As we reach almost half a year of lockdown-enforced live set streams, it’s an interesting time to look back over the landscape and see how things have developed… And how well people have reacted to the profound change of circumstances we’ve all experienced this year.
At first it was a means to remain inspired and perhaps recoup a little income from cancelled shows. Then, as we realised the gravity of the situation, much bigger issues came into the picture and the move towards fund-raisers was arguably one of the most positive moves the scene has shown all year.
Since then every DJ and label has found their own groove and their own way of combatting the rave shut-down. Over the summer there’s been a smorgasbord of online event concepts from VR to Minecraft to the classic guerrilla-style off-the-cuff live streams from DJs who pop up on your feed with no announcement and proceed to smash it to those lucky enough to be online and catch it at that moment. There have been serious moments like the Stay At Home Festival and The Prototypes 24 hour marathon and heroes who timed their set so well that it was as close to a rave experience as possible. The feeling behind it, the collective online energy from the fans and the delivery all making up for the shitiness we’ve been battling since March.
A.M.C was one of the earliest examples. Kicking off the D&BTV Locked-In series within weeks of lockdown, he flew straight out of the gates and set the benchmark. Doc Scott has been an absolute soldier, too. The most consistent DJ in the genre during these strange times, his weekly DNBVID-19 Saturday sessions have raised money for all kinds of charities. The aforementioned Prototypes 24 hour set was another big moment, as was the precision timed arrival of Andy C who dropped an outstanding mix in June, three months into lockdown when everyone was beginning to lose hope… Not just hope in seeing an Andy C set during lockdown but just hope in general.
Then came Mampi Swift. After months of looking after his family, recalibrating to these strange times and surveying the landscape himself, he bulldozed into the live set streaming game on August 15 with the monstrous 3+ set we all needed but totally don’t deserve. Landing at a point when division and toxicity was at the highest it’s ever been online, Professor Phillip Swift brought us back to what brings us all together in the first place… Badass heavyweight drum & bass from across every single subgenre, mixed together with raw off-the-cuff energy and pure soul.
It worked a treat. Over the course of 3 and a quarter hours, and 165 tracks, Mampi Swift unified all fans with the foundation melting pot manifesto the music was built on…. And an obscene amount of mind-boggling triples and doubles that joined indelible dots between the last 25 years of drum & bass. Even by Swift’s own standards, this was immense. Just like his album Victory Rose, released on Boxing Day last year, this was a statement and an honest reflection of where he’s at in 2020. It’s how he feels about the music, it’s how he feels about himself as an artist and how he wants to be seen.
It’s also his first mix since 2013. And that was only half hour long. Making up for lost time and making us all remember why he has the status he does in drum & bass, we catch up with Mampi to understand just how deep he went in for his set earlier this month…
You took your time to join the streaming gang! What did you make the whole streaming thing when lockdown kicked it?
Everyone went streaming crazy! I voiced my opinion on this to some friends. Not to be critical, but just concerned that we’re giving too much and losing value. A few people shut me down but I just wanted to see a little order to it so we could all support each other and see if there was any way of making this work for everyone. But everyone was reacting to the situation in their own way. I knew I’d do something, but I wanted to make sure it was special. This was more than just a stream. For me, it was an opportunity to remind people who I am, and also introduce myself to a generation who don’t know who I am. I haven’t got many mixes out there and what is out there doesn’t entirely define me. We’ve had many deep conversations about this; I wouldn’t want what was out there before this stream to define me because I know I’m 10 times better.
Exactly like productions with your album. Kinda bringing everyone up to speed. THIS is Mampi Swift in 2020.
That’s exactly it!
So with this in mind, I reckon you went IN on the preparation for this mix.
Well I cut the stream by 105 tracks!
Yeah, seriously. There’s another two hours two and a half hours of that. I just got into a zone of putting something together that was going to be special. I got in so deep mate. It was nearly 300 tracks but yeah we cut another third of it and the total was 165 in the end.
