With cheeky quirky and powerful tracks, Beat Assassin Jimmy Mofo is raising eyebrows. He is certainly raising ours.
First up, big up for all your recent hard work and your releases they are firing right now.
That’s very kind of you. Thank you very much for the support and inviting me onto your excellent blog.
Can you give us a bit of background on how you got into music and what you grew up listening to?
I have to say, “dance music wasn’t my first love.” I grew up listening to (what I would describe as) the cooler and more alternative side to heavy metal & punk. Bands like Rage Against The Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Suicidal Tendencies, Fugazi, Nirvana and Primus. Alongside some of the British punk bands like The Clash, Killing Joke & The Ruts. Then one particular Reading festival a van pulled up next to where we were camping and they had a sound system on board. They stuck NWA’s ” Fuck The Police,” on the turntables and at that moment I was completely sold on rap & hip-hop. So I started listening to Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Beastie Boys, NWA, Ice T to name a few alongside the punk & metal.
Then in the early nineties I started going to raves. I had a group of friends who were ex metal heads turned dance music converts. They were doing the whole M25 orbital rave weekenders. I tagged along to a few of these but found the experience of looking for the rave much more fun than the actual rave itself. Once we got there the music didn’t really interest me but I liked the fact that it was illegal and you could stay out all night and all the next day if you wished.
In 1993 I caught The Prodigy playing at a VW Beatle Rally. They had a harder edge to their sound than I had previously experienced in dance music. Then in 1994 The Prodigy dropped their album “Music For a Jilted Generation.” This album had an attitude and anger that I had never heard before in dance music. For me (and a lot of other fans of guitar music) this was a massive turning point in my music tastes. Dance music had now become rebellious and alternative in its sound and not just in its nature. I was sold.
Can you tell us how the name started, and what happened to your co-producer?
Beat Assassins first releases was in 2006. Back then Beat Assassins was a breakbeat act not a drum and bass act. My co producer was Joe Lenzie from Sigma. Both of us (at the time) were very influenced by hip-hop. Our style of breaks had a block party edge and we loved layering hip-hop acapellas over our tracks. We came up with the name Beat Assassins because we felt it described our sound at the time.
As the project progressed we started drafting in vocalist like The Ragga Twins, Yolanda, Sweetie Irie & Michie One to name a few. This gave our sound a more London flavour. We released a track called “We Run Tings,” which blew up. Beat Assassins then became a fundamental part of the breakbeat scene winning various music awards and DJing at major music events around the world that included Australia, USA, Russia and European countries such as Spain and Germany. We released tracks through our own label Mofo Recordings, most of which went straight into the top 10 DJ Magazine breakbeat charts and also download stores such as Beatport.
But by 2010 the Electronic music scene had changed so much with the introduction of dubstep alongside other exciting new genres such as fidget & bassline house, that we eventually found ourselves in a scene that was no longer musically relevant to what we were producing. This then resulted in Joe and I amicably going our own separate ways.
In 2012 I started a trap & grime project called Koshii. However this wasn’t for me so in 2016 I re launched Beat assassins as a drum n bass act and here I am.
What is it about dnb you love?
For a start I love the tempo. Drum and bass (for me) is by far the best music to dance too. I can dance to 130bpm music but that 174bpm rolling breaks tempo just gets me on my feet.
Off course I also love the bass frequencies but what I also really like about dnb is the distinctive sound it has. It doesn’t matter if the track is a summertime liquid roller or a full on Neuro Reese banger. There’s no getting away from the fact , “THAT SOUND!” Is drum and bass. I guess this goes back to the tempo of the music again but I think for a genre to be successful it has to have those core distinctive elements. I think the breakbeat genre didn’t last the test of time because it wasn’t distinctive enough. It borrowed from too many other genres
What are you producing on?
Ableton Live 9.5 Suite is my daw. I also use all the Native Instruments plugins like Kontakt, Massive & FM8. I’ve just recently started getting into using Serum. I love Sylenth for high end leads and pads. I also use the Spectrasonics plugins; Trillian & Omnisphere.
For effects and distortion I turn to the Camel plugins and Ohmicide. For filters I like Wow.
I also like to use the Tal plugins: https://tal-software.com/Products -most of their plugins are free and are absolute top quality. Alongside these I also use a lot of the freeware that’s given away with Computer Music Magazine. They have a synth called Dune. You can download it for free and it’s a bit like Sylenth. When you get to grips with Dune you soon realise how powerful it is.
If I gave you £500 to spend on studio gear what would it be and why?
HAHA, good question! I don’t buy much studio gear anymore because I have everything I need. However if you were to grease my palm with £500 to spend on kit, I’d be tempted to buy “Push” the Ableton Live controller. https://www.ableton.com/en/push/
It retails at £499. So I would have a pound left to get back to my studio on the bus.
It looks like a decent piece of kit but I haven’t yet been sold on studio controllers however if you’re buying, I’m game! This would give me the opportunity to experiment with a top controller on the market and see if it has any advantages with production.
What is your preferred DJ set up?
Keep it simple! USB stick and a pair of headphones! That’s all I take to a gig.
So as you might have guessed by now, I’m a big fan of Pioneer DJ equipment. I have nothing against laptop DJs using Traktor or Serato, but it’s just not for me.
I do all my preparation in Ableton Live Suite first if the tracks need editing. I sort all my tunes out in Pioneer’s Rekordbox software beforehand. Then I turn up, plug-in and unleash the beast. For me a successful DJ set is the result of excellent preparation before the gig.
Have you any recent funny stories?
The Space Yardie is around town! Read about him further down.
What clubs have made you go wow when you have played out?
