On second album 'From The Rave', Hedex spreads his musical wings a little while still championing D&B's most maligned of styles
We’ll have no ‘difficult second album’ clichés round here, thank you! UK drum & bass producer Hedex, known otherwise simply as Jack, dropped his sophomore long-player From The Rave just before Christmas last month and the only difficulty he had to face was picking from a vast folder that’s currently bulging with over 280 unreleased tracks. In fact, even that didn't take a lot of doing, because his fiercely loyal supporters picked most of them for him.
Welcome to the heady world of Hedex. He’s been releasing music since 2013, but at 24 he’s still very much part of the new generation of drum & bass artists currently revitalising the game in all its many murky corners and subgenres. His specific corner is a high-frequency, slap-yourself-in-the-face style of jump-up that’s designed strictly for the dance.
Over the last seven years, it’s a sound he’s made his own. But that’s not all he excels in… last year he dropped a significant grime hybrid with Window Kid (Ryan Air), while his album reveals he’s just as much of a dab hand at junglised steppers (Pub Grub, with Bou), demonic dubstep (Bringhimtome) and even sultry, bassy funk-breaks (I Want You).
It’s still jump-up he’s best known for, though, and it’s the jump-up cause – and, most pertinently, his fans in the genre – he’s most interested in serving. Find out why as we call him up to discuss raving, rollers and really scary times on the road…
The album dropped out of the blue at the end of last year…
"Yeah. It had to be like that. Everyone knew I had a lot of unreleased music. I was playing a lot of dubs. And the one thing I didn’t want to do was say to everyone six months before that I was going to do an album, and not really have a plan. I’m notorious for saying I've got tunes coming out ‘soon’ purely because I don’t know when it’s going to come out. So with this I wanted to have everything ready then announced it two weeks before it came out. I held off everything until I knew I could deliver."
So that’s the From The Rave concept: people were digesting the tunes anyway in your sets, right?
"That’s right. Besides a few, all of the tracks are from the shows: the most ID’d and the ones people were asking me about. They’re the tunes that came from my sets. I never really planned to write an album, I just wrote enough tunes I felt were good enough to create an album, and they were tried and tested in the rave."
Do you come from the rave, though? You started so young, you surely can't have had much time to be a raver?
"Only to under-16 events in the club Colosseum in Vauxhall and a DJ Fresh live show. I didn’t have the social circle to go raving with. My mates never wanted to go raving. So the party aspect of it has always been me trying to provide it rather than me going to it, because I never had the opportunity to do raves the social way I saw them to be."
Yeah, the social side to raving is bigger than the DJ…
"Exactly. I know people go solo raving and salute to them, but for me I’d find it hard to go solo raving, I’d worry I’d be annoying people by tagging along or whatever. I’d want to be with my mates. So really the producing and DJing is me just getting into the raves in my own way."
But you must see the social silliness that’s great about clubbing from your perspective behind the decks?
"Before I even get behind the decks! It sounds a bit cringe, but you can see how excited people are in queuing. They’re waiting to get inside and just have fun. That’s ultimately what it comes down to. And that’s where the album comes from. All the tunes were picked by the ravers. It’s not iPod listening, it’s almost all tracks that kick off in the rave."
Which neatly avoids any issues of a difficult second album, given that your debut album The Weekend only came out 18 months ago…
"Yeah, but I only released one drum & bass tune in 2019. My problem is I don’t believe in myself enough. [Dubz Audio bossman] Guv caught me holding out music and was telling me to put these things out. I probably wouldn’t have put out the album if it wasn’t for him, because I’d be so stressed about it."
It’s hard to get perspective when you’re working on your own. You need people like Guv giving you a kick up the arse…
"It’s necessary in every walk of life. That guidance, mentorship, support. Someone there to be like, ‘Mate, come on’, it pushes me to be the best I can. I need that. We all need that."
And I need Pub Grub!
"You’ve got to thank Bou for that one. He keeps telling me to make deeper stuff all the time, but I find it hard to stray away from the Hedex sound that you hear single-wise, because I want to give people the tunes they hear in the rave. Pub Grub wasn’t that big in my sets when it was on dub, but now it’s popping off!"
