Actress is the pseudonym of British musician and producer Darren J. Cunningham. His shadowy, unpredictable music draws loosely on 2-step garage, sub-bass, and London’s rave heritage. It has been released by a number of different labels, including Honest Jon’s Records, Nonplus Records, and Werkdiscs, a label he co-founded in 2004.
Melding early 80s R&B and funk, techno, art rock, house, and noise, Cunningham debuted in 2004 with the 12" No Tricks on his own Werkdiscs label. The first Actress full-length, Hazyville, followed on Werkdiscs in 2008. Splazsh appeared two years later on Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s label and was chosen by The Wire as the 2010 album of the year. In 2012 Cunningham released his third album, R.I.P. (Honest Jon’s) to rapturous acclaim. His fourth full-length, the triple-LP Ghettoville, was released in early 2014 as a sequel to Hazyville.
Cunningham grew up in Wolverhampton and played football professionally before an injury in the early-00s sent him out of the game and into music. First he DJed, then he began producing with a Roland Groovebox and a Dictaphone.
His label, Werk Discs, which took the name of a club night started by Cunningham, Ben Casey, and Gavin Weale in the early 2000s, has gone on to become a hugely respected dance imprint and an outlet for the likes of Lone, Zomby, and Lukid. After a short hiatus, the label forged a partnership with long-running, independent Ninja Tune in 2012.
Cunningham has collaborated with the Tate Modern for a specially-commissioned live “silent disco” performance as part of their Yayoi Kusama exhibition, and has crafted a hugely varied set of remixes for Panda Bear, Radiohead, Laurel Halo, Kasabian, and John Cale.