Every now and then you reach out to an artist that has inspired you massively over the years in the hope that they will agree to an interview. It was with great surprise and excitement when she replied to me with a rather upbeat email stating she would love to be featured on the Decoded Magazine website. Charissa Saverio is a name many of you may not know but if I was to use the name DJ Rap I am sure many of you would know exactly who I am referring to. She has been the queen of Drum & Bass for over 10 years now, as well as being voted the number one female DJ on more than one occasion.
The story of the rise to fame of DJ Rap is one of dedication, hard work and patience. Having risen to the heady heights of DJ superstardom, she now runs two successful record labels in LA, and continues to maintain her place aside the dance music elite.
Over the years DJ Rap has collaborated and worked with a number of talented and influential artist such as the likes of BT, Eric Morillo, Hans Zimmer, and Hybrid. DJ Rap has also produced music for the likes of Playstation, Wii, and a number of film scores including Mission Impossible, Isolation, Run Lola Run, Rogue Trader, as well as a number of documentaries.
Firstly we would like you thank you for taking the time to Decoded Magazine today. What have you been up to with you day so far in sunny LA?
Hi there! Yes I won’t lie the sun is shining and I love it! Actually I’ve been in bed sick as I have an awful cough. I get sick once a year and I always get a bit loopy after taking cough meds ha ha! So, I’m taking it easy for once. I am having a day off.
You were born in Singapore, and then spent most of your youth growing up in the UK. Can you tell us a little about your early years and how you come to end up in London?
Actually I spent most of my youth in a few different countries, only 12 years in the UK. My family ran hotels so we moved a lot. By the time I was 12 I had lived in Africa, Asia, Malta, Greece, Barbados to name but a few. When my family finally figured out we needed a permanent home we moved to London. I first lived in Southampton, then Yorkshire, then finally, thank the lord, London.
We understand your step Dad used to run a number of luxury hotels in Indonesia? A lot of people would assume that would be an amazing experience but how did you find it as a youngster?
It was Raffles Hotel in Singapore and I hardly remember, as I was 5 at the time. I hated it all, I remember being incredibly lonely as a child. I wanted a normal life where you go to school, and have friends!
Before your DnB career started to take off you spent a number of years homeless in London. Many people would find that incredibly difficult, as London can be such a lonely place at times. How did you cope with those early years in London, and when did life begin to settle in the capital?
I wasn’t homeless… I left home at 14 and broke into empty apartments with 3 other girls, and we made money modeling and dancing; you do what you have to to survive. We had no electricity so we partied in the dark! When you’re that young you’re fearless! Looking back at that I feel sad I had to endure it, but I would not change a thing, those were some of the best times I had with those girls.
One of your earliest gigs in London was at the Astoria when Fabio never showed for his slot. I believe there is a funny story behind this. Can you tell us how you came to play on the night, and how the gig went?
I always bugged the promoter, telling him how I longed to be in the main room. He always patted my shoulder, winked and said, “That will be the day a girl plays the main room”. Then one day he came up to me and said you better be as good as you say you are. I didn’t disappoint! After that they gave me a residency; first girl ever to play a main stage. When I asked for the same money as the boys I got fired! Obviously that only fueled the fire and I went on to bigger things but I am grateful to them for giving me a break, those shows were amazing!
Who have been some of your biggest musical influences over the years?
You would be surprised. Beethoven, Nirvana, Incubus, rock music of any kind, I love it… Also Genesis, Seal, Bjork, Radiohead, Bowie, The Beatles… The list is long!
Today it is quite common to see female DJs on lineups all over the globe but back when you began is was very rare, and unheard of in the world of DnB and Jungle. How were you perceived in the early days when you were first breaking into the scene?
Honey it still is, as far as I am concerned it is more sexist now more than ever. Nothing has really changed enough, only slightly. In fact it was easier before especially here in the states. Its a miracle I am still standing!
Can you talk us through your involvement with Kiss FM as a pirate station and the connections you made in the DnB scene?
I have Foxy to thank for my pirate days, he is the one who put me on the map as a DJ with Fantasy FM, which was the best station in the world… That led to guest slots on Kiss, but I never had my own show on Kiss to be accurate. Fantasy FM was an amazing experience for me, I will always be grateful, Foxy and I still speak today!
In the late 90s you decided to move across the pond to America. What prompted your move to the US, and how do you feel it benefitted your music career?
3 million records sales put me into another sphere here and took me all the way to the stars, and let me orbit for a while. I was lucky, Sony was behind me 100% and I worked my ass off. I took a lot of heat at home for making a record with vocals. 15 years on I see everyone doing it so I feel like I felt before; justified in my decisions! You have to follow your heart and that is not always easy, but then I don’t like easy anyway. We find out who we are when faced with challenges, and its up to us to be brave and embrace the new and see who we really are inside. That is why I love acting, it’s the study of human behavior.
What was your inspiration for making music and when did you decide you wanted to pursue this interest as a career?
In my mothers tummy when I felt the kick drum of my her heartbeat… I mean it! For as long as I can remember!
You used to be a member of a band named Metasyn. As far as we are aware the only release was ‚”The Sound” on your Impropa Talent label. What happened to the band?
Yeah, my advice is don’t date the lead singer haha! I’m not perfect!
