Bass Camp Orfű was a prolonged overdose on bass, joy and mates in 2017, too. The friendliest festival in Hungary, where I managed to chat with Compa, aka Will Brown who was, funnily enough, invited by me to play in Orfű. We touched plenty of exciting topics, for instance, his instrumental as well as drum and bass background, what makes a good gig, how to use a loaf of bread properly, and a lot more!
Hey, welcome to Hungary. It’s a wonderful sunny day in Orfű. We’re sitting here and I just can’t believe the story how we “met”.
It is absolutely crazy.
Where did you find my interview with J:Kenzo? Was it on Twitter?
It was on Facebook. Somebody shared it, probably J:Kenzo, or Icicle, and I saw it because obviously, I’m a J:Kenzo fan and I love reading everybody’s interviews to learn. I always want to learn, in any way possible. I thought “Hungary, never played there, let me try and learn something about it”. Yeah, so it found me, really. And then I thought I’d just show you my respect by sending a message, saying how good it was.
And that’s where things started.
Yeah. It’s mad — I was reading back our messages earlier, I was like, whoa, it’s crazy.
I was really happy to help you with this gig in Orfű because I’m just really looking forward to seeing new talents, people who have not been to Hungary yet. What do you know about this country?
Not a lot, yet. Musically… Am I right in saying this is more of a drum and bass place?
Yeah, definitely. It used to be the capital of drum and bass.
That’s about all I know.
You yourself used to be a drum and bass DJ as well.
Oh, god, very long ago.
Very long and that was before the internet, so I was limited to just one record shop in my town, I didn’t know anything else outside that record shop…
How long was this period that you played drum and bass?
I started going to this after-school club where you could choose between PlayStation… oh, bees!
I’m so sorry.
But anyway, I started going there probably when I was about 15 years old… I started playing drum and bass when I was around 15 up till about 18. Then I started college, which is around the time I started producing. Just as I started producing, I found myself at my friend’s house and buying records from him and then he introduced something new to me. I thought it was slow drum and bass, I was like “wow, I really like it”. And no, he told me it was dubstep.
Who were your d’n’b heroes?
Roni Size, definitely. I think New Forms was the first album that I’ve ever bought on a CD and I was like wow, this is simply amazing. The drum and bass artists I loved were like Nu:Tone, Roni Size, Calibre. I was really into the really hard crazy Dillinja stuff, yeah, I love that stuff, man. I was pretty broad, I’d say. I like the really heavy crazy shit that they were playing back in the day and I like the really silky, jazzy stuff. I’ve always had like a pretty wide taste.
Do you follow them now? Do you know what they are up to now?
Not religiously, but I always have an eye and an ear on a lot of different music. Do you know what’s weird? When I first got into dubstep, I disliked the reggae-style dubstep, and then about two years later, I loved it. I used to dislike rap music, now I love rap music and I hate reggae-style dubstep. I used to hate stuff that I love now and the stuff I used to love, I hate now… super weird how taste mutates over time. Long story short, I follow all music and I don’t like to limit myself. If I go to the studio in the morning and want to write hiphop, I will. If I want to write drum and bass, I will. Music is about enjoyment and creativity, isn’t it?
Maybe it’s just the shaping of yourself?
It’s me evolving, ageing, gaining experience.
Both as an artist and as a person, that is quite natural. All in all, you don’t follow drum and bass at all?
As I say, I have an eye and an ear on a lot of different music and I listen to a lot of radio, 1Xtra, Rinse FM, etc., so I take in a lot of different sounds and I do hear and love a lot of drum & bass music, increasingly so at the moment actually. It seems to be catching my attention again. I follow a few friends like Alix Perez and Eprom, Dub Phizix, Skeptical, the Ivy Lab guys, Sam Binga, who was a massive inspiration, the guys I run into when touring and out playing shows. I really like their music and they’re all really wicked guys. In fact, I’ve signed a track with Aliz Perez’s label that’s coming out soon on his 1985 label, the track’s called “Back You Head”. It’s a single coming out on a 12” v/a compilation. So to answer your question, I do still follow the music.
What caught you in dubstep?
Leave me alone! (bees). I was in a drum bass bubble so long and the slower tempo had more space within dubstep just clicked with me. When you hear a song you really like, sometimes it’s a bit hard to describe why you like it so much. It just resonates with you, and dubstep just really resonated with me. So I found out more about it, followed it, I had the internet by this time, and the passion grew from there.
