Monday, February 23, 2009
Blackdown: So let’s start with the Rinse CD, when did you get asked and how did you go about approaching it?
Spyro: At the end of last year. When I first found out I was going to do it I was kinda overwhelmed. So I asked people “what would you like to hear on a CD?” Vocals? Instrumentals? I got different kind of feedback, some people wanted to hear a little bit of old school, some people wanted to hear a CD they could enjoy. So I just kinda done that: stuck a little bit of everything in there.
B: So who was it you asked?
S: I would even ask ravers outside a rave. If I’d done a rave I’d ask them ‘if I was to put a CD out, what would you want to hear?’ Because on the radio I play kinda everything. And they’d say: ‘yeah man, just do you.’
B: That’s what’s interesting about your CD is because while you’re known for being loosely associated with grime, this is all styles...
S: Yeah it’s kind of a good look, because this is the direction I want to be in. It’s important because as me being a music man, I wouldn’t just like to be in one scene. I’d like to conquer a few things. Obviously I produce as well so me being just a grime producer wouldn’t fulfil my dreams. I’d rather try out other things.
B: It’s an interesting time with the 140 tempo right now. I remember watching garage when you could play DJ Zinc next to Todd Edwards next to 2step into DJ Narrows. It felt like within that tempo you could do anything. Suddenly it feels like that again when you’re mixing grime with bassline, dubstep with funky plus old school too.
S: Yeah it’s a good look, it’s definitely a good thing because when you go out, it’s all about the ravers really because they listen to the radio and they just want to have a good night. Even if they’re staying in they want to hear good music. It is a good thing to play everything so everyone gets to hear what they want to hear.
B: To me you were the first DJ I saw to really use the Pioneer CDJ1000 deck look like a completely different instrument. Were you playing vinyl before and when did you switch?
S: I was playing vinyl and dubplates before and I still do sometimes, I do take a few to radio. But I just wanted to try CDJ1000s out and I really liked them and I stuck with them really. This was end of 2006 maybe.
B: What is there that you can’t do with a record deck like a Technics 1210 that you can do with a CD deck like a Pioneer CDJ1000?
S: Well if I told you I’d have to kill ya!
B: Secret tricks of the trade!
S: Nah you know what yeah, there’s so much things it’s unbelievable.
B: To me it wasn’t even the mad tricks, it was that you could get the next track queued up so much quicker and this means you can change how you mix, or how fast you mix.
S: Yeah it’s a little bit quicker because what I do on the Pioneers I can still do on Technics. All it is that I’d have the record or the dub out of the sleeve, sat under the deck, waiting.
B: I almost don’t believe you but it’s big talk if you can. Because all you need to do to get the next track with CDs is press ‘next track’ there’s no putting the needle on the record or finding the start.
S: Yeah CD decks are definitely quicker but there are some people out there who can do it with vinyl such as Mak10 or Maximum on Technics. I’ve seen it done before, it can definitely be done.
B: Has that speed affected how you mix, because you can roll so quickly between tracks?
S: Yeah I wouldn’t say it’s improved it but it makes it more interesting.
B: So how long have you been on Rinse for then?
S: I’ve been on five years, it doesn’t feel like it though. I joined end of 2004.
B: I’ve just finished my first year, I hope I get to five years! So what does your Rinse show mean to you?
S: So do you know what, it means a lot. For me to start out 3-5am on a Wednesday and graft my way up the rankings to Saturday 7-9pm, it means a lot to me. On my show there’s dedicated listeners and I always give back to them: I’ll give away T-Mobile credit, Virgin credit. I’ll say the numbers over the air because there are people who are truly dedicated out there so I just want to give them back something.
[NB: Spyro has since moved to take 3-5pm on a Sunday the legendary Slimzee slot - Blackdown]
B: I know I’m biased but there doesn’t really seem to be anyone like Rinse...
S: No there isn’t. There used to be, back in the day: Déjà Vu 92.3, but now it’s like they are not in our league. There’s no station in our league. Kiss FM took some DJs from us, Target’s on 1Xtra but we set the pace and everyone else follows.
B: So how do you go about making each show better?
S: When I first went on there I played new people and made them recognised. That was my job. Now I’ve done that for so many people... like you see that Rebound X “Rhythm and Gash”? In 2004 I used to play that. 2004! And there’s a few Rudekid tunes I’ve played first. I’m just trying to get people known: now Rudekid is gone with the wind. Now I wouldn’t say that is my fault in particular but you know what I’m saying. I’m helping. If I can help someone new: that was my job. But now I just get on with my show, I get new tracks from all over. I even play tunes from people in places like Sweden.
