Hailing from South London, J Swif began as an MC at the tender age of 15, fusing drum and bass emceeing with rap. J Swif talks to jungledrumandbass about what to expect in 2018 as well as the past events that shaped him as an artist today...
- Hi J Swif! Thanks for taking the time to chat to jungledrumandbass.com. So you began your craft in 94, what made you want to start?
I really got into the music at the height of the Jungle explosion and had a friend, Junior Buzz who had a set of Soundlab belt drive decks and his dad had set of Technics 1210’s that we used to practice on. Junior’s dad had a pirate radio and one of the DJ’s needed someone to read the phone number and shout outs on air because he hated speaking on the mic. That’s where it all started for me, listening to the other MC’s on the station, rave tape packs and going to under 18’s events as I was about 14/15 at the time.
- Is there a particular tune that really got you into underground music?
I would say that even before Jungle really got popular in late 93 early 94, I was getting into Rebel MC stuff as well the Prodigy in 1991. When I head tunes like X Project’s “Alpha” in 1993 it really got me hooked as well as “Dark Stranger” by The Boogie times Tribe and “The Slammer” by Krome & Time. From then on I was fully into the music for life.
- What made you choose the name J Swif ?
I didn’t have an MC name for a while but I used to go to school with some of the guys from So Solid and we all got booked for an event called Dilemma, So Solid were doing the Garage and I was doing the Jungle but didn’t have an MC name to put on the flyer so Junior Buzz just named me J Swif out of thin air and the name stuck!
- Can you tell us what your first radio appearance was like?
Absolutely petrifying, I was no older than about 15, I remember going up to this tower block in South London close to where I lived and doing the set literally shaking. I just basically read out the phone number, requests and shout outs and said “Hey!!” a few times. As time went on I used to get advice from the stations older MC’s Wicked and MC Kie and that built my confidence to start writing lyrics weekly to perform on radio.
- You first performed on Kool in 2005 – awesome ! How did that feel?
Great question, now to understand how I felt you have to understand that when I was a kid Kool FM was the epicentre of the Jungle scene. The DJ’s, MC’s and station management were and still are legends in their own right. You had Mampi Swift, Funky Flirt, DJ Ron, Ragga Twins, Navigator, Skibadee, Shabba, Shockin B and later people like IC3, Funsta and Riddla. Literally everyone who was anyone was on Kool FM so for me to meet them was like meeting Michael Jackson to me. I remember meeting Eastman for the first time was before I was on Kool FM, I just couldn’t believe that I was meeting these people that I had looked up to for so many years. So to actually be on Kool was more than I could ever have imagined when I first started in the scene and still hold great memories to this day.
- You've performed all over the world in places like Belgium, Austria, Spain and Poland. Do you have a favourite place to perform?
I really loved Poland, I actually didn’t think I would like it the first time I went but the people make the party and the people of Poland really know how to party. I also really like MS Conexxion in Germany, had many a good night in there. L’Aeroneuf in France used to be a favourite of mine and of course Dour Festival in Belgium. In the UK I really like Fabric and used to love performing in Bagleys but sadly that closed down many years ago like so many other clubs like The Mass in Brixton and Turnmills.
- You also hold many residencies such as at Renegade Hardware. Can you tell us the story about how you got your big break with these brands?
I got a few breaks in the scene, Clayton from Renegade Hardware had heard about me through the grapevine and got a mutual friend to arrange a meeting. Renegade Hardware is the only promoter that has ever interviewed me before booking me to make sure I could deliver what they wanted and I found that really good that the promoter took the time go the extra mile and this highlights their professionalism and attention to detail. From then on I did most Renegade Hardware events, Trouble on Vinyl events, Clash of the Titans, Battle of the MC’s, Breakin Science, Hardware Weekender and Notting Hill Carnival which were at one time all run by Clayton.
- And you also founded the popular online magazine Drum And Bass HQ in 2014 – tell us about that.
