MDC Interview#39 "Dave Skywalker(Endor Recordings)"
"I've often wondered whether Dave Skywalker is a genius or just plain lucky. When I first got talking to Dave, he was writing huge quantities of music in all different styles. I actually don't think I've ever come across anyone as diverse and productive since! He's a highly intelligent and creative character and you can see that in everthing he does.. Maybe this is just because he is so experimental. I can think of dozens of his tracks that would have been classics had they been released at the right time. I always look forward to hearing his new music as I expect to be shocked again by his radical take on eveything.. Oh - and everything I've said also applies to Dave's DJ skills."
- Hattrixx, Computer Music Magazine
Q.Please tell us about your birthplace. Where are you currently based?
Hi! I’m born and grew up in Oxford in the UK, and now live just outside London in a town called Milton Keynes. As well as DJing and music production, my “day job” is at Silverstone, an F1 Racing circuit and I’m a husband and dad of two kids.
Q.Since when are you interested in music? What kind of music scene was there in your hometown?
I’ve been interested in music as long as I can remember. My parents got me my first record player when I was about 5 years old, and I started buying my own records when I was 8. My first record was Steve Silk Hurleys “Jack Your Body”, and I started buying all the house music I could from my local stores.
Our closest major nightclub was The Sanctuary, a venue in Milton Keynes which many say was the birthplace of happy hardcore. All the big events were there – Dreamscape, Helter Skelter, Slammin’ Vinyl, but my first nights were at an under-18’s rave called Evolution.
Q.When did you learn about Rave music and culture?
The UK still had an incredible scene when I started going out in 1995. I had already been into house music for almost a decade by this point, and around 1990 the music had started to take on a harder edge. It was through listening to Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1 that I followed the progression from house and acid house, through to hardcore and then into early-jungle. By this time the legendary John Peel was also playing darker hardcore and jungle tracks on radio 1, and I was able to start listening to my local pirate radio station, Dark FM. Tracks that I’d loved, such as Isotonik’s “Different Strokes” and The Prodigy was giving way to early records by Alec Empire, Slipmatt, Fat Controller, Origin Unknown etc.
When I started DJing, around 1994, I was at college in Oxford, and our local record store was Massive Records. A lot of people hung out there, including people like Total Science, and it was a great place to pick up the big jungle releases such as Incredible, Code Red, and Valley of the Shadows which was still doing well years after its initial release.
Q.Please tell us about your first Rave experience.
Although I wanted to go out much earlier, my parents wouldn’t let me go to raves until I was 16, and my first event was Evolution 9 at the Sanctuary in Milton Keynes. I remember walking through the doors, seeing the lazers, the lights, the SOUND. DJ Slipmatt was playing, and I knew instantly this was everything I had been waiting for. My next rave was Universe Tribal Gathering 1995 in Oxford, and I had a job working in the cloakroom. I was given a backstage pass, and being able to see behind the scenes, how things ran, and be around some of my idols like The Prodigy, Moby etc was amazing.
Q.About Rave culture other than music.
In what fashion did you go to Rave during your Rave era? What are the necessities when going to Rave?
Both nowadays and back in the 90s, rave culture has always been about wearing something you feel comfortable in, and that goes both physically and mentally. Some people liked to dress up, wearing designer clothing, some people wore a tracksuit, but mostly it was whatever you felt comfortable in. A lot of the time people wore merchandise from the big raves – in the UK you would often find people wearing Dreamscape or United Dance gear. I used to go around with my Vibealite puffer jacket, jogging trousers and some rave-related t-shirt. Nowadays, you’ll often see people wearing stuff from Reinforced, Junglist Clothing, and always Bang Face clothing!
Q.Did you go to a squat party or an illegal Rave?
Until around a decade ago I’d never been to an illegal rave. I was always too nervous about breaking the law, or loosing my job to go to one. Then when I was DJing at a rave in Glasgow a few years back, we went to what I thought was an after party, but it turned out to be an illegal rave held in some unused art studios. In Scotland, everything has to close at 3am, so illegal raves keep the party going. It was a pretty good night and more relaxed than the raves you usually find held in nightclubs. Personally, I still prefer parties held in proper venues. Generally the transport arrangements are easier and I don’t feel as on-edge. I’m the kind of person who wants to make sure everyone is having a good time, and at illegal raves I feel I have to keep an eye on people to make sure they’re ok. At a licenced event, that’s someone else’s job! I know it’s not my responsibility to look after others, but that’s just the kind of person I am.
