DJ Vibes - Profile / Interview 2
Another trip to Essex where the DJ’s are a plenty. Why is it that most of the DJ’s live in this neck of the woods? Is it the lovely weather? The accessibility to the M25? Or is that there are absolutely shit loads of drive through McDonalds? Whatever it is, the one and only DJ Vibes comes from this neck of the woods, and funnily enough our rendezvous was to be the drive through McDonalds in the Lakeside complex. This would appeal to me normally but today, I wasn’t feeling hungry, probably the nerves before the England v Holland match which we eventually won by four goals to one. A splendid day for the weather, one for being out and getting a suntan, one for driving around in a convertible.
Speaking of which, DJ Vibes arrived, on time, in the most gorgeous blue BMW Convertible, you have ever seen. What a life it is to be a DJ? We were planning on finding out that the life of DJ Vibes is like?
Vibes, real name, Shane, was born in Ireland some twenty four years ago. He now lives in Essex, on his own, apparently, where his life is fixed on DJ’ing. He makes a point to us that this heart is always with DJ’ing, “It’s what I do best, and I don’t think that devoting my time to other areas is going to help my DJ’ing”.
Vibes has always been into music, our exclusive picture reveals him at Dreamscape in 1972 playing a set of Bee Gee’s. Obviously he started early. “It was accidental that I got into DJ’ing, I’ve always been into music, I’ve got all the old soul tracks, like Luther Vandross and Alexander O’Neal, all the old street sounds. I’ve got a massive collection, all the old classics”.
Like many other top names, Vibes started through the pirate radio stations. Is this a testament to the importance of pirate radio? Slipmatt, Sy, they all started with the pirates. “I had a friend, a half uncle, who used to build transmitters. He said to me, ‘Why don’t you start up a pirate radio station?’, he had one over on Canvey Island, just playing soul on a weekend. I hadn’t mixed before, to be honest I wanted to be a poser with a pirate radio station, that’s the truth behind it. So he got me some decks and a mixer, nothing special, just a cross fader, up or down no features”.
Vibes set up this radio station in his garage where he lived with his parents at the time. “My Mum used to go mental, loads of nutters around until god knows what time in the morning”. This was the beginning of Elite FM, which was started in 1988. At the time this was a really original thing, pirates weren’t as wide spread as today, but they gained a mobile phone and started to piss about on air:
“We were just having a laugh really, giving shouts out and taking the piss on the air. We arranged this party in a field, and when we got up there, there was just Police everywhere, loads of people, and the next weekend the radio got busted, and they burst in, nicked all the equipment and I ended up with a £1,200 fine. I’d already given up my job to concentrate on the station because it was doing so well”.
This £1,200 is still unpaid. Vibes was told he had to pay it off at £5 per week for many years. This must have been a setback for Vibes, but he looked at it philosophically, he had gained some experience here both on the radio and mixing. At the time he was only mixing some soulful sounds and some of the early music but this gave Vibes his starting block. “It didn’t start as a rave station, we used to go down to this record shop in Grays, called Roundabouts, and buy records for a pound, we were buying boxes of them, we couldn’t afford to buy them for £5 each because we were all out of work”.
Vibes then started to put his thinking cap on, ringing around all the clubs in the area and negotiating deals where he would advertise their clubs on the radio station if he could play at their clubs. Vibes wasn’t greedy, he knew he had to start somewhere, and offered his services to them for free:
“One particular club, in Southend called Mr B’s said to me ‘why don’t you come down and do your own night?” We went down and did a few nights, and it just started to get rammed every week. That’s how it all started”.
One booking led to another and Vibes began to approach the larger organisations of the era, such as ‘Rush’, ‘Time Tunnel’ and ‘Slammers’ in Gravesend. “I had one booking every couple of weeks, and I used to say to the promoter, ‘look put me on the first set, I’ll play for free, and if you like it I’ll come back next week and do it for like fifty quid. I was borrowing my mates records and after my set he would take them back until the next time where he would keep them in a good condition”.
This was the start of Vibes’ DJ’ing career. It didn’t really start picking up until he went into the studio where he produced one of my favourite tunes. My first experience of DJ Vibes was at the Roller Express where he was playing a set, until there was a power cut, but one of my greatest memories was hearing this tune which I have loved ever since. ‘Obsession’, by DJ Vibes and Wishdokta is possibly one of the greatest Hardcore tunes ever made. You might know it at ‘Musics So Wonderful’ – you know the one.
“I was playing at Roast one night, this was when Roast was Hardcore, and I met this bloke called Remo, an oldish guy, and he said ‘Oh, I’ve got a studio, and he said come down’, he didn’t want any money or anything. Anyway he had a mate called Wishdokta, and when we got down to the studio, Remo just left me and Wishdokta (Grant) to it. We got on like house on fire. We were there for twelve hours, and we’d finished the first tune, ‘Music So Wonderful’, but a different version to the one we all know. I went to pull out a plug and I pulled out the Atari plug and everything was wiped off, because we hadn’t saved it. We had to go back the next week and re-do it, if I hadn’t of pulled out that plug it would have been a completely different tune”.