It always feels really natural when whenever I’ve seen you play over the years. There’s this vibe that you’re trying things out and surprising yourself sometimes. But I’m sure hours of practice went into the mixes before you turned the camera on?
No! I don’t have decks to practice! It’s long story why I don’t currently have decks but that’s how it is. But I’ve been doing this a long time, so it’s all working out in my head really. Obviously we have Rekordbox so when I’m listening to promos I’ll make a note of things that I think will work or go together well. And the old stuff I know inside out anyway. For me, it was the transitions that piece the whole thing together. I wanted whole thing to be joined together. So when you listen to it properly from start to finish you’ll hear that there are no mixes that are mixed for the sake of it. Everything has a purpose in the mix.
And you worked it all out in your head. I always find it mad when a DJ doesn’t have decks but then you use them when you’re working every night. A surgeon doesn’t have a hospital bed in their spare room for practice do they?
Haha. No! Nice comparison but I wouldn’t recommend not having decks. Especially for all DJs coming through now. But it is what it is for me and, yeah, I’ve been doing this so long it’s as natural as brushing my teeth. I’ve been playing records and putting music together, thinking like a DJ, since I was six years old. No one can tell me how to DJ. But what I loved about this mix, more than anything, is that I was playing completely unrestrictedly. I played solely what I wanted to play.
I guess with no crowd in front of you, you can play exactly what you want…
Exactly. Prior to lockdown, I might be playing on a line-up where there are five or six DJs of the same subgenre all playing before or after me and I’ve seen how the crowd reacts to them. That gets me questioning what I’m playing and whether the crowd will like it. I don’t know. Maybe you can say the confidence isn’t quite there, but either way, it was something that I would deal with. But with this stream I didn’t have to worry about any of that. It was like, ‘let me give you ‘me’.’ No pressure, just me putting a bit of my soul out there. It sounds deep but that’s what it was. It’s the best mix I’ve ever put out there and I feel that way because I put my soul into it.
That’s amazing. For me, the mix was a trip through time, literally no era was left uncovered, and also your musical make-up. This was a mission through the Mampi Swift musical psyche….
100%! If anyone can tell me the subgenre I played, I’d love to hear what they think.
Just drum & bass, straight up!
You know what I mean? Sometimes it was a bit softer, other times harder, other times darker but totally across the board. And that’s a true reflection of me. More than a lot of club sets I played because I’m not second guessing where I fit in on that line-up. Like ‘oh shit I’m playing to a jump-up crowd, I better play jump-up’, for example.
I’m really hoping we move away from that when clubs open again. Hopefully people will be appreciative of everything since we’ve been denied it for so long…
That’s how it should be man! That’s drum & bass. I went from Noisia to Bukem on that set. You can’t get more contrasting and that’s the beauty of drum & bass – that you can play everything. And yes, I think there will be an enhanced appreciation for everything when things go back to whatever normal will be. And in this sense this mix helps me a lot as well. I’ve had a chance to get the fairest, most honest representation of what I do as an artist out there. I need to do me. Not the me that’s second guessing what people will like. Just me being me, playing what I love. That’s what my attitude has to be moving forward.
Surely the support in the chat room and everything people have posted about it since the mix have reinforced that, too?
It’s been overwhelming, man. I don’t really go in for reading the comments and feedback but a few people told me to take a look and I was really happy. A lot went into that mix. Standing there for three and a half hours and concentrating on that that level is a pretty intense experience. So yeah, when you put yourself out there on that level and the feedback is positive then it’s a good feeling.
You’re right about the intensity. I don’t think there’s any moment when there aren’t at least two tunes rolling together. Now knowing you don’t even practice this beforehand makes it even more impressive. You must surprise yourself with these mixes.
That’s the beauty of not having decks! I can’t over-practice and over-finesse things. I can think about the mixes and go through Rekordbox all day long but when I mix it live I hear it for the first time and I’m buzzing to it just like you are. Obviously there’s some classic mixes I’ve done before and a few I remember doing before lockdown and of course the risky ones where I’m not even sure if it’s going to work or not but I’ll give it a go anyway….
