Sunday, June 14, 2009
Blackdown: Where did it all start with your producing?
DVA: Bwoy, I used to knock about with Terror Danjah, making tunes from then. Going down to Music House from when it was Holloway, begging people to cut tunes and that. It was in the mix where it was going from jungle to garage: them times there.
B: Did you know Terror from the jungle days then?
DVA: Yeah man, I used to go round his house, stay round and make tunes. Reckless Crew… Rinse FM… from then. I used to go up there and see people like Geeneus mix, so my face was around from then. Then I started making tunes and it just moved up a couple of notches from then. Then people started going more into garage and I stayed in drum & bass, which wasn’t really working out. And so I sat back and then come with some new stuff. When the grime sound came in I thought ‘yeah, I could definitely come into this.’ I started making some hard stuff and Slimzee was supported my first tune from then.
B: Wow, what tune was Slimzee playing of yours?
DVA: It’s a tune called “Kurb Krawl” it’s the second tune I ever put on vinyl. He smashed that dub dry. I ended up putting that out and sold just under 900 copies, easily. That was when you could press up 300 straight away, no problem: they’d fly out. Press up another 600 for the distribution: fly out. Those were the days when things would fly out if Slimzee was banging out a tune.
That tune was co-produced. Obviously I’m Scratcha and DVA started out as two people. That’s where “DVA” came from, it’s an abbreviation of “Diverse Arts.” DVA was just the catalogue name. But I took on that name after and my production partner lost faith in music a bit and cut out. So I continued to use the name and carried on doing stuff, just hooking up with different people, here and there. That was it. Next minute I landed a show on Rinse and was making more tunes.
B: You didn’t do a show on 1Xtra too did you?
DVA: Yeah that was when I was working with Terror, because I was actually in Aftershock with people like Bruza and Triple Threat. You see all those people there – I’ve known for years, from jungle days. Triple Threat was Lethal. Bruza’s name was Trigga, and I was in that crew from then and it’s funny because still today, people don’t know I was in Aftershock. And that’s why I had to remove myself from it because I was in it for two years or whatever but nobody knew and nobody cared. If Bruza wasn’t spitting on your tune, then nobody cared. So I started doing my own thing and hooking up with people.
Everyone knows I was an engineer for all the people in east London, the artists. I had artists on tap at the time with Media Gang studio in E3. I actually started engineering years ago, this guy brought me to a studio and needed someone to work there, I had a music B-Tec diploma course so I knew how to use some equipment, Logic, Cubase and stuff like that. He said I could use the studio if I did some work for him and it started from there. I was working in a bhangra label and I had to record all their live instruments but in down time I was bringing in MCs and doing my own stuff. At the time there wasn’t a lot of studios where people could just go and do stuff so MCs were coming down and it was enabling me to work with different people and get my links up.
B: What was the bhangra label called?
DVA: Orange Productions. I don’t even know if they’re still there now. They were based in Ilford. But this is when I was in Aftershock but no one really wanted to know what I was doing, know what I mean? There was people like Magnum and Big E-D who used to get little bring-ins here and there but I was always the cast-out one. I really shone through presenting on the 1Xtra show and that’s how I got heard. The music wasn’t really getting heard until I was separated from the whole Aftershock thing.
I started working with Wiley shortly after and y’know that Wiley’s the sort of person that if you work with him everyone seems to want to know what you’re doing. I happened to get on his album and things started moving from there with the grime thing.
B: Which album were you on?
DVA: “Playtime’s Over”. He put a lot of work into that. I know people might think he rushed it and all that but he put a lot of work in. As I was engineering for him I recorded 90% of it as well. So I was there for the whole thing and there was no way I could really not get on it. At the time I was working with a lot of singers – I’d just finished a CD called “The Voice of Grime.” It had 22 singers on it. Now I know Davinche and Terror brought that whole singers-on-grime thing and I got influenced by it a lot but no one had ever done a product that all the singers on grime. So I done that, produced 11 of the tracks. The other 11 were produced by people like Davinche and True Tiger. So Wiley was on there and he did a track with Shola Ama “You and I” which I produced. From that he was like ‘right I want a singing track on my album’ and I gave him the only r&b grimey style track on there.
