— DJ Q —

On Huddersfield, London, grime, garage, bassline, ‘You Wot!’, 1Xtra, working with Unknown To The Unknow, Local Action and more, tqd and feeling hungrier than ever nearly 20 years deep in the game.

(All photos submitted by DJ Q)

“Can you hear me alright, the line sounds a bit fuzzy”, repeats DJ Q early on Friday evening, phone signal crackling in the foreground, “hello?…hold up, let me drive over to the other side of the car park, the reception here is awful.” Q is speaking to me from his car after taking a break on his drive home to Huddersfield, the town he was born in back in the mid ‘80s and where he still lives to this day. A boundless influence on UK dance music for the best part of 15 years, his story is like a jigsaw — there are so many pieces that make up the bigger picture. From bassline to grime to garage, his impact can be felt everywhere, whether you realise it or not. “That’s it, I can hear you much better”, he says, calling back a couple of minutes later, “..right, I’m ready now.”

Like many DJs faced with the prospect of an uncertain time away from the DJ booth, Q has spent the best part of eight months locked away in the studio working on new music. “I’ve just been trying to hone my craft and get better at what I do”, he says firmly; quite a statement from a producer responsible for writing some of the country’s best and most memorable UKG records over the last 15 years. “Do you know Bassment?”, he asks. “I’m just in there. They used to run events but they’ve got their own building in Huddersfield too … they’ve got DJ rooms and studios, it’s like a proper music hub for the area man, it’s nice.”

It’s from Huddersfield, a large town in the north of England — close in proximity to Leeds and Bradford and slightly further afield, Sheffield and Doncaster — that Q has made his name. Born to parents of Ghanaian, Jamaican and Bajan heritage, his earliest memories of life growing up were all music related. “I just remember listening to music with my parents a lot”, he says warmly. “They were into everything really, a proper mix of stuff … reggae, soul, RnB.” He credits his dad in particular — a member of 80s band, Harlem Gem (Q even makes an appearance at the 11 second mark in the music video below, in which his dad plays guitar) — with being a huge influence on his own musical tastes and interests. “My dad was a musician and still makes music now actually. When I was younger, he was heavily involved in producing in his band as well. He had releases on vinyl and I think he was quite popular in Huddersfield and a bit further afield. Back in the ‘90s, he had a track that went to #1 on the RnB charts, which was quite a big deal at the time. He started taking me to the studio with him too … I remember he’d make a track at home once and he took it to the studio, it was a place in Leeds at the Tetley’s Brewery. I watched him mix it and master it in front of me and I remember hearing it afterwards and it just sounded 10 times better. That process … it just amazed me and it’s stuck with me ever since.”

“I think my dad was the reason why I got into house and garage but without realising”, he continues. “The tracks he was making were like … Soul II Soul influenced but house-y as well. They always stuck with me and I think that’s why I’ve naturally gravitated towards those sounds in my career. You know what it is … the more I’m speaking about it, the more I’m remembering things. When I was younger, my dad always used to buy the videos from Reggae Sunsplash and every time he went out, I remember getting those videos out and just watching them. I was amazed by the whole stage show aspect of music and performing. He’d collect the Greensleeves sampler CDs and vinyl too, so a lot of the Reggae stuff I was hearing on those CDs as well. I’ve actually sampled some of those tracks I was hearing back in the day in some of my own music, purely from having that influence. My mum too, she’s always been a big driving force. She’s always seen that I’ve had some sort of musical talent because anything I’ve wanted to do music-wise, she’s supported me and tried her hardest to accommodate whatever I wanted to do. I remember when I was younger, I wanted to play the saxophone and I don’t know how she managed to scrape the money together to get me one because they were expensive, but she did … and that was a big thing. I played it from when I was eight right the way through to my GCSEs. I actually played saxophone for my practical GCSE Music exam.”

“When I was younger, my dad always used to buy the videos from Reggae Sunsplash and every time he went out, I remember getting those videos out and just watching them. I was amazed by the whole stage show aspect of music and performing.”

