I was asked to interview DJ Hype for a bio a while back – here’s what I learnt about the Drum ‘n’ Bass legend:
DJ Hype enters the Great Eastern Bear gallery and almost immediately, Bully, his good-looking Staffie cross, relieves himself all over a box. Hype is embarrassed and admonishes the animal with a push and a shout while we reassure him that it’s fine and this former brothel has probably seen worse. “It is a problem though because if this was someone’s house I don’t want him pissing on the shag pile, you know what I mean?”
The down to earth nature of Kevin Ford is testament to his approach. One of the pioneers of drum and bass, he has no interest in the celebrity circuit nor to become some sort of pop star but he remains one of the most well-respected and busiest DJs in the business.
“I class myself as not one of the inventors but one of the pioneers”
He started with Shut Up and Dance at the age of 13, mixing up Hip Hop and reggae in the early ’80s on a sound system he built himself.
Becoming a master at cutting and scratching, he was on MTV in 1989 representing Britain in the European Mix championships and competing in the DMC.
He was the biggest DJ on London’s most popular pirate station Fantasy Radio from 1989 to its end in 1990 while at the same time he was working as a producer with Kickin’ records where The Exorcist (his collaboration with The Scientist) reached No 1 on the MRIB Chart. “I remember hearing it on Kiss, Steve Jackson counting down, I wasn’t expecting much and then they called it out, I was quite shocked”
Despite the success with this and other tracks such as The Bee, Hype didn’t get as much credit as he felt he deserved and took the opportunity to join Suburban Base with Mark Ryder when it came up before working with Danny Donnelly on some of his biggest tracks like Shot in the Dark.
Hype won a series of awards in the mid nineties, notably in at the UK Hardcore awards where in 1994 he won Best Male DJ and in 1995 Best Radio DJ. He started at Kiss in 1994 and has been on there ever since, 18 years making him the longest running D&B radio DJ.
He signed for BMG/RCA in 1995 but didn’t want to go down the route the label was pushing him in.
“They were always asking “Where’s your live act?” but I was resisting all the things they were offering me saying “I want to keep it real, I don’t want a poster campaign, I DJ every week – that’s my live show”.
“I like being known for what I do but not for who I am. I hate the celebrity side of it. I don’t think it’s as bad these days for dance artists, but that’s if you want it and you court it.”
He tours almost constantly all over the world playing at some of the massive US festivals that Pasquale Rotella at Insomniac sets up as well as more intimate club sets.
“I enjoy the club thing, going around and spreading what I do. I’m out there every week of the year pretty much.”
“Nowadays I’m more of a self-proclaimed ambassador, I fly out and try and give them what I think is proper drum and bass, not a commercial angle to it. You know, a melting pot of it all. I’m pigeon holed in different ways but how I see myself I play true drum & bass.”
Last Christmas marked the 150th event of The Playaz at Fabric which started in 1999, making it the longest running monthly D&B night.
Of late, Hype has focused on his artists at Playaz, moving away from the production side.
“I don’t feel there is any producer that just goes on relentlessly. I got to the point where I couldn’t keep going. I had my son and a grandfather who was quite ill and I couldn’t spend the time in the studio. I do need to get back into the studio for my own career but I’m good at A & R’ing other peoples music.”
Hazard was his first signing about 10 years ago and anyone that he has collaborated with has usually done well, meaning he now has a roster of several with two or three new artists due to sign soon.
He has been working as an executive producer A&Ring, helping them to develop in their underground music, not stopping them making commercial tracks but tending to go the opposite way.
“The label is a full time job, being a DJ is a full time job and my son is a full time job. When I’m busy I complain, when I have a break then I’m like, I don’t know what to do with myself.”
He won the UMA Award Best Drum & Bass DJ in 2006
“They didn’t tell me about it – oh someone collected it for you, it took about 8 months of nagging before they had it ready for me.”
His D&B Arena mix CD in 2007 was their best selling for 4 years and he was given their Lifetime achievement award.
“At the Radio 1Xtra Xtra Bass Awards 2007 I won #1 D&B DJ. They phoned me up, ‘just letting you know you’re up for the award are you coming?’ I was like there is no way a Kiss DJ is going to win is there? Andy C was going down and he asked me to go. It was me, him and Friction and I was like, it’s going to be one of you two regardless. He said come and I was shocked, at the bar, completely drunk and I heard my name. I went up and was like thanks, catch me on Kiss and they were horrified – what do you want me to say! big up Kiss!”
Hype also did well at the National Drum and Bass Awards last year (2012), the label came second in best club night, he came second in best radio show and the label third in its category. He’s also been in the top 3 for best DJ in previous years.
“I keep telling people, I’m not old school, I’m old.”