Saturday, 8 September 2012

In the #ESPspotlight...DJ ACE!

This is one I've been planning in the back of my mind since I first started this blog almost a year ago...quite possibly before in fact.

If you're a longtime reader, then you know that when it comes to interviewing friends of mine, I love and hate the experience in equal measure. I already know some of the good and bad, but more than anything, I get the chance to be cheeky and get in their business, under the pretence of it being 'for the good of the piece'. That's the good part. The bad, is that no matter how much you want to impress them with your abilities, they are your friends, so they always know your tells! To date however, none of the friends I've interviewed ever do what I do and they certainly don't do it for millions of people more than a few times a week! I was a bit nervous about this one which is why I've held it back for so long and that is what gave my mean mate the opportunity to mess with me a little bit!

Making me squirm is not the (main) reason DJ Ace is in the hotseat this week though. As part of BBC 1Xtra's new September line up, this Sunday will see him break from his 10-year, on-air partnership with fellow DJ Vis and go it alone for the first time. So since he's taking the plunge, what better opportunity to take on a challenge of my own, than by squaring up to a good friend, who just so happens to be an award-winning veteran of our generation, in a field few contemporaries can claim to have broken ground in?

Pull up a seat and enjoy as I talk to my mad mate...

Well, well. Did you ever think you'd see the day? Welcome to the hotseat, Troublemaker of my blog instead of radio! I don't know if you remember this, but last October, I told you that I would be coming for you one day. It has arrived. Your reckoning has arrived, you ready?!

Bring it, let's go...

1. Alright Joker in the Pack! We'll start easy - explain the name, why Ace? I looked everywhere and couldn't find a description...

DJ Ace
Wow...I don't have a clever answer! I've had it my whole life...It's a small name; my birth name begins with the letter 'A'...and I like everything that the word 'Ace' embodies. It has an 'eliteness' tied to being the top of your field, your craft, whatever it is that you do. It's a pretty awesome word and...I'm pretty awesome, so I think it works.

Alright Humble One, but when did you officially become 'Ace'?!

I went to New York when I was 9 years old, my Aunt lives in this complex and I was playing in it like the bum that I was then. I was the only British kid and these neighbourhood kids asked me what my name was; when I told them my real name, they laughed because I have a unisex name - it's unisex here, but it's not over there. I had this coat that had 'Ace' on it and we were playing touch football, which I'd never played before - everyone had to have a nickname for when you pass to each other. So instead of calling me what my name was, they started calling me Ace. I and I was just Ace since that day, I suppose...

2. Being a 'Music Connoisseur' kind of comes with your territory, I'd imagine it helps the job, but being the Champion and Boaster of your collection that you are - Which ONE record have you always been too embarrassed to admit that you own?

Des O'Connor's Greatest Hits. Can you stop messing and answer for real, please?!

I'm serious. He's got this song called 'Dick-A-Dum-Dum'...Have you heard it? He's talking about going to the West End, meeting this girl and stuff in a really old school way. It's kind of what Tinie Tempah would talk about now, but in a Des O'Connor way. It's very London, but not what we would know as London now. The song resonates with me, I like it...

It's literally for that one song though.

3. I would normally ask someone of your calibre what their backup would be, were they not doing the thing that they love most; but I think with you, anyone who's ever listened to your show already knows so; TRUE King of Big Brother - Who would be in your dream Big Brother House?

If I was hosting it, I would wanna see Wiley in there, Prince Harry...Ahhh, this is a very difficult question... Erm, Mel B, Jocelyn from Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, Rihanna annnnd, we'd have Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. And Ray J

What, no Chris Brown? Nahh...I reckon he'd be a bit boring

But he could be your equivalent of the dude that cried all the time from the last one? To be honest, I don't really think anyone wants to see that.

4. You've done a LOT of craziness in your 10 years at 1Xtra. As one of your loyal audience, I would have to say your funniest moment was stripping off to Jodeci, was it? At the last Soundclash. First of all - What possessed you in that moment? Second, what's your standout memory?

The Soundclash thing...I would say what possessed me was Desperation. We were obviously gonna lose to Charlie Sloth and I knew what records we had left. It was the final and I knew that they had better records than us; so I thought we just needed a really off-key publicity stunt. I think I was course to win that round with the strip, but then Vernon Kay was a bit sexier than me, which was unfortunate...So yeah, I really just wanted to go out with at least one point. But it was just pure desperation really and that's what it kind of came down to...Sorry.

