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In Session: DJ Naughty

A testament to both its past and present, DJ Naughty gives us a lesson in UK funky

  • Megan Townsend
  • 6 October 2021

Having cut his teeth mixing at just 11-years-old in the halcyon days of North London's house and broken beat movement, DJ Naughty's comprehensive introduction to music at a young age has given him an endless quota of inspiration to draw from. "I went to school with Majestic & MSM Engineer," he tells us, "We were proper music nerds, we knew how to use DAWs from school days and different musical instruments as well as DJing."

This early technical knowledge mixed with an unyielding curiosity for the bubbling and diverse music scenes developing all around him led Naughty, real name Nathan Fostel, to go out and find where it was all happening. At 16 he began working at Planet Phat Records in Islington, a great opportunity for a musically inclined teenager to hear about all the club nights, promoters and artists that his local area had to offer. During this time, in 2002, Naughty met Bushkin from UK garage trailblazers Heartless Crew who took him on his first trip to Ayia Napa, and even more importantly paved the way for Naughty to land his first ever radio show on one of London's biggest ever pirate stations, Y2K.

Read this next: Why didn't UK Funky break the mainstream

Through this platform, DJ Naughty was able to explore the house, bass and garage of his youth, but also lay the foundations for UK funky's soulful emergence, alongside contemporaries DJ Pioneer, Roska, Marcus Nasty, Funkystepz, Supa, MA1 and Cameo. Champion spoke on Naughty to DUMMY in 2013: "He was the man when it came to making UK Funky sound like Reggae.” His first release was 'Quicktime EP,' a solid three-tracker that is credited with adjusting the direction of UK funky back towards its more bass-heavy origins. Naughty went on to complete remixes for the likes of Sean Kingston, Taio Cruz and Jazmine Sullivan — while in 2010 released 'Fire Power', a popular EP that featured the classic Roska remix of Naughty's 'Quicktime.'

Since then Naughty has continued to release both under his DJ Naughty moniker and as N.Fostell, focusing on a wide range of sounds including UK funky, house, bass and breaks. Under Naughty, he's taken on guest slots at Rinse FM and released a mix on Bristol's Club Djembe series, as well as digging into the archives for his 'The Vaults' EP, featuring a mix of London UK funky and South African amapiano-style beats.

As part of Rinse's, 'I Love: Funky' series, which features radio shows and a night at Ministry of Sound - DJ Naughty has put together a mix full of UK funky throwbacks both noting the sounds that inspired UK funky and the music that came from it.

Check out our Q&A with DJ Naughty, and listen to his In Session mix below.

You have created this mix in conjunction with Rinse's I Love: Funky, how important is it do you think that funky is given a spotlight in this manner?

I think it's great, there's a lot of young people I've met that didn't get to experience the original funky atmosphere, but enjoyed the music when they were in school - and now this is their opportunity to get a little taste of what went down. Initially, I'd lost a bit of the passion for funky until I did this mix, which made me look back and think to myself: "these were good times." Rinse is making me feel old now.

You began DJing when you were just 11-years-old, Do you think your early start has had an impact on how/what you play?

Starting out so young gave me time to develop my craft and be ready for when the time came, I've never been nervous about a set. It also kept me grounded in terms of promoters booking me for warm-up sets regularly, even though I felt like I was good enough for one of the main set times, I never complained because I waited a long time to even get on to a DJ line-up. That also made me into a better DJ, I learnt how to read crowds well, pace myself and even have my own identity.

Can you describe some of your early formative experiences with music? and UK funky? how are those tied to how you play now?

During my school days, Bushkin from Heartless Crew heard me playing and took me under his wing from a young age, brought me to Ayia Napa which helped me to introduce the Funky sound to a wider audience in 2007. With UK funky, there was a gradual transition in music, a lot of us were Oldskool Garage DJs that were still playing Tuff Jam and Anthill Mob but we weren't getting on those big line-ups at the time, so we ended up putting on our own events and playing funky/Soulful/Electro House as well as Broken Beats and the Garage sounds started to fizzle out in our sets. Then came the producers like Apple, Fingaprint, NG, Geeneus and myself and the beats got harder, you could really hear the London in us.

As time has gone on I rebranded into N:Fostell, still making electronic music but sonically worlds apart from what everyone is used to as DJ Naughty. My style in those times was very impactful, whereas now it's laid back, there's more of a journey to my productions and my DJ sets.

Read this next: Rinse FM announce 'I Love:' series celebrating Britain's music culture

How much do you think the representation of underground music in London has changed since your days at Y2K FM?

