In our conversation series ‘5 Minutes With…’, we chat style, culture, influences and of course, Docs, with creatives who are shaking up the scene. From musicians and artists to tattooists and change-makers, we get to know the the exciting individuals wearing Dr. Martens.
Here we talk to Scarlett O’Malley.
Tell us about yourself…
Hey, I’m Scarlett O’Malley, born and raised West Londoner and I am a DJ, presenter and podcaster with an unhealthy record obsession. I run my own soul imprint aptly name The Soul Exchange, that started off as a party, but due to the current circumstances I’ve moved online and run a weekly mix series on Mixcloud highlighting my favourite DJs from across the world who play soul music.
I also run monthly radio shows on Foundation FM and Totally Wired Radio, as well as producing and presenting the YOUTH CLUB Podcast for the YOUTH CLUB Archive, which has been incredible as someone who is obsessed with subculture. I pitched the idea of talking to the photographers behind the photos in the archive and have spoken to everyone from Gavin Watson, to Peter J Walsh to Jennie Baptiste, so it really has been a dream! Other than that, I’m usually DJing as, when and wherever I can, and getting used to this new way of partying playing everything from rare soul, to 70s crossover, to 90s house and beyond and spending all my money on records along the way.
How did you get into DJ’ing?
I actually got into DJing through Soul 45, a DJing duo I met whilst I was at university in Southampton. I had a radio show on the student station playing soul music, and I had them on to interview them after going to all of their nights in town. When they came on the show and we got chatting about my record collection they told me I had to play them out. So in the next month I took a carrier bag of records down to play a gig with them and the rest is history. I’d been brought up in a musical household with my dad being a guitarist in a rockabilly band and my mum and aunties were into soul music, and I was a pop-punk baby, so I suppose you kind of build your identity around the music you love. Lord knows how I got deep into the Northern Soul scene, but next thing you know you’re at the 100 Club once a month until 6am with your new family and trying to dig for records when you can and it really is as simple as that.
You DJ with mostly vinyl, what tips would you have for young vinyl-collectors?
It’s about going for a dig, and finding tunes at the back of a record shop that instantly become a staple in your record box. Tips I would give to vinyl-collectors just starting out is buy what you love, and maybe buy tunes you could put in a mix together to showcase what you’re about. Oh and just get to record shops and get listening, that is key.
What do you want to achieve over the course of your career? Biggest ambitions?
I want my own radio show on 6Music. It will happen. I am manifesting it as we speak and I’ve been talking about it for years, so it can’t not happen, right? I’ve got a couple more ideas for podcasts and I do also want to launch my own label, so watch this space, it’s all going on!
What would your dream pair of Docs look like, if you could design them?
Oh that’s a hard one, because you’ve pretty much had it covered. I love the Sinclair boots, I’ve had mine a couple of years and they’re worn in, I love the recent soft leather white ones! If I had to design my own probably something chunky, bold and traditional, like me 🙂 haha.
Best gig you’ve ever been to? Or the one you wish you’d been at?
The Specials at the 100 Club last year was pretty special. I managed to slip in without a ticket and ended up DJing at the end of the night with Terry Hall thanking me, woke up feeling a proper buzz from it, that’s how you know it was a goodun! I saw Stevie Wonder a few years ago which of course was one to tick off the bucket list. Oh and the Good Charlotte comeback gig at Brixton in December of 2017 was honestly a religious experience. I had seen them 12 years earlier at the same venue, my first ever gig, and the whole night felt like my teenage years came full-circle. They also played for 2 hours, smashed as many songs as possible and I cried and held other crying strangers around me, it was that good.
How would you describe your style and how would your parents describe your style?
My style is very This Is England meets 90s rockabilly revival. I love classics like Fred, lots of checks and that skinhead/ soul inspired look of course complimented by some DMs, but then I also love a pair of high-waisted trousers and a baseball shirt or a bowling shirt. My parents would agree I reckon.
What does Dr. Martens mean to you?
Dr. Martens is a staple to subculture. It has so much history, and class, and has maintained it’s cool over decades. To me it means culture and substance and an absolute timeless brand that I can’t imagine being without year in year out.
If you could have started any band, which would it be and why?
Spice Girls! Imagine being THE authentic Ginger Spice and now being forever remembered as one of the nations sweethearts, yes please! Plus the 90s ‘fits were so great.
The music industry can be notoriously hard for female artists, do you feel it’s harder for females to make their mark?
Women in the industry are definitely getting more and more coverage, it’s more about accessibility. What I’ve found is that in the past I’ve had people think I’m a bit thick, or don’t understand how to use the equipment, and I’ve definitely had some inappropriate behaviour towards me, so it’s things like this that put women off chasing the dream. I’d just say to any woman trying to make it in the industry, you’ve got to push through the bullshit, gain a thick skin and go at it head on, but if you’ve got the talent and the love for it, don’t waste it!
How long have you been wearing DM’s and what were your first pair?
So DM’s were actually my first ever pair of shoes! Yes, I had cool parents. I think I was maybe just under a year old and they were black with printed multicoloured flowers on them, I still have them actually. Of my own free will, I bought a classic pair of ox blood boots when I was 12/13 that I still wear to this day. They currently have holes in the soles but there is so much history in these boots so there is no way I’m ever not wearing them.
What do you think of the new Heritage Distortion collection?
It’s great; a modern twist on a classic always works well doesn’t it? And I love my shoes too, the autumn months are literally the perfect DM wearing months and I’m here for it. The Pascal Atlas boots are also super comfortable which is a bonus, you won’t see me without DMs for the foreseeable future.
A lot of what you do is connected to subculture, what interests you about it?
I’ve just always been obsessed with subculture since I can remember, I studied history at uni and as cheesy as it sounds, I was definitely born in the wrong era. Identity based around music, politics and dress sense I find fascinating and something we need to uphold, otherwise we’ll all just look and act the same as each other, and where’s the fun in that? I also love how a certain time or era is instantly recognisable by a subculture. So being able to start the YOUTH CLUB Podcast has been a real personal victory for me, a body of work all about something I love that I’ve been able to create. Of course it’s important to document, even more so now with the internet and everyone’s ability to add to the history books, bottom up history is the way forward. Subculture was created through, a lot of the time, working class cultures and oppositions to struggle, now if that isn’t important to teach people about then I don’t know what is.
And finally, we couldn’t not ask you, what are your Top 5 favourite songs to play?
I’ll give you my current top 5 most listened to tunes on Spotify that I have been absolutely rinsing since lockdown, because songs that I play out are different each time depending on crowd/club and you never know what’s going to get people in the mood from one day to the next.
I probably listen to this at least 10 times a day. A piece of pure modern soul gold.
I used it for a mix a couple months back and instantly became OBSESSED. Beautiful jivey early 60s doo-wop that is super catchy and great to sing to in the shower.
One of The Soul Exchange Set mixes had this tune in so it had been whirring around in my brain as it was, and then my first gig back post-lockdown was supporting Norman Jay and he played this song and the way I shot up from my seat was something different.
The dramatic start and the raspy powerful female vocal had me hooked. This is why I love soul music, you feel like there’s some real emotion behind it, and the backing vocals are great.
Another crossover track, you can’t help but love this boogie tune. Winfield Parker’s voice is also second to none.
Scarlett wears the Heritage Distortion collection, including the 1461 shoe, and Atlas leather 1460 boot. Check out the collection here.
Read more exclusive interviews with inspiring DM’s characters here.