Q.Who was the DJ that most influenced to you?
The biggest influence I’d say has been DJ Slipmatt. He was one of the first rave DJs I followed, in my early mixes I used to try and copy some of the tricks he’d do, like playing particular tracks together, or doing things like spinbacks. Plus on a personal level, Slipmatt is a great person to speak to and has time for everybody, his interaction with ravers and promoters alike is great, and I try to be the same way.
Q.When did you start DJing? What kind of records did you play at the beginning?
When did you become Dave Skywalker?
I started buying records with the idea of DJing in mind in late 1993. One of the record shops I used to go into had records in goodie bags for £5 for maybe 5 records, so I used to just pick up those. The big records cost a lot of money (£5 each!!) so I just wanted music to mix with. So, there could be very early jungle in there, dark breakbeat hardcore – and a lot of it was just white labels – and once in a while something on a big label like Reinforced Records. I remember one of the first records I DJ’d with was Nookie’s “Give A Little Love”. In ’94 I started DJing at house parties and didn’t choose the DJ name “Skywalker” until around ’96 when I started University, although then I was just “DJ Skywalker”.
Through University I mixed everything from house and popular club stuff, through to garage, jungle, drum n bass, but mostly happy hardcore. This hasn’t really changed I guess! I played in the Universities DJ Society at the student union, and played at local clubs – this was just house and popular dance/trance at the time.
By the time I left University in 2000 there was much better communication online and I was part of many online bulletin boards for hardcore, old skool rave etc. Through the boards I met a lot of people, started going to events in London, made lots of new friends, and started pressing dubplates of my own stuff – previous to this I’d just been emailing people and uploading files to places like Aminet or bulletin boards. In 2003 I got my first “proper” rave booking and decided to call myself Dave Skywalker, as everyone at the time was using their first name to avoid confusion with other DJs called the same thing. Early on I played old skool rave (1993-1995 stuff), but as the 2000’s progressed people became less restrictive in the music they wanted to hear, and I could start mixing all the genres up together.
Q.At that time, who did you meet online? How did you make the Dubplate? Did you share the Dub with other DJs?
Once I properly had access to the Internet at University, I used to go on IRC chat rooms and join email lists. The big ones at the time were happy@hardcorps and oldskool@hyperreal. This was where I met people who I still keep in contact with to this day. Over time, bulletin boards like ush.net, Back To The Oldskool and the like became more popular. There are loads of producers who were on these groups – from people like Gammer, Scott Brown, DJ Flashback, loads more.
The first dubplate I produced, on the advice of people like Flashback and Hattrixx was a track called Time And Time. There was a dubplate pressing plant run by some Jamaicans down a back alley in Holloway, North London. This was called Music House, and was a huge influence for so many jungle and ragga DJs. I met up with Hattrixx at a train station in London and we headed over, and waited our turn while the big DJs turned up with their new tracks to get cut. Eventually after an hour or two of waiting, you went in while the sound engineer loaded up your track (I'd taken mine down on a CDR), sorted out all the levels, and you watched the dubplate being cut. The smell of a dubplate is amazing, and the air was thick with it. The guy asked me what genre this was, and I just said “new old skool rave”, and that was that. It cost £40 for the 10” plate, and I now have the dubplate framed on my wall.
Q.UK has many legendary Rave in 90's. (World Dance, Helter Skelter, Dreamscape, Raindance, Rezurection, etc.) How was the UK Rave scene from the late 90's to the middle of 2000?
Around 1997 I’d say the happy hardcore scene collapsed. There were still events every weekend pretty much, but hardcore was stuck in a rut. Something that it would stay stuck in until around 2002 or so. Drum & Bass was in its stride, and many people including myself got back into old skool. Between 1992 and 1996 the music had progressed so quickly, with such a variation in sound, and so many tunes released, that there was enough music for a resurgence in the old rave sound. By late 1997 “old skool” was a feature at raves, and this never really changed. There were still large raves (at least until The Sanctuary closed down in 2003).
Q.When did Happy Hardcore become popular in the UK? How did you feel when Happy Hardcore became popular?
