I am DJ Maniphest a UK Hip Hop DJ who has released music on two volumes of Bomb USA's legendary 'Return of the DJ series' and has also recorded for Fat City records, Apeman and DMC. Based in Hip Hop's homestead Milton Keynes!!!???
What got me started was when Breakdancing and Electro first hit the UK in a big way, from the moment I heard and saw it I thought it was amazing!!!, My older brother had mad tapes of those early classics (Al Naayfish, Hip Hop Be Bop, Nucleus etc). Bristol was quick to pick up on the scene and to this day still has a strong Hip Hop scene.
What is your name about? Is it an old nickname or is there something behind it? Something as simple as you showing people what you have got on offer?
MANIPHEST is a name I've had since the early years, simply from hearing 'Words I Manifest' by Gangstarr for the first time, I thought that the name sounded good, now twelve/thirteen years later and despite the fact that there are so many artists with similar names I've stuck with it. Jess (DJ Bombjack) advised me to sometimes record under the name 'DJ MANIPHEST' so that people who know my previous releases etc. will recognise that I am the genuine Hip Hop article.
Back in the day, what was it that made you turn to Hip Hop? What would you bump in your walkman?
Oh so many classics!!!!!!!! What made me turn was the early tunes like Craig G's 'Transformer' and everyone from Cold Crush to Grandmaster Flash made me sit up and pay attention. I bumped pretty much everything from back in the day when it was nearly all quality artists like The Bizzie Boyz, Jewel T, Ultimate Force, JVC Force, Freshco & Miz, Tuff Crew, through to P.E., Ultramagnetic, Paris, Black Sheep, Leaders, Tribe, Pete Rock & CL, Kurious Jorge etc.
Can you remember the things that were going off Hip Hop wise in your area at that time? Either in Bristol, but I guess that would really be in Milton Keynes cos you moved there in 1985, is that right?
I remember that when I moved to Milton Keynes it was a major step in the evolution and education of me personally in the Hip Hop world???????? It sounds crazy but the simple fact was that I was able to pick up Capital Radio and listen to the legendary Mike Allen 'Allen's Army' Hip Hop radio shows which exposed me to so much Hip Hop that I fell deeper in love with the music. These incredible shows pioneered the broadcasting of Hip Hop in the UK long before Westwood was around.
Were there any particular DJs who inspired you, or whom you based your style on?
All of the 'greats' inspired me like Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff, Alladin, Joe Cooley, D.S.T., Flash, Terminator X and then local people like Tony (DJ Halo from Milton Keynes / Buckingham based TCM) and Lex (from Milton Keynes based Rhyme & Reason) and the other UK greats like Undercover, Supreme, Mada, Devestate, DJ Mink and Pogo.
OK, so around 1990 you made a decision to put more energy into DJing and production. What was your motivation for this and how did you first go about it?
It was around the time that the Demon Boyz, MC Duke, Hijack, Overlord X and The Cookie Crew were blowing up and I felt inspired to buy turntables and attempt to scratch and then maybe do some mixtapes, I started recording in the usual 'pause tape' method but then borrowed a four track from school and decided to try and build a track from other instrumentals. It was with friends who shared the love of Hip Hop that I first embarked upon my initial forays into production which started with simply looping through means of back to back mixing simple stuff like the funky drummer intro of 'Lyrics Of Fury' and other drum breaks on Hip Hop tracks like 'Give The Drummer Some' - It probably sounds silly to the backpack wearing 'turntablists' of the now, but people who were into the music at that time growing up know exactly what I'm talking about because we all did it!!!!
In that period then you were working with people like Two Tone from British Dialect and Daddy Baker a.k.a. Mirage, but none of that early material surfaced. Was that because you simply weren't ready, or were there other reasons for not dropping then?
We made numerous tapes and I worked with a lot of rappers in the city (and I still am in the shape of Paul Alliman, and True Element) but with those earlier attempts you just don't think when your that young that you can ever 'make it' on that scale and plus it was probably wrong to release the music before our voices broke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had no idea that ten years later I would be making tracks with the UK DMC champion (Mr Thing) and people like Cut Chemist and Peanut Butter Wolf would be saying that my music was good!!!.
Although that must have been disappointing, you must have improved your skills. What would you say are the most important things that you learned from this time recording demos?
I learnt a hell of a lot about the music and the Hip Hop culture through watching the gimmicks and trends come and go. I think it helps that I was there listening to it in those early days and heard stuff like Uptowns 'Dope On Plastic' and Most Wanted's 'Calm Down' when they came out because it made me appreciate exactly what quality music was. If you look at people now who in my opinion are making the best stuff in the UK i.e.: Brad (The Nextmen), Richy (Pitch), Mark B, Braintax and the P-Brothers, we are all around the same age (lets just say over 25 !!! ) and I think that in the case of Hip Hop sometimes older can mean not only wiser but also better.
So, in 1999 you had your first record out. Scratch Samba on the Main Ingredients EP from Fat City. How did that release come about then? Was it simply a matter of sending a demo off to Darren Laws in Manchester and he loved it, or was there a fair amount of shopping the track to different labels?
