Firstly tell us how The Heatwave came together?
Gabriel Heatwave: It all started as a dancehall party in east London in about 2003. Henry, me and a few mates playing 7" vinyl, the pre release singles from Jamaica. We used to bring two massive record boxes to every gig - they weighed a tonne! I think we had a unique way of playing. Maybe because I learnt to DJ around jungle and garage, it meant I was mixing in that UK dance music style, blending, building up that vibe. All the grime MCs used to love it, Riko, Wiley, Jammer and all those guys used to come down and chat lyrics on dancehall riddims. It was kind of mad haha.
So now I play dancehall in the same way. When we play out to huge crowds they just go nuts. But even in those slightly less glamorous settings, basements and warehouses, the vibe was amazing. We booked Rubi Dan for one of the first parties at Rythmn Factory. Him and his brother used to come every month anyway, they just loved the vibe so they used to bring all their mates, and Rubi had this positive energetic vibe which was perfect for the night. So he would pick up the mic and host and it just worked wickedly.
Benjamin D: Yeah, I can testify to that. Rubi was an inspiration to me as a host and an MC. I used to come to the original Heatwave nights at the Rhythm Factory, hanging out in the DJ booth rolling spliffs haha. Before that bloody smoking ban! Eventually I started touching mic and hosting in 2007.
What I love about the Hot Wuk parties is that it is a real party! Everybody goes for it and it’s full of positive vibes (the same vibes on what we’re on!)...What do you think is key thing for putting on a good party?
Gabriel Heatwave You need people who want to be there for the music, who just want to rave, not stand around or pose. We have people coming to our parties who come on their own, but they always make friends in the rave! Music brings people together who might not normally be in the same social situations and that makes for exciting parties where people don't know what to expect. And lots of women is always good haha.
Benjamin D: Yes! For sure. More women than men, you can't have too many men! We always play for the girls. Also, good sound. And everyone getting drunk, you know recklessness, scandalousness. People need to be properly on one... When I'm hosting at our dances I always feel like I’m in a pub at closing time and everyone's being lairy and cheeky, flirting with each other, just having a wicked laugh you know.
You’re playing at all the festivals this year, are there any that you are looking forward to the most?
Benjamin D: Festivals are sick. I love festivals. Everyone just goes mad! It's like someone invented the concept of a 'festival' just for The Heatwave to play at haha.
Gabriel Heatwave: You get a completely different atmosphere than clubs, open and sunny (hopefully ha) rather than small and dark like in clubs. We love playing to both kinds of crowds and it's fun hyping people up into different kinds of a frenzy depending on the surroundings. Caribbean music sounds so good in the sunshine as well. We play at Notting Hill carnival every year, so festivals are like a warm up for that. The vibe is more geared towards moving huge crowds rather than the more intimate audiences you get in clubs. So it's more about tunes that instruct mass dance movement, big soca tunes like Palance or Follow The Leader.
Benjamin D: We did a special Hot Wuk Festival special recently as well with General Levy, Stylo G and Ny plus Brazilian dancers and millions of whistles and horns. Literally millions. And we're doing our Carnival Roadshow at XOYO in June with even more scandalous carnival dancers, Top Cat and the Dancehall Generals. So its like we are bringing that festival vibe to the clubs. People always say everywhere we go its a carnival, but recently its like everywhere we go is a mini festival haha
Last year you bought out the legendary DVD ‘The Heatwave presents Showtime; The History of UK Dancehall', what was the idea behind this and did you have fun in the process of putting it together?
Gabriel Heatwave Yeah putting together Showtime was a a brilliant experience and the night itself was amazing, as a fan and a DJ. Fundamentally Showtime is about having a sick party with the best MCs around. But also it's important to us to show how dancehall and Jamaica are at the root of UK club music and to give dancehall the spotlight it deserves. It often gets misunderstood and misrepresented in the mainstream.
We wanted to get all these MCs who spit dancehall style or who grew up with Jamaican music, and take them back to the foundation by having them together on stage chatting over bashment riddims. By drawing together people who often operate in separate scenes, we made clear the connections, that deep down everyone involved is really doing the same thing week in week out whether it's in jungle, garage, grime, hip hop or dancehall parties.
Benjamin D: Plus we wanted to have a crazy party! Bringing all the incredible talent, energy and stage presence that these artists have together. It's important for us to highlight the links within the music, and the stories, the connections, you know, and those stories are told on the microphone, when you see different MCs passing the mic to each other and the crowd just loving it .
Gabriel Heatwave: We're doing Showtime again in July, this time in Birmingham with Gappy Ranks, Durrty Goodz, Top Cat, Rodney P and loads of local artists like Lady Leshurr, Serocee, RTKAL, RoxXxan, Juki Ranx and Vital. It's gonna be wicked to see how it works in a different environment with a different set of unique MCs!
I love that you guys are representing Jamaican culture, how important is it for you to keep carrying this torch?