Back in mid-93, the scene had got very dark. After the two years of hardcore, people seemed to be trying to make tracks that were darker than everyone else, and a whole genre “darkside” was the norm. Rave magazines in the UK were full of people complaining that the scene had got too dark, and something had to give. Slipmatt (him again!) then made a track called “SMD Volume 1”, that had the jungle breaks that were becoming more and more popular, but with pianos and vocals from early rave music. It was a huge hit, and started happy hardcore. For the next couple years things were amazing – 1994/1995 happy hardcore is my favourite music, before things went very stompy and the breakbeats were dropped. In my opinion, this was a terrible decision, but you can’t change history!
Q.Did Happy Hardcore and Gabba fans connect in the UK? Or Apart?
For example, Hixxy, DJ H.M.S. & Loftgroover, Dougal, Slipmat, The DJ Producer played on Helter Skelter. and Hellfish made the early Happy Hardcore with Secret Squirrel.
What do you think of the relationship between Happy Hardcore and Gabba in the UK?
There was definitely a lot of crossover between happy hardcore and gabba in the mid 90’s. The genre Bouncy Techno was the bridge between the two scenes, and the tracks on labels like Pengo and Screwdriver Records coming out of Holland. At the time, drum n bass, jungle, hardcore, gabba and techno was all still being played at the same events. You had people like Clarkee that would get harder as the set went on, but then you’d have special areas (such as the amazing Technodrome at the Helter Skelter raves) that allowed DJ’s to play harder than you’d hear in the other rooms. DJ HMS is still one of my favourites for being so much more incredibly hard than the other DJs!
Q.When do you think Happy Hardcore started being called UK Hardcore?
Are Happy Hardcore and UK Hardcore exactly the same thing?
I think Happy Hardcore has always meant different things to different people, and at different times. Confusing, no?! For me, “Happy Hardcore” has meant the music – predominantly UK-based but also including Dutch hardcore, from around 1994-1998.
For me, UK Hardcore is the more trance/EDM sounding stuff from 2002 onwards. I know a lot of people refer to the very new “happy” hardcore as “UK Hardcore” to differentiate it from the “Hardcore” European sound which is much tougher, but for me most of the best new hardcore in recent years has come from American producers! Like I said, it’s all pretty confusing as it all falls under the Hardcore label.
Q.What is the difference between Rave in the 90s and Rave in the 2000s?
As much as many people look back to the 1990’s with rose-tinted glasses, I don’t think raves have changed all that much. They are much more expensive now than they used to be – that is one sure thing! Everything from drinks, to DJ fees is a lot more expensive nowadays. However, for the big raves back in the early 90’s, it would still be £20-£25 for a ticket!
The sound nowadays is much better. Systems like Funktion 1 and Void have made things much better sounding, helped by an overall big jump in production quality and the fact that many DJ’s nowadays use digital devices to play music rather than vinyl decks.
Overall though, I wouldn’t say much has changed. People are still friendly, music is still good, and people still know how to have a good time. Just try not to spend so much time on your phones, ok? 😊
Q.Since when are you making music? What was the opportunity?
Although I started making “noises” of a sort on my Commodore 64 as a kid, the first proper music I wrote was in 1994, around the same time I started DJing. I had a PC306SX, and I downloaded a copy of Fast Tracker onto it. This was a whole new world for me, and I quickly tried Scream Tracker and Impulse Tracker. I loved Impulse Tracker and stayed with it until 2005. All my early stuff was written in Trackers and I’ll always have a soft spot for them.
Q.Your debut record is "Killerwhale / Feel The Power Of Bass" right?
Please tell us the background of this record.
As I mentioned, I’d been writing music by 2000 using Trackers and I ran my own mailing list where I sent these out to people as promo’s. I’d been offered my first slot on a pirate radio station in London, called InterFACE, and I wanted to write a new track for it. In around an hour I wrote Killerwhale. I’d had the idea to make a version of Bjork’s Bachelorette that was similar to the Alec Empire remix, but more danceable. I was already a huge fan of Alec Empire but this particular track, although it was great, wasn’t danceable enough – not like his earlier stuff on Force Inc. So, I decided to try making a more danceable version, but also throw in some Enya which I happened to be listened to at the time.
It was an instant hit, but I knew nothing about labels or who to approach. A guy on the Internet I was talking to at the time, DJ Hattrixx, suggested we start a label to release it, and I’m always the kind of person who is up for trying something, even if I don’t really know how to do it. We pressed up Killerwhale and I chose one of my other tracker files, Feel The Power of Bass, for the flipside. Very quickly people were asking for copies, and nobody else at the time had tried pressing up a breakbeat hardcore release. I’ve been told by a few people that releasing it gave them the courage to try doing the same, and without it (and a couple other people who had tried something similar around 2000/2001) the breakbeat hardcore scene wouldn’t have grown again. I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s nice to hear.