It was this musical grounding — compounded by his parents’ love and support — that gave Q a solid base to start exploring from. He quickly learned that he enjoyed the process of selecting music to play too — whenever he was with his friends, he’d always take charge of the stereo. “I remember asking my mum for a stereo with a mic”, he recalls, “so I could get my friends round to mess about and rap over stuff. I’d find myself always being the one to want to choose the music that we were all rapping over, so I guess I’ve been selecting music from early.”

“I got into garage just on the off chance really”, he continues. “I was mainly into hip-hop and RnB but a family friend brought round a Ministry Of Sound CD … I think it was one of the first annual compilations actually. I remember listening to it and thinking, ‘what’s this?’. By the third compilation, I remember tracks like ‘Spin Spin Sugar’ on there … and ‘Sugar Is Sweeter’. He also had the Tuff Jam CDs … the first ‘Underground Frequencies’ one I think it was called, it had an orange label. From hearing that, I got more and more into it. I asked him where he’d get his CDs from and then I used to just head to that record shop, which was called Fourth Wave in Huddersfield, and spend all my money on tape packs, CDs … I’d borrow tape packs even. It progressed to me realising that you’d never really hear the full versions on tape, so if you wanted to hear a full track, you’d need to buy it on vinyl. Before I knew it, I had a record collection before I even had turntables. Luckily, I had one record player that I used balance on top of my stereo to play records … until the needle broke. I remember having to get a piece of cardboard from the tapes and while the record was playing, I’d be putting the cardboard in the grooves so that you could hear the music properly. I remember that led me to just begging my parents for decks. I must have been about 14 and my uncle’s friend was selling a broken pair of turntables and my mum and dad came through for me on my birthday. They were Soundlabs, but the ones that looked like Technics 1210 replicas … I mean they were belt drives, but they were alright.”

“Luckily, I had one record player that I used to balance on top of my stereo to play records … until the needle broke. I remember having to get a piece of cardboard from the tapes and while the record was playing, I’d be putting the cardboard in the grooves so that you could hear the music properly.”

At school, Q became the go-to friend for music — “I’d be the one bringing tapes in for people to borrow” — but enjoyed a mixed time; “I enjoyed it until year 10 and year 11”, he chuckles, “because after that, I was hardly ever there. I was one of the only black boys in my school too and I don’t think many of the teachers knew how to deal with that, so I found myself in trouble quite a lot towards the end. Like, I remember getting suspended for writing my name on a table … just stuff like that. I did love music at school though, obviously I did it for at GCSE. I remember back then, Cubase was in black and white and you could only use it on an Atari.”

It was Cubase that ultimately formed Q’s entry point into production, as well as Reason 1, which he was given a copy of by his uncle, and the first ever version of Fruity Loops. “DJing was my first love, it was my thing … and still is now”, he explains, “but I guess I kind of fell into producing. The problem was, there was only Fourth Wave in Huddersfield and that’s where I got all my tape packs and vinyl from … there were a few others dotted around but that was the main one. When things started to pick up and people started playing parties, it meant that everyone had the same records, so it progressed to me going to other cities to pick up records. I clocked that if I could go to London, where they’d get all the records first, I could bring everything back and be the one that had all the new stuff to play. I’d drive down or mail order sometimes and get everything they were stocking, literally everything, but it got to a point where people started to catch-up and things moved quicker. The only way I could be different and stand out was if I made my own stuff, so I started producing purely to have something new to play in my sets. I think I’ve got a good ear for knowing what people want to hear, so the stuff I was making early on used to go off.”

“I clocked that if I could go to London, where they’d get all the records first, I could bring everything back and be the one that had all the new stuff to play.”

Q recalls making his first piece of music at college when he was 16. His first productions were soulful and full-blooded, new-form UKG that reflected the music he’d grown up listening to and was still absorbing via the tape packs he’d order in from London’s record shops. So where did bassline — a harder, bolshier strain of 4×4 club music that grew enormously popular in cities like Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield during the mid-to-late 00s — come into things? “To me, bassline is garage”, says Q forcefully. “Well that’s what I think anyway, that’s how it was for me. I mean my garage tracks were getting played by bassline DJs at the time, so I was brought into that scene naturally.”

