The "Queen of UK Bass," Ayah Marar, had an upbringing that suggested she'd go down a different path. The Jordan-raised, UK-residing artist grew up with little exposure to dance music, and has since become a drum 'n' bass icon and role model worldwide. Whether collaborating with Calvin Harris or Toddla T, being in constant rotation on MTV Middle East, or hosting her own popular radio show, Marar has set herself up for continued success.
I try to find a middle ground with the bassy, synthy sounds that I love, adding dark verses, and big choruses. I like to call it 'Epic Doom Pop'
Her debut single "Mind Controller" is out April 9th on her Hussle Girl imprint, following an acclaimed release with Camo & Krooked titled "Cross the Line." As Dazed looks forward to her debut album later this year, we caught up with her for a RISE interview detailing everything from emotional vices to what she calls Epic Doom Pop...
...your worst vice?
I could easily say my occasional rollie habit, but I think our emotional vices can be far more destructive. We've all got something to deal with, ultimately.
...your favourite website?
Currently www.mixcloud.com. Finding out about new DJs every day! Keeps me going on flights and at long waits at airports and in between shows. Plus I find out about new music.
...your worst fashion secret?
I still have (and wear) a pair of Nike tracksuit bottoms from 1996. They're pretty horrific but I can't seem to let go. I think it might be a metaphor for some deeper issues.
...better, analog or digital?
Analog all the way. Although I learned the hard way the other day that clubs aren't taking kindly to vinyl anymore these days. And to be fair, I need digital to make my music, but there's something about analog sound that gets me where it hurts. Erykah Badu calls herself an 'analog girl in a digital world' which I find fitting.
...are you listening to now?
Black Milk, the new Common album, Skitz, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Also a lot of underground stuff: Lorn, Pangea, Nicolaas Jaar, Sigha. Paradoxically, I've been listening to a lot of Bob Howard and ragtime as well (I blame Boardwalk Empire).
How would you describe your music?
I grew up listening to everything from Rage Against The Machine to Simon & Garfunkel (thanks dad) to Big Daddy Kane, and when I moved to London it was Drum and Bass and Reggae all the way. I try to find a middle ground with the bassy, synthy sounds that I love, adding dark verses, and big choruses. I like to call it Epic Doom Pop. Otherwise, the underground stuff that I do is always collaborative, so totally depends on how I vibe with that particular producer. The darker the better.
You grew up in Jordan with little exposure to underground dance music, and now you're on MTV Middle East and touring there in April. Is it surreal?
I'm not sure. It's more surreal what's happening for me here to be honest. I've been part of the UK music scene for so long, and loved it so much, that having a track on MTV Dance (we were number 3 in their chart last year) is much more of an achievement. I love the support I'm getting out in the Middle East but we have a long way to go in changing the way they listen to underground music, so I'm taking it one step at a time. For the moment, I'm proud to be part of the London scene, it's something I've always wanted, and without sounding too up my own arse, to be able to change it from the inside is really exciting.
Your single, "Mind Controller," comes out on April 15th on your imprint, Hussle Girl. What can you tell us about it?
I started Hussle Girl because I believed that there has never been a better time to be making music, to be whoever you want to be and sound however you want to sound. Most of all, I love the freedom of being an independent artist and calling my own shots. It's the future of the music industry and I'm lucky to be a part of it. Mind Controller has to be one of my favourite singles from the album (The Real) and the remix package is really exciting (Shock One, Cutline, LV etc), so more than anything it's just a big, fat 'I'M HERE'!
After working with everyone from Paul Epworth to Toddla T to Camo & Krooked, who would be your dream collaborator?
Prince would be a dream come true. But I've always really wanted to write with Kid Cudi. Also Frank Ocean would be awesome.