‘Lady of the House’ by Laila McKenzie and Ian ‘Snowy’ Snowball is a hardback coffee table style book containing beautiful images and interviews with women who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to making the Dance music scene.
The book, currently a Kick Starter project, features over 150 interviews from the likes of: Candi Staton, Barbara Tucker, Sam Divine, DJ Maxinne, Lynn Cosgrave, Rowetta, Ellen Allien, Nicky Trax, Janet Bell, Julie McKnight, Kathy Brown, Anja Schneider, Black Girl/White Girl, Ultra Naté, Jocelyn Brown, Arielle Free, Rochelle Fleming, DJ Paulette, Gladys Pizarro, Abigail Adams, Anne Savage, DJ Rap, Kym Sims and Kym Mazelle.
The book features real life stories, never been shared before photography and captures a real, honest and candid look at many women’s stories and truths about their journey within Dance music…
The book is a celebration of their achievements, and their mark on on the scene.
We caught up with both the authors about the project and what it means to them to to support female talent within the industry…
Thanks so much for taking the time to join us today! Congratulations on this amazing book! Talk to us a little bit about both your career and journey in House music?
Laila, talk to us a little bit about your career and journey in House music?
I have worked in the industry for 20 years. Things were different back then, there were hardly any rules.
I was going out partying from a very young age in Sheffield, in places like the Unit, Bed, Uropa, Republic (later turnt to Gatecrasher). I went to the Niche every weekend, that place blew my mind away. It opened from 12am-12pm on the weekend. Kabal and Love to be were also great.
When I was 17 I started going to Manchester, to afterparties in local pubs on a Sunday afternoon. I started going to Sankeys, V Bar, Monroes in Preston and Electric Chair. I was also going to Leeds around this time to Stinkys and SpeedQueen at Warehouse, Twilight, Mission and Mint. Then started going to Birmingham just around 18 to Premonitions, Moneypennys, G2 and sometimes we would pop over to the Sanctuary in Milton Keynes. Around this same time I started going down to London to warehouse parties especially in South and North London. A lot of that was a haze – we were always on the road just following the parties around, a whole entourage of cars and crew…it was the best days of my life.
At the same time, I was glass collecting at 16 and I started making money in clubs in quite a naughty way shall we say, I was living on my own at 16 and had left home at 15. I just wanted to be out there, streetlife as the song goes is the only life I had known.
I went down quite a few twists and turns and got into trouble along the way, but it shaped me into who I am today. I was 18 when I fell pregnant with my daughter and continued on the party life and with my shadier ways in clubs, then one day at 19 I decided I needed to sort my act out. I enrolled on a course at college to get a personal licence – I just knew I wanted to own a music venue one day. I was clueless really about what that would entail, but I did it and then went on to do some other courses surrounding the licenced trade. I went to university to do event management and around this time I had started to get an interest in parties. I started hiring small venues in Sheffield and doing small parties also helping other small venues promote their parties – just spreading the word around really and getting loads of people to come. In my 2nd year of access course I fell pregnant with my son but my tutor luckily pushed me to continue and I used to take him to classes.
The past few years I have also been working in club consulting and delivering nationwide tours. I started my own music events business Parallel Dimensions in 2014 and founded Fr808dom, a newly incorporated company, with the view to assist healing the wounds that have been created & brought to light within the electronic music industry during the pandemic.
I have been working with Ian ‘Snowy’ Snowball, writing ‘Lady of the House’, which I can’t wait to share!
Snowy, what have been some of books you’ve co-written?
Ooh! Last week was my 32nd book, that was the autobiography with one of the members from the band Madness. In recent years my books have included the autobio of Marshall Jefferson called Diary with a DJ, another on the Style Council called Soul Deep, and of course the forthcoming Lady of the House with Laila. I write novels too, and have a new novel coming out later this year-but that’s another story… literally!
Where did the idea come from to start the book? Talk to us about the collaboration between you both? Where did it all start? How has the pandemic effected your plans for this in anyway?
The idea popped into my head one day, and I often work on instinct, and the idea stuck. The deeper it sunk in the more I realised this was a book that has never been attempted. It was also a book that needed to happen. I, for one like to think I am a supporter of women. In fact, one of my novels was about two teenage girls who happen to be obsessed with the Beatles, and go on adventures to try and meet them. Also, the more I looked at gigs, the less I saw women DJs, and that just doesn’t seem right to me. Now, I know someone will yell ‘but Snowy, there are less women DJs’ and I hear all the counter arguments, but I still reckon the situation can be improved. I hope Lady of the House shines a light in some darker corners and some of the women in the book get more work, and recognition of the right kind.
I had already started interviewing and the first ones included Candi Staton, Barbara Tucker and Sam Divine. It just went whoooosh from there on, and because of this book I have been able to speak to incredible women. And that’s the point really, the book isn’t really about women in house music at all, it’s more about women who simply love what they do. It just happens to be about house as opposed to Hip Hop, R&B or some other genre.
Working with Laila has been fantastic. We didn’t know one another. It was Terry Farley who flagged her up as we both have done some writing for the FAITH fanzine. Laila and I clicked and I could tell, that with her, we’d pull this book off. And we have!
