Something of a new feature we'll have running on the site, First Wax, Last Wax is a way of assessing the evolution of music and taste over time through the eyes of a particular individual. How has music and the culture evolved since you arrived, where are we now and how does it relate to what came before, what will it transform and grow into long after we're gone...? All that bullshit aside, we simply ask : What was your first Wax? And what was your last Wax?
For our first installment we have none other than Hex, a man who has DNB running through his veins; a seasoned and skilled producer that infiltrates all borders and boundaries within the Drum and Bass genre; veteran DJ and co-host of longstanding night Symbiosis in Glasgow; and of course, owner of DNB Dojo, a global DNB blog thats been running since 2011 that is constantly investigating, sharing and breaking new talent in the 170 realm. DNB Dojo is a major inspiration for me and the SHSC so its an honor to kick start this with Hex.. without further ado lets get stuck in:
E: Hex, Great to speak to you man, can you tell us what were the first records you picked up when you started DJing?
Hex: When I first got decks back in early 2009 I grabbed a pair of Numark TT1650s from eBay. They came with a bunch of records including some D&B. I remember Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up (Pendulum Remix) and Clipz - Download being in there so a bit of a mixed bag! I was buying Dubstep and Breaks records around that time but I never managed to settle into mixing either style; Dubstep was really unforgiving with the short intros and sparse beat patterns, and I just couldn't get the hang of mixing Breaks for whatever reason. I think I had grand ideas about getting a Breaks scene going in Glasgow since it wasn't really music you ever heard much of in the city.
I'd caught the D&B bug in 2008; a friend had introduced me to artists like Black Sun Empire and then I'd had the pleasure of seeing Ed Rush & Optical and Evol Intent play on a 100,000W sound system at Shambhala Festival in Canada, so I started buying D&B records and I clicked with mixing them pretty instantly. A lot of people find mixing D&B on vinyl quite unforgiving because it's so fast, and as a result it drifts quickly, but I found the quick drift really useful; if it's out, you hear it instantly and can pull it back in line, compared to something like Dubstep where you can think it's in time, and then it's just an instant clang.
Anyway, I started buying D&B vinyl in a big way and never looked back. I don't buy as much as I used to (having switched to mainly digital DJing, first on Traktor Scratch DVS and more recently on XDJ1000s with USB / Rekordbox) but I still grab releases on vinyl when something special drops.
Noisia - Stigma / Crank [Vision]
This was the first D&B record I ever bought, and I remember being blown away by it. The artwork was so slick and futuristic, and both tracks are absolute fire. Obviously Stigma is the one that gets the attention, and I've rinsed it to death at house parties and Symbiosis nights over the years, but Crank is a wicked tune too, a deeper vibe and that grit and imperfection that neurofunk still had more of in that era.
VA - The Prologue EP [Lifted]
This was in the second batch of D&B I ordered from Chemical Records (such a great store, RIP) and it remains amongst my favourite records. Spor's Knock You Down might be my favourite D&B tune ever; the melody on the intro just gives me instant goose-bumps and it's such a high-energy tune while still feeling funky. The other tunes on this EP like Evol Intent's Glock Party and Screw Up by Ewun introduced me to some of the harder, more twisted darkstep / hardstep sounds and inspired me to go digging in the archives of labels like Barcode and Offkey. I don't play the really pots and pans stuff much these days but I still have a soft spot for it!
E: I cant believe you managed to deliver with two absolute classic speaker-melter releases when you started out! Full Marks man! Screw Up by Ewun is one of my all time favourites as well, and pretty much everything that has ever come out on Lifted. Alright, and whats been the latest discs you've added to the collection?
Dillinja - Hard Noize (Break Remix) [Valve]
Hex: Fast forward to 2020 and this was a must buy; I'd been waiting for it to drop for about 2 years since first hearing it in a mix. Break is possibly the only person who could be trusted to remix this and he did a fantastic job; all the soul and vibe of the original but just twisted up enough to be interesting, and with a razor sharp mixdown. Tubes on the flip is a mean track too; tech funk as only Break can deliver.
Tim Reaper & Friends - Meeting of the Minds [Future Retro]
I'm cheating a little bit here because the records aren't actually pressed yet, but I ordered both volumes of Tim Reaper's Meeting of the Minds EP series a couple of days ago. The recent resurgence in the classic Jungle sound has been really great, and Tim Reaper is undoubtedly one of the best of the wave of new jungle producers, providing a great spin on the classic sound with modern production tools and techniques. Breakbeats were got me into dance music via IDM, Breakcore and D&B and you can trace all of that back to Jungle so I'm always gonna enjoy listening to it.
These two EPs see Tim teaming up with a bunch of other talented producers including Dwarde, FFF and Dev/Null for eight new collab tracks and they're all top class. If you like chopped amens and you haven't heard these yet you're in for a treat!
E: You're not joking! This is a killer release taking that early 90s jungle sound and pushing it to new levels it through the modern DAW 30 years on... And Break never fails to deliver as is clear with this rework of the Dillinja 98 classic, creating a new classic of its own. Its interesting to see that your first purchases were artists and labels heavily pushing DNB forward with futuristic sound design and technique at the forefront, but the latest of releases and movements some 15 years on are taking those techniques and re-investigating the sounds and styles of the past... creating something new from old seeds once again. The cycle of musical evolution at work.
Fresh and distinguished tastes as always from the man in the know! Before we go can you let us know what's happening in the Hex studio, any new releases or forthcoming drops we need to be on the lookout for?
Hex: My last few releases have all been on a liquid tip; in May I released Rewind, a garage-inflected roller for Detached Audio, then in June I dropped a collab with Arkah called Nitelite for Bay 6, and in July I put out a freebie via DNB Dojo called Embers, collaborating with Detached Audio boss K2T. Can't say too much about future releases just yet but I've got some darker bits coming out on a London label I've been supporting on DNB Dojo for years so really pleased about that! K2T and I have more music coming later this year, and I'm currently wrapping up a solo halftime EP, a solo liquid EP and a remix for Detached Audio, so hopefully some of that will see the light of day later in the year too! Keep your eyes peeled on my Facebook feed for more info ;-)
I've also recently completed a mix for a Scottish outlet which should be going up within the next couple of months! It was recorded during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests and as a result I decided to pay tribute to Black musicians within the D&B scene with a tracklist 100% by or featuring Black artists. I'm really looking forward to sharing that with everyone, and I hope it serves as a fitting reminder that D&B is Black music, both in its origins in dub and soundsystem culture and in the roots of 90s jungle and D&B where so many pioneering Black musicians and DJs were instrumental in creating the sound.
E: Keeping very busy! I did have the pleasure of hearing some of your forthcoming bits and can confirm they are fucking dancehall-damagers (or should that be Dojo-damagers?), looking forward to that single! I'm also looking forward to seeing this mix drop, Black Lives Matter is such a vital movement and keeping momentum, discussion and action progressing is of paramount importance now and after the hashtags subside. Everyone must play a part in making the changes required to end the injustices faced by so many. Music is such a great tool to continue and convey that message even when the music itself may not be overtly lyrically political. With bass music especially, look at its roots, look at the culture it came from, its political by nature. Anyway, well be keeping an eye out for the mix drop and will spread the love, any final words?
Hex: Big shouts to everyone in the Scottish scene, and especially Jules, Stu and Neil at Symbiosis! Looking forward to being able to party with you all again in dark rooms when this is all over, whenever that may be...