It's not every day that you get to meet a DJ/presenter who presents 8 shows a week on one of the UKs biggest radio stations... and I'm running late... cos I'm a dick... and I don't know my Soho from my Golden Square.
I needn't stress... as I walk in ... apologizing profusely, Justin disarms me with a winning smile and his easy going charm. Looking svelte and relaxed, we fall into conversation naturally, and I learn that there is much more to this chap than meets the eye or that perhaps meets your ears...
I knew of Justin because of his association with Kiss FM ... I first met him a couple of years ago whilst doing an interview for a music company I was working for and our meeting was at their station.
There is no denying that Justin has a long and strong bond with Kiss.
Justin originally moved to London from Birmingham to take the reigns on Capital FMs 'Dance' music shows - after helping them to become a market leader, Justin was poached and his association with Kiss FM (and their subsequent Kisstory sub-brand) began.
Everyone I know absolutely loves 'Kisstory'... this monster started as a show on Kiss and reached mass audiences and gained huge levels of popularity based on a simple formula of playing non-stop 'Old Skool' and 'Anthems'.
Subsequently the 'Kisstory' brand took on a life of it's own.
It's has since spawned it's own station, and ridiculously huge club nights up and down the UK - of which Justin has been at the helm. The decision to headhunt him was clearly a smart one as Justin's ability to monopolizing listeners followed him to his new home.
With the rise of the 'superclub' Justin's love of music and his talent for it has seen him travel across the globe, bringing dance music to the masses in association with global brands such as 'Ministry of Sound', 'Gatecrasher' and 'Eden', stints at the world famous Cafè Del Mar in Ibiza followed and link ups with Amber Lounge have seen him DJ aboard luxury yachts for VIPs at the F1 Grand Prix in Monaco, and a new project with Global Village has seen Jay curate the music for 26 separate rides at a brand new amusement park in Dubai.
For me, nostalgia serves as a fundamental part of why I love music. Music forms the soundtrack to our memories, and songs serve as a reminder of those... but we make new memories every day and whilst there will always be a place in our hearts for those golden tracks, Justin as much as anyone is aware of the need to give a nod to the past - whilst keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the future.
As we talk about music, Justin lights up. He had a sparkle in his eyes and you can feel the passion and contagious energy radiating out of him.. whilst this year sees Justin celebrating 20 years in music, if you didn't know better it would be easy to label him as 'just' a DJ... but that would be a misnomer.
Justin has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, a vinyl collection that would put his contemporaries to shame, and an insatiable appetite for new sounds. He digs so deep for new music that fracking companies want to hire him.... 500 NEW TRACKS hit his inbox each week, and Justin happily spends his time scouring those for the best of the best and programs them for his shows...so... if you are a new dance music producer - you need to be following this chap.
Whilst we are on the subject of producing music - Justin is no stranger to producing himself... with two tracks already signed up to labels for 2018 this year looks to be the one that could change perceptions of Justin.
So many DJs unfairly find themselves perceived as as being 'just' a voice, but if you make that assumption with Justin, you are missing a trick. This is a man with more experience of the history of dance music than is suitable really, and that makes him a massively untapped resource.
If someone loves music so much that it inspires them leave their home and their friends, head to the big city, climb to the top of that particular tree and then use that as a springboard to travel the rest of the world... that shows the level of grit and determination that deserves recognition.
Traversing the tight rope between old skool and new music is a nichè that fits Justin perfectly... and whilst he might be too humble to admit that... I'm certainly not.
I am excited to see what Justin achieves this year, and more to the point... I look forward to receiving my invite to that luxury yacht in Monaco.
Follow Justin on:
I have known Jake and Jack - otherwise known as Drum and Bass duo 'Hillsdom' - for more than a few years now... they are as talented as fuck. What is even more exciting is that it is not just Sticky who feel that way. Achievements and recognition are becoming something of the norm for them these days.
Our telephone Q & A starts off naturally enough ...
'Alright Son?'... 'Alright Dad?' -
First question is a simple enough one - as the boys are playing infamous London nightclub Egg tomorrow night as part of 'Egg: present Viper Recordings'. This means that 'Hillsdom' will be playing alongside Matrix & Futurebound, Loadstar, Drumsound and Bassline Smith Tantrum Desire and special guests Calyx and TeeBee ...
2017 saw the release of 4 'Hillsdom' tracks... The journey started off with their first release 'Lucid Dreams' (See below) I start off tame:
Sticky: 'So how did the chance to play at Egg come about?'
Jake (deadpan): 'We've just been merking it basically (smashing it up)...' -This kills me ... and is typical of the kind of tongue in cheek laid back sense of humour with more than a little injection of self-confidence that I know and love about Jake... he has faith in their music...and why shouldn't he?
They HAVE been 'merking it'.
2017 saw the release of 4 'Hillsdom' tracks... The journey started off with their first release 'Lucid Dreams' (See below) - Once the laughter dies down - Jack picks up the thread ...
