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.
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.
Filed under: Funky, Interviews | Tagged: Aiya Napa, Allsbury Allstars, Angie B, Artful Dodger, Big Brother, Bongo Jam, Booker T, CD, Circle, Deja Vu, DJ, Dogtaniun, EZ, Feva, Flashback FM, Freek FM, Funky, Garage, Gavin Peters, Harry Hill, Heartless Crew, House, IC, Karnival Music, Kismet, MA-1, Marcus Nasty, Music, NG, Pioneer, Producer, Red Carpet, Rinse FM, Sim Simi, Sophia, Supa D, Tippa, Tuff Jam, Upfront FM | 2 Comments »