It’s quite surprising how many DJ’s out there get somewhere after venturing into the studio, it was the same with DJ Rap, Slipmatt and many others. In Vibes’ case it couldn’t have been more important, he pressed the tune and released it under his own label, ‘Awesome’ and the track sold around 10,000 copies. It was a classic tune which is still being played today in many old school sets. Where is that remix Mr Vibes?
“I never forget that it was Remo who gave us the chance, and I sorted him out financially. It got me and Wishdokta on the map. I then sent out a package to every promoter, no matter how small. I sent out a record, a mix-tape, flyers, all the usual gumpf and after that the phone was just ringing non-stop”.
There are some DJ’s who have connections, some of them are almost destined to make it, without their skills. Vibes didn’t have this, he didn’t know anyone, it was his determination and passion that got him where he is today. A stroke of luck, as well, meeting Remo and getting that chance to get into the studio. But don’t we all need luck sometimes?
“I never had decks until a couple of years ago really, not until after ‘Music So Wonderful’. I didn’t even have a car, I was travelling around by tube. I remember being at Paradise in Islington and having to get the tube back in the morning, standing outside the club with my records. I had it hard, it was no easy task, I can tell you”.
How things have changed? Here we are sat in McDonalds, opposite the Vibes of today, Versace jacket, convertible BMW, massive Gold bracelet, all of this from hard work and determination, if anyone deserves it, it is Vibes.
He is a very popular figure on the rave scene, also known as the Happy Chappy, well known for the smile across his face, his enthusiasm in the raves and so on. I have often seen Vibes finish a set, and rather than rushing around to get to the next event he will stay and have a laugh, have a dance. He is always in demand, at United Dance, Helter Skelter, Dreamscape and even World Dance. He is one of the few happy DJ’s to still be playing for the predominantly Drum ‘n’ Bass rave, World Dance. He has been high up in the rankings for best DJ on many an occasion and still remains one of the most respected DJ’s on the circuit.
“I never used to be on the big World Dance events. They chucked me on first set a few years ago but then I didn’t hear from them for about two or three events, but all of a sudden they rang me one day and said you're right up in the ratings on the tickets sendings and ever since then they’ve stuck with me”.
On New Years Even, at World Dance in Docklands, Vibes dropped an Old School set which went down just as well as the Drum ‘n’ Bass sets. Vibes recognised that World Dance is no longer a Happy Hardcore rave, and that if we were to be honest, it doesn’t go down very well at all with the crowd. Even the great Slipmatt was playing Drum ‘n’ Bass, but this Old School set went down really well and if memory serves me correctly it received a great review from us her at the magazine.
“I think I’m well up there at the moment, obviously because of my DJ’ing skills, I won’t deny that. But my personality is also a great asset, I try and have a laugh with the promoter, I don’t ask for pathetic amounts of money which some DJ’s are doing at the moment. I would never ask a promoter who’s booking me six times a year for £350 a set, I might as well charge £2000 and get all six sets rather than three sets at £350. If you look after someone, they give it back to you double”.
Vibes feels that his DJ’ing is the most important thing to him, he talked about going off in other directions, i.e. promoting, producing and so on, but he still remains 100% true to his DJ’ing. “You’ve got a lot of DJ’s floating off into promoting at the moment, and I don’t think you can do that and give both areas 100% commitment, DJ’ing is a full time job and so is promoting, you can’t do both and expect to achieve great results. You’ve got to be by your phone, all week, taking bookings. I know that on a Friday morning I have to go through all my records and find out what I have to play for a particular event. You know what I mean?”
Vibes receives about four to six bookings a weekend, if he wanted to he could be playing out twice as much but he knows that there is only so much you can do per weekend. Some DJ’s overbook themselves which is why they sometimes don’t turn up , there is only so much distance a DJ can travel in one night. “I knew I had World Dance coming, but I also had two other bookings for that night, but because it is World Dance, not because they are the biggest, but because they have been good to me over the years, so I had to give World Dance priority”. It isn’t something he likes doing, but at the least it shows his commitment to the promoters that show him commitment”.
Talking about the up and coming talent within the scene he was confident that there was a lot of DJ’s out there that are good enough, but because of this Catch 22 situation, with promoters not being able to book up and comings because the ravers don’t want to see them, they want to see the top names:
“I think it would take at least two years, minimum for somebody to break into the scene, I’ve been knocked back, I’ve been knocked back more than anyone. I’m still worried today, because of that. I’ve rang up promoters and said, ‘I’ve rang up promoters and said, ‘I’m Shane, DJ Vibes’, and all I’ve got was ring back tomorrow, ring back tomorrow. Or there’s the classic, ‘he’s in a meeting’. I’ve even started using it. You know? It is hard, it’s unfortunate, but it is hard”.
Speaking of things being hard, we started to discuss the music of today. Vibes has some strong opinions on the music of today, he feels that the producers are getting too futuristic, they’re not making it simple, how it used to be.
