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Credit: Lizzy Nicholson

Recognise: re:ni

In-demand DJ and radio host, producer of sound system shakers for labels like Timedance and Ilian Tape, promoter and label co-founder at re:lax, Lauren Bush, aka re:ni, has become a seemingly unstoppable force in UK club music through a combination of hard work and self-belief. Alongside a pulse-quickening Recognise mix, she speaks to Jasmine Kent-Smith about formative club experiences, the importance of role models, and the pursuit of authenticity

When Lauren Reni Bush was a child, she wanted to become a vet. Back then, she lived in a village outside of Dorchester, a market town in rural southwest England. “I was in the countryside and that was my world, so that was what I loved,” Bush explains from her bright Peckham bedroom, miles away – literally, and figuratively – from those sleepy surroundings. “I wanted to do what I loved.”

This same rationale applies to her present-day life. It’s a reality where Bush (as re:ni) is simultaneously an in-demand DJ with industry renown; a promoter, radio host and label co-conspirator (alongside the like-minded Laksa); and, more recently, a producer of brooding system shakers that pack the same emotional punch as the tunes she purveys in her pulse-quickening sets (cc: her Recognise mix). She may have swapped out the scrubs for a soundcard, but she’s still just following her heart. 

Earlier this year, it led her to Batu’s Timedance label for the release of her second-ever EP, ‘BeautySick’. It’s menacing and evocative with dread-inducing motifs, like an OST to an action movie composed of only the tensest car chase scenes. There are glints of light deftly concealed within the murky shadows, such as on the brain-scrambling ‘Blame is the Name of the Game’, and warped vocals that sound like they’re part of the instrumentals at times, gripped to the rhythms with snake-like prowess.

When we speak, Bush is fresh from a busy weekend bouncing between booths in Bristol and London, for a party with the Timedance crew (“it was so good!”) and the latest iteration of re:lax – the club night she runs with Laksa – respectively. “If you love something, you're going to want your own version of it, because you can make it as unique and authentic to what you do as possible,” says Bush on the motivation behind the event, which shares its name and philosophy with the pair’s NTS show and their 2023-forged label. 

She’s feeling inspired after the parties – but not just for the reasons you’d expect. “On both nights, girls came up to me like, ‘We saw you at this night and we haven't [stopped] following you – and we want to get into DJing and producing’,” she grins. “Honestly, I felt like crying! It just made me so happy because I think I would’ve got into it way earlier if I’d seen other women doing it.” 

Bush had a similar interaction when she was younger that motivated her in her own journey. In 2011, she moved from Dorset to London. It was for university on the one hand, but also to be part of – and to experience – the exhilarating electronic music culture she’d become obsessed with. “I remember looking on Dubstep Forum and being like, 'Is London or Brighton better for dubstep?' because I was deciding between unis,” she laughs.

Early on, she got a student job at fabric alongside close friend (and fellow artist) Mia Koden, whom she’d met on a plane to Outlook Festival – very on-brand. “I was in the staff room or something and Moxie had played. I said to her, ‘You were so good! I really want to get into DJing' and she was like, ‘Yeah, you should do it',” Bush remembers. “Role models are so important. And I don’t care what any dusty male DJs say, because I think a lot of men feel resentment that women have become DJs without making music...”

It’s eye-rolling mindsets such as these that left her a little nervous to announce ‘BeautySick’. The solo release is the first from a woman on the Timedance label, which launched in 2015. “I’m the first woman to do a Timedance record and I still feel like there will be men behind the scenes like, ‘Oh, she’s just doing that because she's a girl’ – I’ve unfortunately had men say things like that to me in the past,” she admits. “I have had the lived experience of people trying to undermine me in that way.” 

re:ni wearing black trousers and a blue, red and black racing jacket, lying on her front on a bed, resting her chin in her hands
re:ni wearing black trousers and a blue, red and black racing ja

For Bush, the road into production was a trickier one than the path she had followed into DJing, and it’s only now that she feels more confident. There’s been no “eureka moment” per se, just continuous effort, encouragement from friends and peers – including Timedance boss Batu – and small wins in an ongoing battle with self-doubt. Truthfully, she wishes she’d started sooner. But for someone like Bush, whose lauded presence as a DJ and notable sets at festivals and events such as Dekmantel, REEF, Make Me and Waking Life transpired sooner than her studio efforts, there was an added pressure to make it count.

