May 17, 2018
A collector for over 17 years who has become a champion of independent dance music in the UK, Moxie takes us through the records that have shaped her along the way.
Growing up in North London, music has been a driving force in Alice ‘Moxie’ Moxom’s life since she was a teenager.
Influenced by soul, hip-hop and garage, she learned how to DJ during an after school workshop at 14 and started frequenting local record shops in Soho, many of which she still visits to this day.
Moxie’s hustle is perhaps only matched by her passion for inclusivity amongst peers and newcomers alike. This is a feeling that is echoed in the people she surrounds herself with.
Immersing herself in the city’s music scene, she’s gone on to work in virtually every part of the industry.
As Moxie celebrates 7 years hosting shows on NTS radio, and the release of LK’s Dreams via her label On Loop, ahead of a forthcoming On Loop party with K-Hand in London, we caught up with her at home in the capital to find out more.
Let’s start at the beginning… What was the first record you bought?
Mary J. Blige No More Drama. I remember buying this on my first record hunt as a “DJ” when I was 14, and being so excited to get it. It’s not a particularly ‘significant’ album, but I loved the front cover and have always been a fan of Mary J. Blige. I mean look at her wearing this Gucci jacket, it is something special. You can see the G’s reflecting, the hair, it’s so of its time.
This was another early one and it still sounds like something from the future! I went after school school to pick this one up from a tiny hip-hop record store in Camden opposite the stables, just above a clothes shop. I went in specifically to buy this record – I’d heard it at my mates house and was drawn in – not only were the tracks dope but the vinyl was fluorescent pink. I got really obsessed with Sa-Ra after buying this and only wish they did more stuff as a group. Both the tracks, ‘Glorious’ and ‘Rosebuds’, from this record are still favourites of mine. Real classy hip-hop that sounds like nothing else.
What is it about record shopping that you enjoyed then and still enjoy now?
I’ve always loved the community aspect of going into a record shop. Making a real day of it and listening to music, having a coffee and talking to people as you’re going through the racks. I try and go into record shops every few weeks or as often as possible and I buy a lot of stuff online. I’d like to play more records out but often clubs aren’t set up for turntables, which is sad but true. So I ended up ripping them and adding them to my collection. I have rules set in place when I buy records which is that I have to really love it. Another rule is remembering how the record sounds after I’ve listened to it, if I can’t remember then it must not have been that special.
Record shopping will always be apart of what I do, as it’s been a kind of ritual for me from such a young age. I love going in and seeing those familiar faces who know my style and pull stuff out they know I’ll dig. I have my people that I always go and see, like Nick in Phonica, who I’ve been buying records from for years and years. He also runs an amazing label called Meda Fury which I highly recommend checking. Another special place will always be Sounds Of the Universe as that was one of the very first record shops I went into. The people who served me from my early teenage years still serve me now 17 years later! That to me is so integral to the music community and what I love about record shopping.
Did you always feel comfortable walking into record shops as a teenage girl?
When I was first buying records I was heavily into hip-hop and UK garage which weren’t always the most welcoming atmospheres especially as a young 14 year old girl. I remember going into Uptown, which was this amazing record store on D’Arblay Street in Soho, and being absolutely terrified when I’d go into the basement section which is where they had all the garage dubs! Some people would be really helpful and others wouldn’t. But then when I speak to my male DJ peers who were doing the same thing as me, around that same time, they were as equally as terrified so I think to some degree we were all going through the same experiences.
Another record store which should have an honourable mention is Deal Real – I spent so many Friday nights hanging outside there and going to the in-stores. Back then there were tonnes of record stores open in Soho. It was the era of UK hip-hop when Skinnyman, Klashnekoff, Jehst and Taskforce were ruling the world. Sarah Love was the only female DJ of that scene and she was the first woman I saw actually DJing. I remember seeing her play at this night called Kung-Fu, which I would sneak into when I was underage. That was really inspirational to see and encouraged me to carry on.
Did you have a musical upbringing?
