In the music industry, the dividing line between those behind the mixing desk and those behind the mike can seem like the boundary between two nations. Different cultures, different personalities, even different languages.
The divide is gendered, too, with far fewer women in the engineering and producing space, so a successful female producer who transitions to performer is bound to attract attention.
Lauren Deakin Davies has established an enviable reputation as a producer and sound engineer. Recent successes include Kate Dimbleby’s groundbreaking work of genius Songbirds which was reviewed on Fresh On The Net here. Coincidentally, Kate is making an appearance in session with our own Tom Robinson on his Radio 6 music show this Saturday.
Starting out as a 17-year old at Cream Room Sound Production, Lauren – a self-confessed “massive nerd” – took a while to notice that being a girl was something different until “it dawned on me that I was the only female record producer I knew!” Moving on a few short years, Lauren has added sessioning as a guitar and bass player and touring and backing vocals to her resume, so maybe it was only a matter of time before she stepped forward with her own sound.
Taking the stage name DIDI, a play on words from a popular abbreviation of her surname, Lauren released her self-penned, self-produced, and self-released single, Sorry just a few short weeks ago.
Energetic with a neo-punk edge, Sorry steps into the art-pop niche opened by Playing House with undeniable echoes of Alanis Morissette. DIDI’s vocals span the emotional chasm from wistful to challenging and back again, supported by guitars that ebb and flow effortlessly, raising the whirlpool of DIDI’s mood before setting it down in a reflection of shared responsibility.
DIDI may claim to be sorry, but there’s righteous anger and a demand for acknowledgment in her song. #sorrynotsorry.
New artists can find it hard to maintain momentum from early attention. Lauren’s got that covered, releasing three remixes of Sorry closely followed by second single Awkward, which was out within weeks of the first. BBC6 Music’s Chris Hawkins noticed her “exciting new pop punk” and gave DIDI her first radio play.
Lauren describes Awkward as catchy and rough around the edges. She explains “People say they find themselves singing this track after my gigs and the chorus ‘what gives you the right to speak to me like this’ pops into their head when they are feeling patronised or not listened to! I want to use it to help give a voice to minorities who all too often find themselves being spoken for… #endtheawkward’’
There’s an energy to Awkward, a quirky edge that hides a tough message behind a wry smile. Anyone who has has been on the receiving end of man/white/straight/able ‘splaining will appreciate the anthemic lyric ‘Your unsolicited opinion isn’t something I need’. We don’t need to work so hard to help people feel comfortable with our difference. Musically exciting but with something to say, DIDI has delivered 21st Century punk with purpose.
And she clearly enjoys the blend of art with technology, the freedom that comes from pleasing herself:
“I had a lot of fun recording this. I have deliberately shied away from more conventional recording techniques because it is ‘my’ project, so if I mess it up no one is going to get upset!”
Lauren also embraced the capacity to experiment that can only really occur when the artist is also behind the mixing desk, and she is happy to share the creative accidents too:
“Something that I have really enjoyed working in is the percussion. I am not a drummer so drum parts don’t come as naturally to me. Of course, I could program them which I have not got a problem with, or enlist any of my awesome drummer friends but I thought I would try something different. The percussion on my first two releases Sorry and Awkward stem from listening to new music and more specifically some of Jimmy Hogarth’s recent work. I particularly liked a pattern he used and it made me think I wanted to remix a track like that so I tried to incorporate it but I couldn’t quite get the samples to sound right, so I decided I would just record myself drumming out the pattern on my wooden desk, then trigger the samples afterwards. But after I tapped it out I though this actually sounds quite cool, so I boosted the bass and smashed it though a compressor and I was like ‘yes’!”
Anyone who has been in a studio will be familiar with multitudinous half drunk vessels of beverage. My studio, I am ashamed to say, is no different. I noticed they were ringing at a specific pitch when they tapped each other when I hit the desk to tap out the drum rhythm, so I decided to make use of two of the glasses and experimented with different levels of cold tea, (other drinks might be available in other studios!) to get the right pitch for the song, which took a while but was so worth it, and actually great fun.”
As a result, you can hear the sampled sound all the way through the track! You can also hear me scraping a piece of metal along the guitar neck to make more of the build up in one part before the chorus. I also decided that I didn’t want to use a high hat so instead I got 2 pens and tapped out the high hat parts on a tambourine, on a cushioned chair to get the sort of muted sound I wanted!”
With the willingness to stretch her techniques and open up to the serendipity of the result, it’s not surprising that people in the industry are sitting up and taking notice of this newcomer with a wealth of experience in her kitbag. As Wheatus’s Matthew Milligan noted: “DIDI’s got a very unique thing going on that I really dig, sounds really cool, great voice”.
DIDI is living proof that sisters can do it for themselves. Confident in her own development, she asserts that “I’ve been producing tracks for other people for four years, now it’s my turn’…’I feel creatively released and am not going to jump through hoops, this is me being me. Not pretty, perfect and polished.”
Having listened to her music, it might be surprising to find that DIDI’s tracks haven’t yet made it through to the Listening Post and Fresh Faves. It’s a competitive old world out there and – even if we haven’t yet exposed her music to the FOTN public through the usual channels – it’s a privilege to share her tracks with you here.
From a review on Angry Baby