This music enthusiast has been showcasing global sounds for years in Dubai, so with over 20 years music industry experience, London born Megatronic is busier than ever releasing new music, managing artist fromthediasporas and beyond, touring the world with her electrifying DJ sets, all while mentoring emerging talent to stay true to their essence whilst reaching their full potential.This month she shares the Fresh off tour Megatronic is back in Dubai, having rocked summer events in London, Mexico, New York, to name only a few, I spoke with Meg once she was back home and settled, I couldn’t wait to get our conversation started:how, and why’s of her adventures with Venus Flytraxx.
Fresh off tour Megatronic is back in Dubai, having rocked summer events in London, Mexico, New York, to name only a few. I spoke with the artist once she was back home and settled, I couldn’t wait to get our conversation started:
VENUS: Hi Meg, we really appreciate you taking this time to speak with the SITH community, congrats on a successful summer tour, now it’s only right that I represent for all of the old school 80s cartoon fans, and use my first question to discover the roots of your name Megatronic, is it in any way associated with Transformers (robots in disguise) and the baddest decepticon of all time Megatron? tell us we want to know
MEG: Yeah, Megatronic is a childhood nickname, I think from around the age of 8-10. I grew up in an era where little girls weren’t supposed to do anything, except to wear dresses and play with dolls. This really didn’t fit my personality, I just simply wasn’t interested in this society narrative.
So from a young age I was really determined to do stuff my own way, for example, if I would see some local boys playing football and would ask to play.. But most times these requests would be ignored. Taking matters into my own arms, I would sometimes take the ball or just go in for a tackle and score. Creating attention via my skill set, it would work most times.. Other times I would just get beat up. I naturally was good at stuff you know, because I think as a child I was super fearless.
VENUS: Word, it’s good to break the norm, I love when women go against the grain. Well that’s certainly a fun fact to know. So Megatronic, now you’re back off tour and settled home in Dubai. I mean, i’m curious to know what made you decide to leave the UK and choose Dubai as your musical hub?
MEG: Well actually before I moved to Dubai, I lived in Stockholm for six months, and that’s how Megatronic became a project actually, because before it was just a nickname that I wasn’t actually using, then I went to Sweden and I recorded an EP with this Swedish Grammy award winning producer called Marcus Price. Six months later I moved to LA for about two years, where I was in and out of that city, unfortunately the LA scene was really tough and a lot of the time felt a bit like boys clubs.
I was playing gigs but the money was super low, not really enough to survive in a city like Los Angeles. The sadness of this reality resulted in me just partying a bit too much to be perfectly honest, and my whole reason for this exhibition and traveling was coming out of a shitty relationship, so yeah I was like “I’ll turn my pain into music” and whatever. I just wasn’t really happy, then a friend of mine who I went to University with, invited me to come on holiday basically, she was like: “why don’t you come out here for two weeks”? So I did and I never left.
9th of December 2016 is the day I landed in Dubai, just no idea of what to expect but I just needed a change. I saw a gap in the market, because there weren’t a lot of female DJs here, and around that time this was slowly becoming a new narrative for the world. So no disrespect to the girls that were out here hustling, they were good, but they were playing terrible music. I guess for me I came in with a slight bit of arrogance right, so it didn’t work, my first six months was horrendous, I was in some shitty conditions, I’m not gonna lie, like sleeping in a room that had no windows and stuff, I was like “I can’t carry on like this”, so I went back to LA and and then I got a call from an event agency in Dubai regarding an event for a luxury brand.
That’s how the whole Dubai chapter changed overnight, I have to really put it on to Cardi B actually, as the client booked me to play Disco, House, Broken Beats and stuff which are really like my genres, you know where my heart is. Observing the crowd reaction to these genres, people were dancing but not really going wild. I just looked at this crowd and dropped “Cardi B – Bodak Yellow’ and it went off, 800 people just lost their minds, no lie, the dance floor erupted. People were like “woah who’s this girl”, they didn’t know I lived in Dubai, they thought I was some DJ from LA (hahaha) so that was the beginning, it was epic. I’ve got that footage somewhere as they recorded the moment.
