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Tribal Style : Big Apple’s DJ Hatcha (2002)

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Steve Goodman
London Hyperdub HQ
Also published in Deuce magazine 2002

He has been probably Forward’s most consistent performer to date, switching up styles from one set to another, with a high velocity rotation of dubs, and some of the tightest cuts, mixes and blends. Hyperdub travelled south again to Croydon, to hang with Big Apple Record’s young DJ Hatcha.

Arriving in central Croydon, we were soon whisked out of the chaos, picked up in Hatcha’s turbo charged purple Renault, and driven at high speed to Hatcha’s base, with an acceleration and sudden braking only rivalled by one of his DJ sets. On arrival, we enter into a tight, dark, corner of the Hatcha house, where an illuminated glass cage stands glowing, full of small tree branches. Perched on one of them, as motionless as a rock, as chilled as a smoker, sits Eddi, Hatcha’s pet iguana, watching pensively over the corner, as if guarding Hatcha’s long stack of dubplates and his compact little rinse out zone, which is lined by shelves of 12 inch vinyl, a couple of scruffy, graffitied, mismatching speakers, a pair of Technics decks and a fat Pioneer mixer. Hatcha selects from the dubplate stack, playing the more recent ones, skipping automatically, as a shop dj does, from the intro to the drop, to the roll out, to the break down, playing just enough of each tune to gauge whether it is the hardware you require, and cranking the volume to exactly the threshold when you not only hear the track, but feel it punching the membrane of your eardrums.

In Eddi the iguana’s neck, you can see his pulse quicken from rest to 135bpm.

“I’ve got so many heavy dubs, but it’s a pity that there is so few places to play them these days,” complains Hatcha. Rumours have been circulating for months regarding Big Apple’s 16 year old catches, Benga and Scream. Hatcha pulls out another 10 fresh plates including exclusives from the teenagers and his collaborations with Benny ill (‘Highland Spring’ and ‘Crazy Intro’), and drops the needle into the already well worn acetate crackle of ‘Skank’ and ‘Dose’ from Benga, ‘The Bug’, ‘Monsoon’, ‘Bubble’ and ‘New Breed’ from Scream. “Most of my beats are coming from there just now. I’ve already got about half and hours worth of Scream’s tunes.”

Teenage producers are becoming an increasingly common phenomenon on the underground as software packages such as Fruity Loops open up the beat making process to kids, who are vibing off what they hear on the pirate stations. “12 year old kids come into the shop feelin’ the sound and I’m like ‘they are only 12 and this dark stuff could send them off the rails.” Hatcha laughs. Eddi the iguana doesn’t. “Kids come into the shop and buy stuff on the strength of what they’ve heard on the radio. If the pirate stations weren’t playing the tunes right now, the industry would be totally fucked.”

Hatcha has been working the counter at Big Apple Records in Croydon for two and half years now. “I used to go in there every other day. I went in there one day, when I’d just got the sack from my job, and John [Kennedy] – boss of Big Apple – said to me, ‘you look happy, you better get behind the counter’, and that was it really. Before me, John was keeping on top of everything, the techno, the house, the garage, but now I help out particularly with the garage, getting feedback off all the southside DJs who come in to buy their tunes, and help decide what garage tunes we should stock.”

Hatcha, at only 20, has already been spinning for 10 years. “For my 10th birthday, I got the Soundlab belt drive decks that I used to mix on. And then before I finally got some Technics, I used to use these wooden Ariston decks with a rotating pitch control. They were mad. I was mixing drum’n’bass for about 5 years before I started Djing garage. ” He used to play on Upfront FM until the station closed down last year. Now you can catch him, beamed up from the deep south, on Flight FM. When asked to describe his flavour, he calls it “an off key, skanky, kind of sound”. He laughs adding that “if no one else has a track, then I’m into that aswell”. Eddi the Iguana winks.

Hatcha’s latest mix CD features the carefree, layed back vibes of the MC Crazie D whose praises Hatcha sings loudly. ‘There is not many MCs who are flowing with my sound that well, but Crazie D really works it, on that different flow.’ Usually Hatcha spins alone with Crazie D or MC Easy Rider, or with his crew, ‘Stonecold GX’ which also includes NRG, Nutsie, Chunkie, ST, Spooks and another DJ called Danny the Funk. But these days, crews in garage have a bad name, venues are rarely giving them a chance with the fear of violence in the raves stopping people going out. So their crew bookings are few and far between, which has pushed Hatcha into concentrating on brewing his own unique sound, equipping himself with the necessary exclusive dubplate bullets and naughty refixes which you expect from a resident at Forward, who played in the US this summer with Zed Bias, J ‘Da’ Flex, Oris Jay, Benny ill and Emma Feline.

“Having prolific producer Artwork and Danny Harrison upstairs at Big Apple has really changed my sound. They are constantly supplying me with new tribal beats to cut. Originally, I was still into the dark, techy stuff but there wasn’t enough of it about. Then EL-B came along, Oris Jay and Zed Bias with ‘Like a Snake’ and so I would play them together, and that was half an hour of my set, and I would be like, ‘I wish I had 2 hours of this stuff’ and then you start hunting for it, terrorising producers asking them to let me cut, let me cut.”

“It’s a funny old scene at the moment. The big garage raves aren’t going to book me because I’ve got my own vibe that they’re not feeling, and I’m sticking to it. At these big events you usually have to play same set as the dj before you, just repeating all the anthems and I don’t want to do that. And yet since the scene has gone quiet, a lot of the DJs who were playing at the bigger, more commercial events come expecting to get the bookings just because they’ve got a few of the darker bits now.”

After having released his first ‘Bashment’ 12″ on Big Apple Records this summer, Hatcha has been in the studio with Croydon’s heavyweights, Artwork again, above the shop, and with the town’s other dubstep studio don, Benny ill, from Horsepower Productions. “Their two studios are totally opposite. You’ve got Artwork’s which is all high tech and he uses Logic, then you’ve got Benny’s studio which is totally old school, Cubase on an Atari etc. And they’re working styles are totally different as well.” Hatcha has also been working on some bits with up and coming teenager Scream. With so many teenagers picking up the bug, it seems that the underground has the fresh blood to keep evolving. “There is a lot of people who stick together, such as the people who work, buy and socialise at Big Apple, you know what I mean. It’s still early. This is a new underground scene starting again. The new sound is still young. It just needs the right support I think.” Eddi the iguana wisely nods his head.

Listen to Hatcha’s mixes at www.bigapplerecords.co.uk, catch him on Flight FM 101.5 Tuesday’s & Saturdays 10-12pm, or at Forward>> at Plastic People, London.

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2002 – Reprinted with permission.

Category: Hyperdub

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).