Q.You are collaborating with Luna-C and release on Kniteforce. Please tell us about your encounter with him. What do you think of his music and the work of the label?
Luna C got in touch after Killerwhale had been released. He loved what he’d heard, and was in the process of re-starting Kniteforce Records, under the guise of KFA (Kniteforce Again). He asked if he could remix Killerwhale, and of course I said Yes. At the time, I didn’t really know much about him other than the fact I vaguely remembered his name from some releases back in the mid 90’s, but other people held him in awe, so I was happy to go along and meet him. Although nowadays I don’t speak to him that often, I’d still consider him a friend and someone who you can talk to and although it’s been a few years instantly get on with again.
Chris (aka Luna-C) has a great determination and drive, and he gets things done. There’s a lot of people in the scene who have great ideas, but nothing comes out of it. Kniteforce is one of the labels who has a huge background to them – I should mention this isn’t down solely to Chris, as there are other hugely dedicated people in the Kniteforce family who do an amazing job.
Q.Are you a regular DJ for Bangface? Do you remember playing for the first time on Bangface?
My first Bang Face was in 2005, and I went with a few friends and had an amazing time. Because the music genre was so flexible, it was instantly the sort of event I loved and something which wasn’t really happening any more at raves.
I emailed St. Acid (who runs Bang Face) and asked to DJ, and around a year later he got back in touch offering me the opening slot. In the end I played for around two hours, and had everyone – including other DJs – jumping around like mad. After that St. Acid asked me if I wanted to keep playing the opening slot, and that’s now been going for 15 years 😊
Early on I mixed on vinyl, and brought my own CDJ (not many clubs at the time had CDJs which did as many effects as my Numark Axis9 did), but very soon changed to CDJs by the time the CDJ1000’s were available.
Q.When did you start Endor Recordings? What is the concept of the label?
Endor started on the 1st January 2010. I’d been involved in managing a few labels before (Nu Underground, BBHC etc) but Endor was my own project. I’d been looking for an outlet for my remix of UK TV show The Antiques Roadshow which was doing well at events, but there didn’t seem to be many labels at the time who I could send it to. I was being sent a lot of tracks from friends to play out, and they were in the same situation where there wasn’t a suitable label.
I still wanted a label that released fast rave music that had both breakbeats, and kickdrums in it (like I said, my favourite era was always 1994-1995). So, I decided to start my own. For me, DJing has always been about finding new music that no one else has heard yet, and Endor has always been about pushing new artists out there. Some artists like Wan Bushi and Shadowplay have gone on to great success and I’m happy they had early releases on my label. I’m hoping the same comes true of newer artists like Scotone and Technodynamia.
Q.You mix Jungle ~ DNB ~ Bass ~ Breakcore and UK Hardcore. When did this genre-less style come about?
I’ve always been into all sorts of dance music – be it trance, dance, dubstep, trip hop, breakcore, speedcore, whatever. No matter what the genre is (with the exception of trip hop or downtempo), the thing that gets me is the energy. The more energy the better. So in my sets I try to focus on keeping that euphoric energy there, no matter whether it’s from a drum n’ bass track, a breakcore track, or a hardcore track. I’ve always felt music – at least rave music – is a ball of energy, and if you’re dancing, producing, or DJing, I like to imagine the sound energy as a ball of energy and your job is to keep it fed, constantly building.
Q.What is your current equipment? What is the most enjoyable part of music production?
My setup is mostly software based, and always has been. I’m a computer software engineer and website developer, so I’ve always been comfortable with software. So, I have a Miditech iControl-61 keyboard, my KRK Rokit 6 speakers, and my laptop. That’s pretty much it for hardware! Oh, I have a Pioneer XDJ-RX for DJing at home, but I also use this for some sampling.
Software wise, since I moved from Trackers to a DAW back in 2005 I’ve pretty much always used Acid Pro, which is currently being released by Magix. I’ve just updated to Acid Pro 10, and then VST wise my go-to’s are Serum, Massive, Sylenth1 and Spire.
