Interview conducted by William Hernandez.
The St. Petersburg, Russia born / London, UK-raised DJ Vadim talks about his new album “Don’t be Scared”, the meaning behind the name, how he approaches producing and remixing; his love of Hip Hop and music in general and hate of radio’s red tape. He also covers performing with a legendary group that’s a staple of sampling in Hip Hop.
Talk about your new album “Don’t be Scared”?
DJ Vadim: Well I’ve been working on it for around 2 years and I really like it. I’m interested to see what people say about it. Because it’s different to what I have done before; I always try to do different things…
What’s behind the name?
DJ Vadim: For all my albums I try to use titles that have multiple meanings, multi layers and dimensions depending on how deep you want to go.
On the base level – don’t be scared – don’t have fear, everything will work out. The government is filling us with paranoia regarding immigrants, terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, the economy, etc… All of this is for their benefit so we can be controlled by them.
Of course scared can also talk about ourselves in terms of the mental baggage we carry around. As children we fear little but as we grow up, I don’t want to do this or that. I don’t want to try that or eat that. We close ourselves off from people, events, experiences, music even because of pre conceived ideas and conditioning and that limits all of us. We need to all experience something new. Ok there are limits to everything and that’s for people to know but within that we can move and express and be so much more than what we are…
How was the production process of the album?
DJ Vadim: When I look back on my albums, each one is defined by in part the way i produce. i started from sampling and the AKAI 950, MPC, SP1200, etc and they are limiting in s=certain ways. now that’s all changed in part because what computers do now was totally un imaginable 15 years ago. I have so much more capacity and ability to realize what’s in my mind…
How do you choose who’s going to rhyme or sing on a beat you produce?
DJ Vadim: People come to my studio and I play them stuff and they choose! I have so much music and it’s hard for me to know what they will like.
How did you get into DJing?
DJ Vadim: Basically when I used to play tennis, a very good friend of mine had [turntable] decks and I used to go around his house and mess around. It kind of stuck from there.
How did you transition from DJing to producing?
DJ Vadim: Well once you get your head around DJing you may want to take it one step further and create what you play. It’s a natural transition from knowing what works on the dance floor to making it.
What are your first memories of hip hop music?
DJ Vadim: Watching Wildstyle, Beat street, street dance and loads of old school movies and docs… listening to electro and pirate radio, Davi pierce, Mile Allen(guy before Tim Westwood).. and then Tim Westwood.
Who are some of your influences as a DJ and a producer?
DJ Vadim: Well the list would be endless but growing up it was Marley Marl, DJ Premier, RZA, DJ Muggs, Public Enemy, James Brown, Al Green, Blue Note [records];The classics really. Then came [J] Dilla, DJ Krush, Portishead, Roni Size, etc and the list is forever growing as my taste also expands.
How do you approach making a beat?
DJ Vadim: It’s about having a feeling!
What is your approach to DJing at a club or arena?
DJ Vadim: Well I play so much different stuff it depends on the crowd and what people before me are playing. So maybe I start off with reggae, or dancehall or hip hop or house etc… i.e.- if the club is packed but people are standing around and waiting, obviously they need a rocket in their ass so I go in hard from the get go. But if the party already is going off, I may slow it down to control the crowd and then build them up again.
DJing is a bit like being a captain of a ship. You set the course, the speed, the direction, the navigation. Of course I can just copy whoever is before but I want to put a stamp on everything I do – that was a Daddy Vad [DJ Vadim alias] set, Daddy Vad production etc…
What equipment do you use production-wise?
DJ Vadim: Cubase, Vst, Ableton, Mac, and loads of drum machines, keyboards.
How was it working with Kraftwerk and Public Enemy?
DJ Vadim: Awesome and inspiring… I played with Kraftwerk when they got back together in the late 90’s in Barcelona… legends.
How do you approach doing a remix?
DJ Vadim: Well you need to find something within that song you can connect with and then build it from there. Sometimes there is no connection and that’s when it gets hard but when I remixed Stevie wonder, every element was incredible so it was easy.
How you feel about hip hop in 2012?
DJ Vadim: I have a love/hate affair with hip hop. There is some great stuff now, stuff that is better than ever before but most likely that’s not on the radio. It will never be again before as what it was in the 80’s, 90’s. It is now a corporate commodity. That’s great for some because now it offers some people an ability to eat, to put food on their table and that’s great but creatively etc, there is more garbage now than ever before. But to b honest, that’s music in general. Ninety percent of the music on radio is garbage. The Radio One playlist person needs to be fired because they know nothing about anything except accounts. The argument at Radio One is, what makes the playlist must have the budget and backing of something that’s going top 20. So the more you can show its going big, the higher in the playlist it is. The song does not matter at all. – Aloe Blacc’s “I need a Dollar” has radio hit written all over it. It was a hit in Germany, France, Italy and Radio One said NO twice because it wasn’t on a major [label] and Stones Throw [records] couldn’t demonstrate they had the push to take it top 20. Then Universal stepped in and it went number two on charts. Whatever Radio One gets behind is going on the charts. It should be about music like it used to be. So when you ask about hip hop – hip hop is just one genre in a spectrum that is being controlled rigidly by a system that wants to exploit music for profit. The art does not matter. Another point about music in general is that I genuinely love music. I love it all – not every song but music as a whole just like a mother loves her child but perhaps not every action of the baby. I rarely meet other people who have a love affair with music. Too many artists I have met it’s simply a business transaction and there seems to be a miss balance… that’s a shame.
How did you get your deal with Ninja Tune back in 1995?
DJ Vadim: Peter Quicke [manager of the label] rang me up and said – “Look I just bought your first EP, I really like it, fancy doing an album for Ninja Tune?” I said ‘ok”.
Have you ever had any sample clearance issues?
DJ Vadim: Only once in Germany. Funny story – at one of Ninja Tune’s PR agencies, one of the people working there used to be in some Psychedelic rock group in the 70’s whose record I sampled so by being in the PR thing, he heard what I did and rang Ninja. We paid him like 300 DM which is around $194 U.S. dollars. He was well happy. I have had more issues with U.S. regulators banning my records those F.C.C. are a strange bunch of people.
As a DJ do you miss vinyl or are you happy with Serato?
DJ Vadim: I use Traktor Scratch. I used to use Serato. It’s a great platform. Do I miss vinyl? Well it’s like me asking do u miss a typewriter, pen and paper? Sometimes when I get nostalgic but I listen to them sometimes at home
Any last words for the fans?
DJ Vadim: Turn off your TV. Don’t listen to radio and limit your time on these forums. Believe me, it’s better for your health!!! Also – check me out on djvadim.com!
Thanks to DJ Vadim for doing the interview and Nicole Balin at Balin PR for making the interview a reality.