We went digging all together before to have tea-time at Huw's studio and finish the day at Format's home for a pizza and an exclusive interview!
Back to London in July 08 where we met Huw Bowles - owner of the legendary hiphop store Mr Bongo - and Dj Format - gifted english dj and producer. We went digging all together before to have tea-time at Huw's studio and finish the day at Format's home for a pizza and an exclusive interview!
- Check Huw's Studio photo gallery -
Matt Ford, better known as DJ Format (a near-inversion of his birth name), is a hip hop / funk / break DJ born in Southampton, England who lives in Brighton.
Format’s debut album “Music For The Mature B-Boy” was one of the slowburn success stories of 2003. An album of soulful, funk-fuelled Hip Hop packed with infectious beats and lyrical dexterity, it delivered the promise of his early releases for ‘Mo Wax and Bomb Hip Hop.
Received with quiet acclaim in the press it quickly became a word of mouth triumph, going on to establish itself as one of the most successful debut artist albums from the UK alternative/urban scene.
The campaign was successful for a number of reasons not least it’s supporting batch of three incredible music videos all directed by the then unknown Ruben Fleischer. The most famous of these being the rapping and breakdancing costumed animals of “We Know Something You Don’t Know” featuring the vocals of Chali 2na and Akil of Jurassic 5 – played out by a shark and tiger respectively on the big screen it is an unforgettable piece of feel good Hip Hop.
“Music For The…” also led to Format supporting (alongside MC Abdominal) Jurassic 5 on their European tour, and through subsequent touring in 2003 establishing Format as one of the hottest live Hip Hop tickets in town culminating in triumphant appearances at the Reading & Leeds festivals of 2004 and worldwide touring taking place in the whole of Europe, North America and Australia.
Tireless record digger, Matt developed a very personnal interest in Eastern European sounds.
So, to have a reading in music, he allowed to freely share his 'European Vacation' mixtape.
More than one hour of European grooves and psych beats... Fantastic!
Explain us how did you met music:
The most important part of meeting music for me is digging because I need to find the perfect record to sample. So, yeah, first of all I dig then hopefully I discover interesting music like drums, bass, guitar, flute, anything... ! And I guess I really love HipHop who sounds like the late 80s or early 90s so I usually like big drums who sounds very raw and live. I don’t really like the drum-machine, that kind of beat many Americans do with like SP1200, MPC60, I don’t really like this sound. I like the drums to sound real !
What’s your first memory about music:
Well that’s a good question ! My first memory... I don’t know! Maybe my mum playing piano! But my strongest memories are really driving in the car with my dad, and he would listen to lots of different music, but usually in the car, things like Steely Dan or The Eagles. He also listenned to a lot of Soul and Ska as well but definitely, when we were in the car, It used to be Steely Dan (laugh).
Then how did you go from The Eagles to HipHop:
I think, when I was a kid, I first heard things like Herbie Hancock ‘Rock It’, Grand Master Flash & Melle Mel ‘White Lines’. I was very interested but still very young and I was still listenning to all the regular music in the charts, I was too young to really get obsessed with HipHop. So I keep listenning to ‘TopHits’ music for another 3 or 4 years and then maybe in 1986 or 1987 I started to hear RunDMC, Beastie Boys and things like this. in the Uk we had the Electro albums (Serie of Compilation), I remember Electro 9 with Doug E.Fresh, I used to love Doug E.Fresh.
So I started listen records like this and that’s when then I started to just listen to HipHop, really discovering HipHop and I thought ‘Waow, this is something very special, very different!’, that was sometime in late 86.
And HipHop then brings you to all type of music...
Well yes, first I only wanted to listen to HipHop, then I wanted to scratch, that was really important for me ! I wanted to scratch and be a dj, and then I wanted to make records, sampling.
So that was when I first realized that ‘Ok, I can’t just take beats from other HipHop records, I have to find my own samples’. So then I really started listening. The first really good music that I discovered was Herbie Hancock, I discovered his funky stuff with the Headhunters. This bring me to the Blue Note Jazz and also all the FunkyJazz in the 70s and then that kind of Electro stuff in the 80s.