Her debut EP, the shuddering ‘Revenge Body’ for the Zenker Brothers-helmed Ilian Tape, landed in January 2022. There had been a moment while writing the title track where she’d felt a sense, for the first time ever, that what she was making had the potential to be well-received. “Then it ended up being released and people really liked playing it,” she says. “So you’ve got to believe in yourself – because even if people didn't like it, I felt like it was good in that moment”. She acknowledges that it can be a hard balance at times, “especially starting producing when I’ve already got a status as a DJ; the danger of feeling like I should be making music that fits people's external expectations rather than just creating for myself.”

Her family have always believed in her, and she’s grateful that they understand the ups and downs of making a living from being creative. Bush’s dad is a musician and DJ who toured regularly. His affinity for genres like dub helped form the soundtrack for her early years in Dorset, where the family had relocated from Birmingham when she was four or so. Growing up, she’d attend festivals like The Big Chill with her parents and older sister. She saw Skream play there in 2007, just months after the release of his seminal debut album. “That was really exciting,” Bush recalls fondly. “I just remember this guy having a T-shirt – and it’s so funny now because it would almost be a meme – that said I <3 Dubstep”.

Around this time, she began venturing with friends to places like Bristol (a relatable excursion for West Country teens with a penchant for underground bangers, who yearned to hear them while head-first in a bassbin). A particular night headed up by Skream, Benga and Andy C comes to Bush’s mind as we reminisce. “We got super dressed up [with] fake eyelashes and everything, which is actually so great. I think my friend wore heels,” Bush laughs. “It was so pure. It wasn't about being on your phone, it was just fun. We had Facebook at that time and our statuses would be like, 'Oh my god, that was the best night ever!'”

Bringing it back to her own work, Bush hopes to create similarly memorable experiences for the people who come to see her play. She finds real joy in the act of DJing, largely because it allows her to share a feeling with a room of bodies in real-time, and in real life. There’s a unique magic in that. “Hearing tunes that I’ve picked out and love – and they have this impact on me when I hear them – and then that translating across to other people is so special,” she smiles. 

There’s a sensitivity to Bush’s creative endeavours that speaks to these intentions (and, if you’re so inclined, her Pisces star sign). A desire to home in on what matters most (on the advice of her auntie to always “keep it simple”) will also propel her forward, as she continues to bring her childhood dreams to fruition and builds a life around what she loves. 

Next on the re:ni agenda is a re:lax project from “new-ish” producer who’s been dishing out dubs and racking up plays from your favourite DJ’s favourite DJ types in the last year. She cites her and Laksa’s work with the “amazing” Bristol-based DJ and producer Jurango on his ‘Isle of Crass’ EP as an example of the slow-burn approach and close creative relationship the pair hope to maintain with their future roster as they nurture the imprint. 

“We worked hard on getting the record how it was. That's what we just want to keep doing: just having a small pool of people who aren't in a rush,” says Bush passionately. “There are so many people that want everything now; they feel they need to tick all these boxes, and it just becomes a little bit vacuous. I would much rather spend longer just getting a really strong record together that has a lot of meaning. So it’s exciting to be doing that.”

Listen to re:ni's Recognise mix below. 


Fearful x Mtwn x Riko Dan ‘Careful (Ubique Remix)’
Carrier ‘Shading’
King Mzaiza Music feat. U-Girl & Alligator ‘Ama’
Chlär ‘Competitive Influencing’
Cérémonie ‘Transe’
Flore & Only Now ‘Cut & Run (Flore Version)’
TRAKA ‘Ruaumoko’
Josi Devil ‘Charge Edit’
Rizla Ops ‘Juta’
Ilk ‘Return to Swanborough (Au + Jesta remix)’ 
City Kudu ‘Pala’
Hoodlum ‘Hood Bitcha’
Phrex ‘Intifada’