B: “Voice of Grime” reminds me that there’s definitely a lot less women about in grime now…
DVA: Yeah there was a lot back then and I thought it was great, the way forward. I thought at the end of the day people just want to hear songs, so why can’t this whole grime-and-songs thing happen? But then it seemed like the singers were just dropping off left right and centre. One minute Gemma Fox would come in and make a banger, then she’s disappeared. Sadie would come along then disappear. No one just stayed there, doing that whole sound. And that’s where it fell apart. Then people started calling it “r&g” and I dunno what happened… it just disappeared.
But that’s the thing about me. DVA = Diverse Arts. It’s diverse, I’m diverse. I listen to all so much different types of music so it wasn’t something I was going to do forever. I make all different types of music. Artists can come to me and take whatever they want because I do everything.
B: Who else have you engineered for? Goodz? Trim?
DVA: Trim: I recorded a lot of the Soulfood series, up to volume 3. He’s like a nightmare in the studio man but he’s really good as well to work with. Actually out of all of the people in the studio, he’s the funniest. You can have the most fun with him. At the same time I can have the worst time with him because he can be really rude and annoying. He’s really cool too: Trim’s really open to new sounds. I got those CDs which helped me out as Trimbale has a nice name in the scene.
Engineering definitely helped but I’ve stopped doing it now because the thing about engineering is you can’t completely concentrate on your own thing. People are always ringing you going “where’s my PA mix of this? I need this mix. I need that mix.” And all I wanna say is ‘go away, I’ve got my own thing to do.’ So that kinda what happened and that’s where I’m at now.
B: Can you tell me about your new CD project?
DVA: It’s called “No Right Turn,” it’s pretty much finished and ready to go out there. It’s another one of my crazy developments, I can’t say it’s any one type of music. It not no bandwagon thing either because some of the tunes were made in 2003-4. There’s producers out there who will vouch for me when they hear the tune. It was just ahead of its time. When I was in Aftershock I was making this crazy music. It’s kinda like Prodigy-style electronic whatever… I dunno? Terror particularly was, “what the hell is that? I can’t play this to no-one.”
Now times have changed. People are doing albums and they’re looking for that freaky electronic track to throw on there – and I’ve got them because I made them time ago. So I thought right, I’ll do a little project, it’s leftfield so I’ll call it “No Right Turn”. It’s got Wiley, Durrty Goodz, J2K but it’s on this crazy next-left stuff. I’ve got the project sitting there that a couple of people want to throw out for me but I’m just waiting for the right time. I’ve got indie artists on there too called Temporarily Blank on the Wiley track. I’ve got a band on there from Liverpool called Soft Toy Emergency. It’s just really different and that’s just the influence from my Prodigy days, because I used to listen to a lot of Prodigy.
B: So what it’s like doing a daytime Rinse show, where the focus is on presenting?
DVA: I’m on three hours a day, every working day of the week. 8am - 11am. I cant just go there and play tunes and go “this is by DJ reh reh reh… And it’s a great track” that overnight DJs can do because people just want to hear the music. It’s morning, people are up and they want to know what’s going on, in life. They might not have read the papers yet to I’ll read out the news. It’s breakfast innit. I’m old school, I used to listen to Steve Jackson when Streetboy just started and that used to really make me laugh. I used to put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. So I said why not bring that vibe to Rinse… well they put it to me. I used to do a night show but they said ‘this needs to go on in the morning.’ And I love it now.
