Filed under: Interview
“Future Funk Flava Vol.01 X’mas Garage”, presented by HigherFrequency’s partner SAKI Entertainment,Inc. was recently held at Shibuya NUTS featuring BBC 1Xtra DJ, J Da Flex and Mr Buzzhard of Artful Dodger fame. Bringing the new UK Urban sound to Japan the pair rocked the crowd with Jay’s party beats and Mr Buzzard’s rhythmic lyrics.
HigherFrequency sat down with the duo before the event to chat about the emerging Urban scene and the state of music in the UK.
Interview & Introduction by Matt Cheetam (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How would you describe the new urban sound coming out of the UK?
J Da Flex (J) : It’s certainly urban….it’s dark, it’s jazzy, it’s bumpy, it’s grimy……. there are a handful of producers that are involved in the sound. Zed Bias, one of those involved in the scene has been out to Japan a few times and he’s one of the pioneers of the urban sound. There’s Oris J, he crosses over from the breakbeat side to UK Garage, people like Dubchild from Leicester, a handful of producers who are pushing the sound forward. I’m kind of lucky being on Radio One Extra because I’ve become kind of the unofficial mouthpiece for the scene. People send me tracks and I get to play all the music, The main thing is it, (urban music) travels well, I was in the studio today with a guy called JUNO from Japan and some guys from New York who make it . It’s small in the UK but it’s a sound that people are so receptive to so it generally travels well.
HRFQ : It’s described as a very UK sound, how do you think it appeals to an international audience as well?
J : Because its a hybrid of Drum and Bass, UK Garage, techno and breakbeat so across the world its appeals to different audiences. In Europe they like their Drum and Bass they like their breakbeat same as in various pockets of the world so when you listen to the music you can always familiarize yourself with something in it so I think that’s why it has such universal appeal. It’s UK music but it travels well
HRFQ : What artists do you think are pushing that sound in the right direction?
J : Dubchild, Landslide, Oris J, Zed Bias, Slaughter Mob, there are various people but check out my show. On the Saturday show I have to be a bit more broadminded because there’s more people listening so I play a bit of 4:4, a bit of vocal but then I lead into what I do best. They moved me in August from a Wednesday night to a Saturday night so it’s a better time slot but to be honest I prefer the Wednesday night because it’s more specialist, I don’t have to change my music policy for anyone and
and although I don’t have to on Saturday, you’ve got to be smart.
HRFQ : Are all the artists you mentioned UK artists or is there more of an international flavor?
J : They are all UK artists but its not just a London thing like in the scene many years ago, it’s from all over the UK. They really are innovators, they don’t copy each other they are all creating their own sound without copying each other.
HRFQ : With declining music sales do you still think music still has a big influence over youth today?
J : Yeah it still has an influence on kids but not as it did before, I don’t really know why but I think the internet has a bit part of it, especially commercial music, for dance music I don’t know. There’s a lot of kids in studios now, making their own productions so the music scene still has a big influence on kids whether they want to be MC’s or producers but it’s just that music sales have gone down.
HRFQ : How do you both feel about being people who are influencing the youth of the country?
Mr Buzzard (B) : I enjoy it in terms of the fact that I have a good attitude and try to stay positive. Me and J have slightly roles, he’s more on the breakbeat side whereas I’m in the existing UK garage scene which has shrunk down somewhat at the moment. I DJ on a pirate radio and also host for the Artful Dodger so I do what I can but like I said we have had a lot of problems in England with violence in clubs and stuff like that so we’ve been hit very hard. The UK Garage scene has pretty much bottomed out and now it’s just starting to get going again, there are more events taking place and things are starting to happen again so fingers crossed…….. Only the strong survive.
HRFQ : What positive things do you think are coming out of the music scene you’re in?
B : Mainly in terms of producers starting to make more music now, 2 step and 4 to the floor, there’s a lot of producers who have turned their on the UK garage scene, some people have turned back round now and started to make tunes again but there’s not as many producers now as there was in the beginning. Some of them have gone onto RnB, some of them have gone onto house and other things.