As a kid my family would have music on in the background. I have fond memories of sitting in my mum’s 1960s vintage red Volvo and flipping tapes on the way to school listening to Annie Lennox, Gabrielle, Talking Heads, Michael Jackson – the usual suspects. My dad was also a record collector and a big fan of the Beatles, I only wish he’d hung onto them.
Growing up my friends and I were always musically tuned in, I think it would be hard not to be living in a city like London where it’s ingrained everywhere you go. When I was 14 we had an after-school DJ workshop. That’s how I got into DJing, through this company called Bigga Fish, who are still going. They’re this amazing youth club organisation who went to schools in North London to teach dance, MC and DJ workshops, all based around UK-Garage. They’d throw these under 18 raves often at the Forum in Kentish Town, and if you were good enough after the course you’d get to perform at them. Such an amazing incentive. Musically speaking it was a really exciting time as MCs like Dizzee Rascal were breaking through, as well as So Solid who would all come and perform at the raves.
Sadly I never got quite good enough when I was DJing back then to be able to play at the raves. I was so shy playing in front of people and for such a long time I stayed a ‘bedroom DJ’. But I kept buying records, kept trying to teach myself about music, and that’s when things started to fall into place. Or at least my confidence grew enough for me to play in front of a crowd. It was back when I was at university that I had my very first gig. I also started filling my summers up with placements in the music industry, and that’s when I got in touch with Benji B and began helping out on his club night Deviation.
How did you find out about Deviation?
I was heavily listening to Mary Anne Hobbs at the time, discovering dubstep and electronic music through her BBC Radio 1 shows. Benji covered for her one night and I was immediately struck by his selection. For the first time I was hearing someone play all the hip-hop I loved, but was also joining the dots between dubstep, house, Detroit techno and more. I was like “who is this guy?!” I started following his show on BBC Radio 1xtra and became a big fan of what he was doing. After that I found out about his night Deviation and got in touch with him on Myspace. Turned out he lived up the road from me and it kind of started from there.
I stayed working with Benji for about 6 years and learned a great deal putting the parties on and running things from behind the scenes. It turned into a job and was a really big part of my early 20s. We also ran the night with another girl called Zainab, and we were a strong team. I’d also DJ at the parties and help out with the artwork, so it really was all hands on deck. I just wanted to learn about music and immerse myself in as many different pockets as possible. I was living at home and studying my art degree at London College Of Communication so I was able to juggle different jobs and still hold down my degree, the knowledge I was gaining was invaluable.
Was that your first experience working in the music industry?
Actually just before I started working with Benji I also worked at this music PR company called Zzonked. It was one of those summers where I was working at a few different places for free, and I wanted to see what it was like at a music PR company, so I applied for the job when I was 21 or 22, just stuffing CDs into little jiffy bags for months. The office that we had was filled with loads and loads of records.
At the end of my time working there, Harvey, who ran the company, spent one of my last days pulling out and ripping in records. I’m sitting there thinking, “What is going on? This is all really cool music and I want to know what it is…” Turns out he was ripping the records to make these CDs for me, with music that he thought I should know about – Rah Band, Optimo, Mr. Fingers. So that was my payment at the end of that summer, and he also drew me this map to go with them, explaining how all the music joined up over the years. I still have those CDs and the map – it taught me so much.
That sounds amazing. Was it the first time you were hearing about these artists?
To that depth yeah for sure. I was so immersed in hip-hop, soul, dubstep, garage that I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of house, disco, techno, electro and everything in-between. I also met Alexander Nut, who was also working in that same office at the time, and we became good pals. I think my first ever trip to Plastic People was with him. He told me about the night CDR and I would go watch him at these warehouse parties in East London. A few years after that I went onto work at Plastic People behind the bar and spent a lot of time there making friends and listening to the DJs play.
What about your DJ sets, were you playing records back then?
At that time I was heavily collecting dubstep as it was still breaking out as this new-ish genre. This Mala record ‘Alicia’ is a stone cold classic. I bought it around this period and it makes me feel so nostalgic about the dubstep era. I was looking back through my collection for this interview, and I’m so happy I swiped these when I did! I distinctly remember being in Blackmarket and Youngsta told me “if anything comes out on DMZ trust me just buy it because it’s going to be a collectable.” Very good advice, which I’m happy I took on board.
