Dutch riddim artist Obey returned to the dials this month with first release in two years… And he’s done it in style.
As featured on the sampler earlier this month, the man often known as Yung Butcher appears on Rampage’s 10th V/A album Rampage 2019 with Shelling On Sight. It’s a brutalist tag team tear up Monsters mogul Shiverz, it marks the start of his return to more consistent releases and announces his debut at the Belgian megafest this weekend where he’ll share the stage with Shiverz and Bukez Finezt.
For Obey, 2019 couldn’t have started better artistically. As a DJ first and foremost he’s always been present and correct on line ups, but what’s inspired and motivated this move back to our playlists? What makes him tick in general? Let’s shed some light on his journey and his next destination…
What keeps you coming back for more?
Nothing really compares to DJing and producing in terms of pleasure and impact. Music helps me to deal with life, it calms me. Getting paid is nice, but rather a bonus. Seeing the crowd react is the real motivator – the people and the scene come first.
Because of music, I’ve visited new places and met people I otherwise wouldn’t and met so many wonderful people. My world has grown so much. This is something money can’t buy – memories for a lifetime. I imagine doing this until I’m 65 years old.
Your booking at Rampage is this week. How did it feel once you got the news?
It seemed unbelievable once the news arrived. I always watch the streams and hear the stories from other DJs/friends who played there. The sheer size of Rampage… I had to pinch myself. It really is a big honour and a dream coming true. Seeing the line-up every time, thinking ‘what if, what if’ and getting the news… Sitting down seemed like the wisest thing to do.
How do you go about preparing for such a gig?
For me, it’s about improvising on the spot and really tasting the atmosphere. Preparing a whole set doesn’t guarantee the selection will work. You really have to feel and see, especially in regards to how the DJ before you plays – it really is an important skill.
This booking is a bit different, everything must go smoothly. For my own peace of mind, I want to come prepared. I think there will be a certain thread throughout my set. I want to play my best material and have some form of basis to work from. Diverging from that is okay, but I want to show my very best.
You’re known for pushing the energy during peak hours… How do you manage this without actually overdoing that energy?
I like to keep them guessing by teasing with an intro and then suddenly to a different tune. If done right, the energy and expectation change dramatically and give this ‘wow’ effect. Keeping it diverse is important through including grime or something more experimental, it keeps the mix organic and less predictable. Having some breathing space in the mix is essential too. Also, mixing in the classics occasionally – music that got me into going to parties back in the days, artists like Rusko or Emalkay.
You haven’t been releasing that much music in years. Can you explain why?
It’s been rather busy at work. After a whole day behind the screen as a programmer, it get harder to focus on music once you get home. It’s about finding a balance.
Is a certain element of quality control tied to your decrease in releasing material?
I think a lot of artists can relate to being picky about the things you create. Sometimes I make a whole arrangement and decide to never touch it again, because it wasn’t good enough or just didn’t reach the standard that I’m striving for.
I’m a big believer in music as a creative process that flows. It isn’t easy to just say: ‘I will make this or that’. For me, it’s really important to create something that represents me, instead of just making music for the sake of releasing it; it’s a matter of quality above quantity.
Isn’t it a case of trying something rather different for the sake of experimenting, but figuring out it doesn’t necessarily work?
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I recently went through the files, music I’ve made around 2014, 2015 – it’s quite a lot I haven’t finished. A bit of a shame, because there’s some good material in there, but at the time I didn’t think that.
Tell us more about Shelling On Sight…
This tune marks the first one of the year; the first tune I’ve finished in a while. Really fun to make it, especially because there were quite a lot of vocals to work with. I never really incorporated an actual MC in my music, so it was a nice first experience. It’s cool to have Shiverz on a beat of mine and I think it worked out pretty damn well. From what I can tell, it’s being received by the listeners pretty well, of course I’m happy about that.
Let’s talk about Monsters. The collective you’ve been part of for about five years now. What did getting involved with crew mean to you at the time?
Once I discovered their specific sound, they became my idols and still actually are. Joining Monsters really seemed like a dream at one point. Dubstep, as a whole, grew on me, but once I came in touch with this sound, it became the main focus.
Shiverz, one of the main guys at Monsters, was really my example in that regard. I didn’t know him back then, but his work became my study – his way of doing things inspired me. Eventually, I started uploading mixes, met them and we got off on the right foot. After a while, they’ve asked me to join.
You see Shiverz as a mentor. Can you explain why?
Mainly in terms of DJ’ing, but throughout the years it has grown in different ways. He’s like a big brother to me. Family. I can always talk to him – music or personal stuff. When behind the decks, our chemistry is impeccable. It’s a very special and unique bond.
So how does that synergy translate into sharing the decks?
When mixing together, we both get more energy out of that. We push each other further – raising the bar through shared enthusiasm does work wonders. Even to the point that, on numerous occasions during the last six or seven bookings, one of us is selecting a tune and the other has exactly the same tune in mind to mix next.
We’re really on the same level and there’s no other DJ for me who compares in those terms. I don’t want to stroke my own ego or his, but playing together works extremely well for us. We really level subconsciously. I think this aspect is very important when booking people to play B2B.
Seeing Shiverz in his element behind the decks, he seems rather on edge. Surely it’s a big part of being a showman, but what kind of person is he in private?
It’s an act, same goes for me once I get on the stage. When the first record hits the speakers, you move a switch mentally and all this energy gets released. It’s like tapping energy from a source you usually can’t get to. Getting back to Shiverz though, he’s a really relaxed dude off the stage, a father and a warm person!
What goals for the upcoming months would you like to talk about?
Besides doing new releases, I would really like to go on tour again. It’s a total immersion music-wise. I save up all my vacation days to be able to do this thoroughly. There’s nothing else on my mind and inspiration comes naturally and abundantly.
You’re away from the daily life while having a blast, so ideas just flow. Revisiting Australia certainly is on my list, but also is doing a tour in USA. I hear a lot of great things about it and I really want to apply for a visa, doing so in 2019 is my goal.
To those aspiring DJ/producers reading this, what advice would you like to give them in conclusion?
Never give up. So often when I’ve sent music or a mix to some DJ, producer or organization, I didn’t get an answer and wondered if my work was up to par, but eventually I found out that someone did play or air my music.
It feels really wonderful when this happens, so keep at it and keep practising. Watching tutorials on YouTube is nice, but putting in the hours to practice those skills makes the difference. And it’s alright to make mistakes, make sure you enjoy yourself and keep it light-hearted.
Obey – Shelling On Sight (Featuring Shiverz) is out now