Maya Stone runs DeepDownDirty Records, an independent Electronic Dance Music label dedicated to in their own words ‘fighting the good fight for underground music producers’. I caught up with Maya to soak up some of her enthusiasm and passion for great music, and find out more about future plans for the label.
Before we get started Maya, tell me a little bit about yourself and your musical history?
I was born in Kingston Hospital and spent my childhood in Surrey and Brighton, with a short stint in Jerusalem. My father’s family are pretty musical and one of my uncles used to be able to pick up any instrument and play it. My dad was in a band in his youth and played bongos and his other brother plays the accordion and is still in a band. They have always played instruments and sung in bands and choirs. My own childhood was full of music lessons. I played the piano for many years but stopped just before I took my grade six. I sang in school choirs as a child but as I entered my teens I started having problems with my voice. Looking back I now know this was the beginning of my thyroid problem (which remained undiagnosed for many years until I became rather ill after having our son). When I felt lost or lonely I always turned to music and reading as a child – they were my escapes.
In terms of listening to music, I was brought up on 60s and 70s music mainly: The Beatles, Beach Boys, Searchers, Kinks, Manfred Man, The Eagles. We had a great CD of one-hit wonders from the 60s and 70s I remember which I loved. My first vinyl purchases were Bros’ Push, Michael Jackson’s Bad, Alice Cooper’s Trash and Pure Soft Metal. Later I bought things such as Enigma’s first release MCMXC a.D. which I still love and The KLF’s The White Room on cassette. I think my first serious experiences with electronic music however were listening to mix tapes of jungle. There seemed to be a lot of ethereal and hypnotic jungle tracks around back in 1990 (or maybe that’s just my memory?) and I loved them.
I also loved listening to pirate radio stations. I came from a really strict background and listening to such stations was part of my slowly building rebellion against that I think. I remember going to Troublesome Records in Kingston and not really having the guts to speak to anyone or ask anything, but loving the music in there. I remember buying Nightmare by Brain Bug.
It was when I was around 16 years old and I ran away from home that I hit the rave scene full pelt really, diving head first into music genres such as hardcore, techno, ambient music such The Orb and bands such as Ozric Tentacles.
So how and why did you get into music promotion?
I started promoting music online because it frustrated me that social media seemed to be dominated by the people who can afford to pay for promotion and mainstream music. Someone asked me if I would help them organise a local electronic music showcase however that idea never came to fruition and it was also suggested that I start my own events… and so I did just that.
It’s a really tough climate to promote underground events in though. So many councils are putting ridiculous licensing restrictions in place for some underground venues and simply closing down others. Check out Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) to find out more about how they’re trying to fight back against this and please do support them. We had one venue tell us that we had to supply names and email addresses of all attendees a few days before the event and some venues are seriously restricted about how loud they can play their music (which kind of sucks in a nightclub or dance music bar scenario). After four events I decided it wasn’t really a sensible occupation for me (health, being a mum, the war on the underground by certain political parties making life very difficult) and I turned my attentions to radio.
I started off with a Saturday morning radio show on FM radio and had to get up at 4am each Saturday to travel to North London. However, this wasn’t really sustainable for me and I soon found a friendly internet radio station called Mix Hit Radio who were happy to take my show, DeepDownDance on-board. I had a Sunday morning radio show on Mix Hit and it was generally multi-genre, playing everything from house to DNB to electronica to UKG to trance – but I tried to keep it upbeat. I really enjoyed doing the shows. I would spend hours trawling the web and Soundcloud especially for tracks and remixes which people might not have heard of. It was in that period that I started to make friends with some of the producers whose music I would at a later date release on my own record label.
