Gabrielle Watson, better known as A Hundred Drums, began her bass music project in 2006. Since then, Watson has developed the A Hundred Drums project and brand into something much bigger than herself alone.
With a commitment to honoring the origins of Electronic music, the landscapes of sound created by A Hundred Drums are overflowing with significant meaning. Every beat is intentional; every melody tells a story.
The forthcoming EP from A Hundred Drums, out on Deadbeats, is the retelling of not just her story–but the story of an entire population, systemically oppressed in the U.S. for hundreds of years. Enough is Enough is the culmination of the heart wrenching but ever-necessary social justice movements we have witnessed and participated in recent history, as well as those movements that shook generations prior.
After we learned about the Enough is Enough EP, we were anxious to know more about its backstory and message. Electric Hawk sat down with Watson to learn more about A Hundred Drums and Enough is Enough.
Trigger warning: the stories and first-hand experiences that are detailed in this interview describe traumatic experiences with racism and violence.
Alex Opalka, Electric Hawk: I want to start by thanking you for your willingness to sit down and talk with me about your upcoming EP and the motivations and story behind it. It’s called Enough is Enough. And from what I understand, it’s a commentary about what it’s like being Black in America, correct?
Gabrielle Watson, A Hundred Drums: Essentially, yeah. The EP is basically a recovery tool for me. In 2016, I was attacked. The color of my skin was a big motivator behind that.
I was at my best friend’s house. She has this roommate that she found on Craigslist, who had already been making her feel very uncomfortable. I was having a rough time one night, and I just wanted some company. So I hit her up. And she was like, come over! So I go to her house. And this is later in the evening. We’re just in her room with the door closed, no music, no TV. We’re literally just there talking, drinking some tea, spiked with a little tequila.
Her roommate comes in barging through the door with a key that she didn’t even know he had. He said, “Yo, your n***** friend needs to leave because I want to go to bed, and I don’t want her stealing from my house.” There was an altercation, and we whipped out our phones to record. He walked away, and we closed the door.
Time went by and we realized, let’s get out of here. I had to use the bathroom, but my friend didn’t feel comfortable about me going alone. I go anyway, but she stands in her doorway with her phone out and she’s recording me. When I come out, I see him standing across the room. He’s six-foot-two, 240 pounds, a very big, bald white man. He’s four times my size. He said, “Leave.” I said, “No, I’m not leaving without my friend.”
When I tried to slide by him, he picked me up, threw me on the ground, and kicked me twice in my ribs. At that moment, I realized holy shit like, this is happening. My friend is still recording but she grabs my phone and she calls 911.
So now we realize we can’t leave. I’ve been assaulted, we have to wait for the cops.
I try to exercise what I know about self-defense. Calm down the attacker if you can, or get to a safe place, but ultimately, you need to stay nearby to wait for the cops. As I’m trying to persuade this man to calm down, I make a comment about how I could defend myself. He said, “Well, you’re a little black belt and I’m a big white belt.” He had already kicked me. But for some reason, I just felt like that at that moment is when I got really scared.
I took out my pocket knife and disengage the blade. He came after me. He grabbed the arm that was holding the knife and grabbed me by my hair, then he started dragging me across the living room. At that moment, my friend’s phone died. So the rest of what happened is not on camera. But he’s dragging me and I’m wailing all over the place, trying to get out of his grasp. When I finally break free, I did a lunge. I backed up and I noticed that there was blood everywhere and he was on the ground.
That was my moment to get out. He was down.
I run into my friend’s room, grab my keys, grab my stuff, grab her and we climb out her window. And as soon as we are out of the window, four cop cars come swarming in. They pull their guns out, and they’re pointing at me. They’re telling me and her to separate, and we’re crying. And they’re saying, “Where’s the knife?” My friend was clear with the dispatchers: “My roommate attacked my friend, and she has a knife.” But they think that we’re all roommates, and someone has a knife. They completely messed up the story. They just think there are roommates fighting and someone has a knife.
After some time, the cops took me to jail. For defending myself. They were charging me with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to cause bodily harm. That’s a minimum eight-year sentence in a maximum-security prison. I don’t have any felonies, I don’t have any priors. I don’t have a criminal record at all. Until that night, I’ve never been in trouble. But I was treated like I was a longtime criminal. They didn’t read me my Miranda Rights, I didn’t get a chance to see medical. I was in jail for 12 days. They wouldn’t set bail for me, and they wouldn’t let me see my family. I got treated really badly.
The scariest part of all was when my public defender came and saw me. He basically told me that I had no options unless I was “white with a lot of money.”
Because I am a woman of color, and I don’t have a lot of money, I was screwed. My life was over. Everything came crashing down.
After that meeting, I panicked.
I called my partner at the time and I told him what happened and he surprised me by telling me that he and his family got me Sacramento’s best criminal defense lawyer, Nancy King. She’s incredible, and she went to bat for me.