I've had crazier moments at 1Xtra...I went to Japan in '04 and did Sumo, but like, real Sumo, with real Sumo wrestlers. You know when you get in the suits? What was funny was they were really impressed with me. For a 'big guy', I had good balance, which I find funny because I fall over all the time. Also as part of that trip, because Japan is such a business Capital, businessmen have to stay in the City overnight. But because all of the hotels are booked up, they basically have 'Micro Hotels', which are basically, if you imagine a washing machine-size hole in the wall that goes all the way down, so you can lie in it? There are basically loads of holes in the wall and these businessmen sleep in them like capsules. I'm bigger than your average Japanese man, so it was quite claustrophobic for me.

We also ate really weird things like raw whale and raw horse meat. Japan was amazing. It was really eye-opening for me, this young black boy from South London to be able to go over there and experience what they was the furthest I've ever been from home and my first time away as well. It was a really, really good trip that eclipses getting naked on stage.

5. What inspired you to start Frommorning Management?

I've got a lot of talented people around me. Some talents get wasted. Talent is a real attraction for me and I think if you're talents get wasted, then you deserve to be looked after in the correct way and have somebody that's always going to have your back. There's a lot of lone people out there that are talented but have no-one looking out for them and I just really wanted to do that. I started off with a group of young producers called Dumb Beats. At the time, I wasn't even thinking about doing a management company or consulting, they were 15/16 at the time; but they were really good, individually and collectively. I remember having regular meetings with them, saying what they need to do and now, they've killed it. They have a publishing deal, they've worked with a lot of big artists, they've gone on to do some really good things.

During the time I was working with them, I met Bianca. Everyone knows that I'm a Hip Hop head but I'm really an undercover RnB head. I love RnB. I display my Hip Hop side more, but RnB, for me coming up, I listened to equally as much. I grew up on Brandy and Monica, SWV and TLC, Teddy Riley and all of those really great RnB acts. I was always a fan. Bianca, for me, feels like that era. A lot of people say that RnB is dead, it can't come back, but I don't feel like Bianca needs to be a chart artist to be successful. I think she just needs to turn out good music and do what she does. And she's a great live performer...

Lioness...I've been a fan of since I first heard her. I just wish the world would understand how talented she really is. For me, she's untouchable. My three favourite MCs in the UK are Wretch, Kano and Lioness. I think she can stand toe-to-toe with them. 

6. I like to ask a fashion question; with you, the only one I can ask, is what's with the caps trademark, dude?! You have more hats than most women have shoes! Explain how and why that started?

I know, it's embarrassing...I started to like wearing them and then I met somebody at New Era and he hooked me up. Then I just started to feel uncomfortable without them. Now I just have to always have one on.

So Ne-Yo of radio - what's your favourite one and why? I don't think I have a favourite, to be fair. I've got loads so it would be really difficult for me to pick a favourite one. There's different hats that remind me of different things, or different, I'll always remember the hat I wore to the Sony Awards, or that I wore when we presented backstage at the MOBOs; but I wouldn't even say that they were my favourites, I just remember them for the times. But then saying that, I don't even remember the hat that I was wearing yesterday. It's very strange because now I dress from head down; I wear the hat first. I know it sounds strange but I'll get out the shower, moisturise and put a hat on...

That is quite an image to go with your stage strip...there's something wrong with you! How many do you actually have and where do you put them all?

Wow errrrm...honestly, well over 500...I've got a back room with a lot of hats that I don't wear anymore.

7. So since we're on that road anyway; do you remember your first thought on winning your Sony Award?

I'll be honest, my first thought was "Aw, this is nice!" We were told that we were nominated for this award, but it didn't really resonate as to what it was; we were just told: "You guys have been nominated for the awards, come down to this big place, have dinner..." Now, if we were nominated, then obviously we would know what it was but at the time, I think we were a year into our contracts. We won in 2004; we were signed to 1Xtra in late 2002, so a year and a bit. We just thought go down, free dinner - COOL...Then they read our name out. Oh, we have to make a speech now...We know now that it was a big deal, but back then, it was just whatever! It was our first award, the first award for the radio station, I mean we beat Chris Moyles...A lot of things back then, we were very young, very green and very oblivious - we had no guidance.

