DJ Raffertie: “I don’t think genres exist anymore”

Birmingham-based DJ and Radio 1 golden-boy “Raffertie” has been on the Dubstep/Experimental scene for over a year now. Getting initial exposure through Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs and collaborating with artists such as Akira Kiteshi and Kanji Kinetic, margin for error seems innately minimal. Harry Lincoln caught up with the 21 year old in Birmingham, where he currently lives and studies:

A self-confessed genre - Raffertie. Photo: Megan Sharp

1. Explain your genre-setting. How would you class your music to someone who had never heard you before? 
It’s hard to describe the whole genre thing, because I don’t really think that it exists anymore. People who ask me this are asking all these questions and are just trying to quantify it. Raffertie is very bass-heavy but I have loads of influences. I study down the road at the Conservatoire in Birmingham and so I get a lot of contemporary music influences from that, whether it be experimental electronics or contemporary orchestral music and chamber ensembles.

So yeah, everything from the more traditional arrangements right up to the more avant-garde, but obviously it’s all based in the electronic world.

I think it’s much better if people make up their own minds what it’s all about, really.

RAFFERTIE – LIVE @ BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE (22nd OF FEB 2010) by raffertieproductions

2. How did you make it on to the dubstep/electronica scene as well as Radio 1 claims that you have? 
[chuckles] I suppose that once I got picked up by Mary Anne Hobbs from Radio 1 and got the initial plays that I did, that basically gave me a massive platform to go from. I was then signed up to an agency and got some other support from some other Radio 1 DJs at the time.

I sometimes forget that her show is so late-night, and when I flick on I think, ‘who is listening at this hour?’ Literally her show reaches so many thousands of people, it’s fantastic to be featured in something like that. I’ve also been mentioned on Nick Grimshaw’s show The Record of the Week.

I still don’t really feel that I’ve made it yet, on to ‘that’ scene as it were. But at the same time, I’m getting some real good play time and playing with some big, renowned DJs. I feel very privileged to do that.

3. What’s your stance on work versus play? You’re still a student, right? 
I’ve really started to feel the strain in the last month or so, with all these deadlines lingering. But my main project since September has been the Raffertie album and it is an ongoing project. Even when you’ve got to the end, there is so much more to do: mixing and mastering and actually finding a record label.

The course that I’m on is a very linear thing. It very much has a start, a middle and an end and it’s proving difficult to try and get everything to coincide with that hand-in date. I’m still talking to labels as the album is nearing completion now and come May time or even a month after, things will take off I’m hoping.

4. Some comment-happy writers on XLR8R claim that you’ve ripped your scissors icon from Cut Chemist – former artist from Jurassic 5. Is that where you got that idea from? 
No. There were lots of stories out there on the internet, and it’s funny how all these little rumours develop. However, I was actually just playing about with symbols and I was just trying to find something that would catch people’s attention. Something that would be easily associated with Raffertie.

There were a lot of pictures of myself floating around which were very bouffant hair, clippered and very back-brushed. So the scissors thing just seemed to make sense.

I used it for a long time instead of using any facial photographs. But the whole anonymity thing has really been done – artists like Zombie and Fake Blood, for example. I didn’t want to make a big thing about it and didn’t really want to be a poster-child.

The personification adds something to the music, for sure, but it’s not everything.

5. What system do you use? Some use a hybrid of formats, like Traktor vs. Vinyl. How do you work? Has it always been that way? 
Oh no. Years and years ago when I was first making music, I used this music producing software called Cakewalk Sonar – a retro PC program.

But then I moved over to Mac about four years ago. So I mainly use Logic and Ableton and a few other VSTs for the main system. For DJing I use Ableton.

6. Because samples make up an intrinsic part of your mixes, have you ever had a problem with copyright? 
Well, no I haven’t. The very nature that my industry is based on, the use of sampling has always carried this usage of samples. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s there wasn’t a hip hop DJ who wouldn’t make entire mixes out of other tracks.

It hasn’t been a problem so far – touch wood!

7. Do you have any musical pet peeves? Are there elements to live sets you see when you just think ‘amateur’? 
I think for a while I haven’t seen anything that ticks me off. A while ago, rewinds were a pet peeve. Certain kinds of genres of music have kind of built the rewind as a way of building up the hype in the music. In Grime music there are certain things that the MC’s say, signalling to the DJ to rewind it, or pull it up and it’s really effective in those instances.

But sometimes when a DJ’s playing a set and there’s no MC, they’ll pull up every track, again and again. I just thought to myself, ‘what are you doing? What’s going on?’

To be honest I just like seeing how different people play their sets. It makes it more interesting to watch. I don’t want to sound too prejudiced.

8. You’d agree that there are a lot of timing and cueing risks when running a set? Have there been times when you go out on an unscheduled limb, so to speak? And maybe you’ve thought, ‘Yep, that works, I’ll leave it in!’
I have a rough idea what I want to play in my set. A song to start and a song to finish on, but everything in the middle is guess-work.
I’m sure every DJ has an idea of what works well and what mixes well together, but I’m not one to revert back to that. I like to mix it up and keep it as fresh as possible.

9: When and where are your next up and coming shows? 
Bloc Festival this weekend! I’ll be playing back to back with Kanji Kinetic in the Braindrop section. There are something like 500 DJs playing there over the weekend. Should be pretty intense! T
he weekend beginning the 20th March I’ll be in Helsinki. I’ve never been to Finland before so really looking forward to that.

To listen to more from Raffertie you can visit his website or MySpace. His material is also available on Soundcloud.

– Hear audio snippets from the interview in The Linc’s Magazine Weekly podcast, available to download from iTunes 14th March.

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