Jack: 'We have to be thankful to 'Viper' for all their support really ... they did a couple of releases on compilations ..
Jake: We played at their 'Viper' night in the summer ... and we've just had something out by them... (latest release: 'Sluggish') ... So ... yeah...grateful'.
Hillsdom have also seen more success with track 'Second Nature feat: Sally Watts' not only feature on a compilation album for UKF, but also saw the tune selected as only one of four from the album to be pressed onto vinyl. The chaps received a copy... how fucking nuts to be able to hold a vinyl with your own tune on it? How did that transpire?
Jake: 'Ray... (Hillsdoms mercurial manager) - Ray sent it to Luke at who runs 'Pilot' ... it all started from our first track 'Lucid Dreams' really... that kinda got us recognition with UKF ... UKF also did a sick little post on YouTube for us' ...
Jack: ' Though Pilot Records pushed our first release ' -
Hillsdom went on on to release four tracks in 2017:
Lucid Dreams | (Pilot Records).
Thoughtless | (Viper Recordings)
Second Nature feat: Sally Watts | (UKF) -
Sluggish | (Viper Recordings) - track also made 'Viper's' 2018 compilation.
Sticky: So tell me about Egg? (Hillsdom perform there tomorrow night)
Jake: 'From what I understand it's one of the best nightclubs in London... we can't wait' ...
So what is next for the 'Hillsdom' boys?
Jack: 'More releases ... more shows' ..
I try my hardest to push them for a specific date for fans to put in their calendar...but the lads are not stupid... they do give me a little secret to take away regarding something special they are working on .. but I can't spill the beans either.
It is exciting though ...
Jack: 'Keep tuned in for more music in the coming months....'
You can also catch Hillsdom at iconic festival Blissfields in July later this year ..
Sticky: Wait .. what?? You have a set at Blissfields this year?
Jack and Jake: (both) 'Yeah .'
Sticky: 'That's fucking dirty ...'
What is also dirty is the speed of progress that Hillsdom are making... played by dance music oracle Eddy Temple Morris is always a good sign and you can find mixes by Hillsdom on Soundcloud, DJ Mag Mix on Youtube and UKF Live (youtube as well) -
You can also catch them performing at Egg in London tomorrow night.
Big up boys ... merking it indeed. x
Let's play the word association game. I come up with a word and you say the first things that pops into your head.
Ready? ..... Southend.
Go on? What was it? I would bet that if you are not a native of those parts, then your answer would be rather different to those who are.
See... my perception of Southend was probably the same as yours before I got involved with TABOU. Seaside town, 'kiss me quick' hats, sticks of rock... all of those typical clichés.
All forgivable misconceptions if you are not plugged in - the truth though is in stark contrast.
See... having gotten to know more, when I think of Southend these days, I think of an explosion of creativity - I think of music, art, film and an abundance of talent.
Which leads me rather nicely onto the subject of this article (Cor...anyone would think I was a writer or something).
If you are a music lover, and you are not aware of Southends ever burgeoning music scene, then you are doing yourself a disservice, and I say that as a music lover myself. Southend is teeming with superb artists and bands. One of which are called 'TATE'.
Music is objective, and so you either like something or you don't. There is no shame in that.
Me personally, I'm a fussy little bugger, which probably explains the reason why my virginity is in the process of growing back ... but if I am fussy when it comes to partners, I'm perhaps even more so when it comes to music.
'Tate' though ... they do it for me. Not in a 'i'd best get the tissues out' kinda way... but they definitely give me ear-gasms. In defence of this statement, I would like to submit exhibit A.
The track 'White Lines' - there is no irony in how addictive this track is. White lines are supposed to keep you coming back for more, and this one does. Have a listen for yourself below.
A million talented bands come and go without making so much as a ripple, I suppose that is because talent is not enough. You also need to be dedicated, and hard working. You need to be a determined fucker and you need to show a strong sense of professionalism. I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of 'Tate' front man Ethan recently, and he exudes these qualities in spades. He is hungry. I dig that shit.
He displays that kind of magnetism that you want in a front man. When I go to watch a band, I don't want to be bored. I want to witness a band 'perform' songs... not just 'play' them. If you watch 'Tate' you can see and feel the lyrics resonating through Ethan, in the tone of his voice, and in the expressiveness of his movements. The lad feels it and because of that... I feel it. Hopefully, you will feel it too. The band are polished and tight. The lyrics personal. There is a skill in writing lyrical content that is deep, but simple enough to be considered 'sing'a'long'... yet that box gets a bit fat tick.
The sound I suppose sits in the pop/rock genre, but that would be unfair to a band who are as versatile as they are exciting. BBC Introducing describe their sound as a mixture of Foals and Coldplay - and they know more about music than I. I once heard a comment that if the drums and vocal melody on bang on, then you can do whatever you like on a track - and it will still maintain it's strength.