I’ve heard you make some sick rollers on the sly, too…
"I’ve got a folder of unreleased tunes and the last time I looked it was 289 tunes. I’d love to put the rollers out but I want to give people who support me what they love the most and support the most. Which is always jump-up. But I have been able to put other things out there, on the album – there’s the disco track on the album."
Yeah, I was gonna mention I Want You!
"It’s nice to have the freedom on an album where I can put something like that out and I guess show I am more than the jump-up sound. I just choose to release more jump-up than anything. I Want You is a bit of a curveball, but my mum even sings along to it so that meant a lot to me."
What music were you brought up on?
"A lot of Toploader! And there was a lot of Lighthouse Family going on. I fucking love the Lighthouse Family, thinking about it. Absolute fire. Yeah, them and Toploader are my main musical memories of growing up… my parents weren’t that music-focused."
Were they surprised at you having a music career?
"Listen to my early tracks and they’re genuinely terrible. There’s a song called My Way which came out on Shiftin’ Beatz and it’s absolute trash. So if I was my parents at the time, I probably didn’t think there was any type of career possible! I think they’re still surprised I can make a career now.
"This music is insanely niche. You put on daytime radio and you hear house music or rap and pop but you don’t hear drum & bass. And if you do, then it’s more commercially available stuff. But Hedex jump-up is pure screech. It’s 10,000Hz in your face music for the rave. I can imagine my parents were definitely surprised it worked out because it’s so niche."
Ridiculously niche, even within drum & bass. But the fanbase and following jump-up has is one of the strongest…
"This is the thing. A lot of DJs say ‘I thank the fans’ but with jump-up you genuinely have to. It's pure rave music. You don’t get many chances to chart or breakthrough into the mainstream. And even with the foghorn stuff and rollers, that’s not a commercially viable sound, either. But it still thrives because of the fans who go to the raves and buy the tickets. That’s how we continue to exist."
Have you ever been given anything weird from a fan? Problem Central had a prosthetic leg thrown at them at a show once…
"Hmmm… not as weird as that, no. I’ve had some nice things. A guy called Peter gave me some ginger teabags. Once when I arrived in the airport at Adelaide they gave me a big orange pillow with Hedex on it. It’s on my bed now. And someone gave me a woodblock with Hedex engraved on it. Random, but really touching."
You make these profound connections and friendships on the road…
"You do, man. When people treat you nice it’s so appreciated. To be made comfortable when you’re not in your own home is so important. Play in the UK sometimes and you don’t even get a beer!"
Have you had any scary times on the road?
"One that stands out, it was somewhere in Eastern Europe. I got picked up and they told me they had to drop me off in some random apartment and wait for half an hour while they go and pick another DJ up. Then he left me there and I was just waiting at a dinner table for five hours. No phone calls, no messages, my power was running out on my phone. It was pretty dark. I was ready to call my agent and get the fuck out of there."
That’s the start of a horror movie right there. Was the party worth it?
"I can’t even remember the party. I can only remember that. You get weird ones and random ones but that was specifically dark. You don’t forget shit like that. But 99 per cent of gigs aren’t like that."
Give me some favourites…
"The smallest shows are always the best. They take care of you and are really happy for you to be there. If you need anything, they’ll sort it and they want to take you to nice places. Those are the gigs you remember and the friendships you make.
"My tour in Australia/New Zealand tour last year was exceptional for that. I’m very lucky actually. I get treated nicely. I mean people don’t have to treat you with the little touches and considerate things. You’re being paid for them to sell tickets, it is a business at the end of the day, but the extra mile never goes unnoticed."
Nice. So how many of the 289 tunes will you be releasing this year?
"Definitely not 289, but will release more. I won’t jinx it, but I know I won’t starve the people and will make sure they’re happy with the Hedex material. There’s a lot of stuff in the vault that won’t come out but there’s stuff that definitely will."
"Ha ha! Let’s just say I’ll be releasing more music this year…"
Words: Dave Jenkins
From The Rave is out now on Dubz Audio. Buy it here.