From his roots in the clubland underground of Leeds and Hull, DJ/producer wAFF has gone on to become globally renowned. His schedule is relentless but he doesn’t cut corners. He’s the only British artist who’s recorded for all three of these European major labels: Sven Väth’s Cocoon, Adam Beyer’s Drumcode and Loco Dice’s Desolat. He approaches music with unstoppable enthusiasm and attention to detail. This summer his Ibiza gigs range from his residency at Paradise at DC-10 to Elrow at Amnesia. He’s DJing everywhere, from recent Do Not Sleep nights in Miami and Italy, to festival slots at Eastern Electric, Hideout, Sziget and, yes, the original Nevada Desert madhouse, Burning Man.
wAFF’s focus is far wider than just music. He comes from a background in acting and dance, has been vegan for five years, and has an ongoing interest in the Japanese healing art of reiki.
This is a side of wAFF that’s at the core of who he is but it runs parallel to his life behind the decks and in the studio. He is, after all, a DJ-producer who’s played them all; from Lost Beach in Ecuador to fabric London, from the Warung Beach Club in Brazil to the epic Tomorrowland Festival to the Electric Daisy Carnival in Japan. Held in esteemed regard by his peers, as well as his fans, wAFF’s reputation may be well-established, but his approach to everything is as fresh and exciting as when he was just starting out.
With an exciting and very busy 2019 now almost behind him, we speak with wAFF about his career and his upcoming closing performance at Epizode Festival, which will take place on Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam from December 27th, 2019 to January 7th, 2020.
Hi Jon, thanks for taking the time out to chat to us today. I wanted to start by chatting about the journey you’ve been on the last few years. How would you sum it up?
Intense as fuck!!! Ha, no it’s been amazing, I’ve experienced so much it’s difficult to remember everything. When you live this sort of life, on the road non-stop, constantly flying to somewhere new, I find it really difficult to take everything in. I can hardly remember where I’ve just flown from. Sometimes I’ll be at the immigration desk and they will ask me where I’ve just flown in from and I’ve actually stood there a couple of times for some time to really dig through my brain to figure it out ha. I’ve even had to shout over to my old tour manager Ross when he’s speaking to the person at the desk he’s at and ask “Mate!!! Where have we just come from?” no joke (laughs)
But it really has been amazing. Getting to play the best clubs and festivals in the world. Getting to travel and see parts of the world, meeting new people, it really is a special life to have. You’re always in great company and it’s a wicked industry to be a part of, it’s really creative and inspiring. But it is just so relentless and intense sometimes that I personally struggle with it. Constantly being away from home, always on your own. Never really getting time to properly rest is a killer. The level of exhaustion you can feel at times is a lot, to say the least, and to stay strong and keep healthy, sober is a huge challenge for me personally. I’m probably the best I’ve been with that at the moment in my life but it doesn’t take away how challenging it can be at times. Also, being vegan and on the road is a massive pain in the arse. Most places it’s difficult to find the right food, especially airports. You just gotta get what you can, sometimes that actually is just bread and crisps. When you’re absolutely starving and all you can get is a crap airport salad that’s as big as your iPhone, it’s not the best ha.
Was there one moment above all others when you’ve really had to pinch yourself?
Yeah, there’s been shit loads of times…I just can’t remember one of them ha. No… I can remember them. Definitely the time when I played b2b with Loco Dice, that was pretty nuts as he was always my favourite from the beginning. I was on top of the world when we played together. But now we’re really good mates, so that’s also pretty mad for me to think about. We send each other stupid shit on Whatsapp and have such a laugh when we’re together, it’s normal now but yeah I do pinch myself sometimes still. I remember playing Cocoon Amnesia a couple of years ago and that was always a dream, and it went amazing. I had a full room whilst the other was empty and got to play an extra hour. I was so happy with my set and the feedback that I actually got a bit emotional afterwards but from the happiness I was feeling.
Hanging out with P.diddy at Rony Seikaly’s villa in Miami was one of them moments. For those who don’t know Rony Seikaly, he was a famous NBA player for Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets. Well I was at his Villa with my manager, Jamie Jones and a load of other friends. There was a club inside the villa with a full free bar and Rony Seikaly was DJing the whole time and he was actually pretty good too which was a bit mad ha.
Well… Diddy turned up at some point with some girl and he just got involved with us all. I ended up chatting with him and having a laugh, dancing together and yeah it was pretty surreal. I had met Diddy before actually as we went for a party at his villa one time in Miami, which was really good fun. He was top of the villa roof in a silk robe on the mic shouting out positive spiritual comments to everyone every now n again. Black Coffee, Damian Lazarus and Jackmaster were playing. It was also one of them moments where you kinda pinch yourself.
There have honestly been soo many moments like this, I could actually go on all day. But I can’t be bothered so this is all you’re getting for now!
So let’s chat a bit about Epizode, a festival you’ll be returning to for the third time this year. Had you been to South East Asia beforehand? And how does playing there compare to playing in Europe?
Yes, Epizode is a favourite of mine. It’s such a cool festival, it’s small all on one beach which is one of the reasons I love it. The beach is beautiful and the stages are all really close together. I think there are 4 or 5 stages altogether, but the quality of music I love. It’s two weeks long and music is non stop, 24/7 which is mad to think about. But I really do love playing here. And each time I’ve played I’ve always ended up having some amazing moments, playing b2b with Pan-Pot and Nix Fanciulli then playing like 1 hour set on my own, or playing an impromptu b2b with Richy Ahmed for like 7 hours for sunrise. Even getting to do my own sunset party which was really cool. So many times I’ve had special moments here.