VENUS: Wow, it sounds like such an exciting time, traveling from London, LA, Stockholm to Dubai, a real melting pot, well as I’ve been discovering your musical journey which is super inspirational as multi- talented musician, no one can put you in a box as you’re a talented songwriter, singer, you play guitar, DJ, produce to name only a few. Looking back at your time as part of the band, Black Cherry, was there a particular artist on TV or Radio who inspired you to want to make music?
MEG: My early experiences with music was around 7-8, I was given a Tina Turner record ‘Nutbush City Limits’ however we didn’t get a vinyl player till the following year. One of the things that I remember was being obsessed with her. We had this aunt who basically is one of my mom’s first friends that she met when she moved from West Africa to the UK. She didn’t have a kid so every year she’d come for Christmas, and she’d put on a Tina Turner wig, do a whole dance you know, cos Tina Turner was such an idol for me.
I think that was the start of me singing around the house, especially coming from an African family, the whole dialect in our house is really quite loud and vibrant, everything sounds musical, for e.g listening to my mom talk on the phone and my dad having conversations was tuneful. My parents come from different parts of West Africa, so their native tongues are different from each other’s. They would speak creole to each other in our home, which is like broken English, but with more emphasis on rhythmic tones of the words. Growing in North/East London, bringing very much a 3rd culture kid, surrounded by other 3rd culture kids, it was just vibrant all the time.
London is noisy, there’s so much constantly happening, it truly is one of the first diverse cities in Europe. I think all this noise helped me to tune my ears from quite young, to gather a more attentive detail to sounds. Pinpointing intricate noises in the bigger landscape of sounds. My mum worked so much, so did my dad, and being the youngest child, they used to leave me in the front room, and put musicals on TV. My mother often tells me “you were such a happy baby, I could hear you laughing from the kitchen, you would just be watching all these musicals, being really content by yourself”.
In 1988, Neneh Cherry dropped “Buffalo Stance”. This track really was the beginning of a major change for me. She was so cool, so much attitude, so much style .. Neneh was way before her time and there wasn’t enough of this kinda artist on TV.
The buzz of R&B started growing into a big thing, 90s R&B was huge, Radio presenters like: Trevor Nelson having a R&B show on MTV “The Lick” was something new for us to see. The world was changing, which was super exciting for me at the time. I remember being really loving SWV, Brandy & Monica and various other artists of this time. A few years later, I stepped into my early teens and my taste completely changed and my love for Indie bands developed super fast. I just didn’t feel the black girl that I was, was being represented in any of that music because I was a little bit quirky, you know like Issa Rae in her show ‘Insecure’, the Awkward Black Girl.
After years of buying every Indie band CDs, I decided that I wanted to play guitar. When I was around 15, I was doing a paper round dodging a dog every week, getting bitten, climbing over walls, just running most of the time. I worked super hard and earned enough money to buy my first guitar, an acoustic one.
I couldn’t afford a guitar teacher, so I bought this CD with a guy teaching guitar saying “put your finger on the third fret” etc, so I literally spent the next two years torturing everybody at my mom’s house learning to play guitar from 15/16 to like 17/18 until I got better at it. Once I could start writing my own material, my love for guitar really grew. I played it all the time and then I discovered PJ Harvey. A singer/songwriter who plays the biggest guitar riffs on stage while looking like an angel. What a statement!
Artists like Prince had a big influence on me. I had to really find these role models, but the problem I kept facing was that none of them looked like me, so I knew this was gonna be tough.
VENUS: Well you’re in League of your own, and it’s so interesting that people like Prince, Neneh Cherry were role models proving that representation matters. When Neneh Cherry entered the charts fans probably thought she’d only make Hip Hop, so when she was the featured vocalist on Youssou N’Dour ‘7 Seconds’, it broke the stereotype in a similar fashion to Tina Turner proving that black artist can also express themselves through Blues, Rock, like Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Chuck Berry, MJ, Prince, Tracy Chapman injecting Soul into Indie/ Alternative which are the influences I hear when listening to your catalog as Black Cherry.