I don't know if that's true or not... but there is no doubt that Ethans' vocal melodies and brother Connors drums are a strong facet to Tates' sound - but would they be the same without Huw Thomas' beautifully subtle guitar lifting their tracks and Guy Farrows tight as a nuns nudger basslines anchoring them? I don't know. That is not for me to answer. My job is to try to peak your interest interest to raise curiosity - so perhaps have a little listen to these chaps and make up your own mind? Any musician knows that one of the most complex problems to solve is getting a crowd together - but after smashing their own night at iconic Southend music venue Chinnerys back in October things look extremely healthy on that front.
Rumours from the Tate camp is that Chinnerys is going to take another pounding in June of this year, club remixes of their tunes are afoot, new visuals are incoming and a debut album could be on the horizon. I for one am excited to see what is coming next... 2018 looks extremely promising for one of the brightest bands in Southend.
So if you think of dirty needles on the beach and an Essex version of Blackpool when you think of Southend. Perhaps think again. Things change - and things become modernised.
You can find out more about Tate by using the links below -
In recovery, when you see someone talking with real zest and passion, you say that they have had their 'lights switched on' - It's an expression to quantify the amount of passion someone is displaying. When their energy is lit up and when they appear to be surfing on the crest of a wave.
If I had to sum up my meeting with LJ - words like 'positive vibes' 'good energy', 'passion', 'hunger' are all ones that immediately spring to mind.
LJ was brought to my attention by Ian at So Slam who suggested I take a listen - I'm not one to turn down the advice of others... and so I did.
What struck me from the outset is that not only is his music contagious - but so too is LJs enthusiasm for his art.
That for me is the mark of someone who is deserving of my (or anyone else's) respect - a musician who holds that ability to feel grateful for being part of the journey.
Few artists appreciate the age old warning that 'there is no destination, only the journey' -
The general consensus from those in the know would seem to overwhelmingly suggest that there IS no defining moment. No revelation or sense of arrival. There could never be one defining moment in a lifetime, only the most defining moment so far... until that milestone has been passed -and the next target located and zero'ed in on... and so it continues.
For me - the trick to enjoying your music - or to at least enjoy the progression of a project - and be truly happy whilst in the midst of it all - is to take the time to stop and look around once in a while. Sounds like common sense to say that we should all strive to try to take a moment to appreciate all of those little instances where you felt lifted, all those little conversations and smiles after a gig ... surely savouring all of those moments in time must be the key to finding joy in what you are doing?
Sometimes - people become so absorbed with the future - they neglect the present.
Yet - after spending two minutes in his company - it is clear that LJ Howard is bang on the money in terms of his thinking. 'As soon as I get to a point where I stop enjoying it - that's when I will give it up' he tells me within minutes of us meeting.
Fair fucking play Son.
I'm in a pub in Leigh, awaiting the arrival of LJ... never met him before, just a few mutually appreciative messages exchanges via FB and the idea formed that he and I share a similar belief system.
As he walks in, he looks like a star. Crisp threads, box fresh treads, trim looking sharp and a smile at the ready. We share a moment of recognition from an era or past life that neither of us remember - but both acknowledge - and from then on - I'm all business.
Tell me the story LJ... and so tell me the story LJ does. South Africa to Essex, via America and Switzerland. It's hard not to cultivate a degree of admiration for someone who told their Mum when leaving Cape Town at 17, 'I'm never coming back here'.
That; I hasten to add - has nothing to do with family, quite the opposite - LJ typifies the essence of a man who loves his family, they give him strength and by all accounts, his mother is an incredibly big hearted soul... No.. 'I'm never coming back here' was the Faith driven declaration of a 17 year old who already knew by then that destiny had other plans for him. ... and he has not looked back since.
LJ approaches his music with the kind of chilled laid back attitude that is only really displayed by someone who has experience of the darker side of the music business - or someone who has shed the naive thinking of a new comer expecting the gates of Avalon to open upon their approach. No... LJ is far more measured and considered in his thinking than that... he approaches his music with passion but also with an acceptance that what he produces is born out out of an enjoyment and an appreciation for what he loves doing - and whatever happens as a result of him doing that is a further blessing.
He has been down this road before, he is not looking at the destination. He is enjoying the journey. How can you argue with an attitude like that? You shouldn't ever want to. LJ receives a lot of love for what he does - and that's because he shows love in abundance himself.I came away from my meeting with LJ buzzing.
Sometimes - it's reward enough to meet someone who is so enthusiastic about what they do, that the positivity overflows out of them and flows into you... and that's what I took away from our chat. What will be, will be... but by the grace of thanks and with the blessings of appreciation - you may well begin to start noticing that the number of people who are rooting for you and championing your cause is growing bigger by the day.
You can find LJ Howard performing next at Peggy Sues in Leigh on Sea on the 09.12.17. 'Piece of Me' - the latest track is available below.
LJ Insta: http://instagram.com/ljhoward1
Main pic courtesy of: