Techno Tuesday: wAFF on the journey from fan to Drumcode powerhouse
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
The story of wAFF reads like a techno fan’s daydream. Once a passionate hobbyist, the Leeds-based producer has gone on to become a resident at Jamie Jones’ Paradise parties, as well as a prominent player on Hot Creations. Beyond this, his music has become inescapable. From singles on Cocoon and VIVa Music, to remixes on Suara and Culprit, wAFF is everywhere. Most notably, he’s recently embarked on a techno tip, signing his latest EP, VibrationZ, to Adam Beyer’s Drumcode.
On top of this, wAFF recently finished his first ever North American tour and will be performing at the BPM Festival in January. We tracked him down to tell the story of his rise to house and techno prominence.
It’s hard to fully remember what got me into techno if I’m completely honest, but I remember getting well into minimal techno around 2005-2006 I think. Maybe a little earlier. A lot of my friends would always take me to new nights around the UK for minimal and techno. I had no idea who was who back then, as I’d just got into this scene, so I was just well excited and inspired by everything. But I remember going to parties like Below in Birmingham and Warehouse in Leeds, Dirty Disco in Leeds also, and just hearing techno properly for the first time. I started to get well into Luciano, Magda, Troy Pierce, Richie Hawtin, Marco Carola and Joseph Capriati along with so many more, but I remember these standing out the most to me.
Actually when I first started producing music I was making crap electro at the very beginning, but soon after I was making just full on techno with a good mate of mine called Pete Batty. We called ourselves Sona Sound. But I don’t remember what made me focus so much on making techno, I guess it was what just came through me at the time. So as the years have gone on, I got into a load more different genres of dance music, and of course have had releases on more house’y labels such as Hot Creations first, but never fully focused on my love for techno until recently. What brought the drive for techno back out of me was 1000% going to Berghain in Berlin and not leaving until my body literally couldn’t stand it anymore. A lot of my friends have become so obsessed with techno, so we all go to some mint techno parties all over together now, but Berghain has to be the best for me…so far. If you’ve never been, whoever is reading this, then I highly advise you to get yourself there and don’t leave until you’re completely freaked out or you pass out, it’s wwwwwicked!!
On Falling In Love With Techno
The reason I love techno is just the constant driving beat that doesn’t end, it’s just ongoing and completely gets me locked in and almost puts me into a hypnotic state, especially when it’s done right. I love how simple it sometimes can be, but so effective, the industrial soundscapes and instruments just boshing about all over the bloody shop! If you’re in a club and the sound system is wicked and let’s say Ben Klock or Marcel Dettmann is playing, well I’m gonna be stood there till the end. It’s mint, and the best time for me to dance. If anyone has seen me play I love to play high-energy sets, and always keep a rolling groove. I get that from my inspiration of techno. I guess I just love banging tunes.
What track do I associate with falling in love with techno? You know, if my memory wasn’t so bad I’d remember loads, but that would be pointless as I’ve only been asked me for one…so, a track I absolutely love to bits and have since I first ever heard it has to be M>O>S – “Lost Digits (Marcel Finger Remix)”. This tune for me has everything I want in tunes. Atmosphere, emotion, wicked beat, and a bad ass hi-hat. Its kinda trance’y but I love it. I get so much enjoyment listening to this track, but also it has great memories connected to it from being with all my best mates in a Villa in Ibiza, all completely off it and all playing b2b2b2b2b2b to even more b2b’s for what seems forever. Yeah, I’d say i definitely love this tune : )
On Hot Creations
My very first release was so so long ago, I don’t even remember when it was, but a few years before Hot Creations. I used to make tunes with one of best mates Matty T, we used to run a party together in Hull called Koala for a couple of years and he inspired me a lot. So we tried to get some releases out together and we actually made wicked tunes but we were just lazy as fuck and just wanted to play computer games and watch films so we never did well from it, ha. But my first ever release was two tunes on a record label called Tug Records, it was wAFF & Mati and the tunes were “Depressed Airport” and “Shades of Grey” (I think) and they’re actually still half decent.
Hot Creations happened really easy for me. One time when I was doing the season in Ibiza I went to some big villa party which turned out to be Richy Ahmed’s villa — this was before I knew him. And they had no decks but really wanted some, so I said to Richy and all his mates that I’d go all the way back to my apartment to get mine and bring them back to the villa so everyone can have a mix! So I did, and from that me and Richy became friends, I added him on Facebook and sent over “Jo Johnson” maybe a year or two later and straight away he said to me they wanted it but needed to have another one or two tracks to make a release, which then I made “Rainbows” and….. err……… i think it was “Jeyda” on the first release. I didn’t realise Jamie Jones had “Jo Johnson,” I only thought Richy had it, of course I knew Jamie would of heard it, but Richy never told me anything about Jamie. It was just him saying he loved it, bla bla bla. But I went to DC10 around the same time and i remember walking into the terrace and finding a cool spot to dance and suddenly “Jo Johnson” started coming in. At first I didn’t know or maybe believe it was my tune because everyone was buzzing, shouting “It’s your tune wAFF” and I was like… “is it, fuck man” but then the bass dropped and that’s when I knew it really was becoming a reality.
I’ve been making techno for years and never thought about releasing it until now, so I just wanted to release on a huge label and one that I love, plus I’ve loved Adam Beyer for years so it felt right to give him some music. To get the impact I wanted for my music I had to aim big so I sent a message to Adam Beyer telling him I had a track for him to listen to (I’d seen him on YouTube playing my tunes so I kinda thought I’d have a chance he’d pay any attention to my message) and he also got back to me right away saying he loved the track. The track was “Synchronistic” that was part of my EP with Drumcode, and yeah Adam told me to make a couple more and we will have a release. So this will be the start of many, many more for Drumcode, I think.
The Best Moment So Far
What’s been the best moment of my career so far? You know, it’s such a hard question to answer. Every time I get asked, I always struggle to pick a particular experience and memory as the whole thing is unreal. (Well, most of it. I can’t stand traveling anymore. I’ve had enough, ha. I’m currently on a flight to San Francisco for a gig tonight and I’ve been traveling nearly 20 hours and I’m not even there yet and it’s been a nightmare, but thats a story for another interview!) Back to the question, I always say Burning Man is my best experience because it is, but I’ve written about that so much I think I should give another time.
I think The BPM Festival was one of my best experiences yet. It was unreal, so much fun and I met so many new people. The vibe was amazing and so was every club and party I went to. It beat Ibiza for me if you wanted to go for a rave holiday, by quite a lot actually. All the clubs are pretty much open air or outdoor, music was sick. It just never seemed to stop. When we had Paradise at Blue Venado, it was by far the best party I experienced. I know it’s easy for me to say that because it’s my party but it was just how the whole event worked out. It was on a beach in the middle of the jungle, and the venue was so sick, it’s hard to put into words what it was like, but the people that came were amazing to play to and spend the rest of the night / morning with. I was with all my crew, everyone was on form and we didn’t stop. It literally just kept on going and going and going hours after we was meant to finish. Think we were meant to stop at 4am and we stopped at like 3pm i think. Was amazing especially for the sunrise! And to top it all off, Tulum afterwards was complete paradise and the best way to end any trip : )