With Arcadia10 now less than a month away, we caught-up with the man charged with opening The Spider on Sunday 6th May: the indomitable DJ Vadim!
Armed with a stack-full of dubplates, DJ Vadim is a surefire guarantee that Arcadia London is starting how we intend to carry on! Here’s what he had to say about his influences, how he approaches DJing, his relationship with London and playing at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
When did you begin DJing?
I started DJing in 1988. But it’s really 1993 that I’ve stated to do this fully.
Which DJs influenced you the most in your early career?
There are a lot of artists I have respect for and for their work in music in general. But if I have one DJ to mention, that would be DJ Jazzy Jeff. I have a lot of respect for Jeff since ages. I think he has definitely influenced what the mixers and the DJs are using these days, but what I really like about him is his versatility and his ability to play every genre, from disco to house to hip-hop. He can navigate between genres and for that reason he was a great role model to look up to when I started.
Talking of influences… If you could have produced any track made by another artist, what would it be?
Good question! I’ve never been asked that one before. I think that would be ‘Billy Jean’ by Michael Jackson. It’s such an iconic track that has been played for decades all over the world and I’m sure it will be still played for years to come. Someone is making a lot of money out of the royalties! RIP Michael.
What is it about DJing, compared to producing your own music, that appeals to you?
That’s a tough question! When you’re a producer you are in the studio by yourself or with your co-writer, and you can take your time to do exactly what you want. Whereas being the decks is a completely different experience. You have this huge pressure to satisfy the crowd and give them exactly what they want at the right time. When you are in a club, you could play the wrong track and completely destroy the mood of the crowd. Even playing the right track too early or too late.
Sometimes you have to play their song, read the mood of the crowd and make brave choices. Sometimes you go to places where people are not ready for a certain track. If you go to Greece or if you are playing in the UK, it could be a complete different sound which is popular. That’s exactly why it is really important to know when to play what, and read the crowd. To me, producers that starting touring as DJs don’t always have the right skills.
It really depends. To be fair I have seen a lot of DJs mid-flow playing track after track as they’ve planned. But sometimes it simply doesn’t work. Yet they keep going… For me reading the crowd is key. You don’t want to play bangers too early. Equally, you don’t want to play chill-out at 2am. It’s all about balance.
It’s important and you have to be constantly thinking about it. Sometimes you really want to play newer material, but you don’t want to risk it and fall flat on your face.
It might be safer to play established tracks than go down a more unexpected path. But you need to get out of your comfort zone. When you break your set down, you play 20 records: how many are classic and how many are brand new? To sum up, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about how much you entertain and how much you educate.
You used to live in London and you’ve performed here dozens of times. What single night stands out as being the most memorable for you here as a DJ?
I’ve done so many shows in London so it’s hard to pick just one on to be honest! I have had a lot of very memorable moments in London over time and, musically speaking, I can definitely say that the most memorable were in London. I recall one night in Fabric with Dillinja & Martin White. It was such an epic night! The volume was so loud and Room 1 completely packed until the very end.
What do you think of the London scene at the moment? Where do you think it’s headed?
For me, London is the best music scene in the world, without doubt. Even though London is very competitive. New York and LA are very American-centric. There are a lot of expats there, but you really don’t see the diversity that you can find here. That is particularly true for drum n’bass acts. I don’t see many D&B venues in New York for example. Whereas in London there are loads of places for artists to express themselves.
Here, every kind of music has its niche market. You can find whatever you’re in to: Asian music, Congolese music, Nigerian music – the list goes on… That’s why London has such a diverse spread. You can really find everything from punk rock, psychedelic techno, great productions, great lights, great DJs, amazing record stores, workshops and creative people all over.
Looking ahead to Arcadia – have you played for them in the past?
No, I’ve never played for Arcadia before. To be honest, when my agent first started to mention Arcadia I wasn’t sure who they were. But then he explained about the installations in more detail and I realised that I did know them ! I was honoured to be asked to be a part of this special celebration with a very sick line up and such massive production.
I actually used to go swimming in Stratford near Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park all the time, as they had a huge swimming bath! So I know the area. I wasn’t aware they were holding events there, but as it’s a gigantic and refurnished area I’m sure it will be amazing.
Taking a look at the rest of the line-up, you’re certainly in good company. Are there any acts in particular who stand-out to you?
I respect all of the artists playing alongside me and I’m very humbled to be a part of this line-up. If I have to mention one DJ in particular, I’d have to say that I have lots of respect for Andy C. As a DJ, with all his hard work as a touring performer but also as the creative director of RAM Records. I know he’s not technically playing himself. But what he’s done with RAM – turning them into a force to the reckoned with – is incredible.
I actually had the privilege of playing with him on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago in New Zealand, and he absolutely killed it ! I wouldn’t normally play like he does, but that night he became an inspiration for me. When you manage to stay relevant all these years, whist still being on top of your game – that’s admirable.
Will playing on top of a 50-tonne spider and being a part of this immersive theatre effect how you approach your set? Will the size of the crowd phase you at all?
I don’t want to worry myself by thinking about this too much. I play for everybody, from the ticket holders to the bar staff. The place is obviously going to be packed!
But the amount of people doesn’t really bother me. For me, what matters most is how the crowd reacts. By that I mean it’s more about connecting with people and giving them what they want. In the end what’s important is that those who are in attendance go home happy!
DJ Vadim joins Rudimental, Noisia, TDQ, RAM Records and more at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for Arcadia10 Day 2 on Sunday 6th May.
Last remaining 4th release tickets are on sale now.