NTS, chuggers & the future of music: Tia Cousins interview

Rising London DJ Tia Cousins discusses her NTS residency, guitar music and where the scene is headed.

The torch-bearers of chug music roam the veins and alleyways of London digging for the next basket of discs to shake up the airwaves. It’s a movement growing in popularity in the capital, and it’s a hard one to define.

The net is cast wide on what constitutes a ‘chugger’, ranging from lo-fi krautrock to spacey techno to cosmic downtempo. What you can bank on, though, is that this kind of music is inventive, weird, tripped-out, psychedelic and sleazy.

In the midst of this search party is NTS resident Tia Cousins, whose last 18 months have seen her transition from bedroom-produced radio shows to a monthly residency on one of the biggest stations in the world of music.

The multi-faceted selector is now a nailed-on regular supplier of guitar music, chug and techno via the radio waves and club speakers across the capital city, and is today celebrating one year as an NTS Radio resident.

It was time we sat down for a chat with Tia, who reflects on her rapid rise through the industry.

Tia Cousins has a monthly residency on NTS Radio

In the space of a year, you’ve transitioned from your bedroom-recorded ‘Boujee Beats’ show to a monthly NTS residency. The reason for this rapid rise is obvious to us — but how has the journey felt? You must have met some interesting people in the industry.

It all happened really quickly to be honest, I think I only did two Boujee Beats shows before getting a show on Balamii Radio. I’m so grateful that I get to record my shows in an actual studio as opposed to my little controller, I’ve learnt so much and feel that my shows have improved a lot since I first started out.

Moving over to NTS was pretty surreal and something I had never really set out to do because I didn’t think I was good enough; it’s been my favourite radio station for a while so I feel pretty honoured haha. It’s always great to collaborate with other people and radio has allowed me to meet some of my closest friends! 

Tia has a monthly residency on NTS Radio

Your identity as a DJ is still forming, but you’ve already formed a distinction between playing new wave, Krautrock and post punk on your radio sets and chuggier techno stuff in your club sets.

Do you prefer the meticulous environment of playing on the airwaves, or the pandemonium of the club?

I love them both for different reasons and I’d say they can’t really be compared. I love radio because it gives you the chance to play things that probably wouldn’t translate as well on the dance floor. I’ve always loved searching for music so it’s nice to have a platform to share what I’ve been listening to with people. But I equally love the atmosphere of the club, purely because going out for a boogie is one of my favourite things to do. 

Is there a difference in how guitar music and clubbier electronic music make you feel, or are they more similar than one might think?

Both types of music get me pretty stoked, I’m a sucker for a guitar solo. I think that a cheeky bit of guitar can compliment electronic music really nicely, especially chuggier bits by people like Andrew Weatherall and Die Orangen.

I’d say that there are definitely more similarities than you’d think, similarities could be drawn if you look at the sound of genres like post-punk, EBM and cold wave which are very synth-heavy and have faster tempos. But the similarities also lie within the culture surrounding the scene because techno has a pretty similar DIY ethos to punk music.

Tia Cousins and Oscar Abdullah

How important is the environmental impact of the music industry? Can dance music do more to be greener?

I’ve recently just finished my dissertation on this topic, I’m hoping to make a resource pack or manifesto to present my findings, so watch this space haha. I think that there’s been a lot more awareness raised over the past couple of years but I don’t think that enough people are actively trying to make changes.

The dance music industry is huge and helps to connect so many people, so it’s important to use it as a catalyst for change by raising awareness about the negative impacts and steps that can be taken to alleviate them. There needs to be a lot more collaboration between different people within the industry and everyone, even consumers, should be trying to do little bits where they can.

I think that everyone needs to make an effort to ensure that acting sustainably doesn’t take a back seat, especially since the corona bollocks, to ensure that the generations after us get to enjoy music in the same way we do.

If you could warm up for one DJ at one venue, who would it be and where?

I’d probably have to say Vladimir Ivkovic at The Pickle Factory. I love the range of genres he plays and The Pickle Factory is probably one of my favourite venues in London.

Every selector has a secret banger or two. What’s yours?

Well… if I told you it wouldn’t be a secret now ey?

I must say that Literon – Freak Funktion is an absolute banger though:

Arbeid Adelt – Capita Selecta is also one of my favs, it just makes me wanna shake my hips:

Where do you think the scene is headed? Is dance music culture going to reform after COVID or emerge as a different beast entirely?

This is a hard one to call, it’s definitely going to change the scene as a lot of clubs and smaller promoters probably won’t make it through this, but I guess it could go two ways.

I’m hoping that there will be a larger focus on local scenes and more well-planned unlicensed parties. Otherwise I guess that a lot of smaller promoters could get wiped out and the big dogs will continue to get big DJs for events in larger clubs that are more expensive, but where’s the fun in that?

Tia has picked 5 Bandcamp releases that she’s digging right now:

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