WHEN you say ‘DJ Hazard’ to most people, they might think of impaired hearing after years of intense sound levels, or maybe a strained back and shoulder after carrying boxes loaded with vinyl between gigs up and down the country.
However, amongst the Drum and Bass community; ‘Hazard’ is a name synonymous with the most gut wrenching, imaginative and full on rowdy upfront sounds the genre has to offer… dance floor Drum and Bass done properly!
The Night Bazaar welcomes Hazard to talk about his forthcoming appearance at London’s legendary SW4 Festival this August on Clapham Common, and offers a candid and no-nonsense run down of his fascinating story so far…
For those people out there who aren’t familiar with you and your music away from the Drum and Bass scene, how would you introduce yourself and how would you describe your music?
I’d introduce myself like this, “Hi, I’m Hazard – my music is pretty noisy and you probably won’t like it, but if you do I reckon you will love it.”
Well, it’s Drum and Bass isn’t it, its marmite music and you either love it or you hate it – nobody is like yeah Drum and Bass is ok isn’t it – no, they are mostly either seriously in to it or not into it at all.
You are a major force behind DJ Hype’s Playaz label and have been performing together with him this year B2B on all the major festivals – how’s it going and what has the response been like?
It’s going really well and the response has been amazing – in fact, because of the response we have been doing a lot more of them. It was only supposed to be twelve shows and now the diary is filling up with them, but given how much we are enjoying them we might as well keep doing them. We are traveling all around the world playing gigs we wouldn’t usually get to and each one is getting better and better.
We just make it up as we go along, and the more we’ve done the more we have developed a synergy and an understanding of what the other is going to do and when they are about to do it. It’s like we have become telepathic, the transitions between us are much smoother and its really beginning to flow, I think you can probably see us enjoying it more now we have been working on it for longer too – it’s just easier the more you do it of course.
Although we work together in our combined efforts, we don’t actually work in close proximity to each other. He owns the label and I work for the label, I live in Birmingham and he lives miles away in London so it’s mainly phone calls and then we occasionally bump into each other at club nights or when we are DJ’ing together. So we don’t really ever see each other, but when we do its completely cool, like its meant to be.
I’ve only ever signed to Playaz and I have been here since the very start and that is purely because of how they function and how they look after me. If I wanted to, I am free to go where I like and if something big came along, I am sure they would push me to do it but I am just really happy where I am so there’s no need to go anywhere. They take care of everything and I just make music. Pascal takes care of all the business side of things and I just sit at home watching TV until I feel inspired to make some music – it’s great.
When I am ready, then they are there waiting for me. I just make the music and they take care of the rest, if I need anything I just phone them and it gets sorted – it’s a good working relationship to be in which is why I’ve stayed put, they are spot on.
I spent January, February and March in the studio non-stop but didn’t come up with anything that I was happy with and since then I’ve not been in the studio at all, in fact I am not even sure which month it is! I don’t feel like going back in any time soon, but out of nowhere I might become inspired and drop everything to head straight back in there to get cracking. Then my wife will be furious because I’ve left right in the middle of fixing the skirting boards or something but you never know when the next bout of inspiration is going to arrive and you have to jump on it and make the most.
When I said I spent three months in the studio, I literally mean it – I slept in there and just worked constantly too. It resulted in nothing though, no music came of it this time round which is just how it goes sometimes unfortunately – well for me anyway. When I’m ready, I’ll go back in – it could be three months or it could be next week you never know, I just like to work when I actually feel like working and when I feel inspired. I hate going in the studio when I feel like there is no need to, it just feels like wasting time.
Upfront Drum and Bass is riding high on its own wave of success and popularity and is enormously popular worldwide with the Drum and Bass crowds – what is it that makes it so popular?
I have no idea, it just goes round and round in the musical circle of life. ‘Jump Up’ is in at the moment and when that fades out it might be some heavier, techier stuff that comes in next. Its good because when a style is going out and another is coming in, you get the best of both worlds. The one that is going out is often at its peak and the new style coming in will freshen everything up.
Variety is important and keeps it interesting which is why I play across the board as often as I can. There are so many good producers out there who have many different styles so it would be silly to stick to just one sound continuously. But yeah, Jump Up is really flying high at the moment and it’s nice to be a part of it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my sound accepted in many areas of the music and although I may never be the best producer out there, it’s great that my music can cross over so many borders into different styles of Drum and Bass and for lots of different DJs to be playing it.
The Jump Up sound is synonymous with hard hitting energy and heavy bass, and the dance floor erupts with every drop – it is emerging as its own scene within a scene the world over – what’s the global audience like for your sound?
Well there’s no doubt the music is played and well received the world over, and I have travelled to most parts of it to perform although in recent years that has slowed down due to the really bad travel sickness that I experience, unfortunately. I still see all the videos online and I guess it definitely is accepted worldwide, which is nice to know.
