Session number eight is supplied by DJ Vapour. As well as running his own successful drum and bass imprint 36 Hertz, Vapour has had releases on labels such as Dread, 31 Records, C.I.A. and Basement. He is known as one of the scene’s premier remixers, updating classic tracks like Maximum Style, We Are IE, Living In Darkness and The Dark Soldier. He may be 10 years deep in the production game but his love for hardcore and jungle goes way back, and he knows his stuff. Check out the mix at the end of the interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born and grew up in Cambridge I moved to Newbury with work in 2001 and have been here ever since. Before I got into Hardcore / Jungle I used to listen to loads of different things mostly crap though.
When did you first get into the hardcore / jungle scene?
A mate gave me a tape of Devious D recorded at the Eclipse Night @ Cambridge Corn exchange. The first tune on there was Menace by Rufige Kru and that grabbed my attention immediately. I then started hunting out as many rave tapes as possible and one of my aunts used to sort me out with copies of her rave tapes. I then started buying tunes from a little record shop called Boom tunes in Cambridge and started saving up to buy a set of decks
I read that you first got a pair of decks in 1992. What made you want to start mixing?
To be honest I can’t remember why I wanted to DJ as no one else at my school was doing it – even when I left school there was only me and one other kid at my school who had decks. I just knew I could buy this music on vinyl and that was the way to play it.
When did you first start producing?
When I started college in 1995 I met loads of other DJs and a couple of them went on to set up home studio’s so I messed around with them making some horrendous noise there but nothing ever got finished, but it planted the seed in my head to get some equipment and start making my own stuff.
Am I right to say you had your first release on vinyl in 2004 in the form a remix of the legendary Top Buzz tune ‘Living In Darkness‘? How did that come about?
Yep that was the first release I had on vinyl. That come about from me living across the road from Nu-Urban (music the distribution company). I used to go over there and talk about tunes with Tobie (Serial Killaz) who used to work there and I used to play him all the crap I was making in my studio back then.
I had done this remix of Living In Darkness just to play in my sets. I played it to Tobie at some point and he had a copy – next thing I know he popped into the pub I lived at with a white label and said go upstairs and listen to that and it was my remix. I didn’t know back then that Phil from Nu-Urban was the owner of Basement records and Tobie had sorted it all out to get released. I was pretty chuffed with that and it’s certainly nice to have my first release on a legendary label such as Basement. I would say its more of a update than a remix though and it sounds awful now lol. Big up to Tobie for that though it certainly encouraged me to get on with making more music and he gave me tons of help back then.
If it was your first release, what took you so long having been DJing since 1992! Where was Vapour the producer in the late 90s? Well the simple answer to that would be weed and women lol. I was more interested in going out partying and getting wasted rather than saving up for samplers and mixing desks. I kick myself now though as I wish I had pulled my finger out in the 90s and brought a studio sooner.
Thing is as well it cost a fortune to set up a simple studio back in the day – just a sampler that only had about 30mb memory would set you back over a grand that was a hell of a lot of money back then. Before I left Cambridge I got an offer to go live above a pub my mate was running rent free and thats how I managed to get the money to put a deposit down on a sampler, then my mate Adam brought me a computer on finance and I paid him back.
I picked up a 2nd hand mixer for 350 quid (and had no money to eat for a week) and with my minidisc recorder I was good to go.
Within 4 weeks of getting all that I was cutting shit tunes down at music house and testing them out. I then go asked to move down to Newbury to work at a new pub opening down there so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get away from distractions and get on with making music – also living rent free. So I moved down here and bought more equipment and kept banging out shit tunes until things started to sound a lot better. Bailey picked up 2 tracks for his Intasound label and that was it from there, everything steam rolled along.
Your productions always sound contemporary but have that gritty, hardcore feel of D&B in the mid 90s. What is it about that sound you like? How do you get it across in your music?
I think most dnb these days sound too over produced and noisy, I prefer a more organic sound with space and warmth in the tracks. I used to have a whole load of hardware equipment which most of my releases were made with. I think that this made a big difference when I first started putting out tunes as my tracks had a lot more warmth on the low end and lower bass, was a lot more evident on my tracks when played on a big system and I put this down to the equipment I was using at the time.