B: And what is the best way for people to get you music?
S: MySpace is key. People think it’s dead but MySpace and yeah, my email. Or I might just do it the old school way and just go and meet them and flick through a few tracks.
B: It must be a different thing being a grime DJ now because when grime began there was much more balance between the DJs and the MCs/producers, but now it seems like a thankless task to be a DJ/producer because the MCs run so much of grime...
S: This is reason why you hear Spyro with no MCs on his show. Because the DJ can live without the MC but the MC can not live without the DJ. Because listen: I don’t really need an MC on my show. Why? Because I’ve got his CD in my CD pouch and I could just play it. In a rave I could just play it so him being there wouldn’t really make a difference.
B: So do you feel like you’re re-asserting the power of the grime DJ?
S: Of course man we need more DJs that can do a show or rave without the MC. If they can do that than they are setting the pace. It’s like, the other day I did Dirty Canvas with Tempa T. Tempa T is one of the most hype MCs you could ever get. You can not get no more hype than Tempa T. He’s good. But when he comes on my set, it’s all about him: people forget about me. But if I just play his tune, I get more recognition.
B: It’s funny because in the early days a lot of the MCs that shaped grime got big by being on Slimzee’s set. That was the thing you did to get bigger. But since then it’s been much more about the MCs, so it’s good you’re pushing back. So what other DJs do you rate?
S: There’s so many good DJs, you know that! I reckon there’s so many, undercover ones that’s so good that people don’t even realise are good. They don’t want to give them the time of day. Like me, some people did not give me the time of day. Obviously Maximum is there, he’s definitely one of the top 3. Vectra is there as well. There’s people coming up like JJ, he’s going to be one of the ones.
B: I’ve seen JJ’s name about a lot recently.
S: Trust me, he’s putting in the work, proper networking and stuff. But there’s lots, proper undercover DJs like Beezy’s DJ and stuff.
B: What about Marcus NASTY because you did a pretty amazing show with him last year?
S: You see me and Marcus, I’ve known him since when we were kids. So it’s a thing where we’ve got that kind of bond.
B: One of the things that made me laugh with the show with Marcus is when he was teasing you a bit about how you were “itching to do funky...” What did you make of that?
S: Now you see him yeah, he loves to make jokes out of everything. I’ve produced a few funky tracks and that’s why he makes jokes like “he’s itching to jump on this.”
B: So what is your take on funky right now because obviously there’s a lot of grime producers heading that way but also grime and funky are slightly different tempos and vibes. How do you feel about it?
S: I like it man, I like house too. I like it all man. I even like techno. There’s a few electro bits: I like music. If I like it and it’s good I’ll just listen to it and find out more about it.
B: You seem unbothered by boundaries whereas some DJs just try and do one thing.
S: I will never ever limit myself. It’s the way forward. Because if you limit yourself you end up... I wouldn’t say no-one I’d say no-where. And I want to be in Tokyo, where N-Type is. Every week. I wanna be there man. I wanna be everywhere!
B: The secret to them kind of gigs is booking agents. That’s a different story. But with funky and grime and the fact that with CDJs you can bend tracks so far they fit into one set, do you find this helps?
S: Definitely. You know there’s a button to normalise the whole pitch? Sometimes if I’m playing old school I’ll normalise the old school tune is not splatting so far.
B: More tricks of the trade! So how did you end up grouping the tracks on the CD? It sounds like you played more vocals at the beginning.
S: Yeah I just basically did four sample CDs but I picked this one because it sounded like me. The other ones sounded like a different DJ playing my dubs. It didn’t sound like me. The way I select I will select any way, any how. I will mix it in the middle of the tune, at the beginning of the tune. The CDs I didn’t choose had a tune and then me mixing one in at the end, then a tune and then me mixing another in at the end. It sounded like a robot. On the one I chose I just wanted to just throw them in the way I wanted to, because that’s the way I do it.
B: The way you got Joker’s “Retro Racer” out of Dizzee’s “I Love You” was pretty different, with the looping.
S: And you know what yeah, I didn’t even know I was going to do that, I just done it. I just done it, spur of the moment. I swear down...ha ha, I shouldn’t have even told you that! I don’t know... well obviously do know how I did it but I just pulled it off. I’ve never done it again, I just pulled it off first time.
B: I’m not 100% sure that final fragment is in time, but nobody is caring. It works because it’s such a small fragment. So tell me, why are VIP mixes important to you as a DJ?
