WORDS: Alex Caslano
DJ EZ has to be one of the most assured bookings you can make as a promoter. The hype is real, the rep is solid – EZ will rock the party. From clubs to festivals, Youtube to Boiler Room, he never fails to deliver, showcasing the type of skill which leaves your mouth wide open. He's of course had a prolific career; from broadcasting on pirate radio during the 90s to his 14 year stint on Kiss FM and mixing the highly influential Pure Garage series, there’s a reason he’s often referred to as a legend. But EZ is also a man who doesn't rest on his laurels; he’s hungry and there's always another dancefloor to destroy…
“My main priority is always to play to the crowd” he tells us following a sold out and raucous show at Killer Kitsch in Glasgow last week. “You’ll often see me cutting up tracks, creating live drum patterns on the CDJs and adding effects so the set never stands still. I am doing what I love, so I am enjoying each set as much as the crowd do.” Passionate, energetic and bang on-point, EZ doesn’t just rely on the classics to get people dancing (although they do provide many a set highlight); he has moved with the times while staying true to his garage roots. “I’ve always been quick to embrace new artists as well as having knowledge of the old school” he says, “this means there’s music in my sets for fans of garage, bass music and house.”
Of course, DJ EZ isn’t the only pioneer to be riding high at the moment. He joins the likes of MK, MJ Cole and Todd Edwards as artists who have not just remained popular, but also found new relevance amid the house and garage explosion of the last few years. “It’s great to see those artists from the early days getting the recognition they deserve” he tells us; “I’ve seen it first hand while on tour in the States and I’m still amazed at the amount of love I get when I play garage in my sets.”
This summer that love will extend to everywhere from EDC Las Vegas to Outlook, with a festival schedule that could rival any mainstage artist. Refreshingly, EZ hasn’t relied on productions to bolster his fame, just a reputation for giving 100% behind the decks. It’s an old fashioned sentiment, but DJ EZ is a true performer and his show never dissapoints.
Check out one of EZ’s legendary Boiler Room sets below, as well as an interview in which we talk more about his attitude towards DJ’ing, technical skill and song selection, the relationship between house and garage and his roots in pirate radio:
SynthGlasgow: Would it be over the top to describe you as having an almost cult-like status behind the decks? In our opinion, no, but what do you think is it about your style and selection which makes people go crazy?
DJ EZ: To be described that way is great, thanks! I’ve been very lucky to have such a loyal following and the way that the next generation has embraced garage music is incredible too. This has really helped them and others to become aware of my DJ sets and my style of mixing, along with live streaming sites such as the Boiler Room of course.
I’ve always mixed everything live, from my vinyl days to the digital era and I’m proud to state that I never pre-plan sets or use the sync button for any mixes. I believe this may have helped to build such a credible following as I’ve remained true to my roots. In regards to my selection, I’ve always been quick to embrace the new artists as well as having knowledge of the old school; this means there’s music in my sets for fans of garage, bass music and house.
SG: One of the things that we’ve noticed, whether on Boiler Room, Youtube clips or in the club is that you always put on a show; there is a definite element of showmanship. Do you approach every set in a party mindset?
DJ EZ: My main priority is always to play to the crowd, and I suppose that's where the showmanship comes into play. Garage and bass music has always been my passion and I get really excited when playing and hyped even more so if the crowd are having a good time. You’ll often see me cutting up tracks, creating live drum patterns on the CDJs and adding effects so the set never stands still. I am doing what I love, so I am just enjoying each set as much as the crowd do.
SG: Obviously your sets are very technical and clearly require a lot of skill. How much preparation do you put in behind the scenes? Does it come as naturally as you make it seem?
DJ EZ: The CDJ trickery is something I’ve perfected over years as I try things out during my live DJ sets and radio shows. These tricks are definitely part of my trademark sound and what has kept my style unique. Knowing how to cut up different styles of tracks with the CDJs is something I love doing and I suppose makes my style of mixing unique to other DJs out there.
I tend to have an idea of what I will play to a crowd if I have played at that particular event or venue previously, but I will often freestyle things on the night depending on the crowd or it being a debut set in a particular location.
SG: You started off my playing Detroit techno and Chicago house, right? What attracted you to garage and how did that influence your style as a DJ?
DJ EZ: Yes, I first started playing Detroit techno, Chicago house and acid house during my early days of pirate radio. I found that these genres were more energetic and used sounds that grabbed my attention despite dabbling in hip hop and soul. I plan to dust off my extensive collection as current productions are very reminiscent and similar to productions which are well over 25 years old now! Well, as they say, things go away and come back around so look out for one-off sets and mixes soon…
SG: We recently had a chat with DJ Caspa who said that the pirate radio scene during the 90s was some of the best times of his career, but it was always a risk taking his freshest music to the studio. Does that resonate with you?
DJ EZ: Yes, I shared the same experience as pirate radio played a big part in the early days of my DJ career as I was able to play my preferred music to the listeners. Hosting shows on pirate radio I found there was a lot less red tape than with legit commercial stations, so I could pretty much play what I wanted. I had some great days on pirate radio and even got to host a 12-hour show once! It was a brilliant learning experience for broadcasters and I got to meet DJs such as Kenny Kenn who also inspired me during those early days. There were many risks involved with taking your prized possessions to a secret location each week to carry out an illegal broadcast, but the love and passion certainly outweighed any potential punishment if caught.
SG: Garage has obviously re-manifested itself for a new generation over the past five years with many of the big names from the 90s back at the top. What do you think encouraged this resurgence of garage influenced house?
DJ EZ: It’s great to see those artists from the early days getting the recognition they deserve. I think it’s down to the sound never really going away and always having a loyal following. New artists have been quick to embrace the big names from the scene, while garage and house music has always worked well together in the clubs. I’m excited to hear what’s next to come production-wise from all these collaborations. I’ve seen it first hand while on tour in the States and I’m still amazed at the amount of love I get when I play garage in my sets. I’ll be making my EDC Las Vegas debut this June and I can’t wait to introduce the sound to more of the next generation of clubbers.
SG: It was great to see you back at Killer Kitsch this month, a party which you first played back in 2013 and we remember being particularly wild! Do you prefer the clubs where you're ground level with the dancefloor and in the thick of it?
DJ EZ: Killer Kitsch in Glasgow is always a great crowd to play too. If the DJ booth is ground-level it’s easier to judge the crowd’s reaction to the music and means I can also get to meet the fans of the music.
SG: So you just smashed a long-coming Essential Mix and you’ve got a relentless touring schedule. Do you ever think about taking time out and throwing yourself back into production?
DJ EZ: I thoroughly enjoyed putting together my Essential Mix and I'm still getting great feedback on that; many thanks to everyone who listened and got in touch via my Facebook and Twitter. I’ll definitely be focusing on production again soon and I’d also like to re-launch my label ‘One Recordings’ as a home for garage and future bass music. The timing feels right and I’d be able to test out new music to a worldwide audience while touring which is a bonus.
DJ EZ is playing numerous festival dates this summer including Parklife Latitude and SW4 – check the full listings at Resident Advisor.