I tend to stay away from social media for the most part because I don’t like seeing what people become on there. I still look occasionally of course, but I tend to steer clear. As much as I have my own social media outlets, it is rarely me posting – instead I leave that to that powers that be and the guys who run it for me. I just want to focus on the music and it’s easier to do so that way.
I don’t like to see things I don’t want to see on there, like you see other artists posting things that aren’t true to what and who they are in real life and you think ‘hold on!?’ – it’s easier just to avoid it all in the first place and let them get on with it, rather than pay it unnecessary attention.
You are without doubt one of the most successful producers within the genre, how do you manage to deliver the goods so consistently and so often?
Honestly, I have no idea – I just go with the flow and see what I can come up with. There’s always going to be tunes that don’t do that well, but you don’t know that until they are out there. At the same time there are tunes that you might not have given that much thought to that do particularly well so it’s always a matter of wait and see. It’s the DJs and the ravers that really make the ‘big’ tunes, by playing it and people loving it. I genuinely don’t know how it works but it’s happened a fair bit to me now so I guess I am just lucky!
Your tracks such as Killers Don’t Die, Machete, Busted, Bricks Don’t Roll and Mr Happy are absolute out and out bangers, how early on in the production process do you recognise a classic anthem in the making?
I genuinely don’t, at all, ever – its only when the music is played out and by other people that you start to realise the impact its having. The more DJs that play it, the more ravers get to hear it and the more they want to hear it – if they like it enough of course, then the DJs play it more and that’s how it grows into a much more recognisable tune.
There’s no way you could know it’s going to be big for certain until you play it and see the reaction it gets. There’s producers out there who have tried to make anthems and it just doesn’t work because people won’t accept them as one.
Those tunes have definitely helped establish me and have elevated my status as a DJ and producer – the more big tunes you make, the more you charge for DJ’ing and the bigger and better bookings you get and that is exactly how it works.
What do you prefer to do, DJ or produce music?
Well, I actually wanted to be a DJ but soon realised it was going to be very difficult to make it as one so I started making my own music and I realised I actually prefer making music. I’d actually like to stop DJ’ing and just produce music but I cannot afford to as there is no money in making music unless you are making pop tunes – the money is in the DJ’ing these days.
It would be nice to take a year out and focus purely on making music, but I know what would happen – I’d spend a year in the studio and probably come up with absolutely nothing.
You just have to do what you can, when you can.
Tell us about your DJ sets with DJ Hype, does he scratch and how do you prepare for them – given that you live far apart?
We have just played live shows and that’s when we’ve practiced – if he’s scratching I tend to step back a bit and let him do his thing, it’s funny how it works. There’s going to be lots of people out there who do like his scratching and of course those that don’t so it’s about what’s appropriate and when its right to do it and he usually gets it bang on. I personally don’t actually like scratching that much so prefer the less is more approach. He knows what I think about it and we make it work really well together, so it’s cool.
The funny thing is, the first two B2B sets we did me nor Hype enjoyed them at all and in fact we were really surprised by all the incredibly positive feedback we received. The first one which was at Boomtown festival last year, and the crowd response was insane looking back at all of the social media videos on line. Only then did we think about doing more of them and of course, we have been since and it’s getting better and better all of the time.
We have a dual set up, me on CDJs and Hype on the Technics 1210’s with his time coded vinyl so it depends on who’s playing before us and who it is most convenient for between us to start playing, while the other might have to get set up – so its awkward as hell but we manage to sort it and just get stuck in each time.
Playaz and Lock & Load are working together now and what a partnership that is, one of the most recognisable brands in Drum and Bass star and some of the most powerful promotors in dance music – how’s it going and what changes have you noticed since?
I didn’t even know who they were – as I say I stick well clear of the business side of things and just get on with it. The first obvious changes I have noticed are the sheer volume of people at the events we are playing at and how many of them we are going to – they clearly know what they are doing and work really hard at it, so fair play to them.
You are soon performing at the legendary SW4 Festival this August on Clapham Common where Playaz are hosting the tent with names such as Netsky, Marky, Fabio & Grooverider and Goldie with SASASAS among many, many more, it will be a huge event and an equally huge crowd – what have you got up your sleeve?
It may sound a bit odd but I had never heard of SW4 before actually, being so far from London and immersed safely in my own little bubble it had gone completely over my head but the more I’ve started looking into it and hearing about it, the more I am looking forward to playing there.
It sounds like a very serious party with a massive focus on production and of course the line-up reflects that too. I’ve seen loads of the promotion and so many people I know have told me how amazing it is – I don’t usually get excited about gigs, I just turn up and its either good or its not but with this now I am really looking forward to it.
