Photo: Khroma Collective (iona)
Do you remember what exactly it was that got you into electronic and dance music? iona does. “‘Through “Cowgirl” by Underworld,” she says. “The rest is history.” This history of hers is deeply connected with London: after making a name for herself with sets at the now closed Dance Tunnel, the British DJ has become known for her yearly sets at the Field Maneuvers festival, a self-described “no-frills rave” with only 800 attendees at a secret location outside of the city that features equally impressive and eclectic line-ups. A “love letter to fun and September 2019,” iona’s mix for our Groove podcast appears to still draw from the energy of the last Field Maneuvers edition. It’s wild, enthusiastic and, indeed, fun.
After working for a bank, you made your first steps at London’s Dance Tunnel and also played at the 2016 closing party of the club. How did it happen that you got on board with Dance Tunnel and what did this period mean to you both as a music fan and a DJ?
It wasn’t a bank as such, it was a cash processing centre which – to put it simply – is somewhere between a bank and a factory. I ended up at Dance Tunnel through a chance encounter on a bus with a (now) friend. We got chatting and then eventually I ended up working through her staffing agency for a few venues before settling at Dance Tunnel. The years I spent working there really accelerated my interest in club culture and I met a lot of really cool people from “the scene” who I’m still friends with now, it feels like a valuable thing to have relatively old friends in a fast-moving – and sometimes superficial – industry. In a way these were wilderness years. I think, retrospectively, I was looking for something to be interested in after giving up on writing as a job – and DJing filled that void.
When the team behind it announced Dance Tunnel’s closing, they blamed the “licensing climate” in Hackney, a part of town that has changed considerably due to gentrification in the past 10 or 15 years. The same year, however, the city has appointed a Night Czar, Amy Lamé. Would you say that the situation for clubs in London and especially Hackney has improved since then?
I don’t think anything has improved in terms of licensing restrictions, and I don’t imagine any real improvement happening while the cultural significance of Hackney is only encouraged to exist as a commodity. It seems like clubs in their conventional form are being squeezed out of existence, operating in unworkable margins in ways I don’t fully understand, and I don’t think Amy Lamé has the power to single-handedly undo the pressures inflicted by UK government and local authority policies.
You are a resident at the Field Maneuvers festival. What does that mean as a DJ? Unlike a club resident, you only play once a year, so it must be hard to develop a signature style.
It’s a massive privilege! I worked as a driver/artist liaison the first two years I attended so I knew what the festival was about before I ever played. It’s an inspiring place. The festival itself definitely has a rave aesthetic, it’s got a vibe that permeates everyone’s being somehow. There’s this swell of people who are all really letting go and the DJ/dancer divide is faint, if there at all. There is a collective sense that everyone pulls something extra out of themselves, and the “Field Maneuvers set” seems to merge vibrations from the field with individual DJ style. Personally, I like gathering the best “FM tunes” in the time between one FM and the next, the culmination of which defines my sound for that year.
It’s all been pretty organic. I met Nick through Field Maneuvers where he’s a resident and where I’ve either been working or playing for the last five years, so there was a common musical interest from the beginning. When he told me he was thinking of starting the label and about the direction he wanted to take it in, it got me thinking of the friends I have with great unreleased music that fit the brief. That’s it – I pass along tunes I think Nick will like and make the introductions if he does. It’s fun to be able to help make positive things happen without the pressure of having to do any heavy lifting!
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans for the future?
I’m looking forward to visiting some new cities next year, but that’s as far as my planning’s gone at the moment!
Stream: iona – Groove Podcast 235
01. Bufiman – Hoolock Rock
02. Roza Terenzi – Mwah
03. Coldcut – Timber
04. Gershon Jackson – Take It Easy (Mike Dunn’s BlackBall Ezee Mix)
05. Maruwa – On My Mind
06. PDL – MULK
07. Two Shell – N35
08. Furacao 2000 – Tchutchuca Techno
09. Ariel Zetina ft. London Jade – d (Addy) (Club Politix Remix)
10. Corporeal Face – Phoenix 99
11. Power-Pill – Pacman
12. LSDXOXO – HATESHOPPING
13. Mind of a Dragon – Body Shot
14. Manul & Energy Man – SP Funky
15. Baby Val & Paco Pack – Bloody Skies
16. Liam Doc – Silly Ho
17. Aitch – I’m a Flirt (rave mix)
18. Action Replay Codes – Emotions (Ghetto Fun Edit)
19. Terrorrythmus – Let Me See Your XTC
20. Black Market – Ghostbusters Dub