What are the vibes you can feel right now? What do you feel about the place itself?
I like it, it’s very relaxed. But this dark drum and bass feels a bit too heavy for this time of day in the sun, for these wicked locations. It’s so different in many ways from the places that I’ve played before. This is a beautiful country.
In what sense?
Well, normally I play a club in the early hours of the morning in the dark, and today I’m in the sun, wearing shorts and T-shirt. It’s so rare to play in the sun, I play off the crowd. It depends where I am, so today I don’t know how it’s going to feel to me because I’ve never played in this kind of setting before. So it’s going to be a new experience.
You have already played open-air festivals, haven’t you?
Yes, but this is different. Again, it has always been at night. You know, in dark… I’m gonna kill that bee…
Are you the type of the DJ mixes with the locals before the show?
Yes, I think I’m a people person, to be honest. Let’s take today. For example, I like to wander around, talk to people, to see everything, kind of experience it all. Well, I know DJs who would literally stay in a hotel, come straight for their set, go back to the hotel, and go home. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever makes you more most comfortable. When I come early and talk to people, it calms me down, I don’t get as nervous. I just feel more excited to DJ when I’ve heard the sound, seen the setting, had a drink, met some people, then I’m like “I can do this”.
Do you ever get nervous?
If you brought me here straight to the stage and I had to fucking DJ, oh my god, that’d be awful.
But you’ve had hundreds of shows already, so it’s not a new thing.
Sure, I can’t figure it out. I like to plan things. I like to know what’s the sound like, what’s the setup like, how busy it is. What’s the stage like, what’s the backstage like…
“Just to be on the safe side” thing.
Yeah, so I put my mind at rest. Basically, I need to be relaxed. Less stress, definitely…
So that means that you feel like home now because you’ve seen everything you wanted to see.
Pretty much. I am still a bit worried about how’s it going to go, you know, just those questions are running through my mind for the moment. How busy is it going to be? Are there going to be any technical difficulties? How are people going to like the music and so on?
Does business, the crowd count?
Sure. I think the more people that I play to, the more comfortable I feel. So if there are two people, I get really scared. I don’t know why, but if it has 10,000, I’m not nervous at all. I’ll enjoy it way more because I think the less people, the more starey it is! Because if it’s rammed, everyone’s going mental and it’s just a sick night, a really good energy. When it’s really quiet, it can be very weird to play, like you said, getting too personal.
What if you played for that two guys — does it give a different feeling?
In what sense?
It’s hard to describe. It is just more pressure, I think, when there are less people.
The pressure of what? Performing?
There’s just a weird energy when there are not many people there. Because it’s just not busy, you feel like you’ve done something wrong. You try, then you start to blame yourself, maybe slightly. It’s hard to describe. Obviously, when people don’t come to see you play, you feel like it’s your fault. You feel like “oh, shit, people don’t care”. Maybe I’m not good, no one wants to see me play. That’s maybe half of it and the other half is probably that you feel bad for the promoter because they pay all the money for flying you here, so you feel bad for them, you feel bad about yourself, you feel bad for the people. It’s super weird. But when it’s busy, it’s sick.
It will influence your set then: the setting, the whole atmosphere.
The thing is I’m limited to the records I carry.
How many do you have currently?
50 or 60, so tracks-wise it is maybe 200 tracks.
Unfortunately, there are some people who have no bloody idea what dubplates are. What would be the simplest way for you to put into words what that is?
A dubplate is a “one of” record, only one made, and the music that you put on that record, which is called a dubplate, is unreleased. It’s brand new, unreleased, exclusive music.
How many dubplates do you have right now?
The bag’s kind of split today. About 20 records, maybe 30 dubplates. I only use them because I DJ best on turntables. If I DJd best on CDJs, I’d move over to USBs. If you like CDs, do CDs, you might like USBs, do USBs, if you perform best on vinyl, play vinyl. It’s about you as an artist, isn’t it?
Have you ever regretted?
Oh yeah, sure.
I remember playing a European festival once, and the walk from arriving at artist check-in, to my stage, because it was so late, dark, and it was about a quarter of a mile walk with the record bag on grass, up hills, rocky bits, lol. God, it was awful. I really wished I played USBs that night, but like I said, I perform best and enjoy playing the most using records, so I have to play records.
