The Mix 016: Big Ang - Music - Mixmag

The Mix 016: Big Ang

The Queen of Bassline, HRH Big Ang takes us through a hair-raising bassline mix and talks to Megan Townsend about the speed garage resurgence, staying grounded and finding a family at Sheffield’s legendary Niche nightclub

  • Words & Photos: Megan Townsend
  • 6 June 2024

Don't say we didn't warn you, but our nightclubs seem to have gotten a lot bigger and a lot Angier in recent years. Big Ang's master hand at all things speed garage, bassline and organ house has seen her rack up an eye-watering discography consisting of lusted-after white label releases, genre-defining bangers and a UK Top 40 hit. Synonymous with the wobbly glory days of Sheffield's now-closed Niche, Ang's contribution to the genre has rightfully placed her as the irrefutable Queen of Bassline. Now with the resurgence of the genres she helped mould flooding into our clubs, by way of a new generation of speed-lovers building upon the foundations she has crafted across two decades, Big Ang is having her moment — long may she reign.

Born and raised in Sheffield, Big Ang, aka Angela Weston, first tried her hand at creating music at a young age by teaching herself to play the keyboard, though it was when she was 13 that she first became enamoured with dance music. "I went from listening to commercial pop and chart music, what girls my age would usually listen to, to full-on old-skool rave and Italo house," she says. Though she doesn't remember her first rave - "because to be honest, what is rave?" - she quickly tried her hand at DJing vinyl records and producing mixtapes of her sets. "I entered competitions and got my name around," she says. "But I've sort of known since I was a teenager that I wanted to be a producer, so I'm happy with how much I've achieved and experienced as a result."

Read this next: 11 best bassline bangers from Big Ang

Soon she began frequenting Sheffield's dancefloors, inspired by the unique mixture of music played at one particular, hallowed nightspot — Niche. Blends of bassline, garage and “house with a bit of oomph” heard on Niche’s dancefloors grew a lifelong love affair with bassline, and alongside producers such as Jon Bucieri and Jamie Duggan, Ang began her pioneering work towards the modern bassline sound. Her moniker became a quick way to identify the most sought-after buys in Yorkshire’s record stores; though ironically it had only come from efforts to identify her against another DJ named Ang, “I was tall and she was short, so we were Big Ang and Little Ang. It kind of stuck.”

After Niche closed, and bassline and its closely-linked sub-genres fell out of favour, Ang’s monumental contribution to UK dance music seemed to be going unnoticed. But as speed garage has captured the imaginations of a new generation of clubbers, Ang is finally getting her flowers — hitting the road with bookings at London’s Corsica Studios, Manchester’s SOUP and an upcoming hometown slot at Sheffield’s No Bounds Festival, among others. Meanwhile, requests from the likes of Chrissy, Eliza Rose and Mella Dee have seen her return to remix duty.

We caught up with Big Ang to find out her perspective on the bassline resurgence, paying dues to the greats, and her experiences touring in the newfangled scene she now calls home. Check out our Q&A and Big Ang’s Mix below.

How do you feel about being labelled as The Queen of Bassline?

I feel proud to be recognised for my efforts and dedication to the genre and similar subgenres. In the last few years, I’ve met ravers whose parents were fans of mine, and now they are fans of mine — I feel blessed that people like my music and my sets still. Seeing Interplanetary Criminal wear his “Big Ang Forever” t-shirt at The Warehouse Project in Manchester while playing one of my old speed garage bangers is a moment I will cherish.

How has it been for you to reach new listeners as a result of the bassline/speed garage resurgence?

I’m proud to be a part of the resurgence, I’ve played some amazing nights, tours and festivals recently — and working with artists who I have mutual respect for is making it a pleasure. It's amazing that the music I love is crossing over to the mainstream these days. You have all these happy ravers loving the speedy garage stuff, with the reese bassline sound that also gets used in jungle sometimes. It’s great to see appreciation for the good old warped bassline too. I hope that I’m inspiring female DJs and producers, that’s what I’ve always wanted really — to build confidence in people, it makes me happy if I’m having a positive effect on people’s lives.

