The man from Lambeth isn't too bothered about making you dance - he just wants you to listen
He's frequently cited as one of the most exciting grime DJs in operation. He's Novelist's right-hand man and DJ, and spent the last few years as Big Narstie's tour DJ. He's one of the rare breed of DJs who've been able to navigate station politics, and has his own shows on Rinse, NTS and Flex FM. And he's spent the last 16 years collecting vinyl, studying the DMC masters and developing razor-sharp technical skills.
But he's still not comfortable with the concept of being a DJ...
"I see DJs as guys who play tunes just to please the crowd. Not me, though; I'm just playing sounds I like," he explains from his base in Lambeth, south London. "I'm just playing to enjoy it. I could get better reactions if I played shit people want to hear but I won't do that.”
Ironically, this attitude makes him even more of a DJ in iDJ's books. His attitude taps into the reason DJ culture captivated so many of us in the first place: to experience selections we'd never heard before, to hear someone join the dots in a way we'd never connect them ourselves. And, of course, to hear bare dubs.
Currently deep in the studio bringing his productions skills to the same level as his mixing, we caught up with the grime DJ to find out more...
The story starts at your local record shop, right?
"Yeah! It was Razor Records. It's mad, I never hear any grime DJs talk about it, I guess because most of them are from east London. So they were going to Rhythm Division, Blackmarket and Uptown, but Razor was five minutes from my house and they only sold garage and grime. They had so many exclusive records there. Skepta ones, Wiley ones, proper early dubs. It was like my own private record shop that no one knew about. This was about 2000 or so. A mad time. So Solid were popping hugely at the time. Everyone was playing the garage stuff: Oxide & Neutrino records, Sticky's records, Bingo Beats. These were my introduction."
Next stop: the pirates?
"Yeah, eventually. Like 2005 or so. I sent a demo to OnTop FM and they called me back the same day. I became the preferred choice of the area but not affiliated with any particular crew, which never really happened back then. OnTop said I was like DJ Shivers. I had no idea who he was at the time but when I found out he was one of the original grime DJs in south London I was like, okay, that's cool!"
"Not instantly. Trouble between crews killed south London grime for a while and a lot of pirates stopped playing it. But I was still so passionate about it. Eventually I hooked up with DJ Smallz who had a show on Rinse and I would host. So at the beginning I was known as the guy on the mic!"
A taste of the other side of the mic...
"Yeah, it was. On pirate radio I wouldn't talk but Smallz made me pick up the mic and it was good. It's another version of me that I've developed... but you don't hear from him all that often."
Yeah, we don't hear your voice on your NTS shows...
"And you never will, mate. Thing is, grime gasses me: it makes me feel hyped, it turns me into a character, I get amped. I feel that takes the attention away from what I'm doing as a DJ. My hosting style is interesting without any mixing. My mixing style is interesting without any talking. I don't want to take away from my mixing. People would say, 'Are you ill mate? Are you okay?' They thought my hosting style was my normal talking style! Anyway, I got a different idea for the NTS shows."
What's that, then?
"I want to create a narrative using bits of films and bits of speeches. I want it to be an experience. No one has done this with grime and it makes my NTS show different to my other shows on other stations."
NTS, Rinse, Flex FM... you certainly get around!
"It's mad! Somehow I've escaped radio politics. I have freedom to do different things on different stations. NTS is the narrative thing. Rinse is for the hardcore, then the pirates is where I get to play with the MCs."
And somewhere in-between all those radio commitments is the studio...
"It's taken me time to get my head around the studio but I'm there now. Dullah Beatz is in my tower block and he's been inspiring me. I've played him the harmony between tracks I'm mixing and ask him to make that type of sound. It blows my mind every time and encouraged me to produce.
"Eventually I'll play my own productions, like Mumdance. To me he's got the best job in the world. I watch him and think, 'Wow'. He gets to play his own stuff. You don't have to make people dance - people are there to hear what you make. It's like a sound exhibition. That's where I want to be."
Grandmixxer can be heard every Wednesday from 8-10pm on Flex.FM, and monthly on Rinse and NTS.