Interview with Indie Groove-Rock Agitator, Ms Mohammed

Labels seem to be a recurrent theme both in your music and your life as an activist? How would you like people to view you?

It’s funny. I was just lamenting to a friend that in a perfect world I would just be allowed to make music without qualifying it, without having to justify why I should be allowed to create the sounds and images that are in my head, without having to carve out a place and present my case for its right to exist. We don’t live in that world. The world we do live in is the one that has labeled me: feminist; queer; female; feminine; South Asian; immigrant; controversial last name; provocative. I’m just trying to live authentically.

Tell us a bit more about your background. How influential have the places you’ve lived in been to the music you create?

I grew up in Trinidad surrounded by soca, reggae, chutney, pop chart radio, gospel music via my Christian parents, steel pan from the pan yard a few hundred feet from my house. Music was constant in many forms, but it wasn’t until my parents split up and my Dad went to NY that I discovered the guitar music that would go on to influence my sound to this day. I lived with him for a while and visited often. He bought me my first Strat on 48th St and it’s still my go-to guitar for live shows and recordings. I didn’t get into experimenting with fusion until I moved to London, where audiences are extremely open-minded and seem to have a broader knowledge of music and genres than most that I played to before. I do think it’s a great place to be a musician, with scenes and sounds as varied as its people, on offer at all times.

How do you think you fit in with the current UK music scene?

Ha! I don’t necessarily fit any music scene on paper but when I play live, the music immediately lands, at least with London audiences. It’s danceable guitar music, organic, live instruments, live musicians, with heavy emphasis on beats. It’s different but accessible. This isn’t the time to fit in anyway, it’s the time to stand up and stand out! The scene could use a lot more uniqueness and diversity of sound.

Fighting against preconceptions and intolerance must clearly pit you against some terrible people but what have been your big successes in breaking down barriers so far?

To be honest I don’t think they’ve discovered I exist yet! But I am bracing for it; it comes with the territory when just being who you are out loud upsets the status quo.

I read that some people are offended by the term “Clit Rock”. Is a lack of understanding and fear at the heart of the problems you’re fighting against?

Oh yes! Clit Rock was born out of sheer rage. FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) speaks volumes about society’s fear of female sexuality, it is oppression on steroids. Even though I am not from a practicing community, I instantly recognised that it was the same old misogyny that attempts to contain us all. I just knew I wanted to join in with the women who were already on the front lines and spread awareness through music. A lot of people are put off by our name, in fact more than one guest at the last event told me they had mates who dropped out when they heard the name of the night. This is 2017, mind! Since when is everyone (in freakin’ London Town) so bloody conservative and delicate? CLIT CLIT CLIT. Get used to it. An abbreviated word derived from the scientific name of a body part is what you’re shocked by? Really? Be outraged that FGM exists in your world, not at the campaigns committed to ending it! Do have a word with yourself. I always wonder if Cock Rock Festival comes up against this much opposition but they refuse to answer a sister on Twitter. ;-D

Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion. What equipment do you use?

I tend to go to my well-worn, but much loved, Pearl export drum kit first. Most of the songs are born out of rhythms created on kick, snare, hi-hat. I find a groove I dig and run with that. Then I write guitar parts, bass line, vocal melody and lyrics tend to be last. I’m a huge control freak with strong ideas about what each element should sound like, so I record demos using Logic X and take that to the studio to my engineer so he knows what I’m after sound-wise for the final product There are several percussion instruments that we use in Trinidad that are just everyday objects like ‘bottle & spoon’, graters, whistles and old pieces of iron known simply as “de iron“. Mine is literally an old hub cap, the modern ones are made solely for their percussive purpose. They were all recorded on Written In Time, where I attempted to recreate the sound of j’ouvert morning, the official start of Trinidad Carnival.

You’ve got a huge gig lined up – what would be your dream venue?

It’s a tie between Wembley and Madison Square Garden. I’ve seen artists I adore perform in both venues that have had an enduring influence on my vision. I’m emotionally attached to both venues and cities.

What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?

I’m bored of its current state to be frank. There’s too much mind-blowing talent and music on this planet for us to be presented with anything this dull, safe and beige 24/7. There is an alarming disconnect between these politically engaging, radical times and the music that is soundtracking our lives in this moment. Where are the radicals and individuals? It ain’t Clean Bandit.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?

I’d like them to know that it’s out! (Lol) But seriously, I wrote it from a very personal perspective, others have told me it manages to empower whilst addressing age-old systems of oppression and that is everything to a songwriter. I want to make music that resonates and creates waves that add to our ongoing evolution.

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