DJ Format Interview: I still have that B-Boy mentality
We caught up with the Brighton reared hip-hop fiend ahead of him hitting Craig Charles’ Fantasy Weekender
Date published: 8th Aug 2013
For a genre too often fixated with aggression and misplaced braggadocio, the hip-hop with humour facet of the music remains rammed full of perennial charm. DJ Format’s work with MC Abdominal at the turn of the century epitomised that, with tracks such as ‘Ill Culinary Behaviour’ eschewing bombast in favour of charm and lyrical ingenuity.
Since then DJ Format has carved a career as one of the more creative of Uk hip-hop producers and DJs, crafting a sound that is built on the funk and soul staples that bled into the hip-hops golden age of late eighties to early nineties. He’s showcased his dark side too, creating instrumentals that veer towards a moodier soundscape and show evidence of his musical versatility.
With him set to appear at Craig Charles’ Fantasy Weekender in Bristol over the August Bank Holiday weekend, we caught up with him to find out what was cooking in his aural hemisphere at present. The result was drum driven grooves, late night album finishes and the perils of production driven OCD.
How did you get into music? Who would you consider your influences to be?
I was surrounded by music as a kid and it always special to me. My influences started with my Mum playing the piano at home and my Dad always playing Steely Dan's ‘Greatest Hits’ in the car. I think the tape was stuck in there!
I first heard Hip Hop when the 'Breakdancing' explosion happened in the early '80s and I loved Herbie Hancock's 'Rockit' and the few other early Hip Hop records that hit the charts, but it wasn't until about '86/'87 when I first heard Run DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys & Public Enemy that Hip Hop started to shape my life.
Watch: LL Cool J 'I'm Bad'
What was the first record you bought?
I think it was 'Complete Madness' when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I had all the Madness albums on cassette and it was really special when I got my first piece of vinyl! I think the first Hip Hop records I bought were Schoolly D and Public Enemy but I can't quite remember.
How did you cope with the success that ‘Music for the Mature B-Boy’ had?
It didn't change my life much from how it was before, it just made me seem less nerdy to spend all my time & money either buying old records or locked away in my studio trying to make new ones of my own!
What can we look forward to with your gig at Creative Common?
I think I'll be playing Funk & Soul in between some of the bands. I have very wide musical tastes so I'm always happy to play for situations that require something a bit different to my usual DJ sets.
What attracted you to play at Craig Charles’ Fantasy Weekender?
I recently played a gig with Craig in Brighton and it was refreshing to play in a club where people danced non-stop as soon as they walked through the door. I guess Craig Charles' name attracts a lot of enthusiastic people who might not normally come to one of my gigs so it's nice for me to be able to play my kind of music to a new audience and (hopefully) win them over.
Your sets regularly traverse so many different genres, what do you look for in a track that makes you want it in your set?
To be honest, I still have that B-Boy mentality where heavy drums are the most important thing to catch my ear. Beyond that it's hard to say exactly what makes a record sound either perfect or not quite right.
I personally don't like to play obvious crowd pleasing anthems because that's what 99% of DJ's do and it's too easy. I prefer to be a bit more original and play obscure/unknown cover versions of well-known songs. That way, your average listener is happy to hear a tune they already know and your more open-minded music lover can enjoy a great new version they've not heard before.
How would you describe your sound?
I don't know… it's something I really struggle to do! I'm supposed to be a 'Hip Hop DJ' but I play much more late '60s & early '70s Soul/Funk/Latin/Rock and manage to slip a bit of golden era Hip Hop in there and somehow keep everyone happy.
Watch: DJ Format ft MC Abdominal 'Vicious Battle Raps'
You took quite a different but exciting direction with ‘The Simonsound’. How did that come about?
I think I was a bit unsure of what direction to take my music in after my second album in 2005 and I'd got a little bored of Hip Hop at that time. I'd worked with Simon on & off since the late '90s in various guises but it just so happened that we were listening to a lot of the same records and wanted to make similar music ourselves by the late '2000s.
I was listening to a lot of Soundtracks and '60s rock/psych records where a lot of bands were experimenting with electronics. Simon was much deeper into the electronics thing and we just decided to get together and try out some ideas. Three years later we had an album finished... and nearly had to be hospitalised for treatment of our chronic OCD that had developed during the meticulous process!
What can we look forward to from DJ Format in the near future?
I've just finished an album with old school Rap legend Phill Most Chill. The album is called 'The Foremost' and should be released in October. I actually just finished the last song at 3am this morning and this is the first time I've made any mention of this album that me & Phill have been working on for the last year.
I guess this is a bit of an exclusive... DJ Format & Phill Most Chill~'The Foremost', coming in October!
Top five tunes at the moment?
Quite honestly, I've had my head up my arse trying to finish my album so I haven't been listening to much recently. Let me think....Derriere have a new record out called 'Last Laugh' that I love. Soundsci have got a new 7" record out with 2 dope remixes. And I just had a sneak preview of a new song by DJ Suspect (from Paris) who's recently collaborated with NYC's Emskee and that song sounded great! That's all I can think of right now.
What do you do in between music? Do you have any other passions?
Music is a full time hobby, passion & job! I like watching comedy, preferably British stuff, but I don't have much time for anything outside of music, there's not enough hours in the day!
If you weren't a DJ or Producer, what would you be?
A nerd or 'loser' who spends all his money on old records ha ha! Being a DJ & producer just justifies it all... luckily for me.