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Recognise: Mandidextrous

Recognise: Mandidextrous

Mandidextrous electrified the drum & bass scene in 2022 with their turbo-charged speed bass sound, but their story as a pioneering producer and queer figurehead goes back much further. Alongside a thrilling mix for the Recognise series, they speak to Ben Hindle about finding a home in the free party scene, being an EQ50 mentee, and working hard while having fun

To put it plainly, Mandidextrous tracks bang. By their own admission, the Bristol-based DJ and producer has little room for “chill” in their music, and as a result has taken the drum & bass scene by storm over the past year, dropping release after release of superhyperdopaliscious slammers.

Just take their latest output, the purpose-built festival-grade monster ‘Hold Your Rhythm’; nearly six minutes of crunchy snares, roaring dystopian synths and a gargantuan chugging bassline, it was the official closing ceremony track for Boomtown 2022. It’s mainstage drum & bass at its best — epic but gritty — yet it follows a run of releases that have blown apart notions of what d&b audiences want. Merging the genre’s electrifying futurism with techno’s four-to-the-floor pulse and the uninhibited energy of bassline, hit tracks like ‘Techno On My Mind’ and ‘Trust The Lasers’ — both released on RAM Records sub-label ProgRAM last year — and their recent track ‘Every Night’ for Born On Road are examples of speed bass, a riotous new sound Mandidextrous has been pioneering.

“I really have been possessed by these two genres: jungle and techno,” says M, whose bubbly persona fills our video call with smiles and infectious giggles. “I really just love the energy; I’m all about energy and trying to keep things positive and uplifting.”

They’ve certainly done that. M’s debut set at Let It Roll — the world’s biggest drum & bass festival, held in Czech Republic and attended by over 25,000 died-in-the-wool heads — saw a packed arena go wild last summer, and has been streamed almost 120,000 times in just three months on YouTube. M says the experience and many others like it have made them feel very welcome in the d&b scene, and they’re excited for the future, seeing superstars like Dimension and Sub Focus push the 4/4 sound too. “I feel like the youth of today have got this crazy energy, especially after the pandemic,” says M. “It really is this big enthusiastic melting pot of amazingness, so I’m just really gassed to be relevant and involved with all of that. I love it, it’s so much fun.”

But while M is something of a new kid on the block in d&b circles, they’ve already been a celebrated artist and genre pioneer elsewhere, and have been DJing for over 20 years. They first fell in love with jungle listening to M-Beat and General Levy’s ‘Incredible’ in the ‘90s; a drummer at the time, the ecstatic beats and rhythms were an instant draw. Around ‘98/99, in their mid-teens, they were kicked out of home, but found a new one in the rave scene. They began to travel the South with various sound systems, playing drum & bass at free parties and squat raves. Through this world they also discovered techno, becoming immersed in a world of hypnotic 4/4 rhythms. However, their new obsession was entangled in deeper personal issues. 

“The reason I got lost in techno was I kind of went down a rabbit hole with drugs,” says M. “I was really depressed, dealing with my thoughts around my gender problems and this mad dysphoria that I had.”

Around the mid-2000s, M kicked the drugs and withdrew from the rave scene somewhat. They began to get help with their gender dysphoria, and today identify as trans/non-binary. “I still have a big dysphoria, but I’m a bit more at ease with myself now. I kind of sit on the fence between gender and I’m happy with that,” they say.

Layered blurry images of Mandidextrous in black and white
Credit: Ben Pi

Beginning this intimate journey coincided with starting out as a music producer. “That was my outlet,” says M. “I focused on me as a person and I just stayed at home with Ableton and really honed in on all of that.” 

They fused their twin passions of jungle and techno into a new sound: jungletek. A full-throttle hybrid of breakbeat choppage and relentless kick-drum drive, the sound grew via M’s label Amen4Tekno — home to jungletek and raggatek artists like T Menace, Matt Scratch and many more. M also founded the Kiss My Kick Drum event series and over the years got involved with booking at festivals like Boomtown and Balter. They became a leading light in the hardtek scene, headlining events across Europe; they were at the top of the game — so why go back and start again in drum & bass?

“I think pre-pandemia, pre-lockdown, I was starting to get into a bit of a slump with where I was going with my career. There seemed to be a bit of a glass ceiling in the hardtek industry, which I seemed to have hit,” they explain. “I’ve always had this drive to be bigger as an artist, and I really want to see how far I can go. The hardtek scene — it’s very niche and also as a producer it’s actually really hard to make the music... I got to a point where I was so fed up with trying to make it that I started this sound speed bass, which was me breaking all the rules of hardtek, not caring about phase between kick and bass, and how fat that sounds — it was me just having fun.”