I went to a preliminary hearing to fight my two felony charges. The cops that arrested me were rookies. My lawyer put them to shame so quick. The question that really encapsulated everything was this: “It’s two women, much smaller than this man. They were filming from the beginning. Isn’t that enough to tell you that they feared for their lives?” And then, it was quiet.
The DA was coming after me because I showed no fear [in the video]. Of course, I’m not gonna show fear! I’m a very strong protector, warrior woman. No one’s gonna get fear out of me, even though I was terrified. I really thought this man was going to kill me. I was also in survival mode. That adrenaline kicks in and it’s game on. I was lucky that I was still conscious enough to stop myself after my first blow. I am a trained fencer, and I was very conscious and very aware of what was happening–I knew I just needed to debilitate him and get out.
Because I showed a lack of fear, they thought that I was instigating it even though I wasn’t.
The first words out of the judge’s mouth, after watching the video, were: “Clearly this is an act of self-defense.” I felt so relieved that he saw that I was defending myself. Then he said, “Although there is a lack of fear, I can understand why one wouldn’t want to show someone they were afraid.” I started to cry because that judge saw exactly what I was doing. But, because someone was wounded, he couldn’t dismiss the charges–but he dropped the felony charges. From there, the whole thing starts all over in misdemeanor court. They came up with a brandishing of a weapon, which I did do. It’s stupid because he had already attacked me at that point, but they had to punish me. The only way to get my charges dropped was to go to trial.
We hired a private investigator, and she found six women that my attacker had beaten and assaulted over the course of years. So he has a history of being an abuser towards women. He has a criminal record of domestic abuse and several restraining orders. I was just the one woman that didn’t tolerate it for a second.
These other women all agreed to show up to court for me if I decided to go forward. And a lot of people from my community knew what I was dealing with, and they bombarded my lawyer with Character Reference letters. So many people came to my rescue. Every time I showed up to court, I had two full rows of people supporting me.
Even though I wasn’t entirely alone, I still felt really alone because all of my friends and my family at the time were white. I’m the only Black person in the courtroom. It felt really weird.
So I have a misdemeanor charge of brandishing a weapon on my record for self-defense. It’s bullshit. All of the money, all of the court visits, everything, was to just fight for my freedom.
AO: I’m so sorry that you had to go through all that. I understand why it would drive you into creating Enough is Enough and I’m glad that you have music with ‘A Hundred Drums’ to help you through this whole process. Because I’m sure it’s trauma, and it’s pain.
AHD: I do have PTSD. The road to recovery after has been challenging. I mean, to be honest, it’s not that easy seeing someone else’s blood on you. It’s very triggering. I had really bad episodes in the beginning. Anytime I would see anybody that looked like my attacker, I would go into an episode and I had to be cared for. I struggled with finding my own identity again. It was tough.
I have a service dog, Hunter. I had him before the attack happened and he’s undergone some training. Now, he just naturally knows when I’m distressed and he takes care of me. He’s very protective. Anytime there’s weird energy, or a male around us, Hunter’s very focused.
It’s been tough, but this happened in 2016. I’ve had a lot of time to really work through this. It’s gotten a lot better, my episodes are much better, and I don’t really have them too much. I’m able to breeze through an episode, kind of stay present, and it turns into a hand tremor instead. So typically, if I’m going through it, I’m kind of quiet and my hand tremors a lot.
What really triggered this EP though, was when the BLM movement started. Because I live downtown, really close to the Capitol. I could hear the people screaming that my life mattered, everybody’s screaming “Black Lives Matter.” It triggered me because no one was really around when it happened to me.
[During my incident] those cops came rolling up with their guns pointed at me. I’m staring down the barrel of 45.
First, I was afraid this crazy white dude was going to kill me. Now I’m thinking I’m gonna get slaughtered by cops. I’ve never been afraid to die ever in my life until that night. I shouldn’t be afraid of cops. We are the ones who called them!
So when the Black Lives Matter protests started, it triggered me because I’m hearing hundreds of thousands of people yelling and screaming about how my life matters. And no one was doing that for me in 2016. I felt alone at that time, even though I had a lot of support.
For some reason, for the first time, I actually felt empowered during the protests. There are people that don’t know me, are a part of the cause, and want justice. That had me feeling so empowered, supported, and driven to join the movement in such a way! How can I be a part of this movement? How can I continue the message and the awareness?
I’m not an activist, I’m not a motivational speaker. I’m not trying to be a big leader. I just want to keep the message going. So Enough is Enough is exactly that. It’s me, finally, encompassing all the things I have felt over the years, and putting it into this EP.
There is an intro and a secret track where my really dear friend, Leah, speaks about what it’s like to be Black in America.
AO: Are those Leah’s words we hear on the EP?
