Ila Brugal has a chat with legend-behind-the-decks Grandmixxer ahead of his performance at Outlook Festival 2017
A skilled technician and with a grime-themed record collection that stands up against the best London has to offer, Grandmixxer has been one of the city’s most colourful radio personalities for the best part of a decade. Working his way across a number of stations, his enthusiasm, passion and willing has been an asset to the scene and, moreover, the music.
How many times have you performed at Outlook Festival?
I’ve performed at Outlook Festival for the last two years, 2015/2016 as Novelist’s DJ. We had a great time performing on the main stage, The Clearing, and also did loads of boat parties, however this will be my first year as Grandmixxer. I am really looking forward to this year’s boat parties. I am going to play alongside Killa P on Chimpo’s boat then him, Spooky and Spyro are going to do a b2b.
The four of you on the same boat, oh my days…
Yeah all of us on the same boat but I’m not doing b2b with everybody. You can catch me doing a b2b with Spooky on Just Jam’s Boat though! You can also catch me on The Moat with Dub Phizix and Strategy for the “Well Good Do”.
What is it about Outlook that keeps you coming back?
Outlook Festival is like a holiday. Usually when you are on tour you don’t really do much. But when you get there, there is so much going on that you can’t just be chilling in your hotel room. Croatia is such an amazing country, the weather is sweet, the sea.. it’s a nice place to go. I also love the food!
Outlook is also a very good opportunity to get to see some of your favourite artists. Who are you looking forward to catch from the line up?
I am obviously excited to catch Dizzee Rascal. I like Raider Shafique and.. (laughs) I probably don’t listen to no one you know! I do listen to music mostly when I’m with other people and as I’m always in a music environment, people always share new stuff with me and literally bring it to my house. I used to download music but I don’t anymore. One of my philosophies as a DJ is not caring about what tunes I’ve got, that’s why I commit well, so whatever songs I have got, I have to be happy with them and make the best of them! Music has to come to me in a very natural way, I know what I’m looking for, if I hear it, I’ll go and get it, if not I’ll just make it. I haven’t been making music for long so since I’ve been making music, I’ve been much more militant.
How do you get ready for your shows? Do you usually prepare your sets?
No, I don’t prepare my sets at all. I don’t even use record box (other DJ’s will know what I’m talking about) I just throw my tunes on my usb and go with however I feel at the moment. I practise a lot but I don’t prepare my sets, I’d rather be free. Obviously, if I’m going to do a recorded mix (like the few I have online) then I’m gonna prepare it, but for radio and live shows I am always free. You never know what’s happening before you, so you need to react to what’s going on. Nothing pre- programmed, freestyle all the way, but I do have an idea of the sound I want.
I’ve been producing your show at NTS for a few months now, and sometimes I’ve had the impression that even if you are standing right next to me you are actually somewhere else, in your happy place. I was wondering, as I’ve never seen you in a gig, what is Grandmixxer like in front of an audience?
Live is definitely better than when I’m on radio, I mean it’s the same but more like what I need to do. I can DJ for myself or for other people – I always try to DJ for myself as well, I mean, if I enjoy it, I guess everyone else will enjoy it even more.
I’ve heard a story about you taking your shoes off in a gig and DJing in your socks, did it actually happen?
Yeah man, I do that sometimes. If the floor is slippery I have to, otherwise for the way I DJ, I would die! (laughs)
I can tell by the way you mix that you have been practising a lot, and assume you started mixing vinyls?
Obviously I’m old now, I’m 30 years old. I was doing this when I was 15/16 years old and yeah, I’ve been learning that old school way with vinyl’s and love the art of mixing. I don’t want to play no computer games.
I was going to ask, what is your opinion about “laptop DJ’s” and mixing software?
If you are creating a good experience for the people on the dance floor then it’s cool, it’s just not interesting to me personally. If you are really creative and use your laptop to do stuff that you can’t do on turntables, then I think it’s great. But if you are using a laptop to do something that you could do on CDJ’s (and they can pretty much mix for you if you want) then I don’t think it’s a good thing. I mix in a very manual way, I just love the actual art of mixing, but for some people it’s different, mixing makes them nervous. If you’ve noticed, I always wear my headphones, always, if you watch most DJ’s nowadays they don’t even have them on. But to be honest, for me to exist they need to exist, so that’s why I don’t really mind. Not everyone has to be as crazy about it as me, so I leave everyone doing their thing.
In my opinion, your technical skills are what make your sets unique. No matter what tunes you are playing, they will always sound different because of the way you blend them. You basically do your own edit. That reminds me of my hero, DJ EZ.
It’s not the first time that I have been told that, you know. People compare us because we are both technical. However, we are totally different but the similarity is the technical. He’s better than everyone and he plays tunes that everyone knows, but I’ve got technical skills and mix stuff that people don’t know about. When I was growing up I never thought about it, then when I got to my 20’s I realised I wanted to be as sick as him. He’s on another level, he’s a monster.
Your sets are 80% of your own productions. Are you going to release some of them?
I’m going to launch my record label “South London Space Agency” (SLSA). I don’t know if you have noticed, I’m the only person with my music (except for Travis T & General Courts). I have been making it and saving it and waiting to release it on my label. I’ve got loads of amazing collaborations but I don’t wanna say too much, it’s coming out in November. We are working extremely hard, I’m actually recording next week, trying to get most of the vocals done. I don’t really fuck with vocals usually. Don’t get me wrong, I love vocal grime but I’m from the era when vocals were sick. I used to listen to the radio and hear the new D Double, new Dizzee, so I’m way more harsh on today’s music than I should be. Anyway, I’ve got loads of vocals, instrumentals and vinyls coming out, keeping it traditional.
Are we gonna catch the MC’s you are collaborating with at Outlook Festival?
Well, I don’t want to say too much but yeah, they will be about!
What would be your advice to someone who’s starting to DJ now?
Whatever vision you have in your head stick with it. When I started I wanted to be me they way I am now, but I had no way of doing it except for the will, so the will is more important than anything, I had the will to be me before I had the skills to be me. It took me 15 years to develop the skills to be where I want to be. If you wanna be a scratch DJ, and it’s gonna take 2 years of trying before you able to do a decent scratch just don’t give up on it, if you wanna take it to a serious level, be inspired and keep going! My life has been crazy, when I was younger you don’t know the things I used to do to get to the level where I am now, that’s why no one else is on my level, because I went beyond the normal you should do. It’s about being technical and to be honest, I love to be technical. I am also really hard on myself. When I listen to my podcasts and I hear a mistake I shut everything down and cant listen to it for days (laughs). As I said, I’m still learning, I have more and more new dreams now.
↓ Catch Grandmixxer at the following boat parties & stages at Outlook ↓
📷: Ila Brugal