It's probably fair to say that Mollie Collins experienced many aspects of adult life before her time. Perhaps that's one explanation for her accelerated rise as a DJ? Having first played out in 2015 she has, in two short years, travelled from her Monday night residency at the Tap N Tin in Chatham to playing at clubs around Europe and at festivals alongside some of the biggest names in drum n' bass.
With her Kent home bordering the south-east of London, the capital's club scene was within easy reach of Mollie Collins. The only thing that initially stopped her going was her age. So, way before she was 18, she started to go to squat parties and fell in love with drum n' bass.
She worked as part of a street team and did promotions at a club local to her and began perfecting her chopped up, fast cutting DJ style at home before landing the local residency she maintains to this day. In March of 2017 she won Best Breakthrough DJ at the National Drum N' Bass Awards and has since contributed several guest mixes for BBC1 Extra.
After an invitation to join his Charge label from Mampi Swift, Mollie has also this year started her production career alongside studio partner Rushmore. The first result is a bootleg mix of Ed Sheeran's 'Shape Of You' which proved to be quite the summer anthem at several festivals.
Mollie Collins plays Halloween dates this year including Zombie Fest 3 in Mildenhall alongside Pendulum, Friction, Baby D and many more. Prior to that date, she sat down with Marko Kutlesa to talk about her journey to now.
Your biography says you're classically trained but you only just started playing the piano, so I'm guessing it actually means you've had a classic training in clubland?
Ahaha. On the piano I'm not that great yet, so yes.
You used to work as part of a clubbing street team. What was that experience like?
It was a bit weird trying to get people to come into a venue. The place I used to do it for was a pretty good venue, near where I lived, so it wasn't exactly hard for me.
Do you remember the first time you heard drum n bass when it had a big impact on you?
Yeah. I must have heard it years ago on Youtube, but the first time it really hit me was when I used to go to squat raves in London. Hearing it on systems was when it really started to have more of an impact.
Do you regard any particular songs, sets or producers as being key to you choosing this genre as the one you'd pursue?
I'd say Andy C had a big impact in me wanting to play drum n' bass. I used to go see him a lot and see him mix and I would never really have an idea of how he was doing it. It was so cool. There was also a guy at the club that I used to work at and he used to play garage and he was really good. He had a kind of EZ vibe, really quick, really fast on the cues and on the faders. That inspired me to do what I do now with the faders, chopping and cutting. It looked really different, really fun.
How much of the time you spend looking for music to play do you devote to new music and how much digging around in the music of days gone by do you do?
I try to go through my promos and new music once a week. I do like to try and throw one old song in per set, bigger ones, ones that most people would know. 'Ready Or Not' is quite an old tune, the jump up remix, so what I like to do, if I choose an old tune like that, I'll either just let it play straight or I'll switch it up.
You won Best Breakthrough DJ at the 2017 Drum n Bass Awards. Do you think winning that accolade has affected your bookings?
I'm not sure, you know. I think if people had promoted the gigs I've done as 'best breakthrough DJ' I would be able to say yes, but I think I've only had one where they've done that. Nobody's booked me as that, they've just booked me as me. So, I'm not sure. I'd probably say it was just a culmination of everything.
You're known to skirt around different styles of drum n' bass, from liquid to jump up to techy stuff. Is the freedom to be able to do that something that's important to you in developing your own sound? I ask in the light of you recently having played a specific jump up event.
I'd say that 60% of my sets are jump up because at the moment that's what the younger generation seem to really want. It's energy, really. As soon as you drop a jump up tune you see it in the crowd. If they're just dancing a little bit the vibe just changes. I do like to be able to play a bit of everything. I do like jump up but I wouldn't want to play a whole set of it because it's too similar. Not in the sound, but in the way you mix it, it's always 16 or 32 bars. When you start bringing other sub-genres in you can change it around. It keeps things fresher in your ears.
You've moved your radio show from pre-recorded (on Fridays) to a live slot (on Wednesdays). Why would you want to do that?
