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Best Of British: Best Breakthrough DJ - Funkagenda

Charging through big rooms

This year the British Breakthrough DJ award has gone to a producer. Actually, that might have been how we saw Funkagenda a few years ago, but the Toolroom Knight has really come into his own behind the decks recently and is now a huge worldwide draw.

His tough but melodic big room house sound is carefully crafted thanks in part to his lauded skills in the studio. Every track comes in his own re-edit form; accapellas, effects and more are thrown in, often with a subtlety that means that you know it sounds good, you're just not sure why.

If you want an example of how much effort goes into his sets, and how much ground across the house spectrum he covers, you could do a lot worse than checking out his excellent new compilation for Toolroom. It makes his win at the Best of British seem like a formality.

It's not surprising that Funkagenda, otherwise known as Adam Walder, wants to push himself creatively. He started out playing live, dragging his studio into clubs every week while his mates simply brought a bag of records. Realising that he'd missed a trick he took to the Technics, but when the Pioneer CDJ500 arrived he pounced on it. So early was he on CDJing he had to take his own decks with him to gigs. Now, years later, he's moved on to Ableton, in part to keep his own interest up.

"Since I've moved over to Albeton I re-edit absolutely everything," says Adam. "Every track that I play has got some kind of riff on it that is different to the original. I also try and remix stuff on the fly - extend breakdowns and things like that, make it based around the dancefloor rather than just playing records."

One thing is certain. Funkagenda refuses to subscribe to the checking-your-emails syndrome of DJing from a laptop. His head is firmly out of the screen as he likes to "get involved, have a party, but do all the technical things as I go along".

Currently he's getting involved at clubs like Queen in Paris, Ministry, Sankey's and any of the global Pachas, but it all started at Wobble and perhaps more importantly God'skitchen where he had his first major residency.

"That was a very important time for me," he says. "That was the first time I was really seen as a DJ. But I've always been a producer first."

But the John Martyn-loving, tea-guzzling Brummie reckons that it's harder to play his own productions in a set than ever, despite the technology available.

"It's kind of weird," he ponders. "Back when I started getting noticed - I don't like saying that, it sounds really pretentious - I was playing 50 – 60 percent my own stuff. There was less choice then though, everyone had the same big tunes. If you wanted something a bit different you had to make it yourself. Now there's so much music around that sometimes it's almost difficult to fit your own records in once you get into a groove."

And that's what makes Funkagenda so good - his sets are so cohesive and thought out that he'll sacrifice playing his own material for the sake of the flow. Here is a DJ that takes a producer's approach to playing, building up the elements - here, tracks - into a structured whole. If that means including a big tune, then it goes in. If it means one of his own killer productions, then great. But one thing is for sure, a few hours in front of speakers controlled by Funkagenda will have your ears accosted by more fine touches than you can count, whether technical, musical or structural.

Asked why he reckons he's been voted Best Breakthrough DJ, Adam says: "I don't know. I guess it's because I'm approachable - not just as a person but as a DJ. If anyone says, 'I won this award because…' then they've clearly been thinking about themselves quite a lot."

Indeed, and Funagenda clearly spend his time thinking about the music.

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  The Other Nominees

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