S: It’s important that you keep a VIP to yourself forever. You’ve just got to keep it because if you don’t, it’s not a VIP. Some people ask me for my VIPs. “Can I have it?” I’m like bruv, it’s a VIP! I learnt from my mistakes when I asked Plastician for one of his tunes which I didn’t even clock was a VIP. And he was like “nah nah, sorry mate this one’s just for me.” So then I went off and DOK is my cousin so it’s not hard getting a VIP from him or a few other people.
B: I did wonder how you had DOK beats really early!
S: Yeah we’re family mate. Keep it in the family!
B: So VIPs just give your set the Spyro stamp?
S: You know what yeah, Slimzee can go for his whole show playing is dubs and VIPs, so you’ve just got to put the barrier up for someone to break, and then you put another one up. It’s the way forward.
B: So how did you choose these tracks?
S: I was messing around one day and I was like OK, let’s just find a tracklisting to see what went good with each other. And I narrowed it down from 60 to 50 and then down.
B: It’s good. Tracks like “Fly By” some of the youngers might not even have been around for some of those tunes.
S: That’s what I’m saying, that’s why I just wanna put the word out that I don’t just play grime. I just want to be known as internationally heavy. I swear I just wanna make it man, I just wanna be in and out of the country doing so many different shows. It’s like a dream to me.
B: A booking agent is you...
S: I don’t even think I would have one, you know that?
B: They open doors. They open different doors, there’s certain levels you can’t get to without one. But it looks like you’ve done some pretty cool stuff though, like Glastonbury. How did the Nas support come about?
S: That one I was just going to do with Tinchy Stryder, because I’m up and down the roads with him, doing tours. I’ve done like three or four tours with him up and down the UK.
B: And Tinchy was supporting Nas at the 02? So what was it like to play there?
S: It was massive. There was so much people it just looked crazy man. It was one of the biggest ones I’ve done.
B: It don’t get much bigger than that! I remember back the day watching Karnage come on with Dizzee, when he supported Justin Timberlake at Earls Court, and Karnage on that size of stage looked very small.
S: Tiny innit!
B: That’s why they have the big TV screens behind you.
S: Haha you look tiny innit! It’s true.
B: You need some stilts!
B: So what does that feel like?
S: It’s crazy because if the DJ flops he flops the act. So it’s all pressure on the DJ really. If the MC flops he flops. It’s pretty hard with them big crowds.
B: So what was Glastonbury like? Because that’s another barrier that London/urban acts have struggled to get through over the years...
S: Glastonbury, I panicked. Actually I’ve never told no one this but when I started the set one of the decks was not moving off the middle pitch. Zero.
S: And when I actually got it working I went mad. I proper regained myself. The first mix I’d done I was just flinging the side of the platter to get it in because I was panicking. There was so much people, thousands of people watching me and Ghetto. It was crazy man. I played on the Introducing stage.
I’m going back on tour again with Tinchy Stryder and N Dubz. I’ve been on tour with Tinchy Stryder and Kano and with a few rock and reggae bands as well. Have you ever heard of Bedouin Sounclash? I’ve been on tour with them and we’re really good mates with them you know. They ring up sometimes. They’re really cool people. And Jack Penate, he’s really good. He’s got so much fans. Sometimes you don’t know the people you’re going on tour with but when you see how much fans they’ve got it changes your whole perspective on them.
B: Course. A lot of these indie bands do have a lot of fans, I just don’t think they’re that good.
S: It’s true, it’s true. But for me to go and of my thing in front of all of them and make them like it, that’s another door open.
B: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started?
S: I’ve been practicing for eleven years. I actually started on jungle. From there I just stayed in my room and practiced and practiced and practiced. And I’m here now.
B: Were you on radio before Rinse?
S: I was on Raw UK.
B: Is that before it was Raw Mission?
B: Eleven years: it makes more sense to me now, if you’re also playing old tunes like “Fly By”...
S: Yeah I really do know every tune. I’ve got ‘em all.
B: Do you have a rivalry with Maximum? Because he’s another person who loves old school tunes as well...
S: You see Maximum yeah, I went to my cousin’s house one day and I met him. We were all mixing and we’ve been friends from there. This is when we were thirteen or fourteen. Not DOK, one of my other cousin’s houses. So we’ve know each other from then: quite a few years, so we’re from that same era.
Y’see, we used to proper collect records. My stack of records is ridiculous, and his one is worse than mine because he’s a rich boy haha. We’ve still got our record collections and I wouldn’t say we sound the same but we do go way back together...
Spyro plays Sunday 3-5pm on Rinse