Who’s The Best DJ?

Is this serious? Are they playing? Serious point raised nevertheless…..

So the important question is this: Who do YOU think is the Best Funky DJ??

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DJ/Producer MA-1 Gives It Up to Queen of Sheba

DJ/Producer MA-1

DJ/Producer MA-1

Following the release of his recent single, I caught up with DJ/Producer MA-1 to find out a little bit about him and his personal journey within the scene. How he got into the music, to becoming involved with the scene, to actually making the music within it.

Being a highly respected DJ/Producer within the movement I also thought it’d be interesting to find out his secrets on production and what he felt would benefit the scene in the long run as well as what it is that he personally favours……

What is your background within the scene? As in, how did you get into House Music?

Well I went to a rave with DJ Feva in November 2005. Then I only knew him as a Garage DJ. Tippa and IC were there playing some tunes mixed in with garage. I didn’t know what they were at the time because I’d never heard it before. Then Feva come on for the closing set and he was playing all these tunes again that just blew my head off. The crowd were just dancing and reacting in the same way that I was used to at old skool garage raves. I had to call him up and ask him what that music he was playing was. Garage wise I was into Tuff Jam and EZ and when I asked him, he was laughing. But he was playing older house stuff like Samurai and Gabryelle which just blew me away but yeah he told me what it was and I got really into it.

So what stage did you start getting into DJing funky house?

I went to a few clubs with Tippa and IC and really got into the music. These times they weren’t even Circle they were Allsbury Allstars. At that time I was buying a few of the early big tunes and I mixed them up and went down to Red Carpet one night and gave the guys over there a CD. He called me the next day to tell me that he wanted to do a giveaway CD to promote Red Carpet and that’s how I got to do one of the first rave CDs with an advert. That was like end of 2005. Before I knew it, I was hearing it everywhere. Nobody knew my face, but everyone knew my name because of this CD. The response just blew me away and all I wanted after that was to get bookings and get on to Deja Vu FM. At the time, it was the station that was really carrying the music. There was Kismet, Supa, Tippa, IC, Pioneer, Angie B and Dogtaniun and when I got there, well that was me. I’m on Rinse FM now though.

MA-1

Did you see yourself ever gaining the status that you have i.e. playing across seas etc?

Not really, I got into it just for fun. When I started it was a hobby. I enjoyed mixing. All my friends round my area done it too. Back then it was about Speed Garage which was more the music of the working class rather than a black or white thing. Everyone raved together. But I remember going to college and asking people what Garage was. Then I went out to some raves and thought it was good and just starting buying the tunes. I then started off playing in little raves around the area and the places just got bigger and bigger. I’ve played for many pirate stations, Upfront, Freek FM and Flashback FM, but I did get to one point when I thought to forget it all. I was buying all these records and I questioned myself and what I was doing. Around June 2005 I gave up music. I just wanted to go work and just be normal. So it just happened really. I never planned any of it.

What stage did you feel that as well as playing you wanted to start producing?

Back then when I got into the scene most of the UK tunes were dubs that never had any vocals. The only vocal tune at that had really taken off at that time was NG’s “Tell me”. I just wanted to make a tune that was a good vocal track and that was my goal. I always wanted to do that and eventually in the end, I did it. I made the tune in my bedroom. It wasn’t that easy though. When I first made the tune, I never had anyone to vocal it. I asked the people I knew if they knew any singers and it turned out that Sophia lived at the top of my road and I’d known her since she was little. Anyway, she came to my house, and recorded it. I then had to go to a professional recording studio, pay my money and get it mixed down. Before I knew it all the DJs were playing it, then I got a call from 1xtra saying they wanted to put my tune on the radio playlist and then it just blew up all over the radio really quick. Being a DJ and using my experience from other scenes, I realised that the people who really cross the boundaries are producers. Other than EZ and Heartless, people remember the producers from the Garage scene i.e. Artful Dodger, so knew that was what I wanted to do.

Karnival Music….. Explain what that’s about……

It’s my record label. The name really comes from the fact that at the time most of the sound was of an afrobeat style, so to me, what we were playing was carnival music, so that’s what I named it. It’s not just for my tunes though, if I hear tunes that I like, I can push it for you and we can cut some kind of deal, then I put it out. Basically it’s because say for instance, you get a producer who is up in Birmingham, he could make a banging tune, but it doesn’t really get heard. But if I take it and it goes on my label, then the level of exposure is much more. For instance there are other tracks that have been put on my label where I’ve come to an agreement with people. Now if they gave it directly to one of the bigger named DJs, the chances of him listening to it and playing it are lower than if it’s given to him by me. So yeah, that’s that.

