For some, success on their chosen path is the result of years of determined planning, personal development and unwavering focus on their goal. For others, it comes seemingly in an instant; their initial contributions to their field immediately recognised and exalted.
Unusually, Tesfa Williams’ story is that of a man who has experienced both these routes to success, firstly as renowned grime producer, Dread D, for whom fame seemingly just fell in his lap, and then, several years later, as T.Williams and one of the new breed of UK house producers and DJs helping carry their bass-centric take on the genre to new audiences and heights.
Some factors have remained consistent throughout the West Londoner’s story to the top, though. An ever-present, total obsession with music, combined with a relentless urge to do his own thing, regardless of the pressures of family and real life, meant that Williams was, in retrospect, always destined for achievement, whatever pathway he took, to whatever chosen field.
That success is now clear for all to see, following a 2013 that saw the 30 year old from Northolt in West London take up a residency on Radio One, tour America twice and release his debut EP for the untouchable PMR imprint – home to chart-troubling underground heroes such as Disclosure, Jessie Ware and Julio Bashmore.
The living embodiment of the musical times we live in, the story of how an ex-grime producer came to be making, playing and accepted by house music was one we at Trap were keen to explore. On a cold day in early February, we dragged Tesfa from his West London home all the way over to Oslo in Hackney and set about digging to the bottom of his fascinating journey so far…
Hey T. The best place to start is at the very beginning. When did you first start making music?
“I started producing at a really young age. I did music through school and went on to studying music tech at college. That’s where I met a guy called DJ Dice, a good friend of mine still now. He introduced me to Jon E Cash who liked what I was doing and started playing, then signing my tunes to his Black Ops label. I produced under the name Dread D and did a track called ‘Invasion’ that was pretty big – that was the start of things really.
“At that time, grime wasn’t a genre. We were just trying to make garage. Obviously, it was different, dirtier; I was using the rawest equipment my brother’s computer to make music. I didn’t have a desk, compressors, none of that, so it sounded raw compared to the garage that was around at the time.
“I was always more focused on the bass, too, coming from my early influences like jungle and drum & bass. I wanted to bring that to it from early. And people like Wookie and Sticky; I hailed them as producers; they had a sound. They had the garage soul, but with a grit to it. That was what I was about at the time, so in attempting to make that sound, along those lines, we stumbled into what people eventually began to call grime. We were calling our stuff sublo at the time.
You achieved a lot of success at a young age…
“Yeah, the period with Black Ops was great. We had a great time in the early 2000s, travelling to America, Holland, Spain, playing things like Sidweinder in the UK. Selling a good amount of records; it was a great time. I was 18 and making decent money for my age; I had a car, could take my girlfriend on holiday. I blew the money, but it was fun, I was young. And although music was always what I’d done and wanted to do, I felt like ‘Yeh, music is good, but I’ll go off an do something else eventually, go off and teach or get a normal office job.’
“My parents, I think that’s what they wanted, too. I’m from a musical family, it was always around me. My dad sang in a band, and him and my mum are massively into roots reggae, soca, soul. But I was always the one that played the drums, where my sisters and brother played the flute or piano. In terms of them thinking I had a career in music, I don’t think it was an obvious thing for them.
“I got into DJing at a young age, as well. I was always buying records from the age of 13. So, I guess, I was the rebel one – I bought records, went to clubs. It wasn’t something my parents saw as a career for me.”