I was delighted when I then was offered a show on another internet radio station called Saturo Sounds. Saturo specialise in ‘The Deeper Side of House and Techno’ and I became very involved in their rebranding and that strapline was my suggestion. I also taught them what I had learned so far about social media as I liked the brand and wanted to support them. On DeepDownDance on Saturo, an evening show, I was able to play slower, deeper, sexier music and this created a nice balance for me. You can listen to some of my shows here
I worked hard to write full track lists for each show, tag the producers and labels and tweet the tracks as I played them – all on my own. Then one day something happened which changed everything. A producer I knew came to me and told me that his track, which I loved, hadn’t been promoted at all by the label it was released on. I was furious. I thought ‘Well I’m promoting everyone’s music for free anyway so why don’t I formalise this process and give all the producers I am shouting about more of a chance to be heard? Why don’t I start a record label?’ So I did some research about producers in the UK and in the end decided to go with Label-Worx because they seemed to be well-respected and had a good relationships with most of the key online stores. I will never forget the day I rang them. I felt sick when I called them. This was a massive undertaking for me. I had suffered from ill health in the recent past (Hashimoto’s Disease) and was a mum and dog owner. I also don’t drive (so everything takes forever) and of course have a house and family to look after. Did I really have time for such a big project? Did I have time to DO RIGHT by such a project and the producers I would work with? Well in the end everything was ok I guess. Label-Worx took one look at my social network and said they would push my application through. After a few months I had to quit DeepDownDance because the record label took up every spare minute. I worked very hard – through most weekends and school holidays – for almost the first two years. I am lucky to have a very supportive husband and son! And so DeepDownDirty was born… which was really just a formalisation of my informal music promotion if that makes sense.
That’s amazing Maya and great to hear you have so much family support. Has being a woman in this industry helped or hindered you do you think?
I think both. There are some men in certain groups which will NEVER take me seriously because I am a woman, even though they pretend to be pro-women lol. It happened to me recently when I met a DJ I am a big fan of and he was quite happy to have a conversation with my husband but could barely bring himself to talk to me; in my husband’s words: a man’s man. That was a very disappointing experience. However I don’t think there has ever been a better time for being a woman in the industry. Equality is a hot topic at all levels. People are pushing for more female DJs on line-ups and there are so many companies and groups which support women in the electronic music industry. I had an idea recently for a radio show actually which would showcase female producers and DJs but in the end decided that as much as I would love to I don’t really have time to do radio again so I contacted a wonderful female DJ and producer by the name of Jacqueline Palmer, whom I have a lot of respect for, and asked her if she would run with the idea (Jacqueline is already responsible for one amazing underground electronic music radio show called A Darker Wave) and she set up Draw The Line.
I will admit I like everything about this story because for me it is a great example of women having respect for one another and working together for the benefit of all; something which I feel doesn’t happen often enough.
How has being a woman helped me? I think I find it easier to empathise with the people I work with. I have a more caring approach to the producers and their needs. I am more understanding of the fact that they have commitments outside of the world of music and try in general to avoid creating stress for others in the team. I feel more likely to have an intuitive approach to all aspects of project management and I always say I’m not running a dictatorship: we are a team at DeepDownDirty.
Great thanks Maya. So tell me of your future plans for DeepDownDirty? Short term and long term .. what should we look forward to?
We’re not trying to become the next big dance music label. Our focus is always the music and producers, and promoting creativity as well as supporting others in the electronic music industry. Of note is a release which consists of remixes of tracks belonging to a vocalist who has sung with Groove Armada (amongst others) and a charity release for an amazing industry-related charity. I have an upcoming meeting with Professor Merlin Stone at St Mary’s University in Twickenham and his students to talk to them about how I set up DeepDownDirty as well as the social media and marketing work I do for the label. This is an exciting opportunity to speak to the younger generation, not just about the label but about the world of underground electronic music.
We’re also looking forward to next year’s Brighton Music Conference because we had so much fun this year and I think we’re going to be able to get a bigger group of producers and friends to come with us next time. We have some great releases coming out over the coming months from Shaun Thomas, Adina Ionita, Mischief, Wrekit88, Mogi Wa Wa, Cruster, WLSN and Konvic – everything from melodic pop offerings, to rap, house and techno so I do hope people will stay tuned for all that. We really love hearing what people think about the music and I do try and respond to all the comments on social media and our Soundcloud as well as to the emails I get. Thanks a lot for giving me the opportunity to talk to you about some of the things I care about so much.
Finally Maya, if you could change anything about the music industry what would it be?
That’s easy! I would make it not about money or contacts and make it more welcoming to up and comings. I would say for people to have less ego about what they do and be more willing to connect and support. In the underground a lot of this is already more commonplace but in the levels above us…. much less so.
Thanks so much for your time Maya and we look forward to hearing those new releases.
Photo by Christian Lawson Photographer & Creative Consultant