A Sit Down With DJ Hype

15:19 Feb/08/2018


DJ Hype is an almost unique figure within the world of drum n' bass. It's unquestionable that he's one of the figures that helped birth the genre itself, has remained true to its sound throughout and is arguably more popular now than he's ever been.

He consolidated his reputation via pirate radio shows which ultimately resulted in an extremely long running Kiss 100 residency. His first record label, Ganja Records, despite originally running only between 1994 and 1996, smashed all expectations, helping to launch the career of DJ Zinc and also to help establish a new sound within the movement sometimes referred to as jump up.

 

"Be original, work hard and have self-belief that is honest and not ego-led."


 

During your younger years, you grew up in Hackney in London. What kind of electronic music influences were you open to when growing up and what appealed to you the most about them?

I grew up on all music, I love all music and I am influenced by all music. In my early days, I ran a Reggae sound system and I remember one track in particular which stood out, and that was ‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’ by Wayne Smith. I was about 16-years-old and it was probably the first big Reggae tune with an electronic vibe to it – it was a game changer.

No one really mixed the two at the time, right?

Soundsystems did not mix musical styles back in the day really, we were probably one of the very first sound systems that I know of that played all styles of urban music (reggae, soul, early house, hip hop, rare groove etc) with me cutting up on two turntables alongside Daddy Earl, Smiley and PJ rapping and reggae emceeing. Back then no one really mixed all the musical styles, right? [SUAD shake their heads] So we're influenced by it all and we liked it all, so in a night, we'd do all that – but although we were well respected by older soundsystems we were still known as the 'kiddie sound'. Every era will look back on their time with great memories and contempt for what is happening now. And I say to them, 'everybody does that!'

You have been at the top of your game for a very long time now! What has been the most exciting thing throughout your whole career? That may be a hard one…

That is a very hard one and I must say that there isn’t just one exciting moment I can pick out over all the others, but one of my many stand-out moments would be the first time I played at the legendary Jungle Fever event. It was held in Coventry and was probably the first time a full jungle-only event was held outside of London; it was a packed event with a melting pot of people from all over the country and from all cultures and the music was a melting pot of everything I grew up on. A friend of mine stood in the DJ booth with me and I’ll never forget his quote of “I have waited all my life for this” – I knew exactly what he meant… We had grown up in an era when black and white did not unite and seeing this event with the music and ravers all as one was a turning point for us, both musically and racially.

After having worked with and alongside so many people over the years, just how do you decide which ones to invite to your own curated event like the Playaz takeover at SW4 or the Playaz event at the rainbow venues at the end of September?


I like variation. If I do a label night I don't just have my own artists. If you do that you're just going to get one label's sound, even though obviously each DJ doesn't play the same. I like the mixture, so people get some of my artists and some other ones. We did Fabric for 15 years and we had everybody. Some nights or labels can go just for one style or exclude other people. There was a time when label nights just used to shut their doors, only have their own artists and took over festivals. I never liked that because jungle/drum n' bass is a melting pot of all different styles and flavours.


Do you prefer DJing and A+Ring for the label than spending time producing music? 


Well, I've got kids and I'm older. I'd prefer to do it all. DJing's easy. You turn up to play for a crowd, you know instantly if you're doing well or not because you're getting instant feedback from the audience.  I've been getting back in the studio this year, not doing loads, but a couple of bits. And when I'm in there I really hate it, ha! I think because I lost a bit of confidence. I can advise you on your song all day long, but when it's your own it's sometimes hard. Because of my age, I think, whatever you do is not good enough. I'm constantly beating myself up in the studio. When I come out usually the tune's alright, not the best, not the worst.


How did you feel when there was kind of switch in name from Jungle to Drum&Bass? Was what something you supported?

No not really. I didn’t really support it. I always say to people to define the difference. It was just a name change in my opinion. Even I get confused. Even people within the game try and define the difference to me, but I just say that I’m Jungle Drum & Bass. There’s an interview I did back in about ’94 and it’s a documentary with lots of people in it from the Jungle scene. In that I say that back then it was called Hardcore, Breakbeat, Jungle. Every year, it’s just journalism changing it about. I remember Hardstep. no it was Techstep, that was it. Do you remember that? Well when that came about I went up to Grooverider and Doc Scott at a festival in Belgium asked them if they knew what it was, and they had no idea! So I said back, ‘Well apparently you fucking invented it!

You are without a doubt one of the most successful DJs/artists within the genre and a real true Playa! Getting started with soundsystems and venturing through so many unbelievably successful projects – how do you juggle your time with so much going on?

You just get on with it and make love while the sun shines… Thankfully for me, the sun is still shining!

How has the clubbing landscape evolved recently?

Whenever I turn on the TV they're talking about clubs shutting! In the last two years there's a lot more festivals happening in London too, even councils are putting on their own festivals, so you have to compete with all that.
 The clubbing culture's changed in the sense that, well, we're not far from fabric here in Hoxton [in Daddy Earl's studio below his off-license on Pitfield Street], in Shoreditch, that whole area, twenty years ago it was empty barren warehouses, shut-down factories, who wants to hang about there? But now every shop almost has a bar or something. So people have a lot more choice, socially. So it's more difficult, but still – you do it right and it still works.

How did you feel when Fabric closed down? 

Gutted!!! I really didn’t think they would ever get the licence back but I am so happy they did as it’s one of the most important clubs for the development of not only drum and bass / jungle music, but all UK dance music.

You were involved in Turntablism during the late 80s. Who are the best turntablists you ever saw?


You can't really say “ever”. It depends on what time you saw them. A competition DJ today is in a different world compared to my era when I used to play.  When I started out in the 80s it was people in the UK like Streets Ahead and DJ Cheese who were big influences to me. Then in the later 80s it was Jazzy Jeff. Going forward to the 90s you had people like Q Bert. A lot of the scratch DJs of my era were technically amazing, but they didn't put it together to play to a dance crowd.


Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?

I guess more the financial side. Of course there's always mistakes you've made along the path, but for me to be the character I am—I haven't changed. Some people think I'm quite outspoken and loud, because I am, but I was like this when I was nobody. My Mum's like me, my friends… I grew up in an area where I was little, but had quite strong characters in my clique. I had to shout to be heard and I've always been like this. I have a gut reaction to things, and I like to stick to my own agenda. If I do go wrong then at least it's my own fuck up! 

https://soundcloud.com/dwaynelevi/ready



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