DJ Listener talks about the current state of House & Garage music, Listener’s Choice + more!

How has 2018 been for you so far? What have been the standout bits?

Hi there, so far 2018 has been great from a musical point of view. My bookings have been coming through consistently and I have had the opportunity to play at some amazing events and venues.

Since December last year I’ve been involved with a few standout parties. Most recently Backto95’s 17th birthday. Returning to the Ministry of Sound was always going to be special; it was a sell out and the atmosphere throughout the club was electric. The dance floor was packed from virtually the get go on my set and I had a great time.

At the end of last year I played for Abode at Studio 338 doing a back to back set with my brother Jack Swift. The Terrace at 338 is an amazing space and is up there as one of my favourite clubs in the world. Also that week I was fortunate enough to play at Fabric for the 1st time, closing the main room for Garage Nations birthday celebration.

You do your own night, Listener’s Choice, right? Why did that come about? What is the vibe?

At the time we are doing this interview the launch of ‘Listeners Choice’ is less than 2 weeks away, so the excitement is really starting to build. The reason it came about is because i have felt that for quite a while there has been a great deal of good new music coming through in the House and Garage style or Garage House as some call it. However there have been no events around to give an outlet for the music.

I have set out to change that, I think the time is right for this new music to be showcased. The quality of productions coming through on labels like ‘Plastik People, Pogo House, Simma Black, Snazzy Tracks, Sub London, Gents & Dandies, Madhouse plus loads more is some of the best stuff I’ve heard in years. So for ‘Listeners Choice’ the vibe on the night will be fresh new music in the House and Garage form.

What state is house end garage in right now for you? healthy and innovative, or still too obsessed with the past?

I would say its a bit of both. The scene is pretty healthy right now in terms of following and the number of events around, as there has definitely been a resurgence in Garage over the past couple of years. But I feel that its still predominantly based around old skool. To progress in the long term, more new events catering for new music need to pop up. On the bass side of Garage this is happening with parties like Garage Splash, Garage Nation, and Foors events being successful. There is also a lot of new 2step Garage coming through as well.

On the House and Garage side I hope to get the ball rolling in terms of events, with ‘Listeners Choice’. Taboo have also recently started a party with a similar ethos, shouts to Ray Hurley and the team there.

Have you got a favourite style, period or niche of house and garage, one area you are most obsessed with?

Yes definitely, my era of choice is from around 93-97. The US stuff and early UK productions were unrivalled in my opinion. It was music that had Soul and energy. From the US producers like Masters at Work, Kerri Chandler, MK, Mike Delgado, Todd Edwards, Victor Simonelli, Deep Dish, Mood II Swing, are close to my heart. There productions from that era are timeless.

From the UK, Tuff Jam, the Anthill Mob, Grant Nelson, MJ Cole, Dem 2, Jeremy Sylvester, New Horizons and the like are among my favourites. This is why I feel so fortunate to be Backto95 resident, it was my favourite party to go to as a raver and still is as a DJ

Who or what gives you most inspiration? Other people, other DJs, a good film, or what?

Firstly my family, my wife and daughter are very understanding of the time and effort required to pursue a life as a DJ. Without their patience and support I wouldn’t be able to do what I do, and the same can be said of my parents.

The next most important thing would be the music itself, if I didn’t love the sound so much I would have hung up my headphones a long time ago. It’s a very hard industry to break through, even more so for someone who doesn’t produce music. So Ive had to be very determined and extremely patient to have got to where I am today.

I do take inspiration from other DJ’s, most noticeably my brother Jack Swift whose technical abilities are amazing and he’s helped me to push myself in terms of skill set. Other inspirational DJs over the years have been Norris the Boss and Matt Jam, both of whom have given me some words great of encouragement and advice over the years

What hobbies do you have outside of music?

I do love movies, and a good box set. Im currently engrossed in Peaky Blinders, and my all time favourite would be the Sopranos. You cant go wrong with Only Fools & Horses too. I also love football and am a lifelong Liverpool FC fan.

You are resident at Backto95 & Shift - how different do you play as resident vs headliner? What do you see is your role?

First and foremost I feel it’s my job to entertain the crowd, whether as resident, headliner or warm up DJ. If i'm headlining I get more freedom  in terms of what I can play. I can drop the hits, as well as having the opportunity to showcase my skills in terms of chopping and dropping tracks to try and get a reaction from the ravers. I always like to try to educate a crowd where possible by playing some unknown tracks or fresh material too.

If i'm doing a warm up set it’s a slightly different mindset, I purposely avoid playing the top ten tunes and try to build a set gradually. I feel that it’s an art form that has been lost a bit in recent times.

And how will you play at 51 State Festival? What will you bring, what have you got planned?

51st state is such an amazing party which I cant wait to get to. In terms of what I will play I'm not sure yet. I may try to squeeze in a few of the best new productions I'm enjoying currently along with the classics that people love on the Backto95 stage. With such a huge lineup on the Festival I will be mindful not to play any of the productions from the other artists who are on the lineup.

The time of the day im booked to play for at the festival will also have an effect on what and how I play. If its later in the festival I will “go in” as they say and try to make a mark that people will remember. Mixing really fast with drops and chopping to get the crowd hyped up. If its an earlier set, then I’ll take it easier and try to build up the crowd gradually. We will have to wait and see.

You can catch DJ Listener on Backto95 stage at 51st State Festival on Saturday 4th August.