Resonantly Reid Speed
by Sterling McGarvey
If you haven't heard the name Reid Speed yet, get used to it. Between her affiliation with legendary record store and label Breakbeat Science, her status as one of the premier drum n' bass DJs in New York, and the release of her first mix CD, Resonance, Reid is poised to make big moves in 2002 and beyond. She, like many other drum n' bass DJs across America (such as Casper of Chicago, and our own Bobble in Atlanta), has been proselytizing the gospel of 2-step garage. Reid has gained a name for herself playing both genres as of late. Lunar got a chance to speak with her on the phone at Breakbeat Science just a few days before her debut set in Atlanta for Iris Promotions.
Reid got started with Breakbeat Science a few years back due to a strange twist of fate. "I worked in the store because there was a guy who used to work here, and he was here for 3 weeks. I was shopping, and he asked me to take his job over for 6 weeks, because he was going to Europe and it was a huge opportunity for him. He asked me to just cover for him while he was over there, but he never came back. I ended up staying here. I stopped working here 2 years ago, though, because I was not a very good employee," she says, laughing.
Of course, Atlanta is no stranger to hosting a plethora of female DJs. Peace Continuum's "Goddess" parties have been going since 2000, and have brought talent ranging from Miss Bliss and Debbie D to international headliners such as DJ Rap. Yet, on the other side of the coin, acclaimed DJs such as Misstress Barbara reject the notion of what some would consider the use of gender as a means of getting bookings.
Reid doesn't particularly lean toward all-female events. "Well, I dunno; it's kind of stupid," she says. "It is a gimmick. Girls don't need it. Girls are already over-recognized for what we do. It's not necessary. You don't see 'All Guy Parties' advertised. I mean, how would your turnout be for 'Dicks on Decks?'"
At this point, we are both laughing.
"I know people who would turn and run, unless you're advertising to that kind of crowd that would go to a party like that."
Reid is not a DJ who can be easily pigeonholed into one specific subgenre. "I play everything," she says. "I like a little bit of everything. I will not be about one sound; I refuse to." When ask about her favorite producers right now, she feels "High Contrast is amazing. He's come along out of nowhere and completely changed everything."
With the popularity of the Planet of the Drums tour over the past two years, it seems as though drum n' bass has finally lived up to the statement made by the POTD DJs who felt that it was time to move dnb from the backrooms of parties. Reid doesn't feel, however, that dnb has moved up from being the "red-headed stepchild" of dance music. "In some ways, it's moved up to that level. In some ways it hasn't. It's moved up for the Dieselboys and the Daras, but the average DJ still gets put in a shitty room. Most drum n' bass DJs still get stuck in the back in a cramped space. In spite of the success of the Planet of the Drums tour, drum n' bass still gets pooped on."
Many producers across genres have said that the darker sounds of music that have been so popular over the past two years have begun to move out of the limelight, in part because the events of September 11th have taken away the urge to produce darker music. "I think that's kind of bullshit," Reid quickly states. "A lot of people are making different styles; I mean, you still have dark drum n' bass, but then you have High Contrast and Marcus Intalex producing the warm stuff. Production trends are up to individuals, not to politics."
Many DJs and even more music enthusiasts in the States have written off 2-step as a "novelty" genre since it began to slowly crossover to the US in 2000. Many of the same people are now dismissing the genre as being completely dead. Reid, however, does not agree. "The media wanted it to be bigger than it was, and it wasn't. Everyone blew it up like it was supposed to completely re-revolutionize the dancefloor," she says. She feels that garage is not a sound that can immediately win over a crowd. "It wasn't supposed to be headlining floors nationwide. Because it didn't get hyped up like everyone tried to proclaim it would, they dropped it. People want to say it's dead, but it's anything but dead." Despite the fact that 2-step isn't a sound that would make for a peak hour slot at a rave, her feelings are that it still has the potential to catch on. "Mainstream radio would be more likely to pick it up than anyone," she says. "The pop radio stations just haven't caught on yet. People are still doing stuff. There are still people producing it. You can play 2-step on the radio, which is harder for drum n' bass. I mean, you can play a 2-step track and people won't be calling the station saying, 'What the hell is this?!?' Drum n' Bass is harder, it's faster, and it takes more listening to enjoy than what's just on the surface. It's not as accessible. It's on a deeper level. With Drum n' Bass, people can't embrace it if they're not ready for it. If you put 2-step on the radio, people would dig it, but then you have to worry about the stations, because they're controlled so heavily by big corporations and their interests."
Reid caught the UK garage bug back in 1997, when she visited England. She witnessed the speed garage explosion of said year. After a visit to a Twice as Nice event, she was hooked. "It was everything I liked about drum n' bass. It had the basslines. People were dancing and having a really, really good time. I've been into it ever since." When asked what her style of 2-step is like (deep, rough basslines or vocal and bubbly), she shrugs off the conventions of rough vs. bubbly and simply says, "In my sets, I'll play nu skool breaks, techno, house, or whatever. If you can match the beats together, you can make it work," she says, laughing. "If it gets the crowd hyped, that's what counts."
Reid certainly put up a roadblock when picking her Desert Island Five. "Okay, I'm what? I'm stranded on a desert island...Where am I going to listen to them? Will I have turntables? Batteries? Equipment?" I smile as I say, "All the logistics are worked out. You're like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. A big Fed Ex package has washed up with batteries and stuff. Now go!" Her picks are Violent Femmes (self-titled), Metallica-Ride the Lightning, a "mixtape I made for my boyfriend who's in LAit's kind of a sad 'you live 3,000 miles away from me' mixtape," a mixtape she did called, Oh [it sounds like], and "I would bring... oh fuck, I can't remember the name. I think it's DB-Leaders of the Old School. I love that tape."
"My CD is a drum n' bass mix. It covers pretty much every genre. It's a story," she says when prompted to describe Resonance. "It's not just some mix you'd hear out. It's not representative of a dance mix, or a club set. It's like reading a book. It takes all your emotions and ties them across the tracks. It covers a spectrum, kind of like a good story should cover a range of emotions."
In regard to Atlanta's reputation as a drum n' bass city, she is well aware of the strong following. "I've heard that it's ill; it's one of the best drum n' bass cities in the country. The kids are totally into the music, and they really, really love it. Everyone says they love it: Odi, Dara, a lot of the New York drum n' bass DJs say they love playing Atlanta every time."
Finally, when prompted for the origins of her DJ name, it's neither as glamorous ("speed" as in "velocity of dnb") nor as controversial ("speed" as in "I've been up for three days straight") as one might expect. "It was just basically because I started DJing and I met a bunch of people. There was a guy I started seeing, and I tend to walk really fast up the street. Or when I get excited, I start talking really, really fast. So he started calling me 'Speedy.' Then they decided that my DJ name should be Reid Speed." There you have it, folks. "So, no," she proclaims, laughing, "it has nothing to do with drugs!"
Special thanks goes to Vida Wolfbauer and Sue Marcus at Stunt Company for their assistance.
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