Following up on our recent interview with DJ Hazard, we turned to his long-term mentor and recent back-to-back partner DJ Hype to see what he had to say. A legend thanks in no small part to years running the True Playaz label, Hype is up there with the DnB greats, so we were more than happy to get his take on pirate radio, London nightlife and touring with his star pupil. Here’s how it played out when we went In Conversation with one of the genre’s true icons.
You made your way to the high-profile status you enjoy today partly through a presence on early pirate radio stations in London, with Fantasy FM in particular. Is pirate radio still relevant today?
If you mean pirate radio on the FM dial only, then I would have to say no, it’s not as important but it still plays a role of course. 20 years ago it was pretty much the be-all and end-all of getting an underground hit record, but I think young people today listen via the internet through various websites and online stations, plus DJ mixes on YouTube and Soundcloud, Mixcloud etc. Most young people only really listen to the FM radio in a car — but I would think the older generation will still listen to pirate radio more as they have culturally grown up on it. Basically, there are so many more ways to listen music than there were when pirate radio was in its heyday. But as I must stress - it still plays a part.
You’ve been active in the DnB scene for decades now, so what is it that has kept it interesting after all these years?
The strong infrastructure it has on the underground, and the way it’s always evolving and changing in styles keeps it moving. Where other genres don't always change much and go out of so-called fashion, just when a style of drum and bass is looked on as boring, another style rises up with new ideas and new artists making it fresh again. Plus, every few years the top end of producers leave the scene but the new fresh talent comes forward with their stamp to keep it fresh and moving.
You’ve been around long enough now to be able to spot a talent when you see one, as shown by your signing of Hazard all those years back. Are there any upcoming artists that look especially promising in the drum and bass scene this year?
Within my Playaz camp I would have to say Annix are prob the next big thing as they seem to have a never-ending production line of ever-changing and evolving music. Plus I have Tyke who is just coming into his own style at the moment. And of course the rest of my artists are all up to a standard I am very proud of. Outside the Playaz camp there are too many names to mention from all styles of dnb/jungle music.
You were an active supporter of Fabric when it faced closure by Islington Town Council. How has the club changed under the new security policies that have been instated since its reopening?
When Fabric closed it looked like it was gonna close for good, so I had to find other venues quick before we ended up with no London shows for 2017, so we locked in two shows at Electric Brixton (one in January and one April) – they have both been amazing and both sold out. We have also secured a stage at the massive SW4 festival in August, and we are looking at possibly doing Brixton Academy at the end of the year, sadly that left no room to return to Fabric 2017 … But I think I will be personally playing a set there late 2017.
Last week you played your first ever London b2b set with DJ Hazard, who owes much of his success to your belief in him when he signed for your label. Does it make you proud to play alongside someone whose career you have influenced so profoundly?
It makes me very proud to see him get the recognition he truly deserves. He is hard-working, humble, true to his sound, original and doesn't try be what he ain’t comfortable with, and I admire and encourage that in him. Also, he is not generic which is very important in longevity.
I used to say to him that I am waiting for the ego in him to explode like it does with most artists when they have success. You know what I mean – you get the young producer who is humble and easy to work with, he then has a big track out there that, let’s say, becomes an anthem, then you meet them 6 months later and they are not humble anymore; they are even walking and talking differently – as if they are now better than everyone else because they had a hit record (I won’t name names but I have seen this time and time again in our scene). I call it “turn rich and switch”. I have known Hazard for around 15 years and he is the same humble guy I have always known, and that’s rare as fuck in this music business.
Hazard is of course now a legend in the genre, but if you were able to pick any DJ past or present to go back to back with, who would you choose?
No-one really, I am not a big b2b fan and tbh neither is Hazard, but we do it because everyone else seems to love it; the feedback after our first b2b at Boomtown last year was what set the ball rolling with our b2b tour – the feedback was so big that we could not ignore the fact that it was such a success.
You’ve a number of festivals coming up over the summer months, with shows around the UK as well as in Croatia for Hideout. What excites you most about the coming months?
I love doing it all. I won’t upset promoters by highlighting one or the other… let’s just say this summer will be fun!!
Do you represent a ‘golden age’ of drum and bass, or are the best years still to come?
Listen, all this golden age talk… What’s the ‘golden age’??? Talk to someone who is my age and they will prob say 1994-1997 when it was Leviticus, Goldie’s ‘Timeless’, LTJ Bukem etc,, Speak with someone in their mid-thirties and they will prob say 1998 - 2004 when it was all Bad Company, Ed Rush & Optical etc. My point is that the ‘golden age’ depends on your age… Now, you got artists right across the board – from commercial acts like Sigma and DJ Fresh, to underground giants like Hazard, Guv, Ivy Lab and Noisia etc – the list just goes on and on
To finish off I’d like to take things back to your b2b partner. What’s your favourite DJ Hazard record?
I love ‘em all…… lol
There’s plenty to get hyped for over the next few months, with the Playaz boss performing at Detonate, Parklife, Hideout and MADE Festival before summer’s out.
Photo courtesy of DJ Hype