Frequent Players Guest Mix 044 | Leanne Wright

31.08.23 Frequent Players



Throughout our 20 years we’ve had a lot of people pass through our doors who have always left a lasting impression and who continue to pass through regularly. One of those is Leanne Wright.

Having first moved to London back in the early 90’s, Leanne has become a frequent player (excuse the pun) within the underground music scene from producing audio documentaries like Basquiat: The Gold Griot to being a resident for 6 years over on Worldwide FM, It’s safe to say, she’s been there, seen it and got the t-shirt.

Having founded MOONLIGHTING alongside some of our favourite NTS hosts Zakia and Marshmello, Leanne now provides us with Guest Mix 44 with her usual blend of genres to create another memorable mix.

Footpatrol: Hey Leanne, we hope you’re good? Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what it is you do?

Leanne Wright: I’m a DJ, radio host and a curator at an art gallery.

FP: You moved from Canada during the early 90s, what were some of the stark contrasts you remember from your Ontario home compared to the City of London at the time? Both musically and geographically?

LW: Stark contrasts for sure! The kids I went to high school with in small town Ontario were into Rock and Metal etc. while I was thirsty for anything ‘new/different’ I could wrap my ears around. When I came to London, friends took me to a rave and the rest as they say, is history. Geographically, I moved from the shores and forests of the Great Lakes (Lake Huron and Georgian Bay) to a world class city. I’ve always been a creative person and London will always be mecca. There’s something magical about this tiny island that breeds rebellious, inspirational creativity.

FP: i think it’s fair to say you have a euphoric connection to music, i know it’s an energy you thrive off, from selecting vinyl to the point that the needle starts to wheel, what is it about the process and act of simply listening to music you think we can take for granted?

LW: We have access to so much information these days and at a dizzying speed. Digital music files are fired out in such abundance, we all have overloaded laptops and hard drives. Many of us, myself included often, have lost the art of listening. Listening requires space, time and the intention of connection. This moment when you clear distractions, slow your mind down and open a space to connect on a level of vibration, of sonic frequency and the spirit of the person who created the music, is such a special thing. It’s a human thing – this need to feel connectedness, so it’s also a necessity. Doing more of this sort of thing with music, with the natural world, with our fellow humans, with ourselves is the remedy for so much imbalance. It’s like we’re walking tuning forks – we need to connect and sing!

FP: Amongst the many genres we know you play and love, what is it about London Underground sound that speaks most to you?

LW: For me, the London sound is a direct reflection and manifestation of sound system culture. Period. These architects literally built the foundations of the future with speaker stacks, DJ’s toasting on the mic, community dances – not just the sound, but the spirit of this is echoed throughout all of the great London movements like jungle, garage, dubstep, grime… None of these would exist today without the early sound systems and shebeens established in the late 1950s that grew in West Indian Communities across the U.K throughout the following decades.. RESPECT IS DUE.

FP: From working behind the counter at Honest Jons to having your own Wordwide FM shows, can you tell us more about your career in music, design and the influential moments in between?

LW: I was living in West London in the late 90s, early 2000s. Robi Walters and I began designing records, flyers and idents for all the West London/Bruk crew who had a base a few minutes away from where we lived. We also created logos for Gilles Peterson, Benji B’s Deviation, Charlie Dark’s Blacktronica etc. We were fully immersed in these scenes – musically, visually, energetically. This was our community. I was DJing a little and around the same time I began working behind the counter at Honest Jons (a whole other musical education) and helped out Patrick Forge with his Sunday night show on Kiss FM. It was live, breath, love music. 

In 2004 I became a mama and we moved back to my native Canada. Music took a backseat as I focussed my energy on raising my family. We returned to London in 2015 and shortly after Gilles started up Worldwide FM. I went down to do some shows during the test broadcasts and it rekindled my love of playing music. I was given a monthly slot and really got into the research, playlisting and interviewing side of broadcasting. This in turn rebooted the joy of DJing. Now that my kids were older, I could get out and do a bit more of it. It’s a little strange to really start sinking my teeth into this at this stage of my life, but I’m absolutely loving it and who knows, maybe after all these years of just being around the scene, experiencing the various movements etc, just maybe it’s a great time to be developing my time as a DJ. I’ve told myself as long as I love and enjoy it, I’ll keep doing it. 

FP: Can you tell us more about The Emerald Tablet and Moonlighting? 

LW: The Emerald Tablet was the name of my radio show on Worldwide FM. It was a space where I could take all of my past experience and musical heritage and use that as a filter for current sounds and future explorations. I’m still feverishly excited by progressive, new sounds, artists and their take on things. 

