A self-styled “round earth believer, vibe shepherd and purveyor of the beat,” Iona honed her craft while working for London institutions CDR and sorely missed Dalston nightspot, Dance Tunnel. Reaching for acid, Italo, Latin freestyle and virtually every debauched strain of dance music found in between, eclectic tastes are regularly on display, gaining Iona a reputation as a killer DJ – it’s seen her booked alongside Chicago dons Steve “Silk” Hurley and Tyree Cooper, not to mention a plethora of household names, from Nick Höppner and Ruf Dug to Dungeon Meat, Objekt and Aurora Halal. Inspired by the ominous orange sky that hung over London during Storm Ophelia, her latest mix channels darker, more foreboding atmospheres than we commonly associate with the Hackney native.
What inspired you to start DJing and collecting records?
Working at Dance Tunnel for three years exposed me to so much good music so that lead me down different avenues in terms of genre and I started buying music just for listening to. Then when CDR started doing their events at the club I met Georgie (Naise), we clicked instantly and we started having these really lovely evenings at her house where she’d teach me to mix vinyl on her decks. So from there I felt encouraged even though it was challenging. My manager at the time runs Field Maneuvers festival and I asked half jokingly if I could have a set and of course he said no, not until I play a good set at Dance Tunnel. That challenge spurred me on and I played at the closing party for the club and true to his word last year I played at the festival and it felt so good to think back to when that suggestion was a joke.
Where do you enjoy digging for music (UK or abroad)?
I listen to a lot of mixes and if a tune catches my attention I’ll pick that out and from there explore more about the artist and find more music, related crews/collaborators, and spread out from there. I find YouTube and Soundcloud great for getting into deep holes with more tabs open than my computer can handle. Mix sessions are also great. Getting together with some friends and having a mix, sharing tunes and learning new stuff. Every day’s a school day.
You hear about how record stores were once a total boy’s club and a potentially intimidating environment for women. As we slowly (very slowly) see the dated attitudes towards gender in DJing and record collecting shift, do you feel like the record buying experience is similarly changing for the better?
I still don’t feel that comfortable at record fairs or in busy shops so I mostly avoid them unless I’m with someone else who wants to go or I see somewhere quiet. Second hand stores like Lucky 7 have a much friendlier vibe so that’s cool. But my music buying experience is almost always a solitary online one. I don’t mind because I get total tunnel vision when listening and buying new things – and I know that once the goods are harvested the social aspect comes into play at gigs. I don’t feel uncomfortable playing out despite trepidation when it comes to record shopping, I suppose because in a gig situation I’ve always been invited to do it, and while I’m in control of the music in the room – whether someone likes it or not – there really isn’t much they can say that’ll bother me because as long as I see most of the crowd dancing so I have faith in my selections – even if my mixing isn’t always perfect!
Are there any DJs that who have inspired your approach over the years?
I’ve more of a spraygun approach when it comes to music. There have been so many influences when it comes to the music I enjoy, and not just coming from DJs. I’ve never really had specific idols, instead I’m constantly unearthing new sources of inspiration. DJs who are also friends have been the most instrumental, encouraging and teaching me the most – Naise, Elles and Violet have taken on those roles right from the start when I needed the biggest push.
London nightlife is feeling quite oversaturated right now, but are there any parties, venues or promoters you feel are worth a mention in particular?
The London nightlife scene may seem oversaturated, but a lot of the parties are pretty uniform – straight white guys booking other straight white guys to play. I have a lot of respect for those doing things differently – cross-media projects like The Move and Gal-Dem who bring not just music and parties, but the surrounding culture and politics into the spotlight – making space for topics that matter to people who’ve been marginalised historically. I love Bloc as a venue, spatially I think the layout works well and encourages both dancing and socialising by having separate areas for the two. It’s also home to one of my favourite nights, gay rave Chapter 10, where anything goes and differences are respected and celebrated. Make Me have consistently been booking diverse and amazing parties for 10 years and their anniversary is on April 13th at Corsica, so they definitely deserve a shout out. The promoters as residents are also amazing DJs in their own right which makes a huge difference and adds to the sense of consistency about their parties.
You’re one third of Suspiciously Delicious alongside Elles and Violet. What was the motivation behind starting the trio?
It was formed in the boozy womb of Dalston Superstore, we knew we had similar tastes in music having heard each other play there and we wanted to play together and put more women in the spotlight. Elles and I were already friends and both had different links with Ines (Violet). I met her when she posted on her artist page that she was willing to give free Ableton production tutorials to women and I went round for a session during which we realised we knew lots of the same people and her and Marco (Photonz) came to my birthday the following week and we’re all mates now. Since Ines and Marco moved back to Lisbon to start Radio Quantica, the project has mainly become a radio show and occasional party in Damas (Libson).
What can you tell us about the mix you recorded? Was there anything you had experienced or were going through/feeling that inspired the theme?
It recorded it just after Storm Ophelia when the sky turned orange over London, it felt apocalyptic and so I decided to go for a kind of dystopian industrial theme. I tried to still keep it fun though – like you could dance away your last rave with this soundtrack. 2017 was also a rough year, both globally and personally and at the point of recording this felt especially apt.
And finally, what’s next on the agenda for Iona?
Annoyingly stuff I can’t talk about yet, but I’ll be playing with some more of my Chicago and Detroit heroes (soon to be announced) and probably continuing to try and produce something worth listening to!