– Interview by LIV –
For our next SIMterview we’ve got one of the hardest working Drum and Bass DJs on earth. The incredible A-Sides chats with us in anticipation of our 10 year anniversary. We chat about Digital DJing, Bass music and what its like to have a tour schedule that never stops…
LIV: You are hands down one of the pioneer DJs and producers of Drum & Bass with over 500 releases since you came into the scene back in the early 90’s. What made you get into producing Drum & Bass in the first place? Any particular track or musician that influenced you to get into the studio?
A-SIDES: Originally I come from an Old School Hip Hop / Electro background. I started off learning to play drums at school and was taught basic production skills by my Uncle “Jah Free” Who showed me the ropes in the studio and got me on my feet. In the early days I was inspired by people like Malcolm McLaren, Herbie Hancock and Africa Bambaataa but then further down the line it was people like N-Joi, The Prodigy, Frank De Wulf and Frankie Bones who inspired me to make my first steps into serious production. Inspirational tunes in the early days were definitely “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock and “Buffalo Gals” by Malcolm McLaren.
LIV: Your most recent album ‘Mysterious Vibes’ was released last year. You have a variety of collaborations from keyboardists, to reggae vocalists on the LP. What was your vision for that album?
A-SIDES: I never really have a vision to begin with when I work on an album. All I know is that I like to try and represent multiple genres of Drum & Bass and give people something that they will hopefully enjoy listening to in a club or at home. I have always enjoyed working with vocalists and live musicians, I like the challenge it provides and I feel that good musicians and vocalists can take things to the next level.
LIV: The diversity represented on your releases carries over to your DJ sets where you spin the likes of Hip Hop, Drum and Bass and Dubstep. What is it that you consider in track selection for your DJ sets?
A-SIDES: A lot depends on where I am playing. In some places I already know what the crowd will like and in other places I have to do my research and feel out what they are into before I play. My ideal crowd is one that will take whatever I throw at them!!! I am lucky to have a large and diverse record collection at my disposal and a fairly good knowledge of music which also helps so I can pretty much cater for most occasions. Versatility is key 🙂
LIV: Speaking of your DJ sets, you’ve been dubbed ‘an ambassador of Serato and Scratch Live’, and have even hosted workshops and tutorials on the use of the software. Can you tell me about your move from vinyl to digital? How has it changed the structure of your sets?
A-SIDES: I have been playing from a laptop probably since around 2003 in the early days of Final Scratch software. Soon after I stepped up and decided to give Serato a shot and since then technology has rocketed and a lot of doors have opened up in the world of the digital DJ. I am always trying to spread the word and make people aware of the new technology we have at our disposal. I have hosted workshops and given tutorials and helped a lot of people make the step into the digital world. I would say it has definitely changed the way I DJ and given it a new lease on life. To me I love the way I can have my entire record collection on my laptop and at my disposal. I love the way I can fit more music into my sets now and I love the whole creative side too using loops and cue points and fx on the fly.
LIV: It seems lately with the increase of digital hard and software there’s been an influx of ‘DJs’ who wear out the synch button and leave headphones at home, what are your feelings towards this new generation of DJs who are being brought up on software vs beat matching vinyl?
A-SIDES: I think a lot of it is down to the individual who is using the equipment. If you are going to use the sync button and no headphones and stand there clapping or fist pumping then please do something creative with your software or controllers to keep things interesting. There really is a fine line now between a DJ set and a live performance where as back in the day things used to be much different. Live performers like The Prodigy would bring a ton of gear onstage and give us a real live performance and a dj would be sat there between two turntables and a mixer working the pitch control on his mixes. Two totally different things but nowadays as I said there is a fine line …
LIV: You have released on all the big labels, from Goldie’s Metalheadz to Andy C’s Ram Records and all the big names in between, but in ‘96 you chose to start your own label ‘Eastside’, what made you want to start your own label?
A-SIDES: I used to release a lot of my music on other labels back in the day under a lot of different names, sometimes not even taking any credit for what I had done and sometimes not getting paid too (In the early days), so I think it was a good time in my life to set up my own label. I also had other artists who had good music that I wanted to release and I felt like I would have more creative control over what I did then. I had a good distribution network and a good team of people around me at the time and it just felt like the right thing to do.
LIV: A few years ago you partnered up with Miami-based Juan Basshead and started the label ‘Basshead Music’ with tracks signed from the likes of 12th Planet, Sneak and Total Science to our local Toronto boys Zeds Dead and the Killabits. The variation in sound is an ambitious project and the ‘All Killer No Filler’ LP dropped this June with great success. Can you tell us a little more about this project and your plans for it in the future?
A-SIDES: I met Juan Basshead when he owned The Laundry Bar in Miami and he used to bring me through to DJ there. We get along and are both lovers of all genres of music so we decided it would be a good idea to set up a label together. I have a lot of good contacts in the Drum & Bass field and Juan has a lot of good contacts in other fields so that always helps. Basshead is not about genre but just about good music with bass. We always try and bring a twist on thing’s which is why on the album we have a Hip Hop track by Total Science which also has a House remix by DJ Sneak then a Jah Free Dub Reggae Remix of a Noah D Dubstep track. Just trying to explore other directions and keep things interesting! The album was only released a few months ago so it’s early days to see if it has been a success or not but I hope so! Then we can get moving on the singles again!
LIV: The diversity of bass music that is represented by the Basshead Label and events is amazing and has an old school rave scene mentality to it, by blurring the lines between DnB, Dubstep and House under one roof. This is especially unique in a time where many people in the scene usually hate one sound while loving the other. Why is it you’ve chosen to do this instead of focusing on only one?
A-SIDES: We are old school ravers at heart! We are just pushing music which we both have a love and passion for. We are all one big happy family and have friends in all genres of music and being based in Miami also helps as a lot of people there are open minded when it comes to music. A lot of the Dubstep headz were Drum & Bass headz and vice versa so this formula is working for us so I don’t see any need to change it. I also have my label Eastside to focus on Drum & Bass.
LIV: What can we expect from you in the future? Any new collaborations, albums, singles either on Eastside or Basshead?
A-SIDES: Right now I am adding the finishing touches to my latest solo album “Based Upon Bass” which will be released digitally on Eastside. It will have colabs on there with MC Fats and vocalist Jo S from Los Angeles. Brazilian producer Unreal who is the brother of SPY has also remixed Keep Steppin’ which was taken from my first solo album “Follow The Groove” and I may still call in a few last minute surprises for this album project. I will be working on a new release schedule for Basshead in the near future but right now we are just giving the album some time to sell through but expect to hear the unexpected when the new releases do come!
LIV: You’ve toured over 200 cities in 40 countries, Im sure in that time you’ve encountered some weird moments while DJing, what is your craziest story from touring?
A-SIDES: Probably being locked in a strip club in Colombia. I’ll keep that one short and sweet lol!.
LIV: Any shout outs to the Toronto rave crew about what we can expect when you touch down September 21st for Soul in Motion’s 10 Year Anniversary Party?
A-SIDES: Yeah I have to give props to all the Toronto crew. Big love to James and all the Soul In Motion crew, Prime, Caddy Cad, Marcus Visionary, Gremlinz, Mutt, Rene Lavice, Carl Collins, Darcy and everyone who has supported me there! Expect a nice journey through the full spectrum of Drum & Bass with a hint of classics thrown into the mix for good taste!
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