When one refers to an artist as ‘an absolute legend’, ‘Godfather’ or ‘international hero’; more often than not it can be a term applied by the support of loving fans Worldwide or in some cases media hype that pertains to the artist in question being somewhat exceptional in their chosen skill on a global level. ‘Godfather’ as many of those that have witnessed Francis Ford Coppola’s award winning cinematic trilogy of films of the same name will attest, can also refer to a Sicilian Crime Family Boss.
Now, whilst the DJ and Producer and all round ‘international legend’ known as ‘Slipmatt’ has no affiliations with Sicilian families or crime (thankfully), he is most definitely in this case one deserving of the titles ‘Godfather’ and ‘Boss’. Here’s the exception to the rule though, he did not give himself these names, these accolades were not created off the back of some 90’s hype campaign, the name Godfather – in reference to the ‘Godfather Of Rave’ is a name he has worked very hard for over three decades to earn, and earn it he most definitely has.
Just north of the tender age of 18, Slipmatt had worked hard to purchase his first set of Technics 1200 turntables and already was a fully fledged, beat matching, crowd rocking DJ, playing to fully stacked parties and events before he had so much as considered his still so far away twenties. This would be a feat achieved with close friend and musical colleague, DJ Lime with whom Slipmatt would create an outlet for their musical exploits together in the setting up of pirate radio station Raw FM.
That would not be their primary achievement though, as mid-1989, the two would create the now legendary production duo SL2, alongside MC Jay J, leading them on to become one of the most incredible acts in underground music history. Their first record together, ‘Do That Dance’ was signed to B/WARE Records and gave the boys a taste of underground fame whereby either as a double act or apart the boys became quite well known hosting various underground parties, something that would eventually then take them to a Worldwide status.
As rave was exploding in a majorly successful way, so was Slipmatt, with bookings for such organisations as Energy, Telepathy, Fantazia, Vision, Universe, World Dance, United Dance, Dreamscape, Helter Skelter, Slammin’ Vinyl, Rezurrection, Elevation and Moondance all coming a calling; it would be the very beginning of something for Slipmatt that would take even bigger shape still in the coming few years.
We sat down with the icon for a few questions and an exclusive old skool mix!
You’ve had a long and successful career, but taking you back to the start, what first got you into DJing and producing music and did you make a conscious decision to pursue a career in electronic music?
Never in a million years did I think or even consider in the slightest that I’d end up with a career in music. DJing was certainly a passion but was still a mere hobby right up until the Rave scene kicked in. I bought my first record when I was 4 years old and was completely immersed in music right the way through my childhood and as a teenager. At around 10 years old I got the urge to play music to others and took my record player into school and DJ’d for our Christmas party. I managed to take over the music at ALL family parties and grabbed any opportunity to get in with the mobile DJ at discos and events.
My dad had a reel-to-reel which I commandeered and then learned how to do some very rough editing. I bought a cheap echo chamber and spent a few years tinkering and experimenting with sounds and re-editing my favourite tunes (very roughly). Little did I know at the time I was growing my passion to become a real producer.
Can you tell us about your early experiences in the rave scene? What was it like to suddenly be known and DJ to so many people? Did you also get to enjoy the raves?
I was out clubbing from the age of 14 with the help of my older brother, but pretty much every weekend from as young as 16 (1983) through to when rave kicked off in 1988. Me, Lime and the lads would go to Camden Palace on a Friday night and listen to Chris Paul as well as other regular clubs like Limelight and The Wag.
I have such amazing memories of those younger years. At that time, I was buying early House Music, Hip Hop and anything Ravey. I’d played a few venues through that period, but my big opportunity came with the first Raindance at Jenkins Lane in September 1989. This was my older brother’s rave. He’s always been an entrepreneur, and off the back of enduring constant rave music, pirate radio etc. in the family home, he decided to have a go at putting on a rave. He partnered with Lou who managed the site at Jenkins Lane, and Ray who was the manager at HQ in Camden Lock.
The event was totally illegal, ran from Saturday night until 2 am Monday morning, and set them up for the next few years with some huge parties. For me, I became resident DJ and it gave me the perfect platform to do my stuff behind the ones and twos – I was off!!! It was a fantastic journey for the next couple of years of getting noticed and building a reputation. I learned the ropes between 89-91 big time, and played more and more gigs, big and small, in London and around the whole of the UK.