He recalls it wasn’t just clubs in the north that were supporting his music either. “There were a few clubs in London that were playing different, bassline sort of stuff in London”, Q explains. “I remember when I first started making tracks, I’d go down to Purple E3 on Saturday nights. A couple of Rinse DJs used to play there … people like Wesley J … so I’d basically make tracks and take them down with me to give to whoever was DJing at Purple. These were early MSN days as well but I remember having to send a lot of the tracks I was making first by post on CD.” So, what was it like for Q to connect with DJs and producers outside of Huddersfield, I wondered; was it difficult? “I was the kinda guy yeah … you see when you’d get vinyl sleeves with phone numbers printed on the reverse in small print? I used to phone the number, mainly just to see who’d answer, as a fan boy more than anything. I remember there was this Geeneus release on Dump Valve … ah what was it called … it had a green label … I can hum the song but I can’t remember what it was called. ‘Da Journey’, that was it. I remember phoning up the number on the back and guess who answered? Slimzee. I chatted to him for a while and asked how I could get hold of some of the tracks he was playing and he told me about Rhythm Division. He hooked me up with them, so I was able to start ordering all these records direct from there.”

“I remember there was this Geeneus release on Dump Valve … ah what was it called … it had a green label … I can hum the song but I can’t remember what it was called. ‘Da Journey’, that was it. I remember phoning up the number on the back and guess who answered? Slimzee.”

Armed with a new treasure trove of records, Q started to play college parties — “I remember getting paid £15 for my first ever booking” — and slowly, his dream of making music a full-time pursuit began to unfold in front of him. While the club scene in Huddersfield and surrounding towns and cities was tight-knit and difficult to breach in the mid 00s, Q still found himself surrounded by people ready to lend a helping hand, too. “Production wise, S-Tee would always show me a lot of love … he used to make funky with Andy Jay. He worked at a studio in Huddersfield, so he’d let me go down and record mixes and use the studio, so I got accustomed to what it was like to be working in studios quite early. I got onto pirate radio in Huddersfield around that time too, even though it was hard to get into then. I lasted three weeks on a station called … I think it was Passion FM. I’ll never forget this but I’d been on for a few weeks and I got a call about playing a slot on a Friday night … and at the time, the Friday night slot was the one. I went down with about three MCs, but one of the MCs must have leaked where the venue was and about 100 people turned up … it was like a party in there. From then onwards, I was banned from the station.”

To fund his appetite for buying records (and trainers!), Q had also got a job at his local Tesco while he was at college — “…flipping hell, I was on the checkouts for two years!” — leaving shortly before the release of his first ever record in 2004. Released by 2020 Records, ‘Love Like This’ felt like a dream come true. “I’d made it purely to play in my sets, so it was a funny one”, he explains. “I’d been playing it up north but because I was going to down to Purple E3 in London quite a bit, I built a rapport with a few DJs down there … Wesley J and DJ Excel in particular. I sent them the track and they starting playing it and told me it was going down well in Purple, so they asked to release it. I’d actually done a remix of Donna Deep – ‘Loving You’ for them just before ‘Love Like This’ came out, which had my remix on one side and a Delinquent remix on the other. The whole thing felt like a fucking dream, man.”

With his first record now under his belt, Q left college and took himself off to Leeds Metropolitan University to study Music Technology, where he would stay for a year; “it wasn’t like music technology is today”, he says, “it was more to do with recording bands and loads of music theory. The stuff I wanted to do, I was doing at home anyway, so I thought to myself ‘I’m gonna just have to go all out at this music thing’ and decided to leave to focus on that.”

Buoyed by how far his music was starting to travel, Q also acknowledges being ‘lucky’ and in the right place at the right time at numerous points along the way. It was in Leeds for example, that his journey to BBC 1Xtra would start, through a choice meeting between a friend and a producer at the station. “I remember I was on a random night out in Leeds and my friend was in a takeaway”, he recalls. “A woman came up to him in the queue and told him she worked for 1Xtra and she asked if he knew any DJs in the area, because they were looking to branch out. He ended up giving her my number and I remember him telling me on the way home … I just thought he was chatting shit. About a month later, I got a phone call from a producer at 1Xtra who asked if I’d be interested in sending a mix over because they wanted to listen to my stuff. I sent the mix and I didn’t hear anything for a while, before getting a call from one of the station bosses at the time. Imagine this, he said ‘can you come down tomorrow for a pilot, we really like the mix’. You know what I said? I didn’t even know what a pilot was at the time or anything, so I said, ‘ah, do you know what it is? I can’t come down because I can’t afford to get down to London tomorrow, but if anything else comes up another day, let me know’.”

