Onyx Recordings have just levelled up and released their first artist album. It comes from one of their longest standing artists who’s grown with the label from the off: DJ GAW – Tokyo Nights.
A concept album that flows seamlessly from start to finish, Tokyo Nights is a full-flavoured industrial strength debut album that weighs in at a meaty 20 tracks, runs the gamut from gully dancefloor bruisers to moody, slinky UKG and features collabs with the likes of A Little Sound, Kuma, NOZZ, Madrush MC, T-Man, Natty D, Exile and Banditt.
Teased over the last two years with social media clips, Tokyo Nights explores GAW’s most ambitious range of flavours while mapping his progression as an artist who initially broke through with high profile DJ competitions and expertly executed bootlegs and is now crafting entire drum & bass albums that work as entire bodies of work and boost the dickens out of the dance. Which is where our conversation with him kicks off…
How was your first set after lockdown?
Absolutely mental. I’ve had some proper crazy events, it’s been so nice to get back at it. My first gig was Attic Bar for Born On Road. Me and Crossy did a little set together. It was such a good time. Everyone is in such a good mindset because we’ve been locked away from so long. It’s exhilarating isn’t it?
It really is! Long may it last, but let’s find out about you. Tokyo Nights is the first album to be released on Onyx. You were one of their earliest artists, weren’t you?
Yeah I think we both gained popularity at the same time. They picked up my first EP. I was in Florida on holiday at the time when I got the message saying they liked my EP and wanted to release it, which was pretty cool, so I told them crack on.
That was the Behemoth EP. It blossomed from there…
That’s right. Then they released the Dutchie free download and the One Love bootleg. That was in 2019, which was a big year for me.
I got to say, I’m not sure about bootlegs in general. I wanted to hate your Vengaboys bootleg but it’s actually really good fun!
Thank you man. I did a version in 2018, it was a kind of rollery jump up version and I thought I’d update it just before lockdown ended. It’s gone down really well and got 80k views on my Tik-Tok!
It’s fun. Now is the time for fun, isn’t it?
Exactly mate! I even put a donk on the original tune, it’s for the fun – everyone likes a good sing-along. I take myself seriously on some stuff, but I love a fun tune that everyone can enjoy.
You made quite a name with bootlegs and free downloads. What’s your golden rule?
With a bootleg it needs to work as a whole tune and not just a sample of the original then a drop into a whole other tune. It needs to work properly as a piece of music and all be in key and have elements of the original tune throughout the track.
Wise words! You also came through DJ competitions, didn’t you? There was a big one with Data Transmission wasn’t there?
Yeah I was DJing more than producing back in the early days, for sure. That’s how I got my foot in the door with the Bristol lot as well. I’m from Dorset originally, but I put Bristol on my Soundcloud hoping that might help me win! The Data Transmission one was sick because the prize was to play at Nozstock and it’s still one of my biggest sets to this day. I think the weather helped me a bit; it was pissing it down and everyone congregated at the only arena that had a roof. That was a great day.
I bet. Fast forward to the album. You did a tune called Tokyo Nights and put it on Facebook a while back in 2019. Did the concept for the album start there?
That’s the same tune, it’s got less of a foghorn vibe now but this album has been brewing in my mind for a long time and a lot of those clips I’d put on my socials were the inner makings of the album. I wanted the album to be a progression of things so those were the initial ideas I had with a lot of the tracks.
Have you ever been to Tokyo?
Not yet. I was planning to with my ex but things fell apart. I really want to go. I love the culture out there
It’s got everything out there – tech, sense of discipline and tradition, an incredible history. It’s on many many D&B heads’ bucket list!
Totally. Also seeing footage of the Born On Road tour over there. The crowds were going absolutely mental!
Big up Japan! So the album’s got a real flow and a blend to it. There’s a mixtape vibe going on…
Yeah literally, you can listen to it from start to finish. I had this story in my head of what was happening in the tunes. Kinda like a TV series. I won’t give away what I was envisioning because I’m interested to see what stories it creates for other people when they listen to it.
It’s a proper album-style album!
Yeah that’s what I wanted to create. I didn’t just want to put a bunch of tracks together but have something much more personal that will stand the test of time and show my progression as an artist. I’ve gone back in on some tracks to update them so there’s a consistency but I wanted it to show like ‘here’s where it started, here’s where I’m at now, here’s a story you can make up yourself.’
And close friends too! Lots of collabos on the album…
That’s right. I wanted some special people involved in the process; old friends, new friends, people I’ve never worked with, people I haven’t worked with in years. It was good fun and kept me busy over lockdown.
I was going to ask about the influence of lockdown on the album. Maybe it’s given you time to make it longer? It’s a big old beast of an album!
Yeah I did develop it during lockdown actually. It was about 10 tunes shorter and ended with the track Puzzle. Then, last year, the label and I were talking and they said it wouldn’t come out until mid 2021 so I cracked on and made more tracks. They linked me with different artists to collab with and before I knew it I had 20 tracks!
Were the garage tunes already in that first collection?
Feels Wrong was. I worked with A Little Sound towards the end of last year then the All Good track came along this year. I’ve always had a soft spot for garage and wanted to have that as part of the album story. I dabbled with it last year and actually made an Animal Crossing bootleg for my ex with Bad & Bougie vocals over it. I ended my sit-down rave sets with that.
Wow nothing is off-limits with you! Is that out there in the world?
If I feel I can do something interesting with it then I guess nothing is off-limits. It’s out there publicly due to high demand. I’m waiting for a Nintendo Cease & Desist but it hasn’t happened yet.
Haha. Give me a moment of intensity on the album when you never thought you’d see the end of it…
Without a doubt, the mixdown stage. I kept putting it off and off and off then suddenly it was a few days before submission and I had this list of tunes to mixdown. I kept doing the wrong thing and had to re-do a lot of things and I really felt the pressure then. But I got my head around it all, pushed on and had it ready just in time for mastering.
You a last-minute man? Pressure helps sometimes doesn’t it?
I’m definitely a last-minute man! I’ve had a few times when a label’s hit me up and asked how I’m getting on with my EP and I’m thinking, ‘Oh shit, I forgot about that!’ I’ve had to really crack on in the studio. I do come up with some of my best stuff when the pressure is on like that.
So what’s coming up next?
I’ve got an EP coming up on Liondub International but, besides that, I’ve got a bit of time off and a lot of dubs ready for my sets.
Amazing! Please give us a random fact about DJ Gaw to sign-out!
My dogs are named after Basil & Sybil from Fawlty Towers and watch out for more new sounds in 2022 as I explore different tempos and work on an experimental album.