What are your experiences about USBs and CDs?
Actually, I tried them for about two shows, I tried CDs at one point, a couple of years ago. The first show that I went to do with CDs, one of the CDJs didn’t work. I took that as a sign. I was like, no, that’s a bad sign, I’m going back on records.
One of the reasons why many DJs complain and have already left turntables is the average condition of the setup of turntables. Do you agree?
A lot of people say that but I rarely have problems. Probably about 90 out of 100 shows are not a problem and then the other 10, well, I keep USBs with me, and CDs as well. I think when I was in America, when I played in Miami only one of the turntables was working. So I played using a turntable and a USB that night. That was the first time issue this year out of about 60 shows, so it’s very rare.
Once a year or so?
Pretty much – yes, so not too bad.
Maybe it’s rather having enough caring?
Ah, that’s unquestionably true. They don’t really look after them. Definitely, as a vinyl DJ, you have to stress, you have to say look we need turntables, they need to be in good condition, and you need a soundcheck. Soundcheck is really important as well because there have been times when during the soundcheck there was something going wrong. Well, they’ve been able to solve it by the time I played. So it is super important.
And you also need a loaf of bread, right?
Hahaha. So many ways to solve skippy needles. Bread, tuna cans, cans, pillows, blankets, everything, tennis balls…
You must have had a lot of experiences concerning this issue.
Hahaha, god, yes!
What was the strangest object, can you remember, with which you supported the turntable?
Was it you?
It was a friend of mine, who was doing a night and he rang me, telling that the turntable was shaking, what could he do? Well, I told them to find an isolator — no, he didn’t have an isolator. OK, then tennis balls — nope. I said: sorry, mate, I can’t help, and he replied: we’re gonna try bread. And bread worked!
It’s really crazy.
I’ve experienced your social media presence, it’s significant. Do you manage all your pages by yourself?
It’s rather time-consuming, isn’t it?
Sure, it can be. I think it plays a big role these days, though.
Oh, you’ve got another friend! (bees)
Okay, it’s gone, it’s okay.
For me, it is a really great mixture that you are old school from the point of view of dubplates and turntables and very new school from this social media presence.
It is a weird contrast.
Is it a contrast?
I was young when social media came in, so I was one of these people who fully embraced it from the start. I think my age helps, it was just weird because I was just one of those last people who didn’t switch over digital. The reason I’ve told you already.
It is a contrast because most old artists either don’t use social media or don’t use it very well because they didn’t grow up with it. They don’t understand it. Social media is a young person’s game. So I’m really lucky that I started DJing early but I also used social media.
Well, we can see it helps your career.
Apart from our example?
Definitely, because it means you can get music to anybody and without the internet, I don’t think I would have toured globally because it would be much, much harder for people to find out about me and my music. Every time I tour America, I advertise it on social media. First, I say, look, I’m coming, tell the promoters, my agent — without the internet, it’d be very hard. I might not be doing music as a full-time job if it wasn’t for the internet’s help in getting my music out there.
I’ve read that you started to play six-hour long sets.
Hahaha. I mean a promoter in Manchester asked me if I wanted to do it and I was like, no, no, definitely not. But he convinced me and it was one of the best sets I’ve ever done in my life. It felt like an hour, literally, I was so nervous before. I was taking three big boxes of records. I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy it because I was thinking what if I have to go to the toilet, what if I get distracted and lose the vibe, what if people don’t enjoy it. Just stupid thoughts. Now, as soon as I started, time… there was no time and literally, I looked at my watch, after about three hours and felt like “whoa!”. It was mad. It was magic. Absolutely incredible. I really want to do another. I don’t want to do more time because it takes a lot of preparation and because you have to precisely think hour by hour to make it or what should have been done if you got lost, if you don’t find the proper record. You also have to bring a lot of records as well as if you play actual vinyl. So I’m going to another, but I’m not going to do them regularly. I do think about touring them. Well, I don’t think I can because it would be so expensive to take three boxes of records, and a suitcase and so on…
Was there even a single minute when you regretted it?
Nah! From the minute I put on a record, I loved it, every minute! I bloody loved it.
How did you prepare for this physically?
I made sure I ate and rested properly before. I didn’t start drinking until I got to the club, so I wasn’t at risk of being drunk. Also, I used all my past experience, really, to be ready for it and it went very well, thankfully.