Give It Up ft Sim Simi has recently been released. Tell me a bit about the background of that track…

I made “Give It Up” very soon after I made “I’m Right Here”. Me and Simone hooked up through MySpace. She hollered at me to say that she liked my sound and wanted us to work together and I called her up. We talked about what she wanted to do and then got together basically. But because “I’m Right Here” was so popular, I kind of put it on a back burner. But when I saw that things had really calmed down with “I’m Right Here” and other tracks had pushed it out of the spotlight, I felt that it was time to put it out. Give It Up is out now on junodownload.com, ukfunky.com and dubplate.net. It’s selling really well.

Do you feel that the funky scene is here to stay for an era, or do you feel that is may fizzle out as a phase?

I don’t know if it’s gonna stay forever. I mean I hope it does. But the music scene has changed a lot since I first got involved in 05. From the way we play it to who the top DJs are. When I started it was all about Booker T and Gavin Peters, now you hear more about Supa D, Pioneer and Marcus Nasty. I think its going to continue evolving, so it can’t be going anywhere for now.

What do you think will help the scene to grow bigger than it is right now to really embed itself within the mainstream?

Better quality tunes and a chart success. No question about that. I’m not gonna act all big about the quality of my production and that because I’m still learning myself and I give respect to anyone who has sat down for hours from day to day, to make a beat, whether I personally think its good or not. But they have to do the best they can do. Whether they get it mixed down by somebody else, there’s no shame in someone else mixing down your tracks for you. Get a professional. I did it, there’s no shame in it and if you’re looking to make a banger, you’d be surprised how much a difference mixing it down can make. I think at the moment, people outside of our scene are listening to the majority of our tunes and thinking that we’re all jokers. They hear our music and think to themselves “What’s that?” See it’s difficult, some people are impartial to our sound, others want to criticise it. The majority of the nation hasn’t heard anything we do as yet because commercial radio isn’t really supporting our sound. They all have our tracks, but they’re not really play listed during the day time so most people outside of the urban areas will never have heard it. Take Bongo Jam for instance, it got a lot of publicity due to Big Brother, but Harry Hill totally disrespected it. Then there’s the London club scene at the moment which still exists but they’re all knocking it saying there’s trouble. But there’s trouble in normal clubs as well.

So what do you personally love most about the scene?

It’s new, different and fresh. When I first saw it I knew it was gonna be big. I saw it. I had to be part of it. It’ll grow and it’ll get more popular. Some of the tunes will get commercial and hit charts. Like with Garage, when that first started it was underground, but there were many Garage chart hits. Whether its next year or a few more after that. This isn’t by far the final article.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Not really, but this whole funky thing is all good and its spreading around the country and it’s across seas. Napa really helped the scene grow and it’s really strong up north now, so it’s still growing and it will grow a lot further. The whole Bassline thing is rumoured to be calming down so it’s time for funky to really take over the whole country. That’s the next step.

She’s A Devil In A Blue Dress

Having found his feet within the music industry, exploring the genres and creating a network with established players along the way, Doneao feels the time has come to step out from behind the scenes. Filming a video to accompany Devil in a Blue Dress, the hugely successful hit within the UK Funky scene……

It’s an early start for a Sunday morning with London’s Stanza club as the destination. This would usually bring the thought of an after party to mind, but today its all lights, camera, action. With everybody tired from the social activity within the past 12 hours, the only lay in on this day, seems to have been granted to the sun.

Arriving on set shortly before the hours of 10am, wardrobe, hair and make up shortly arrive with no delays, and an instant start is made on the transformation to make the temptress of the day and Doneao is more than impressed with his options of outfit. He decides on Suave & Chic, a winning choice every time.

Filming commences soon after midday and Doneao is pulling out his skanks in the bank for the camera. The director even has a shot dedicated to his feet!! Who knows, he may have been taking visual notes to try out in front of the mirror at home…….

Proving to be thirsty work, a break is called soon after an hour with orders taken for lunch, then its back to Doneao skanking out for the cameras again. By the time his shot is finished it 3pm, all the cast members have arrived and our Devil in the Blue Dress is ready. At this time, any man would think himself lucky to be scheduled for seduction by this temptress. But first he would have to wait…… Within the midst of lunch, there are changes of clothes taking place and a photo shoot is underway. Doneao is taking full advantage of the wardrobe in full entirety.

As late afternoon drifts into the evening hours, all stomachs are full and cameo appearance members present, its time to wrap up this beautiful creation. As shooting resumes within a party scene, the smiles are definitely not just for camera. Although this is work for all on Doneao’s path to success, the vibe depicted is surely real and will be watched back by those present, as the day Doneao entertained us and showed us a good time. Although the DJ did seem a bit restricted on his selection……

I managed to catch up with Doneao throughout the course of the day to discuss his road so far within his music career. This is what he had to say:

We’re here today filming Devil in a Blue Dress. Tell me a bit about the song’s background.