Y2K went a long time ago, so much has changed since. We've got social media and YouTube now. Nothing is truly underground anymore, If something catches on it just blows, whereas during the underground days there were a lot of slow burners. I'll say Y2K's importance was no different to any pirate station at the time, all stations had their talents and had a role to play in the modern musical landscape, especially Rinse as they were the biggest game-changer and are still going on strong till this day.

Do you think the club experience/the DJ craft has changed a great deal since you first started cutting your teeth as a DJ?

Yeah definitely, like being a good DJ really isn't enough. I'm fortunate that I made a name for myself when I did because I'm quite a shy person and those times people booked me solely because of my talent. Now you have to be loud, not necessarily vocal, it could be with your image, how you dress or the people you have around you. A lot of people get noticed by 30-second video recorded moments on DJ platforms or a DJ set they did in a club and it's their friends giving them mad pops, and just from that, you can end up with a handful of bookings. Being quietly brilliant in this day and age will get you nowhere. We're at a time where visuals are practically everything because most people on their phones get bored way too easily, they want to see excitement, not attention to detail.

How important do you think it is for DJ's to have a technical understanding of their craft? do you feel that this understand is something that is being lost?

The keyword to this question is "craft," just like any other artistic craft it's very important to have an understanding and learn how to be good at it and try to be unique. I do however feel the understanding of the craft as a DJ has been lost. I think it does boil down to a few big platforms giving people that are clearly not ready for the exposure to disappoint and be criticised, it's not fair on them and not fair on people that have studied the craft but seem to get no recognition either.

What would be your advice to new starters? to the younger producers and DJs who are wanting to explore music?

Treat music like a pendulum, when things seem to be slowing down, don't be disheartened, give yourself that extra push to keep things swinging.

You worked in a record store at 16, where you were introduced to a great deal of music/promoters/club nights — do you hope that will be something future generations can experience?

You met absolutely everybody at random times. You got to talk to people directly. When you're in a record shop everyone's sole interest is music and it strikes conversations and even friendships. Now it will be a bit weird to try that online: "Hi I see you're into music, I'm into music too, let's be friends." I don't think it will truly be completely lost though, there are still people that go all out to make their own communities for that experience and some people will still only buy vinyl, they like things more tangible as opposed to digital. There's still a market even though it's small.

How do you search for music, and has that changed over time?

I listen to a lot of DJ sets and there will be tracks that catch my ear, which leads me to check out more tracks from the artists. I've always been like that.

Read this next: My own way: Why Scratcha DVA is a linchpin of UK dance music innovation

You have been releasing some archived tracks on Bandcamp by way of 'The Vaults', are there plans for a Volume II? and what was behind the decision to release some of your back catalogues?

Yeah most definitely, I'll also be releasing some newer tracks as DJ Naughty as well N:Fostell in the near future, so a lot to look forward to. The reason why I put them out was due to the demand. I was reluctant at first. Maybe I can put out a DJ Naughty album with my back catalogue, Scratcha DVA gave me a nudge to do that as well.

Can you tell us about your In Session mix?

My mix is a journey through funky, what inspired the genre to what funky became. You have tracks from Bugz In The Attic, Justin Martin, Buzzin' Fly records to Geeneus, Apple & yours truly.

Tracklist:

Amy Winehouse - In My Bed (Bugz In The Attic Vocal Mix)
Justin Martin & Sammy D - The Legend Of Papachango
T.Kolai - Zouk (Restless Soul Peaktime Mix)
Rodamaal & Claudia Franco - Insomnia
Kemal - Dreamseller
Filsonik - Can U (Argy Tool Mix)
T.Williams - Heartbeat ft Terri Walker
Manoo - Kodjo
Apple - African Man Said Go
Altered Native - Rass Out
DJ Naughty - 5th Gear
MadOne - House Girls (Part 2)
Seiji - Elevator
DJ Naughty - QuickTIme
DJ Naughty - Firepower
Troublesum - Boot Install
Ill Blu - Blue Magic (DJ Naughty Dubplate)
Fuzzy Logic - In The Morning ft Egypt (DJ Naughty Special)
Geeneus - As I ft Katy B (DJ Naughty Dubplate)
Grand High Priest - Mary Mary
DJ Naughty - Afrocentric
Aaron Carl - Oasis (Nick Holder Vocal Dub)
Bucie - Your Kiss

Rinse is hosting an I Love: Funky party at Ministry of Sound on October 9, with sets from DJ Naughty, Katy B, Scratcha DVA, Supa D, Juls & more. For more information and tickets head here.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor, follow her on Twitter

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