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Anna Prior – Beat Palace

Author: Elsie Bath

Despite the fact that neither side of Anna Priors family was particularly musically inclined, at a young age, she took her father’s penny whistle and promptly started whacking it against a radiator. What a sound.

You could say that beat has been with her ever since, but that would be a bit cheesy.

As a kid Prior had always wanted to play a musical instrument. So, when a 6th form boy found her and a friend in the schools drum room – making some noise – and told her girls couldn’t drum, Prior knew this was something she wanted to do.

By 14, Prior was taking traditional (as she says: ‘boring’) drum lessons with a music teacher. Soon though she took an alternate route; trying her luck at the local music shop where Ian West promptly asked Prior how she wanted to learn.

The pair started playing along to some of her favourite tracks. Prior remember that West ‘had this wicked cassette tape that was Led Zeppelin without the drums, so we’d put that on and just smash it out, and it was so much fun.’

At 16, she had her first paid gig with the band Ignition, playing Silverchair and Nivarna covers at a local venue.

By 18 she had made it into NME. Prior say she has ‘kept every single clipping’ from the publication since.

At 20, Prior had made the leap to Leeds, joining The Ivory’s; a band that went on to support Placebo and Sisters of Mercy. But this was just a stepping stone on her way to London, a place she now calls home. Prior says, today, she’s ‘a Londoner as a way of life’.

Prior remember that West ‘had this wicked cassette tape that was Led Zeppelin without the drums, so we’d put that on and just smash it out, and it was so much fun.’

Once in London, Prior played in Lightspeed Champion, getting her first real taste of international touring, and weirdly enough colliding with the band she is still with today, Metronomy.

While drumming for Lightspeed Champion, Prior remembers they ‘actually supported Metronomy at the Amersham Arms in London. That gig was raucous.’ However, Prior admits of that night, ‘I hadn’t really heard of Metronomy before’.

In 2009, after Lightspeed Champion had disbanded, Prior joined Metronomy, 3 years after the band first album release, Pip Paine. ‘I was in the right place at the right time with Metronomy’ says Prior, describing the band as electro pop; ‘Daft Punk meets The Eagles.’

She has toured with the band ever since.

Aside from drumming, Priors other great love in life comes from the same beat heavy family.

While she was bashing out ‘Freak’ with the rest of the Ignition band, Prior began polishing her DJing skills at a local club as soon as she was old enough to walk through the doors.

‘I used to collect old 45 records, there was a Flea Market on a Wednesday, and I used to play those’ Prior remembers with a laugh, ‘sometimes I’d get too drunk and I’d loose them or scratch them.’

Graduating from the Indie Night at The Priory in Yorkshire, In the past 5 years she has played with the likes of DJ collective Eastern Front and at Musicbox Lisboa. Most frequently however, you can find her on Anna Prior’s Beat Palace, on Soho Radio’s Music channel.

Anyone who has met Prior knows she has a smile that can make your day; her DJ sets do the same. Laying down a hypnotic mix, Prior can always be counted on to feature inspiring female artists from all corners of the music industry, moving you into a good mood, day or night.

For well over two years now Prior has taken up space on the Soho Radio waves doing just this; filling her two hour show with good vibes, saying it makes her ‘excited about finding new stuff.’

Prior attempts to describe the music on the 2 hour show, ‘I really love Afro House Music, anything like that, anything with kinda crazy rhythms. I usually just use it like a 2 hour constant mix.’

When Anna was starting out on the music scene, it was a time when female drummers were not all that common. But Anna never felt out of place in the scene, saying ‘I know that it is a novelty, but I don’t feel like I’m treated like one.’

When Prior is asked, even now, “What’s it like being a female drummer?” her internal monologue sees it from a different perspective: ‘You know if you flip the question around it just seems so preposterous to me… “What’s it like being a male drummer?”’

Even through Prior has always tried to not be defined by her gender, she is aware she is also granted work because of it. ‘Positive discrimination’ as she puts it, ‘you have to have that for change to occur.’ Even now, if Prior can’t do a job, she keeps ‘a little book of female drummers’ she can pass the work on to, never passing up an opportunity to support women in the music industry.

To this day Prior has mixed emotions when it comes to the trajectory of her career, ‘I think some people look at me, as a woman, and they’re like, “You got this job because you’re a woman.” Or that my life is somehow easier because being a woman on the drums is a novelty.’

Despite all this however, it’s pretty clear she has a natural ability, one that was evident when she picked up that penny whistle for the first time.

Prior again, ’I threw all my eggs into one basket quite young, so I’ve had to make it work really. When I first had drum lessons, it came quite naturally to me. It’s probably the only thing in my life that I’ve been naturally good at.’

‘You know if you flip the question around it just seems so preposterous to me… “What’s it like being a male drummer?”’

But when Prior’s not showing off her natural talent, she can be found behind the mixer at Soho Radio. Anna’s passion for rhythm and style shows in the way she navigates the decks to create a fun and charismatic live DJ performance, both on and off air.

Priors says you can expect ‘lots of looping, and I kinda make interesting beats out of the music that I’m playing’ giving her audience space to zone out and get into their own world, just like Prior does behind the desk.

‘It’s almost like therapy for me’ reflects Prior, and I think that’s all we can hope for music to be.”