We've been doing pre-records for Fridays for quite a while now. I've always had my producer with me and I just think that now we're ready to take it live. The idea is to hopefully get people to interact more with the show and with me. It's just about trying to take it to another level.
When drum n bass first started it was pretty much a uniquely British music form. As you're too young to have been around at its beginnings and having grown up with it being a globally recognised music (for instance, you were playing to huge crowds at a festival in Romania just the other week), from your perspective, does drum n bass feel like British music to you?
I would say yeah. To me it feels British. You take it somewhere else, like I play a lot of places in Europe, even in Romania the other week, I was playing my Ed Sheeran bootleg, which is obviously a British song and they loved it. It might depend on which country you're in, what you can play, but if you choose right, in my experience it goes off as much as it does in the UK.
You still hold down your Monday night residency at a pub in Chatham for 100 or so people in your room. How long can you maintain that?
I can do it for as long as I want, but I've been there for two and a half years now so I'm not sure. Maybe soon (I'll go). I don't want to give it up but I think I probably should. There's a guy there and he's more than ready to take over my slot. And he probably should, because I feel like I get to play all weekend and he's so ready. But it's a touchy subject, that one because I'm not really sure yet. Sometimes I'll go in and think I'm preparing to tell them I should leave, but then we'll have such a brilliant night I think, nah, I'm staying.
As a music journalist, I'm often directed by editors to not make an issue of gender when interviewing female DJs and I agree with that because we never make gender an issue when interviewing male DJs. A DJ is a DJ, after all and should be judged on their attributes. In contrast, there are nights out there that push gender as an issue, female only DJ nights, which in the past you've been invited to play at. Is gender an issue we still need to discuss?
Yeah, it's a weird one. I did get booked to play at one but it didn't end up happening. I don't know whether it's the promoters thinking they've got a good idea to sell tickets or doing it to promote female talent.
But, for me, I wouldn't really say it was an issue. I know being female has probably helped me get further in a shorter amount of time. I've never really had any issues. In other interviews I've done like you say, nobody really mentions it. You have female MCs now, which is a whole newer game in itself, but a DJ is a DJ.
In doing my research for this interview, one way in which I thought gender had been an issue for you was when I read some of the things some people had said anonymously about you on internet forums and social media. It made me feel a a bit sick reading some of that stuff and I really felt that a lot of it would never have been written if it was discussing a male DJ. But the only actual information it's possible to take from all those comments is about the people who write those things, not about the person they're discussing; that they are bitter and jealous and maybe they would have attained more themselves if they'd focus on their own game rather than wasting time on internet forums and social media.
I think some females would agree with me in that we are artists, we're not female artists. Some men might think that I am where I am because I am female, but if you look at me, yes, I'm female, but you couldn't say that I'm only here because of my female qualities because I dress like a fucking boy haha!
Is gender the only prejudice that's visible on the drum n bass scene?
What do you mean?
Well, I mean, in all parts of society there are lots of different kinds of prejudice, some based on gender, some based on race, some based on sexuality. So, I'm asking you if a prejudice based on gender is the only one you can see in the drum n' bass scene?
Well, I've had a few nasty comments about sexuality but that doesn't really bother me. I don't think a lot of other females on the scene really get stuff like that. I was getting quite a bit of hate at one time and sometimes I think it's just the case of people jumping onto something like that as it's happening.
But racism? I don't think that's a problem at all because so many guys within the scene are black. We're pretty much all friends and family on this scene so I wouldn't say that there is.
I wanted to ask you about your tattoos. A couple of them are cover ups. What do you keep changing your mind about when you go for these tattoos?
[laughs] Basically, all it is, is that I had quite a few of them done when I was really young. So, I'm getting some of them covered up at the moment cos they look really shit.
You're playing at Zombie Fest at the end of this month. What's your Halloween costume and what's your scariest Halloween track?
Ha! I'm not wearing a costume. Everyone keeps asking me this. I don't do costumes. That day will be so long. I've got three sets that day and I'd to make sure I don't sweat it off, so I won't be wearing one. Scariest Halloween track? I don't know. I think it would have to be something by T>I, he makes proper dark, heavy rollers. I think that would be quite scary.