DJ Hazard Picks The 5 Most Important Tracks of His Career
Drum & bass veteran DJ Hazard walks us through his discography and highlights five of his most essential productions.
It’s been long in the making, but DJ Hazard’s Far Fetched EP has finally arrived, and it doesn’t disappoint. Featuring all the hallmarks that fans have come to love from the Birmingham-based producer, the release is all frantic drums rattling over rumbling bass, tied together by the ominous vocal cuts and movie samples that have become his trademark.
His first release since 2014’s anthem Bricks Don’t Roll, the EP is the culmination of five years in which Hazard’s focus was often away from the studio. “Life gets in the way – I’ve got kids, I wanted to do other things. You can’t be in the studio every day of your life,” Hazard explains. “But over the last five years, I went to the studio every now and then, and this EP is the best of the stuff that I made in that time.”
As it turns out, we’ve caught Hazard the day after a marathon stint in the studio, and it’s safe to say that the writer’s block that has plagued him since 2014 has vanished. “This EP was never gonna come out. I was never gonna let those tunes go. But because I did, it’s fired me back up again. And it’s worked – I’ve been in the studio every single day for the last four weeks. That fire that I had when I first started is back again.”
To celebrate the release of Far Fetched, we asked Hazard to pick five tracks from across his career that shaped his sound and made him the producer he is today.
Over to Hazard.
The reason I picked “Busted” is because it was the first tune I made when I switched from a sampler to a computer. But when I got a computer, I just couldn’t get the sound right.
After that tune, I started buying lots of old hardware. On a computer, writing is made much easier and you’ve got so many more options, but for the sound, I’ve been back to hardware since “Busted.” Now I use a mixture of hardware and software, but “Busted” was one of the only ones that was totally software-based.
Since “Busted,” I’ve been on a search to get the sound better. And when I say better, I don’t mean cleaner or more polished — I mean that old rough sound we used to get from crappy samplers. It’s vibe more than anything that I’m searching for, and computers can kill the vibe a lot.
“Mr Happy” (2007)
The tunes [in this piece] were chosen because of the progression of how I felt when I made them. I made “Mr Happy” and still wasn’t happy with how it sounded, and that’s why I went to D*Minds, got them to mix it down, and they made it sound the way people hear it today.
[Working with D*Minds], I learned even more about hardware. Even though they were using software, they were using hardware emulation software — and I thought, ‘if they can get it sounding that good with emulations, then I should save up and buy the real thing.’
We needed a B-side for another tune that we’d done, but “Mr Happy” turned out to be the A-side. Without me going to them and asking them to mix it down, “Mr Happy” would never have been as big as it is. They did the perfect mix for that tune.
People still want me to play it. To this day, people get upset when I don’t play it in my sets. I get messages on social media from people saying, ‘I came to see you, but I’m really upset that you didn’t play “Mr Happy.”
“Killers Don’t Die” (2008)
I love kung fu films. I used to go through hundreds of kung fu movies – I would buy DVDs of kung fu movies at Poundland, where it was £1 for a film. I would go down and buy ten at a time, and then a new batch would come in, and I’d get ten more. On that film in particular, [the sample] was right there in the opening scene.
Some people say to me, ‘that “Killers Don’t Die” sound, you should do more like that!’. If you listen to it, the sound of it wasn’t that great, but it’s vibe more than anything. It’s a bit dirty; there’s imperfections in the music. Most of that vibe comes from people who don’t know what they’re doing. And back then, I didn’t know what I was doing!
That was another one that got a massive reaction. I didn’t think it would, but I still get people shouting that sample out to me all the time.
I chose “Machete” for this list because you can hear a difference in sound from [my earlier work] because that’s when I’d earned some money and started to buy more equipment.
Everything on that EP had the newer equipment and sounded different from the previous generation of stuff. It was a completely different approach to processing audio on that release.
I’d got a nice pay-off from the previous release, and I spent it all on equipment. A lot of people might say ‘I’m going to go buy new clothes’ or something, but I spent the lot on equipment.
It was also a turning point because I learned to stop buying gear that sounded clean, and started buying gear with character. The mistake I made was buying high-end mastering equipment, which is made to sound clean, so I was struggling to dirty up the sound.
“Bricks Don’t Roll” (2014)
I started the idea for “Bricks Don’t Roll” probably seven years before it was released. I was in the studio, and I was playing that weekend, so I decided to try and sort this tune out that I’d made all these years ago. I made some edits, got the mix done, and recorded it. I played it back in the studio and thought, ‘that sounds shit!’ I couldn’t believe I’d got it so wrong.
I didn’t have time to mix it down again; I had to go to the club. It was Breakin Science. I remember it clearly. I thought, ‘How am I gonna make this tune louder?’ So I tried my crude way of mastering, slamming it through a compressor, and recording it loud.
The reaction when I first played it out was fucking amazing. I thought, ‘how can a tune that’s so wrong, and shouldn’t have even got out, do so well?’ And that’s where sometimes you’ve gotta let those imperfections go, because you don’t hear what [the crowd] is hearing.
“Bricks Don’t Roll” is the perfect example of something that should have been scrapped, but wasn’t. I was just desperate for a new tune to play that night. So it nearly didn’t happen.