Even to this day, we don't have a Manager. We've never had management. We've worked with people for a little bit, or we've been signed to some agencies, but we've never had an out and out AceNVis Manager - ever. Everything we've gotten, we got on our own. Whether that's Channel U, MTV Base, Radio 1 for a year, bookings; we've gotten most of the things that you've seen us do, by ourselves

The Sony's are like the Grammys of radio but no-one told us that, we had to make those mistakes on our own. It's worked so far, so good and I think now it's kind of too late to have Management. Also, I think a lot of people who were in positions where, they could have managed us, didn't know what to do with these two black boys from South. We were a bit too street or edgy. I think if there was a new, 21-year-old AceNVis now, any management company would snap em up because it's been done and they see what they can do with them. But no-one really saw the vision then. 

But I would imagine that it would be quite hard for you to have a Manager, now that you are one? Especially you of all people!

You know what, I'm always open to working with people, but I'm into doing more things and different things. If there's someone to put me in a position to do that, I would be open to having somebody call themselves my 'Manager'; but they can't be doing things that I can do for myself. They would have to get me things that I can't, or take me to places that I've never been. I will never shut the door on the idea of having a Manager, but they have to have the same vision as well.

8. Speaking of visions - what talent do you wish you had?

I wish I could sing. If I could sing, I would sing every day, every link. If I could sing, the world would know. I'd sing on the street for free

9. Which do you prefer, Live radio, or spinning at events?

They go hand in hand. Radio is obviously the foundation where it's all come from, but it's hard. My cousin got me into DJing. I used to help carry record boxes and stuff every Summer when I was young, so I was exposed to real DJing. I've always really enjoyed the art of just being able to make people dance. I find it really amazing that I can move people by playing songs. It's almost like a weird obsession. You know what one of the most amazing things is; have you ever been in a club and you didn't know what was about to happen? What song the DJ was going to play, then you just lose your mind for five seconds, because your favourite song comes on? When I'm able to do that to somebody, or a crowd of people, it's like sex. Just to be able to control a room full of people is an amazing feeling. To be in a position where you could make or break someone's evening...

It's an important job. It's not just standing up there and playing records, it's how you do it. It's about caring about the people in front of you. A lot of DJs will just play for themselves. I'm so far from that. If everybody's having a good time, then that's what I do it for. It's the same with radio - if I get a text saying that was really funny, I really appreciate that. I don't think I'm able to pick which one I like more.

10. How influenced must you really have been by Desmonds and Ice Cube, to create a web show in a Barbershop?!

Cut The Chat TV
Not even, to be fair! The barbershop is somewhere most black boys will go, at least once a week and it's a place where the majority of conversation happens; arguments, jokes,'s a place for the community.

I've been in a barbershop everyday for the last twenty years but it's only really over the last ten that I've started to appreciate it. There have been times when I can sit in there for three hours and not be having my hair cut - but just finding out what's going on in the area, what everyone's saying, getting involved in an's just the perfect setting, the place where you want to be, so why not put it on TV, put a camera on it? Doing what I do, I don't really get a chance to hang out with the boys as often as I'd like to, so sometimes I even forget the camera's on. There's a lot of stuff that you don't get to see because it's a bit outrageous, it could get us in a lot of trouble. Maybe one day a 'Cut The Chat - Unedited' will come out...

BONUS: Tell me about this new show then...Are you nervous about flying solo? Aside from the obvious, what's the biggest difference we can expect?

I'm blasting off every Sunday from 7 o'clock, the main difference is that it's a lot me. You get more of what you might hear when I'm covering Trevor Nelson's show, or even more of what I do as part of AceNVis, but I'll be showing that I can be a 'Specialist' as well. I'm really homing in on this 'Ace of Clubz' thing that I've been running with for about a year and a half now. I'm all about the clubs, making sure people have a good time in my presence and making sure people are having a good day or enjoying themselves to whatever music we play. So it's going to be a mix of the kind of banter that you usually get, I'll be wrapping up the week, there'll be a lot of listener interaction, but then on top of that, I'll have the 'Specialist' side, where I'll be jumping in the mix and playing a lot of 1Xtra classics. It's gonna be nice! It'll be different! It's like Ace Remixed...

Thanks Ace for braving the hotseat - I'll be tuning in this Sunday, expecting that homie shout...

As the man said, catch his brand new solo show starting this Sunday evening (9th September) at 7PM on BBC 1Xtra.

Connect with him via his Social Media Catalogue:

Check out more from the lovely Lioness and Bianca Monet at the FromMorning website.

And don't forget that Sharing is Caring! Leave your thoughts in the box down there!

See you next time...
ES ;o)