I was DJ-ing at Scratch in London on the same night as Aim and Darren Laws (Grand Central/Fat City's A&R) was there, I told him that I made music and that I had material which I thought was above average so he asked me to send him the track. It went to Fat City first and I was honoured that it was signed for the E.P.
So how was the track received?
The track was received very well and still gets played a lot to this day, people mainly know me from that track despite the Return of the DJ tracks I have released which I would say were more widely distributed.
Can you talk us through your recording career after that then? As you just mentioned, you were to hook up with San Francisco's Bomb records where you contributed to the Return Of The DJ Volume 3 with a collaboration track with DJ Mr Thing? That must have been pretty amazing to be featured alongside some of the biggest names in the industry.
Well I bought volumes one and two and I was a regular Mr Bongo shopper at that time, I spoke to Huw (Bowles) and told him that I had similar instrumental Scratch tracks and he advised me to contact David Paul (Bomb's CEO). I spoke to David and sent him the tracks - He loved the music and signed one of the tracks for Return of the DJ Vol 3. I was honoured because of that the label and the respect it has and knowing that volumes 1 & 2 of R.O.T.DJ featured greats like The X-Men, Invisible Skratch Piklz, Beat Junkies etc.
What really made me proud was once it was released when DJ Format called me and said that my track was the best track on Volume 3!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK, and then, last year, you had a track on the Superhero DJs EP from Seven records as well as your own Maniphestations EP on Apeman records. Can you tell us about how those records went, perhaps even tell us about the relationships you had with the labels and what sort of deal you may have been on?
Seven Records is DJ Bombjack's part time excursion into the realms of Hip Hop and I had met Jess many years ago whilst he was DJ-ing with Marc (Mr Thing), Jess wanted to put something of mine out as he liked the tracks I was producing. Apeman Records is a small indie which has released tracks by Harry Love and Major Force and the E.P. was some older material that I had at the time which I decided to submit to Dom (Apeman's label boss).
Right, and your last track out there was a return to your teaming up with Mr Thing and Bomb record's Return Of The DJ series. Amazingly you (and Mr Thing) are the only UK based DJs to have featured on two volumes of this series. How does that make you feel and can you describe the vibe behind that record?
Its a pure battle track which is constructed from fader taps and piano riffs - its a sonic assault and some of Marc's finest cuts are on display on that track. I felt amazed and privileged that I was the only person from the UK to have had tracks featured on two volumes of this legendary series.
Release wise, what else have you been involved in? You have done remix work for people like the Nextmen, Gangstarr and Redcloud haven't you? How did that come about?
That came about through Nick Darby from DMC, Nick asked Dan (Greenpeace) and Ed's (Pitt) permission and I did some interpretations of various tracks, remixing Gangstarr that was fantastic!!!!!!!!
Lets now talk about you as a DJ. Did you always know you were going to be a DJ, or did it take a while for you to decide or build up to it?
I always wanted to scratch after seeing it on television and DJ-ing was something which went hand in hand.
So, when would it have been, that you started spinning records? Did you start as strictly a bedroom DJ?
I started with in about 1988 when I was at school and I was about fourteen / fifteen.
What set up did you start out with?
I started out with belt drive Kenwoods and saved up and bought one Technics 1210, this probably explains why I am so strong on my left hand scratching because I was three years with one Technics turntable and one belt drive Kenwood on the right!!!! Production wise I started with an Atari STE and Replay sampling software but have progressed up to the equipment I now have, (MPC2000XL, Tascam 788, Spirit F1, Two 1210's and a Vestax 05 Pro).
Would you agree that starting out on shitty equipment would help a budding DJ learn light touch and stand them in good stead for the future, or would you recommend that they just get on a pro set up from day one?
I think it's an age thing I think everyone WANTS the good equipment but, because when your young you cant afford it you have to make do with Kam mixers and Tandy Turntables!!! It does help though because as you advance you get better and better.
Over the years have you had many different set ups or did you quickly settle on what you liked? Was it a money issue?
I've built on the little that I had but to do it I've had to work 9-5 wearing a shirt and a tie!!!!!!
Now you are using the standard Technics 1210s and a Vestax 05 or 07. So you do anything special to your set up, like have it hamster style, or do something funny with the cartridges in the head shells?
I do nothing with my carts except grind them and create Cue burn and warped vinyl which makes me angry. I do put a penny on the Stanton and keep a hamster in a wheel next to the tables but that doesn't help.
Haha. How would you best describe your style? Do you edge towards a particular style of scratching/cutting or mixing, or would you say that you don't specialise and try to cover everything?
I try to cover everything but I'm from the old school and can just scratch till my arms fall off.
Have you invented/discovered any scratches or special techniques of your own that you have or expect to be credited with? I know when I was DJing I invented everything I did for myself, but someone had already got there first!!
I was around before a flare and a crab were not something you shot from a boat or a creature on the seabed!!! All those styles were around but never named I just went at my own pace and managed to create some brilliant sounds.
To get to your level and keep it there do you find yourself practising all the time? How many hours per day would you be at your decks?
I used to practice a lot but now I have a son I find that life is no longer JUST about Hip Hop, I try and squeeze in a few cuts in between changing naps!!!
I understand that you have a full time job as well. You must find it frustrating and really hard to fit everything in? Do you think you could be even better if you packed in your job and did it full time like some people?