Dec 22, 2021
8 min read
If you're looking for explosive sets that blow the lids off of warehouses around the globe, look no further than AK Sports. Fusing techno hybrids, acid house, and rapid breaks into a unique vision of high NRG nu-rave, she continues to release high-powered material from her twin bases of London and Los Angeles.
Her Warp Mode events play a pivotal role in bringing the LA underground to new heights, igniting it with the inimitable flavor of UK styles, and underscoring local and international talent. But, more importantly, her events focus on elevating gender minorities, queer, and BIPOC artists.
Growing up on the sunny shores of Bondi Beach in Australia, AK Sports – aka Madi Carr – was surrounded by a band scene. Her dad opened the gateway into electronic music. He introduced her to the sounds of big beat artists like Fatboy Slim and Groove Armada. And timeless icons like Moby and Daft Punk.
A tight-knit relationship between electronic music and her love for skateboarding and skiing blossomed. Listening while cruising around bends put her in a rhythm and groove that heightened the overall experience. She also noticed she improved much faster.
"When I was younger my dad would drag me down to CD stores and definitely encouraged me to get into big beat … we were also obsessed with Blink 182 and the whole punk scene … just like a bit of everything when I was younger," she remembers.
"It always crossed across from band to electronic, because I actually grew up skateboarding and my dad would make me listen to my discman [whilst skating]. I think most parents would probably say, 'Absolutely not … you need to make sure that no one's going to run into you.' But yeah, it was a range for sure."
While attending university on the Gold Coast of Australia, she was disappointed to discover a music scene tinged with touristic tackiness and commercialism. Her subsequent return to Bondi took her on an upswing and paved the way for her entrance into the music industry.
Becoming a promoter plunged her into a scene replete with incredible DJs, creatives, and artists. The events she threw proved successful and sparked a domino effect. She quickly climbed the ladder of the events industry throwing bigger parties at every rung.
"That's how I got my start in the music industry because I wanted to chat to the hot band guys. I just started to become a promoter. I went up to this cool bar and asked them who books the bands and asked if I can give it a go."
Dissatisfied at her pay rate, AK Sports' first shot at DJing stemmed from a lightbulb moment.
"In Australia, unless you're an artist, the money's pretty bad. I would complain to my bosses about getting a pay rise, and they told me, 'We can't give you any more money, but you can teach yourself how to DJ, and then DJ at your own events and get paid by the venue.' So, I would hang back at the office after work, set the decks up myself, and practice."
For her first gigs, she chose to team up with a friend. It wasn't long before she had bigger slots at better events. These days, when AK Sports performs, it'd be hard to detect the slightest ounce of anxiety in her appearance. But starting out in her career, she recalls that a degree of nervousness was sometimes unavoidable.
"There was one time I remember driving to a club for a solo headline gig or closing for someone. I was so panicked about my abilities. The taste was there, but my abilities … I felt like it was a little bit too premature to be playing, or maybe it wasn't… I don't know. I remember driving there and thinking, 'I don't have to put myself through this stressful experience. I don't know why I'm doing this to myself!' Once you get past a certain technical ability, I think it's smooth sailing. Those were my own experiences of DJing, and it was always very rewarding and always lots of fun."
When asked about her first significant achievement in music, her eyes light up. Several vital moments spring to mind within seconds. The release of her debut EP was a big one and happened organically through a friend who had set up a record company called Gallery Recordings, based in Sydney.
Over time, her music has evolved and taken on new forms and trajectories, with releases on Club Glow, Tooflez Muzik, Start Local Records, and Of Leisure.
Playing shows in other countries always felt great, but a key highlight was a gig in Edinburgh. She was also immensely proud to have gotten a show on BALAMII Radio, one of London's top electronic institutions. In a world increasingly influenced by music streaming services, she insists that radio appeal is unique.
"I started out in a similar one in Australia called FBI Radio. That was another big achievement actually, getting a show on there. These smaller stations, and even the bigger ones like Jaguar, the work she's done on BBC Radio 1 with her show Introducing, it's all about community. You feel connected to everyone … for me, I really found my community in BALAMII. I was playing a certain type of jacking house, breaksy stuff, but I always wanted to play crazy breaks and heavy techno and just go a bit psycho. I wasn't getting the gigs at the time, or they weren't the right time slot or whatever to do that, so the radio show gave me the opportunity to go wild. Also, I took different shows to explore different genres, so I did the history of jungle in one show, the history of DnB in another show. Radio was also a place for DJs to practice during COVID when all these gigs were cancelled. So yeah, I think that it's an exciting new place to do things that you wouldn't necessarily do in club spaces, get some work, and connect with the online community and producers and fans that we love."
Passionate to embrace creative expression in all its forms, AK Sports has released several music videos to accompany her tracks, which showcase the skills of various female, trans and non-binary artists.
The clip for "Houdini" plunges you into a Matrix-inspired reworking of a Brixton night out, all transmitted through the lens of a retro video game. These imaginative and vibrant videos bring music to life in a new way, yet it was a shame to reflect on the general absence of music videos in the dance music industry as a whole.
"I wanted to put out a video with my first single but I was advised that it wasn't cool to do a video. It's just an untapped market, so let's go crazy. I particularly like to work with female, trans, and non-binary artists, so I'm trying to find those people and any other way, shape or form that I can connect with them to help me express myself and themselves."
"I think we could do more, but sometimes people just don't have the time or the money," she posits. "This animator from Berlin, Stacie Ant, did the video for 'Tank Girl.' She basically made avatars of me and my friends. It was amazing, her style was very cool. It was influenced by the Berlin underground - very sexy, very female gaze. But the hours that go into making those sorts of things are not cheap. So, it's not always that viable to get music videos, unless you've got a big label who are going to pay for it, or if you've got homies that I was lucky enough to find to help do it for the cheap, sometimes free, because they were just down to jump on."
Her dedication to her craft is uncompromising. Despite a hand injury that left her arm in a splint for several months, she chose to carry on DJing regardless; her one-handed mixing soon gained her a reputation as the 'bionic-armed Aussie DJ.' Thankfully, the splint's now off, and a current of new material continues to flow.
She finds inspiration through real-life experiences. For example, her recent release on Justin Jay's Fantastic Voyage, "Cops In The Club," resulted from a warehouse rave gone wrong.
"I wrote it after a warehouse party that I was at got raided, and it was terrifying. It's a bit tongue in cheek with the vocalI put on like a European accent to kind of express the universal voice and connect the experience to [people] all around the world because it's just a thing that can happen everywhere."