“I didn’t hear anything after that but it was around the same time that Richie ViBE Vee and Dreem Teem were on 1Xtra”, he continues, “and I’d often send my music to them anyway. Richie played a couple of tracks and ended up inviting me down for a guest mix. When I went down to 1Xtra a few months later to meet Richie and record the mix, one of the producers, Rebecca, came into the room and said, ‘are you the guy that passed up on the 1Xtra show?’. I was like, ‘eh?’. She explained what was going on and asked if I’d be able to stay a few days and luckily I had somewhere to crash in London. I ended up meeting the station boss on Saturday, before going out to Purple E3 later that night before having another meeting on the Sunday. My train ticket was only valid on the Sunday so I had to go back that night, but they asked me to come back down again the next day, on the Monday. They paid for my tickets and I headed down again, recorded a pilot show and that was that. I remember I went away to Malia on the Tuesday for a week, but I didn’t have my phone on for most of it. When I got back, I got a call saying that they wanted me to start a show and of course, I took it. For the first two years, it was me one week with Terror Danjah and his Aftershock show the next week on rotation, so it was a show every fortnight, before I got given my own weekly show. I got the train down every week without fail … from 2004 until 2012, so for eight years. It was Friday nights at first, but for the last three years, I had a show every Tuesday. It was crazy, man.”

Q’s time on 1Xtra was huge for UKG. He was the only DJ with a weekly specialist show on national radio playing it regularly, which saw the music start to ripple out across the country, with scenes suddenly springing up in unfamiliar cities. But it wasn’t easy to bed in — far from it. “I was just this new kid for a while”, he recalls. “I remember yeah, I won’t say who it was, but a producer I used to send music to on MSN … I remember lugging all my vinyl down from Huddersfield for Old School week on 1Xtra … and the next day on MSN, he said to me, ‘how can someone so young know about old school garage? 1Xtra need to sort themselves out’. When I joined the station I was 18 but I’d been collecting records since I was 13, so it was a bit weird to get responses like that.”

The 1Xtra gig didn’t open the floodgates in terms of bookings like he’d imagined it might either, although his own productions were starting to find homes on important, sought-after labels. He released two-track 12” ‘Rider / Random’ on JJ Louis’ prolific Southside Recordings imprint in 2005 — “that were really massive for me” — before a slew of Q records on labels like More 2 Da Floor over the next few years heralded the bassline explosion, which was amplified by the chart success of T2’s bassline anthem, ‘Heartbroken’, in 2007. “I remember Nev Wright messaging me back then on RWD Forum”, Q recalls. “He was telling me they’d all been playing my records at Niche and stuff, so I connected with all them lot around that time. The more music I ended up sending to them, the more I did start to see bookings coming in for bassline shows up north. I’d actually played my first release, ‘Love Like This’, in Huddersfield for about two years before it came out, so when people from the town started to see and hear it popping up on bassline CDs, it was a big thing you know. It meant my music was in there, it was in the mix. After that, it felt like everyone in Huddersfield was behind me.”

“I’d actually played my first release, ‘Love Like This’, in Huddersfield for about two years before it came out, so when people from the town started to see and hear it popping up on bassline CDs, it was a big thing you know.”

With his career now really starting to motor, Q’s role as bassline flag-bearer took on a whole new meaning with the release of ’You Wot!’ ft. MC Bonez via Ministry Of Sound in 2008. Mirroring the club impact of ‘Heartbroken’ a year earlier, it was a boisterous, no frills bassline anthem that ran riot in the party islands across Greece and Spain that summer. It also charted inside the UK top 50 on release too, earning Q his first ever charting single, which in turn, led to a flood of remix work for the likes of Katy B, Dizzee Rascal and even Amy Winehouse. “I originally put out the record out on vinyl myself”, Q explains, “but it was everywhere, so much so that Ministry wanted to pick it up because I think at the time, every label wanted the next bassline hit. I was in contact with a lot of labels anyway because I was one of the only DJs at the time playing stuff like that on national radio. Between 2007 and 2009, my show actually became, bar a few records here and there, predominantly bassline … or what people would call bassline anyway. ‘U Wot!’ just defined that period for me.”