As far as the resurgence - or newfound interest in me as a producer- is concerned, I have Eliza Rose, Interplanetary Criminal and many others who have championed my sound to a wider audience to thank for that. There are so many others, like myself, who have been around a long time making great tunes, working to keep the sound and scene alive; my friend and fellow producer Jon Buccieri has been there from day one. He also makes some good bangers.

Are there any artists you’ve taken note of pushing bassline forward in 2024?

Seeing this new crop of DJs and producers taking the genre to the next level is exciting. I’m impressed with Silva Bumpa, Notion, Soul Mass Transit System, Bushbaby, Driia, Bklava, and many more I could name, that I’m loving right now. One to watch is Warpfit… interesting times ahead.

Read this next: Need for speed: Why the UK fell back in love with bassline and speed garage

How has it been to get back on the tour/club circuit two decades from when you first started?

It’s madness, but I am enjoying it as I feel I have more experience this time around. It’s a bit harder than when I was younger, but I try to be a strong woman. Last weekend I drove and DJ’d at two festivals in Chepstow and Cumbria, big up Balter/Off Me Nut and Jungle Boogie Festival for having me.

What had you been up to until the resurgence? Had you ever considered quitting?

I nearly did consider quitting, but I can’t stop — bassline is in my blood. I’m currently changing and upgrading how I make my music for better quality and speed. I have lots of unfinished projects and one or two future releases that are still being finished — but I will have a better overall sound in the end once I’ve got everything I want in place. I need to keep up with the times, but still keep a classic Big Ang sound and feel.

You’re pretty synonymous with Niche, what is it about the club that was so special to you?

Niche music, as we call it, is just something you couldn't get anywhere else. A mixture of house with a bit of umph, speed garage and even Mass Medium/Club Caviar stuff. The club itself was like a family, you felt safe in general… I did anyway. Dancing away to amazing music and it just felt different to anywhere else... it still does. People who were there hold it in such high regard for a reason, and that’s hard to explain unless you were there. What I will say is Niche DJs always played pristine, perfect sets.

Do you think Sheffield misses a club like Niche? Is there anything in the city that captures a bit of that magic?

Tank has Sidney Street reunions, which is closest to Niche as you can get these days. All original residents and producers of the music that played in there now play at these reunions, the crowd is amazing — like in the old days. I stopped going to Niche when it got a bit too heavy with 4x4, as the crowd changed. But that same music is also getting a resurgence and mixed in with UKG, bassline house, organ and similar genres all working together in sets. The scene seems a lot better at the moment I think, which is probably because young ravers are discovering it for the first time.

Do you think more attention should be paid to artists from Yorkshire/The North of England?

I think there are artists not only in Yorkshire, but the West Midlands who I also think deserve recognition too. I’m happy that Jeremy Sylvester is also getting the recognition he deserves. Had the pleasure to meet and play alongside him.

What is it about bassline that you love so much? What attracted you to the sound in the first place?

I don’t know, but when I first heard a Shaun Banger Scott set playing this sort of music I was hooked. It just seemed to be something more than playing popular tunes back then. These were good tunes that were hard to get, that was the appeal of the DJs and the night in general. Jamie Duggan used to impress me with his sniper tune hunting.

Did you ever find it difficult to navigate dance music as a woman in the early days? Have you ever found the industry to be sexist?

Yes, to a certain degree — but I take no nonsense. I’ve been blessed to play on all kinds of nights, and having that belief in the music and your ability is a tough thing to keep up consistently. I think that’s why I’ve found a lot of women ravers, DJs and producers find me approachable — I’m friendly and can help motivate those who doubt themselves and their talent. If I can do it anyone can is my motto [laughs]. I have connected with some good guys like Eddie Craig and Jim Sullivan [Wideboys]. They are such lovely people. Eddie regularly motivates me with his kind words, and I even still can’t believe that.