I originally released the track to DJs back in November last year. I gave them both an instrumental and a vocal to allow them to play their preference. I found that a lot of them originally played the instrumental, and then the one with the vocals started to creep in later.

What was the response you received during that time?

The response was huge! I released another track last July called “I” and “When You’re Alone”, but “Devil” seems to have really hit them. There’s been play listing on mainstream radio stations, so for me it’s a phenomenal success from the underground, especially as an independent artist and having to take care of my own marketing etc.

I believe your label is called Zephron Entertainment?

It’s more of a production company. It’s a small company and at the moment I can only look after myself. I would like to build on it, but our first release is going to be “African Warrior”. But I’ve had to start from the bottom. I managed to push “Devil” to a point where 1xtra approached me, but Choice FM and other commercial stations were from me working hard on the streets. I try not to push things in people’s faces though and I think that contributed a lot to “Devil” blowing up more than “I”. Simply because I let the people choose and there was more hype for “Devil”, so more people have got involved.

You’ve been on the music scene for a while haven’t you?

Yeah. Since I was 19. Going back to the times of UK Garage. My first proper tune was “Bounce” which was right in the beginning stages of my creativity. I knew when I was 6 that I wanted to do music and then when I turned 16, my dad helped me get my first studio. Then I had to really find myself musically, and “Bounce” was the first finished tune that I really ever made. But you make a whole heap of tunes and you think they’re ok, but they’re more like preparation. “Bounce” really showed me that I could make tracks that people liked, but I hadn’t homed in on my creativity, I still had to study myself. Not taking anything away from “Bounce”. It was a good experience and got me in the limelight, but I would advise people that before releasing a track, it’s a good idea to have more ready. Because if it bombs you got more behind you, and if it blows, people are gonna wanna hear more and I wasn’t prepared……There were about 3 years between my first 2 singles and during that time I really got to learn my craft.

So would you say that “I” was the produce of a more matured Doneao?

I didn’t actually produce “I”, and I don’t really work with other producers, being a producer myself. But I would say I homed in on my craft before “I”, while making Grime. Then when I starting making House, I found some real inspiration within my creativity, because “I” was my first House track and I just wanted to keep making more.

Where do you find the inspirations when making your House tracks?

When funky first started to come about, I wanted to know more about it and I started to research House music and its structures, and I learnt that even Garage originated from House. Then I realised there were more sub genres such as Acid, Dance, Electro and I felt that this is the genre where I really wanted to be, reflecting on the fact that I originated within Garage. Not having produced “I” myself and it being totally different to anything that I had made, I wanted to see what I could come up with and “Devil in a Blue Dress” and a few other tracks is really what I got. So even though I’ve been on the scene for a while, I’ve been finding myself and where I belong during that time.

With Devil already being so successful on the underground, where do you see the single going after the official release?

All the way hopefully!! I can only hope to get a number one from it. I’ll push as hard as I can to see how far it can go. If it doesn’t reach number one, I can only hope that it does the best it can do. I’m working hard for it, the whole team are. Anyone that’s interested in my music, I’ll be willing to meet the demand.

We saw you at Glastonbury earlier on this year. What was that experience like for you?

That was heavy man!! But it weren’t just me. It was me and my band, we’re a team. If I get signed, I would like to be signed with them. But it was a great experience. It was the first time we played and all the equipment was like new and the live sound system. We’ve done other live gigs, but that was the biggest.

Is this the first time you’ve done a video too?

This is my first solo video. I’ve done cameos here and there, but this one is all about me. I’ve never really let people see my face, but this tune got so big, I knew that if I wanted to continue promoting it, I’d have to step out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight.

How are you finding the experience?

I’m embracing it at the moment, it’s a bit different from what I’m used to doing, but there’s going to be other things as well like magazine interviews etc but I’m used to staying in the studio and putting tunes out. That’s it. I know how to market myself indirectly, but not in the spotlight. This is the first part of the whole experience for me personally, but the second stage for the single.

So what can we expect in the future?

I’m due to release another 2 singles which I’ve already had good responses for from DJs. I also done a few PA’s in Aiya Napa and Funky seems to be really smashing it over there alongside Niche. But those tracks are still new on the underground so it may be a while before they become as mainstream as “Devil”. In about 3 months time, I think I’ll be in a better position to see what those tracks are really doing, and how I’m truthfully finding the whole experience.