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DJmag.com Interview: Ali B

DJmag.com caught up with breakbeat maestro Ali B to discuss the future of breaks, how technology is affecting DJing, and his parties in London.

In the fickle world of dance music, genres and DJs come and go, and club nights appear and disappear faster than you can say 'rave'.

So it's amazing to think that DJ Ali B started his infamous breakbeat night nine years ago when the Spice Girls were top of the pops and Tony Blair first became Britain's big cheese.

"When we started Air all those years ago, breakbeat was a tiny genre," says Ali in his superfast cockney drool that barely gives him time to breathe.

"Now it's this huge international sound, with parties worldwide and breaks DJs from all corners of the globe.

"I play all over the world these days, and now there's dedicated breakbeat tents at major festivals such as Hi:Fi,
Global Gathering, and Two Tribes
in Australia."

Ali B
Ali B plays regularly at London club Fabric

Meteoric Rise

In the nine years since Ali started Air, dance music has changed so much - most notably the meteoric rise of breakbeat as one of the world's biggest genres.

The international breakbeat awards - 'Breakspoll' - held annually at Fabric, the world's number one club (as voted for by 600 DJs in DJmag's recent Top 50 Clubs poll), is testament to just how popular breakbeat has become.

Over 55,000 breaks fans recently voted in the online poll.

DJs like Ali, the Plump DJs, and Stanton Warriors are some of the biggest jocks in the business and now play regularly all over the world.

Just recently Ali was DJing in China
alongside up and coming female jock
Janette Slack, and cites it as one of
his favourite places to play.

Ali B
Ali B is one of breakbeat's biggest DJs
"It was fucking amazing, and not what I expected at all," he says enthusiastically.

Technology

Technology is partly to blame for the growth of breaks.

The digital revolution, that is transforming every aspect of our lives, had a huge impact on the breakbeat scene says Ali B.

"When CD burning became widely available it affected the breaks scene so much," reports Ali.

"Whereas before we relied on traditional expensive vinyl pressing and dub plates, the same level of circulation could suddenly be obtained at a much cheaper price.

"DJs could suddenly hand out tracks the
same day they produced them, and it would
cost them a few pence, instead of
hundreds of pounds.

Ali B Interview

The digital revolution affected the breaks scene so much more than the house or techno


Ali B
Ali B Interview
"The digital revolution affected the breaks scene so much more than the house or techno scenes because it is so much smaller, and there's less money in it.

"It needed that innovation to grow," he says.

Remarkable Speed

Breakbeat, like the rest of dance music, continues to grow and develop at remarkable speed.

Just recently, the breaks genre has seen a number of breakbeat DJs and acts set up live bands.

Crews like Future Funk Squad, Hooligan, Hyper, Milke, and Aquasky now rock out like a proper band, and headline breaks events alongside DJs like Ali.

Innovative and inspiring, these new groups represent an aggressive movement by the breaks community to appeal to a wider audience.

Clearly the breaks community are hungry to see their scene grow even more.

"Watching a band is always going to be more exciting than watching a DJ," says Ali, who recently booked some of the breaks acts to play for his Air club night at Cargo.

"In a negative way, technology has affected the DJ because there's now less to see than there always was."

Breakbeat Bands

Is the rise of breakbeat bands a reaction to the boring-to-watch digital DJ?

"I don't know about that, but laptop DJing is certainly pretty boring to watch.," states Ali.

"Personally, I use both CDs and vinyl, but I know which one I get more energy and excitement from playing.

"Digging into a record box and pulling out tunes with cool artwork is always more fun than flicking through a CD wallet full of identical-looking CDs with my rubbish handwriting scrawled on them.

Ali B Interview

If there's one thing that has suffered most in the digital age, it's the relationship between art and music


Ali B
Ali B Interview
"If there's one thing that has suffered most in the digital age, it's the relationship between art and music – nowadays there's no interesting covers being made"

Air Breaks

Ali B has just finished mixing his latest CD compilation 'Air Breaks' a storming breakbeat mix that features exclusive productions from some of breaks' biggest producers.

"I begged everyone for upfront tracks, and asked DJs to make me tunes that they know would blow up at Air," reveals Ali.

"It worked, because all the tracks on the CD rock – they are all mainly exclusives, including a track from the Stanton Warriors that you won't get anywhere else."

The CD also features two of Ali's favourite up and coming DJs – DJ Love, a breakbeat jock from Texas who'll be doing an artist album for Air Recordings soon, and Janette Slack, the talented Hong-Kong born female DJ that Ali recently toured China with.

"They're both great DJs, and I'm sure they'll go far," he says.

After nine years of organising breaks parties in London ("it's been a bloody slog," says Ali) is there any DJ better suited to mix a breakbeat compilation?

'Ali B presents Air Breaks' is out 8 May on Air Recordings.

www.airrecordings.com