I got to a point where it was really pissing me off though as there was so much noise and hum coming from it all in the end I ripped it all out and switched to a purely software based set up and sold it all early last year. After using just software for the past 16 months its driving me mad and i’ve started buying a new set up to use – more simple than before but it will enable me to get the sound I want as using just software aint working at all as I can’t get the low end I want on the tracks, so over the coming months i’ll be picking up all the bits I want for the new hardware studio
You have been apart of the Stepback Sessions since the first volume in 2009. Was this Randall’s thing or was this a joint thing between you two? How did you hook up with Randall and what’s the idea behind the label?
Randall setup Stepback as there was a whole bunch of stuff myself, Bladerunner and Serum had bastardised for our sets, which Randall set about getting everything cleared and released. I help a lot with the label from things like artwork to mastering, and I pass tracks to Randall that have come my way. Its a great little label and has been doing really well.
We have just started up doing some Stepback Sessions tour nights as well. I first met Randall off the back of the Intasound release I did. He called me up and said he was really feeling my tracks and wanted to know if I wanted to work on some tunes with him, which of course I agreed to. He come up to my studio in Newbury and we made The Last Stand and then Angels Warning which come out on Mac II, and we also did a remix of 4Hero’s Mr Kirks Nightmare.
You have remixed some huge tracks like We Are IE, Melody Madness, Maximum Style. But if you could have one producer from back in the day remix one of yours; who would it be?
Good question! To be honest thats a hard one to answer as most of the producers I really liked back in the day are either not making tracks anymore, or make utter crap these days. And most of the producers I like at the minute have already done remixes for me. I reckon Jonny L could do a pretty naughty remix though so he would be my choice
Similar question. What’s the one hardcore / jungle track you wish you could have made?
Damn thats a hard one to pin down. I think if I had to pick one out of my top ten favourites I would go for Krust – Jazz Note on V recordings, as that tune really tells a story and just rolls perfectly.
Your own label 36 Hertz has gone from strength to strength, what have you got lined up on the label? What does the future hold for Vapour and 36 Hertz?
Next release (out now) is the Back To The Bass Volume 3 LP which has been getting some huge support across the board, then after that we have a various artists oldskool 140bpm-style 4 Track EP with tracks from Myself, SR & Digbee, ESP and Indigo Virus. After that release who knows lol.
We have a lot of artists working on music right now so there is plenty in the pipeline but its just down to who brings stuff that will work on the label first. I don’t really do all this 1 year on dubplate shite that loads of labels do, so once I get a release finalised I get it out within 6 weeks if possible. For me personally i’m sitting on about 2 albums worth of non-dnb stuff (old skool & bass music) which should be coming out next year once I get it finished. Im also working on a load of remixes of old skool tracks for various labels and projects.
Tell us a bit about your mix for Drumtrip
Well as always when I draw for a old skool mix I tend to go for the more deeper unknown stuff rather than what I call the “jungle hits” selections that most old skool mixes contain. So I put together a batch of stuff that im feeling the most from the late 90s and a couple of new things that come out on 36 hertz from myself and Jem One in that late 90s style.
Drumtrip Sessions #08 – DJ Vapour
1 – DMS & The Boneman – Strength – Production House
2 – Acro – Untitled – Force 10
3 – Sub Sequence – Music Is The Vibe – Tooz Up Records
4 – Van Kleef – Life Began Changing – PP9 Productions
5 – Revival Rough – Who Goes There – White
6 – NKS & Unknown Face – Dats Cool – Saigon
7 – Code Blue – Angels In Dub (DJ Crystl Remix) – Dee Jay Recordings
8 – Ed Rush – Force Is Electric – No U Turn
9 – DJ Vapour – Never Feel – 36 Hertz
10 – Buz – Slave Special – No U Turn
11 – 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse – Drowning In Her – Tone Def
12 – Photek – Touching Down – Photek Productions
13 – Bjorn Stokes – You’re Mine – State Of The Art Recordings
14 – Jem One – Bullet To The Head – 36 Hertz
15 – Dillinja – You Don’t Know (Remix) – Logic
16 – Phaze III & Klass A – Fearful Dimensions (Unreleased Mix) – Dub
17 – Nicky Blackmarket – Geese Tune – Blackmarket
18 – Lemon D – Jah Love – Conqueror
19 – Goldie – Angel – FFRR
Any big ups / shouts? Big up to everyone buying 36 Hertz releases and supporting the label through the years 🙂