It was through his show that the majority of his new industry links and connections were made too. He found himself opened up to a whole new world of next-gen labels, producers and collectives over the following years — none more so than first Toddla T’s now defunct Girls Music label and later, Local Action and DJ Haus’ Unknown To The Unknown. Q cites 2010’s ’The Rinse Out’ EP and 2011’s ‘Dibby Dibby Sound’ on Girls Music as both crucial in ushering in a new period in his career, while 2012’s ‘Brandy & Coke’ with Local Action is now widely considered a modern UKG classic. “I’d actually been playing T Williams’ ‘Heartbeat’ with Terri Walker on 1Xtra for ages, proper battering it”, Q recalls, “and Tom (Lea) had put that out on Local Action the year before I think. I’d always supported their releases so after I made ‘Brandy & Coke’, I sent it to DJs and I think Tom was on my list. The funny thing was, a few months before, Mosca had sent out a promo email but forgot to bcc everyone and cc’d everyone by mistake. For a good three or four months, that email thread just became a place for everyone on the chain to send tracks to each other so I think Tom probably heard it there first. He ended up messaging Elijah (co-head of Butterz) and me and Elijah have been friends for years, so he did the intro for us and Tom said he’d like to put it out. It was a big thing for me back then and still is now to be honest, working with Tom. He knows his shit, dun he?”

The reception to ‘Brandy & Coke’ opened Q’s eyes to how far his own music was travelling in different circles, especially via a label that treated his music with respect and honesty — suddenly they weren’t just tunes to play in his sets, but records people could take home and digest and be moved by. It laid the foundations for a partnership that has continued ever since, with Local Action putting out a further 10 DJ Q records over the last eight years, including his landmark 2014 debut album, ‘Ineffable’. “It never started off as an album, if I’m honest”, Q reflects. “It started off as just singles and then it just progressed into an album over time. We had the vocal tracks and built around those until we had enough tracks to call it an album. It was a lot of fun putting it together and working with Tom … I mean like I said, he knows his shit. He’ll come up with ideas or just say things in conversation and I’m always like, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’.” The reception to ‘Ineffable’ reinforced the scope of the pair’s work together too; it was heralded as a garage album ‘trembling with joy and possibility’ by Pitchfork and swooned over by critics, fans and broadcasters alike. Looking back, you could also argue it laid the blueprint for UKG’s recent club revival, too.

There was also his work with Unknown To The Unknown. “Ah Rupert (DJ Haus) needs his flowers, man”, Q says without hesitation. “They’re a great label and the records he put out in 2012, 2013 times were straight bassline, which was really important for me. That relationship came out of me playing bits on 1Xtra …a lot of their stuff was so different to what was around. One of the first records I picked up on was ‘B Leave’ by Dubbel Dutch but even before then, I was a fan of Hot City Bass, who Rupert was a part of. I downloaded one of their tracks as a free download from XLR8R and started playing it in my own sets with garage stuff and it worked. Rupert added me to his mailing list after that and he’d send me records, including the Dubbel Dutch track, which I ended up remixing for him alongside TS7 shortly after. I’ve always had a great relationship with Rupert and the label since.” The two got on so well that they also formed Trumpet & Badman shortly after the release of Q’s ‘All Junglist’ EP on Unknown To The Unknown in 2012. Together, their formidable DJ/production partnership saw them release a trio of scorching 4×4 white label records via Hot Haus — sister label to Unknown To The Unknown — over the next three years, in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.

