Tuesday 29 October 2013

MTV IGGY: ICON: 20 Years On In The Garage Game, DJ EZ Stays On Top

By Joseph 'JP' Patterson

You know you're in for a memorable raving experience when DJ EZ's on the line-up. The top selector from North London—popularly known for his charismatic stage presence and Nike uniform—traded in techno and hardcore for the sexy sounds of UK garage some twenty-plus years ago and began circulating his name in the pirate radio and club circuits during the early '90s. EZ's style and skill quickly certified him as a master of the decks and in 1999, he was offered a show on Kiss FM, a station he still broadcasts to thousands of dedicated listeners each and every week. A superstar DJ is someone who sells over a million compilations (Pure Garage) and has non-stop bookings all over the world. But EZ doesn't consider himself to be one; it's that humble outlook on the game which has probably allowed him to play it for so long, with his latest big look being a mix CD for Fabric. An inspiration for many in the underground music scene, MTV IGGY meets the icon known as the one, the only: DJ EZ.

In all of your interviews over the years, you've remained that humble, down-to-earth guy right the way through – almost too humble for someone so highly revered. Deep down, though, do you see yourself in the legendary light like the rest of the world does?

[Laughs] Thanks! To be honest with you, I just see myself as a guy who plays tunes. I’ve always looked at myself in that way. I don’t class myself as a legend at all, and maybe that’s what has kept me doing what I’ve been doing for so long.

It seems like everyone and their dad wants to be a headline DJ these days, but what's the secret to longevity? How can they be relevant two decades down the line like yourself?

Well, for me, I put it down to being dedicated, persistent, and passionate. Along the years, I’ve surprised myself with the accolades and achievements that I’ve picked up during my DJ career. Moving with the times is also key, without selling out or forgetting your roots. For example, I’m very fortunate to be in a position to have new followers who are are into what I do, what I’m about, musically, and how I play. A balanced set of fresh and older tracks is very important to keep everyone happy.

Taking it back 15 or so years, what originally drew you from techno and hardcore to garage? That's quite a move.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss the techno, acid, and house music that I used to play in the early days of my career, because they were very special times for me. During my spell of playing hardcore in the early ‘90s, I stumbled across a few pirate stations playing US and UK house, and it was a few tracks from the legendary Todd Edwards which made my ears prick up and got me interested in that sound. I then purchased a few tracks from my local record shop and started to spin some house and garage towards the end of my hardcore sets. The scene was picking up in the UK at that time, so I decided to send out a few demo shows to a few pirate stations and was chosen to host a weekly show with Freek FM. My love for hardcore continued, with one-off special shows on Freek, but I eventually made the full switch to house and garage, and the rest is history.

And what's your favorite Todd Edwards cut, or is that impossible for you to answer because they're all epic? 

Yeah, it’s a tough one [laughs]. I don’t actually think I can answer this question. In my eyes, Todd is the G.O.D, mate, and it’s hard to choose one particular track because they’re all my favorite. His work is so complex and he’s a magician with samples and drum patterns. It’s a real shame that his bumpier, four-to-the-floor tracks didn’t hit the mainstream. He puts so much work into his productions.

Did you like his contributions to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories album?

Definitely! And well deserved, too. Some of his best work was made in the early noughties, but his recent work is still amazing. His new remix of Bo Saris’ The Addict is currently one of my top five faves. I’m still his biggest fan, and happy to still be one of his biggest supporters in the UK.

Do you miss the old garage days – you know, when it was all bling-bling, patterned Moschino and Moet?

Without a doubt! I miss that specific UKG dance the ravers used to do in a group, when they would swing their fingers left and right at chest height then slowly going down to the floor. Not forgetting the infamous crowd chant 'Boo!' when a big tune dropped and had to be pulled up by the DJ [laughs]. I miss a lot of things from the old scene, but the new ravers make up for it with their energy and the atmosphere that they bring to events.

You've championed bassline/4×4 in recent years, as well as grime. Both scenes have had their ups and downs but which producers, in your eyes, are setting the levels and have consistently brought their A-game? Everyone, myself included, was very hype when you first played Pantha's Candy Shop on your Kiss FM show.

I recently played at a venue in Coventry and I came on in-between two bassline/4×4 sets, and it was so refreshing to hear. I include bassline in my sets every now and then – especially up North, where the scene was massive a few years ago. Mr Virgo, Mr V, Pantha, who you mentioned, Subzero, and TRC are a few of my favorite producers. It’s such a shame that the scene isn’t as booming as it once was, but I’m hoping it’ll come back in a big way one day. I’ve got nothing against the tunes coming out now, but some of the tracks are almost identical copies of each other by using the same bass sound and riff. Even though the general tempo of bassline/4×4 is much faster than the current trend of big tracks, there’s still room for it. Relight the bassline!

A lot of the bassline producers, they're making jackin' house now. Are you a fan?

I haven’t really delved into it too deep but, to me, it sounds like old house and garage beats from back in the day. I played at an event in Leeds and a couple of DJs on before me played a jackin’ house set on vinyl! I had to show some respect when they finished. The stuff they played was cool and the crowd were raving hard to it, which was a buzz to watch. There’s so much good music around today, but it’s certainly hard to keep up with it all – especially with all these new spin-offs and sub-genres.

So, "future garage." I'd love to get your thoughts on the term, because it's been a major talking point in the dance arena of late.

Ahhh! Another spin-off [laughs]. Aside from the name, because it’s all just garage when it boils down to it, I love its elements: strings, pads, and atmospheric sound effects over a 2-step or 4×4 beat. It’s right up my street, but I haven’t been the biggest supporter of it. With it being more laid-back than the other forms of garage I usually play during my event sets and Friday night radio show on Kiss FM, it’s hard to include some of the tracks and fully get behind the movement. But I do try and feature it as and when I can.

You've mixed the new Fabric compilation, FABRICLIVE 71, which is out right now. For those yet to pick up a copy, what kind of vibes can be expected?

Expect a lot of new tracks mixed in with old gems, which is what my sets are all about right now. The CD is just good vibes and a definite must-have for any raver, so get a copy if you haven’t already.

You've achieved a lot in your career: you've sold over a million copies of your Pure Garage compilations, maintained a much-listened-to radio show on Kiss for over ten years, and you're forever selling out shows. What's next on the cards for you?

Well, I’d like to get back in the studio to get some new EZ music out there. It’s been such a long time and I miss making music, so that’s a priority. There are some other things in the pipeline as we speak, but I’m not able to disclose right now so just watch this space. I’d also like to give something back to the people who have supported me over the years. I’m unsure what it will, but it’s something that I really need to look at because I wouldn’t be where I am without their support.

This also appeared over at MTV IGGY: H E R E