I bet you’ve had a fair share of gigs that haven’t been so brilliant…
Yeah of course, I’ve had loads of gigs that were completely rubbish and I would be lying if I said otherwise. It all starts when you arrive at the club to meet the security – they can either be cool and polite and welcome you into the venue or they can be rude and make things difficult from the off which just sets the scene for the rest of the show.
You know you might be in for a good night when the security are nice and polite. I’m never rude when I arrive at the front door of a club, why would I be? Just smile and be happy and treat people as you want to be treated. When the staff are on point and everything is sorted it makes all the difference.
Fabric were spot on at that, getting you in to the club and getting you on stage and ready to play. The amount of times I’m stood at the front of a club or waiting outside in the cold because they haven’t been ready for me – it’s like they were not expecting me or something, you know – having booked me to play!
Things like that have happened plenty of times over the years but not so much lately, it seems that as you get bigger then things just get better which is nice. All you expect is common courtesy – just be nice to people and everyone gets on fine. That’s the way it should be every time.
MCs play a huge part in the Jump Up scene, arguably more so than any other sub-genre of Drum & Bass, how important are they and what do they bring to what you do?
They are very important for numerous reasons but mainly because they are the middle man (or woman) between me and the crowd and they are the connection between us. Also as a promotional tool the MCs are really helpful because they are always calling out my name which is great, but they are also their own entity too of course. It’s not an easy job by any means – they have got to energise a whole room full of people and get everyone on the same vibe and into what the DJ is doing, it is definitely an art form and should not be overlooked for how crucial it is to what we do.
Especially with the type of Drum and Bass I play, if I do a set without someone on the mic alongside me I find it boring. I don’t think we could do this without them to be honest although they have to be good at what they do of course. Like most things in life, there’s good and bad and the same applies to MCs and it’s probably of little surprise to know that I prefer to have a good one.
You don’t get a good one every time unfortunately and there’s more than enough out there who think they are great, but no one else seems to think so – there are plenty of really good Drum and Bass MCs out there though.
Although the sound engineer is usually the one who is responsible for controlling the mic and setting the levels, many times in the past I have turned the mic levels down or even off and just told the MC that the mic is broken because they have been so bad. Sometimes the MC thinks he’s the best – and to be fair it usually is a ‘he’ as I’ve never had this kind of drama with a female MC, there’s many more male MCs who think they are great but they’re not.
Its not just about lyrics though, it’s about interaction with the crowd and knowing when the music needs a breather to do its thing. It’s the subtle stuff that’s often the most important and often the most overlooked.
Which MCs do you prefer to work with?
Well there’s different styles of course: but I love working with IC3 whose a host MC, MC Eksman can host too but he’s also a lyrical MC so there’s two ends of the spectrum right there. Then there’s MC 2SHY who is a great host but can really hold it down too and knows exactly how to engage the crowd in what we are trying to do. Someone like Fatman D can control the crowd, deliver quality lyrics but in his own style and in a completely different way to say how Eksman would.
It’s all about their own individual personalities too and how they project them in relation to what the crowd wants and when it’s the time to say maybe double time their lyrics or step back a bit and let the music shine through.
I don’t like working with the same MC all the time, I like to change it up although it doesn’t matter who it is as long as they know what they are doing. They are definitely very important though, and it’s the ones who put the effort in to think about what they are going to do, and practice away from the stage to get their timing and the delivery of the lyrics right that then make all the difference on the night.
You have to think that most of the time, the crowd can’t really make out what the MCs are saying when they are double timing, but it doesn’t matter as long as it sounds good and sits nicely in time with the music. You might be able to hear things clearer on a studio recording or a radio set but it’s different in a rave environment and its more about the energy and firing the crowd up. Some of the better MCs have the lyrics that the crowd do know and join in with, like their trademark chats and sayings which is great.
Basically, if you think you’re great you’re probably not so go and have a good think about it.
Focusing on your tracks – what’s in store?> Will you be releasing an album any time soon
Nah, no chance of me making an album – I’ve been trying to since time began and it still hasn’t happened. I just want to make music and get it out there. When I make music, I tend to get lost in it which is why I don’t go in when I don’t feel like it. I have to have some sort of inspiration or be in the mood and when I am, I go in the studio for literally months and get stuck in.
I get lost and go a bit weird. My wife understands it a bit better now, but like I’ll walk from one room to the other without talking to anybody except from myself or humming tunes out loud and my wife and the kids know to leave me to it so I can finish the tune off in my head before I get back in the room.
It’s getting lost in it, its feeling it and that’s when you know it’s coming from the heart. You concentrate, and focus and you don’t even realise it at the time but you are just mumbling to yourself. It’s nice, the feeling you get when you’re making a tune and it doesn’t even matter if it’s a good one or a bad one it’s just that feeling and its great just making music.
