Richie Meldrum
Richie Meldrum

mail@richiemeldrum.com

Larisa Mann aka DJ Ripley grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, a working class suburb of Boston with an almost exclusive Irish and Italian Catholic population. The daughter of a professor and an English teacher, composer and poet, Larisa is an accomplished classical pianist and at home, she would often watch her father playing flute or listen to her parents talk about the jazz scene they were into when they were younger. But when the time came for her to look and listen for music outside of her home and her family, it was a very different sound and scene that first caught her attention. “When I first got into a music scene myself (socially as well as listening) it was the DIY punk and hardcore scene in Boston and the suburbs, a lot of straightedge and political hardcore,’ she recalls. “It was definitely about the physical experience of bouncing around in the pit, or dancing more intensely to the slightly more melodic, riff-oriented stuff that was coming out in the late 80s and early 90s.”

As well as punk and hardcore, Larisa would go to the only club playing industrial dance music and Belgium techno and, during her collage years, indie rock became a regular fixture on her stereo. However, the sound that would have the most influence on her future didn’t enter earshot until after all that. “By 1994 I had heard Jungle for the first time at an after-hours club in Boston called The Loft, and that was it for me, I became a junglist/raver. Although I was still into the more metal side of hardcore punk for a while, the scene was becoming really thuggy and I kept getting into fights with macho idiots at shows. But Jungle was this amazing combination of sounds – the energy of reggae and dancehall combined with this euphoric explosion of beats – so many layers of sound to dance to! And people were great, just excited about the music and dancing. It wasn’t as explicitly political, but the vocal presence of reggae singers added something different to the sonic landscape, that felt political in a different way.”

Politics is an ever-present consideration for Larisa throughout her work, her music and her life in general. A scholar currently finishing a PHD, she looks deep into music, paying attention to its purpose and trying to understand its power. “I started by trying to craft a musical space that welcomed the folks not usually seen in the places I DJ’d in (basically folks who weren’t white or middle class), and also to get a crowd of mostly white Americans in Boston to get down to music that welcomes those far-away people, or at least evoking those people’s presence. I don’t want people to consume the music without attending to it, or to ignore how music reflects different experiences. The goal sounds so cerebral when really it’s the opposite. It’s about ass-shaking, laughing in surprise and recognition of each other and the music.”

The music in question is diverse and DJ Ripley has an assorted mix of sonic goodness in her bag “I started by mixing ragga jungle, hip hop and dancehall, with punk, noise and dub,” she says, “I used to say I was taking jungle apart into its elements and putting it back together on the dance floor. The most dramatic change for me has been my willingness to play more 4-on-the-floor beats in my sets. But that has just broadened the combination of sounds, which now include Baltimore club, juke, bhangra, 2step, funk carioca and dubstep, among other things.” Having spun in over 19 countries, Australia holds much appeal for this culture thirsty American “I look forward to meeting people who make art & music and tech stuff, learning about local scenes, seeing some of the country, eating good food, you know generally living well, and to contributing whatever I can to the places I go.”