Current Location :: London, UK
Real Name :: Simon Swan
Music Genres :: Rave & Hardcore
Oh yes! Now, I don’t want to start getting all sentimental or anything, but going back a couple of years I can remember the early Dreamscapes held at what was then called the Debeigh Leisure Centre (now the Sanctuary). It was one of those places where no matter how many times you visited it, you could never find your fuckin’ way back there for the next one without getting lost. But - you always remembered (to a certain event) what an excellent night you had. DJ Swan-e was one of those DJ’s who always made my night with a totally tearin’ set. Rinsing out the building was something which came as second nature to Swan-e and believe me when I tell you that he did it more times than you can shake a stick at. So, whilst sitting at home last week I suddenly thought ‘fuck me. I’ll phone Swan-e and hear what the chaps got to say for himself’. So here I am, in the town of Luton. Swan-e is in his armchair, sitting comfortably and I am in mine (nice eh!).
It is at this point that the dictation machine decides to go on strike and I am about to scream louder than my best mates bird. Then all of a sudden (as if by a miracle of God), it decides to start working and we are up and rollin’. So sit back and read about one of the true ‘Mr nice guys’ within the scene.
Swan-e was at the age of about eight or nine when he first showed signs of any interest in music. He would listen to his mum’s Diana Ross, Jacksons and all the old soul music. In about 1984 he started DJ’ing and was playing soul, hip-hop and rare grooves, so it wasn’t until 1988/9 that things changed.
"My mate switched me over onto the Acid music. I took a liking to it and it just went from there. I used to like listening to Tim Westwood, Chris Edwards on Centreforce. I used to tune to Kid Bachelor, Paul ‘Trouble’Anderson, Little Louis Vega so you could say they were inspirations to me".
It wasn’t until the beginning of 1989 that Swan-e first started playing on the House scene. His first play was at a big charity event called ‘Help A London Child’ in Dagenham at an old part worn tyres place. Paul Oakenfold headlined the event as the main DJ, so it was a good break for Swan-e to be playing alongside at such an early stage in his career. His main break came when he played for Weekend World at the end of 1989 in Tunbridge and at The Eclipse in Coventry.
"I got a few plays around Honiton, Ibiza - back in the days, Elevation when it was at Leybridge Road and The Dungeons. But my main actual big break came with Weekend World. From there people began to recognise me and I went to The Eclipse in Coventry at the beginning of 1990. They put me between Fabio and Grooverider because a face had dropped out".
At this stage of his career Swan-e had a trade as an electrical engineer. This was six months after completing his apprenticeship. But it was at this point that his DJ’ing and his profession came to blows.
"I wanted to got to Tenerife and play because I knew people over there. I had no holiday left and my boss was telling me that I couldn’t go. So when Friday came around I just clocked off and got on the plane to Tenerife (like you do). I returned to work ten days later with a sun-tan and my boss just came up and told me that I have got a month to find myself another job. At about that time I was trying to get a break in music but it wasn’t really happening, so when I lost my job I started doing Satellites. Once I started doing the Satellites the music side of things started taking off so then I jacked the Satellites in and just went onto music".
Pirate Radio station also played a big role in getting Swan-e more well known within an ever growing, competitive scene.
"I’ve played on a few pirates: Jive FM, Tower FM and Pressure FM 101.5. I used to do a show on Pressure every Saturday between five and seven. I did that for about a year. It covered the Luton, Bedfordshire and Herefordshire area and it really helped my career take off".
As well as being responsible for gracing our ears with some fine mixing Swan-e is also active on the production side of things as well. The first tune he did was with Ellis Dee called ‘Ruffneck Business’. This was launched on the UB40 label ‘Roughtone Recordings’ in 1991, and the release was aided with the help of the UB40 studios and a couple of their engineers. This managed to sell a few thousand copies which Swan-e was quite pleased with compared to now where record sales have slowed down, unless you get a really big tune out. After this first release, Swan-e went onto do another couple of white labels with Ellis Dee, a couple of small ten inch mixes and one called ‘Collusion’. ‘Collusion’ was done with De Underground and also has a couple of ‘Happy Hardcore’ releases along with some Jungle and Breakbeat - which is his main concern. Many more releases are now soon to come on his own label: Collusion Records. These include releases from himself, Ellis Dee, and a couple which they have done together. There is also a release coming out from the Siamese Minds, so look out for those.