AHD: Yeah, so she had originally done a Facebook post of the whole thing–What’s it’s like to be Black in America? It was triggering for me in all the best ways. It all just clicked. I was like, I need to record her, this needs to be heard by everybody.
She’s not just speaking about her, she’s speaking about me, she’s speaking about the next Black person, and the next Black person. This is exactly how we feel.
I’m not a very vocal person, it’s hard for me to be poetic like that. She took the words right out of my mouth.
It’s a four-minute piece, but I cut it in half. The first part is in the intro, and then again in the secret track, after track three. It’s all original content, it’s her spoken word.
That’s the EP – to keep that message alive.
Also, I wanted to really help others realize the lack of diversity in EDM. For a while, I didn’t even realize how many lineups, festivals, and club bookings that I have been on where I’m one of the very few, if not the only woman. Always the only Black woman. I don’t know why that is.
Because the EDM scene is very comfortable with its racial and social politics, a lot of promoters don’t get the extra step to make sure the stage looks as diverse as the audience.
I had this discussion with a legend in dubstep, Joe Nice. He’s one of the very few black people in dubstep, I mean, granted there’s a lot of Black people in dubstep in the UK. He and I did a tour together a few years back, we were talking about how sometimes it’s just us, and we felt that it’s a little weird. We’re the token Black people.
For the most part, I can say that I haven’t personally experienced being treated any differently. At least in my face, you know. I know I’ve been oblivious to discrimination and racial discrimination my entire life because I grew up in an all-white neighborhood. I went to an all-white school, I have all white friends. It’s just, I never thought I was different until that attack happened.
I don’t know what I can do to change it, I don’t know what I can do to make a difference drastically, but the only thing that I do know how to do is continue speaking about it, being welcoming, and being a part of the bigger message.
I’m hoping that when this story comes out, more people that feel connected with me, through my music, will feel more connected knowing the story and it will hopefully hit them differently.
This is serious. This isn’t just happening to anybody. I survived, and I feel like it’s a little bit of my responsibility to honor the ones that didn’t by telling their stories and continuing to be vocal about it. This is our truth, whether you like it or not, whether it makes you comfortable or not.
You know, I was really hesitant about sharing my story. The truth is, I went through it too, and I have to talk about my story. It feels good, too. The more I process, the easier it gets.
AO: So how did Deadbeats get involved with A Hundred Drums and Enough is Enough?
Deadbeats had actually scouted me last year back in July of 2020. I didn’t have anything ready at the time, but they reached out wanting to hear something from me. I had done a Deadbeats House Party, and they really enjoyed it. So they got to talking with my manager Anand, and they wanted to hear something from me. I said, “Sweet! I’ll get something going.” I started working on Enough is Enough in December, and I didn’t really intend for it to go to Deadbeats. Actually, I had forgotten that that was even an option because I had been working on music slowly. With COVID and everything going on, I ended up getting a job. Now I’m also a corporate professional working full time, and it was a little tough to balance out my schedules.
Everything just naturally came together. When I started working on these tunes, I had no idea that they were going to go in the direction that they did. The first one that I worked on was “Root of It All.” I went online and grabbed a bunch of different recordings on YouTube, and even the news, of different speakers at BLM protests. Once that track started forming, everything came into focus. I thought, “This is exactly what this needs to be.”
This needs to be about BLM, this needs to be about my story. This needs to have intention behind it.
Once these pieces started coming together and I had demos ready, I sent them to Anand and he sent them to Deadbeats. Harrison Bennett and Harley Rapp [from Deadbeats] came back saying, “This is amazing, let’s get the ball rolling.” It was game on from there.
Releasing with Deadbeats is probably the biggest achievement in my music career, so I want to take advantage of having this platform. They’ve handed me the mic, and they’ve been extremely supportive with time, money, and energy to allow me to bring this project to life.
This isn’t anything that I’ve ever done before, and this certainly isn’t anything that Deadbeats has ever done before. It’s something new for all of us, and we’re all excited for something fresh.
We’re also working on a documentary that’s going to talk about the EP, as well as have behind-the-scenes stuff. We’ve conducted some interviews with my team, filmed me doing some live tracking, mixing, and mastering… We’ve got a whole lot going on.
AO: We are huge Deadbeats fans at Electric Hawk and cannot wait to hear this project. As people listen to Enough is Enough, what’s the message you hope people have in their head?
AHD: I want people to feel togetherness, and to feel more educated. And I want people to feel connected with someone that’s been through it. It’s really tough to say exactly what I want people to feel because the intention is to just continue the message. But I guess in a sense, I really want people to just feel more connected with the movement.
AO: Out of all the tracks that you’ve made on the EP, what is your standout favorite?
AHD: That’s really hard. I love them all. Each one is a different emotion for me. But “Root of It All” is a very root track. That one’s really emotional.