The clubs that make me go “Wow” are the ones with decent DJs booths with quality DJ equipment and good sound systems. It’s as simple as that. I’ve played in the main room at clubs like Fabric, Ministry Of Sound, Sankeys (Manchester), Trigger (Birmingham), Herbal in Shoreditch & Cable under London Bridge to name a few and have had a fantastic DJ set because the club has the right kit. If the DJ feels comfortable within his or hers surroundings then they will smash it. To me it’s a no brainer.
I recently played at Fire in Vauxhall. I came on after a DJ using Traktor so there was a fair bit of lead swapping and shuffling around. I started playing dnb and the sound system started cutting out. The sound man was nowhere to be seen. While I was trying to sort out the problems suddenly the main room was filled with dry ice and I couldn’t see a thing. I managed to get everything back up and running again but by this time I had lost the crowd, lost my momentum and lost confidence within my surroundings. The result of which was a crap gig.
I’ve also played at a lot of festivals and by far the best festival I’ve played at is Glade. Again a lot of this is down to their production. The Glade crew know what they are doing and know how to run a great festival.
You have promoted nights in London, can you tell us about your promoting experience?
Once I had found my love of dance music I launched a drum and bass & breaks night called Mofo back in the mid nineties at the Borderline Club (London). The night ran weekly every Tuesday and was very popular with students. Then in 1998 the government introduced tuition fees and took away student grants. This meant that students suddenly became more aware of their spending once they realised it was their money and not the governments money they were spending. This really hit mid week clubbing and we had to close.
I also promoted (from time to time)Mofo Recordings parties featuring the acts on my label. These I would host about 3 times a year. But it’s not something I do now. Promoting club nights is really hard. It can be very lucrative but can also be one of the fastest ways to lose money and become depressed. If I was to promote now? I would only do it with someone who really knew what they were doing. I think these days you need something like a big label or radio station behind you to make it happen.
You have won a lot of awards in the breakbeat scene, do you see similarities in dnb to breakbeat or is the crowd completely different?
When I was involved in the breakbeat scene the two scenes were worlds apart. At the time Joe Lenzie was keeping me very much in touch with the dnb scene. I was going to a lot of dnb nights. The obvious major difference to me was how much bigger the dnb scene was compared to breaks. When breaks was at its peak filling 3 rooms at Fabric, while being Australia’s first choice in dance music, alongside filling 10,000 capacity festivals in Spain the breaks scene was still quite small. When the annual breakbeat awards was held at Fabric, I would go along and pretty much know every DJ, club promoter, label owner and producer at the event. From the movers and shakers to the newest on the scene.
I also felt that dnb was way cooler and carried a lot more kudos than breaks. It had more of an edge and felt way more business minded. There was (and still is) a career path a new producer could tread. There were big labels to get signed too. Magazines specialising in dnb. Big forums & websites all catering for dnb fans alongside massive nights at venues like SW4. The enthusiasm at dnb nights really blew me away. Breaks nights felt more like a drink and a social with a bit of a dance. Dnb nights were raucous, riotous and mental.
Can you tell us about Space Yardie?
Space Yardie is the ultra ego created by vocalists and rapper SiFu Chan.
It all happened one night in my studio. Sifu was actually there to rap on a grime track. I was out getting the drinks in when Sifu happened to click on an old beat that was lying around on my hard drive. On returning I found Sifu at the mic chatting about a, “Space Yardie, a party and the North West streets.” I fell about laughing. I thought it was hilarious!
But not content on just creating a deep, quirky, jungle roller to host the ranting’s of the Space Yardie, Sifu and I decided to recreate him in video format. The Space Yardie can be found on youtube wandering the streets of London accompanied by Parkour free runners escaping the mundane grind of everyday life.
See the Space Yardie in action by clicking the link below.
What Is Forthcoming?
My next single is called “See My Gun Go,” ft Miss Stylie. I think this track is a real nod to the Beat Assassins breaks days in a drum n bass format. The vocalists has a sound that is very reminiscent of Michie One who was the vocalist on “We Run Tings.” It’s cheeky and bouncy and will go down well with junglist and jump up dnb headz. For those wanting the filth Jay Cunning has organised a Toronto Is Broken remix (Jay is TIB’s manager).
I’ve got a track coming called HashTag ft Jon Carter. Jon works as a voiceover man in Hollywood film studios. When you go to the cinema and hear that big deep voice on movie trailers it might actually be Jon. He has recorded some movie style vocals for one of my dnb tracks.
I also have a grime track coming called War Dem ft Miss Stylie. I’m really excited about this release and I think it will turn a few heads. For the dnb fans I have a spectacular remix from Trei (Viper Recordings). I’ve also done my own dnb VIP mix of War Dem that I plan to release at a later stage.
What are you drinking from the bar when we see you out?
Jack Daniels & Coke. You can take the heavy metal out of the boy but you can’t take the boy out of the heavy metal!
Alongside Sambuca shots off course.
Any shouts and thanks?
Yes. I want to give a massive shout to ELi who completely smashed it with her vocal on Deny. She is such a cool lady and we will be working together again very soon.
Also shout to ma boy Sifu Chan. An amazing rapper and fantastic guy to work with. Any dnb producers out there looking for a hook up with a great rapper, get on it. SiFu Chan is ya man.
Big shout to Terry & Jay who run my PR company http://www.ontherisemusic.com/
They have done an amazing job at bringing Beat Assassins to the attention of the dnb scene.
Big shout to all the DJs who have supported especially all the Kool FM crew http://koollondon.com/index.php -who have been smashing my tunes.
And lastly thanks to everyone who has liked, played, reposted and shared across the internet and anyone who has purchased Beat Assassins music past and present.
Beat Assassins Official website: http://www.beatassassins.com
Interview by Aliina Atkinson (Missrepresent) 2016