"Well, strictly speaking, I started playing Jungle music before Drum & Bass developed as it's own sub genre."- RobOne
How long have you been a DJ?
My first gig was August 9, 1995. I was buying records before then but that was my first gig so that's the date I say I started as a DJ.
Have you always been a DC based DJ?
From 95 until 01, yes. From 01-05, I lived in Hawaii. From 06 to the present, DC area again.
When did you first want to become a DJ?
I actually didn't start out wanting to be a DJ. In 93-94, mix tapes were really the only way to hear rave music outside of a rave. Some groups, The Prodigy, Baby D and Altern8 and others, had CDs out but there was more music than just them. And the place where you'd buy tickets to the raves were the music shops where DJs bought their music. So when I'd go to get tickets, I'd spend more time listening to records, eventually buying them and then eventually more. Then I was in there on new release day. Then it got to where the guy in the shop was holding white labels for me and I'm making multiple trips each week. During that time, I got turntables and a mixer and it all just happened.
Do you remember what your first record was you bought?
I can remember buying records as a kid, long before raves and DJing. Metallica albums and Kurtis Blow's Kingdom Blow. Definitely remember buying those.
As for records for DJing, I have numerous foggy memories of what was purchased in my early rave days. Baby D, Jam & Spoon, Hardfloor, 2 Bad Mice, Rabbit In The Moon, Gang Starr, and Justin Warfield were all early record buys. One that stands out with the most clarity, though, is the Warehouse EP by 2 Bad Mice on Moving Shadow.
Have you always been a Drum & Bass DJ? If not what did you play before Drum & Bass?
Well, strictly speaking, I started playing Jungle music before Drum&Bass developed as it's own sub genre. But, yeah, I've always been first and foremost a Jungle DJ. I've always bought records of other genres, especially Hip Hop, and I've been known to play other stuff - and still do on occasion, but Jungle/D&B is my first true music love.
What was your first gig?
I believe it was called Rave Up. August, 1995. In DC. I played a freakin prime time right after Baggadonuts and before Shamus. It was the middle of the night. No idea how that came about.
What crews have you been affiliated with over the years?
The Snowball Collective was the first to put me on. I met Shamus at a Jungle rave in the spring of 95 and he got me the booking at Rave Up that summer. Then I met Buster and the rest of their crew. The next month they did an event with Trace and Odi and I played that for so I guess I was in the crew with them at that point. In early 96, Buster called me about playing at an all Jungle event he was starting which was to be DC's first all Jungle weekly called Where The Wild Things Are. He and John Tab did the event under the name Elliptic Crew, which later included Slant and Ron "The R."
Shouts to Snowball crew members Shamus, Buster, Gehno, Troy T-Rex, Durty Daryl, Paolo and John Johnson plus the ladies crew Rosanna, Caroline, Debbie, Gretchen, Lydia, Jenn, Janie, Kim. All of them helped make the events go off.
Presently, I'm with the Transit crew doing Wednesdays each week in Fairfax and with Sensory doing quarterly events in DC.
Do you have anyone you can call out on being a large influence on your DJ career?
As a young raver, I was really into Scott Henry in DC, Feelgood and DJ Who in Baltimore, Diselboy would play in Baltimore a lot back then and he was the main guy playing the faster breakbeats - the early UK hardcore breakbeat stuff which Scott Henry also played and Greg Sargent played it too. As that style evolved into Jungle, it was Dieselboy, and dB and On-E would play in the area pretty frequently. Those were the ones who I was really drawn to early on in terms of rave oriented DJing. On the Hip Hop side, O-So-Fresh was everywhere playing all the time in DC and Cool Aaron played at some Baltimore raves. There were also the DJs on the albums that I listened to like Premier, DJ Scratch, Eric B, Terminator X, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, King Britt… Radio recordings of Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito were a god send but were few and far between for me. But…
To name one who I had seen live I'd say On-E. He would play his sets half Hip Hop and half Jungle. Having grown up on Hip Hop, I always loved to see him play Hip Hop at the raves and to back it up with Jungle too. He was awesome. And although I hadn't seen DJ Hype live until years later, I had loads of his mix tapes, dozens of them bought at the raves: recordings form World Dance, Dreamscape, Desire, Helter Skelter. Bukem, Rap, SS, Gachet tapes too. I lived on those tapes and they totally influences how I play.
So where did the name Rob-One come from?
Back in the early 90s, it was fairly common for graff writers to add a number 1 or even the word "one" after their name. Like a crown or an arrow, I thought of it as flair to add to a tag or piece to help the name stand out a bit. Later when it came time to decide on a DJ name, I didn't want to use the same name for bombing and for DJing. I didn't really think my first and last name would work as a DJ name. I did want to use my real name but make it different somehow, so I added the -One for flair.
Where do you aspire to play at?
Sun&Bass and SunBeatz Ibiza.
What do you look for in a track when you’re pulling your set together?
Any song will work in a DJ set, you just have to figure out the right place for it. That will depend on what you intend to do with the whole set.
As for a single song, what draws me in and creates the vibe for me is the musicality and composition - the chord progression, how long the tension builds until its released, if the bass just rides the root of the chord or if there are chord inversions, counterpoint melody. I'll pay attention to drum patterns, too, when considering a mix. I don't think that is really looked at too closely enough by DJs these days.
