"If One of Us Wins, We All Win" - The Importance of Equality and Visibility With Rookes
Rookes is somewhat of a legend in our eyes, from being a badass producer and co-founding 2% rising, a production group for women and gender minorities. We caught up with her about her new track, Consent and why there needs to be visible equality in the music industry.
"I’m also a strong supporter of monetising your trauma if you can; if I have to deal with this large pile of shit then we are going to damn-well dance on it."
What was the inspiration behind Consent?
Consent was a song born of necessity. I was finally coming to terms, before the pandemic hit, with the psychological fallout of escaping an abusive relationship, and then in the summer of 2020 I found myself trapped in a room waiting for my apportioned zoom therapy to begin. So I wrote it in one afternoon, having no real idea at the time whether I would ever be able to perform it or even share it with the public. At the time it felt incredibly raw.
How does songwriting help you process this?
I think it’s really important to underline that songwriting is not therapy, and should not, in my opinion, be treated like any kind of a therapy replacement. Therapy is therapy; songwriting is catharsis. If you are trying to work out serious trauma, songwriting and self-expression without professional support will only take you so far. What Consent did give me was a sense of ownership over the traumatic experiences that inspired it. When abusive events develop, those events can rob you of a sense of agency, but writing Consent enabled me to create something powerful and relatable that I could share with others. I hope it makes people who have experienced similar abuse feel a little less alone. I’m also a strong supporter of monetising your trauma if you can; if I have to deal with this large pile of shit then we are going to damn-well dance on it.
"I have a great ear for arrangement and I can play five instruments, but I had no high-profile female role models in production to look to in my younger life, so it makes sense that no-one ever suggested it could be the job for me."
How has being a producer affected your songwriting journey?
It’s been a natural evolution to a job pathway that should have really been suggested to me long ago. Being a producer has given me way more confidence to share my songwriting skills with others - to book co-writes, to build demos with speed and skill, to propose a strong vision for a song. It’s also made me less precious about the songwriting process. If there’s a few of us teaming up to make the best possible record, then the best idea wins!
You are not only a songwriter but also a producer! Tell us about what drew you to production.
I have a great ear for arrangement and I can play five instruments, but I had no high-profile female role models in production to look to in my younger life, so it makes sense that no-one ever suggested it could be the job for me. As the old feminist adage goes: “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”, so it makes sense that it took me so long to put two and two together. The role now feels completely natural. A lot of production is facilitating an environment for artists to flourish in and I absolutely love that.
What instrument would you like to master next?
I have never worked with a bowed instrument, so I’d love to try that next. I get away with making amazing string arrangements through MPE technology, but I’d like to have a better feel for articulation. But I’d also like to get reacquainted with my bass guitar. I haven’t played much since recording Consent and I find playing bass very relaxing.
"We just want to do our jobs and be recognised for our excellent work, without having to disproportionately massage any egos or strategise the avoidance of bullying, harassment and abuse in order to get there."
You co-founded 2% rising with mastering engineer, Katie Tavini. What was it about your shared experiences that led you to setting up the group?
We found ourselves bitching about the same things during longer and longer phone calls. We were both so lonely, being two of only a handful of women and gender minorities that we knew, so setting up the private 2%R Facebook group was an experiment to see how many we could find. Turns out, there are loads of us! But we had a suspicion that most were coming up through bedroom production rather than the traditional studio-internship route, and generally speaking, we were right about that.
What do you hope you achieve from 2% rising?
Our main agenda was and continues to be holding a safe digital space for women and gender minorities to grow in confidence in their roles and connect with each other. Consequently we are generating a better, more egalitarian culture in our corner of the music industry almost as a by-product.
You’re celebrating the release on 11th October, where can we buy tickets?!
How would you like the music industry to change for women and gender minorities?
I would like it to be generally less difficult, tbh. We just want to do our jobs and be recognised for our excellent work, without having to disproportionately massage any egos or strategise the avoidance of bullying, harassment and abuse in order to get there. Right now, we still have a long way to go.
What advice would you give to a woman or gender minority?
Find your tribe. We exist, come find us!
If one of us wins, we all win. Increased representation is incredibly powerful and normalises our existence in the industry.
Buckle up - it’s still tough out here, but if I’ve learned anything in the past two years it’s that we can build the industry we want to populate.