So that moment was really my first introduction to other musics.
Do you remember the first record you bought:
I think one of the first when I was a kid was Madness. I was obsessed with this band when they make their hit, I was around 10.
Can you explain your relantionship with records:
Well I think It was first because I wanted to learn ! What is the title, who is the producer, what is the crew members... i was just a middle class child in England and I wanted to learn about that HipHop music that I loved. And so, you know, back in the middle 80s, there were no way to learn about it, there were no Mtv, no internet and things like this.
Can you describe your record collection:
The HipHop records are mostly from mid-80s to early 90s. Then I collect many types of records because I’m looking for samples so I have many of them from all over the world, I have crap records that only have a 3 or 4 seconds great drumbreak. I have also lots of easy listenning records from the Uk with Hammond organ because you can get good cover version. I have records of School or University band... You always need to find new things to collect. I have a lot of Library Music Lps and I’m also a big collector of Eastern European music ! This interest started because of sampling once more, I wanted to sample things that people won’t. And It’s difficult to always find more Jazz, more Funk or even more Rock records that hasn’t already been sampled by somebody so always I’m looking for something new, like everybody !
So I guess I started discovering East Europe records, mainly from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. So I started to go to this places, was at the end of 1999, beginning 2000.
At the beginning, I used to love the beginning of the track but then the vocals went a little bit too crazy for me. But the more you listen to it, you get used with those strange vocals. When I say strange, I just say it’s a strange language. But you know, nowadays, some of this records are my favorite things to listen to ! Especially the Polish music.
I have amazing late 60s early 70s kind of Rock and Blues and Jazz that are just really great !
No I can’t give example because the way that I pronounce and the the way you’ll translate, no one will never understand nothing so... It’s just a waste of time. (laugh)
And what do you thing about future of digging:
Well there is just so many millions and millions of records out in the world, that’s just so much ! I’ve been collecting Polish music for years and I thaught ‘Ok, I must know so much now, It can’t be much more’, and I went to Poland 3 monthes ago and I just baught 40 Polish 45rpm, mostly things I didn’t know !
So there is just a whole world of records out there you don’t even know about ! And there are countries that haven’t even been visited properly, they must have amazing music.
But of course there is someone digging for this music somewhere, there is always somebody. You know sometimes we discover a record and think ‘Nobody knows this record!’, but there is always somebody who knows it ! Always ! Garanteed!
So, for me, It’s just endless find, never ending !
Looking to discover new records, did you finally also discover things about you:
Yes I discover that I’m probably a little bit mad... Because so often I buy records because, when I spend the whole day in a record shop to find something I’m so desperate to find something good that you find something is just ‘Ok’ but you want to buy ! You tell yourself, your brain tells you ‘Yeah this is good!’, and you get home and realise that it is mediocre and you’ll never gonna play this record! Or sometimes a record you heard 5 years before, somebody played it to you and you thought ‘Oh Waow ! I got to have this record, I’ll never find it !’, and, in your head, you build it up, you remember like it was just the best record you ever heard ! And then when you find it out after 5 years, you play it and you feel that It’s not as good as you remember, put it in your collection and don’t touch it for 5 years...
That’s how I realised that, maybe I’m mad, but maybe that’s just something that I need to do, to keep me happy. Different people have different hobbies, hobbies that just make you happy ! For me, maybe I just need to constantly buying records. It’s better than to waste my money on drugs or women or... I’ll always have my records ! ...well, I hope...
Are curious for other things in life as you are for music and records:
Well I’m always curious to see new places, visit new countries or cities that I never been to before. So I’m curious like that but usually the main reason why I want to see these new places is because I want to find new records.
So I’m not sure I’m so curious for others things... You know I used to love to keep doing the same thing that make me happy, or watch the same TV serie because it make me laugh and that’s it I’m ok with it !
