Champion interview: “It’s like I have a VIP pass that lets me step in and out of genres.”

21.08.15

Champion spends a large amount of his time fighting with himself for the top spot in his own list of priorities. But then, as one of Britain's growing number of creative's with 'portfolio' careers it's no wonder. Juggling an established career as one of the UK's most hyped garage/funky/grime DJs and Producers with his burgeoning record label business, this man is no stranger to hard graft.  His raison d'être is admirably humble, Champion's own personal mission statement is simply to put out the sickest tracks, making sure all the while that no dope music is left unheard. Champion by name, champion by nature.

As the years have gone by Champion has become revered for his transcendent approach to music, deftly crossing the boundaries between underground genres. As much as he has challenged the status quo of the UK club scene he has done it in such a way that has seen him receive profuse acclamation from his peers. He's a craftsman at heart, with an inherent love for making music, a talent that is appears to be part of his physiological makeup.  His music is a result of his innate ability to provoke a reaction and drive adrenaline, taking his productions to a level deeper than the confines of genre and 'scene'.  It's this astute sense of self that makes Champion a prudent contender as a label owner and as a prominent player in the next-gen of producers.

You've spoken of feeling the music organically but also of being a self-taught producer. Is the ability to create music something innate or learned in your case? Can one supersede the other?

Champion: "It's a bit of both in my case. From before I knew the technical side of production, I've always known how I want my music to sound. At the same time though, because I'm more familiar now with how a track is made and what tools/sounds are at my disposal, the ideas in my head will include every sound and plug-in I'll use, what automation I'll do. I would say having learnt the technical side can supersede sometimes like when you would need to knock out a remix or something when inspirations not flowing."

Did you have that 'year one' moment when you realised that club music would be your life?

Champion: "Yeah definitely, 2011 after I had my first proper release with the 'Motherboard' EP on Terror Danjah's Hardrive label. Things were on such a high that I managed to quit my job and start doing music full time."

You've seamlessly transcended garage, grime and funky – where do you see yourself now in relation to these genres?

Champion: "Well now more than ever, because I get embraced in all those genres, I kind of feel like I have some kind of VIP pass that lets me step in and out of all those genres when I feel like it. I love that."

The underground club scene fluctuates so frequently, where do you think the scene is heading next?

Champion: I find it quite hard to tell but from what I experience, maybe it can turn into a thing where anything UK and dance floor orientated can run, completely ignoring genres.

You launched Formula records in 2011, whilst continuing your journey as an artist. It's an increasingly regular occurrence in British culture that creative workers straddle multiple job roles to survive and thrive. Has your role as a producer, DJ and label owner emerged out of necessity or as a way of growing creatively?

Champion: Definitely a way of growing for me. I was a DJ first then started production just because I love music and then only took it serious to get more bookings. The label came next just because I felt like a lot of sick tunes were going to waste plus my own stuff had no consistent outlet.

What are the realities of running a label as an artist?

Champion: "That both yourself and the label have to share the top spot of your priorities, so the time management has to be on point."

How does Formula make life better for underground artists and the promotion of the scene in general?

Champion: "Well the way I thought about it was, the more of us in the spotlight with the same vision, the better and easier it is to push the sound to the masses. So I feel like Formula is becoming the perfect place to bring new people through and work towards growing the sound."

How has the label evolved across the past four years? What are your visions for the future?

Champion: "Our vision and sound I feel is a lot clearer now. We're also in a better position now to execute certain things we've always wanted to do, hence the compilation that came out this year. As for the future, we just wanna keep doing what we're doing but on a much, much bigger scale."

Your recent f=BASS2 compilation release is a reflection of the club-focused hybrid of grime, funky, dancehall and jungle that Formula has become so recognised for. What was the ideology behind the compilation?

Champion: "To showcase the roster, highlight our growth as a label and to just pump sick tunes into the system!"

With so many leaders in the underground club scene collaborating on the release, were there any ego clashes or just pure team vibes?

Champion: "Ha, nah man everyone on the comp is cool with each other and any people that don't know each other have either me or Terror Danjah as a mutual, that automatically makes them family.

The release also marked the return of Flava D to the label, can we expect to hear much from the producer in the forthcoming months?

Champion: "Oh yeah definitely, she's Formula family now. We're working on something at the moment but I don't want to say too much yet."

The industry is still, unfortunately, notoriously a difficult place for female producers. Artists such as Flava D are paving the way for new generations of female artists, how do you react to this as a label boss and fellow producer?

Champion: "I'm all for the new generation of female artists, anyone making them sick tunes, I've got time for. There's actually a new upcoming female producer releasing with us very soon, quite excited to get to work on her release."

We've heard that you yourself are releasing new material in the very near future. Can you reveal anything about the direction you'll be taking this time round?

Champion: "In a nutshell, just further experimenting in all aspects of UK underground music and working with a lot more vocals than ever before. I will say, some of the stuff in the pipeline will surprise people but fully make sense at the same time."

Carnival is like my Christmas. You get to vibe all weekend to good beats – with some sun if you're lucky – and there won't be a Brussels sprout in sight. Winning. You're playing the Special Request XII grime special during the bank holiday weekend, what should we be expecting?

Champion: "Loads of new bits from myself, the camp and I'll be testing out a few potential Formula signings. I haven't played in Dalston for a while so I'm looking forward to this!"

Lastly…you've played to a variety of audiences, what's the strangest thing that has happened at one of your shows?

Champion: "Either this girl flashing her boobs for me during my set at Fabric because we let her on the stage or this old guy right in front of decks at Alibi screaming "middle class grime!" literally the whole way through the set then. He calmly shakes my hand and leaves the rave right after I finish my set."

Champion is playing at Special Request XII on Friday 28th September alongside Slimzee and Mr. Mitch – Special Request provides the consummate exploration of garage music and all its various offshoots.

Champion's VIP EP will be released via Formula Records on 18th September and plays Special Request on August 28th (tickets).