Although Swan-e receives many records from people when he is out playing and via Postman Pat, he still needs to shop around for a few bits and pieces like the rest of us.
Vinyl Distribution in Reading, Blackmarket, Lucky Spin and De Underground in Forest Gate all play host to supplying Swan-e, along with Music House where he cuts his dubs.
Well Swan-e can be heard all over the country playing a variety of music from the scene, so would be classify himself as a certain type of DJ or not?"
At the moment I like Drum & Bass. I’m not really a Ragga DJ. I like Jungle but I am more like a beats man - I like my drum and I like my bass. If someone books me to go and play Happy Hardcore somewhere I will go and play it but I am mainly a Drum & Bass man".
It seems terrible to ask DJ’s about what style they play or what they class themselves as playing - before it was all one and you could play anything under the one roof. So what do you think about the way in which the music within the scene has split so much?
"It was better when it was all one - definitely. It’s still good now though, but I suppose it had to split and it will split again and will keep splitting. Some places are packed and some places aren’t. It used to be packed in every club but not everyone can pack em’ out anymore. There’s a lot of competition out there".
Competition. Now there’s a good word. Whilst we are on the subject of competition, DJ’ing has always been a very competitive field. Which DJ’s do you rate?
"On the main circuit, I rate them all because they all have to be good to be there. I do like Ellis Dee because he can really throw his beats together well. I like Micky Finn, I think he’s good, Kenny Ken and Rider. Frost’s good because he can throw it together ruff. There are a lot of good DJ’s out there who are at a very high standard so I rate them all".
And what about producers?
"Bukem - I think Bukem is an excellent producer, really original. Micky Finn and SS. SS is a really good producer as well. He is bringing out some really good music on Formation. He knows how to roll it. His latest stuff has been excellent, one after another, everytime, bang-bang-bang, really good stuff. Big up Formation!
More and more of the music which is being produced now seems to be going out to a wider audience, so what is your opinion on some of it going commercial?
"I think if the music goes into the charts it then becomes commercial, so people will produce a more harder, deeper music. It will branch away - like Jungle. You’ve now got an intelligent Jungle and a Hardstep. It will keep branching away from it and make it more underground. If anything goes into the charts there is always something which will branch out. Like SL2’s, ‘On A Ragga Tip’. An excellent track which was jungley. It went into the charts but now jungle has branched more away from it and gone deeper and harder. That is what will keep happening. But people don’t sell out if their songs go into the charts. A producer goes into the studio and makes his music. If it comes out really good and enters the charts - he didn’t aim for the charts. He just wanted a good seller on our scene. It’s definitely not selling out".
Jungle certainly seems to be one of the big flavours on the scene at the moment, so give us your view on why it seems to be so successful.
The thing with jungle is it’s been around for a long time, but it just hasn’t been recognised. Jungle comes from the drum and the bass, and comes to us in different forms. You have got your Ragga side of things which takes it’s influences from the big yard sounds and MC’s like Shabba, Buju Banton and Ninja Man. You also have your jazzy influences like Lonnie Liston, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayres etc. Then you have your ambient side of Jungle with influences from Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kenny Larkin and can Craig. But by far, the best thing about Jungle is that it comes from the UK. The Americans have Hip-Hop & Rock, Jamaica has Reggae and now we have Jungle. It is the down of a new era and it’s breaking out all over the world".
The music seems to be going down really well overseas at the moment. Have you played much abroad and what is your opinion on the scene overseas?