It’s no wonder why you got embraced on the Festival circuit, so when you look back to a decade ago being well received by British Media outlets like the Guardian, performing at Glastonbury, did you get to pause and celebrate the fact that you came from learning guitar in your bedroom, to being on huge UK Festival stages, like did you get time to enjoy your success?
BLACK CHERRY ON THE ROAD…
MEG: I’ll be honest, I feel that I didn’t at the time, I was so heavily involved in the mechanics of it all, people always tell me I look young, and I think it’s because I didn’t spend that time doing what young females do, going out with friends, looking for boys. I was just so heavily focused on my band, I mean yeah I had boyfriends, but I was in love with creating, fully immersed in music. Not so much wanting to make it big, but more so having respect from our peers for what we were doing. So I dedicated my life to that band, rehearsing, writing, acting as the manager/agent till we eventually got those people in place.
Even family members like my sister, my brother in law (my sister’s husband) were also a really big part of the band, my brother in law was our tour driver and my sister came to every gig like, like a mascot, supporting me while helping to deal with the stress of tour life.
So yeah, when I look back on it, I really feel like I was in my own sort of bubble/sphere with these people, it was magical, to which I have mad moments of nostalgia. Like next year (2023) will be 10 years that we released this album that was that kind of before Spotify, it’s kind of weird that we’ve now put our music back on Spotify, but it’s got zero plays, (haha) it’s insane, YouTube, wiped most of our content five years ago but there’s still a few vids floating about. These days I feel like I can step back and look at it objectively and be like, shit, we did some cool stuff man. People generally think things happen overnight, which is absolute nonsense, we played every shitty little venue in the UK six years before a guy with really bad shoes came up to me saying “you remind me of Neneh Cherry”, and I was like, “that is the worst chat up line bruv”.
He turned out to be a super big agent, even to this day we still talk, he just really saw what I was trying to put out. I had this theory that what we were doing was going to change a lot of people’s perspectives, it wasn’t just for us, I wanted to make a change. I think I might have applied a bit too much pressure to myself at a young age to make enough money to buy my mum a house and all of this stuff, instead of just being in music, you know? So when I look back at the pictures and stuff I can see that I was a little bit shocked most of the time like “wow this is really happening”.
VENUS: Sounds like you felt both shocked and overwhelmed, almost like you’re having an out of body experience looking in at all. It’s an amazing journey, that whole chapter from 10 years ago with you juggling all of these balls, wearing different hats, now here we are 10 years later, in 2022 and you’re still juggling and wearing multiple hats as Megatronic, then you’ve formed your own management company, “Megatronic Management”, you’re involved with events such as; Female First Sessions, your brand “FemmeFest” plus broadcasting on Worldwide FM etc, you recently taught a Masterclass, which is so dope as you’re able to inject all of that knowledge and experience into the next generations wanting to enter the music business. So did all of the above help you to decide to start managing artist?
MEG: That was a hard decision because there’s a bit of a stigma when artists become managers, as if it’s the end of your artist career. I feel like I’m not giving up what I’m creating. I am not a failed artist, trying to push it through someone else. That wasn’t my reason for it, I just was kind of bored of how the industry is, and I guess the way that I was treated, I just didn’t want it to happen to anybody else. So it was during COVID that the management company started actually, I felt like I could manage and I’ve been asked a few times over the years but I was like “nahhh”, I’ve even been asked to join management companies, offered salaries and stuff which i declined. Then I met my first artist Desta French, she had a great story, an incredible singer songwriter that wants to elevate a genre that the UK music scene is not paying attention to yet. So I thought ooh, this is a challenge (chuckling to herself) plus her music was amazing, live performance was insane and as a person she’s dope. The respect levels were returned, the feelings are mutual.
Our relationship is cool, I’m enjoying it, of course it’s a lot of work, I’m not trying to sugar-coat it, you’re responsible for somebody else’s life in that respect, and the first time Desta said that to me, she’s like “this is my life, you know”, now I literally remember saying that to my manager, 15 years ago, when I thought they weren’t doing enough, but I was like, “you know, this is my life, I really want you to take it serious.”
So to hear that again I thought this is great, now I get to be on the other side of it, I feel like everything that I wasn’t getting from my manager I can put in managing other artists.