What about outside of London? Do you go record shopping when you’re in a different city?
If I have the time then definitely, although it depends on how tired I am after a gig. There are certain shops I always try to visit like Chez Emile in Lyon. Or If I’m going to Manchester I try and see Ruf Dug. This Full Beam record is from his shop. “8 x Massive Boogie Bombs. Crucial Tackle For Your Party. Boioiooeng!” You can see that Ruf has written that, he’s actually listened to it and it makes you want to buy it.
How is your collection organised?
I recently spent about a week organising everything by genres. It comes down to space as well. I kept all of the records that I absolutely love and that I feel nostalgic about…. And also some tracks that are worth a lot of money.
It’s organised similarly to the way my brain works – ‘big room rollers’, ‘disco edits’, ‘melodic house’, ‘party hip-hop’, a little Prince section, Detroit, Omar S – he is one of the artists where I collect everything he releases. But to be honest I’m always trying to think of ways of improving how they’re organised, especially my digital collection which is another conversation for a different time! I’m quite ocd so it stresses me out if I can’t find things.
On the Detroit tip, you mentioned Benji’s show was how you discovered Chicago and Detroit house. How did you start working in radio?
Back in 2011 I did a mix for KISS’ Midnight Mix show. My friend Clara Amfo, who is a BBC Radio 1 presenter now, was working at the station at the time. She was like ‘Alice you should do this and get involved.’ When I went in, the producer Charlotte Coker was working on the show and previously worked with Mary Anne Hobbs. She immediately understood the music I was playing and said “I think you’ve got a really good voice and I want to get more girls on the station especially in specialist music. Do you want to come in? Why don’t we just do some links for the show and see what it sounds like.” I’d never planned to get into radio until Charlotte said that, so I have a lot to thank for her pushing me.
After that we started doing demos, and I begun covering for Sindin. Around the same time NTS started up and unintentionally that’s when my radio career started. It was very, very casual. Femi who started NTS was like “hey do you want to just come and do a show on this internet station I’ve started up?” It still warms my heart to see how far it’s come and evolved over the years. All the original members still work there and I love nothing more than popping into the office to have a ol’ good natter. It’s a real family and community.
It goes back to what I was saying earlier with what I loved about record stores. I love feeling like you’re part of something, right now, in the present. And that’s how the radio stuff happened. NTS have supported me so much over the years and when I was hosting shows on Radio 1 they were super supportive of that as well.
A big part of what I do is encouraging the next generation especially young girls which i’m already noticing. With so many of my other peers, we support each other and give each other advice. You have to do that with the next generation as well. This is definitely what I’m trying to do with the On Loop parties too. Bringing in the younger talent, but also paying homage to those who have paved the way for us. With the parties in particular I always try to make sure people are taken care of the same way I’d like to be. People need to feel comfortable and happy, and feel as though they’re in a safe atmosphere.
In some respect it’s the same with the label, I want to release quality music and only music I love and stand by. Music that will make people dance and push things forward. I’m trying to be cautious with the records I put out and make sure that the standard is something that I would pick up myself. Also records cost money, they’re adding to the environment, and if people aren’t buying those records and are just chucking them away, that’s heartbreaking. I want to make sure that they’re going to good homes, they’re going to be cherished and loved, they’re going to stay on someone’s shelves or in their record bag, they’re going to get used and they’re going to be played.
When you have a label, or a club night, and you create something, I hope that people can see that your heart and soul has gone into that. You’ve made something that’s a part of you, and I like to think people feel more invested in that notion.
It’s been a long passion with music, trying to put the hours in and teach myself. It’s never-ending though. There’s always so much more to discover.
Moxie’s On Loop night hits London’s Pickle Factory Saturday 19th May, with K-Hands and Gidëon.
LK’s Dreams is out now via On Loop.
Photos by Elina Abidin.