Words: Thomas Stichbury; Photography: Vicky Grout
DJ and producer SHERELLE puts the needle on how she is taking up space and platforming other queer Black artists within the industry.
As the rising star leads the Film, TV and Music category, supported by Taimi, in the Attitude 101 issue, out now to download and to order globally - she outlines her mission to reclaim electronic dance music and stem the tide of ‘white-washing’ that has overwhelmed the genre.
Need fashion credits (Photography: Vicky Grout; Fashion Director: Joseph Kocharian; Styling: Way Perry; Hair and Makeup: Michelle Leandra using Pat McGrath and skincare from Dr Dennis Gross; Assistant stylist: Andrew Burling; Production: /production: Thomas Ahas)
“Queer and Black people have created dance music and I like the fact there is a group [of people] – of all races – taking it away from this ‘bro’ mentality, which is still prevalent,” she explains, going on to namecheck her “partner LCY [also a DJ], NAINA, Indya Jordan, an amazing trans artist, Shy One, and Lorraine James.”
Turning up the volume with her pedal-to-the-metal brand of jungle, footwork and drum’n’bass, the self-proclaimed “speed demon” hopes to level the playing field – predictably, she has encountered racism and microaggressions for her efforts.
“I’ve had lots of issues where, essentially, I’ve felt like people have not necessarily wanted to pay me the money that they wanted to pay other people, especially when I know I’m the bigger act. [And] being booked for things knowing that I’ve got more ticket sales power than others, but the billing wasn’t completely right,” Sherelle shares.
She continues: “[But] being in these spaces and reclaiming them, it’s strange. I didn’t notice it at first, until I was looking at the line-up and being, like, I’m actually one of three or four people who represent being Black or gay or both. I’ve really enjoyed coming in and taking up space.”
Sherelle wears jacket, trousers, hat and necklace by Issey Miyake and boots by Alexander McQueen (Photography: Vicky Grout; Fashion Director: Joseph Kocharian; Styling: Way Perry; Hair and Makeup: Michelle Leandra using Pat McGrath and skincare from Dr Dennis Gross; Assistant stylist: Andrew Burling; Production: Thomas Ahas)
The North Londoner, who co-founded label Hooversound Records and is the creator of Beautiful, a programme prioritising Black LGBTQ+ talent, calls on the powers that be “to book fairly, that’s it.”
“Look, I’m here, there’s no excuse if you’re booking me and not booking other people, also it makes s*** so much more interesting. What’s the point of having a line-up where it’s the same techno person replicated four times in a row, playing the same music? It’s jarring,” she asserts.
“It’s not a case of being like, ‘No white acts must play.’ That doesn’t make any sense at all; that’s quite regressive. It should just be balanced, with regards to saying, ‘OK, we’ve got X amount of white acts; we’ve got X amount of Black acts; and X amount of POC acts.’ It means it’s more equal.”
Sherelle, whose EP 160 Down the A406 is out now, is all too aware that some people might not like what she has to say.
Sherelle wears stylists' own look (Photography: Vicky Grout; Fashion Director: Joseph Kocharian; Styling: Way Perry; Hair and Makeup: Michelle Leandra using Pat McGrath and skincare from Dr Dennis Gross; Assistant stylist: Andrew Burling; Production: Thomas Ahas)
“I’m speaking out in a bold way, knowing full well that, maybe, a promoter won’t agree with what I’m saying. But I feel like I couldn’t be in this position and just take the money, play the places and keep my head down. I do have to say something, because it’s only going to make other people say more things than I do in a year’s time, five years’ time or 10 years’ time,” she smiles.
Looking ahead to the future, Sherelle reveals that she has some big plans up her sleeves: “I’m going to raise enough money to own a club on behalf of Beautiful, to put on Black, POC, queer nights. It’s a huge project, but I want to do that. If there was a club that popped up in London that was owned by myself… you would see a shift in influence, because we [will] own the clubs now, we [will] own the festivals.”
Later this month, SHERELLE will be getting into the festive spirit with Queermas on BBC Radio 6 Music, due to air on Christmas Eve, 11pm-12am.
Read the full interview and check out the full, detailed list in the the Attitude 101 issue, which is out now to download and to order globally. The Attitude 101 issue includes the FREE Attitude 2022 calendar, presented in association with Taimi.