This is a pure labour of love, and we know how much passion and care goes into these kinds of projects. How many hours have you both spent working on this incredible book?
A big chunk of my life is spent interviewing people and then transcribing the interviews, which I still do the old fashion way (ie word by word), sentence by sentence, and this is important to me as that is the way I edit as I go, and allow the story to evolve naturally. I dare not think of the hours spent on any book… but let’s say you could watch Titanic a few times.
Why is supporting females within the industry important to you both?
Why would anyone not want to? What revealed itself to me by doing this book, and I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there have been moments when the support from certain individuals has been lacking – That’s a whole debate, but one that possibly needs to happen, if it will improve relationships and address historical attitudes and behaviours. After all, we all love House, and we all share this planet. We all need one another don’t we?
Women behind the scenes and on-stage have played an integral role in building the foundation of the Dance culture we celebrate today. The inspiring stories of these women have been untold for so many years. ‘Lady of the House’ is a community project that is bringing together the stories and achievements of women in dance from a span of generations.
So many women have been the glue of this industry we cherish today. The long-term aim of this book is to be used as a blueprint of inspiration for future generations and to encourage young women to enter the dance scene, which can be overwhelming seeing how male the industry is. I have been working in this industry for 20 years and understand that it is important to support marginalised groups , now more than ever with the past years global events & wisdom that has come from them. As a mixed race woman it has saddened me to see the white washing of the Dance scene. This is why the book is heavily focused on black and brown women, as they have contributed so much to dance culture. Respecting and upholding the legacy of the people that paved the wave for dance music is crucial, as we wouldn’t be here today without them laying the foundation of the dance music scene.
Laila growing up, who were your idols within Dance music?
Too many to mention Todd Terry, Carl Cox, Graeme Park, Black Box, Candi Staton, Frankie Knuckles, Snap, Baby D, Robin S, Slipmatt, Faithless, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Stardust, Ultra Nate.
Who are the female artists / songwriters / women working behind the scene you really admire today?
Jayda G, Jaguar, Annie Mac, all the originators and divas who feature in the book like Barbara Tucker, Kym Syms, Sam Divine… there are so many to mention! And BIG shout out to women who work relentlessly behind the scenes: Lynn Cosgrave (Industry heavyweight consultant, Former manager for Carl Cox for 22 years) , Maria May (industry professional & professional artist agent with over 20 years representing artists including Frankie Knuckles, Paul Oakenfold, David Morales) Silvana Kill (Night Time Industries Association)
What have been some of the best stories you’ve heard?
For me, it’s the richness of the advice that the women have offered. I mean really, really good stuff. For my part, I want a young woman, say sixteen years old to pick the book up, read the stories and experiences from the women that have paved the way and are still building, and feel inspired, empowered and confident to give it a go, and chase a dream. And then realise those dreams, just like the women in the book have done through graft, learning and loving.
Have there been any ‘pinch me’ moments when you’ve been speaking to artists to get involved?
One of my fondest memories of the book will be speaking to Candi Staton and Rochelle Flemming. I mean those two go way back into house history, and they have tales to tell!
You’ve included some beautiful candid shots of Candi Staton, it must have been amazing to see some of these images that perhaps nobody else has seen before?
Yes, we wanted to create a really classy, quality coffee table style book, with lots of images to support the women’s stories. Candi, for example sent us a pic of her looking glamorous on stage, just as we would think about her, but then another pic of her in a hospital bed during the time when she was being treated for cancer. And this is exactly what we want the book to show-all aspects of the women. Not just the artist, diva, boss… because women (and the chaps) are so much more.
Carl Cox has also written the foreword! That’s amazing. It must be incredible to have support from an artist of that calibre?
Yes, we have Lynn Cosgrave to thank for that. Lynn’s been a huge help. We have several that really given us a boost (including Toolroom) So, having Carl is incredible and the words in his foreword.
Since the project launched, what’s been some of the feedback you’ve received?
I think the message that keeps getting highlighted is ‘this is a book that needs to happen’, and I’ll feel proud when its sitting on peoples’ coffee tables, and Laila and I can say we did something worthwhile.
You’ve also included Toolroom’s very own #WeAreListening (Thank you for supporting us!) Why do you think female incentives like this are important to the industry?
It was important to Laila and I to use Lady of the House as a platform for women to have their voice/story heard. I actually approached a few publishers pitching the idea, but they weren’t interested. This didn’t surprise me, and it says a lot about how women in the music biz are perceived still. Hence the Kickstarter that we decided on. Our knock back simply spurred us on. I think incentives like WAL are very much needed to help break down walls, barriers and ‘stick it to the man!’
Laila, what advice would you give to someone who wanted to make it within the Dance music industry?
Be yourself, don’t let anyone change you, stand your ground. Don’t give up when you get knocked back – because you will a lot…just keep going. Be honest, be real, be fair, be helpful and be friendly. Know your worth, know why you’re doing what you’re doing and most of all learn to know yourself. Network, network, network and always take the guidance of those who have your best interest at heart and who have been around longer than you.
Show your support for ‘Lady Of The House’ via the online Kickstarter campaign. The authors of the book will donate £1 from the sale of every book to the Night Time Industries Association’s (NTIA) Savenightlife CIC.