The first in a series of interviews leading up to the Jelly Legs night at Werkhaus in under two weeks time, Noise Narrative caught up with a couple of young DJs primed to showcase their skills at the event.
Tia Cousins and Oscar Abdullah met a couple of years ago at a festival in Albania and host monthly Balamii show ‘Evening Mass’ together. Tia’s meteoric rise in the electronic music scene has been rewarded with a (soon to be rescheduled) Fabric appearance alongside the likes of Overmono and Blawan, whilst for the last five years Oscar has been honing his craft working at one of the capital’s most reputable music stores, Phonica Records.
We caught up with the pair over a beer at the venue to discuss their radio show, thoughts on playing at Werkhaus later this month, as well as plans for a big night out once clubs re-open.
How did you first meet?
Oscar: We met a couple of years ago at Kala Festival. I was out there playing and you were working right?
Tia: Yeah I was working – we got chatting and realised we had similar taste in music.
O: We stayed in touch after and then you invited me on your Balamii show. Things went from there really.
How much prep do you do for Evening Mass?
O: Pre lockdown, it was basically “this is all the music we’ve found this month” and then we tried to make it flow over two hours, it was fairly organic.
T: When we’re able to be in the studio together that’s so much fun, we really bounce off each other. In Covid times we’ve had to pre record an hour each, which is a bit more organised and not quite the same.
How different would you say your radio shows are to playing together live?
T: You can play stuff on the radio that you couldn’t get away with in a club, and vice versa because you’re in that moment. We threw ourselves a birthday party a while back at Four Quarters in Peckham and we literally started off with super weird new wave stuff, then went chuggers and ended on Black Sabbath.
O: I think I got on the mic at one point.
Did you sing happy birthday to yourself?
O: No I was belting out ‘This Charming Man’. That video still exists somewhere actually…
T: I’m gonna out you.
How are you feeling about playing at the Jelly Legs event later this month?
O: I have a few nerves because the line up has some people that I really respect. Richard Sen is a god to me, I love all the stuff he’s done. It’s so cool to be able to play alongside those people, we just need to make sure we bring the good stuff.
T: We will bring the goods… I’m so excited.
What were your musical inspirations growing up?
T: Neither of my parents like particularly good music unfortunately. My mum’s into people like Justin Timberlake and The Black Eyed Peas, so my taste is stuff that I found for myself. I liked a lot of angry music as a child and that’s probably why I listen to heavy techno and have been drawn to punk now.
O: Music has always been in my life. My dad has the weirdest choices, he’s really into 80s pop and early acid house as well as a bit of punk too. My mum is super into classical music, so there was a lot of Classic FM in the car when I was a kid. But when I was 11 and said I wanted to play the guitar, she gave me records like The Dark Side of the Moon and Hendrix. My parents were really supportive, they helped buy my first decks and always encouraged me.
How long have you been working at Phonica?
O: About four or five years now. Since I was 15 I wanted to work in a record store, so it feels weird that I am actually now doing it. I’m so grateful for the job and it’s obviously amazing for music. We don’t only sell dance music but our most popular genres are house, techno and disco and they are the genres that I am really into. To hear the tunes that come in and be able to chat with everyone you work with about music is so great. Staff discount doesn’t hurt either.
Final question – Monday 19th July. Dream night out – where are you going and who is playing?
O: Before lockdown we went to Optimo at Phonox three times in one month…
T: I was about to say Optimo! That would be a great first night back, going from dance music to ABBA or something random. There’s no rules with them, they just make your fucking jaw drop.
O: One of the nights they played ‘Don’t Cha’ by The Pussycat Dolls. Any other time I’m gonna be like this tune is shit, fucking turn it off. But in the moment I was thinking this is mental. I’m constantly in awe of how good they are. They are the level to aim for – and they’re my parents’ age.
T: Probably at Pickle Factory or Phonox too.
O: Phonox is nearly the perfect club. When we went to A Love From Outer Space, one of the last gigs Andrew did, the place was going off. For us, those are the two biggest inspirations – ALFOS and Optimo. I feel like I’ve been spoiled because all clubbing other than that… well, it’s just not Optimo.
T: Just be more like Optimo.
O: We’re brown-nosing so hard but I don’t even care.
You can catch Tia and Oscar at Jelly Legs at Café 1001 & Werkhaus on July 24th – grab your ticket here.