When the pandemic put gigs on pause, M was afforded time to delve into other sounds, watching live streams at home. “I was actually blown away by all this talent in the drum & bass scene and all of the variance in the genre. It really inspired me to start going back to my roots more and working on my drum & bass production.”

Then in 2020, the gender equality-focused drum & bass collective EQ50 launched their first mentorship scheme, pairing budding d&b producers with some of the biggest labels in the game. “I applied and it was either Sweetpea or Flight messaged me to say I’ve got a place but they’re not sure whether I should be a mentor or a mentee, and it was like, either way I’m happy to work with you guys.”

M was placed as a mentee with Andy C’s legendary RAM Records. “Big up Jim and Hannah and Wayne from RAM, they really helped me, and then I started getting some backing from Jaguar on Radio 1, and then René LaVice and now Charlie Tee. It’s just been mad and I love it. I’m really enjoying writing the music.” 

They talk about the huge impact EQ50 and its core team — DJ Flight, Mantra, Sweetpea and MC Chickaboo — have had on opening up the scene, and after doing some online production teaching during the pandemic, hope to get back involved in with the collective to share their knowledge and experience as a mentor.

Right now the focus is pushing forward in 2023. They’re currently working on a music video for a new drum & bass track with Ayah Marar, a Jordanian singer who’s previously collaborated with Calvin Harris. Vibrant and momentous, with hands-in-the-air piano moments and a propulsive bassline, the track has a hint of ‘Kryptonite’-era DJ Fresh about it and bags of crossover potential; it feels like a step towards M’s long-term goal of working with major labels.

Always one to have fingers in many pies, however, they’ve also got big plans for their Speed Bass Records project this year, along with a “mad calendar” of gigs already locked in across Europe. “I just want to play loads of shows and put the music out there. And also just be here, just be part of it, and maybe also be a bit of a signpost to other people of gender variance and sexual variance that there’s space for us as well in the drum & bass industry and in the music industry in general. That’s all this year’s for: just focusing, carrying on, working really hard and just doing the fun stuff. As long as it’s fun, I’m there!”

Mandidextrous describes their Recognise mix as a "journey through my style from drum & bass to drum & bass 4x4 to speed bass. I thought it would be best to showcase my entire sound and energy into one mix."

Dive in below.


Öwnboss & Sevek ‘Move Your Body (Hedex Remix)’
Lee Walker vs DJ Deeon Feat. Katy B & MNEK 'Freak Like Me (Bish Remix)'
Mandidextrous ‘All Night’
Mandidextrous ‘B.A.D’
Darth Leng ‘Good Time (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Original Sin & Subzero ‘Haunted’
Mandidextrous ‘Back 2 The’
Koven ‘Follower (A.M.C Remix’ 
Mandidextrous ‘Trust The Lasers
Graffix ‘Stutter ‘
Mandidextrous & Bish ‘Techno On My Mind’
Subfocus ‘Timewarp (Dimension Remix)’
Subsonic ‘Last Time’
Dimension ‘Offender’
Selecta J-Man ‘Couple Guinness (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Gray ‘Rubadub (Mandidextrous Remix)
Bass Tripper ‘Lightspeed’
Anne Marie & Aitch ‘Psycho (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Acraze Ft Cherish ‘Do It To It (Subfocus Remix)’
Mandidextrous & Mooreman ‘Good Vibrations’
Teddy Killerz ‘Night Train’
Biscits ‘Your Body (Kara Remix)’
Nero ‘Electron (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Mandidextrous ‘Screamer’
Gonzi ‘We Never Stop (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Mandidextrous Ft MC GQ ‘Don Dada’
Mandidextrous ‘You And Me’
The Tones & I ‘Dance Monkey (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Bish ‘Leng’
D’TCH ‘Blow My Mind (Mandidextrous VIP Remix)’
Mandidextrous ‘Every Night’
Mandidextrous ‘Don’t Be Scared’
Mandidextrous ‘Mañana’
Mandidextrous ‘Holler’
Mandidextrous ‘Keep Dancing’
Armin Van Buuren ‘Blaa Blaa Blaa (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Mandidextrous ‘Ride The Lightning’
Mandidextrous ‘Painkilla’
Mandidextrous ‘Body By’
Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Heads Will Roll (Mandidextrous Remix)’
Mandidextrous ‘The Alarm’
Banana Rama ‘Cruel Summer (Mandidextrous Remix)’

Want more? Check out Warlock's On Cue mix and interview here

Ben Hindle is DJ Mag's deputy editor. You can follow him on Twitter @the_z_word