What is “Compa presents” exactly? Touring, series of events?
We did the Boiler Room, which went really well. I’m going to turn it into an event series as well. Starting in Manchester, arranging the next one at the moment, actually. It’s going to be me back to back with other artists all night long. I’m going to do that with different artists and then hopefully take it to new cities and make a tour in the future as well.
You own two labels: WX/WL aka “Wax White Label” which is a white label series which you use for bootleg remixes, and the new label CPA Records, which is for your original music that doesn’t come out on Deep Medi or Artikal Music — which one do you find more exciting?
Both, to be honest. I absolutely love remixes. I find it really exciting when I can take a song that people love and make it my own, and then share it and people can hear it in a brand new way. So they know the song but they don’t know this new, hopefully exciting version — that I find fascinating. CPA records-wise, I’m just really excited about the freedom of literally releasing any music I want to. Usually, I run music through friends like Mala, or J:Kenzo, and usually roll with what they like in terms of my tracks, which I enjoy doing because I love them both and I trust their taste, so it takes the pressure off me choosing from all the tracks I make. When they say they like a track I’m like, ace, and I roll with their selection because as I say, I trust their ears. But it’s good to be able to literally release any music I like via CPA Records. I was a bit nervous initially, with the first record featuring Footsie, but in the end, it did really well. It wasn’t easy doing the music video, setting up distribution and press and managing the process of putting out a record, but it’s rewarding when it’s a success. (CPA002 with free download, CPA003)
We can say you are absolutely prolific, still, you just release so few. Why?
The less you do something, the more special it is. That’s something I really believe and something I really think is important. Take Mala, for example, he releases his own music pretty infrequently. And when he does a record, everyone’s buzzing about it. But if he released a record regularly, if anyone just flung out music overly regularly, it just seems less special to me. Everyone’s different and if a producer wants to release music regularly, more power to them! But less is more, I think.
Exactly, I don’t want to be predictable. I don’t want people to know what I’m going to do.
Which are the releases you are the proudest of from your own labels?
So far my favourite three records I’ve released are “Dem a Talk”, the new one with Footsie,“No Hype”, and my first record on Deep Medi,“Narabeh” and “Alpha”. Those are the ones that stand out to me because they really shaped my career.
You live in Manchester, which is a centre of drum and bass, too. What makes it so special?
Well, it’s special to me because that’s where I started. When I first moved to Manchester, I’d just called myself Compa and just started making music.
Yes yes, why is it Compa?
When I got my first ever gigs, they asked me what my DJ name was. And I didn’t have one! I was looking around my room, trying to think of some cool name. I was making music on the laptop made by a company called Compaq. Compa with a q on the end. I thought it sounded good without the q. I was like, okay, fuck it, I’m gonna stick with it. Stuck with it, never changed.
But do you know that it has a meaning?
Yeah, it means “friend” in Spanish. I only found out recently, actually.
So Manchester is really special to me because I moved there just when I started doing music. Manchester shaped me: the clubs, the people, the nights. When I moved to Manchester, there was a dubstep night called “Hit and run”, every Monday and every week, they’d have Ramadanman, Loefah, Youngsta, Mala obviously, huge artists every week. So I got to see everyone play and really take in the music, and learn a lot about the music and I was lucky to have that. It was just a wicked place to be for the music, dubstep was huge at the time and I got a residency, with a night called “Just Skank”, which is actually where I met Mala when he played there, about two or three times a year. And because I played there myself, I got to meet him, and take him dubplates I’d cut for him, which is pretty much how I got signed to Deep Medi. So being in Manchester allowed me to meet him, signing to Deep Medi got me an agent, getting an agent got me gigs, and getting gigs made this a career.
What’s been one of the standout shows of your career?
Without a doubt: 2015, when we did Deep Medi at Outlook festival. It is special in my life because the stage where we played was full, no one could get in, the setup was perfect, my set felt like it just flowed. Surrounded by all my friends, people I love and respect. I’m still so happy and it was just the best experience of my life. I’ll never forget that, it was definitely the most enjoyable show I’ve ever done.
Any memorable fails on stage?
Oooh… yeah. We’ve all done things wrong. I don’t know… I got too drunk before my set once.
And what happened? Then your mix must have been fucked up.