My favourite part of music production is definitely coming up with a really awesome sound that you KNOW is going to make people’s eyes pop out of their head, haha! Often it’s finding that perfect bass sound, such as the bass on my track Pandora, or more recently the bass I helped engineer for the track Technodynamia on Endor. Sometimes, it’s just getting the combination of breakbeats and percussion perfect on a track. I’m pretty experimental and almost never follow the pattern of something I’ve done before, so I just keep trying things until I find something that sounds amazing. There’s not really a method I’m consciously aware of, but it’s more an awareness of something great happening haha!
Q.What is the definition of "Neo-Rave"?
St. Acid himself came up with the idea of Neo-Rave, a fusion of all rave genres, and I think it suits the name perfectly. For a lot of people “rave music” means the early 90’s, so “neo-rave” is contemporary rave music, even if that includes some of the old stuff as part of it.
Q.What makes Bangface different from other Rave?
For a start, Bang Face was different because it was neo-rave. By the early 2000’s, there were almost no multi-genre events in the UK at all. You could go to a techno night, or a hardcore night, or a jungle night, but everything in one room? Nah. Bang Face changed that. It also had the FUN aspect of raves that had been lost around 1998 or so, helped with the inflatables, silly signs, and people who wanted some escapism from the fashionableness that mainstream clubbing culture had become. People didn’t want to drink Bacardi, try to act better than everyone else, or the bling. Many people just wanted to rave.
I think that’s something that still holds true today. There are too many clubs that focus on how you look, what you wear, who you impress. Bang Face hasn’t even been like that. It’s a place that doesn’t give a fuck about any of that, and the people who come feel the same way. Also there’s a huge family around Bang Face, and after a couple of raves you will see the same faces turn up, and it ends up like a huge house party. I know this can feel a little intimidating to some, but just chat to anyone – literally anyone – and that will quickly change.
Q.What is the most important thing when you DJ? What do you think modern DJs need?
Energy. That’s the top thing I think someone needs. I hate seeing a DJ who is playing amazing tracks and is just standing there – or even worse – doing something that doesn’t show respect for the crowd like checking their watch or their phone. You are making hundreds, or thousands of people dance – the least you can do is show them the same respect back.
A love for the music is paramount. Obviously, you should only play music you love, but you need to show that love for the music – show why it means so much to you. Your affection for it should be obvious and the crowd or whoever is listening will feed off of that.
Q.How do you keep a balance between Night Life (DJ Life) and normal life?
This is probably something I find the hardest. I have a full-time job, a wife, two kids who are both in primary (elementary) school, and also do a weekly radio show, run a label, produce music, and DJ. It’s hard. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My day job gives me the money I need to pay the bills and provide for my family, and I love my work. And music is a “professional hobby” as far as I treat it. I love to hear new music and play it to others – this is the driving force behind me as a DJ and as a label owner. And obviously I love to write music. This is the time I probably get the least to do, but I try to spend at least six hours a week doing it. This doesn’t sound much, but it’s about the best I can get!
Q.Please tell me the top 3 records you played most in the 90s / 2000 / 2010s?
#3 – Prizna ft Demolition Man, “Fire”
#2 – DJ Hellfish, “Serious Evil Shit Mission 3”
#1 – Vibena, “Positive Energy Part 1”
#3 – AC Slater, “Crowd Control”
#2 – Konflict, “Messiah”
#1 – CLSM, “See You On The Other Side (Cube Hard Mix)”
#3 – Gammer & Whizzkid, “Love You Everyday”
#2 – D Jahsta, “Run Dat”
#1 – The Sickest Squad, “Zombie (Distonn Remix)”
Q.Please tell us your future schedule.
At the moment with the coronavirus, everything is up in the air in terms of playing out, but I’m hoping once things get better to play overseas again, and at more festivals here in the UK. I have been invited to the west coast of America which will be awesome, and the only place that I haven’t yet played in that is on my “DJ wishlist” is Japan, so you never know – I love Japanese culture, and spent a year learning Japanese when I lived in Oxford – so hopefully one day I may get a chance to play closer to you!
Besides that, I’m focusing more this year on my label Endor Recordings. This year I decided to take the label fully digital, meaning I can release more quickly, and already we’ve had an EP from an amazing new female producer (Technodynamia). The next release, due April, has the return of Vibena (and as you saw, his track Positive Energy Part 1 from back in 1995 is my favourite track in the world, EVER so it is a huge honour to have him back), and there’s lots more planned.
Finally, I have a rapidly building list of tracks people want from me for labels such as Suck Puck, Wrong Music, and more, so I need to focus more on making music while we are all stuck indoors!
Thanks for the questions, and I look forward to sending more music your way! 😊