2019 is shaping up rather nicely for Hedex…
Having smashed into the year with a switch-flipping, iTunes-Top 20-denting grime track Ryan Air with MC Window Kid, he’s since followed it up with his own brand By The Producer. Armed with the motto ‘by the producer for the producer’, it kicks off with a series of samplepacks from some of the best in the bass game. It launched with Annix last month, Heist is up next and Hedex – real name Jack – tells us that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Yet another entrepreneurial twist in the Hedex tale, By The Producer is the latest in a growing line of endeavours he’s explored within the game since emerging, aged just 16, on Train Records and signing to Guv’s Dubz Audio a year later; last year he launched the Gank clothing brand, a few years before that he ran a social media consultancy company. Impressive considering he’s only 23.
Most importantly, though, he’s been one of the most successful new generation jump up artists to emerge since the mid 2010s and has been so prominent in the stripped-back Belgian sound, many people thought he was actually Bruges born and bred. He’s not, he’s actually based in Cambridge… But he is holding his birthday bash in Antwerp tomorrow at Skankmania.
With plenty more beats, bashes, and no doubt businesses to come, you get the feeling that even after six years Hedex is only warming up. This is how he got here…
Let’s go right back. You came through at a pretty early age.
Yeah I was about 13 or 14 when I got into it. My housemate I live with now showed me actually. I think I’ve been very lucky and have been at the right places at the right times.
How did that happen? Sending demos to people through mates?
Through AIM man. It’s like our generation grew up hyper connected. We had Beebo, BBM, Facebook… All those other things. AIM was a very natural way of communicating and linking with people. It’s how I got my foot in the door. First with Jaxx who runs Train Recordings. He linked me to Jayline, then I linked with Rowney & Propz. It was around that time I got a booking in Belgium and Guv came up and pulled a tune up I was playing, which is how we linked up.
Was your first gig in Belgium? I think K Motionz’ first gig was there too. A few guys who came through around the time you did had their first gigs in Belgium
It’s actually 16 to drink out there so that’s a big influence. I think it was my first ever gig, Skank And Bass 2, around 700 people. Which is pretty gnarly for a first show. But there was another gig very close to that which might have been my first, Covert in Brixton. I played room 2. I had to play the first hour because I was 17. I got in and stayed in the smoking area to avoid the bouncers, played my set, played the next set because the next DJ didn’t turn up and missed my tube home and had to sit in Starbucks for six hours. So my first gig was either of the two; a really sick international show and a really shit time mostly spent in Starbucks.
The highs and lows of tour life in your first two gigs. I think that’s why I thought you were Belgian for a couple of years. You played a key role in that stripped-back, spiky jump up sound that the country became known for.
Thanks. I think there’s a timeline… What we know as the stripped back vibe that you’re talking about came from Guv, Macky and Annix. They were the guys who were really developing and pushing that style and making massive bangers with it. They’ve taken it further than anyone else and caused that movement, so to speak.
And from around 2015 I’d say you were part of that movement yourself
I think that was the time when most people thought I was Belgian! I was playing there two times a week, I lived on the Eurostar. I became ingrained in the culture of those parties and they were mad. It’s the same if you’re playing more in the UK, you’ll draw for more UK sounds, more roller-based things and jungle. If you’re being booked to play to a certain crowd a lot you’re going to absorb that and reflect that and be inspired by it. I think a lot of us were.
You mention Guv, he’s been very influential in your career hasn’t he?
Massively. He’s been a mentor to me. Both as a producer and as an artist and how to do business, how to handle myself and how to grow.
And I guess like stuff to look out for because the genre isn’t a fairytale?
Yeah all of that and so much more. Massively. I think he’s treated me like that because I’m loyal and supportive. When I work with people I want to work with them properly and support them. I worked very closely with the G13 guys for a while, Jaxx before that. Getting to know people properly, trusting them and them trusting you so you can help each other. Music helps artists grow, having a big track will get you a name, but it’s who you’re working with and how you’re supporting each other that’s much more important and a much better way to do business.
Speaking of businesses you’ve just launched your own By The Producer brand and have had a few other enterprises too, right? You had a social media business first didn’t you?
Yeah I was aiding and supporting my friends in developing their social media profiles which kinda accidentally turned into a company with quite a few clients. It was when social media started to become essential for artists but a lot of them were finding it really cringe and didn’t want to do it. It was interesting for a while and I learnt a lot myself; about how responsive people are to the right content and why it’s not about numbers, it’s about the connection you make with the people who buy your music, go to your shows and support you.
The fans are the most important
Totally. I know some DJs will turn up to a show and just play what they want but you’ve got to play to them and think about they want. You have to return that appreciation.
You sound like you were maybe a DJ or you at least mixed tunes before you produced? Or you’re a natural DJ with that type of attitude…
Nope. I really wasn’t that comfortable doing it all at first.
Oh right. That’s proved me wrong haha
I just got really really anxious about it. The idea of being a DJ on a stage in front of a lot of people scared the shit out of me. But I had no choice; I needed to DJ to showcase my music. I treated it like a business and had to do that. I couldn’t sit in my room and webcam DJ or live off live streams forever. I’m not saying I hated it, but I wasn’t comfortable. I was terrible at it. Awful for the first year of gigs and I had a lot of gigs to play.
