A Hundred Drums — Why Her Sophomore Album Will be Her “Greatest Work Yet”
We all know the feeling of waiting for our favorite artist to drop new music after an extended lapse in proper releases. As frustrating as that prolonged intermission often is, it’s also strangely satisfying. Our minds tend to wander; intruding thoughts ranging from “I just hope they’re doing okay” to romanticized feelings of hopeful adoration that whisper “maybe something revolutionary is right around the corner,” persists month after month as we eagerly anticipate a massive announcement that signals the wait is finally over.
Well, it’s been roughly eight months since A Hundred Drums, whose real name is Gabrielle Watson, released an original tune — we’re happy to report: the wait is almost over. And it will definitely be worth it.
“I’ve eliminated the pressure of feeling like I have to release new music all the time to keep up with the industry,” Watson said in an exclusive interview with MP3 MAG ahead of her Imagine Music Festival performance next month. In a world where more than 100,000 songs are uploaded to the internet daily, it’s easy to justify the release rat race. But that’s exactly what it is: a rat race.
Many artists exist on a hamster wheel, trapped by their own limits of perception, chasing an endless stream of half-baked singles that don’t get them much closer to escaping capture. In fact, this tactic often has reverse effects; artists might tire themselves out running in circles before they ever get the chance to step off the wheel. Thankfully, Watson stepped off before she collapsed.
“Liberating myself from that societal demand has allowed me to put so much more creativity and passion into what I’m sculpting now. I’ve been working on something much bigger — my second album is almost complete. It’s a combination of my biggest influences: dubstep, reggae and hip-hop. And it’s my greatest work yet.”
But this forthcoming album isn’t the only project Watson has been working on — new music, separate from any material on the album, is coming later this year, although it probably won’t be what you expect. Instead, it’ll be a completely new sound, materialized in an EP titled Body and Soul. “The intention behind Body and Soul is to break out of the box that I’m sometimes put in, by exploring new styles and music,” Watson said. “I’m writing pieces that don’t sound like anything I’ve made before, which is a great feeling.”
Admittedly, dubstep and reggae influences are at the forefront of A Hundred Drums’ immersive discography, shining through on popular tracks like “If I Have To” and the “Flute Dub – A Hundred Drums Remix,” originally written by Subtronics. As such, she’s become known for the tribal aesthetics and earthy atmosphere that represent her traditional dubstep approach. Although this definitive sound provides a cohesive element to the A Hundred Drums project, it also threatens to limit her creative identity to a single style, something Watson is actively protesting on the upcoming Body and Soul EP, which will feature “a fusion of R&B and trap” that intentionally challenges A Hundred Drums’ production style.
Creating the Body and Soul EP allowed Watson to tap into her earliest musical memories: discovering classic jazz records as a child and blasting West-Coast hip-hop on the car radio, ranging from NWA and Snoop Dogg to Tupac and West Side Connection. It wasn’t until later, when Watson was nearing the end of her high school years, that she fell in love with dubstep after hearing Skream “Midnight Request Line” for the first time. Almost immediately, Watson became enthralled with a dubstep community that seemed out of reach — despite LA’s musical prowess, the city, and America as a whole, was still largely unfamiliar (or perhaps uninterested), in dubstep. But Watson was determined to change that.
“Growing up in LA, I was involved in tons of different scenes: hard rock, heavy metal, underground raves, you name it,” Watson said. “But I never really found my scene, you know?” Eventually, Watson realized that if she wanted to see her favorite dubstep artists perform in LA, she would have to book them herself.
So, that’s exactly what she did — in 2014, Watson joined a small group of aspiring dubstep promoters at B-Side LA, and LA’s dubstep community has been thriving ever since. “We built B-Side because we couldn’t find that sort of community anywhere else,” Watson said. “Even if only 50 people came to our shows, at least we could finally bring out the artists we’d been dying to see. That’s all that mattered.”
It’s been roughly eight years since B-Side’s first show, and they’ve booked some incredible talent along the way: Mala, Coki, Goth-Trad, Dark Tantrums, N-Type, Ivy Lab and Minnesota are just a few headliners who have graced B-Side stages throughout the years.
Some of those performers also became long-time collaborators with A Hundred Drums — after back-to-back performances with Coki at Red Rocks and Denver’s Mission Ballroom, they’ve finally made it official: the duo will be co-headlining a tour across America this Fall and hinted at an upcoming collaboration that, if we’re lucky, might see the light of day before this year ends.
No matter what hat Watson is wearing, be it a touring DJ, producer or promoter, diversity is always at the forefront of her creative mission — something that’s been a massive component of B-Side’s first official music festival, Doomtown, taking place in Downtown Las Vegas on October 6-8. “Doomtown’s intention is to serve the underground community,” Watson said. “You really can’t do that without diversity.”
Doomtown boasts another impressive stat: 51% of performing acts are currently unsigned. Additionally, many of these acts are outside of the cis-white-male archetype that’s dominated American dubstep since Excision and Skrillex burst onto the scene more than 10 years ago. According to Watson, the disturbing lack of diversity in the EDM scene isn’t because marginalized groups aren’t making great music; instead, it’s because people aren’t interested in seeking out diversity.
“If you want to promote diversity in the scene, you have to dig. The only reason these lineups are usually dominated by straight white men is because no one is looking deeper. That’s how you can promote diversity: go out and find it.”
Make sure to catch A Hundred Drums, alongside headliners including Sofi Tukker, SVDDEN DEATH, and Subtroinics b2b Ganja White Night next month at Imagine Music Festival, taking place in Atlanta on September 14-17. Tickets for GA, VIP, and PLATINUM tiers, as well as various camping options and add-ons, are available for purchase on the Imagine Music Festival website.