I’ve travelled to Thailand a few times already but that was it really. But I think the first Epizode I played was my first time playing South East Asia, and since I have played Thailand for Circoloco and Kuala Lumpur, and I don’t even know where in Asia that is ha! But all my experiences over that part of the world so far have been wicked. It would be too hard to compare it to Europe as I’ve not played South east Asia much and the crowd are all pretty much English or European anyways ha. So it’s more of the same really ha. It’s basically the same as Europe but hot as fuck and loads of noodles.
Are there any artists on the line-up who you’re really looking forward to checking out? Are there any artists who you’re still in awe of playing with?
Well, I always look forward to hearing Ricardo Villalobos, Raresh and Rhadoo. I’m also looking forward to hearing Binh, Sonja Moonear, Vera, Mountain People, Dewalta and Djebali. Along with many others. Oh and as always Luciano. There are still names to be announced but I love to see anyone playing techno or minimal. The minimal stage is sick too, it’s really intimate and all made of wood so when you go inside it’s like your in a treehouse
You must have enjoyed some pretty scary, funny etc stories on the road. Do any stick out more than others?
Well yeah, my old tour manager and I got held by gunpoint in Bogota, Colombia, a couple of years ago. That was pretty intense! I thought we was getting kidnapped because as soon as we arrived at our hotel some guy with a bike helmet on and a revolver in his hand ran over to Ross my tour manager at the time and put the gun to his chest and pulled him outside the hotel, at this point I shit myself and looked around me and there were a load of random guys stood near me so I thought any second now I’m gonna get grabbed and that’s us kidnapped. But luckily we were just getting robbed.
The guy stole Ross’s Rolex, record bag and iPhone then ran off and jumped on the back of a motorbike, but whoever was driving it drove off so fast that the robber fell off the bike onto the road. At this point all the promoters ran over to the robber and started kicking the shit out of him, and within 2 minutes we got everything back ha. It was pretty mental. The police told us that the gun was loaded and off safety so that was a bit scary. 1 hour later we had a full police escort to the club and I was playing for 3 hours which definitely felt uncomfortable after all that. But one for the memory books I guess ha
What’s your schedule looking like for winter then? Do you generally try and make for sunnier climates as it gets cold in winter?
If I’m honest I’ve no idea, I never look where I’m playing ever. I never know where I’m going or where I’m playing until a couple of days before. I could find out but I’m just not bothered enough. And even if I do find out I’d forget straight away anyways so fuck it.
But as for the weather, no I don’t think that ever comes into any decision making. It doesn’t matter anyway where I’m playing as all I ever see is a hotel and a dark club so it can be any weather outside id never know ha
For someone who travels so much (essentially for a living) where do you consider home these days? And what is it about it that appeals?
My home is London, I’m never really anywhere long enough to call it home apart from London. I love it so much when I get home, I crave being home all the time as I don’t really enjoy being on the road that much. I get really frustrated if I don’t get enough time at home, and going home is like going on holiday for me ha no joke. I need to have a decent amount of time at home otherwise I get down. My life feels too chaotic and crazy when I don’t get quality home time.
In terms of your productions, you’ve really been on fire throughout your career. Are you a musician who is able to produce on the road or do you have to be in a good headspace and in the studio to create music?
Well, I used to be so good at making music on the road or just anywhere I was. I would sit in the corner at after-parties and knock out like 10 tunes in an hour. But now I have to be in a good headspace to do it. I find it hard to find the motivation to make music nowadays as I’m always surrounded by music at gigs every week, so when I come home I just wanna relax and not listen to any music what so ever so yeah it’s much harder for me now. I could still make music on the road but really I just can’t be fucked, the less music I hear sometimes the better. I think I just find this life so fucking mental and chaotic that the more peace and quiet I have in my life the happier I am now. So that sometimes means not making any music.
But I still love making music more than anything. I’ve actually made the most music this year than I have in the past few years. But I just need moments of peace and then I will miss making music and will find the motivation and creativity I need to smash a load of tunes out
I read elsewhere that you’re somewhat sick of the party lifestyle. Was there one moment that led to this?
Yeah, I really am. I want to be completely sober now. Not forever but I want to live a healthy life and be in control of myself, and pick and choose the times to get off my head if I want to or not. Saying and actually doing that is waaay harder than it sounds, to me it is anyway. I struggle to control myself most the time and I can easily go off the rails, so it’s hard for me to create that balance. That’s a huge part of why I struggle so much on the roads all the time because I’m in a constant battle with myself to keep sober. Sometimes I’m great with it and sometimes I’m the worst and I’m off my face for days on end. Then now it takes me a week to recover so I get fuck all done and then your back on the road! The life of a DJ!
What’s next for you and what else have you got coming up that you’re really excited about?
Well I just had a meeting with my agent about my plans for next year and my whole year is already booked up or at least planned and really it was amazing to see what I have coming up. All the biggest shows and festivals, line-ups I could think of I’m playing or doing so next year looks to be huge!! It’s coming to the end of year so there’s not much more to talk about, but I have an upcoming ep end of November on Solid Grooves which I’m really looking forward to. I’m playing for FUSE in Miami at my favourite club Space 12th December I think it is so I can’t wait for that. I have a tour in South East Asia again in November which is looking decent.
But like I said I never know where I’m playing ha so I can’t think of anything else right now. But expect more music from me and collaborations. Doing some cool minimal stuff now which is different to all my other stuff so I’m really excited for this to come out and for you all to hear!
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wAFF plays Epizode Vietnam, taking place from 27 December – 7th January. For further information and tickets, visit www.epizode.com