CHECKIN’ IN WITH LEANNE WRIGHT
Starting off this year, we decided to begin a new series called ‘Checkin’ In With…’ where we sit down and highlight women we consider to be friends & family of Patta and speak to them about their careers, personal experiences in and out of lockdowns, and what has got them through this period.
For the second part of our series, we interviewed Leanne Wright - a Canadian DJ and broadcaster who moved to the UK during the 90’s, who has an immense knowledge on the history of UK music. Alongside her monthly show on Worldwide FM, she’s a curator and producer working beside artist Robi Walters in his Soho gallery on the corner of Silver Place, placed next to our London store. Leanne worked at Portobello Road’s Honest Jon’s record store in the 90s, featured on the list of the world’s best record stores. She helped design record covers and club flyers for West London and Broken Beat producers, including Benji B’s Deviation, Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood and Charlie Dark’s Blacktronica logos.
Read our conversation below.
Can you tell us about where you are from and what you do?
I’m originally from a (very) small town in Ontario, Canada but I’ve lived in London for over 15 years. Canada is my home; London is my hometown.
I’m so fortunate to be able to submerge myself in two creative spheres I love - art and music.
I work with London-based artist Robi Walters in his Soho gallery - curating exhibitions and overseeing special projects and collaborations.
I’m also a DJ and broadcaster. I've had a monthly show on Worldwide FM since it launched around four years ago. Recently, I've been producing audio documentaries.
Who were your main influences growing up?
My main influences growing up were my parents - especially my dad; a playful dreamer, writer and passionate conservationist. He taught my sister and I a deep respect for the planet and the people we have the honour of sharing it with.
Musically though when I first came to London to visit friends (in the early 90’s), they took me to a rave. Like a proper meet at a petrol station off the M25 and drive to a barn in a field kind of deal. I’d never heard nor experienced ANYTHING like it. It blew my head off! I’ve pretty much been here ever since.
I’ll always be so thankful I was in London to experience Jungle and Broken Beat at the time they happened. While most music comes and goes in waves and cycles, the energy of these two scenes has been like nothing else.
How did your career start and where?
I guess it began in my teens; tuning into college and late night radio stations and creating mixtapes, drawing, sewing, making. I had a room in the attic of our house so I could make noise and mess and stay up late. I’m still a night person - it's when I feel most creative.
Once I moved to London, I found my community through music. I was living in West London and working behind the counter at Honest Jons in the late 90’s and was also helping a DJ called Patrick Forge on his radio show on Kiss FM. At the same time, Robi and I were also designing record covers and club flyers for all of the West London/Broken Beat producers and we created Benji B’s Deviation, Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood and Charlie Dark’s Blacktronica logos.
It’s the London sound that informs and feeds me - underground, electronic ‘dance’ music that's been touched or fed through the filter of sound system culture. It’s what makes London so unique.
What’s the biggest highlight of your career so far?
I would say it has to be producing an audio documentary on American producer/arranger Charles Stepney with my friend Kam Bhogal. After two years of research, interviews and editing we were like "is this thing even any good?!”. A few days after it went out, Gilles Peterson forwarded a text from Questlove saying that he and Solange had listened and loved it.
It was crazy; we couldn't believe it! We got similar feedback from Q-Tip and industry heads which has given us the confidence to go ahead and work on other projects. But the response from the Stepney family was the most important. It’s a huge responsibility telling someone else’s story.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome?
I think that has to be me. Yes, it’s probably been more difficult being a woman in the music industry but that’s something that would never stop me. It’s getting out of my own head. It’s giving myself permission to reach and grow and make my dreams a reality. That’s been the biggest challenge.
What’s your lockdown routine been like?
The two lockdowns have been so different. The first one was like a shock. Initially it felt good to take some quality time - some unprecedented time with my family and some time for self reflection. Then I think that shock and fear created a sort of state of suspended animation and I lost a bit of focus.
This second lockdown has been really different. It didn’t feel as strange and uncomfortable so I’ve been much more productive. Working on existing projects, lots of research for new projects and collaborations. Planting seeds...
What would be the biggest thing you've learned or taken from the first lockdown that has helped you through this one?
Get out of my head, get out of my pjs.
Has your creative process dramatically altered this time around?
I’ve recorded almost all of my radio shows from home in 2020, which I’ve enjoyed. It’s given me more time to research and plan them. I miss doing shows and interviews with guests but I’ve had some great mixes from artists outside of the U.K.
We’ve adapted to not working face to face quite quickly. It’s been great for working on collaborative projects with artists from around the world but it will never replace the dynamic energy of being in a room with people in the flesh!
How do you see this changing/affecting your industry going forward?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Especially the way we experience music and going out. Going to a club, dancing in a field with a thousand other people...It all seems like a dream. Will it ever happen again? Probably. How or when we don't know. Mostly I hope everything that’s happened in 2020 encourages us to think about the quality of communication and to value truly connecting with one another.
Do you have any advice or tips on how to remain positive during these times?
Be present, create some structure, be kind.
One day at a time.
What artists have got you through this period?
There are way too many to mention, but here’s a short list (and I highly recommend checking them out) :
What’s the one thing you most look forward to after lockdown?
The dance, a dark corner, the feeling of freedom, expression and release - of letting go that’s what I'm looking forward to.
And lastly, how did you get linked with Patta?
Simple geography! Robi’s gallery is two doors down from Patta on the corner of Ingestre and Silver Place. We’re neighbours who have become friends who have become family. These families and connections with other families are how communities are built. If there’s one thing lockdown has taught us, it’s how vital these connections are.
Words & photography by: Olivia Jankowska