By mid ’91 I’d become a well-known name on the scene and was all over the show week in and week out. I’d made a few underground tunes with Lime as SL2 which was exciting, but the excitement was about to ramp up massively with our own white label release of ‘DJs Take Control’ / ‘Way In My Brain’. All of a sudden, we had 8 record labels bidding to sign the record!! We signed with XL Recordings in the summer of 1991 and never looked back. I’d literally just finished my 2-year electrician apprenticeship and had to leave as I was far too busy with music and DJing by this point.
We’d suddenly stepped up to a much higher level of recognition – it was mad as none of this was ever planned in any way whatsoever. It was a whirlwind experience, and the next part was crazy when we made it on to the telly with Top Of The Pops 😊
Together with Lime, you had massive chart success in the early 90s as part of SL2. “On A Ragga Tip” turned 30 last year. How did that track come about and what impact did it have on your career? Where are there negatives to having a hit record? Why do you think it’s had such a lasting impact?
‘On A Ragga Tip’ was created as the follow-up to ‘Way In My Brain’, which was the flipside of our previous hit. Our love for reggae was still strong and to be honest, ‘Way In My Brain’ was more popular than ‘DJs Take Control’ to many people, especially on the underground. However, after listening to Ragga Tip for a few days after finishing it, we all decided it was a contender for the next A-side. We had a chat with Nick Halkes and Richard Russell at XL and they agreed – Ragga Tip was to be the lead track on the new EP.
On release, the track flew straight into the top ten and stayed at No.2 for 3 weeks. We were pleasantly surprised, shocked in fact lol, and couldn’t believe our good fortune. We performed on Top Of The Pops another 2 times in April / May 1992 and continued to lap up all the gigs, international tours, media attention and all sorts of appearances. Neither I nor Lime is one for the spotlight, but it was the best fun ever.
With our live shows, PAs and videos we were joined by our close mate Jay J on the mic, and our 2 dancers Kelly & Jo who we met at Raindance in 1991. We were a fantastic team and blimey did we make the most of it. I can’t think of a single negative with having a hit record. We never sold out our values or beliefs, and we didn’t try and go too commercial with a follow-up. In fact, when rave went back underground in 1993, so did we… I think we hit the right note at the right time, and lucky for us that perfect moment has stood the test of time.
The popularity of hardcore waned in the mid-90s. Did you lose focus or direction at this point? How did it feel and how did you evolve as an artist after the rave scene dwindled?
By mid-93 hardcore had gone back underground, but it certainly hadn’t waned away yet. I was playing a lot of Jungle as well in 1993, however, my love for the 4×4 beats, euphoric riffs and pianos was still working for me as a DJ, big time. I started a new project on my own called SMD (Slip Matt’s Dubs) which started with a dubplate I’d made sampling Congress – ‘40 Miles’ and a few other tracks. Originally, I wasn’t going to release it but it was getting such a good reaction on the dancefloor that I would have been mad not to. It turned out to be one of the very first tracks to be labelled ‘Happy Hardcore’ and sold way over 10,000 copies without an official release. I made 4 SMD releases across 93-94 and the whole Happy Hardcore scene exploded with me at the forefront. I still played Jungle and had another big tune on mine and Lime’s original label ‘Awesome Records’. The release was ‘Breaking Free’ / ‘Hear Me’ which was certainly Jungle, but it got played by DJs from across the board, from Micky Finn, Randall, and Grooverider, through to Dougal, Vibes, Sy, and Seduction.
Life, music and the DJ circuit treated me very well and was great fun through the mid-90s, and by 1995 I was dipping back into House Music. By 1996 I was a regular in Ibiza and playing House again and haven’t stopped since.
What motivates you to keep DJing and producing music after all these years?
Even though I couldn’t see my future back in 1989, DJing, production and the music business have become a way of life. It’s great because I don’t see any of it as a job. It’s a business, but it’s a business that I look forward to being a part of every day from morning to night, 24/7. I think of myself as extremely fortunate in that way. I suppose a big part of the motivation is it means I don’t have to go and work for someone else. Nothing beats that in my book. But there’s also the joy that playing music to people and watching them enjoy it brings. Seeing them enjoy my own music and sharing the vibes is a wonderful feeling… it’s the best.
