Flying the drum and bass flag in the UK’s Eastbourne, Liam Hijak has popped up in every corner of the scene. From learning the guitar, playing in bands, and making hip-hop in his early teens – a career dedicated to music was almost inevitable. He was first inspired by his friends to start mixing, but later stepped back from the decks and instead picked up the microphone – kicking off the journey of Hijak MC. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of the artists that inspired him, including Shabba D, Skibadee & GQ, Liam started performing in the late 2000s and has not looked back. Along the way, he has worked with some of the scene’s top labels – Playaz, ProgRAM, Eatbrain and Dispatch to name a few. After taking a brief hiatus from music for a period of reflection, Hijak MC is jumping back into his projects, telling UKF he is feeling refreshed and promising it is ‘only going to get better from here’.
So before we properly get into it, firstly how is everything going in the Hijak camp?
Things are all going well. Recently I took a bit of a step back from the music, to have some reflection time. Sometimes you have to do that to avoid burnout. At one point I wasn’t feeling inspired when it came to making music, and I wasn’t feeling the vibe of some of the stuff I was putting out. But I’ve jumped back into it now and so have got a lot going on, filling the backlog! It’s been very refreshing to have a new start and I am grateful that I can jump back into all these projects. I do quite a few different types of genres in the scene – neuro, tech, a bit of liquid and a lot of the work I have been doing at the moment has just been features, but it has all been fun.
So what have you got in store? Is there anything you can reveal right now?
Yes, a lot is coming up, I’ll be honest I’m not sure what I can tell you and what has to be kept under wraps for now. I’m excited to share that I have got a couple of bits with BTK. I’ve also been cooking up some stuff with my brother Screamarts and also with Obejctiv. I can’t forget Malux too – we are continuing our saga of making music together after last year when we released together on Evolution Chamber. One of our tracks ‘Ghost Train’ was even premiered by Rene La Vice on BBC Radio 1 last year, which was great for us, so Malux and I were wanting to continue the energy this year too. On top of this, I’m also working with Kolectiv, Zombie Cats and my friend Mains for his new label Motive Audio. I will also be featuring on a couple of artists’ albums, but I won’t say any more about that – don’t want to spoil the surprise for them! As always there are a lot of balls in the air – some things set in stone, others still in the works.
Well, we will make sure to keep an eye out for all of that! Do we have a period – anything coming out soon or is it further down the line?
Well, you know what it can be like with releases! Sometimes the promo is done speedily, other projects can take years even! I like a quick turnaround – hopefully, everything will be coming out in the next few months. I wish I could give you a more exact answer, but when it comes to release dates sometimes it’s like asking how long a bit of string is!
So that’s what’s going on with you at the moment, now let’s take it back to getting into the music! Can you tell us about first starting your journey in drum and bass?
Well, funnily enough before becoming an MC I was a DJ. Growing up I had a musical background – I was playing the guitar since I was 13, in school bands and that sort of thing. I was into all sorts of music – heavy metal, soul and funk, and especially 90s hip-hop. That was the sort of music I grew up on, West Coast rap I adore. I used to make hip-hop too, locally we had a group. I was influenced by my pals known as the o2n crew – Law, Jonny Jazz, Loobop, Keepa and Morgs. They were all turntablists, and I just watched them and ended up picking up mixing. I fell in love with it and soon after I got my pair of decks. It had a microphone with it so I started mixing and MCing. But after a while, I branched out more to the MCing side. It just seemed to work better for me. Of course, I still hold an appreciation for DJing. It’s nice being able to select tracks, put a whole mix together and lose yourself in it, taking the listener on a journey. It doesn’t matter what mood you are in, you can just lose yourself for an hour, and feel at home. I do miss DJing but when I first got into MCing I was hooked.
