INTERVIEW: Meg Ward | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Meg Ward has been making a name for herself as one of the brightest DJs and producers in the region. Although born and raised in Leeds, she has been proud to call Newcastle home for much of her musical career. Her own distinct sound and style is one loved by North East natives, having been popularised by the likes of Patrick Topping and Richy Ahmed. Her nascent career has seen her hold down a residency at one of the city’s favourite clubs and release her own music on one of its biggest record labels. She has also recently remixed Joe Turner’s ambient masterpiece Solace, which was released on 12th February. I caught up to discuss her journey so far and what she’s been up to having spent a year away from the DJ booth.

I had mainly listened to indie stuff growing up, and then moved onto disco I suppose. Then there were tracks which sort of transitioned from indie to electronic music, artists like Moby. I went to Leeds Festival when I was 16 and saw Annie Mac, and the idea of a rave was so exciting. My first gig in Newcastle was at World Headquarters, which was the first time I’d ever used a pair of decks. I went from DJing on a controller at house parties to clubs fairly quickly. It was mad really, and was even harder because I couldn’t see over the DJ booth without standing on a crate.

My first time at Ill Behaviour really stuck with me. I started going down to Cosmic at a time when garage and bassline was really popular, and absolutely loved it. Working at Tokyo was really important to me too, I’d usually play sets there whenever I wasn’t working. Then I was a resident at Ill Behaviour for a couple of years. I’d been going down there every week clubbing when I was a student and then did my first set there in 2018. Gabriel Day and Luke Scott always had a lot of faith in me, they were amazing from the start.

In terms of favourite shows, Cromby was probably my personal favourite, the crowd was unreal and it was class to warm up and do the handover. I feel like I connected with the crowd a lot and there was a lot of energy. Octo Octa and Eris Drew were amazing too, they played all vinyl and their track selection was incredible.”

It didn’t take long for her own productions to get noticed by fans, DJs and fellow producers. She drew the attention of some of the industry’s biggest names, who have been keeping a keen eye on her early career.

Jaguar has been really supportive, she featured one of my tunes on Radio 1 as a Dancefloor Moment last August. I think some other DJs had mentioned my name to her and she started following me and eventually messaged me. We’ve been in contact since then. The link with Patrick Topping actually came a while before that. I released a track I was working on via Soundcloud and saw that he’d downloaded it. The track was called Nice N Funky, and then he downloaded another one called Don’t B Mean. Then I saw a video of him playing the track at one of his sets in Barcelona. He messaged me a short while after saying that he’d heard my stuff and if I had anything for Trick I should send it over. I remixed one of Will Clarke’s tunes for Trick at the end of last year, but I’m still waiting for a track of my own that’s right for Trick. I feel like I’m getting there with that, but not quite yet. I saw Haai play for Ape-x in January of last year, and she was amazing. I remember chatting to her after the gig and we got to talking about my tunes. She ended up playing Sterling on Radio 1 about a month later.”

One of the few positives from a year spent in lockdown has been how artists have been afforded more time to work on their own productions. Meg has released some of her best tunes over the past year, and taken on some exciting musical side projects.

My own productions have definitely benefited from lockdown in the grand scheme of things. I’ve had a lot of time that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Usually I’d be fairly busy either going to gigs or playing them, so having some down time to focus on making music has been great. I’m still getting a lot of good ideas for tunes all the time. There’s been so much mint music that’s been released during lockdown. It’s definitely helped me and given me more time to work on producing, so it hasn’t been all bad. I’ll definitely have a lot of lost time to make up for though. As soon as clubs open back up I’ll probably end up quitting my job, focus on playing out a load of the tracks that I’ve been making.

I put something out asking for people to send me their unreleased tunes when I first started doing Project Radio, and I got sent so much amazing music. There are a couple of tracks by Cosmo & Kramer and Bobby Nourmand that I can’t wait to play in a club.

I’ve also signed a publishing deal with The Hospital Records, as part of their Songs in the Key of Knife label. I want to get into doing compositions for video games and stuff. I want to be as versatile as possible and it was a really exciting project to get involved with. A lot of their stuff is quite break-y and ambient, so I want to be able to offer something different, and produce some tunes that I wouldn’t usually make.”

That’s not to say there hasn’t been disappointments. As an emerging artist whose touring diary was looking increasingly exciting, there were a fair few shows that fell victim to the pandemic. It looks to be a temporary setback though, and there’s a lot of excitement for what comes next.

I’ve never played a festival before but was supposed to be playing Westival at the end of July. And I was supposed to be playing Sphere for London Warehouse Events last year too but that was cancelled right at the start of the pandemic. I have rearranged a few sets and have gigs coming up in different cities, but no firm dates. As soon as things open back up again I’m sure things will come together.

I think there will be a return to smaller crowds and more localised line-ups for a while. Maybe it’ll be more like community clubbing. You won’t have DJs and crowds travelling all over the country for massive raves, but smaller parties with homegrown talent could be just as good. There might be more competition too, which I guess is a good thing.

The tracks I’m looking forward to playing out after COVID most are probably my own. I like the idea of doing a set entirely of my own productions, I’ve just got so much music I’ve been sitting on. I can’t wait to play Peanut Power in a club, that’ll be banging, otherwise there’s a track by Sam Girling called Burning Up which I absolutely love. There’s a remix of Some Day I Will by Barry Can’t Swim which is amazing too. I always used to whack out that Bicep remix of Gotta Let You Go, it always used to go off and I’m sure it still would now.

Meg’s remix for Joe Turner is the next in a long line of fantastic productions. The Solace remix comes from two of the most promising electronic artists in the country, each with a different musical palette. It was released on LG105, and dropped on 12th February.

It’s a really good track to remix. As soon as I heard the track I knew what I wanted to do with it, straight away I was thinking of the things in wanted to do with it. I’ve picked the tempo up quite a lot and added heavier drums, chopped up the vocals and stretched them out. I’ve made it a lot more banging, and made it sound more like my own.”

 

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