“Rave music is simple. I’m just trying to slow it down, most DJ’s at the moment are playing their records at around 170-175bpm. But I’m keeping it down to about 160 – 165bpm. It’s just too fast, anything over 170bpm is just laughable. There’s too much politics in the music, the dub-plate thing is just ridiculous. Everyone is trying to be like everyone else, that’s why I’m different. I’ll go to a rave, and shake ravers hands, I’ll have a dance, I’ll get pissed and have a laugh. I’m not there to fill my pockets up, and stand around looking important, saying yeah I’m DJ Vibes, look at me. Yeah, I’m in the top five or whatever, but I’m proud of that fact because I’ve worked for it”.
He doesn’t have anything but good to say about the rave scene in general, “it’s kicking at the moment”. We interview many DJ’s throughout the course of a month and they all have the same thing to say. It is kicking, let us not forget that. The government are being a little less harsh on licenses, because it is becoming such a large area of the dance music scene. This is shown in the record companies getting on the case with compilations albums, the sponsorship that raves are receiving from companies like ‘Red Bull’ and ‘Virgin Energy’:
“There’s so many big events at the moment which are all being successful, there’s a few smaller clubs which should call it a day. Some promoters are trying a bit too hard, I don’t want to mention any names. The rave scene at the moment is 100% kicking, there’s no doubt about it. Everyone thought it was going to die about a year ago, it was going downhill. But if you go to a good event nowadays, you know, Dreamscape, Helter Skelter, United Dance, you know, even Hysteria. They’re all selling out, people just want to go raving every week. They pay their money, they don’t care. United Dance, Helter Skelter and Hardcore Heaven, they’ve all helped the scene in the last year. The newer organisations have just got bigger and bigger”.
Vibes is a “DJ to the max”, it’s a way of life for him now. “If I had an accident where I could never DJ again, I don’t think I could go to another rave without being a part of it. I just love it. “Vibes admits that if it wasn’t for Wishdokta he wouldn’t have made it anywhere, “Grant is the genius behind my ideas”, Wishdokta is the music man, and has helped tremendously with the labels ‘Awesome’ and ‘Ravers Choice’ which are both owned by Vibes. “There are so many producers out there, there’s enough to be able to give the DJ’s music to play. I just put across other people’s music for them. I know that if I had to go into the studio every week that I would run out of ideas. I’d rather just do three or four tracks a year and make them quality rather than fifteen to twenty poor ones. Do you know what I mean?”
We certainly do, the material that Vibes and Wishdokta produce always goes down well at raves when he is playing out. The music he plays are always the tunes that the crowd want to hear, and with his own MC, Livelee on the mic hyping up the crowd, his sets are often remembered, as the best on many occasions. “I’ve got to say this, not because he’s my MC, but because I truly believe it. Livelee is the best MC in the country, and I know hundreds of people that will agree with me. He started off slowly, he used to be crap and I told him so, but he is now a really good MC. He used to come round with me, and when I was playing without any MC, I persuaded him to say a few things. I wanted the crowd to know it was me playing so I used to say to him, ‘Go on , grab that mic and tell them it’s me playing’. Vibes is totally confident with his lyrics, and his performances. In the beginning he wouldn’t let him MC at the bigger events, but these days it is the likes of MC MC and Sharkey who will have to move out the way to make for him. "“y sets are good, but Livelee makes them better. So many DJ’s just rap because they’ve learnt the lyrics the night before, but Livelee just gets the crowd going, he hypes them up to the max”.
Vibes believes that there are some pathetic MC’s out there, he loves it when he has the mic control, because he can just switch them off, but he is adamant that Livelee Is the number one in the country. “It’s such a joy to get paid for such a brilliant thing”.
He doesn’t believe than an hour is long enough for a DJ to play a set. He would love to play a five hour set and take the raver on a journey through the dance music spectrum, “If a promoter wanted me to play a five hour set, I would jump at the chance, you know? I’d start off with a bit of breakbeat, move onto a bit of House, a bit of trance and finishing off with some 4-Beat. There’s so much I want to do in an hour that nine out of ten times it’s not enough”.
Well I think it would be safe to say that Vibes certainly gives the crowd what they want in an hour. He is one of the nicest DJ’s on the scene, and I don’t think there is anyone who would disagree with me, he continues to be booked at all the major events up and down the country. Such is his popularity that his name has even been put to some albums. So there you have it, a short look into the life and times of DJ Vibes. It just goes to show that even the biggest names of today had it rough at some time or another, none more so than DJ Vibes. From the tube to a BMW, and from ‘Slammers’ in Gravesend to United Dance in Ibiza, the career of DJ Vibes is one that amazes, full of hard work and lady luck. But at the end of the day, he made it, up there in the top five, and still with as much enthusiasm for it as his first booking at ‘Rush’ all those years ago.
Links to Fantazia
DJ Vibes appeared at:
Fantazia Circus Circus in 1994
The CD of this set is available from our mail order section.
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