The Queen Of Hard Dance: Ascension Music Meets Anne Savage
The Ascension Music team catches up with the Lady of hard dance ahead of her 25th anniversary tour.
The hard house scene is one of the industry's most devoted, attracting like minded party goers from across the nation and beyond and producing some of dance music's most loved club talent. In the late 90s, when the DJ was predominantly a male led role, a change was on the horizon. A group of ladies from the Tidy camp were making some real headway on the scene and after the Tidy Girls EP, the game changed. Among them was the queen of hard dance, none other, than Anne Savage.
A house hold name in the UK and international club scenes, Anne went on to become a real ambassador for the harder edge sound, representing such brands as Goodgreef,Tidy, Frantic, Euphoria and the iconic Slinky. As well as produce some of hard houses much loved tracks, playing gigs all over the world, hosting television shows and running her own label, Anne Savage has also played a huge role in raising awareness of a DJ's worst nightmare, Tinnitus, having suffered with it herself and is now working with a non-profit association to help protect people's hearing. The Ascension Music team caught up with Anne ahead of her 25th anniversary tour to talk hard house, wearing ear plugs and hotel shower caps for slippers.
Describe your sound in three words
Usually TOUGH, sometimes INTENSE but hopefully UPLIFTING
What got you into DJing?
For my love of music I was influenced by my older brothers and sisters. They were into a real mix of sounds including Northern soul, some alternative stuff, a lot of Punk and New Wave and from that I developed my own taste. Music has been a big part of my life, and from a young age I used to go to see a lot of bands and even joined a band of my own when I was only 15 playing rhythm guitar. When I was 18 I got an opportunity to fill in for a DJ (just playing records, no mixing as such) at a place called the Kurfew Klub in Accrington, whilst he went on holiday as he knew I was a fanatic. I got a lot of encouragement from the crowd, mainly girls saying it was great to see a female DJ. This was 1987 and I hadn’t really heard much dance music yet. Then I started going to raves and I was soon hooked on becoming a ‘proper’ DJ.
What DJs have inspired you?
What was the first record you ever bought and do you still have it?
My sister was a mail order record seller when I was a kid, she used to make me spend pocket money on 7” singles from the age of about 8, mainly punk such as limited edition Clash singles and the like. When I was about 19 my ex-boyfriend who I gave them to, to look after when I went to Italy to work, sold them all while I was away (the git). I know for a fact some of them would be worth a fortune now. I must have been a pretty bad girlfriend ha!
You are one of the original Tidy Girls along with Lisa Lashes, Rachel Auburn and Lisa Pin Up. How does it feel to be among the earlier female DJs to play the world stage?
Time has flown. I had already been DJing nearly 10 years when Tidy approached me to do the Tidy Girls EP. My flat mate nearly talked me out of it because of the money, but my gut told me to do it anyway and I’m so glad I did. One of the best feelings is when I hear from DJs saying I inspired their love of hard house or was their inspiration to start DJing.
What made you fall in love with the hard house and hard dance scenes?
I have always like a tougher more uplifting sound. My early visits to Trade in London blew my mind, and also when I was resident at Ark in the mid Nineties, Tony De Vit used to come and play and his sound was always so much faster and harder than all the other DJs and I was intrigued. It was a lot more difficult then without the Internet to find records you liked, but I was lucky in that I used to work at Eastern Bloc in Leeds, a specialist dance music store and I ended up being the buyer for hard dance.
Today there is a growing number of female DJs in the dance music industry. How does it feel to be an inspiration to many of them?
It is very humbling to be honest. I never set out to inspire anybody, I was on a personal journey of having something to prove to my parents I think looking back! The fact I’m still DJing after all this time and still meeting female DJs along the way who I’ve inspired is incredible to me.
You also perform as The Dumb Blonde. What brought about that alias?
I didn’t start out DJing hard house. It didn’t exist then. I have always liked playing all types of music, but Anne Savage had become synonymous with hard house so to play a different type of music under that name wouldn’t have worked.
You have featured in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs for several consecutive years. How does that feel?
I was in the polls when you used to have to cut out a form from the magazine, fill it in and post in your vote. Can you imagine doing that now?! I think that although the hit record days of hard house/Tidy Girls and being in the Top 100 are probably over for me, I still feel that I have a relevance on the dance music scene, and as long as people want to see me play I will turn up. I still love it.
You have been an ambassador for Plug 'Em, promoting the importance of safeguarding your hearing and protection from tinnitus. How did you get involved with this and do you always take ear plugs to gigs?
Yes, I have terrible Tinnitus. I think DJing, along with working in a record shop and basically listening to loud music constantly has taken its toll. I went back to studying recently and it was a nightmare. It was really hard because it’s worse the quieter your surroundings are, concentrating was/is hard. I still got my degree but it involved a lot of extra perseverance and agony because of Tinnitus. It is a constant mental battle and it can send you under if you let it. My actual hearing is still OK, except when I’m in restaurants I can’t hear what the person opposite me is saying because of background noise. I felt an obligation to try to warn others through sharing my experience, that’s why I joined the Plug ’Em campaign.
What are your three essentials to take to gigs/on tour?
