Welcome Karen aka Miss Special K!
Q: Just quickly for those who may not know you could you tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I have been performing across the country for the past 15 years, playing a variety of styles including hardcore, happy hardcore, old skool, hard house and bounce.
It all started in the mid 90's, when a group of friends and I hosted a pirate radio station, which was broadcast across my hometown of Torquay in Devon. At the age of just 13, I was very much into hardcore and hard house. It was only in my late teens that I was able to buy a set of decks and teach myself to mix whilst at university, studying to be a teacher. A year later, I gained my first hard house booking in Bristol and a residency with the Future Sound Crew in Devon. Following this, I won numerous DJ competitions in the Bristol area and received a weekly residency at the legendary Castros nightclub. In 2004, hardcore bounced back onto the scene, and I set up the event Totally 'Ardcore. This gave me the opportunity to play all the hardcore vinyl I had collected over the previous years and immerse myself into the hardcore scene! I soon became known as a DJ, for my unique style of mixing and bouncy energetic sets.
As well as DJing and promoting my Totally 'Ardcore event, I am also producing my own music too and have my very own label ‘Totally 'Ardcore Records’. Many of my tracks have reached the number 1 spot on Track it Down and have featured on various compilations. I have had airplay on Radio 1 by Kutski and reviews in DJ Mag and Raving Eye.
When working as a full time primary school teacher, I try to incorporate my music into the workplace where I can. I teach children to mix and produce in my very own DJ club, and this has led to many live PA’s within whole school assemblies!
Q: What about your favourite producers? And your favourite DJs? What makes them so great?
A: There are so many amazing producers out there. My favourite hardcore tracks were produced by Force and Styles back in the mid to late 90s. I am a massive fan of piano riffs and their anthems from that era showcased these so well. Nowadays I favour tracks by hardcore producers such as Recon, Dougal, Gammer, Styles, Scott Brown, Al Storm, Chris Unknown and Chaos, and often play a lot of tracks from up and coming artists also. I grew up on the bouncier side of hard house and love the likes of Lisa Pin Up, Andy Farley the Tidy Boys, and more recently, Andy Whitby and Alex K.
As far as DJs, go those who give energetic performances, and those who add their own quirky and unique ‘stand out’ qualities to a set have always inspired me.
Now, on to your own DJing.
Q: Can you describe how you do your mixes? What is it you try to achieve? Do you like fast mixing, daring mixing, lots of teases or something else?
A: My mixes always depend on the crowd and the mood I am in. Sometimes I quick mix and other times I prolong the mix so each track can be well showcased. I like to chop up the beats where I can to keep it fresh and often use samples. I have recently started incorporating scratching into my sets as well. My aim is for my sets to take the crowd on a journey, and I try and mix it up in different ways e.g. from classics and upfront, starting softer and going harder, etc. As a producer I also try and include a lot of my own material in my shows.
Q: What do you use to mix at home? And, what do you prefer in general? Do you have a collection of vinyls?
A: At home we currently have CDJ2000s, a pioneer mixer and Technic 1210s. I use a mixture of vinyl, CDs and USB sticks depending on what and where I’m playing. My vinyl collection is huge, and for me there is no better way to mix! There is something special about taking the vinyl out of its sleeve and mixing it using the feel of the turntable. If I had my way I would play vinyl only but unfortunately that’s just not possible nowadays when you are trying to keep yourself up to date with the music industry.
Q: Do you have many bookings where you can play your style?
A: Over the years I have gained bookings across the country at nights such as Hardcore Heaven, Dreamscape, Ravers Reunited, HTID, Fantazia, Storm, Fusion, We are Hardcore, Hard to the Core, Xstatic, Obsessed, True Hardcore, Firewall, Oxygen, Epidemik, and Raindance. I have also played in Spain, Ibiza and Belgium and Greece. I have been lucky to have played on line-ups with many of the top hardcore and hard dance DJs and MCs, and have performed back to back sets with artists including Dougal, Vibes, Alex Prospect, Vinyl Junkie, and Al Storm, and alongside MCs Storm, Whizzkid, Wotsee, Marley, Static, Enemy, Skatty and many more! Nowadays, I am often booked alongside my husband MC 3Man
Q: And how do you make your tracklists? On the fly, or before you start mixing?
A: If I am making a demo mix I will plan out my tracklist, but when playing live sets on the radio or within clubs my sets are never pre-planned, (other than the genre I’m playing), as I will always try to read the crowd and go with what I think they want and what they might request.
Q: How big a part of your life is music? How much time do you spend actively being busy with your music?
A: Being a full time primary school teacher and now a mummy too, I find I don't have as much time as I’d like to dedicate to music. However, I still ensure I set aside time to produce music when I have a spare hour or two and still DJ at the weekends, as and when the bookings come in. I have taken a step back from running events more recently, but still co-promote a yearly festival ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ at Club Ice in Westbury, and am looking to run Totally ‘Ardcore’s in Bristol now and again in the not so distant future. Obviously, a lot of time is needed to promote events properly, and I like to put my heart and soul into it, whether it be designing posters and flyers, or standing outside clubs in the freezing cold at 6am to spread the word! Sometimes I feel like I never stop, but that’s just how I roll! I can safely say I am never bored and am very satisfied with my achievements so far.
It's great to have you on board at Safehouse Radio! Thank you so much for letting us pry into your mind.
Catch Miss Special K on the 1st Friday monthly from 9pm here on Safehouse Radio.