B: You do features don’t you? There was the ‘burial’ thing (where he invited people to ‘bury’ someone…)…
DVA: I bring features in and then take them out. Because I’ve got so many ideas: people think I’m mad but a lot of them work! I did Mystic Scratch with the horrorscopes. I done things like ‘blowouts.’ Over the summer time I do things that are more relationship based because it’s a time when people split up or get together. You see someone nice across the road so you go and chirps it. So I try and bring features like that and ‘blowouts’ was where I made a fake MSN of this girl, I got one of my listeners to donate a picture of her breasts and that. Then I made this fake name up and started chatting to guys, adding guys and chatting to them. There was this hungry guy who was on it and I made him go and stand outside Plaistow Station. I rung him up and told him he’d been blown out: it was all fake.
There was another one. Obviously sometimes people try to dump their partners and go off to Napa and get good loving or whatever. So we did ‘live dumping’ where people could ring up and dump their partners. That was fun!
I caught up with bootleggers, because I hate bootlegging. People taking your tune and next minutes it’s on some site and you ain’t even put it out yet. There was this one guy, he was renound, his name was Risky – not Risky Roads, they always get confused – he was just a guy who got up, turned his computer on, went to bed. All day, all night. So I asked him down to the show to explain why he does what he does.
He comes down and he’s like ‘yeah, I buy the CD, upload it so everyone can have it.’ I explain to him what he’s doing wrong. Funny thing is the last thing he bootlegged was a Frisco CD “Peng Food.” What I was going to do was put live Frisco on the phone, so he could switch on Risky and everyone could hear. I ring Frisco while this guy is there and Frisco is like ‘yeah, yeah – gimme five minutes, I’m in the bank.’ I ring him back and he’s like ‘I’m still here in the bank you know, gimme ten minutes.’ When I ring again he goes ‘OPEN THE DOOR BLAD, I’M OUTSIDE!’ He ended up sorting him out there and then. Everyone loved that show, ‘the leakers debate.’ Getting a big bootlegger on the show and sorting him out. Frisco made him go, live on the show, onto the computer to see how many downloads his CD had got. Then he had to pay for all of it back. At the end of the show, I’m packing away my CDs and I’m thinking ‘where’s Frisco, where’s Risky?’ And they’re in Frisco’s car, driving him to the bank.
So these are the things I try. People in grime wanna hear from bootleggers. People see their name scome up on the username – I just wanted to show it was real people. I’m always open to mad ideas.
B: What about the ‘burial’ shows?
DVA: They were mad. That came about because in the office where I work, Gee and that are always saying ‘right, I’m gonna bury him!’ So I thought, lemme just see if I can turn it into something. So instead of cussing people like I do on the show I’m going to do a section where you can just ring up and cuss anyone you like, with the actual burial music, Chopin or whatever, playing. So people could just get something off their chests. One girl wanted to bury her child because she wouldn’t stop crying. It was nuts but then it started getting out of hand because people like Marcus Nasty were making really serious burial’s and people weren’t liking it so I locked it off for a bit.
B: How much heat did you get with the burials?
DVA: Ahh, people loved it man! But a lot of the time people were burying other people and I’d get the phone call. Obviously if they ring management they say ‘ah, well we’ve had a complaint so don’t talk about them no more…’ But they understand the funny-ness of it. I could continue doing it but I also don’t like rinsing things until they get boring.
B: So tell me how funky came into your life recently?
DVA: For me I like funky house music, just like a like a lot of music. For me it was when I made a funky tune ‘I’m Leaving ft. Alana’ and it kicked off from there. It was a breaky garagey 130ish tune. Mans just jumped on it, certain DJs – Supa D, Footloose – started playing the tune and you know how it goes from there. If people like Supa are playing it everyone else wants to play it. It gets circulated and next thing I’ve got one foot in the funky scene. It went from there and I started hooking up with names like Roska and D Malice, done a couple of co-productions with them and remixing. Next thing you know I’m getting funky bookings and I’ll take them. I’ll never do something I don’t like and at the moment I don’t feel grime enough to go out and play enough. So I wont. People try to book me for grime and I won’t take it.
B: But you still like making grime don’t you?
