“Bass music legend Chimpo’s musical style defies genre boundaries. Both his DJ sets and productions see him fuse grime, drum n bass, dubstep, trap, garage, dancehall and hip-hop to create a unique sound that never fails to destroy dancefloors. A seasoned DJ, producer and MC, Chimpo’s career has seen him tour the world, find fans in many of his heroes and officially remix legends such as Wu Tang Clan, Zed Bias and Omar.”
I can think of few DJs like Chimpo – there are very, very few as talented, adventurous or willing to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable in the mix. But as far as things go, the Manchester-based producer, MC and DJ is one of the most exciting bass music selectors I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. There is never a dull moment when Chimpo’s on deck, a fact he’s well illustrated with his astounding FKOF x FABRICLIVE promo mix.
Ahead of his second(!) appearance at Fabric this month, I caught up with John to talk Manchester, silk robes, smoking saffron through an ivory pipe and much, much more…
Yo Chimpo, how you doing? Good. Got a dodgy leg though. I think it’s from falling off stage in Germany. I’m a bit immobile but it’s cool because I’ve got an excuse to just make tunes and eat.
Let’s start with the DJing. You’re known as one of the most eclectic DJs in bass music; fusing a huge range of genres in your sets. How did it all first start for you? I started at school playing jungle and hip-hop and soul. I clocked I could mix these things together and since then I’ve just been seeing what I can get away with throwing in the pot.
Do you have a favourite bass music sub/genre? How would you describe the Chimpo DJ experience? I like playing the really sparse bassy early grime riddims because I can mix them with all sort of genres – mad stuff like Whitney Houston or Seal. I couldn’t just play that though, I’d get well bored! I listen to all sorts of music and I just try find stuff I listen to and make it work in a ravey environment.
I play dubs, exclusives and rare tunes but I’ve never ever been a ‘heads down’ DJ. I’m a ‘heads off’ DJ. I’m in the rave to rave. And make everyone rave.
Moving onto your production output, like your DJ sets, your productions seem to blend a range of influences. Is there a particular style of sound you go for? Nah, I don’t really think much when I produce. It’s just like autopilot. Switch my brain off and my ears on. I think the music I’ve grown up on and listen to clearly influences the tunes I make.
I don’t really try to use certain influences or go for certain angles though. I just make stuff and work out what to do with it afterwards.
You had a few massive tunes blow up over the last 18 months or so (Blowfish and Drama with Trigga to name two), how did that all come about? I met Trigga through my mate uncle Stan (easy sir). I made him the riddim and he loved it. He come checked me, played it me in his car. I just sat there like ‘Nahh what have we done?’ When we started playing it out it’s caused near riots. In Manchester, it’s as much an anthem as anything I can think of. I’m proud of that tune. Trigga killed it though. He’s such a don.
Blowfish is another one I’m proud of just because of how mental it is. My Estate family helped loads promoting that. Got it trending on Twitter and that. Big up all of them. That’s my family. Got my little godson Kanye on the video as well. What a don.
You’re one of a handful of producers to remix the legendary Wu-Tang; putting a bass-led spin on GZA & Justice Kareem’s Cinema. What was it like working on the tune with the Clan? Yeah, it was mad getting asked to do that. I didn’t work ‘with’ Wu though. Just got the parts. It’s a good job I would of been so gassed I would’ve done their heads in!
What’s your studio set up like? Any pieces of equipment in your collection that you always use on a tune? It’s pretty shit. It’s just a Mac Mini, Alesis monitors, Tapco soundcard and a mic. I don’t think you need a load of high end gear to make good tunes. If your ears are good you’ll make stuff sound good. I’d like to get some old skool synths; Moogs and that. Otherwise I’m not that arsed. I got wicked ears.
You’re just back from a few gigs in Asia, how did they go? What’s the bass music scene like over there?! It was amazing. I got a big silk robe to DJ in and went sick. I ate wasps and stuff. I love it. I reckon I’d live out there. The scene isn’t big like over here but it’s strong. Love you Asia.
As well as a DJ and a producer, you also MC from time to time. How did you get into that side of things? Any pointers for MCs looking to get started? All my mates MC’d and rapped. I just got dragged in after a bit. Mates being knobs trying to battle me and stuff. I love it though. I get to say some mental stuff and people seem to like it. Most of my favourite lines are where I’m like ‘Nah I can’t say that’ … ‘Well I’m gonna have to then init!’ I’ve got some new stuff I vocaled where I’m saying some off-the-wall shit. It’s well good.