"I have played abroad a lot. I have been to Tenerife half a dozen times (no thanks to your boss eh!), Germany, Switzerland, Ibiza and Majorca. The scene in Germany at the moment is excellent. There is a club over there called ‘Club Vibration’ in Heidelberg and it is firin’. They are getting a thousand in there. You can draw them the freshest Jungle and they just jump and have it. It’s unbelievable. There is a fair share of Jungle over there believe it or not. The Germans and Swiss have both clocked on to it, and they love it. But then again, they used to be into Happy Hardcore. They turn with the English. When the music turns over here, they turn with it as well. They have the next thing that comes in - the freshest of fresh. I played at Berlin at ‘Love Parade’ with about two hundred thousand people in the streets".
Do you have any special memorable experiences including any embarrassing one which you want to share with the readers?
"The outdoor events of ’92 and ’93 were good. There used to be outdoor events all the time like Fantasia, Perception, Raindance and Weekend World. There were loads. They were really good and there was always a good vibe outside. Like when you used to get ten to fifteen thousand people under a marquee, the sun would be out and I would be playing away with my sunglasses on. It was a good vibe with a good atmosphere. They were the memorable times.
I also remember playing at The Paradise Club once. I did a mix, took my record off, went to put the next one on and took the wrong one off again. It went quiet and I had to quickly put the need back down on the record - but I got away with it, I think. That was the worst one".
Whilst on the subject of outdoor events, rumour has it that on the odd occasion you can be found playing at some of the Exodus free parties. It’s nice to see that someone in your position is still prepared to give a bit of support to the free party scene in your area?
"I have been out, played all-night, come home at six in the morning and not wanted to go to bed. I knew that Exodus would be kicking off somewhere so I will go down there and I will play an Hour
. I know a lot of people around here (Luton/Beds) so if I’m about and I’m awake in the morning and I want to play I know they will let me come down and play. I haven’t forgotten where I came from - you can’t, so I like to go down and let the Luton people hear the music as well".
Drugs were a big item within the scene at one time - Some would say even as big as the name itself. It would be fair to say that a large majority of us have taken drugs (let them who are without sin throw the first stone - that’s what I say!), especially back in those early days. What effect do you think they have had on the scene?
"As you get older, I think a lot of people have had their fun with the drugs and they like grow out of it, but have got the next generation of kids coming through. I am sure a lot of them will dabble, not all of them but some of them will. I don’t think E’s effect the scene because at the end of the day if people are on E’s and they are partying, that’s fair and I don’t knock them as long as they don’t start taking too much. You have got to be aware of what it is. Organisations like Dreamscape have put out drugs awareness leaflets and if people are going to take them, at least they are aware of what drugs can do to them. A lot of people don’t know what the drugs are made up of so it could be damaging them. If you make the kids aware of what it’s about, then that is the way to fight it".
With the scene being on a constant change, where do you see it going in the next couple of years?
"It’s going to still be going strong, but it’s going to keep splitting up all the time. I think we are going to get some ‘Intelligent Hardstep’ coming soon I think ‘Happy Hardcore’ will get more of a techno influence in it to harden it up a bit. There will still be pianos there but you will get more techno noises on the fourbeat".
There seems to be a lot of debate going on at the moment about ‘Happy Hardcore’ being ‘cheesy’. As a DJ who plays virtually across the board, your probably more qualified that most to give us the lowdown.
"It was cheesy and the reason why it got labelled that was because the producers were knocking up ‘Happy Hardcore’ records and they were putting in speeded up vocals - instead of stretching them down to make them sound like a nice lyrical vocal. They just played it on a record deck at forty five and it sounds like ‘Pinky & Perky’. Then it becomes ‘cheesy’ because it sounds like chipmunks screaming away. That is why everybody labelled it as ‘cheese’. But now I must admit that ‘Happy Hardcore’ is starting to get better".
Well as we bring the interview to a close, what plans do you have for the future?
"I still want to keep DJ’ing because I love it. I still get a thrill and a buzz out of it just like I did years ago, so I will always want to play. Hopefully I will get my own label ‘Collusion Records’ going really big over the next few years. I want to get a couple of records shops open and basically just keep plugging away and try and conquer the world more. We have conquered Europe and hopefully we will conquer the rest of the world. The British DJ’s are getting respect so it would be good if we could dominate the world".