There are DJs who can extend a single vibe over the course of a night – and then there’s “another way of doing things”, hints Solid Blake. You can guess which camp the Glasgow-born DJ falls in. Bringing the frozen pulse of electro together with dissident techno and bass from all eras, Emma Blake’s side-winding DJ sets and slick productions have made her a fixture of the European underground over the last half-decade, but after years away from home – first in her beloved Copenhagen and now in the techno bustle of Berlin – she’s emerging from her lockdown cocoon with a recalibrated approach. Drawing more and more from the sweatbox euphoria of her early rave days, the next phase of Solid Blake looks set to be shot in Technicolor.
In the blur of the pandemic, Blake made a reluctant move to Berlin – not for the clubs, but for a job at music giant Ableton. Her weekdays now are studious, even monk-like, she jokes, with working hours spent in production workshops or symposiums about tonality. But come the weekend she’s back in the booth, playing post-lockdown sets at Fold in London, Mala Junta in Berlin, Wildeburg Festival and Copenhagen’s famed Ved Siden Af. In the last year she’s also cemented a connection with legendary techno spot Tresor, playing their huge 31st anniversary festival and inside the club’s new Globus room alongside edge-walking DJs like Minor Science and BMG.
Throughout lockdown Solid Blake’s residency on London’s Rinse FM was a lifeline, keeping her digging for ever-weirder music and letting her shine a light on rising DJs like Nikki Nair, Perko and Byron Yeates. In fact, radio is where it all started – she joined Subcity Radio as a first-year student in Glasgow, producing a show that combined happy hardcore and prank calls (plus occasional appearances from local kid Hudson Mohawke). As she remembers it, one day she help load in a sound system and four years later she was still there, writing her dissertation on the studio couch.
It took another six years for her friends to “push her out the nest” and onto a pair of decks. By then based in Copenhagen, the green-tipped DJ became a core member of the all-woman Apeiron crew, revitalising the Danish underground with their fresh take on speedy techno and, in Blake’s case, hardnut electro. In 2019 she made her Boiler Room debut and played her first live show in the basement of Tresor, as well as stacking up shows at Europe’s best clubs: Berghain, De School, Corsica Studios and Robert Johnson.
Solid Blake’s first original material, inspired by the pneumatics of classic electro and late-late-night acid techno, appeared on choice underground labels Seilscheibenpfeiler and Outer Zone, and she was quickly recognised for her production chops, joining the 2018 cohort of Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin and picking up a nomination for Best Breakthrough Producer from DJ Mag. More recently her output has included remixes for Pär Grindvik and Marc Acardipane, contributions to the Club Quarantäne and Herrensauna compilations, and a live-focused collaboration with CPH techno mainstay Ctrls under the banner Historical Repeater.
Despite making her name in the techno-heavy zones of Mitteleuropa, over the years she’s felt the Glasgow influence growing stronger, as she’s pulled towards more eclectic selections and high-contrast blends. “I want transitions to be obvious, I want people to notice when there’s a new song – or maybe even something shocking,” she says, citing Sub Club heroes Optimo and blend wizard Teki Latex as touchstones. More risk equals more excitement – something she’s also discovered through her talent for playing back-to-back DJs like Skee Mask, Stenny and old friend Mama Snake.
With releases coming up on Osàre! Editions and Tresor Records, plus work on a brand new live show, Solid Blake is speeding towards a distinct new era in her life as an artist. “Those early years of going out to hear Optimo with my school uniform in my bag, that’s what has stuck with me – so I’m doubling down on that,” she promises. The future can only get weirder.