For people who want to MC, I’d just say focus on yourself. Don’t watch other MCs too much. Because you’ve got to bring something to the table. It’s no good being ‘as good as’ this person and that person. If you’re not saying or doing anything that hasn’t been done before then you’re a waste of sound and shouldn’t bother.
You’re affiliated with the Hit & Run crew and the new Levelz outfit up in Manchester. How did those relationships start? Rich Reason started these things. He’s our novelty posh mate. He only wears tweed and buys books to impress girls. He’s a top guy though. When you get used to the penny farthing… He started Hit’n’Run years ago with Riz MC and he’s been putting loads of us lot on every week for years.
The Levelz project started as Rich’s idea of expanding the pool of talent involved in Hit & Run and making it something much bigger. There’s about 15 of us who’ve been in the studio together loads and we’ve got over an album’s worth of material together. We’re probably going to release it together as a mixtape. It’s actually amazing though! I think it’s some of the most exciting music to come out of this country in a long time. I’m not being biased either because I don’t like Levelz; they’re all knobs.
Which tunes, from Manchester producers or elsewhere, are you feeling at the moment? Any dubs making the dance go off? My little bro Metrodome is about to take over the world. You need to holla him if you haven’t already. He’s just done a badboy tune for Scratcha’s DVA Music label. It’s called Dreamy and it’s nuts. He also just did a version of Pulse X which is killing it. Make sure you check him out.
There’s some pretty epic producers and music coming out of Manchester at the moment. What’s the key to the Mancunian success? There’s not a key to success. We’re a lot better at being good than we are at being successful! Manchester’s always been good at music. It’s in the water or something. It’s good in the last couple of years a lot of our lot have seen success though. Like my main brother Dub Phizix. He’s basically P Diddy now. He’s got platinum slippers and he smokes Saffron through an Ivory pipe.
Last Friday saw the latest Hit&Run FABRICLIVE takeover and then Soul:ution in a few days’ time. You’re playing both which is pretty awesome. What’s it like playing in one of London/ the UK’s best venues for electronic dance music? I’m at Fabric a lot. I think it’s just because Dave (who works there) is impressed with my socks. I’ve got crocodile ones on today. I love it though. It’s a pretty hype crowd and the staff are bare on point. Me and Trigga just killled it there on Friday. YesYes!
Other than the shows at Fabric and in Asia, what recent gigs stand out in your memory and why? We had a fundraiser for the family of our best mate Salford John who died at the start of the year. We had the maddest line up of DJs from around the country who all came and played for free. Even Goldie came. Nuff love to everyone who played. It was actually the best rave I’ve ever played or been to. Sam Binga said the same thing. The vibe was amazing. And we raised over 10 grand! We did him proud. RIP John. Love ya mate.
As far as releases go, what can we expect you in the coming months? Anything in the pipeline? I’ve got a 5 track EP coming on Exit soon. I’m doing an EP with Sam Binga and Trigga. The Levelz mixtape should drop soon too. I’m involved in a top secret project with some cockneys too. Can’t announce that for a bit though. That’s going to be massive. I’ve also got a massive tune I’ve done with Fracture. Might see light later in the year.
Last but not least, any final words or shoutouts? Big up everyone, like, if you’re reading this then you must be a G so big up up you! Also if you see me and my leg’s still knackered, gimme a codeine or something. Safe. Love you.
Click to DOWNLOAD (75MB)
- Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond
- Mary J Blige – Be Happy Acapella
- Lunice – Hip Pop
- Devin The Dude – Just Gettin Blown
- Alix Perez – They Call Me Raptor Riddim
- Lady Saw – Ninja Bike
- A$ap Rocky – Goldie
- Sabre – Taste The Mango
- Ward 21 – Still Disturbed Intro
- T.I. – Ball (instrumental)
- Soul II Soul – Back To Life Acapella
- Chimpo – Out & Bad
- Digital & Spirit – Phantom Force (Fracture remix)
- Ward 21 ft. Konshens – Out
- Halogenix – Porcupine Beat
- Addison Groove – Just You
- Chimpo – Atlanta
- Shai – If I Ever Fall In Love Acapella
- Rum Baba – El Militante
- Cham – Clip
- Capleton – Backseat Dubplate
- Outkast – She Lives In My Lap
Chimpo joins the Soul:ution gang and the Butterz and Keysound crews this Friday across Fabric’s three rooms. Order your tickets for £18 on the Fabric website here – or they’re £19 OTD (£13 for students and fabricfirst members) or £10 after 3am. Doors are 11pm to 7am.
Thanks to Livi at Fabric for all her help with this article.