Can you share some of your most memorable career highlights and how they shaped you as an artist?
Certain raves hold great memories, like the early Raindances 89-92, Fantazia at Matchams and Littlecote House, Vision at Popham. World Dance, United Dance and Slammin’ Vinyl were always great as were Helter Skelter and Dreamscape at The Sanctuary. We were presented with Silver Discs for Ragga Tip at the Albert Hall in 1992. TV appearances on Top Of The Pops and Dance Energy were massive highlights. There’s been so many great moments and eras. Ibiza has been amazing over the past, almost 30 years – unbelievable fun! I’ve travelled the world. Australia is a firm favourite and even Thailand has blessed me with some amazing gigs.
I think the whole journey has made me realise that life is to be enjoyed and we should be grateful for every moment. It’s very much what you make it, and if your desire is strong enough, you generally attract what you really want deep down. As an artist, it’s the experiences that grow confidence, and with more confidence, we tend to open up more and let our true selves shine through, and that’s where the magic is.
How do you feel about the current use of rave sounds and higher bpms in new electronic music, and do you think there’s a rave revival happening right now?
Rave has never gone away, but there’s definitely a revival going on. I recently played a B2B with Eats Everything at Fabric and was surprised he wanted to play at 160bpm (was an amazing experience and one we’ll be repeating very soon). I love everything Rave – it’s the energy I love – I’m really not into playing mellow music to an audience. Whether slow or fast, it must have a certain amount of oomph…
How do you balance nostalgia for the rave scene with the need to push forward and create new sounds and experiences?
I did get in a bit of a rut for a short while in the early 2010s when I ended up playing mainly old music. It didn’t last too long, and it wasn’t a bad time, but you can’t beat sourcing and playing new music. In 2017 I started my Slip’s House Podcast which is all new House Music, and it’s the best move I could have made at the time. The podcast has gone from strength to strength and led on to my weekly live show on Centreforce which has been, and still is, a great success. I love all music, but I’m so well known for playing Old Skool Rave, Hardcore and Classics that I’ll always do it, and even on my radio show I nearly always play a few oldies.
It is all about getting that balance right. Sometimes I need to be firm and stick to my guns with the new stuff – there’s always going to be someone asking for Old Skool at every gig, but if the majority are there for new music, then I tend to stick with that these days.
What is your opinion on the current state of the dance music scene? Where is it heading?
It’s such a shame the way that regular nightclub culture has almost disappeared. I had so much fun going out in the heyday of the 80s and 90s. I suppose nothing stays the same forever, and there are still lots of amazing events going on all year round. The whole lockdown fiasco hasn’t helped as we now have a demographic of youngsters who missed a big chunk of their clubbing era, and also those who missed it won’t pass on the experience to their younger siblings.
But the music is still great and almost all of the events I’m playing at these days are very busy and have a really nice vibe. I feel the scene is becoming a little more seasonal these days with so many festivals through the summer, but that’s cool I suppose.
You’ve been running your own successful Ibiza rave holiday event called Slip Back In Time presents Old Skool Ibiza for a few years now. What are you trying to achieve with this event, and why do you think there’s still a demand for old-skool rave experiences?
It’s been almost 10 years since I was approached to get involved in an Ibiza Old Skool holiday event. Summer 2013 my good friend from Ibiza, Alex Ellenger, mentioned to me he had a mate interested in putting together a holiday event and wanted me to get involved. I had a meeting that autumn over in Ibiza Town and by the summer of 2014 I’d helped them get their first event over the line. To cut a very long story short, that partnership totally failed after a few years. But being so involved by this point I decided to resurrect my old ‘Slip Back In Time’ brand which had been in Ibiza since 2000. I teamed up with a couple of fantastic new partners and in 2019 we launched Slip Back In Time / Old Skool Ibiza. It was a great success!! Unfortunately, world issues forced us to cancel 2020/1 but we’ve been back for 2022 and just held 2023 which was by far our best yet.
The goal is to create a rave in the sunshine where you don’t have to go to work the next day, you don’t have to drive home, and you can really let go. We’ve managed that and so much more. Ibiza being my most frequented holiday destination is perfect as we have use of some amazing venues and it’s fairly easy to get to. The icing on the top is that we’re all in the same hotel complex so everyone is together for the duration. We all eat in the same restaurant together and we all use the same “All-Inclusive” bar 😉
The true Old Skool ravers will always want to party, but we do have a few youngsters there too. The ‘Old Skool’ bit also refers to our values and culture. You’ll see very few mobile phones in the clubs and everyone is super friendly. So many true long-lasting friendships have been made over the past 3 years, it’s really heart-warming.