You often mention that you love working on your own on DnB projects, so why did you choose to start a band and work with others?
I’m big into collaborations, I am currently working with 3 different producers right now, and different songwriters as well as working on solo projects… It keeps it interesting!
Lets take a leap to today and talk about two imprints, Propa and Impropa Talent. Can you tell us a little about the two labels, and the differences between to the two in terms of sound?
Propa Talent is Drum and Bass, Dubstep, Breaks
Impropa Talent is Tech House, Progressive House, and some Techno.
Are we correct in thinking your are currently managing around 10 artists over your two labels? Can you tell us a little about your current artist roster, and how you choose the talent that is exhibited on your labels?
I work with fresh talent but I do not manage them, we work in a remix capacity. Some I have worked with for over 10 years. Killin Time who makes incredible soulful Drum and Bass, Outsource amazing liquid Drum and Bass, Mark Campbell who is king of Breaks, and for the new guys… ED who makes stunning music, dEAdMAN and Eat Raves she is the same person and is just awesome! Laowai & Gweilo, you have to love what they do, it’s always interesting, and OYS_LPSOUND who are also fantastic. These are just some of the producers I work with who always do a beautify job of remixing my work.
Your most recent release is ‚Search Your Soul‚ on your Propa Talent imprint which features a number of superb remixes. Can you tell us a little about the release, and why you often opt for a large number of remixes of your work?
Thank you for the compliment. We always have plenty of remixes as there is so much wonderful talent out there. I like to shine a light on them, teaching Ableton at Dubspot gives me an endless supply of fresh up and coming future bright stars. It would be a crime not to offer them opportunities!
What is on the horizon in terms of singles from DJ Rap over the coming months?
I am working on 3 projects, all a bit secret right now, but lets just say “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. Look out for ‘Darkwav’, more songs, more DnB, and something very different in the future. My next release is “BassKik due on May 26 and I am excited about that.
You are currently living over in LA. Do you ever miss the UK and the way of life over here?
GOD YES! I miss the men, I miss my friends, I miss the whit but I don’t miss the weather. If it was sunny I would go back in a heartbeat, and also if I thought there were opportunities there for me over in the UK.
We believe that you are currently writing a book that will go in to great detail about the DnB scene in the 90s, and the issues you encountered. Can you tell us a little bit about the book, and when we might expect to see it on the shelves?
How on earth did you find out about that? That is something for later… I’m keeping a lid on that one for now! You’ll have to wait and see but yes I have a publisher, and yes it will happen but its not just about the scene, it’s the whole epic experience, remember, I was in this before Drum and Bass was even around!
We understand that you had a stalker for a number of years which must have been quite an difficult and scary time. How did you deal with the situation? Has he since moved on?
I told him my life story he got bored and left haha! No, it happens, luckily it was not too dramatic and no one got hurt but it is creepy and I won’t lie, for a minute I got the shivers. I have had much worse experiences than that little blip on my radar!
We believe you are a person that is not a huge fan of traveling but do you have any plans to play any gigs over in the UK any time soon?
That depends on the offers, the gigs and how I feel. I got so sick of being on a plane, I experience real burnout. I’ve taken 5 years off pretty much, I’m notorious for turning down work, sometime the most powerful thing you can say is ‘no’. I needed to take care of myself, stop the wheel turning. I get so dizzy and I love being at home, teaching, acting and making music.So we will see now I am recovered and rested. I may look young but I am no spring chicken you know!
Finally, is there anything else you want to tell us about that you have planned for 2015?
Well I have 5 small movies and a webisode that is pending release so that is exciting. Acting is a wonderful way to let off creative steam and I adore the process of walking in someone else’s shoes and exploring different characters. I continue to teach Ableton/DJ courses at Dubspot and it is amazing and rewarding, and the best school out there! Music well, you know that is endless, I will never stop producing/writing and just being me.
01. Drumsound & Bassline – Intro Primitive (Original Mix) – Technique Records
02. Hamilton – Feel The Fury (Original Mix) – RAM Records
03. Nosia – Incessant (Original Mix) – Vision Recordings
04. Friction/Dimension – Kinetic (Original Mix) – Shogun Recordings
05. Impak – Vortex (Original Mix) – Redlight Records
06. Drumsound & Bassline – Primitive (Original Mix) – Technique Records
07. Mind Vortex – Against The Grain – RAM Records
08. Matrix & Future Bound – Glow Worm (Original Mix) – Metro/Viper
09. June Miller, Dr Meaker – Freaks feat Cappo D and Sharlene (June Miller Remix) – Circus Media
10. Levela – Get Noisy (Jayden Remix) – Multi Function
11. Signs – Percuss (Original Mix) – Eatbrain
12. Maztek, BTK, Optiv – Footprint (Original Mix) – Drumandbass Arena
13. Divine Elements, Kronology – Submerge (Original Mix) – Technique Recordings
14. Mind Vortex, Evil B – Bigger Than That feat. Evil B Original mix) – RAM Recordings
15. Prolix/Friction – Dark Moves (Original Mix) – Shogun Recordings
16. Drumsound & Bassline – Memories (Original Mix) – Technique Recordings
17. DJ Rap – Search Your Soul (Original Mix) – PROPA Talent