I really love “Bone Dust” because that’s the track that I put more of like the OG dubstep vibe on. I used a bunch of live instruments, and not just from me. “Bone Dust” features my buddy Pedro from Portugal. It was really nice working with that piece; I really love the second half when the didgeridoo comes on. I got to make that space for him to push that energy out.
That track is intended to clear the space, to set the intention, and to get the listeners ready. It’s very dynamic.
AO: Can you tell me more about “Bone Dust?”
AHD: Well, that track originally was called “Hear Me,” but it didn’t make sense. In the track I have a sample of a voice saying: “Oh, grind your bones to dust.” Essentially, what that means to me is pretty much what police brutality is for me. They’re shooting and killing my people all over the place. It’s like from nothing, for nothing. Taking all aspects of our essence.
AO: I wanted to ask you about your origin story. Where did A Hundred Drums come from?
AHD: “A Hundred Drums” came with me from the very beginning. But oddly enough, A Hundred Drums doesn’t mean that I’m a drummer, or that I have 100 of them. The number 100 is completely irrelevant. I just chose 100 because it’s a whole number. Having 100 of something is really cool. To have a crowd of like 100 people is dope or to have 100 shares of a company is dope. It’s just like… 100 is like a good solid number. And, yes, I’m actually a percussionist.
But most importantly, A Hundred Drums, to me, means synchronicity. It means connection. Because if you think about it, our ancestors… when they were stressed, they danced around their campfires.
When everyone’s dancing at the same BPM, your heartbeat syncs up. Your heart, everyone’s hearts, start beating at the same rhythm. At that moment, there’s a synchronistic empathic connection that is happening with everybody around you.
AO: What can we expect next from A Hundred Drums? More music? Live sets?
AHD: I have a top-secret collaborative project in the works with a Billboard chart-topping DJ that I can’t wait to share, but it’s in its infancy, so you’ll just have to wait and see.
I’ll be dropping some super cool merch soon as well, and there is major movement on taking A Hundred Drums to the next level. This Deadbeats opportunity is pretty big, and I’m ready to step it up some more.
My team is working on the next phase of my project which is called The A Hundred Drums Experience.
That’s going to include all original sets with a bunch of unreleased music, paired with all original visual and animated experiences by Kara and David on my creative team. I’m going to be purchasing a Korg global edition hand drum. And I will be playing live! We’re still taking some time to get everything going. It’ll be a good while before this is ready to launch – I’d say a few months.
I have an amazing creative team. I recently met David at CouchFam Festival a few months ago. After our stream together for that, everybody was telling us, “You two are a powerful fucking unit.” And we get along so well. Ever since we teamed up, we’ve been inseparable. We worked together again at my recent show at the Black Box. The crowd was blown away.
We are a really good pair; his vibe and style fit so well with mine, and he also really loves my music. He’s really supportive and he loves the vibe that I curate.
There’s also Kara; I met her when I moved down here to Denver in 2019. We had been friends ever since. She is with Infinite Koncepts, and I’ve always loved her work. It wasn’t until recently, where I was like really wanting to solidify the A Hundred Drums brand, that we talked about her coming on as my Brand Manager. And she agreed.
I introduced Kara and David and it all clicked for the three of us to invest in this project. What’s really cool is it’s not all about me. It’s about the three of us. We want to push the art of all three of us, collaborating together.
AO: I’m super stoked for this EP and where this is going to hopefully take you next.
It’s super cool that Deadbeats is picking up Enough is Enough because that’s gonna be beneficial for both parties. It’s really going to solidify their commitment to welcoming projects like this and amplifying your story.
AHD: And hopefully they’ll be taking me on the road quite a bit, too, so we’ll see!
Before this interview was published, Gabrielle shared some exciting news. On Sunday, July 4th, A Hundred Drums will take over downtown Denver at Sculpture Park for the Deadbeats Backyard Jamboree. Joining HEYZ, Jessica Audiffred, ALRT, DNMO, and Habstrakt; A Hundred Drums will open for Zeds Dead, and we can’t think of anyone more deserving than her.
Gabrielle, thank you so much for showing the courage to share your story with us. We wish you nothing but love and light from this day forward.
Keep an eye out for Enough is Enough, the next chapter in the story of A Hundred Drums.
Looking for new music? Keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts. Updated every Friday with all the latest releases. Whether it’s the newest drops from A Hundred Drums, as well as all your favorite artists. Some old-school, or underground – we just want you to hear it.
June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month! EDM began with the LGBTQIA+ community, and it remains a space to be fully yourself – safely and without judgment. Not only is this a time to celebrate the full spectrums of gender and sexuality, but also a reminder of the continued fight for gay and trans rights. Learn how to support trans rights here. Also, support several causes for the LGBTQIA+ community here.