I love the risky ones! They’re the best. That’s proper DJing; off-the-cuff spontaneity!
Definitely man. And I think the spontaneity is harder to achieve as we work with digital tools because it’s not the same as rifling through records physically.
Yeah! You’d know a tune just from a little logo or squiggle on a white label wouldn’t you?
Mate I could pick up an all-black dubplate with no label on it and know which tune it was just because of the marks on the vinyl or where it was in my box. Your relationship with your records went deep!
The intensity was even stronger than as well with vinyl. Throwing off triples and doubles but on vinyl, in a club environment with the decks shaking from the system. Definitely no sync and possibly even a few drinks back in those days?
Haha, nah even back then I always had to keep sharp. I know some guys are capable of getting messed up and can just turn up and smash it, but for me it’s always been too spiritual to include drink or anything. Not dissing anyone who plays when they’re on that vibe but for me it was too much interference with my psyche.
Totally. No other job would you get paid to get drunk!
Know what I mean? It’s intense and it involves a lot of concentration. You can’t be messed up to do things on that level. Well, I definitely can’t! I think if I was mixing in any other mindset it wouldn’t be honest. It wouldn’t be the right representation. I wouldn’t be doing myself justice.
I think the positive reaction you’ve had to the mix is the online D&B community doing themselves justice. There’s been a distinct lack for PLUR online over lockdown!
Well firstly, I’m bowled over by the reaction. It’s been remarkable. But, like you’re saying there’s been a lot of negativity and drama, and that’s a shame. The world is in a crazy place and I think it’s a reflection of that. But I did wonder what the vibe would be like to my set because of that but the reaction was incredible. Some of the things people were saying. I don’t need to go anywhere quite yet!
You don’t! Nobody does. And there’s more than enough space for the pioneers and any generation coming through since. I’ve spoken to Ray Keith about this for another article; how, for the first time, D&B is old enough to have generations of DJs who could be father and son / mother and daughter and that creates a different dynamic…
That’s a really interesting point. The music is old enough for that to happen. But that only works when both those generations are doing something real and not resting off any laurels or hype. For us older guys, and I’ve said this to you a bunch of times now, if you’re going to be called a legend then you need to do something legendary. People bigging up the mix? That’s great. That’s what I want. It’s something I’ve done in the present and is relevant to what’s happening now. I’ve never been about sitting there and waiting for big ups for something I did 20 or 25 years ago.
That was the idea of the album as well wasn’t it? To have an up to date reflection of where you’re at in 2020 at the top of your discography. So despite the shittiness of this year, it’s been a good time for new Mampi Swift tunes and mixes…
I guess so! Like so many of us, this year was set to be a really good year until the pandemic. But there are silver linings. I mean the mix is a good example. For me this was really important to do, I’ve been meaning to make a mix for years but when you’re gigging every weekend you never do it. The last mix I did make was 2013. And it was a half an hour mix. It’s been far too long. So thanks everyone who watched it and took part in that.
It really wasn’t the standard stream was it? This goes deep
You know me Dave, everything goes deep or what’s the point? It’s a piece of my soul. Just like the album was.
Were you busy writing during lockdown?
Nah. I had family life and I enjoyed the break for what it was. But I gotta say, I’m itching to get back in the studio now. I got a lot of ideas and a lot of things half done which I’ve had enough space from. I’m hoping to get something out by the end of the year. It could be one track, could be four tracks, could be 24!
I’m not going to tie myself down to any number but whatever comes out will be from the heart. The thing is, I’ve kinda trained for something like this without realizing. I’ve been through periods of my career where I’ve had nothing out and been completely inactive. So I’ve not gone out on my mind that everything is shut down. I’m not I’m not desperate for people to hear me, I’ve gone past that stage mentally years ago. So for me personally, anything I’ve put out in the last 10 years has been because I’ve wanted to and not for gigs, or to keep my career going, it’s just out of pure love and the want to express myself. So yeah, let’s see what the future brings….