A Hundred Drums Evolves With Her Latest For Deadbeats
Rising bass producer A Hundred Drums blends indigenous percussion with psychedelic bass to an ever-growing sea of people. Using her platform to express her political ideas and struggles.
Powerful vibrations exude from sound systems as bassheads sway to the beat conducted by A Hundred Drums, aka Gabrielle Watson. Her new single on Zeds Dead’s label Deadbeats “If I Have To” with vocalist Saule is a fusion of meditative dub and stirring vocals. The project took close to a year to complete and pushed Watson in a different direction from her previous work. In just over 10 years Watson has been featured on UKF and released with Deadbeats, Heavy Traffic Recordings, Street Ritual, and many other prominent labels.
She collaborated with Montreal artist Saule who randomly appeared in her instagram feed while searching for music. Watson fell in love with his style, reached out, and the rest came naturally.
“I hit him up like, ‘hey, my name is Gabrielle and I recently discovered you. You're amazing and I was wondering if you’d be interested in working together’ and I sent him a demo. And he was just all about it. I worked on the track for at least eight months to a year. Then it all just came together. I had no release plans. I sent it to Deadbeats, and they were immediately on board. The label actually thinks of my flavor of bass music as tasteful, like a ‘fine wine,’ which great for me, because I love wine! ”
With heavy emphasis on indigenous hand drums and low-frequency bass, Watson runs her sets with a pulsating energy. The hums and vibrations seep into the listener as the sounds connect them on a common wavelength. A celebrated psychedelic bass artist, her creative past in future bass and techno speaks to her versatility in style.
“The name A Hundred Drums has more of a deeper meaning, the number 100 drums is completely irrelevant. Basically, A hundred drums means synchronicity of heart beats,” she explains.
“Historically speaking, our ancestors will come together and dance around a campfire. And that was their way of working out their issues and calming their stresses. But when you’re all moving together at the same BPM, there's a synchronistic connection that happens between everybody. Your heart rates are at the same BPM. So in a way, we’re all connected. If you have 100 heartbeats going out 140 bpm, it’s pretty magical. A Hundred Drums encapsulates that. Primarily, I am a percussionist. But just because I’m A Hundred Drums doesn’t mean I’m a drummer.”
Raised in California, Watson reflects on her upbringing, “Growing up, I listened to a lot of jazz, smooth jazz, and funk was a lot of what my mom was playing.”
Now based out of Denver, Colorado, Watson revels in the thriving hub of the innovative bass scene. Much like Berlin is for Techno, Denver is a stronghold for American bass and electronic with hundreds of artists and dozens of venues to check out.
The pandemic paved the way for Watson to work on new concepts and build a more diverse catalog of music.
“All my music has been pretty much the same ... I feel like it’s always been kind of predictable. The pandemic really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and really get more experimental and to explore a lot more. I discovered that I have so much more fun, really doing what I want, and not what I feel I‘m supposed to do because of the scene that I’m a part of, or the culture that I’m a part of. I didn't get into this just to be pigeonholed into just deep dubstep. I got into music as a DJ because I’m passionate about other people’s music. This single is the first of its kind that’s very different from what I’ve made before.”
As a multi-talented artist, Watson’s first mix on SoundCloud was a techno set recorded at Burning Man in 2014.
“When I first started DJing I actually DJed psytrance and psytec. I love it so much. That mix actually is older than what the date is on there. I just re-uploaded it a few years ago.”
Watson says that her current style isn’t as much of a pivot from her previous sound as it is an expansion on the psychedelic soundscapes she was already in tune with.
“ I've kind of always done both even though I started out with psytrance. I still loved dubstep. DJing psytrance at the time was a lot more fun..”
The roots of dub trace back to Jamaica in the 1960’s, created by experimenting with the local sounds of reggae with a dark futuristic tone. The genre of drum and bass was birthed from the same ideals. Dubbing refers to recreating an audio track on a different medium - manipulating the original record with an emphasis on the drum and bass known as riddim. Toasting is another term that’s complimentary to dub, it refers to the smooth sometimes chanting vocals that accompany the riddim. Different groups from Jamaica would release their dubplates on customized sound systems to see how the crowd reacted before printing more copies.
In 2021, Watson debuted her first EP on Deadbeats titled Enough Is Enough, a powerful project which vocalized the hardships of being Black in America paired with deep bass. The EP coincides with a documentary discussing the injustices she has witnessed first hand. With the pandemic exposing the inequalities against Black Americans such as police brutality, Watson was compelled to use her music to discuss this hate. Overcoming racial adversity and assault in this imperfect world, Watson is an inspiration to the thousands of newcomers to the scene. Her own wrongful incarceration after a racially based attack was the basis for the EP.
“I wrote that EP, strictly to keep awareness alive. Let’s not forget, this is still happening in the world. As a Black female bass music producer, I have struggled. People didn’t take me seriously. A lot of people treated me like shit at events.”
She explains how security often didn’t believe she was an artist. And how sound technicians assumed she didn’t know her own equipment or believe her when she would diagnose the issue declaring it wasn’t an issue on her end.
“Sound guys talking to me like I’m a complete idiot, like I don’t know what I’m talking about. When in truth 90% of sound guys I’ve ever dealt with have no idea about my setup. So when I say I know what the issue is, and it’s not on my end. They don’t want to listen to that, you know, they don’t want a female to tell them they’re wrong.”
A Hundred Drums will support Rezz on her Spiral tour this season. The two females have garnished notoriety in a predominantly male led industry. They provide a satiating eclectic touch to the wide expansion of bass music.
“I think it’s important for all of us to support each other. I am definitely looking forward to the tour with Rezz, EPROM, and Of The Trees right now. Myself and Canabliss think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s also my first tour. And it is also getting me excited for festival season. This is the biggest festival year in my career.”