NME Radar: Breakout

Nia Archives: dancefloor don leading the glorious “summer of jungle”

The Bradford-born, London-based DJ's riotous club bangers have soundtracked a magical summer of festivals and all-day raves

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Earlier this summer, Nia Archives threw down the gauntlet: 2022 was going to witness the “summer of jungle”. Speaking to Mixmag in May, the Bradford-born, London-based DJ and producer declared that “you’re going to hear so much jungle this summer”. The genre took precedence in her recent BBC Radio 1 Residency, which served as a deep dive into a scene that’s often overlooked by the mainstream. For the uninitiated, Nia’s recent EP ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ is a fine place to start: “Few – if any – are doing it as well as Nia right now,” gushed our five-star review.

This summer, the people have heeded Nia’s call. Last weekend (August 27) she packed out the Dance Tent at Reading & Leeds Festival during her mid-afternoon set, splicing classics and future bangers with her own tunes, such as the cheeky ‘18 & Over’ and the cross-generational belter ‘Mash Up The Dance’, a collaboration with scene stalwarts Watch The Ride.

Having picked up the NME Award for Best Producer at this year’s ceremony, she’s since blasted her way through festival season like a seasoned pro – not one who only began DJing and producing in the last couple of years. Following her killer Reading set, NME caught up with Nia to discuss her glorious summer, her next adventure and the changing face of jungle raves.

NME: Packed-out festival sets, brand new songs and massive collaborations – did your “summer of jungle” prophecy come true, then?

“Yeah, definitely. It’s been insane, honestly. I’ve been DJing for a year, so to be doing all these festivals has been really cool; to see people reacting to jungle in that way. It’s quite a niche genre: it’s definitely not a mainstream dance sound and [is] very underground, and to see people properly raving to it has been wicked.”

There was a good mix of people watching your Reading set. That must be pleasing to see?

“A lot of drum‘n’bass and jungle raves are quite aged in a way, so it’s cool to see a younger generation coming through. They’re really mixed: there’s youngsters, older people, white people, Black people and lots of girls as well. A lot of jungle raves I’ve been to in the past have just been boys, so it’s nice to see a lot of girls come into the rave.”

You dropped ‘Mash Up The Dance’, a collaboration with Watch The Ride which features scene leaders Randall, DJ Die and Dismantle, back in May. What was that experience like?

“People like Randall and [DJ] Die, I’m still such a fan. Even though we made a tune together and we chatted, I’m still a massive fan and get a bit starstruck around them. So making a song like that was just a cool experience: I had a drum pattern that I’d made on a train and we just built from there. It’s definitely a song for both generations, and I love in a rave that you can see older people and younger people all in there together, and it’s a proper mixture. That’s what jungle is all about.”

“I honestly think winning an NME Award might be my proudest moment this year”

Given the creative control you usually have over your own material, how have you found ceding some of that while collaborating with other artists?

“I usually just like to work on my own in my bedroom. The Mall Grab song [‘Patience’] came out of friendship: it’s not something I’d really done before, and it’s not always easy to go into a room after you’ve been working on your own. Recently I’ve been writing with a songwriter called Ed Thomas [Jorja Smith, Stormzy], and I really enjoyed getting in the room with new people. I might have a vision of how I want the song to go, but I like that other people can come and add stuff to it that I can’t do and make it better. I’m enjoying experimenting: we made a samba tune the other day, which I’d have never been able to do without Ed’s musicality. It was cool to have my jungle essence and how I wanted the sound to be.”

Nia Archives
Credit: Andy Ford for NME

In March, you were crowned Best Producer at the BandLab NME Awards 2022. What was that moment like?

“I wasn’t expecting that at all! I honestly think it might be my proudest moment this year. After winning, I just cried on my manager’s shoulder all night. It really meant so much to me, especially coming from where I come from, people don’t really get to do stuff like that. A lot of people think that because I sing I don’t produce my own tunes, so to be recognised as a producer, particularly being a young Black woman, meant a lot. People hear the music, [but] that’s just the end result of the journey: they don’t see everything you’ve been through to create that song and make the art. To go through everything I’ve had to go through, be able to release music and for people to like [it], and to be recognised for that – it was really emotional.

“But I’ve also had to learn to not live in the moment so much. I don’t get hyped up over one single moment, I’m always thinking about what comes next. I’m surrounded by people who are really down to earth: my friends don’t really care about Nia Archives, they just see me as me [and] don’t get all hyped about what I do.”

Earlier this year, you challenged the MOBO Awards (Music of Black Origin) to represent the dance and electronic scene in their programme, while Nova Twins delivered a similar message about rock music and the history of that sound. Has there been any dialogue since?

“I had a really positive meeting with [the MOBOs], and we’re discussing creating a panel of people [representing] all different genres in dance music. It’s music of Black origin, so I think it deserves that representation and education, too. The MOBOs is an amazing organisation, and it would be great for the younger generation for [the MOBOs] to recognise such a big part of Black culture.”

Nia Archives
Credit: Andy Ford for NME

You’ve recently moved down to London. Have you slotted into the jungle scene there?

“Oh, definitely. I’ve met all my heroes, like DJ Storm, DJ Fly and Goldie, which is just so bizarre – I can now speak to them and get advice. Kemistry & Storm literally introduced Goldie to jungle, so if they hadn’t done that there’d be no Metalheadz [influential record label founded by the trio in 1994] and none of this jungle scene would even exist.”

What are you working on next?

“I’m going to Brazil next week to shoot a video, which is my dream – I can’t believe it. I really love samba and salsa music, and I’ve sampled a Brazilian samba song by Barbatuques called ‘Baiana’. I’ve started playing it at the end of every set and I really love it.

“I’ll be working on the next EP too, which is sounding amazing, if I say so myself. I’m quite a selfish creator and I really love what I make: I made a tune two weeks ago, and I’m so hyped because it’s given me a window into what an album I might make in the future will sound like. It’s really broken what I think people expect of jungle, and there’s a real musicality to it.”