I sometimes take my own pillowcase. I have a real problem with the cleanliness of hotels. I can’t walk barefoot on the carpet, I always check the sheets and it’s actually getting worse as I get older. If I haven’t brought slippers I’ll put shower caps on my feet ha ha. I am the same on planes. An airline steward once said to me (after I’d walked to the toilet up the aisle in my socks) “when you get home, take off those socks and burn them”. That stuck with me! I also like a book for long journeys and a good playlist.
What has been your favourite gig of all time?
I think some of the most mind-blowing gigs are always the big ones. Lisa Lashes and myself performed in South Africa on a tour with Grace Jones. We played on a revolving stage in front of 33,000 people. I also DJed at the Millennium Dome before it became the O2, there was 46,000 people in one arena. But looking back to the earlier 90’s gigs, they were where I was having the best time playing alongside my heroes like Carl Cox and Joey Beltram. They all played at the club where I was resident, but the thrill of finally getting on the decks after queuing up with records in a plastic bag at a rave in a field when I’d just started out is hard to beat.
Any embarrassing moments?
Plenty. I fell off the stage once under the decks because they were suspended from the ceiling on wires, I swung out to balance myself and fell over, kicking a plug out the socket as I tried to get up.
You're an Ibiza regular having played the likes of Judgment Sunday, Es Paradis and Amnesia. Is there something special to you DJing in Ibiza and about the island itself?
Ibiza is still a magical place to DJ. I think its history in dance music culture and the perpetual stories will mean it’s always a magical place to go for DJs and clubbers.
Your track The Pod is still a firm favourite in the hard dance collection. Do you have any plans to get back in he studio?
Yes I’ve got plans next year to make some more music to coincide with my 25 years as a DJ. I can’t wait to get stuck in.
To date you've had quite a few appearances on television hosting shows on MTV, Sky One and your feature on Channel 4's Faking It. How did you get into television and do you have any TV plans for the future?
At that time dance music was massive and I used to get all sorts of requests for TV & Radio especially after I did Fakin It. I got that through just being at the right place at the right time. I had a good agent and the TV company got in touch with them. I was the right profile and they went for. It was brilliant fun.
You have recently revealed that you will be celebrating 25 years as a DJ with a special tour. What are your plans?
I have joined We Love Hard House DJs and in collaboration with them I am doing a PURE Anne Savage event on April 28th 2018 at the O2 Academy in Islington, London. Sarah G who I love and respect is doing the first hour, then I’m doing the rest of the night, 7 hours in total. It will be a journey through the music that shaped my sound as a hard dance DJ. I can’t wait!! There are also a number of special UK dates as part of a tour, each with something a little different. I can also reveal that the tour will include Ibiza in September 2018 – full details coming soon but I’m very excited.
You have seen some changes in the industry over 25 years. What has been the biggest change in your opinion?
The biggest change has obviously been technology. It has blown the scene wide open for anybody to get out there and has changed the way we buy/make/listen to music. The industry is unrecognizable to how it was when I started. Bulky & slow! Carrying heavy records around, having to find and sign record deals, travelling miles to different record shops to get the music you want, telephoning your pals to see where the party was or waiting for Mixmag to come out every month ha ha!
What do you make of today's hard dance scene?
It is smaller than in 2000 but you can’t deny it has some of the most dedicated followers of any scene!
What DAW do you use?
Depends what I’m working on and who I’m working with. My advice to anyone who wants to get into producing (if you aren’t enrolling at producer school) is to get some free software and just start learning. A producer friend of mine Gaz West and myself released a track that was solely made on Fruity Loops, so just get your hands on what you can and get started. There must be tons of free software out there at the moment.
What are your studio essentials?
Ideas, Digestive biscuits and decent coffee.
You have a huge discography including on your own imprint Siren Trax. Are there any new productions and collaborations in the pipeline?
Yes I’m working on some new music and collaborations next year as part of a new album which, all being well, should be out in the autum. The album title is Savage & Co and I’m very excited to have studio time booked with a range of different producers. Again its an exciting project for me and I can’t wait to release it.
What advice would you offer aspiring DJs today looking to make a career in music and DJing?
Ask yourself why you want to be a DJ. It can be rewarding but it is a long slog with lots of knock backs and your ego will take a battering at times. Get some experience DJing in clubs, get yourself out there, don’t expect to get paid at first and try get yourself some followers and presence online. You need to have value to a promoter before you can expect to get booked and for people to pay to come and see you. Throw your own parties, be versatile and take time to learn what DJs actually do, it’s not just mixing. There are hundreds of articles offering advice online which is great. There wasn’t any of that when I started, but it also means everyone has access to the same information as you, so it’s up to you to make yourself stand out. Hone your craft and be the best you can be. Never stop learning!
We Love Hard House presents Pure Anne Savage celebrating 25 years takes place at the 02 Islington on Saturday 28th April 2018. For tickets visit We Love Hard House. We Love Hard House will be donating £1 for each ticket sold to Plug 'Em, helping to promote ear plugs at concerts and festivals to help raise awareness of loud volume exposure. For more information visit the Plug 'EM website.
For Anne Savage Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography credits: Dave Smith Photography