This is an interview that I’m extremely happy to be posting. Those of you that read this blog on a regular basis will know my admiration for Jerome Hill. He is hands down my favourite DJ ever. Having seen him a good few times and listened to countless of his mixes, he delivers every time with each set offering something different. From DJing and producing, running the brilliant Don’t Records and Fat Hop, as well as promoting excellent nights in London through Swerved, the man has been there and done it all and is consistently promoting quality underground music. He is someone that I respect immensely and I am delighted he agreed to an interview for the blog. I can’t praise him enough. Absolute legend!!
You’ve been on the scene for over 20 years now. What changes have you seen take place in that time?
The whole ‘real world’ of record shops, dealing with actual people, and buying actual things slowly being replaced by invisible files, online shopping baskets and a distinct atmosphere of what i assume can only be described as ‘fear’ among labels, producers and djs.
It used to be about being different from the next guy/girl and about playing or making music that stood out, whereas now it feels like many people have fallen into line and are scared to put a foot wrong incase they lose some bookings or their records don’t sell. (which i can understand, but it’s annoying from a point of view of trying to find exciting techno on vinyl). The result being an endless stream of beige that is labelled techno by those in command.
But then again, on the flip side of this you have the resistance, the underground that keeps pushing in retaliation to the pap and comes out with genuinely exciting stuff . Ha, so i guess you could say nothing’s changed!
What got you interested in music and djing initially? How did you get your break?
London pirate radio stations from 1990 till about 1992.. mainly Fantasy FM but also Chillin, Pulse, Innocence, Planet fm and countless others. Before then i’d been (and am still) a 50’s/60’s rock n roll head . . . Started buying tunes and playing at house parties , had my first proper club gig in The Wag in Wardour street probably about ’92 then a couple of years later hooked up with the Jiba sound system and i guess that was my break (Thanks Jake) as i was DJing every weekend in alternately amazing and grotty ‘reclaimed’ venues such as cinemas, schools, office blocks, quarries, factories and warehouses.. You name it, it got partied!
You’re credited with inventing the term Wonky techno when running a record shop in Camden. What records fell under this category at the time and how do you think the scene has progressed?
Yeh, it was a section i made to help lovers of certain styles find those records more easily. Originally it included records by Subhead, Neil Landstrumm, Cristian Vogel, Justin Berkovi, Si Begg, Tobias Schmidt, Jamie Lidell but then grew to include any random records that had that un-nerving, rickety, off-kilter stumbling hard funk in them.. of which during the late nineties and early 2000’s there were many!
I’m often mis-labelled as playing ‘wonky’ techno.. For sure i’ll play some tracks that could fit into that description but my short attention span forbids me from sticking to one style for more than a couple of records.. I think ‘wonky techno’ killed itself by trying to emulate itself. Most of the tracks now seen as ‘classic wonk’ were produced with a blank template and a sky’s the limit mindset, whereas later on, increasingly it felt like people were using some sort of rigid guidelines to make their tracks fit in which for me defeated the whole point of it.. For me it’s not about playing wonky techno, but about playing techno that has that special something that you can’t put into words but is there none the less.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
Ha, couldn’t name one, literally too many incredible gig experiences! off the top of my head, Dublin is always spot on, Techno route at the lago outside Sao Paulo, Fierceheads in Tokyo, D-edge in Sao Paulo, Kievbass in Kiev, a hundred crazy london warehouse raves in the 90’s.. So many . I’ve been very lucky!
As a dj who uses vinyl and has done for years, what do you make of software dj’s? Would you ever make the switch to Serato or Traktor yourself?
I run two vinyl record labels so i stand behind the vinyl, it’s my love ..although it is a pain with airline baggage restrictions.. i wouldn’t rule out serato or traktor or whatever, never say never but the thought of having to record thousands of records into my computer fills me with dread! Also i’ve never seen a record deck crash mid set..
I’ve seen you play everything from a techno to a reggae set. Do you think it’s important for dj’s to be able to switch between genres?
I can’t really answer that except from my own perspective, and yes.. i believe it’s important for a dj to have a knowledge of different musics.. I certainly enjoy listening to a dj set more if the dj is switching it up a bit..
What releases have you coming out on Don’t and Fat Hop?
Got a great release coming imminently on Don’t with Subhead and a so far unreleased producer from Finland called Boner M.. Both tracks are hard and relentless but with an insanity to them that makes them fit the label. The Subhead track i’ve been playing off a cd for about 2 years now and people are always asking about it ..
Just released the Criminal Minds “Regroup the Loops EP’ on Fat Hop and have another Itsu Uno 7” coming out very soon (Fat Hop 005).. More party music -)
What dj’s are you into at the moment?
Well, always hard to answer that on the spot, but DJs who do it for me include Controlled Weirdness, Lusinda, Dexorcist, Gizelle, Louise Plus One and anyone else who’s got a record collection big enough to provide some twists and turns!
Of the more well known lot, Surgeon always brings it !
How do you approach writing a tune?
The Itsu Uno stuff usually starts with sampling a killer riff from some old funk record, then wrapping everything else around it.. sometimes even getting rid of the original sample that inspired the whole tune.. Electronic stuff, haven’t been writing much techno lately but i’m a sucker for a good bassline!
Your dream line up for a gig?
OK.. Dream line up, at this precise moment in time consisting of who springs to mind,
Lusinda (hip hop party set)
Dexorcist (Forgotten Acid house/proto hardcore classics set)
Yellow Magic Orchestra – LIVE performing ‘computer games’
Imperial Leisure – LIVE
Gunshot – REFORMED and LIVE
Genocide II – LIVE performing their 1990-1991 catalogue and unreleased bits
Candy Hank – LIVE (doing his groucho running style material)
Subhead vs Michael Forshaw – LIVE (battle to the death)
Jeff Mills – ’94 style set
What does the future hold?
If only i knew that
Finally. Any advice for any budding dj’s/producers and label owners?
Well, try and work a normal job too so the money is coming in from somewhere else, leaving you to have fun and channel only your creativity into the music side of things, Don’t expect wonders over night, only do what you believe in or love, do it for yourself, be influenced but don’t copy.
Label owners, think of the long game, 20 years from now, any money you may have lost by releasing something crazily uncommercial will be forgotten, but the record will be treasured by those that love it. Avoid the lowest common denominator way of thinking, cos if you’re putting out music that you don’t have your heart in cos it sells then you may as well be selling potatoes and would probably make more money doing that anyway!
Big Thanks to Jerome Hill for the interview!!
You can check out his facebook page here for more information and mixes
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