Hop dj’s (carrying crates of records for Afrika Bambaataa), and having been a house/club/radio dj at one point or another in my life, I am amazed at the progress and evolution of the art. But I’m smart enough to know that just because being a dj is technically easier these days, it doesn’t mean that anyone can be a dj. The same elements for success that made dj’s great in the early days still apply: choice tracks, timing, dexterity, and the overall ability to move the crowd. Ami Carmine is that dj. Once you’ve listened to any of her Haus of Carmine mixes, you’ll have to agree, that she is one of the best to ever do it.
But this world renowned young dj is much more than that, she’s a monster of talent. She’s got a bomb voice, killer fashion sense, so much more. Check it!
You’re a lot of things, Ami: singer, songwriter, dj. Did I leave anything out?
(laughs) Well, I do like to do as much in the creative field as possible. I also produce, model, make clothes and accessories and I read tarot cards. I'm a mixed bag of creative nuts I guess! (laughs)
Which of those things were you doing first?
I started as a singer. I've been singing professionally since I was 11 years old. I then started to write and got signed to Sony (Columbia) as part of a duo with another girl, but we never got released... Then the Dj'ing... I was just really drawn to it, as I like technology and was intrigued. So when I got back off tour with Basement Jaxx, I bought myself some decks and taught myself to DJ, and the rest is history!
I’ve listened to your killer mixes, and it sounds like you’ve got rhythm running through your blood. What are you working with, when you dj?
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed them. I'll be creating some more very soon.
I use Pioneer CDJs 2000 Nexus most of the time, but it depends on the venues set up. I don't really like using software like Traktor where it syncs everything for you. I like to beat match on the fly, and I'm not a fan of allowing music to be automatically beat matched... it takes away the fun... It took me ages to move from CDs to USBs though, as I kind of like the physicality of having a CD in my hand. Although I admit it’s a lot better than having to carry hundreds of discs around!
Is there any genre of music that you don’t particularly care for, and wouldn’t play for a million dollars? I ask because it’s been said that you play a wide range of songs when you’re on set.
I do like a wide range of music, but I would say you probably wouldn't find any garage or grime in my sets... they're just not my favourite. But obviously there are exceptions to every rule but probably not that... or Gabba or happy hardcore. (laughs) I'm more into Trap, House, and Future Bass for my sets.
Who were you shaking your bum to, when you were growing up?
I'm a massive 80's fan, so anything late 70's-80's like Joy Division, The Stranglers, Culture Club, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush - anything like that. On the dance floor in my teens, you'd probably catch me shaking my ass to some Destiny's Child or some type of dance music. I wasn't overly fussy. If it made me move, I'd go with it.
So, how did Them&Us come about?
Well, I had just been released from my record label contract with Sony, and Lee (the other half of Them&Us) had also been released from his own record deal. By this point we'd been together in a relationship for about three and a half years, and so we just thought 'hey why don't we try to do something together?' It had never really crossed our minds before then, but some friends of ours out in LA were like 'you guys should totally do something' and so we did.
We're from very different musical backgrounds (Lee's more from the underground scene with the Beatbox, where I was definitely more 'commercial') so we wanted to bring those two worlds together and see what we could come up with. Sadly Them&Us are no more as of the end of 2017, but I'm really proud of the work we created in that time.
What were the differences in experience between Them&Us, versus when you were with Basement Jaxx?
Well, I was live lead vocalist with Jaxx on tour, and although I did do a few little studio sessions with them, nothing ever got released.
Them&Us was a very different experience for sure. As an act, we really wanted to build our fan base up from scratch, rather than relying on either of our pasts... which is hard work!
Where oh where did you find that outstanding bass player? I was listening to and watching the live video for “Icarus”, and I was floored by his playing.
Dave Budgen! Dave is actually the Bass player for The Dub Pistols. He is a friend of ours, and we asked him if he'd like be part of the live recording/filming of the song at Relentless Studio in London, and he was totally up for it! He's an incredible bass player and a lovely guy. The original baseline on Icarus is actually a programmed bass, so he absolutely nailed it live!
Who have you worked with in studio?
Ohhhh… I've worked with a lot of different people, so it’s hard to roll off a definitive list! It depends on what I'm doing really (as in if i'm writing for myself or other artists).
When I was signed to Columbia I worked with a lot of very big producers and writers, including the incredible Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, One Republic) who actually mixed some of the Them&Us tracks on our first EP 'And so It Begins...' We also worked very closely on most of the Them&Us project with James Rushent (Does It Offend You Yeah? The Prodigy, Major Lazer, and also son of Martin Rushent, producer of The Human League’s "Don't You Want Me Baby"), but I also work with lesser known and writers and producers (I'll work with anyone as long as they have a good vibe!)
More recently I've been in the studio with Stanton Warriors (Punks), Jay Robinson (Nightbass) and Conrank (Circus) and of course with Todd 'The God' Terry, but I've also been working with other writers on tracks for other artists outside of my own stuff.
How did your recent collabo with New York House Pioneer Todd 'The God' Terry come about? I imagine it must have been quite the experience.
(laughs) Yes! I've worked with Todd quite a bit over the last year, and we have other collaborations in the pipeline. I love Todd, he's such a cool guy and we get on really well.
He connected with me and asked if I was around for a studio session, so I got myself in a cab and headed right over! I'd always been a big fan of his work... I mean he has been so instrumental within the house music movement - so it's always amazing to be able to work with him when he's in town.
You should play in the U.S. Have you played here? If not, will you ever?
I have plans to for sure! I visit often as I have a lot of friends out there, and I've dj’ed at a few of their house parties. My aim is to live out in LA eventually, and I will hopefully have a show out there later in the year (I'm part of a new campaign for a big brand, but it's not been announced just yet, so I don't know how much I'm allowed to say!) but 1000% I have my sights on the USA...don't you worry!!
With all you’ve accomplished, what is there left for you to do? I mean, what have you not done that you might want to do someday?
Oh there’s so much more I want to do! I don't think you can ever stop progressing, or you might as well give it all up!
I would love to move into having my own clothing line, and footwear, and hair products. Having had so many hair styles and colours I see it as a natural progression. (laughs)
I would definitely also like to take up wig making one day too, it’s always been something I've wanted to do but finding the time has been impossible as it’s such a skilled job... but maybe one day! I’m also going to do my first skydive in June for charity which I'm terrified about - If anyone would like to support the cause they can donate here: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/amicarmine