Read this next: The Top 25 Producers Who Defined The Year 2023

Can you tell us about your favourite ever show?

It was recently actually, at Corsica Studios for Lukas Wigflex’s party. That was a good one and there were some good videos on Instagram from that one. But there have been some great ones, too many to recall. I can’t believe how many times I’ve played in London in the last year as well. I enjoyed Bassfest and Balter/Off Me Nut last weekend, and a recent set with Soul Mass Transit System. Epic sets also this year with Silva Bumpa, who I went b2b with in Leeds, London and Manchester — all of which are very proud moments indeed. Lovely people they are. Talented as well, beyond belief. Oh and a recent story from my festival weekend, a wild baby sparrow landed on my hand when I had a break from driving from Cumbria to my home. Wanted to share my Mary Poppins magical moment, it was a special end to the weekend.

What do you hope crowds take away from your music and DJ sets?

I'm not too sure, other than I like to hope people find enjoyment and inspiration from my vibes as a musician and as a person. I like having a giggle with ravers as I see myself as one. I want to be a part of the scene, be a brother and sister to my music counterparts and I look forward to DJing at gigs with a lot of the people I’ve mentioned.

What's coming up next for you?

A few bits and bobs, I just played at Carpet Shop in London with Finn and I have future events at Sheffield Clubbers Reunion and Niche Reunion, as well as Bassfest. Joe Hunt's event in Birmingham, No Bounds Festival [in Sheffield] and a few other places. Bristol might be on the cards. I want to get some music done in between these events as well. A collaboration or two is on the cards for the future, as well as my own projects. I've enjoyed making official remixes for Eliza Rose, Driia, Mella Dee, Borai, Chrissy and Denham Audio, they have all been a pleasure to be involved in. And my mate Joe from Nottingham let me 'Ride The Waltzer' as well.

Can you tell us about your instalment of The Mix?

It’s a homage to music that I’m loving at the moment, with a few of my own cheeky remixes thrown in. It’s only a small selection of the amazing music out there. Will try and put a surprise or two, and I hope people enjoy the mix I’ve done.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter

Big Ang and Warpfit 'Speakers Blow'
Ed Case 'Hanz Up'
Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal 'B.O.T.A' (Jon Buccieri Remix)
Bullet Tooth & Denham Audio 'Whine & Stop'
Sybil 'Walk On By' (Big Ang Remix)
Jon Buccieri Vs Captain 'Banger'
Bushbaby 'Chip Dub' (Ang Dub refix)
MC Creed 'Big Ang Doing It Again Special Tag'
Praz 'Blue Angels' (Big Ang Remix)
Chrissy 'You Don’t Have To Worry' (Big Ang Garage Remix)
Silva Bumpa 'Automatic' (Big Ang Dub Rework)
Masters At Work 'Work' (Acapella)
187 Lockdown 'Gunman' (God Remix)
Somore 'I Refuse' (Acapella)
Big Ang 'Special Big Ang Added Bass Section on God Beats'
SMTS Soul Mass Transit System 'Wine VIP'
DJ Zinc 'Go DJ'
DJ Zinc 'Kinda Funky'
DJ Zinc '138 Trek'
Irv Gotti Pres. Ja Rule, Ashanti, Vita & Charli Baltimore 'Down 4 U' (DnD Conemelt Mix)
Kathy Brown 'Turn Me Out' (Acapella)
4th Floor
Todd Terry 'Something Goin' On' (Loop Da Loop Uptown Mix)
Gabriel 'Lamb' (Big Ang Refix Booty)
Flirtations 'Time Waits For No One' (Acapella)
Malisha Bleau 'So In Love' (Acapella)
Big Ang & Darren Brookes 'Ready To Love' (Organ House Extended)

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