From his roots in the clubland underground of Leeds and Hull, DJ-producer wAFF has gone on to become globally renowned. His schedule is relentless but he doesn’t cut corners. He’s the only British artist who’s recorded for all three European techno hubs, Sven Väth’s Cocoon, Adam Beyer’s Drumcode and Loco Dice’s Desolat. He approaches music with unstoppable enthusiasm and attention to detail. This summer his Ibiza gigs range from his residency at Paradise at DC-10 to Elrow at Amnesia. He’s DJing everywhere, from recent Do Not Sleep nights in Miami and Italy, to festival slots at Eastern Electric, Hideout, Sziget and, yes, the original Nevada Desert madhouse, Burning Man. Now based in London, much further back wAFF kickstarted the underground dance scene in his native Hull and achieved success with his Koala parties in Leeds, providing a widely respected initial springboard to take things forward. He’s been part of Jamie Jones’s Paradise crew 2012, recorded the ‘Freeks EP’ for Cocoon and the ‘VibrationZ EP’ for Drumcode. He’s recently been growing closer to Loco Dice and Martin Buttrich’s Desolat imprint resulting in monsters such as ‘Bondage’, ‘Space’ and the ‘Hanzz Sup’ EP. A plethora of new tracks are now queueing up for both Moon Harbour and Desolat, as well as forthcoming collaborations with Fuse resident Archie Hamilton.
It’s been stated that you have a true passion for software and technology. Out of the various pieces of software that you have used over time, which one have your warmed to the most and why?
Well I wouldn’t say a true passion, I just think it’s mint (means well good to anyone who’s thinking what is mint), ha! I love technology when it comes to anything music or not music, anything that takes us more into the future I love it. For software, I’ve just been using it for so long that it’s like a second language to me, although I actually am getting a bit sick of it. I’m just about to buy some new hardware and give that a try as I need some new inspiration and motivation with music which I get every now and again, but I just feel I need to bring something new to the table to keep me interested and excited, which I’m sure it will!
You have cited artists like Loco Dice and Marco Carola as influences. Was it listening to those guys that actually inspired you to want to produce tracks as a teenager or did you get the itch beforehand?
No, I was making music years before I even knew about them and before I knew about the music scene I’m into now. I used to use Dance E-jay when I was proper young and had no idea what music was, but it was when I quit dance and performing arts college that I was so bored at home with nothing to do that I just downloaded a production software called FruityLoops and started messing around with that, I realised I had such a passion for music and making music. I used to make really shite electro that was mental and just really mad tunes for years and all my mates used to think it was crap. I used to drive everyone mad at parties playing all my music really loud and I’d always get told to stop playing it and it was rubbish, ha, but I never cared I just loved it and thought it was wicked, then that slowly got me into the minimal scene then techno, and then to where I am today. But it was when I first came to Ibiza and seen the likes of Marco Carola, Loco Dice, Luciano that I really started to focus on my sound and what I wanted to do.
Well I guess I’ve always loved music, but it wasn’t always house and techno. I’ve gone through so many different stages in my life of music, from hard house to hip-hop to indie and rock music! I used to be a dancer and actor – actor before anything to do with music – but then when I was 17 I got given my first ecstasy pill at a house event, and that was me completely addicted to house music! I left dance college and all my acting shit, and just started producing music at home on my own because I was bored during the day when everyone was at work or college, but I was on my tod with nothing else to do.
Your Koala club night was quite successful. What prompted you to start the night and for those who are looking to start a club night, what advice would you give them?
Well it was just good fun for Hull where I used to live as there was nothing at all going on there with underground house music until recently. So me and 2 of my good mates Matt Thornton and Lil Phil, we just wanted to have a laugh and have a good party with the music and dh’s we loved. It wasn’t anything big at all, we were successful but we only did it for a couple of years until we decided it wasn’t worth doing anymore, but it was great. It created good contacts with artists and brought a lot of people together. I’d say to anybody that loves music and thinking of starting a night to definitely go for it, the problem is now there’s so many of them it’s a lot of competition so it’s difficult I guess depending where about your living etc. For me it was Hull, there was nothing going on so it was great and easy. I’m no promoter and I have no idea how to properly run a big successful night but when we did Koala it was just wicked fun and really helped me become a better DJ and practise playing, and to also try out new music and styles of yourself to figure out what you want to play.
Your first EP was released through Hot Creations, which seems like the perfect home. How did that relationship with Jamie Jones and Lee Foss at the HC label come about?
I just sent ‘Jo Johnson’ to Richy Ahmed as I’d briefly met him in Ibiza and he loved it, sent it to Jamie, and Jamie was playing it so much straight away, I guess he just loved the tune and offered me a record deal with Hot Creations along with ‘Rainbows’ and ‘Jeyda’, and pretty much very quickly from there I was playing with them all the time, and I had become really good friends with everybody, and now their like my family. I travel the world with them and I share my best parts of my life with them so it’s such a blessing to be taken into their lives so closely!
Considering that you do have this love for software, I would imagine that you’re always working on music wherever you travel to. Has there been any song that you’ve released that was inspired from being in a particular city anywhere around the world?
Rem…well I don’t get inspired by places really, I have done something when I was in Thailand before or if I’m on a beach I might make something that’s quite Arabic or dreamy that I’ve never released, but usually I don’t get inspired by things or places, like I don’t look at something and think “wow, yeah that boat is really nice I’m gonna make a tune”, ha! I just get bursts of inspiration at random times. I have been to other places in the world and made some amazing music from being there but I couldn’t put it down to that place. I have a track coming out on Drumcode this year called ‘VibrationZ’ which I made in Italy years ago and I was really high on life when I was there, had a wicked gig and came to my hotel and made ‘VibrationZ’, which is one of my favourite tunes I’ve made in recent years. You know what, I’ve just written all that and it could all be bollocks, ha! I probably have been so inspired by places, maybe I do but the honest answer would be…I actually don’t know and I can’t remember, haha!
How do you know when a track’s finished?
Well I guess you just know. I mean, you could always add little more improvements but I generally just feel it and know when it’s got all the elements it needs to have the impact you want it to have. I think each drop you have has to be as effective as you can to really make the crowd react, but this all depends on the type of music you make. Also, make sure you don’t rush it or make shortcuts – this will leave the track ultimately unfinished, I think. It’s better to spend longer getting it right than to just quickly finish it so it’s done with.
Which song do you wish you wrote?
Dr Dre – ‘The Next Episode’. Who wouldn’t want to have written that song? It’s badass.
Most interesting individual you’ve met on the road?
I did just meet a guy at Burning Man that would ride around on a three wheeled cart on his own with his massive dick out with big metal cock rings on it, with really long silver hair and a cowboy hat, with a megaphone just saying the most random stupidest comments ever… he was pretty interesting, definitely.
What’s the easiest way to make it in the music industry?
I reckon just release music that’s shite – that generally seems to work great for people. Just make loads of wank commercial tunes – I reckon that will do it.