DVA: Yeah I make loads of grime and doing remixes, but I just wont play it anywhere other than radio. The funny thing is me getting funky bookings is getting me grime bookings. I never got grime bookings – I never got no bookings! It’s just weird how it works innit! But I don’t take them anyway. Right now I can play a funky house set and I’m dancing more than the people in the dance: I like it that much. So that’s where I’m at right now. But it’s DVA: it’s diverse man, you don’t know what I’m going to do next!
B: So how did “Bullet A’Go Fly” come about?
DVA: It was ‘06 when I made the beat. It came about by me engineering in the studio, loads of MCs about, Badness was a regular. The thing about Badness is he’s cool. He’d ask me to voice a beat for him and the next thing you know we’re doing a track as well. He’s really cool like that so I had a lot of his vocals. I just rummaged through them and thought that – even though it’s really violent – I just thought that’s a great thing to say, how he said it. So I put it in a beat and made the beat as angry as possible. I was probably in a bad mood. And that’s how that one came out.
Next thing you know I played it to Wiley. This is the good thing about Wiley: I said ‘do you like the beat?’ and he said ‘no, who will…’ Next thing you know you’ve got five MCs on the tune. He must have taken it upstairs to Flowdan and Riko [in Roll Deep studios] and they’re bussing bars. I actually tried to get God’s Gift on it but he was being long so Killa P ended up on it and I’m happy about that because Killa P destroyed the track. That was all recorded up in Cable Street Studios in Limehouse where a lot of music used to go down.
DVA: Roll Deep studios were just upstairs, you had Smasher and Lewi White’s studio just across the way. There was a lot of people in there and a lot of stuff could happen. You could make a beat in there and by the end of the day you could have a hit because there were so many artists floating about.
Then you heard this tune from early and saw something in the tune, because you know what, I did say to Badness ‘I don’t want nothing to do with this tune, it’s too violent’ because I don’t go saying to people: ‘bullet a’go fly.’ It’s not something I’d say normally. But then I saw it play it and the reaction it was getting on forums and I thought ‘do you know what, I’d be silly if I don’t roll with it.’ And obviously you could see the energy from that.
B: To me it’s an artistic expression of an observation of what actually goes on not a command to do so. Anyway… Cable Street is where we shot the 12” art isn’t it?
DVA: Yeah yeah, Cable Street is somewhere I’ve always wanted to take pictures. Even though it’s dark and dingy, for me it’s got so much life in it. People like Tippa Irie is in there, bare radio stations have been up there. It’s a place where I can feel the music as I walk through the gate. So pictures in there were great for me to do. There were clubs in there. I remember being in the studio at 4am and they’re having a rave in the front. Not even in a club but decks out the back of a van out in the car park, raving until like 8 in the morning. You come out of the studio in broad daylight and there’s all just drunk people and transvestites: it’s just life, just culture. I used to love it there, I really did!
B: So finally, what do you have coming out next?
DVA: The producer I originally started DVA with has got himself back in the studio along with another producer who’s always been around so the DVA team is looking to grow as planned from the beginning. Tina Moore’s Never Let You go has been covered and I’ve remixed that for Marco Del Horno’s label. There’s also Roska and Aaron Ross remixes. There’s a remix of So Solid’s “21 Seconds” by myself and Roska. That’s on a weird dubsteppy-funky vibe. I’ve done a remix for Bless Beats, Estelle, Enter Shikari’s “Juggernaut” with J2K on it. But I can’t wait to release “Bullet A’Go Fly” because I never thought that tune would see the light of day. I thought it would be one of those tunes that smashes it but no one ever comes along and says ‘yeah, I’m going to take this somewhere else.’ So I cant wait to see what happens because I know Keysound has got some next-stylee people listening to what it’s doing…
• DVA ft Badness, Riko, Flowdan and Killa P (original and Dusk + Blackdown remix) is out now on Keysound Recordings on vinyl and digital. Hear clips on YouTube here.
• For DVA DJ bookings email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• For remixes email: email@example.com