My recent trip to Marrakech for the wonderful Oasis Festival provided me with an opportunity to converse with some of electronic music’s most established luminaries within the unfamiliar surrounds of a desert oasis, and it was an opportunity I grasped with both hands. Number 1 on my hitlist was Canadian producer and DJ, B.Traits. My motive for such an interview was two pronged, on one hand I was curious about a woman that has emerged in a short space of time to hold court as one of BBC Radio 1’s most important cogs and secondly she stood out from what was a lineup quite heavily influenced by the progressive and deep tech of the likes of Dixon and Mano Le Tough, an opportunity I hoped for a notable chit chat.
“The fact that we’re able to have a festival here, in a venue like this is something really special.”
Despite doing my usual background work, going into the interview I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the woman who has made late night Friday’s on BBC Radio 1 her very own. In advance of our sit-down I took in her early evening showing at the poolside Oasis stage and witnessed a diverse, accomplished performance from the British Columbia native. With her set fresh in my mind we grabbed a few minutes in the surrounds of the incredible on site Spa at the Source Music resort, so I could delve a little deeper with one of Canada’s most prominent electronic exports.
My first questions inevitably focused on her festival outing just a few moments earlier. When I put it to B.Traits that her approach seemed quite intricate and methodical, she informed me that she had been carefully working in a lot of new material “I played a lot of new masters of my own tracks and I was like – oh god are these gonna go down ok?”, combined with the fact that many of her DJ counterparts were also in attendance, it seems Brianna was encouraged to bring out her ‘A’ game, “I really fucking love those guys so much as DJs and as producers so like I always feel the pressure’s on when they’re kinda standing behind you”.
It appears in the case of B.Traits the pressure produces diamonds, as she dovetailed drum and bass, jungle and techno influences together exquisitely to produce one of the standout performances of the festival, a tech/acid infused Tour de Force to kick things up a notch on Saturday evening, a set that was difficult to pin to one genre, thus creating something that stood apart from the rest of the lineup. In the words of the spinner herself “You’ve never really been able to pinpoint exactly what it is that I play because I think that I am quite an eclectic artist and I will totally admit I see myself evolving with music like all the time as I get older as my tastes change, as I become an adult”.
The eclectic tastes of the London dweller are also evident in her Radio 1 show, something she clearly takes pride in. Having worked her way up through the ranks (initially as a replacement for Annie Mac on maternity leave) before nailing down her own regular slot (1am-4am on Friday nights before the Essential Mix), B.Traits is the custodian of a rather important segment for the national broadcaster but it’s not without its sacrifices “I have to give up quite a lot of my Friday night gigs, it’s so important to me to be live, it makes me a better presenter, a better DJ, and the energy that my listeners feel when I’m live I also think they kind of thrive on that, the interaction is real so that’s always quite important for me”. It’s clear this isn’t just another box to be ticked for B.Traits, it’s an important milestone for her, a platform to showcase the artists she loves and bring them to wider prominence “And do something that Radio 1 hasn’t done before like really championing a lot of new music”.
Her dedicated shines through, as she outlines how the show forms a cornerstone of her week; “Thursday will be prep day for me scouring the internet for hours for new music because on that show I like to play 80% new music, especially the first hour is all new music”. It’s this kind of virtual crate digging which has allowed the radio host to carve her own niche within the station, no mean feat when you consider the wealth of talent currently in situ at the Beeb.
Her regular presence in the Radio 1 studio has also enabled her to bring a spontaneous element to the show with regular guests popping in for late night B2B’s (Mark E gets an honorable mention from Brianna) and something that feeds the feeling she offers something different amongst the vast spectrum of Radio 1. Of course like all good hosts she is willing to make the odd exception “sometimes I just can’t do that” revealing that talents like Marcel Dettman will sometimes get a pass. But on the whole, her devotion to the show is palpable, the passion with which she discusses it, evident.
It’s a passion that also extends to her own music, with her new label In Toto the prime benefactor at present. Having provoked intrigue during her set by dropping a few of her new creations, I was interested to know a little bit more about the project. Having been relatively quiet in terms of original music in recent years, B.Traits revealed that the new moniker was partially down to a reset of sorts, after a brief flirtation with the major label scene which proved to be somewhat of an eye opener.
Speaking about her first release ‘Fever’ she divulged that “it was one of the first records I made when I moved to the UK in 2010, it just exploded before my eyes, and I just couldn’t control it, like it just became this huge thing, like Mistajam single of the week and it was signed to a major, it was signed to Polydor, and that was crazy for me, that was an incredible learning experience for me in discovering what it was like to work with a major label”. The experience seems to have facilitated a realignment of sorts with budding artist investing a considerable period to find a more defined path “the last year and a half I’ve been able to move things around because the show started to come full circle and I was able to dedicate time to the studio”.
“I like so many different kinds of music and so I just decided to do it on my own and just to have complete creative control”
And it seems this considerable investment has provided us with a stellar return if her debut release is anything to go by. Still Point, put simply, is fresh music, it has a certain soul that seems to be missing from the bog standard tech wave taking over at the moment. She also hints that upcoming releases won’t follow a set template or style “the first EP is quite musical and the second EP is quite banging club techno so it’s quite a contrast but I want it to be a strong message, like you don’t know what to expect and I think that will coincide with the other artists that are signed to the label, not even signed to the label but tracks of theirs we might sign”. All told, an encouraging sign in today’s world of flatpacked house and techno.
Although I would have liked to continue our multi layered conversation the normal confines of a tight festival schedule meant our time together finished up in all to brief a fashion. It did however leave an defined impression of a artist who is only just getting started, a producer and performer who is striving for a level obtained by a select few, but with the drive to establish herself as a formidable force in a turbulent industry. An exciting journey awaits for B.Traits as she attempts to carve a place for herself at the table of top level artists, but if her radio adventure is anything to go by, we won’t have to wait long.
Photos: Yassir Laghdas – Oasis Festival