Matt Ford may not be a name that you recognise, but his alter-ego is one of the longest running names on the scene and he took time out to chat with me. Ladies and Gentlemen, take your hats off to DJ Format.
How’s it going?
It’s all good thanks, I’ve just come back from a weekend in Liverpool supporting Blackalicious which was incredible, it was one of those nights where everyone in the room was on the same wavelength and were wanting the same thing. Blackalicious themselves were outstanding, and the people they got to do the openings were amazing, from all different Liverpudlian crews, one guy was beat boxing while playing a flute, they were breakdancing, they had MC’s rapping, it was great vibes, really got me in the mood. I played a lot of party stuff once Blackalicious had been on, it gave people a chance to let loose a bit.
How did music start for you?
I think it was a combination of hearing my mum on the piano and being in the car with my dad with music on when I was a kid – I was always surrounded by music. I remember being 9 or 10 and recording the Top 40 on a Sunday, like most kids from that generation. When I was around 13, I discovered hip-hop, that age is when you start to find out who you are and start shaping as a person, I began to find my feet in music. It was around ‘86/’87 when the hip-hop bug really hit and it suddenly wasn’t just about music anymore, it was everything within that lifestyle; beatboxing, b-boying, graffiti, all the things you’d associate with it… I tried them all out and discovered I wasn’t much good at any, which is where music came in. But I guess it was natural evolution, I left school and almost immediately bought some turntables, then I started scratching and eventually I felt I had to leave Southhampton and move somewhere more musically enriched, I took the leap and ended up in Brighton – there were more people doing what I was doing instead of me and my friends being ‘bedroom DJ’s’.
What’s happening for you right now?
I’m just generally having a recharge of my batteries, I’m having a break. I guess I’m waiting for some inspiration to hit to make some music, I’m fortunate enough to still be doing gigs every weekend across the UK and elsewhere, wherever I’m invited! I’m just collecting more and more records. I realise how lucky I am to be doing the best job in the world and actually making a living from it.
How does a collaboration come about?
In the old days, it could be anything. My most memorable is how working with Abdominal came about, I was in Canada digging for records with my then girlfriend and I met this record dealer who was raving about some local band who handed me a copy of their works, I investigated and found him, from there we just got on. Nowadays it’s much easier, everyone is constantly collaborating because of the internet, we’re all connected ‘cause it isn’t such a big world anymore. I did a tune with Edan a while back, Mr Lif heard it and publicly spoke on Twitter saying how much he enjoyed it, I replied and some kid entered the conversation saying how cool it’d be for us to work together. I wouldn’t have dared come out and say it like that so I was grateful he’d opened that door for me. A lot of artists now are trying to be heard, but I try and be selective about who I work with… Though beggars can’t be choosers!
What can we expect from you in 2015?
Honestly? I would love to release an album but I can’t until I get inspired, I tried a few months back to sit and force myself to write and I just couldn’t do it. There are some artists out there who contrive music to release because this is their job and they don’t wanna drop off the radar, but listening to it, it’s evident they’ve run out of ideas. I don’t want to release something fake, but at the same time, I don’t wanna leave it so long so people are like: ‘DJ what? Foreskin? Forwho?’
What are you currently listening to?
I don’t actually listen to a lot of hip-hop or modern music, I very much have one foot stuck in the past, the latest album I bought was Shadow by Little Barrie, I saw them a couple of months back and bought it from them. I’m really into rock, psych, blues, and jazz – any music from the late 60’s or early 70’s. I occasionally buy hip-hop 12’ singles, but it’s usually ‘throwback rap’.
What was the first record you ever bought?
I’ve been asked this a few times, and the only answer I can muster is Complete Madness by Madness, which was basically their greatest hits. I was utterly obsessed with them when I was 10 and I’d recorded all their albums on cassette, so to own that vinyl with the sleeve notes and pictures of the band was a huge deal for me. It’s probably still at my mum and dads, I should go get it. I don’t think DJ Format would play it, but Matt Ford loves that. Don’t tell anyone, but I remember buying the single of ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ by Mötley Crüe and really grooving to it before being like: ‘yeahh, this isn’t really me.’’
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
James Brown is an absolute hero of mine, simply because of the sheer amount of music he created. But I don’t think I could really do anything with him. Herbie Hancock, however, he was the first artist I became obsessed with, I would say him but I’m not worthy.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be and why?
I trained as a carpenter when I left school, but my slight OCD and my general lack of skill meant I didn’t exactly excel. I think I’d just bounce around doing different jobs, I’ll end up in B+Q or McDonalds… I don’t have any skills on paper for a job application, I don’t think: ‘Cutting tracks for 8 hours a day without going mad’ counts as a skill.
What’s your favourite piece of music you’ve created?
It’s hard because I get different levels of satisfaction from different things. On the one hand, I’m extremely proud of ‘We Know Something You Don’t Know’ because it’s the perfect hip-hop record I wanted to create. But I didn’t really do anything other than cut beats and drums from other tracks. Then ‘English Lesson’ has around 50-100 samples cut in, so I’m satisfied that I sat and went through it all. ‘Copper Canyon’ is an instrumental piece that developed from a single beat that plays all the way through, so the satisfaction of inter-cutting that with other stuff is immense. I’m satisfied in different ways by each.
DJ Format will be joining Mouse Outfit at Queens Social Club on the 17th of April. Come party with us.
By Ellie Greenfield