Do you have other hobby or passion:
I would say, I’m a football fan, my team is South Hampton. I know we are shit but that’s my team, that’s where I’m from. You have to support your team you know ! But music for me is such a full time passion. It’s a full time job, It’s a full time hobby, It takes me so much time and energy ! In a great way ! This is my job, my life and my passion so I don’t have much time sometimes to do others things, not as much time as I’d like but no problem, I love music so that’s fine.
Please tell me about a crazy story around one record:
I don’t know story like Crazy found or something. There is this story wich is much like funny because of the circumstances around who were just a bit strange. On my birthday, I don’t even know how many years ago...but the night before my birthday, my friends brought me to Brighton and got me so drunk. I had, the next morning, one of the worst hangover of my life, I just wanted to die. But it was my birthday, and It also was my sister birthday, on the same day, so we used to celebrate together with the family. So I add to travel from Brighton back to South-Hampton to see my sister and my family. My girlfriend, at that time, had a job interview, on my fucking birthday, in a town called Worthing wich was on the road to South Hampton. So we drove up there and me, I just sit in the car with this terrible hangover killing me. After 10 or 15 min I thought that maybe I should go around the corner to get a café and try to feel a little bit better. So I go, get some food and start feeling just a little bit better when I realised that there is a charity shop. I was still walking around like a zombie but I decided to have a quick look. I enter, and I swear, the first record in the rack was Bill Doggett ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’ ! I didn’t believed it ! I thaught it was just a reissue ! So I keep looking at that and realized that ‘Oh my fucking god that’s the original !’
So that’s the story, maybe It’s not that interesting for other people I don’t know but me I love this story ! My hangover completly vanish ! The price was 50 cents but I gave 5£ to the guy !
And It’s funny cause actually last year, on my birthday, I went to Amsterdam with my girlfriend, my sister and my sister’s boyfriend and we got to a flea market and I found a 150£ psych single for 50 cents, and It’s a really amazing record !
So, now I love to dig on my birthday ! But I think this is the only two time that I ever get anything good on my birthday.
I guess another good digging story was: There is a Charity shop in South Hampton that has quite a lot of records and I made there very good discovery like this English Funk band called FBI. It’s not great but It used to sell for like 100£ and I got this for 3£ so... anyway, I go to pay for my records and as I’m stood at the counter, I look behind, and there is like a wall make of boxes full of records! So I as the girl if I can look to the other record and she said no because those records have to be organised and priced, they had a student who comes during the holiday to do this but he’ll not come for this summer holidays. So I saied ‘No no no, I have to look to those records, come on !’. So eventually, she let me look at them if I would priced the records ! The I went trough it and there were two big boxes of music library albums ! I got some fucking killers !
And even after working 2 days there, the girl still makes me pay a pound for each records ! I worked for free !
Are you playing instruments:
When I was a kid I learned the piano from the age of maybe 10 to 15 but now no more. I also learned the Saxophone for a year when I was 22 because I was at that time a lot into Jazz. But then I moved to Brighton a the age of 23 and I couldn’t afford for lessons.
If there is one, what is your favorite place to dig:
Well yes, my favorite is to go to somewhere that I never been to before. It’s always much more exicting when you get to a place for the first time. And It’s even better if it’s a little bit exotic, like a different country for example. So I still love to go back to Poland but It’s harder to find records. All over the world It’s definitely getting harder. I’m lucky because I dj a lot around so I used to go to a lot of good place to dig.
You drove Jurassic 5 bus Tour, any secrets about them:
None that I can say without getting in trouble ! (laugh)
If you had to keep just one artist:
Herbie Hancock because there are so many records I love. But It’s very difficult to say. I could say Joe Henderson, I could say James Brown but ..no, definitely, if I had to keep one artist I would keep Hancock because he has done so many different things from classic Jazz to Jazz Funk, Fusion, Electro. He's been just so strong and prolific, there’s so much materials, so many different styles.
Ok! Many thanks Matt!
- BONUS -
While those days in the UK's capital, we also make a stop at the 'museum' record shop Intoxica.
The occasion to make few pictures from the place.
Just click to see more!