I don’t know how it happened, it wasn’t planned. I just kind of met the artists that made me want to manage, it made sense. I didn’t set up the company before meeting the artists, I met my artist first, like I met Nadine El Roubi before I met Desta, so I always had this bubbling for Nadine cos her story is so unique as well, she’s Sudanese, plus she raps, she Muslim and a very modest young lady. There’s just so much connotation to her story, she’s really quite vocal in what she’s talking about, and she still lives in this region, where you can be expressive, but you also have to be careful of how expressive you are.
So suddenly it was like, oh now I have two artist, it’s kind of crazy like i met Theodor Black when i was at Desta’s gig and good friend of mine was like, you should manage this guy, he’s amazing, I was like, what guy and he was right there so we got talking, his work ethics, humour, and him as young man is super charming. Then Demigosh is like a deep, dark, intelligent, beautiful Nigerian man, his songs filled you with deep ancestry vibes.
INTRODUCING SMTHNG SMTIME
VENUS: Amazing, the thing that’s so cool is it’s a natural evolution for you, what I love the most, is that you’re breaking the mold, where the industry suffocates creatives with rules like artist managing other artist is the end of your musician journey, you go completely against the grain by saying “it doesn’t have to be the end of my artistry, i’m still doing my thing” yep, that part (in my Jada Pinkett-Smith voice).
So MEG here we are at the start of Autumn and your receiving great reviews on your current project featured in DJ MAG’S “12 emerging artist you need to hear this fall (2022)” released under the moniker: SMTHNG SMTIME with your fellow collaborator Edseven, who SITH fam should hopefully be familiar with as he is part of the ‘New World’ EP you both dropped in 2020, I remember Natasha Diggs kept ‘I Don’t Care’ in frequent rotation during those lockdown streams. (I brought it as soon as i Shazamed it), i love that jam, and was spinning it in my streams too.
MEG: Yeah, the project was based around some tracks that I had started producing during lockdown and got stuck on. As a producer, I work much better if I am working alongside someone else, so with this in mind I set myself the task to find three very different producers to work the EP with and EDseven production stood out to me the most.
Only recently, Ed & myself met for the second time in NYC… this whole project has run mainly via the power of the internet and late night zoom chats.
VENUS: Really? Yeah I knew he’s from down under, I just thought you were two homies, that are big music lovers deciding to collaborate, as listening to the current ‘Geographic’ EP, (released June 2022) it’s such a beautiful blend of sound, it feels like you guys are jamming in the studio together to create such a diverse and authentic vibe on each track, and yet that’s not the case, wow, major salutes!
MEG: We actually met properly on this tour in America, the first time we met he was DJ’ing at ‘Soul of Sydney’. ’ It was packed party, so I asked who was DJ’ing and it turned out to be Ed, so I filmed him, told him he was awesome, plus he’s a friend of a friend, so we just started talking to each other on the internet, sharing music, and i think my experience with Ed is that he has a real deep knowledge of music, especially black music and is respectful in the way how he puts it out. He knows his stuff so that’s what I found exciting, we began our three year relationship over Zoom, (hahaha)
We’ve been through break ups, mum’s getting ill, teenage daughter tantrums, you know we’ve gone through alot together which has been an interesting way to approach projects, as i’m running a management company, so doing projects in this way, has given me the freedom to work more with my artist, cos I feel like if Ed was right next to me, we’d be just making music all the time, then I would be neglecting certain duties. I thought this would be healthy for the progress of my own development to work on a project in this way. It’s been really interesting, pushing us both, so I’ve definitely become a better producer from it. The same goes for Ed, the two of us have a very good, respectful understanding of each other. If one of us isn’t feeling something we just don’t carry on, we don’t get all sensitive, he’ll be like “oh, I’ll just use this song for something else”, and i’m like, “sweet”, and vice versa, so it’s been it’s been a fun process, and it’s had success which i’ve been shocked by.
VENUS: ‘Geographic’ is dope and all the feedback, and reviews online have been really positive, as there’s something for everyone, from the Samba vibes of: ‘Morning Love’, the EP title track ‘Geographic’ infused with a healthy dose of horns, the Housey vibes of ‘Bad Braids’ and ‘Musing’ which oozes the global vibrations that we all love, it’s not overkill either, just enough to leave us all yearning for more, so will there be more?
