A Conversation With V.I.V.E.K 

Running a label, holding the dances, being a respected DJ and a confident creative producer… It’s the tick list for any artist in any shade of the electronic game. Few, though, get the balance quite as precision tuned as V.I.V.E.K.

His vinyl-only label System Music is buy-on-sight and has blessed us with untold gems by everyone from Kromestar to Sleeper to SP (and that’s just this year alone).

His System parties are the stuff of legend and are run through his own handmade system (we’ve already told you about this) While seemingly blighted by venue bad luck (the last party got cancelled last minute), he’s back on track with a brand new venue next year and more big plans.

As a DJ he’s renowned for digging deep with plates for every occasion from his regular broadcasts to his recent run of All Night events where he guides you through the entire night. Just as adept at tangling you up in the roots as he is whipping up with gully or stopping you dead in your tracks with raw emotional electronica, V.I.V.E.K is a consummate selector.

As for his production chops, where you do want to start? Breakthrough cuts like the eerie metronomic menace of Grandfather Clock or the sci fi creeper Strategy? The overwhelming warmth and soul of One Heart? How about this spring’s Where Were You? A track that chills you down to the bone even you don’t know he wrote undergoing chemotherapy, fighting cancer.

Few artists get the balance quite as precision tuned as V.I.V.E.K. Even less come out of the most turbulent two years with quite as much positivity and philosophy. As he prepares to link up with Goth Trad for another All Night marathon at London’s Pickle Factory on Saturday August 25 we called him up to see where he’s at and how he got here….

When the last dance got cancelled I was a bit worried System would be no more…

Nah we’re still here. Dingwalls changed the management and I guess they weren’t into what we were doing. It was a blow, for sure. But it’s led to me finding another venue in East London. The guy who owns the place is proper into dub music, too. He gets it, which is encouraging.

All systems go for next year then. No pun intended.

Ha. Yeah 100 percent. We got a weekender to celebrate the seventh birthday. February 15 and 16. One in London, one in Amsterdam. So yeah, System is still running and, as always, we adapt to circumstances and make the best of situations.

I wanted to congratulate you on your health man. You’re fully cancer free now right?

Fully cancer free thanks. I’m not going to lie, it took me a very long time to recover from it. Longer than I thought. Physically and mentally. I’m back to normal now. No, actually better than that. I’ve cut off the fat, I’m leaner in my body and my mind. I’ve cut out certain people, certain habits, it’s changed my life.

I first heard Where Were You at System. The last ever tune you played at Dingwalls, although you didn’t know it would be at the time. It gave me legit shivers before I had any idea where it came from. Such an emotionally charge piece of music. What does it capture the most? Isolation? Disappointment? Frustration?

All of that and more. When you expect something off someone and you don’t get it… It’s one of those things man. It was an eye opener for me and I have to take the positives from that for my life moving forward. It’s not good to go through really negative, challenging things in life. But when you do it makes you stronger. I’ve just realised what’s what and I am happier for that.

What blows my mind is that System events were still happening, releases were still coming out, you were still active. Were there any points where music was the last thing on your mind?

Never. Music got me through it. I was making music while going through chemo. I’d just bought a Maschine. I didn’t have a scooby how to use it to begin with, but I spent my time on chemo learning how to use the thing and writing all kinds of music. I wrote Where Were You while in the hospital actually on chemo.

Man. That adds an even deeper level to the tune. Wow.

Yeah I wrote a lot of stuff like that while on chemo. There’s something else coming out on Martyn and Steffi’s compilation on a label called Air Texture. It’s an New York based ambient label. That’s coming soon, it’s called Sad Smile. It’s very different to what people might expect from me. It’s musical and quite sombre.

I can imagine. So let me rephrase that earlier question. Your career and all the bullshit that comes with being a DJ and profile and success and all of that…. That must have been the last thing on your mind during this?

Totally. I have to be honest, though, it wasn’t on my mind much before I had cancer. It was maybe years ago but not for a long time. I do see what I’m doing as a career, don’t get me wrong, but Ive also detached myself from that side of it. I work full time in another job. I never want to be that full time touring, travelling DJ. I don’t want to be away from my family for that length of time. I don’t want them to be relying on that money I get from the travelling.

We spoke about this before. It means that this is just a really really serious hobby. It doesn’t matter about making money

Yeah. I’m lucky like that. No actually, I take that back because luck is partly to do with it. I’ve worked really hard to get here. But it is a very fortunate position to be in. To do this but to not rely on it. To be able to make decisions based on creativity and not money. I think I’m a lot more balanced in life now as well. Yeah this is, a very serious hobby. But sometimes I’d let it takeover my life too much. Because of everything I’ve gone through that won’t happen again.

Amen. Let’s talk about the All Night events. Is that a concept you’ve thought about for a while as a selector? To take people on that trip…

Absolutely. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It goes back to those early System nights where it was just myself and Mala playing. I always love playing those longer sets and being able to take things in different directions and dig deeper than people might expect. So I’d been thinking about it for a while, I really like Pickle Factory’s vibe, their soundsystem is good. Long sets mean it’s so much more varied and you can play stuff you wouldn’t normally get to play. You can broaden things in relation to what you’re playing.

If you’re playing a one hour set you need to go in, don’t you?

Yeah and you try to have dynamics but generally you just go up and up and up. This isn’t DJing. This is selecting. Taking people on journeys. I can start off with ambient stuff and dub and roots and go wherever. And with Goth Trad on board he’s got a new album coming out and so many things he wants to play so he’ll be taking thing on his own journey too. I’m so glad to have him on board for this next one. He’s one of my favourite producers and his DJing is amazing. We’ve known each other for a while and I knew he was in the country that weekend so suggested we do this together.

So tune for tune? Hour for hour? Or more relaxed than that?

More relaxed. We’ll see where the vibe takes us. We’re not keeping a clock on it, we’re seeing how it goes on the night. I’m bringing some extra sound, too. The first time we did the All Night session we didn’t have the right sound guy. I’ve been to Pickle Factory and heard the soundsystem at its best and that’s what I want but with my own sound in there too. I was really happy with the turn out from the last one, especially because it was a Sunday, but this one is Carnival weekend, it’s gonna be good, especially with the extra sound in there. The venue is perfect; small, dark and good for what we do. I’m looking forward to it…

Look FWD: All Night with V.I.V.E.K & Goth Trad / Saturday August 25 / Pickle Factory, London  

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