Between 2010 and 2013 I had decided to take a break from everything as I had been studying Business at Open University and had become used to writing essays and reports so I originally started researching and writing a book about the origins and evolution of Drum & Bass which was going to be called ”Drum And Bass HQ”. I built a website and started writing articles about legends such as Stevie Hyper D and Nicky Blackmarket. As I started to research more I decided to interview some key players from the scene and had all these interview recordings from people like Nicky Blackmarket, Paul Ibiza and many others, I decided that I would make these recordings into a Podcast and that’s when Drum And Bass HQ really took off in July 2014.
- Drum And Bass HQ has hosted guest interviews for dnb giants such as Roni Size, Sigma and DC Breaks. Tell us about the first interview you did for a largescale name – was it nerve wracking?
It’s never really nerve wracking for me because I really love talking to people about Drum & Bass and hearing about their experiences, it’s more excitement before I interview someone. I always make sure I do my research before speaking to the person. I think I have a healthy respect for everyone I interview but I don’t really idolise anyone at all because no one is better than anyone else so I don’t get scared. I find the technical part is more nerve wracking, I’m always worried that the audio will come out poor or not record at all. I once interviewed Harry Shotta and DJ Phantasy and the recording got corrupted so it never made it to air which was a real bad time for me because it was an amazing interview.
- How are the Drum And Bass HQ nights going?
Going really well, we’re doing one or two parties each year usually in the summer at ‘Work’ in London which is DJ Mag’s club. I love it because the people that come are always up for a good time and I like the intimacy of the venue. Last year we even had a classically trained violinist Katya Gabeli come over from Amsterdam to perform over Drum & Bass, it was amazing!. The last one we did was in June this year and was blessed to have my favourite artists playing which were Missrepresent, DJ Code, Toronto is Broken, Deuce & Charger and North Base with MC AD and Blacka. I only get people to play who in my opinion are the best at what they do, not based on their social media followers.
- If you look back at radio and performing back in the 90s and compare it to now, what would you say is the biggest thing you miss/prefer? (Apart from the obvious technological differences)
I think social media has largely killed of the actual social aspect of the scene, I miss the vinyl, I really miss going to record shops every weekend but then again I do now like getting tunes immediately without having to leave the house! I think there is a new generation discovering the rave scene for the first time so that pretty cool to see. I also miss collecting flyers with amazing artwork, most promoters don’t really bother with amazingly creative flyer artwork anymore.
- What is your favourite DJ, Producer and MC?
DJ has to be Andy C and has been for years, London Elektricity is my favourite Producer and GQ has been my favourite MC since 1993 to this day.
- What was the last live appearance you made? How did it go?
Last night I MC’d for Johnny B and DJ Sly at DnB Splash at Lightbox which was cool, Funsta joined me on the mic for DJ Sly’s set and it is always a pleasure working with my old friend Funsta. I also played the last set of the night there, I love being behind the decks and playing my favourite music, in many ways I prefer it to MCing. The crowd at DnB Splash is always up for it from the second the doors open to when the lights come on.
- What bookings have you got lined up for the rest of 2017/2018?
I’m resident at DnB Splash and play there every month, I will also be doing a Renegade Hardware reunion before the end of this year date TBC. Apart from that I do not actively chase bookings as I am writing a lot of tracks at the moment. I have one just about to be released with The Soul Crew, Genesis Elijah and Franko Fraize, I have another one I did with Toronto is Broken about to be released on Viper Recordings, I am also working on a track with D Region & Code and another one with MC Coppa.
- You're no stranger to being behind a set of decks, what is your preferred set up?
Yes, I love a go on the decks, my preferred setup is Pioneer CDJ2000 Nexuswith DJM900 Mixer and I’m good to go. I have a little Pioneer SB2 at home which is quite good and easy to move round if you need to take it out on the road.
- What's the vision for 2018?
Continue to hold down my show on Pyro Radio which is 7pm-9pm on the first Monday of every month. I’m also getting more into video interviews for Drum And Bass HQ and have some great guests lined up.
I will be returning to Kool London studio for special show with Blacka in the new year. Apart from that I will be starting pre-production for J Swif album.
- Any shout outs you would like to give?
Too many names to mention seriously, so many ravers, DJ’s, MC’s Promoters and radio management have been so supportive and given great advice over the years. I just really appreciate everyone who has supported me & Drum And Bass HQ to make it what it is today. Thank you.
Interview conducted by Dutchie // Jaymii Holland, October 2017