MEG: Yessss, there’s loads more. Super excited about this project development as we were just in New York together, and the idea for the project is that it doesn’t always feature my vocals, so we’ve done features with various different artists worldwide, that’s our thing hence why our name is SMTHNG SMTIME as literally it is just something, these are our ideas and we say “fvck it” and sometimes they work.
The next releases will just be singles, we already have one that has my friend Domenica on it, from Underground System playing the flute and she completely mashed up the track. I’m really hyped about it (she says with a huge smile on her face).
VENUS: I Can’t wait to hear that one, so what about Megatronic has she got any more joints coming out?
MEG: No, not for now, I like the spoken word with the aggressive rap and comedy edge it was fun, but i think it’s had it’s time, and i’ve just really moved on from that, so will be working more with Edseven, the SMTHNG SMTIME project with our incredible features ready to drop in 2023… Summer anthems incoming!
VENUS: Ok so your hands are full with SMTHNG SMTIME, plus your artist roster, so tip us on who we should be looking out for in 2023?
MEG: All of them (hahaha) right now Nadine El Roubi is killing it, she signed a distribution deal with Shlonak Records she’s totally bossing it, like I don’t know what happened during the summer but she’s come back with pure fire. Then Desta French has an album coming 2023, Theodor has so much music ready to go, that guy just makes songs for breakfast. Demigosh is busy making films and music, they’ve all got projects coming so there’s gonna be a lot of heat in 2023, even from me (she laughs).
VENUS: Well that is good news (smile), speaking of news, I have to say the recent announcement by Giles Peterson about his radio brand ‘Worldwide FM’ taking a sabbatical to create a more minimal service, was surprising yet understandable as the pandemic aftershock continues to affect the economy.Do you think DJs, Broadcasters alike should spend more time embracing current technology like Twitch, Instagram Live, TikTok, YouTube, Mixcloud, Soundcloud, etc to showcase their music palette and connect with audiences?
MEG: Yeah I’m super sad about Worldwide FM, but seriously what a difference it made to so many people during these strange times. Incredibly happy to be part of that journey, but I 100% think it’s time to embrace current technology – Mixcloud Live saved my life during lockdown, without my regular DJ stream, I think I would have died of boredom. ‘Femme Fest’ in 2020 did a full digital festival, showcasing artists from all over the region over 2 days, gaining around 10K+ viewers. People will always want to hear good music whatever the format it’s delivered in… there is always an audience.
VENUS: So true, and I’m sure audiences are looking forward to hearing from you again. Are you going back on the road soon or will you be chilling in Dubai for the rest of the year?
MEG: Yep I’m gonna be back in London, then i’m off to Saudi to prepare the next ‘Femme Fest’ for the XP Music Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as we was there last year, doing some night programming, we built a cinema commissioning visual artists based around the theme “Definition Femine”. So we do some small events over the remainder of the year and then everything leads up to next year (2023) Femme Fest in March, though the date changes yearly based on Ramadan.
THE CONCEPTION OF FEMME FEST…
VENUS: Ahhh, yes i’ve heard of ‘Femme Fest’ through your social media posts etc, so tell me what was your motivation for the Female First sessions and the birth of the event you refer to as your baby, ‘Femme Fest’?
MEG: When I moved to Dubai in the winter of 2016, I only knew a handful of people who I went to University with many years ago, all working in completely different fields to me. I was desperate to make like minded friends and meet fellow creatives from within the region, so I gradually started to engage with people outside of my original circle through my DJ work. By the end of 2017, almost a year later, I still felt there was a gap in the market for female talent, and this wasn’t solely a regional problem, it was a worldwide issue.
Towards the end of the year I created a proposal based around a multi-disciplinary event that would connect like minded creatives, with a focus on amplifying the female narrative. By March 2018 at the home of Barbary (Joey Ghazal), ‘Female First Sessions’ was born and so was a team of women who helped me grow the concept; Natalie Lines, Liz Wentling, Nour Zaghloul, and Sophie Le Ray.