If his contributions to bassline, garage and 4×4 weren’t enough, it’s at this point in our conversation that Q briefly interjects and talk turns to grime. “I was actually making grime when I first starting releasing you know”, he points out, “the record on Southside, JJ Louis’ label, was basically four grime tracks when you look at it. Do you remember N.A.S.T.Y Crew’s first album? I had a track on there. I’m trying to think of all the grime stuff I’ve done … later on I did the JME thing on Tropical, which was huge for me because I always rinsed the first ‘Tropical’ CD. I’ve done a few tracks with Frisco … there’s a video on YouTube actually, ‘What We Do’. The Jammz track as well, ‘Who’s That Girl’. Remember the True Tiger CDs … ‘Eye Of The Tiger’? I had a track called ‘Going Back’ that I produced for Big Seac on there and that was the first proper grime tune I had on CD thinking about it, in probably 2005? Yeah, 2005.”

“Do you remember N.A.S.T.Y Crew’s first album? I had a track on there.”

In and amongst all of this, Q also formed Q Recordings in 2012 — a label to release music from both himself and other artists — and later, DJ Q Music in 2017, solely for his own material. Between the two imprints, he’s released 25 of his own records, including full-length albums ‘All Night’ (2018) and ‘All Night 2’ (2019), in less than eight years — a move he saw as a natural step to take. “The idea was just to be able to put music out regularly, purely for people to listen to. It’s not about thinking too much, more about making tracks available and letting people have them.” With so much going on, has the hunger remained, I wondered. “When I make music, I never make it with the aim of releasing it. I make it because I enjoy it, so the hunger is always there, yeah.”

One more piece of the DJ Q jigsaw first showed itself, again by chance, in 2015. tqd — UKG’s answer to the Beatles — saw Q link up with fellow producers Royal-T and Flava D, both of whom were very much seen as new-school UKG figureheads in their own right, following standout solo and joint releases on Butterz, Formula Records and Rinse. “Again, tqd was never intended to be a thing”, explains Q. “It all started when Elijah had a few days booked in at Red Bull Studios in London and me and Elijah speak all the time. We’d been chatting on iChat and whatever and he was still playing my ‘Woooo’ Remix a lot in his sets, as well as a few of my bassline tracks. I was also supporting Flava D on the radio … I had done since her early Eskibeat grime stuff actually … and I remember showing Elijah Flava’s beats. He liked them but it was actually her garage tracks that he was really into, which he first heard after tuning into one of EZ’s radio shows, and I think that made him want to start working with her. I always found it funny because I was sending him her grime tracks for ages thinking he’d be into them, but it was actually her garage stuff he wanted to put out.”

“Myself and Flava had actually collaborated on Local Action … that ‘PS’ track … and played a few b2b sets by this point”, he continues, “so Elijah invited me down to the studio at Red Bull. It was me and Royal-T in there first and then Flava came in later on. She heard ‘Day & Night’, which she really liked, so we sent her the parts and we ended up with two decent versions of the track, as well as a load of other ideas we’d started as a three. Elijah suggested we put it up on Soundcloud to see what people thought and rather then putting our individual artist names up, we each put a letter forward … and it turns out that tqd looked the best in that order.”

Their debut record, ‘Day & Night’, was released via Butterz in April 2015 to an influx of frenzied responses from fans and DJs alike. “It was actually Tom Shorterz in Birmingham who was onto us really early”, Q explains. “He’s a very forward-thinking promoter … I mean he was booking me in Birmingham in 2012 because I think he could see what was to come, how bassline, grime and garage were fitting together. He was the first to enquire about booking us together as tqd and I remember we played our first ever show in December 2015. I’ll never forget that because I went straight to Birmingham from Dubai to play the set and it was really fun. That was it man, it snowballed from there.”

tqd bookings were soon flying in from all angles, rapidly increasing in size and scale with every passing week, while fans’ appetite for new music saw the trio spend much of 2016 working tirelessly on fresh material. From Warehouse Project to Annie Mac’s AMP all-dayers to Sonar, Outlook, Creamfields and nationwide tours, the rise and rise of tqd was extraordinary — they were the UK’s new tour de force in dance music. To cement their legacy, the trio released their debut album — simply titled ‘ukg’ — via Butterz in March 2017, which was critically-acclaimed from the jump. Across 10 tracks, they managed to signpost garage’s future without ever losing sight of its past — note ‘A Letter To EZ’ for example, a track that paid homage to EZ’s legacy while also playing on Wiley’s infamous ‘Letter 2 Dizzee’ on 2007 album, ‘Playtime Is Over’. “We were actually watching EZ playing after us in Blackpool one time and while he was mixing, we said we should write a track called ‘A Letter To EZ’ … if you listen to the track, I chopped the vocals the way EZ would press the cue button!”, says Q laughing. These deft, intelligent touches, matched by the sheer colour and energy of their productions, made it one of 2017’s most coveted LPs. As Clash put it, “ukg was never going to be anything less than authentic garage in the hands of the gods.”

