Riri Hylton goes for lunch with one of the UK's most in-demand DJs.
I met Thomas in Oxford Street the day before that party, weaving through some backstreets to her favourite Dim Sum restaurant in Soho. We hung out for an hour or so, and spoke about what life has been like after that Boiler Room set last year. Since the film went viral she has played all over the world, become a resident at BBC Radio 1 and started the Hooversound record label with Naina. After our lunch she was off to a meeting to sign a distribution deal before preparing for the Electric Brixton gig. It was the end of a breakthrough year for a DJ who's been grafting for ages. It was clear throughout our meal that she was still taking it all in.
Thomas was born and raised in Walthamstow, East London. She remembers riding in the car with her uncle while jungle was playing on a pirate radio station. "My uncle would pretend to be one of the MCs," she said. "I remember thinking this music was really cool, but I didn't know what it was." Hearing Omni Trio's "Renegade Snares" at a young age, and then again years later on Grand Theft Auto, sparked a downloading spree of jungle compilations. But it was a mix by Machinedrum in 2012 that would prove to be a game-changer, introducing Thomas to footwork. "That was a mind-blowing moment because I'd never heard footwork before," she said.
It was a few years later, while working at Shazam—and facing redundancy—that Thomas was able to name the sound she first heard in the Machinedrum mix. "I was skiving off, watching Boiler Room sets and DJ Rashad was suggested as the next video. I thought, 'This is fast but it's sick. I'm gonna listen to it.' Five minutes in, "Brighter Dayz" comes on and I had this epiphany. Everything I'm doing just stops. I'm like, what the fuck? I had to keep my composure." Thomas replayed that part of the set over and over. "I was spun, I learned so much. For a start I had been listening to Scratcha DVA and Kode9 for years and I didn't even know they were into footwork!"