Born in Belfast, with a DJing career forged in Dundee and now to be found regularly raiding record shops across Berlin, Sally C has quickly become among the most instantaneously popular and in-demand DJs out of the UK in some time. An already blazingly knowledgeable selector leading the charge of a newer generation of DJs connected to a timeless pulse of party music, Sally C’s sets seamlessly blend inventive contemporary rave and techno with the warm, wild heart of nineties house.

Her contribution to the ongoing #PHANTASYMIX series is no exception, featuring records from a diverse range of artists and eras, repping Schacke, Hodge and Analogue Cops through to D-Loved, Private Press and Nightmares on Wax. Ears open for a phenomenal edit of ‘Saturday Night in Harlem’, too…

We caught up with Sally just as she had returned from an Australian tour to learn she had been nominated for Best Newcomer at the DJ Mag Awards 2019.

You’ve just been nominated for DJ Mag’s Best Newcomer, among a very strong suit of fellow DJs. Congratulations! Have you ever been nominated for an award before?

Thankyou, I’m super grateful to have been nominated and no, I have never been nominated for anything music related, so this feels quite nice. The nominees are all absolute fire, Afrodeutsche and Sherelle are both lovely women and actually, all the nominees are women, which is great.

I feel like a lot of your associates are enjoying as much success as yourself; Brame & Hamo, Cromby… Specifically, this seems like a small scene centered around Northern Ireland, AVA Festival, and so on. Can you sum up the specific attitude and energy of this group?

We all met in Berlin. I met Chris (Cromby) first and we found it mad how we were both from Belfast but had never met then he later introduced me to Tiarnan (Brame) who’s records I already had and played, so the energy was already there and we’re all really close now. Chris and I share some similar obsessions with certain era’s/styles so play b2b together often which is maddd energy, and I rinse Brame & Hamos tunes so much I love seeing them progress as producers. We are connected and bound by music and are very lucky to be sharing this experience somehow and we motivate each other a lot to stay focused and be on top of shit.

Your mixes thus far pay their respects to the heyday of nineties underground house, which is true here, too. Do you consciously split your sets between crate digging and new music that you recieve? Is it easy to forge those links between sounds at the moment?

Some of the new music that I play tends to be a reflection of the older stuff, I do like to play a mixture of old records and new. When the setup at a gig is perfect for records and it sounds good it will all be old second hand stuff and represses with a sprinkle of digital and new music when needed. Some sets will be a proper mix of eras but you can mix any two records together really I think it sounds cool mixing an old vocally number with something heavy and fresh. I don’t plan my sets too much, I just bring a packed record bag and have a fresh playlist on my USB for every gig then see what happens.

I feel like I’m speaking to you after a year in which you have become a much better known name, appearing at major festivals such as Parklife, Boomtown, Melt… Your record selections and style clearly really speak to people en masse, and I’m sure some of these gigs seem a million miles away from your years in Scotland as a resident DJ. Has it felt like a natural transition at this stage? How much have you had to change your style (if at all) and perhaps even think ‘bigger’?

Yeah, the last year or two have been pretty mad as I started playing more internationally and professionally which sometimes does feel really surreal. I’m very grateful to be playing consistent shows and love playing in new spaces, meeting good people. But the djing part has been a natural progression, I've been playing for seven years now so every year I’m just collecting more records and learning more about the craft. I feel we are always evolving and its important to be improving and practising and digging and dancing. I learn from every gig I play, knowing what to play and what not to play in different situations whilst trying to play for me too. Learning more about cdjs has been a process too, I was so stubborn for so long with them I only really learned how to use them when I moved to Berlin. Me and my good friend Jenny (Stem) bought the CDJ 350s off a pal which were the first version you could use USBs with so was super basic, but now I know more about the possibilities CDJs can bring to your set with an improved setup at home and more risk taking during sets. I still have a lot to learn, though.

I feel like I've been playing harder recently and that maybe is reflection of adjusting to bigger shows but I feel it's just music that is making me tick and adding to the collection / expanding more than changing my style. I'm enjoying digging for harder records now, something I didn’t used to do much of maybe the odd really heavy record but I'm really liking discovering more rolling early nineties techno and electro, Japanese techno, fast Copenhagen trancey vocally loveliness.

Finally, having built that reputation, what’s next for Sally C into 2020?

More shows in the pipeline and I've been working on music for a while now that I will be self releasing sometime in 2020 which feels like the best step to take next creatively; I want to have my own music on vinyl to play in a club. I will of course work towards releasing on labels that I love and respect in due course but for now the project I'm working on is going to come from me and hopefully will come to life next year.

John Thorp, November 2019.

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