DJ Format Interview
Mature b-boy DJ Format chats to us about his new album and live show, Manfred Mann, Swiss record shops, the decline of hip hop, and being a reluctant front-man.
Your third album ‘Statement of Intent’ just came out – how has your style evolved?
After a lot of trial and error I’ve gone back to what I do best, which is straight-up hip hop. What’s different is the collaborators: I’ve been open to live musicians and branched out exploring bluesy British jazz, especially horns, and classic Blue Note sounds. This will sound cheesy – Manfred Mann influenced me too. And I never viewed working with Jurassic 5 as a big deal because I grew up with those guys, but to work with Edan and Mr Lif felt like a coup. Edan doesn’t put out many records, but when he does, it’s hip hop perfection. The song we did, ‘Spaceship Earth’, is rap meets psychedelic rock. There’s a couple of almost cinematic, soundtrack-based things, which I think are the best tracks I’ve ever done in that area.
Tell us about your new live show.
I am really looking forward to it but I’m not a frontman with a massive ego – I’m happier in the background. Being the focal point in the new live show – it’s, er, interesting territory for me. I’d rather be locked in the studio all day working magic with samples, but DJing and live shows enable this. Most live hip hop performances are boring; people stand around and the MCs deliver the songs you love but shouted, and nothing is really bettered. If you enjoy my DJ sets in clubs, this is an enhanced version with synths and effects and visuals – it blends my old stuff, my new stuff, and The Simonsound stuff in a really danceable set. The Brighton gig’s on the 2nd March at the Concorde, which is frighteningly soon. We want to make people have a good time.
Who are your favourite Brighton musicians or producers?
Derriere, my girlfriend Sarah’s band – they’re old rhythm’n’blues. Beta Hector are another of my favourites, and to be honest, most of my friends revolve around those two. Some friends my age put on a night called The Vinyl Veterans, which caters for good hip hop and funk the way we like it.
How do you think the hip hop scene changed in the last decade?
It’s got worse and worse. It’s not about how good your music is but how good you are at self-publicity. Hip hop for me is a culture and an art form: DJing, MCing, graffiti, breakdancing… There are so many aspects that you can be involved in and participate in straight away. Everyone thinks they can rap or make a beat; you know, everyone thinks they’re a DJ. I don’t want to sound like I’m telling people off but it’s hard to find hip hop nights now where there’s the right balance of creating a welcoming party atmosphere, of men and women, where the music is good and, dare I say it, positive. I don’t want to listen to gangster nonsense.
Do you still get the same buzz digging for records as you used to?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I rarely buy new releases but there’s nothing I like more than getting lost in a dusty old record shop and going through piles and piles of old records with a portable record player until I find that magical moment. I go to Across The Tracks and Wax Factor in Brighton, but my best digging is abroad, particularly Switzerland. I’m always scared to give away secrets so won’t name any cities! I’ve been lucky there.
So what advice would you give to someone starting out as a producer now? Any advice from a mature b-boy?
Try to keep your feet on the ground. Don’t put yourself out there as the best thing since sliced bread. Network with people on the same level and share knowledge. But try to be original – if you discover a sample that no-one’s used, keep it to yourself and be the first to use it. Where’s the satisfaction in sounding like everyone else?
ALBUM: ‘Statement of Intent’ out now
LIVE: Concorde 2, Fri 2nd