Some people sing, some people mix records; not many do both. One woman who does both superbly is Rae, by now a musician whose influence extends from partying in the world’s best basement spots all the way to singing on chart hits. Set to take up a vocal position with the popular Hacienda Classical series as it tours the UK, Rae told us about the challenges of being involved in such a unique take on the Madchester house hits of old.
Hi Rae, you’ve had some big news come through lately, with the announcement that you’ll be singing as part of the Hacienda Classical events that will be taking part all across the country. Will the move into arenas be the highlight of your career so far?
It is definitely a highlight - the crowd, the venues, the orchestra and the choir. All of that feeling from the days of the Hacienda, the beginning of house music – it’s a privilege to be on board.
Do you have any previous experience with Hacienda? Did you ever manage to make it down to the legendary club?
I was a bit too young to experience the club, but I knew the music that came from it. My older brother was clubbing and I used to nick his tapes from the nights. The first one was Graeme Park so you could say we go way back ;) They were the tunes that got me into house music in a big way and inspired me to sing and DJ.
How difficult is it to adapt to playing with a full orchestra?
It was a bit nerve wracking before I actually went out there. Then I just got lost in the sound and my performance - I love every second of it.
You’re a bit different to the standard DJ in that you also perform live as a vocalist; how do these two types of performance compare in terms of the way that you feel and behave?
I feel comfortable doing what I do, so it’s natural to me. I don’t over-cook it, I just enjoy it all.
Not too many musicians do both. How did you get into DJing?
House music was the catalyst, I started clubbing and wanted to know what the tunes I was dancing to were so I started collecting vinyl. I was getting drawn to the DJ side of things, that power over the dance floor. I started singing with some guys who were DJs, doing some gigs, they had decks and encouraged me to practice, so I did.
For International Women’s Day you played a show alongside Faithless star Sister Bliss as well as Phoebe D’abo. How was the night?
It was nice to see Sister Bliss again. We played in Goa together years back, she’s great. It was a nice collective of different styles with us three ladies doing our thing. Good vibes all night.
It is no secret that dance music still seems heavily dominated by men, despite the recent rise in profile of loads of really fantastic female DJs in recent years. What are your views on the current state of gender within dance music?
I can’t speak for all females, but personally I’ve had to work very hard to do all I want to do, and to get to the position I’m in now. The hard work certainly continues, I keep a work-hard positive attitude and do my thing, and keep doing it. Persistence thought the testing times and believing in what you do against the odds stands for a lot.
You had a top 20 hit when you did vocals on DJ S.K.T’s “Take Me Away” last year. Was mainstream chart success something that you had your sights on already or did expect your music to be appreciated mainly in the underground scene?
I’ve grown to realise that this industry is unpredictable. Having an organic approach with the music you make is the best way, the rewards feel special when you have an open mind and don’t set your sights in one place. I want to enjoy my music and the whole process, and the more people who enjoy it with me the greater the pleasure.
Your next few months will be really busy thanks to the Hacienda Classical tour, which travels through Leeds, London, Bristol, Manchester and more. Which legs are you most looking forward to?
The whole thing is going to be crazy - the venues are awesome. It’s great to be north where it all began, the support and energy up there is mad, but of course coming south will be great, as I will have friends and family able to come and support and enjoy the show. To perform at the Royal Albert Hall is a dream come true for me as I’m sure it is for many artists. I am so excited about that one, it’s going to be emotional.
And now we’ll head back to Hacienda for a track to finish off the interview. Are there any old club classics that you’d love to adapt for the classical show that isn’t currently on the setlist?
The set is off the hook, of course there are many tunes I would love to hear with the orchestra, I have a few very special songs that are close to my heart but that’s where they are staying - for now… ;)
Rae’s performance at Hacienda Classical will be followed by an after party at Albert Hall on Saturday 1st July, with 808 State, Marshall Jefferson, Graeme Park and more on the turntables.
Photo courtesy of Rae