“We were actually watching EZ playing after us in Blackpool one time and while he was mixing, we said we should write a track called ‘A Letter To EZ’ … if you listen to the track, I chopped the vocals the way EZ would press the cue button!”

“We probably ended up playing every festival going in that period”, Q says, “as well as every club show. It was crazy. What we actually did in that space of time … I mean there wasn’t any garage around that sounded like that at the time. I really think it was the catalyst for a lot of the garage stuff that’s coming back now and we don’t always get the credit for that.”

The crowning tqd live moment would come via Bassfest, a blockbuster all-dayer first held at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester in the summer of 2017. It was initially planned as a one-off event that Q and promoter friend Chris Hogg dreamt up after Q had been featured in Channel 4’s Music Nation documentary, ‘It’s Bass Up North’, in late 2014. tqd headlined, with now iconic social media clips of them looking out from a stage to a sea of fans etched long in the memory. “We just felt we needed to put on a bassline event”, he recalls. “Everyone was on a hype from that, so we knew we had to bring back the old school heads and get everyone together. It was so successful, that we brought it back the next year and it’s continued, but now with more and more new artists.” Now crossing over into Sheffield — its new home is the Don Valley Bowl — Bassfest has grown to become one of the country’s biggest new school dance festivals, with Q still heavily involved with the brand to this day. Does he ever feel tired looking back, I ask. “Nah I feel the same as I did 10 years ago, I’ve just got less hair!”

As our conversation starts to wind down, attention turns to Party Like Us and yet another fruitful partnership that continues to bear fruit. “That was another big thing, linking up with AC Slater”, Q notes. “I was just a fan of his, so I hit him up and it turns out he liked my music as well. I released a track called ‘Big … Rupert (DJ Haus) actually helped me out with that by linking me up with Hypercolour to do promo … and it went out to everyone. Richie Hawtin ended up playing it, which was mad, and AC Slater also got back to me to say he really liked it. From there, I ended up remixing a few Party Like Us releases and then AC Slater put out my ‘Sound Boy Connection’ EP in 2013, which actually had my uncle’s vocals on it. AC started Night Bass not long after and I’ve continued to release tracks with them, mainly through their compilations … there was ‘Bigger Than Jaws’ with Sinden too in I think, 2017? Yeah 2017 … and then in September this year, so a month or so ago, I finally released my first solo EP on Night Bass called ‘Zip Zap’, which features more vocals from my uncle. It’s done quite well actually and what’s nice about all this music is that each record seems to get a different reaction … like, my Night Bass stuff gets totally different feedback to the music I put out with Local Action, from the DJs playing it to the playlists the tracks end up in.”

His latest record, ‘All That I Could / It’s You’ — a silvery, two-track UKG bumper — released only last week and saw him return to Local Action proper for the first time since 2016’s ‘Sonic’. It marks the first of a series of new Local Action releases for Q, who despite being nearly 20 years deep in the game, continues to show no signs of slowing down. “The appetite is still there, most definitely” he says humbly, “..and that’s all it is really, I just love making music for people.” Still grounded by the same principles he adopted as a kid and relentlessly motivated by a pure and undiluted love of music, it feels like for all his achievements to this point, the DJ Q puzzle isn’t quite complete just yet. “I’ve seen DJs online asking about bringing clubs back and wanting to be playing out again”, he concludes, “and I see their point of view, but for me, I’m just enjoying having the time to work on music. Because there are no clubs now, my whole way of making music has changed … I’m not writing music just to get a reaction on the dance floor anymore. I’m approaching things differently and taking my time, learning more about my own music as I go.” DJ Q concept album, anyone? We can only hope.

DJ Q’s ‘All That I Could / It’s You’ is out now on Local Action:


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