What is your relationship with Ibiza, and what makes it such a special place for dance music?
Because I’ve been going for so many years and have flown back and forth weekly for many seasons, I’ve got to know so many people in San Antonio and have a decent relationship with all of the nighttime venues. I have lovely friends there with whom I can stay at any time, restaurant owners and managers I’ve known for nearly 30 years, and it really is like a home from home. For me, there’s no comparison for a real quality clubbing holiday, with so many amazing venues all within such a short distance and in such a beautiful setting.
Do you think the rave generation is growing up gracefully? Why do you think some people, like many of those who come to your Ibiza event, don’t want to let go of the rave experience? What is it giving them?
Yeah, I think so – our lot certainly look after themselves. I mean with our crowd in Ibiza no one is judging you, and we’re not posey at all. We have all shapes, colours and sizes and no one bats an eyelid. But don’t get me wrong – some of our guests are well into their 50s and they still know how to party big time. It’s not even about reliving the past. We play lots of new music, introduce new DJs, and lots of us meet up back in the UK for regular events. Age is just a number for us lot, and as long as we’re enjoying ourselves there will be no stopping us.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists over the years. Who would be the dream collaborator? You played B2B with Eats Everything at Fabric for his ‘History of Rave’ event. Should we be looking out for a Slipmatt x Eats Everything collab?
Eats is a proper nice fella. We’ve got another possible B2B coming up and we’ve already spoken about getting in the studio before the set. I’m pretty sure we’ll end up in the studio together at some point soon. There are a few other names in the pipeline, but I’m not allowed to say yet.
How has technology changed the way you approach DJing and producing music? Was it more fun back in the day? What do you think the future holds for electronic music in terms of technology?
To be very honest, technology isn’t my forte. I loved the old-fashioned mixing desk and outboard analogue equipment, and I think I do miss it. When everything moved over to audio in the computer and we started using plugins it took me a while to get used to it all.
On the DJ side of things, I absolutely love digital. Don’t get me wrong, I loved vinyl, loved mixing it, scratching and even entered the DMC competitions back in 88/89. I still have my 1210s and all my vinyl. However, in 2003 when Es Paradis got a set of CDJ1000mk2s I was hooked and proceeded to digitise all of my important vinyl over the coming years. It just meant I could remaster everything, I could edit everything, and I could become so much more creative. I went on to use Traktor for a short while, but I’m totally committed to Rekordbox with USBs these days.
What lessons have you learned throughout your career, and how have you evolved as an artist and DJ over the years? Is there anything you would have done differently?
I can look back and see why I succeeded in creating a long-term career out of DJing and music. That was sheer passion, determination and persistence that pulled me through. But like most of my generation, I was totally self-taught, so I had no one advising me or telling me how to manage finances, how to negotiate properly, how to keep ahead in business, and the simple fact of learning key business and life skills. So, I learned a great deal much later in my career once I’d calmed down the partying somewhat and realised that I was in it for the long haul.
What advice would you give to aspiring DJs and producers who are just starting out in the industry?
The best advice I have to offer is to listen carefully to successful people because even if you think you know, there’s always more to learn. Master your craft fanatically and master every important offshoot as well. Also, learn business and sales. If you’re self-employed then you’re a businessperson so you must understand business. But we’re all salespeople in some way, so sales are also very important. I’d also say to study some good personal development. I did this 10 years ago and my life changed for the better, dramatically.
What are your plans for the future, and what can we expect from Slipmatt in the coming years?
I’ve had a list of goals for many years that never seems to go down as quickly as I’d like or as I planned, but I keep pushing on and I’ll get there eventually lol. My immediate goals are to get my next single out with Andy Galea & Jodi. I’m involved in the new Moondance Album with Dope Ammo. I have my own album planned for a pre-Christmas 2023 release and then I’m already working on Slip Back In Time 2024. With an extremely busy diary full of gigs as well, that lot will keep me on my toes for the rest of the year.
Over the coming years, you can expect much more of the same, but I’m definitely upping my game on music production and releases… watch this space!!