DJ Vadim & Sena
It’s shocking to realize how after spending an entire day immersing yourself in DJ Vadim’s catalogue of solo albums (6), group albums (5), remix album (1) and a preposterous amount of remixes, that his quality of musical output has never dipped. From his own label Jazz Fudge and the Ninja Tune years to his current and possibly most fruitful home of BBE, his experiments with the Boom Bap format of Hip Hop and journeys into reggae, soul, electronica, funk, grime, dub and bass manage to somehow be both forward-thinking and popular yet truly authentic and uncompromised by the moment’s hype.
Born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) but raised in London (which you can hear throughout his music, the sound system culture, the bass, the humour) and now living in Berlin and New York, he steps around the globe, gigging, collaborating and creating with an energy that would shame a younger man. Now approaching his twentieth year in the game, he is releasing a brand new album with Ghanaian singer Sena aptly titled ‘Grow Slow’. A seven year project of love where both went their own ways with musical releases, children (in Sena’s case) and many other adventures that kept them from the studio but is now ready to serve. Like all his albums, the ingredients are many and varied but sound as if they always belonged together. Try and bang a generic term on Vadim and you will certainly fail. 'Grow Slow' has the bass, the skank, the beats and the soul you that would expect but it also has the African, the R'n'B, the Caribbean Funk and the London Pirate Station attitude that makes it crunch with dirt.
Ex-Friendly pinged him a few questions and alongside his answers he sent us an exclusive mix!
JT - Hello mate, I first came across you on Jazz Fudge then on ‘USSR Repertoire’ on Ninja Tune nearly 20 years ago and your beatmaking was very much Hip Hop influenced then. Who were you listening to, what helped to forge you?
DJV - 'I grew up listening to hip hop - Run DMC, BDP (Boogie Down Productions), Rakim, Stetsasonic, T La Rock, and from that got into funk and soul, jazz, reggae etc...'
JT - Your new album ‘Grow Slow’ with Sena is a beauty! Once again, it feels like it’s from many places but this time with Sena’s Ghanaian influences cutting through. How was the process of making the album? It took quite a long time right?
DJV - '7 years and it was a start stop process, not ideal. I wish we did it in one session and I wanted to make changes to a lot of things cos some of the music is a bit ‘ old school Vadim’, but so be it. It's a snap shot of the last 7 yrs of my life!'
JT - Many influences have appeared in your music over the years but there’s an unmistakable Britishness about your sound. Can you give a little insight into growing up in London and how it shaped you?
DJV - 'That's a nice thing to say. Yes, I think the UK is a great melting pot of sounds much more so than say the USA. Not that the UK is the only creative place, it's just that here we seem to forge things together that other places do not. Mixing funk and reggae, hip hop and African with electronic… In other countries no one would even think of doing that. Now of course people in other countries are doing it like in Germany and France etc but I always get more musical inspiration here. Just the sounds and energy of London, it really is one of the most musical places i have ever been to.'
JT - Food is obviously very important to you with gastronomic terms used throughout your career as ways to describe your music in press releases etc (I’m going to try your spicy mango curry recipe out btw). Can you taste music? What does it taste like?
DJV - 'I believe they are similar but done in different mediums. In both you combine ingredients and forever have to taste and season whether it's a soup or a drum track to see how its going…To me my music is a mango curry. it's spicy, using many ingredients just like in Asian/ Indian cooking. I see myself more in that realm as opposed to say Russian cooking where it's a bowl of boiled potatoes and animal lard!'
JT - You played at the massive Moscow Street Ball, how was that? Does Russia have any influence on how you are now? How are you regarded there?
DJV - 'Well that was over 17 years ago. a faint memory where someone threw a glass bottle at my head! Playing in Russia is great. I just wouldn't live there!'
JT - Over your 20 years of releasing records, what moments/records/gigs/people especially stand out for you?
DJV - 'Wow, I forget my own name if it wasn't for the fact my face is on the flyers where I play! So many great shows and a few blips along the way too. Feel right now like it's a bit of a golden period and resurgence actually….'
JT - Your life has traversed the globe, where do you feel you belong now? How do you identify yourself?
DJV - 'Good question since nationality and pride seem quite in the forefront of people's conversations these days. I dont like to wave flags and say I am this or that but I do choose English (British) over English (American) when I set my computer up if that makes sense, lol!. I guess i like Europe, everywhere is different. Food, language, culture, a nice melting pot and lots of great cities to play in.'
JT - Name me three records that changed your life and why/how?
DJV - 'James Brown 'Mind Power'. incredible album, the King of Rhythm, just hypnotic.
A Tribe Called Quest 'Low End Theory'. The art of boom bap
Ini Kamoze 'Ini Kamoze album' (debut album) with Sly and Robbie on production. Wow! A blueprint for what's happening now but released 30 yrs ago…'
JT - You’ve moved into video production now, how does it compare to making music?
DJV - 'It's like making music with the extra dimension. I wouldn't say I moved into it. I do it simply cos I have ideas for myself… I'm not really interested in making videos for other people for 2 quid. …. ! hahaha
JT - Who would you really love to work with that you haven’t yet?
DJV 'De La Soul!'
Words by Ex-Friendly aka Justin Turford