Gabriel Heatwave: Jamaican music doesn’t get enough recognition for the way it’s influenced UK music and the whole soundsystem culture, but actually it's deeply embedded in our culture and has a wideranging impact so it's important that people know about that. And there is so much incredible and innovative music come out of Jamaica and the global dancehall scene so it's important that people are playing and promoting those new sounds.
Lots of people talk about how the 'golden days' of Jamaican music are in the past but there is always amazing new stuff coming out, so much brilliant music. Every week we do our radio show on Rinse FM and it’s mad how much new music there is for us to play. The creativity and workrate of Jamaican artists is miles ahead of the rest of the world.
You have a weekly show on Rinse FM, how is it being part of the Rinse family? Do they allow you the freedom to represent what you want to?
Benjamin D: Yeah it's insane being on Rinse. I grew up listening to Wiley and Dizzee and all of those sick MCs back in the day.
Gabriel Heatwave: And dancehall is the backbone of UK rave music. Basically everything Rinse has pioneered, jungle, garage, dubstep, funky, it's all rooted in Jamaica. Jamaican soundsystem culture lies at the root of all that.
We’re the only dancehall show on the station so it's also nice standing out in that context. Rinse listeners see the links between Jamaican and UK music and I think they see where it all comes from, the rewinds, the heavy bass lines, the dubplate specials, the fast chat lyrics.
Tell us about the label, Punchline. How was this born?
Gabriel Heatwave: We started the Punchline label in 2004 to share our remixes with the world. Henry Heatwave runs a dub cutting studio and we started playing out our refixes on dubplate. People kept asking for the tunes so we pressed up 500 Trick Me Twice on 7" vinyl, and it went crazy. We sold about 7000 copies in the end I think.
In fact, people are always asking us when we're putting out more vinyl, so we're starting a new label this summer. It's called Heat Wax! It's gonna be dedicated to partying and UK dancehall.
Benjamin D: Party settings. Heat Wax. 2012. Oh my god it's gonna be insane.
You cover all aspects from radio, parties, label, website, how do you find the time to balance this all and is there one thing you enjoy the most?
Gabriel Heatwave: Yeah things are busy right now! We're either organising a party, having a party or recovering from a party. We could do with more hours in the day to be honest! But everything works together perfectly and makes the whole movement more powerful. It's gonna be sick dropping music from artists on Heat Wax, and then having them come down to our raves, jump on the mic at Rinse, you know.
Is there any new talent we should be keeping an eye out for?
Gabriel Heatwave: That's one of the best things about dancehall, there's always so much talent bubbling up. Popcaan and Konshens are huge in Jamaica at the moment but still unknown and brand new to the mainstream, they both have loads of potential.
Benjamin D: And there's always been loads going on in the UK: it's wicked that MCs in the UK have found a voice that is uniquely British; now they can stand tall alongside Jamaican artists.
Gabriel Heatwave: Stylo G and Gappy Ranks are both doing great things for UK dancehall, building back the scene to where it was in the 90s and making it a global thing. And it's always really exciting seeing our favourite grime MCs like Wiley and Durrty Goodz starting to make bashment as well. Plus there's lots of younger talent like Juvinile, Stamma Kid and Vital.
I’m guessing Carnival is a pretty exciting time for you, do you do anything special for this?
Benjamin D: I swear Notting Hill is like Christmas for us. We do like 10 gigs in three days, that weekend is super hectic! We play on a float now, so it's sick following the route and doing carnival that way, on a truck, whereas I used to be one of the people leaning on a lampost getting drunk and calling for reloads!
Gabriel Heatwave: We're also doing a bunch of afterparties including our own Hot Wuk rave with Seani B and a big one in Brixton with David Rodigan. Plus this year we're playing Leeds carnival which is on the same weekend as Notting Hill.
What is gonna be the summer tune this year?
Gabriel Heatwave: Call Mi A Yardie and Cham's hit Wine are gonna be huge all summer long and will be the biggest tunes at carnival.
If you were invisible for the day, what would you get up to?
Benjamin D: I'd spend all day winding up coppers. Taking off their hats tripping them up. That would be hilarious.
What is next for The Heatwave?
Benjamin D: Wow...to be honest the next few months is looking crazy! Summer is always a mad period for us with all the festivals and carnivals. I’m excited about our carnival show that we're taking on the road this summer, we've got amazing dancers involved and some really sick MCs, plus whistles and horns obviously and various other visual spectaculars...
Gabriel Heatwave: And parties, endless parties at all times, our weekly Wednesday night rave in central London, a few big Hot Wuk events coming up with people like Skibadee and Champion...
I guess the biggest and most exciting NEW thing for us this summer is the launch of Heat Wax. Right now we're just getting everything tied down and perfectly organised. Because cos of course when we start releasing music it needs to be the baddest quality cos that's what people know us for: 100% quality party settings!
The Heatwave present the Hot Wuk Carnival Roadshow = 29 June 2012 at Xoyo
Tickets via www.theheatwave.co.uk