I see some DJs that are so passionate about what they do whereas I’m not, for me that passion exists in the creative process of writing music. I feel like I’m the odd one out – of course there are tunes that have a similar effect on me when I play out and touch my heart but generally, I find that vibe when I’m producing in the studio.
You have used different alias in the past such as Dirty Harry, will you ever make any other styles of Drum and Bass under a different alias?
I’d probably put them out under my own to be honest but what I find is, when I try to make something nice it always turns into something hard. That or I don’t get round to finishing the nice stuff, I’ve got loads of nice stuff on my computer that I was just doing as an exercise to see what I can come up with. I’ve also got loads of dark techy stuff that I was just doing because I can but I always find they aren’t the tunes that touch people – the tunes I find usually touch people are the ones that touch me.
I try and release the tunes that caught me in the moment when they were being written. Not just because I think they are going to be big or whatever as I’ve written plenty of tunes that haven’t been big but I wanted to get out there. Fingers crossed some people will feel it but it doesn’t have to be everyone does it, hopefully some will though.
I used my Mac and Logic for arranging then it’s all hardware for the other stuff. I better check that it still works as I haven’t switched on for months!
What about other genres of dance music generally? Do you experiment or are you Drum and Bass through and through?
I don’t finish anything but I always mess about and see what I can do, just like training exercises for myself to see what I can do. To be fair there’s probably some decent stuff on my hard drive in other styles of music but I don’t ever go anywhere with it.
I find it hard to concentrate on other genres of music when I haven’t got enough Drum and Bassv done and I’ve never been at the point in my life where I’ve got enough done to then find the time to concentrate on other styles of music. I’m quite a slow producer, it takes me a long time to make music. Maybe I should have had some lessons to speed up the process.
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!
Well you might think it works, but that’s what you are lead to believe because I don’t show you the sh*t stuff! A lot of people put their good stuff out and their sh*t stuff out too which makes them an average producer. There’s this myth around me that I make loads of good tunes which isn’t true, I make as many as everyone else but I just don’t put the sh*t ones out in between.
I’m lucky I’ve got Hype on my side when it comes to quality control and between us, we can judge which tunes we think will do better. The process is fairly simple in that we sit down and listen through them and it goes something like this…”That’s alright, that’s ok too, that’s sh*t, so is that, that’s good” and so on, its not that stringent – it’s just whether we like them or not and that’s that.
Holding back tunes that certain people want but they can’t have is half the battle as it’s that exclusivity of people wanting something they can’t have that makes them want it more. I’ve got loads of tunes that people want but they can’t have and I only play them myself or maybe give them to Hype too, although there’s a few news one he hasn’t got yet but don’t tell him.
I’ve also got plenty of tunes that are good enough to play in a club but aren’t good enough for a release, so it’s nice to be able to offer something exclusive when people hear you play but they won’t ever be able to get their own copy. They will be like ‘what is that!?’ but will never find out or hear anyone else playing it either – its nice.
What would you say to those who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Erm, do it a different way. Do it in your own way, use people as an example but don’t try and imitate what they do because its better when you put your own spin on things. It’s easy when you first start out to be influenced by somebody but no matter how much you are influenced by them, make sure your put your heart in it and not somebody else’s.
How would you describe 2017 so far?
For me it’s been flipping great to be honest. I don’t want to DJ as much anymore as there have been plenty of times when I’ve been suffering from exhaustion before, so less is more for me. I’ve been getting all of the B2B’s with Hype and they are all big shows but there’s not too many of them and then I have my own shows too which have been great, but with the added bonus of having enough of a gap in between each so I am not running myself into the ground in keeping up with them all which is much better. I can just chill out and do dad stuff with the kids which is great.
I’ve been purposely taking it a bit easier this year and I feel all the better for it as well. I’ve been on the road for so many years, and working super hard that its really important now to find some time and space to step back and have some fun myself. Getting out the of house and doing family activities or even catching up with mates and doing other things, it’s been really good for me and has helped me to unwind somewhat.
Just having fun in general with my children and feeling like a big kid again has been really refreshing and it’s important to me to teach them that they don’t need to grow up too soon, so doing more of that has been great and will feature as much as possible going forward.
What’s the future saying?
Well I might even crack a smile at some of my future gigs instead of me standing there looking so serious because I am concentrating so much. I’m quite private about things so I don’t often open up but going forward I’m making a conscious effort to have more fun – so I’m looking forward to doing exactly that. As I said, I’ve spent so many years working really, really hard with so much time spent on the road DJ’ing and making music but now fortunately I am in the position where I can ease off somewhat and focus on enjoying myself a bit more so that’s what I will be doing.
Anything you would like to say?
Just thanks, it’s been fun talking and I appreciate the support.
Thanks for joining us, it’s been really interesting talking to you!
Catch Hazard back to back with DJ Hype at South West Four in the Playaz arena on Saturday 26th August. For more information on South West Four head here.