Yeah, because you can’t concentrate. You can’t think, I was playing too fast, I was playing all the wrong records, wrong order, not mixing right, stupid shit like that. Being a kid, being a young idiot, you know. Equipment problems, too, always really throw me off and if I can’t get into a set, then, it just doesn’t flow.
So Mala is a friend and a hero now, in the same person. What is the most useful piece of personal advice he has given to you? Not to drink too much?
Hahaha. See, he’s too kind with his rum, always gives me strong as fuck drinks. So I wonder if I can blame my drunkness on him? I definitely can’t, haha. Best piece of advice from him has been to let the music do the talking. Plain and simple.
You originally played the drums at a very young age. Then you were into punk, rock, metal and then got into house and electronic music. What music did you exactly listen to?
It was punk, ska, I really liked ska. I was in punk and ska bands. It was just an early obsession with these styles. I got kicked out of the band I was in, because we had one of our first really important shows and I was on holiday, so I missed it, and they kicked me out. They found the replacement drummer, kept him, and kicked me out. After that, I got into DJing.
A loss and gain at the same time.
Indeed. I can’t blame that band for kicking me out, obviously, sometimes things just happen. Something really bad happens in your life, “aaaah, nooo”…
But always for a reason!
I always, honestly, I always tell myself: everything happens for a reason.
True. Even if it, in the first round, sounds or looks very crucial, very bad or tragical but you can always learn, unless you refuse to deeply look at it.
I’ve also read that you have given a lecture in Cardiff, was it production-related?
It was career. I was talking about how I went from starting DJing to make it into a career — networking, sending music out to people. Being on the road, touring, basically everything aside from production and then people had questions. It went well. I enjoyed it a lot because the purpose for me was to inspire other people and say to them one day I was just a young kid who thought “I want to be a DJ” and now I’m making it happen. I still have a long way to go, jheeze, I’m a small artist still, but I really believe you can do anything.
As for a change, you’ve started giving production tutorials via your YouTube channel. What is the exact purpose of this? Will it be regular?
The intention is to help and hopefully inspire people. I thought to myself, I wish artists I follow did these. I’d love to see into their process. So I thought, right, well let me do this for people who follow me. I’m gonna do them every couple of months or so, I think.
About your producer packs: why did you find it important to make them?
I really enjoyed putting that together. To me, samples are what trigger the ideas that make full tracks. So I thought to myself, why don’t I let people have access to some of my samples, to hopefully inspire them to make music — as simple as that, really. And thankfully the reaction to the first and second packs have been huge. I didn’t expect it to be so huge, so I’ll definitely do more.
Whose producer pack would you use or have you already used?
Oh, bloody loads, loads of friends’.
Whose is your favourite?
What’s my favourite sample pack, good question. DJ Friction and Icicle did a sample pack that I’ve used a lot, even though I don’t make drum and bass. There are very good sounds in that. I use them for dubstep and grime and they work really well. That’s one of my favourite packs. There is also an artist called TĀLĀ. She is from the UK, female, a hiphop producer. She did a free sample pack recently. It’s got some very good drums in it. And I’ve used that a lot. Anything I see, I download it, I don’t care who it’s by. I download it, dig through it. There’s always something in that, in every pack, there’s something.
And so are you going to stay for tomorrow, till tomorrow?
No, I’m leaving in the morning. I’ve got a show in Leeds tomorrow!
(A fan approaches: …Just wicked. Thank you. Thank you. Wow.)
There it is! Non-stop. Networking AND doing an interview at the same time!
Crazy. See how it’s done: multiple talents. What are your future plans?
More music, more touring!
What are your upcoming gigs?
I’ve got a few wicked shows coming up. I’m really excited to tour America and Canada again in August, two of my favourite countries in the world, and I’m really excited about the shows I’ve got coming up here in England at places like Fabric where we’re doing Deep Medi in room one in June, and Sequences festival in Bristol in July which I’ve always wanted to play at. And more shows in places like Berlin, Belgium, Outlook Festival in September, and I’m touring Australia and New Zealand in October. Loads of shows which is awesome. Touring is my favourite thing to do in the world, it really is. I’m happiest when I’m on tour, I think.
What message do you send to your fans in Hungary?
I have to say a massive thank you to Bass Camp Orfű festival for having me out for my first show in the country. Unforgettable. The show and the experience were awesome. And of course yourself, Evi, for putting this interview together! I hope to return soon and share new music! Until then… : )
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