This new duo already have long industry CVs to their name, but now they're stepping out in their own right
Articles offering advice on how to get ahead in your DJ and/or production career aren't exactly hard to find, either in print or online. We've published plenty of them ourselves, come to that! And one piece of advice you'll often read, is that if you want to 'make it' (whatever that means these days) as an artist or performer in the music industry, it helps to have some knowledge of how the industry works - in other words, to find yourself a job on the 'behind the scenes' side of the industry.
It works, too. We won't name names, to save embarrassment, but there are quite a few of today's star names that we've known since they were cloakroom attendants or junior PR execs. We don't buy that it's who you know, not what you know - this is a competitive game and if you haven't got at least a modicum of talent you're not gonna get very far (Hollyoaks B-listers "DJing" at your local townie hellhole chain club not withstanding). But if you've got that talent, knowing a few of the right people certainly never hurts!
Yet when people do finally get that big break they've been waiting for, the issue's almost never discussed any more. So when we heard that Anna Wall & Corbi - two individuals with long industry track records - had a new single coming out, it seemed like a good chance to talk to someone who's actually done the whole 'foot in the door' thing and get an opinion from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The fact that the record in question is a reworking of a track by, of all people, Roger Taylor from pomp-rock dinosaurs Queen also had us kinda intrigued...
The two of you reportedly met while both working at Defected. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Anna: "We met when I was radio plugging and Juan was A&Ring at Defected, and we realised we had very similar tastes in music. We were constantly swapping tunes as we both worked on the in-house radio show... it just kind of went from there really."
Corbi: "We knew pretty quickly we had a lot in common musically during our time working together at Defected. As Anna mentioned, we would constantly swap tracks and chat about ideas for our own productions. This continued after we had moved on, and eventually we got in the studio together."
How do you feel that having an 'industry' background has helped you in your DJ/production career(s)?
Anna: "I definitely learnt a lot back then about how the industry works. I think it's interesting seeing the cogs in motion from both sides, and it definitely teaches you what you want to look for in signing to a label or agency."
Corbi: "It massively helped, I was pretty much using Ableton all day everyday for over three years at Defected, so the skills and knowledge gained there certainly helped me production-wise. Also having that industry background allowed me to make great friends and contacts which always helps to move things forward."
What advice would you give to anyone starting out who's thinking of going down a similar path and looking for a 'dance music day job'?
Anna: "A lot of it is about clocking up experience. I worked for free for so many years before my first paid role, so sometimes you have to make sacrifices. I think my advice would be to read up on everything that's happening in the music industry and get the knowledge (Music Weekly, CMU, Record Of The Day etc); know the ins and outs of the role you're interested in, if it's a genre route you want to go down, then find out the history and the labels that support it. People eventually took note of my passion and persistence!"
Corbi: "I would advise that you be prepared to do what it takes, put the hours in (often for no money at first), learn as much as you can from everything available, gain experience, be reliable, make contacts etc... because opportunities will come and that way you are best placed to take full advantage of them when they do."
Your latest release is a remix of Two Sharp Pencils (That's Bad) by Roger Taylor from Queen. Not the most obvious choice, so how did that come about?
Anna: "I met Roger's wife Sarina when I lived in Ibiza, and that’s how we all became friends. I have so many stories from my time on the island! It was such an honour when they asked me to remix the track - it originally came out in 1984 and I loved it."
Corbi: "Anna came to me with the idea to remix this track, I’d never heard it before but she was like ‘YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS’ and I absolutely did, and that was largely due to it being not obvious and different. It’s just so quirky that it was an absolute pleasure to work on."
Are 'Anna Wall & Corbi' a unit, professionally speaking, for the foreseeable now? Or is this collaboration a one-off/occasional thing?
Anna: "Juan and I have a great workflow together and we've nearly finished a follow-up EP...when we DJ B2B it's always a blast as we love the same music, but he'll be constantly pulling something out the bag that keeps me on my toes. I work with other producers, too, as I love working collaboratively, but this is the start of something exciting for us."
Corbi: "It’s definitely something we want to continue doing both for productions and DJing. Working in the studio with Anna is really easy: our ideas manifest themselves quickly and that’s how it should be. We really vibe off each other when we DJ together - it just works, you know?"
How do the two of you work together: are you generally in the studio together or do you work remotely?
Anna: "We've been working at Juan's studio in Ibiza so it's a great excuse to go visit my old stomping grounds. There's definitely some more trips in the pipeline!"
Corbi: "It’s a bit of both really, my studio is in Ibiza and Anna lives in London so when she’s not here we are chatting regularly about samples we’ve collected and ideas for tracks. We both have folders full of random audio snippets that we’ve found so that when she is here we take full advantage of our time in the studio and can get on with things straight away."
Anna, judging by your social media pages your DJ diary's pretty busy these days! How easy/difficult do you find it balancing that - particularly the travelling - with still having a day job at Neighbourhood PR?
Anna: "I won't lie: sometimes juggling so many things that I love does take its toll, but I think that life is too short to sit on cruise control right?! I've always been driven in everything I put my mind to I guess, so I probably won't hit the breaks until I'm too old to do it all."
Juan, you're also a member of the Melon Bomb collective. What's going on there these days?
Corbi: "Melon Bomb is a collective of four guys based in Ibiza and is in it’s third year now. As well as our residency at Pikes, we've had some ace gigs this year at Glastonbury, Southport Weekender and Glitterbox, to name a few. During winter we will be taking it off-island to put on events on in new cities/venues, work on new Melon Bomb music and put plans into place for next summer."
You both also have your own labels, in the form of The Bricks and FINA. Again, bring us up to speed!
Anna: "The Bricks was something of a pipe dream that I've had for years actually. I speak to so many interesting producers from around the world, that I've been connected with through various points in my life. I get so much joy from shouting from the rooftops about them, so the label kind of naturally came into fruition. I've had my head deep in ideas and unsigned acts lately so lots more music to come..."
Corbi: "FINA and FINA white are run by myself and Simon Morell. The label is really about finding and releasing music we both believe will sound great in years to come. We are also concentrating on doing label showcases and have already put on events in Ibiza, San Fransicso and London, so we're really happy with where the label is at the moment and have some cracking music to release on the horizon."
Finally, what else have either/both of you got going on right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
Anna: "Juan and I will be playing together at the Music For Freaks release party at Pikes, Ibiza on 21 September... that's going to be serious fun! I have a joint EP alongside Tom Bulwer coming on new vinyl only imprint Parasol Culture, and I've just started a new monthly radio show for KMAH Radio. Some exciting gigs in the pipeline, too, including my debut at Bestival."
Corbi: "Melon Bomb has two parties planned in September: one at Pikes on the 8th and the other is a daytime party on the 23rd at Nassau Tanit, which Anna will be playing at. FINA has a release out this month from Closed Paradise on vinyl, and later in the year digitally. And I have a few projects forthcoming including an EP with Anna and Melon Bomb."
Words: Russell Deeks
Roger Taylor's Two Sharp Pencils [Anna Wall & Corbi Remix] is out this month on Music For Freaks. Order your copy here.