A regular on NTS’s new Manchester station and a resident of infamous Soup Kitchen, Annabel Fraser is a firm fixture in the North West. Having DJd for over ten years – during which time she ran the Hupendi Muziki Wangu parties welcoming likes of Maurice Fulton and Young Marco through its doors – she’s had ample time to hone her skills and develop her eclectic taste. Handy, given that she’ll be supporting Omar-s and Mike Servito, through to Zip, Paranoid London and XBD in this month alone.
We caught up about her life DJ and putting on parties in Manchester, accompanying an hour long mix.
First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?
My mum had some Abba records which I used to play on her turntable in our living room. I was about 4 I think.
How did you get into DJing? What was the first record you bought?
The truth is I listened to absolute rubbish when I was a kid because I didn’t really have any influences around me at the time other than the radio or what was in the charts. I think the first physical copy of music I owned was something like Kylie on tape which my sister bought for me at Christmas. The first record I bought when I got my 1210’s was from HMV and It was The Future Sound Of London, Papa New Guinea. I still love that record.
I progressed to djing pretty organically really. It started with playing tapes to my mates. I didn’t one day decide to be a DJ. I’ve always loved dancing and being a party head. My first introduction to electronic music was a local radio station that used to play rave tunes on a Sunday night called New Dawn around 91/92. I used to record it on tape obsessively when I was a kid. I still have them. I’d never heard anything like that and it sounded fresh at that time. I was obssessed with that whole culture but I wasnt old enough to go out raving. When i did there were a few moments where a DJ would play something and id think how I wouldnt do that or id play more of this vibe of whatever. I learnt a lot about djing from being a dancer.
I got my 1210’s when I was 18/19 and started buying records. Its still a format I’ve never changed. I’m not down with that whole vinyl vs digital snobbery because it doesn’t matter. Djing for me is about selection, your taste in music and reading a crowd. Ultimately it’s about what comes out of the speakers that counts. However for me records makes me approach things more dynamically, lets the music breath a bit more and there a connection process, purchasing the record, looking at the artwork, even recognising the sleeve over the name of the track that works for me but everyone is different. It doesn’t matter how its done as long as the end result is people loosing their shit to the tunes.
Lee Fredericks gave me a residency at his party Bias/Reckless in Stoke. I’d only been playing records for a year so I was terrified, not confident at all but knew at that point that this was what I wanted to do with my life. It was a warm up slot and I did that for over a year. They had a free music policy and were a big influence to me at that time. I realise now how important that was as early doors djing is no easy task if you want to set the vibe properly. They had a custom built soundsystem which was amazing. Arnot, the guy who designed the system used to make me walk in front of the speakers and tell me how to EQ the system properly. I still do that now. I met Kelvin Andrews around that time too. He introduced me to loads of stuff I’d never heard before and really refined my ear for new sounds.
You work in a 9-5 office job. How does it feel to be doing something completely different to music as a day job? Would you ever give it up?
I only work 4 days a week so that’s ok. I don’t have to rely on djing to pay the bills. My day job takes care of that. I don’t have to compromise anything musically or do a gig that pays a lot of money that vibe-wise I know wont be my thing. I’d love to be in a position where I could just play records full time on my terms but I’m not in that position yet. Music is a very personal thing to me, as it is to most people, but playing at the wrong place can be soul destroying. I don’t do it for money. It’s about playing records to your mates and their mates and them loosing their heads and you having a connection with that. Im constantly chasing that buzz and that’s why I do it.
I first became aware of you as a DJ with your residency at Soup Kitchen. How did you get involved with them?
I’ve known Chris and Nick who are two out of the three guys that run Soup Kitchen since going to Electric Chair at the Music Box. I got asked to dj all night in their basement 6/7 years ago and they asked me to be a resident. I dj in their club occasionally and upstairs once a month and I love that too as they have a really free music policy. I love djing upstairs at Soup because you get five hours to play all kinds of crazy records to music heads without holding a dance floor.
I know you’re a big fan of Japan… What first drew your attention to it as a country?
The record shops, clothes, trainers and culture…everything I love.
Word is that you have started a new agency… Can you explain the rumours? Are you going to start producing?
I’m with Unpopular Culture Manchester which is a new agency. I’ve known the guys behind it for years and they have loads of experience from the other side of the coin too doing parties, running record labels etc. I’m producing music too but I do it for myself really. Maybe one day I will release something but I’m not putting any pressure on myself or want to make a career or anything. I just need that buzz of making a few tunes. We’ll see what happens with that.
Your old party, Hupendi… was, by all accounts, pretty successful. Any plans to start it up again?
No I’m going to do something fresh and new in Manchester if I do decide to do any more parties. I’m terrible at organising things – I would never call myself a promoter – I just love parties and getting my friends to dj or people I respect musically. I’ve never booked anyone purely on their production skills either, it’s always about how well they can work a room djing, so the guests are always varied from well established names within the industry to local talent who can rock a party.
Now for some Manny-focussed questions…Where’s your favourite place to buy records Manc?
All of them. I can’t say I prefer one over the other they all offer different things which is top.
What are some of your favourite parties to go to?
There’s a car garage in Salford thats hosts parties which I love. The bar is below ground level where they fix the cars. Proper warehouse vibes. Hidden club is a great space and so is Soup Kitchen.
What new / young talent should we be keeping an eye on at the moment?
I’m not being biased when I say this because they are close friends of mine but the heads that many aren’t aware of are Tom Boogizm, Acidhousedeathsquad and Adam H. No-nonsense underground djs who can smash any party, every time.
Are there any Manchester parties that you wish you’d started?
No. It doesn’t matter who does it as long as it gets done. There should be no ego, no them-and-us and never done to ‘get your name out there’. The best parties are when you don’t know who put the party on in the first place. It should feel like home. That’s proper underground.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?
I did the mix in my flat on my 1210s. I didn’t really think about how I wanted it to be or the audience I just put some tunes on that I’m into at the moment. There’s a lot of new-ish stuff on there but some old ones too. It’s a mixture of stuff moodwise. Good records don’t date and I don’t think of records in genres.
What’s coming up on the horizon we should look out for?
I’m djing at Hidden Club in Manchester a lot which is great as the guys behind it have the right attitude and want to do something really special with the club so its an honour to be involved. I’m djing there with Omar S and a few others on April 8th, and again on 16th April w/ Paranoid London, XDB at Soup Kitchen on 22nd April, Bluedot Festival 7th July and Blijdorp Festival in Rotterdam with NTS 12th August which I’m really looking forward to. I have a monthly NTS show, 3rd Saturday 20.00-22.00. Tune in! Hopefully in between all of that I’m going to be playing records in some sweaty basements/house parties to my mates till god knows when.