‘Legend’ is a word that is bandied around so lazily these days that it often loses all meaning, but being a true pioneer of the UK Garage scene since its inception in the 90’s, DJ EZ has managed to maintain his spot as kingpin of the sound that eventually spawned grime and early dubstep. There are few words that can do EZ‘s legacy much justice at all, but after almost twenty years, it’s safe to say his music is still doing all the talking. He’s hosted his pioneering show on Kiss FM for the last 14 years, a show that transcended garage’s well-documented misfortunes and continues to showcase the best UKG beats from all over the world, and this, along with his definitive platinum-selling ‘Pure Garage’ mix compilations, catapulted him to be undoubtedly the most heavy-hitting DJ champion of the garage movement.
I was lucky enough to have a chat to the don ahead of his debut tour in Australia this December, talking garage, this year’s releases, tunes to come and a whole lot of other stuff. Check it out below!
Hey EZ how’s it going! Liking Australia so far?
Yeah I’m good! Little bit tired but I’m ok. It’s nice weather man, I’m in Perth right now and today was beautiful.
Yeah it was – I can’t believe you’ve never been here before!
I know, I know, it’s the first time. Super excited man, it’s good that I get to go to a few cities while I’m here. I’m hitting up Melbourne, Sydney and a festival in NSW as well as Perth obviously.
Wicked! Well you’re obviously no stranger to compilation mixes, but you recently mixed ‘FabricLive 71’ in October. How did that compare to doing the super-successful 13 editions of the ‘Pure Garage’ series?
I think one of the bigger differences between the two was that ‘Pure Garage’ was all-out garage. Well, to be honest there were a few house classics slid into the compilations, but the FabricLive CD was a mixture of both garage and today’s bass music – it was a combination and a good balance between what I’m playing now and what I played back then. FabricLive was like a comparison of the new-school and the old-school which was quite cool to be honest.
You mixed the Fabric CD live on 3 CDJ’s yeah?
Did you do that for ‘Pure Garage’ too?
Yeah that’s right, but obviously when I did Volumes 1 & 2 of Pure Garage it was on Technic turntables, which I do miss (laughs), but since then it’s just been on Pioneer CDJs. I do use DVS systems like Traktor now, but I never used it for those compilations.
It’s no secret you’re a huge fan of Todd Edwards’ work, and for good reason. Who do you reckon is the most promising UKG producer to be climbing the ranks at the moment though?
I’m getting some stuff from a producer called Tuff Culture, he’s sent me quite a few original productions and R&B remixes and I think his stuff is quite promising. It’s full garage – 4×4 and 2-step – but I’m also a big fan of Flava D, she’s an amazing female producer with some good stuff coming out. I’m surprised she’s a woman with a name like Flava D to be honest.
I’m sure we’ll all be quick to check those two out then! Speaking of production though, you haven’t really produced much yourself lately. Anything in the pipeline?
Yeah that’s a question that always pops up, but believe it or not I’m actually taking time off in January… I’ve actually cancelled two bookings ’cause I’m gonna spend some time in the studio between Jan and Feb, so definitely look out for some new production. I’ve actually bought a copy of Ableton with me on my Australia trip just to get to grips with that so I’m ready to go in the studio. I used to use Cubase back in the day but everyone’s saying that Ableton’s the way to go, a good shout and a good transition.
Ableton’s not easy by any stretch but definitely well worth it, yeah.
Yeah well I was thinking of getting something that I could quickly get the hang of, sit my ass down in the studio and make a few tracks but if you’re saying it’s difficult?! (Laughs) Haha, nah, I’ve got quite a bit of history with Cubase and I’ve got a little bit of help so hopefully that will be of some benefit.
Haha you’ll be fine! Anyone who can juggle 3 CDJs like you do can produce no doubt.
(Laughs) Thanks man.
I saw somewhere that you do you do 8 to 10 hour sets at your Z Uncut events on New Years Day each year. Surely you must have to switch from garage to other sounds at some point.
Oh yeah, there’s definitely a crossover to other sounds. I’ve been doing Z Uncut for a number of years now – it started off in the early 2000s by doing a five-hour set and then it sort of just went from there. Fabric Nightclub in London originally gave me the opportunity to do 10 hours back in the day, and I’ve got another one coming up next January obviously – I do it every year on New Years Day and I do some throughout the year as well. There’s certainly a crossover though, nobody could dance to garage for ten hours straight – people get bored!
You must get so tired though! I read somewhere that you often smash two or three sets a night, several times a week. It’s crazy.
Yeah yeah, I still love it man, I still love it.
And you’ve never got sick of it?
Nah man, not at all. Believe it or not I’ve been playing now for over 20 years and I still enjoy it; the buzz is still there for me you know. I love the music and especially looking forward to tomorrow, Melbourne and Sydney so yeah, it’s all good right now!
Looking back on your Freek FM days, did you think that years and years on you’d still be repping UKG as hard as you are now?
In some ways, yeah. I’ve never left garage cause my intention is to go back into the studio and obviously make garage but also other genres as well. So for example, if one of those tracks blew up, I’d never stop making garage or never stop repping garage if you know what I mean. I find that a few producers in the past have come from a garage background and are now really big, but haven’t produced garage since, and I find it quite sad in that respect.
Yeah definitely. UKG must be a timeless sound as well… No doubt dubstep and grime are still massive today, but the ‘underground house’ that we’re seeing is just garage from the 80s for example, and ‘post-garage’, ‘future-garage’ etc. are just weird names for awesome music. How long do you think the genre can last?
Well as you know, there are so many sub-genres and so many spin-offs of garage right now that sometimes aren’t even called garage – which is a shame really – but as you said, the underground house and even some of the deep house sounds we’re hearing now is just early garage. But yeah man, I don’t think garage will never die. It’s a bit like drum & bass and jungle isn’t it – they’ve been alive for so long and are far from dying now.
I’m glad you think that! Where’ve you played so far this year in terms of festivals?
I’ve played quite a few this year, I played at the Isle Of Wight Festival, Parklife, SW4 in London, Global Gathering, Lockdown Festival, Outlook and I also played in quite a few new countries that I hadn’t played in before which was exciting.
Which ones were they?
They’ve been mainly in Europe, like Italy and Budapest… Ah I’d have to check the diary and have a look to be honest! So many places, it’s just unbelievable right now.
Haha yeah I can imagine! What can we expect from DJ EZ at the tail-end of 2013 for the Aus Tour – anything new and exciting that we didn’t see in your killer Boiler Room set?
(Laughs) Well you’re gonna have to wait and find out for that one mate! Nah I did a gig the other week in Belfast in Ireland, and I found that the crowd weren’t really moving for the first half hour of my set. Like I had a two hour set, and for the first bit they weren’t moving like I wanted them to. So I sorta delved into other sounds and from that I dug up some of the old-school garage, lifted some newer house bits, some more underground stuff and it really worked, so it’s all about reading the crowd for me – if I find that in Australia it’s like this that I’m just gonna mix it up and pull some new tricks along the way really.
Well dude I personally can’t wait to see you DJ live in Perth and I’m sure heaps of other heads around the country are keen too – thanks for speaking to us!
No worries, thank you!
Dec 05: Next Hype presents DJ EZ, Shape, Perth
Dec 06: Good God Small Club, Sydney
Dec 07: DJ EZ, Laundry, Melbourne
Dec 08: Concept II with DJ EZ (UK), Civic Underground, Sydney