J : It’s quite interesting because I think most of them went into it thinking they could make more money but they’re making no more money. I used to work in a record shop and I have a vague idea of sales of house and RnB and now it’s starting to pick up again but its still nowhere near like what it was before. The RnB that’s selling is from the US, its not UK tracks. It’s a great shame actually because we need to promote our artists. What would be positive is if we had radio laws (in the UK) like certain cities in France where 60% of the rotation of songs played has to be music from French artists. If they don’t then they get switched off. If we had that on Radio 1 and other major stations in UK then it would help domestic artists a great deal. It would give more of an incentive to artists and producers to come through. The UK hiphop scene is picking up a bit more but we still have a long way to go.
HRFQ : Why do you think US music is so popular?
B : It’s been like that for years, we’ve been influenced by American music and unfortunately, just going back to what J was saying this problem if us not supporting our artists is something that’s been happening, or hasn’t been happening for yearsto be quite honest. I can go back to the days of Soul 2 Soul and Incognito and people supported them but it stopped after that. It’s a problem that’s been happening for a long time in the UK supporting more artists from America than at home.
J : I think it’s because the UK is a very hard market to please, they’re self critical. We’d rather criticise our own and take on a mediocre US track, I don’t know what it is but that’s been the way for as long as I can remember. Growing up with a hiphop background the music I liked was West coast, California kind of rap, NWA, I grew up on that kind of Iof madness. But when I was turned onto London Posse and Hijack I was tuned into it because they weren’t speaking with an American accent and it was close to home. So maybe it’s a trend, we just follow the American artists but to be honest at the moment they do it better than us (UK artists) when you play a record you can always tell the difference between a UK and a US track so we’ll always be behind until our producers and artists can find that next level.
HRFQ : Popular music generally reflects the feelings of society like the psychedelic movement at the end of the 60’s and acid house at the end of the 80’s, how do you think music today represents whats happening in the UK?
J : Street Culture is a really big thing and urban music has never been as popular in the UK as it is now. You couldn’t imagine 5 years ago that there would be a RnB number 1, number 2 ragga and number 3 a hiphop tune. Over the past couple of months there’s been major US artists coming out 1, 2 and 3. Street culture is really a big thing at the moment, ‘urban’ is cool and I think that represents society in the UK. You can see it in the way they dress and the music they produce so like I said urban is cool, RnB tracks are on advertising commercials, it’s everywhere, it’s massive.
HRFQ : What message do you try and put across in your music?
B : Because we’ve had so much violence on the streets and in the clubs I try and stay as positive as I can, with my lyrical content, I don’t really want to highlight too much in terms of derogatory messages to the kids, I’m more of a happy host so to speak. Somebody to interact with, for example you might have a group of people come down to celebrate someone’s birthday so I get everyone to sing Happy Birthday to them and they love it, even in the clubs they love to hear their names so I just try and be a happy host, crack one or two jokes and even with the music, when I DJ I try and play more vocal stuff than anything else, I don’t play the heavy stuff..
HRFQ : Why do you think violence is increasing in the clubs?
B : I really don’t know, if its the situation regarding day to day living for the kids and opportunities for them I don’t know, I just try and fulfill my duty to them and try and keep things positive for them, keep it real.
HRFQ : Musically what do you think were the biggest success of 2003?
J : Dizzy Rascal, he’s a UK artist and his first track, ‘I Love You’ he used as a platform to break through to start doing UK hiphop and ‘UK grime’ as its called. He’s just won the Mercury music prize and he’s picking up other accolades as well. Kids love him.
HRFQ : How do you think the scene will change in 2004?
B : I’m optimistic for the scene in 2004. In terms of the UK Garage scene it will grow, it’s gone back underground from its former popularity but it’s growing again and I’m going to be there, part of it, just staying positive. We’ve still got MJ Cole making beats, Grant Nelson, peopl are starting too make more tunes. the UK scene is very much our own, we have to look after it and nurture it in the right way. We’ve had problems in the past we’ve seen our mistakes and we can learn from them. Just like in the drum and bass scene, they’ve regrouped and it’s much tighter now, much more love and unity and I want that to happen in the UK Garage scene. I’m excited and I’m going for it.
End of the interview
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