There are few words that can do EZ's legacy much justice at all but, after almost twenty years, it is safe to say his music is still doing all the talking. I first came into contact with him on the 'Pure Garage' compilations, a successful, hugely influential series of CDs first released by Warner back in 1999, with the release of later editions being almost a mini-event amongst me and my friends. He has also hosted his pioneering show on Kiss FM for the last 13 years, a show that transcended garage's well-documented misfortunes and continues to showcase the best 'UKG'-themed music from around the UK. As a DJ, he is considered one of the best of his generation by fellow DJs and contemporaries and remains as relevant as ever. The best news is, he's planning on spending more time in the studio in 2013 too. With this in mind, I managed to catch up with him after he played Butterz x Hardrive at Cable, (in which he played one of the sets of the night to a grime audience - incredible), on garage, new music and the battle to stay relevant:
You are the first name to cross most people's minds whenever UK Garage is mentioned - how has the journey been for you over the last 15 or so years? Did you ever imagine yourself still playing Garage in 2012?
Firstly, I am extremely proud to be a part of the UK Garage scene, from the first purchase of my UKG record to the current day!
The journey has been amazing and I have certainly achieved more than I expected over the years. From starting my UK Garage journey on Freek FM back in 1994 to joining Kiss FM in 2000. I was fortunate to be chosen to mix the biggest UK Garage CD Compilation to date to winning 14 awards in various categories. I have travelled to many countries across the world and cities within the UK flying the flag for UKG, not forgetting meeting some great people along the way from DJ's, MC's, singers, producers and promoters. I also have a large number of followers who support me and UK Garage, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support over the years!
I knew that I would still being flying the flag for UK Garage in 2012 as this is a scene that I still believe in and the music which I love and have a passion for. I dabble in other genres within my sets but I will ALWAYS play and represent UKG..
What is it that has allowed you to stay so relevant?
I think it is because I still play classic and Old Skool UK Garage anthems alongside today's breaking sounds. Dubstep, Bass music etc have a strong relation to UKG and most of the producers have had or been heavily into the Garage scene at some point. So with that, those that are into the new sound also have a place in their heart for UK Garage. Another important thing is that we still have some great new and long standing / legendary producers that continue to churn out big productions and remixes which keeps UKG scene alive and kicking!
You mixed numerous volumes of the legendary 'Pure Garage' CD series - how beneficial do you think they were in expanding the sound?
Pure Garage was and still is a major part of my career. Warner Music was the record company behind this compilation which was a massive project for the UK Garage scene and it was very successful. It was exciting to be part of a TV campaign put together to increase the exposure for both UK Garage and the Pure Garage Compilation. Pure Garage sold over 1.5 million copies, and a UK Pure Garage tour also took place due to the success of the project, so I have no doubt at all that Pure Garage got more people listening to the sound of UKG.
Are there plans to release any similar-themed compilations?
No plans at this stage but it is something that I have thought about. I am asked almost every week whether another mix compilation will be coming out so there is a demand for it. I may submit a project to a few companies next year and see what happens…
You still host your own show on Kiss FM every Friday night - do you still enjoy radio? How relevant do you think it still is?
I love being part of London's biggest Dance Music Radio Station - Kiss! I have been part of Kiss for 12 years now and I look forward to every show. It is still an important part of my career and the UK Garage scene. With a radio show you can reach a wider audience, which allows me to break new tracks and increase my fan base, as well as giving me the ability to explore other genres. It also allows me to play, share and enjoy the music that I love, UK Garage.
You play a lot of new music on your show too - are there any producers / artists that you're really into at the moment?
Still a massive fan of Todd Edwards's work and very happy that he is still making tracks for our scene. The same can be said for the amazing MJ Cole, Jeremy Sylvesyter aka Club Asylum, Sunship and Wookie. I am also supporting the likes of Mike Delinquent Project who is one of the main producer/remixers of UK Garage scene at the moment. Quick mention too for Classified, DJ Q, Woz, Disclosure, Redlight, TS7, TRC and not forgetting all the Bassline producers who are still making beats for that scene which I still love and support...
What's your take on grime? The days of Sidewinder and Garage Nation events inadvertently played their part in elevating MC culture in the UK, particularly with regards to crews like Pay As You Go, Wiley and Dizzee Rascal. Did you ever think they'd end up being so successful back then?
First and foremost, I take my Nike baseball cap off to these guys as they have established themselves as artists and as you have mentioned are very successful. I worked with alot of them back in the day and now they have blown up to be established / household names now! I give nothing but respect to them as everyone knows that the music industry is one of the hardest to break into and stay successful in. Like most people their success is down to their hard work and dedication to the music that they love. Again, I am proud to have worked alongside these artists and it has nice to be able to see their journeys too.
Looking forward, are there any plans to get back in the studio and release anything?
This question always pops up and I reply with the same answer each time. But I will say this without any shadow of doubt that I will be back in the studio next year making UK Garage tracks. I will also dabble with tracks from other genres so as they say, watch this space! What can we expect from you over the next few months as we head into 2013?
Over the next few months, my diary is very busy especially during the Christmas and New Year period as you can imagine. So I am looking forward to playing at gigs and celebrating the festive period with my fans. I will also be abroad a few times within the next month for bookings in destinations such as Dubai and Switerland.
Regarding 2013, the first thing you can expect, is my own event Z UNCUT taking place on NEW YEARS DAY at PACHA in London Victoria. Tickets are selling fast for the event, so I am very excited and looking forward to playing my 8 hour set.
I am also looking to some massive events in 2013 which I am already confirmed for. Thank you for your continued support over the years.
Words by Tomas Fraser
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Follow DJ EZ at his official website.