Lupini has slowly, quietly established herself as a pivotal figure in Liverpool’s alternative music scene. Recently introduced to a wider audience via her recent NTS residency (already a firm favourite at Phantasy HQ), she’s known in Merseyside as a DJ, promoter, radio station manager and all-round enthusiast of no small repute. As is obvious, Lupini’s life revolves around music, and in turn, music revolves around her.
As well as founding femme-centric rave Athe, Lupini is station manager at the city’s Melodic Distraction, home to no less than 150 individual shows, Lupini soaks up more music than most. This sincere eclecticism, reflected in her typically thoughtful contribution to #PHANTASYMIX, soaks up dubby overtures, dreamy new wave and escalating percussive jams, switching between energy modes with open-mindedness but rare authority.
Accompanying the mix, Lupini spoke to John Loveless about the post-COVID challenges and opportunities in the Liverpool music scene, warping between genres and the joy of a big, silly acid line.
Hi Lupini. Tell us a little about yourself and then a little about the mix?
Hey John, thanks for having me. What an honour to send a mix over for you folks. I’m a DJ, radio station manager, promoter and aspiring herbalist based mostly in Liverpool for the last 10 years, with a handful of short stints elsewhere.
The mix was a bit of an effort to make a time capsule of the feelings and emotions I’m having in precisely the very particular week you asked me for the mix. Covid-19 restrictions are lifting gradually across the UK but a sense of anxiety still gnaws at me as we collectively ease into this process. I’ve found much greater narrative joy over the last year in making mixes with a specific clear vision of a place in my mind. As such, to make this audio photograph of my mindset right now, this was compiled from images of a very visceral nightmare I had the day after I DJed my first socially-distanced table event on April 14th. It starts a little plaintive and melancholic before club music builds out of the ambience in the distance, all in an anxious, too-heavy-too-soon dissonance, then is snatched away prematurely. I’ve been having fun trying to deescalate energy in my mixes and radio shows recently - I think it’s a harder challenge than building intensity. I took this mix as a chance to give this a practice.
I always make sure there’s at least a couple tracks from locals and from my nearest-and-dearest in all my mixes, and they make an appearance here too - 96 Back and the exceptionally talented Ex-Easter Island Head in this case. I also always try to sneak some of my politics into what I do as well - there’s a couple tracks to act as subliminal messaging to push my snowflake leftist agenda - The One About Tories Scapegoating Immigrants & UBI (Universal Basic Income) Dub.
A couple words on the more perfunctory side of the mix; I took a couple pops at this. In the end, it’s final iteration was recorded at home in my bedroom - like all other shows this past year - on a janky Audio-Technica turntable, 2 XDJ-700s and a mixer I’m struggling to get used to. It’s got no filters, FX or even mids - just lows and highs. It’s fun that way.
It seems like Liverpool was heading in a new direction in terms of club culture, before the pandemic derailed it. Of course, the city was in international news this week with Circus’s large-scale, COVID test rave; a commercial event, very different from the parties you're involved in, but notable nonetheless. Do you think this momentum will continue again shortly? Will smaller spaces still exist for smaller parties?
Wow, what a large question to unpack. Sure, Circus is a large event, but Rich McGinnis (Circus) has been integral to the scene from the bottom up and is setting a really good example by being someone who is in the game of venues and promoting but who has also been involved in policy-making for the Nighttime industries for donkeys. If this city, or any, wants to have a music scene left, then we all need to be as active behind the scenes in lobbying as we are in throwing parties.
I’m personally of the belief that Liverpool really deserves this coverage - it’s earned its moment in the limelight and I’d love to see that momentum in (inter)national press coverage continue. In the UK dance scene, we focus too much on London, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield. It’s really hard for artists to push out of Liverpool despite the scene here being rich, supportive and individual. I really hope that this increased attention ends up impacting well on all the artists that live and work here.
In terms of spaces, the city has been rocked by a number of property development scandals recently. This has bled out from the City Council on a wider scale but has affected clubs by having monstrous developments arrive next door with no protection for the preexisting venues. Gentrification and uncontrolled property development destroying nightlife is not a story that’s unique to Liverpool, but we are at a knife edge. The swathe of positive coverage of Circus in the national papers is a timely reminder that folks would do well to remember to protect their local clubbing environments if they want them to be there when the pandemic ends. There’s a few spaces that keep the flame alive; Meraki, Quarry, The Stockroom and 24 Kitchen St especially. Those crews work tirelessly. I’ve got every faith that they’ll come into their own over the next year, especially with the eyes on Liverpool after the last week.
You’ve been described as ‘administrator of the Liverpool Music Scene’. Is that an accurate summary? That’s a lot of paperwork…
Hahahaha, what a funny quote to pull me up on. It’s a little obtuse, I know. I was booked to play with Serpente and Raft of Trash by the wonderful experimental artist and friend Jon Davies aka Kepla. He made this comment about my being this administrator figure in the event copy as a scathing joke, but it kind of stuck. I mean, I do look at a lot of spreadsheets glamorously.
I’m not sure there’s a way to answer this that doesn’t make me sound like a total ass, but I guess my face is just around a lot of places. It’s a village city, you know? Folks used to see me working on the local club bars. These days, I’m one of the team at Melodic Distraction Radio, I co-run parties as ATHE with the wondrous diamond (if lost to Berlin) Ben Sleia, I DJ in my own right, I worked behind the counter in Dig Vinyl (a local record store) for a while, worked on a small run of record fairs, have contributed to Bido Lito! (a local music magazine), I managed a venue here for a short time, as well as running free DJing workshops for women. I’m also working on some freelance projects as well. All-in-all my fingers are probably in way too many pies. Bless up all the folks who support me and throw opportunities my way, endless love and awe that y’all still let me have a crack at this music thing.
Your NTS show has a distinct pulse, but flows between genres fluidly. That’s not necessarily a unique quality on that station or others, but it was one that nonetheless particularly struck me in regards to your selections when listening to your shows thus far. Have you always been interested in a wide variety of music, and what, if anything, would you say is the unifying factor in your taste?
That’s so nice you picked that out to talk about, thank you! I guess the short answer is that I get bored easily and I’m very phasey. I like to keep myself amused, and I think trying to pull off unexpected contrasts in genre keeps me on my toes.
I think another part of it is sheer pig-headedness. I came really late to DJing and was basically so green and so ignorant that I didn’t realise you were supposed to have your ‘sound,’ I just played what I loved. I ended up DJing by going out a lot primarily. I guess I used to be a bit of a party girl and given I didn’t have all that many close friends, I’d just float between different circles on different nights. I’d roll up to a D&B night one night then a dancehall night the next. It felt entirely natural to love them all equally. There’s that, but also when I was little my dad used to listen to a lot of music in the car. He’d make these mix CDs of his favourite tracks, and he had no problem putting some obscure Norwegian jazz record next to The Shamen.
Working in radio obviously means I hear a lot of different genres during my day, and I get overexcited and want to play all of them at once. Radio doesn’t really care for the ability to mix the same genre in the same tempo - you can break up the contrasts with chat in between, so your task isn’t to mix, it’s to create a mood. I try to keep that spirit running through what I do now. And to make up for my rough n ready mixing.
There’s a quote I really love from Gabriel Szatan interviewing Teki Latex for RA on genre - “no matter how isolated two worlds may seem, there is always a hidden warp to be discovered from one to the other.” As I’ve grown, I now particularly love to chance upon - or deliberately seek out - these portals. The more music you consume and listen to, the more you realise these crossovers exist. Cher’s tracks are just big room trance or Outkast’s Hey Ya is just an amped up D&B beat. It encapsulates a joy for life - I want to play all the tracks I love, I want to push all the artists I believe in, I want to see all my friends at once! How can I get between them all in 2 hours, or 1 hour?
For the sake of boiling it down though, I tend to sniff out a few particular bits of instrumentation across genres. I love a big, silly acid line. I love gated 80s drums, really obnoxious breaks and I play a lot of things with vocals or vocal processing. I think the human voice is the purest, most honest expression of feeling. That use of voice can go across pop, post-punk, dub and all the way up to ghettotech. I also play a lot of choral, I just think it’s the most beautiful, human, humane thing.
Perhaps the most notable element of your ‘administration’ is your involvement in Melodic Distraction, a radio station that has expanded hugely in the last few years. Out of 150 shows, are there any you wish to recommend right now?
Oh goodness. I’m so biased, and there are so many good shows on the station it’s like picking a favourite child. I know I’ll send this off and immediately realise I’ve missed someone out, so at the risk of sounding vaguely too self-promotional, please do go have a browse and I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like. To name just a handful (and I’m sorry to MDR family if I’ve missed you out) I’ll outline a few standouts.
For harder things, Ben Sleia’s Bruits and All Trades’ Altered Voltage are both ace. Cartier 4 Everyone has consistently delivered one of the best futureclub/hyperpop/hard techno shows for a good few years. Caustic Soda plays loads of lovely things on the dub/sludge/dubstep axis. Raw Silk play loads of fun italo-y bits. Jacob’s Antiques is a really fun blitz through all sorts of downtempo, house and unusual post-punk. Bom Dia! is the best specialist Brazilian music show I’ve heard. Also worth a mention before this answer gets too far long is SPINE (an industrial and EBM show from Lonesaw), Natural Sciences (run by the label head of the same name in Manchester), Babylon Fox, Aletha, Kind Worlds and After Words.
Finally, I see you have a number of gigs coming up, including an appearance alongside Goldie at 25 Years of Metalheadz this summer (imagine the energy at that one) Was drum n’ bass a part of your formative influences or a later discovery?
Yeah, I’m reallyreallyreally excited for that show - it should be a real blowout. Meraki really nailed it with that one. I listened to a fair bit of D&B growing up as a kid - Drum 'n' Bass for Papa and Timeless especially. I used to listen to loads of the Fabriclive mixes downloaded from Limewire on my cracked out old Creative Zen mp3 player. I drifted away from it for a few years and fell down the techno wormhole before coming back around on the other side to Jungle/Hardcore/Breakcore in a more serious way in the last couple. Still, the Goldie gig is a break from the ordinary for me, as I’m often found at a lower tempo. The bookings I’m on probably echo the same frenetically interdisciplinary energy you noted above - I’m playing with Helena Hauff and Roza Terenzi, but also with psychedelic noise things like Yuko Araki’s new project, so I wouldn’t say I’m just a D&B head by any stretch. Besides, playing a D&B set right before the best to ever do it would just show me up as the novice I am anyway, so I’ll probably try to play something a little out of the ordinary.
John Loveless, May 2021.