From the very first event, it was clear that this was a much needed space. Each event started with a performance by a Spoken Word artist, followed by an interview with a woman in business, then a live music artist and DJ to end the show. During the show, a visual artist would create a digital or non-digital display to be presented to the crowd. It’s hard to say if the concept was original, but it was definitely effective.
After 8 months of regularly putting on monthly ‘Female First Sessions’ events and activities with various different brands, we were invited by Puma to curate a show on their stage at SoleDXD. This was a real turning point for the brand and after the success of the party, achieving bookings such as Dope Saint Jude, we knew it was time to create our own festival, so ‘Femme Fest’ was born in March 2019.
VENUS: Wow what a journey, well It’s fair to say more spotlight is now being put upon female artists than ever before, thanks to social media movements, artist’s speaking out against sexism within the industry, and people like yourself creating opportunities. I remember huge debates were sparked by the Anti-Racism protests of 2020 with many black Dance artists being vocal about the lack of diversity/inclusion on Dance Festival line ups, or promoted club events. Did you notice any positive changes to your bookings since 2020?
KEEPING IT REAL…
MEG: Mmmmmm, this is a tough one, because I still feel like I’m living in a very white male dominated space. Yes, I may be playing better shows since 2020, but I have worked very hard to get my footing in the Dance world and it still doesn’t feel right. The gates are still very much being kept closed, and the industry is still a very exclusive one. I can honestly say, I retired from that game, I started to crave and create spaces where myself and others could exist plus thrive in our own right.
VENUS: I totally feel you on that, and I’m sure others can relate too. Well having experienced so much in showbiz, what changes do you hope to see in the music industry/DJ scene over the next 10 years?
MEG: The music industry needs to change dramatically, it really needs a huge reset, starting with promoters all the way to the men behind the scenes. More responsibility needs to be taken for people’s mental health, and a no tolerance approach to abusive conditions being employed and upheld. More inclusion and diversity is needed at the top seats (BBC, MTV, Spotify, Sony, Warner etc) as the music industry has become a money making machine, and is constantly moving further away from what it once stood for, which is communication, freedom, expression, joy and community. We are slowly rebuilding these foundations worldwide, but unfortunately we have to create new spaces to regain what the current spaces and those governing them have attempted to take from us, control over our own narratives and the liberty to create as we please, it’s exhausting.
VENUS: Meg everything you’re saying I can relate to and you’re right, it’s very exhausting, yet your journey is packed with so much inspiration. The SITH Creative Community is always encouraged by each other’s stories, so through the ups and downs of your path, can you think of a few songs that have kept you motivated and feeling good?
MEG: Yeah a few songs, the whole album by Cinematic Orchestra – “Every Day” each song is so good!!!
VENUS: Sounds like a timeless piece right there, I’m gonna check that album out, it leads me to wonder with such a hectic international schedule, on your days off from music what are your favourite things to do that help to keep you grounded?
MEG: Days off from music? hahaha I never stop listening!!! I love to get outdoors, to the beach, go cycling, play sports and go dancing when I’m not DJ’ing.
VENUS: Sounds like fun, listen you are such a boss MEG and this has been epic, thank you for sharing this special time with us.
MEG: Of course, and thank you so much, this was awesome, I look forward to meeting you in person. (zoom call ends)
As our conversation came to an end, I was left smiling, reminded of how in awe I am of artist that brave the wild seas of the music business, riding the bliss of success waves, yet searching deep within to get back on the surfboard after each wipe out. Extraordinary individuals that express their artistry by standing out in the crowd, using their voice and passion to forge paths for
themselves while sharing the route with others, ensuring their destination is met with an amalgamation of unique talents spreading their sound, telling their stories and representing change. Megatronic is one of those artist, a leader, truly breaking barriers, shaping music culture across the Mena Region, & Diasporas, she is half woman, half amazing and i’m excited to see all that shall be transformed by her Mega moves in 2023, so in the words of Megatronic herself “COME ON”!!!
Megatronic Management: https://instagram.com/megatronic_mgmt
Desta French: https://instagram.com/destafrench
Nadine El Roubi: https://instagram.com/nadineelroubi
Theodor Black: https://instagram.com/theodorblack