As a mixed media DJ, (someone who will DJ with Vinyl & MP3) what's your take on the media wars within the DJ community?
I could easily take the grumpy old traditionalist position and say nothing compares to vinyl, but the truth is that I embrace the technology. It's practical and efficient. I use Serato and I enjoy it. I actually started using Serato before I ever used a CDJ. But I still have all my records and I love them. I'll never get rid of them. I'm always down to do a vinyl set whenever.
As for the beef over which is better, it's all a matter of perspective: I think, if you came up with music on wax, you're likely to prefer it. A younger person who has come up in the digital world is more likely, I believe, to prefer that.
I look at DJing holistically and realize that DJing now employs a lot of various technologies, so I use the technologies in my own way. For me, Serato bridges the traditional vinyl DJing method with the contemporary music media. I'm disappointed that Serato has discontinued their support for the 57.
On the topic of your collection, how is your media organized at home?
My CDs and my old tapes are not organized at all, but my vinyl is:
Jungle/Drum&Bass is organized primarily by label and chronologically within that label. I have a divider for any label from which I have more than 3 records and families are grouped together (ie. V and Philly Blunt are together, Suburban Base and Boogie Times, Good Looking and Looking Good, etc.). Then, for labels from which I have fewer than 3 releases, there's a miscellaneous section divided by each year of release, 90-99, then 2000 onward are all grouped together.
This is the most efficient method for me because, for example, if I want play Hype's Roll The Beats, I know it's on SubBase, and I have a ton of SubBase, so I go to right to that big section. Since i know that came out in 94, I go right to the earlier releases since all the SubBase are chronological, and within a few grabs, I have it. If I'm looking for Thoughts of an Innocent Mind, I go to the miscellaneous 1993 group because I know I only have 2 releases from Metamorphosis Records, this and Dub War. It takes less than 10 seconds to find any record and I have thousands of records.
Hip Hop is all alphabetical by artist with dividers for A - Z, and again if I have more than a few records from an artists, I have a divider for it. Like Gang Starr, I think I have about 25 albums and singles, so I go past the "G" section and before the "H" section is all the Gang Starr records together.
House and breaks are just all together, with certain artists grouped, like all the records from Rabbit In The Moon, Scott Hardkiss, and God Within are grouped together.
Rock and punk are all together, alphabetically.
I also have an acappella vinyl section and a section for breaks sampling.
What's your home set up like?
The DJ setup is two 1200s turntables and a Rane 57.
I use a MacPro and a MacBookPro running Logic, ProTools and Ableton Live with Waves, Izotope and other plugins. I use an Avid MBox and an M-Audio FastTrack audio interface. The board is a Mackie MCU Pro and Alesis monitors. Then there is some outboard gear, a compressor and an eq and some Roland gear and other midi controllers.
Tell me about Surface Noise Productions?
It was going to be a label and studio. But I've ditched that name.
How many years have you been in business?
I wouldn't say I've been "in business," instead I'd just say I've been available for mixing and mastering for about a year and some change.
What are you doing more of, DJing or Production, now a days?
Producing. Writing and arranging my own songs, plus mix downs and masters, as well as mix and master for others.
DJing is a second to that.
What’s your goal when you’re producing a track?
Different goals at different stages.
Initially, I want to get an idea captured quickly and drive off that creative impulse. A composition can be completed in just a few hours if all the pieces come together and there's no technological hindrance.
Once the melodies are written and the song is arranged, my goal in a mix is to get the elements in their place - sonically, in the audio spectrum. This can come quickly or it can drag on and it's different from song to song.
What’s been your favorite DJ moment?
Oh gosh. As a DJ, there have been so many good memories. Playing at midnight at the Snowball NYE 96/97 event was amazing. People actually still occasionally mention that night to me.
A favorite DJ-related moment, not actually DJing, would be the first time I was given a record. It was 1995. I was hanging out at a friend's and dB was there, we got to talking. He asked if I play records, I said yes. He asked what I play, I said Jungle. He pulled out a copy of his N.Y. Jungle EP and said, "here. Hope you like it." I was 18 years old. Totally blown away.
What are your top five favorite tracks right now?
Just 5? Wow.
Calibre - Sagan
Radias - Let It Roll
LN4 - The Sound of the Night
Muggsy - Every Sky would Be Blue
And my current crate digger favorite is Wax Tailor's Que Sera.
What do you say to any bedroom DJ trying to get started?
Easy: Close the laptop.
Serious answer: DJing is playing music and you don't look at music, you listen to it. Learn to use your ears to play music and forget what's on the screen. Also, forget the tricks - all the bells and whistles that are in the software - until you understand and have mastered the fundamentals. So, once the song is loaded, turn the screen so you can only use your ears.
Also, if you're gonna about the music, be about the music. Don't get caught up in scene beefs. That just works against the music.
Do you have any upcoming gigs where the FTA audience can check you out?
- June 8, a history of Jungle/D&B set on Dirtbox Radio, jungletrain.net with Mad Max, Freefall and ODJ.
- June 18 at Transit, Fairfax, VA.
- August 1 at Turnstyle's Artwalk in Richmond, VA - a jungle jam out in the streets.
- August 9-11 at Doah Fest, a weekend mauic and arts fest in Shenandoah Valley, VA.
In closing would you like to say to the FTA audience?
If you've read this far, thank you.