DJ Format: “It was very daunting to get up on stage in front on 5,000 people”

With pleasure we present a DJ icon from the UK Hip Hop scene. DJ Format has an obvious and definite taste for the Funk origins of a good groove. Similar to Our Label and Origo, where we highlight Funk and Hip Hop on vinyl, he has his now ways of focussing your ears. So here is the first Hip Hop DJ you should know. Sit back, press play and enjoy the interview.

Which style / genre do you mostly play:
Funk/Soul/Hip Hop

Residency (current or previous):
I don’t think I’ve ever had a residency, I’m lucky that I get to travel around for my gigs.

DJ gig farthest away from your home:
Siberia? Reunion Island? Australia? I’m not sure which is farthest away from England but I remember that Siberia felt like the most remote!

Most memorable DJ gig and why?
Opening for Jurassic 5 at Brixton Academy in 2003. I played a DJ set for 30 minutes and then Abdominal joined me onstage to perform our 30 minute live show (as we did every night in support of J5 on their European tour). It was the most memorable gig for me because it was (and probably still is) the biggest audience I’ve ever played to. I’m not a very natural performer and don’t feel comfortable in the spotlight so it was very daunting for me to get up on that massive stage in front on 5,000 people….but in the end I had the time of my life.

Since when have you been a DJ?
I started DJ-ing when I was 16 in 1989 and was mostly just a bedroom DJ until I started releasing records in the mid-late ’90s. I’ve been a professional DJ since 2003 when I released my first album. I really consider myself a producer first & foremost, but I do enjoy DJ-ing and appreciate that I’m very lucky to still (just about) make my living from it.

What was your first ever record?
My first solo track as ‘DJ Format’ was Vinyl Overdose which was featured on Return Of The DJ vol.II on Bomb Records in 1997.

The first record I can remember owning was Complete Madness (by Madness) which I got for Christmas in about 1983 I think. I used to have copies of all their albums on cassette but I really wanted to own the LP!

Favourite record of all times and why:
I have so many favourite records it’s impossible to choose just one. My favourite Hip Hop album of all time is Critical Beatdown by Ultramagnetic MC’s and my favourite Jazz album is probably The Prisoner by Herbie Hancock. Soft Machine’s first 2 albums are my favourite Rock albums and I still can’t even choose between them. It’s hard to explain or justify why a certain album is your favourite because it’s just a personal feeling you get from the music, or sometimes the associated memories. I still remember the day I bought Critical Beatdown in my local record shop when it was released in 1989. I asked to hear it, just to be sure if it was any good, and within about 10 seconds of the first song (Watch Me Now) I said “I’ll take it!”. I’ve never got bored of that album in all the years that have passed and it still makes me feel the same excitement & exhilaration that I felt as a 16 year old kid.

Record that surprised you most and why:
One album that springs to mind is Book Of Human Language by Acey Alone (produced by Mumbles). It was released in ‘97 or ‘98 and I totally missed it at the time because I wasn’t listening to much Hip Hop. When I did eventually hear it (after a friend strongly recommended it to me) in the early 2000’s I was totally blown away. The music & lyrics are a perfect marriage on every single song, I personally consider it a masterpiece.

Record you usually play at all your DJ gigs:
Something by James Brown.

Vinyl or other media:
Vinyl. [Note from the editor: That’s a full stop!]

Favourite club to play at:
Years ago my favourite club to play at was The Jazz Cafe in London. Aside from having a perfectly designed DJ booth, you could always guarantee the audience would be open to whatever records you played because the venue attracted proper music lovers. Things have changed over the years and now I generally prefer small/intimate venues, although I can’t think of any in particular off the top of my head.

Your favourite DJ:
I think Mr Thing is still my favourite all-round DJ. He has the technical skills, an amazing record collection, and he’s funky….such a natural party rocker! There’s definitely some incredible DJ’s out there like DJ Scratch (USA) and Koco (Japan) just to name a couple, but I don’t get to see those guys live in the flesh like I do Mr Thing.

Band / Musician you strongly recommend everyone should listen to:
For Hip Hop production, right now I’m really digging Chairman Maf. I would also strongly recommend MNP, a funky Psych/Rock band from Brighton.

[Photo: Missing Stewart – I Shot Hip Hop]

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