But of course, it wasn’t just those genres, I started listening to drum and bass at around the age of 14. I would be in my bedroom listening to the likes of Skiba and Shabba. It was just a different energy to hip-hop. It was around the age of 17 when I started going raving, my first raves were Innovation and One Nation at Brixton. Being there, I remember thinking ‘This is insane!’. It was completely different, and that made me want to be part of the scene. So I started local, just MCing with my pal Renza. We were putting nights on and making contacts in the scene. It must have been around 2006 when I started getting club bookings, this was both as a DJ and an MC. I was getting more work as an MC though and that’s another reason why I headed more down that path! That was how the ball got rolling with my journey in the scene.
There was a long period between my time as an MC and when I first started doing vocals for tunes. I only started doing that about six or seven years ago. But since then I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many great labels and I am very thankful for that.
And who would you say were your favourite artists or influences in drum and bass?
There are so many, all the old-school heads – Brockie, Nicky Blackmarket, GQ, Cause 4 Concern, Shabba and Skibadee of course. I also have to shout out to Mampi Swift too. Obvious choices but there is a reason, they are all just legends. And the beautiful thing about those guys I have mentioned is that I am pals with a lot of them now. Sometimes you should never meet your heroes, but those guys keep it real! I have a lot of time for those people. Just all legends.
I’m sure you’ve had some great experiences working alongside these artists and more during your time in the drum and bass scene. What would you say are your career highlights or most memorable moments as an artist?
How long have you got? From playing festivals to working with some great artists, I’ve been lucky enough to make a million memories along the way. When I first started I played Eastbourne Festival, around 2007. It was the biggest local event around and that always sticks with me – that was a special day. Becoming part of the Renegade hardware camp was a good point before they closed their doors. I had the absolute honour of performing with Marcus Intalex before he passed. We did two sets together, and to be honest I was very nervous! I wasn’t sure if he would like my style, but he was very happy which made the nights even more special. Rest in peace Marcus, a true legend. On top of that, I got to perform with Break and Marky, two of my favourite artists to date. Last October I played at Virus – I love the label and I love the nights they put on so that was a box ticked off. Another was when I met Jade and Mindscape, and we ran a set at Swift’s Album launch. This led to some great things with Eatbrain. All those are up there with my most memorable moments.
Alongside all this, some of the labels I have got to work with over the years – are big career highlights for me. Playaz ProgRAM, Dispatch, Eatbrain, Cause 4 Concern, Flexout and Overview to name a few. As an MC, having brilliant artists and established labels on your CV, there is a real sense of accomplishment. Not only as an artist but also as a fan of drum and bass, getting to tick those boxes is a great personal achievement. I think that is the biggest career highlight. Over the years, getting to build relationships, seeing people that inspire you becoming your peers and friends and being connected by music. I’m not sure if that counts as a highlight but that’s what I think is most special!
Well, I’m sure there are many artists out there that can relate to that! Then looking ahead, what can fans expect from MC Hijak in the future?
Like I said I am filling the backlog of my to-do list, so there is plenty to look forward to. There is an EP in the works, I can’t say for which label but that will be coming in the near future. It could even be turning into a whole album, but we will see how that goes! There are a couple of labels that are still on my bucket list – Critical and Metalheadz. I’m hoping to speak them into existence, and this is the motivation for the future. If I can get releases or features on those labels, then I would say that would tick all my boxes as an artist.
On top of this, I’m also looking to get back into running events. I’ve been putting on nights over the years and enjoyed working with some great Brighton promoters such as Bass Konnection, Delirium Sessions and recently have done stuff with Spearhead. Along with making the music and performing, this is also on the cards.
And then moving away from music, I’m being sponsored by THTC – The Hemp Trading Company. They are Europe’s longest-running hemp streetwear brand. I’m very excited to be working with them, they’ve collaborated with several artists in many scenes – Redman, Ed Sheeran, Method Man, and even Goldie! All their clothing is sustainable, made from hemp and ethically produced. So it’s a great thing to be a part of, so I have to shout THTC! It’s nice to be doing something like this, on top of all the music stuff of course. After taking a break from everything it’s nice to be back, and it’s only going to get better from here.