Steep learning curve!
It was. It’s why I played pretty much my own material. If I made everything at 175 then I could mix my tunes. It was easier to mix my own tunes and gave me space and time to focus on controlling the flow, bringing things up and down. I found it hard to play other people’s music, I couldn’t mix it as well as I could mix my own because I was terrible DJ for a long time. Obviously doing so many gigs every weekend you do improve pretty rapidly but that’s where I was at for a long time.
I appreciate that honesty, not every DJ would admit to that
I got nothing to hide man. I’m proud of everything I’ve done so far and what I want to do. This is me, I have to be honest.
Awesome. Have you had a regular job? You’ve been on this for years already, you’ve had a social media company, there’s been other projects… I’m wondering if music has been your entire professional life?
Oh yeah man, I’ve done regular jobs. I was a conference porter for brands for a while but my last job was in McDonalds, the nightshift. I worked 5pm – 2am. Then I’d get back and work until 7am on tunes, go to bed and do it all over again. It was a good job. Repetitive, yeah, but the social aspect was fun, everyone working there just had a laugh.
Where does the clothing brand Gank fit into this sprawling CV?
I’ve always loved clothes and fashion, I tried to set up a few clothing brands when I was 14 so it was always something I wanted to do and when everything really kicked off in Belgium and I’d developed this amazing fanbase I wanted to drop some things that weren’t music related. I started Gank with Skywalker about a year ago, we launched a pop up shop in Bruges and had a lot of fun with it. I had the budget and the fanbase to engage with so it was a wicked opportunity. Skywalker’s running it now. It was cool to do and gave me inspiration for my new venture.
Bringing us nicely to By The Producer. You’ve launched with samplepacks but it could branch out into so many other things that celebrate the art of the producer couldn’t it?
Totally. It’s an old idea I had written down for ages and I have to thank Dutta, he told me I could do it and inspired me to bring the idea to fruition. It’s been my life for the last three months, 12 hours a day making sure the whole website and mechanism is perfect. I’m a bit fussy, I must admit. I need things to be as good as I can possibly get them or I don’t feel I’ve done it right. I built this from scratch and wanted it to work and feel like a company that’s been doing it for five years the minute it launches. I have to shout out Jordan for the graphics and Dave for the logo but the rest was down to me and of course Annix who have made the first sample pack. I tried and tested every possible functionality and ways to pay for the product, how to get the file sizes down as much as possible without compromising quality but making sure it was easy to download and easily available for people with bad internet connections or basic laptops.
Awesome. You did a samplepack a few years back, right?
Yeah on Dubz, it did really well but that wasn’t the reason behind going into this. I just wanted to develop the concept of By The Producer as a brand because, as you say, I wanted something that does celebrate everything. But first it’s samplepacks and I’m making sure they’re perfect before I move onto anything else.
I always remember what TC said when he gave away all the parts to his Unleash The Wolves album; basically giving aspiring producers the best quality ingredients so they can sample what it’s like to make tunes at that level, with that quality of sound.
I completely agree! That’s what we’ve said on the website; like a house, building with better materials makes it last longer.
Have you heard loads of your samples in other people’s tunes?
Oh yeah man, kicks and snares all over the place but you have to accept that will happen or why are you selling the samplepack? If someone used the whole samplepack to make a tune and didn’t really show much other creativity then anyone who produces this music or plays it will identify that anyway.
Yeah that’s what I worry about. Samplepacks need to encourage creativity too right?
Definitely. I think as any artist develops in those early years of getting into it they realise they can’t develop their own sound if they just use samplepacks. We’re trying to show the elements of production. Like behind the scenes in a way. So with Annix’s pack for example they haven’t done the massive leads and the crazy stuff. We want to give you the building blocks to make your own sound within. I’m biased of course but this pack has 25 of the best snare samples available in drum & bass right now. And we’ve got some amazing things coming up… Heist is next.
The list goes on. We’ve got people you wouldn’t imagine coming up. It’s insane. I’m quivering in my boots thinking about how we’re going to build it up. I’m really proud of this and the concept is so simple… It’s by the producers, for the producers. We wouldn’t give you anything we wouldn’t use in our own tracks.
Awesome. We haven’t spoken about your releases… You went on a grime flex earlier this year!
I love Window Kid. I met him through Bru-C and I heard the vocal and said ‘we need to do a track’. I put a beat together and I swear it took me less than an hour. I sent it to him, he sent his vocals back and it was done. He got the video done, we got the release sorted, we put it out and it became an iTunes top 20 hit.
Yeah it was insane. Phenomenal. We didn’t expect it at all. It was a bit of fun. I love Greg’s style of MCing and the beat is very different for me. I thought it might get a few fans angry because it’s so different, but everyone was supportive. Yeah, what a wicked way to start the year. I’ve got a bigger project on that type of tip later this year.
Another feather in the Hedex cap!
Maybe man. I love rap, grime, mumble rap. I’d definitely love to explore production in those areas. But D&B-wise I’ve got a new single coming out this month which will be revealed soon and loads more after that… Both from myself and everything we’re about to drop on By The Producer. Respect to anyone who’s been supporting it. Thank you!