MOONLIGHTING is a night founded early 2022 by DJs and fellow broadcasters Marshmello, Zakia and myself. The three of us share a really broad appreciation of all kinds of sounds and a very intuitive style of playing. It began small and has organically grown a loyal following. This residency allows us a freedom we may not normally experience – to express ourselves our own way, letting the music breathe and allowing the crowd the space to dance and share and enjoy being together. It’s as much about the space and atmosphere as it is about the music. The dances happen about three or four times a year around the time of a full moon, making them more special events. Our next session is September 30 if you wanna come down and check it out, we’d love to see you!

FP: it’s never plain sailing, all careers are fraught with turbulence and challenges, what are some you’ve had to face? What are the ones that have bettered you in your career but also for life? And, what have been some of the highlights, the moments you had to pinch yourself that it was happening?

LW: Big question! I think as far as my career goes, I’ve never really regarded DJing as a career. It’s only now that I’m getting more gigs and having to take things more seriously. I think the biggest challenge has always been me! One of the biggest stumbling blocks from the beginning has been self-doubt and being in my own head. I suffered quite a bit from performance anxiety too and that almost stopped me at one point. But because it gives me so much joy, I stuck it out and the more I kept at it, the more I played, practiced and put myself in those uncomfortable situations, the easier it got. I give thanks to doing radio and having residencies like the one I’ve had at the Standard Hotel for the past 4 years. Really can’t emphasise enough how much this regular, low-key playing helps. Note to all DJs starting out – hone your craft and don’t be impatient to be getting those bigger gigs right away. Building up the experience and knowledge is what leads to intuition and good timing. These are essential qualities of a good DJ. I think without realising it, all the years of being in music trained my ear and then spending the time in radio and doing the more undercover gigs really helped put me in place of being ‘ready’ to launch out into the world of gigging. Lol I guess I’m starting to feel like I’ve earned my stripes to be able to do so. And this leads to the ‘pinch me’ moments – like playing to thousands of people in dream locations that I’d been going to as a punter.

FP: Can you tell us about your introduction to Footpatrol?

LW: Geography basically! I’d been working in Soho for many years and the Footpatrol team became part of the local fam!

FP: Putting you between a rock and hard place with this one, if you had a chance to relive them long drives one more time, would it be the Childhood drives out of your small town listening to music, or would it be the drives up the M25 to the raves as a teenager?

LW: It’s actually an easy one – hands down the long drives back home. Where I grew up in Canada was so visually beautiful – raw, natural beauty. Even the drive to and from work each day beside a lake, over a small mountain and through a forest (with the right soundtrack) served as a decompression chamber. These are highly personal moments – music takes on a cinematic energy like this and becomes an instant memory trigger when you hear the songs later in life.

FP: Another curve ball, but one we like to ask… if YOU were a sneaker, what would you be?

LW: I can honestly say no one has ever asked me that before. I think it would have to be the humble Converse Chuck. And it’s simply because they’re my favourite shoes to dance in. They’re so comfortable and the sole is flat and flexible – they almost feel like wearing moccasins. I guess they make me feel more connected to the ground!

FP: Finally, some quick fire ‘listening to’ questions, i’ll start the questions and you finish them…

1. I’m on a long car journey and my first go-to song/mix to select is?

LW: prob something atmospheric like this mix Machinedrum did for Solid Steel way back when.

2. Im at home chilling with a cuppa and I’m listening to…

LW: My records! 

3. I’m on set and I really want to get the crowd going so I’m going to drop…

LW: Has to be a Gafacci or Karizma edit – so many killers to choose from!

4. I’m on the tube and need something to drown out the noise and racket so i’m listening to…

LW: That’s when I don’t listen to anything – just close my eyes and do some rounds of yogic breathing

5. I’m in the park, it’s the best British weather can possibly get, I’m listening to…

LW: Probably some kind of digi/dancehall selection!

FP: We appreciate you taking the time to chat to us, are there any shoutouts or words of wisdom you wish to bestow on anyone looking into careers in the industry? Or anything you think the industry can learn from and work on?

LW: Yes, I want to shout out all the architects of so much of the music that we all listen to and love – which is essentially black music or black music influenced. So in the case of my mix some of the juke/footwork, jungle pioneers like Rashad, DJ Spinn, DJ Boo, DJ Nate, Traxman, DJ Assault, DJ Earl, Fabio, Groovrider, Reinforced (Marc Mac, Dego, Gus Lawrence, Ian Bardouille), Goldie, Rebel MC, A Guy Called Gerald, Ragga Twins, Roni Size, Krust, LTJ Bukem, (and all of the masters who inspired them).

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