Eats Everything isn’t your typical superstar DJ. He’s a 34-year-old ex-recruitment consultant from Bristol who, as his stage-name makes clear, loves to eat and refuses to take himself and the often-absurd world of international dance music too seriously.
However, he’s also one of the biggest house DJs in the world, who’s about to close a year that’s seen him hold a 12-week residency at London’s XOYO and headline his home-city festival Love Saves The Day with the midnight slot at Manchester’s Warehouse Project – and an eight-hour set at his Edible party at Electric Brixton the next day.
It’s exactly this curious dichotomy that makes Eats Everything such a refreshing and invigorating force in dance music. Whether through his sets, his own productions, or his unforgettable interviews with the music press, the born and bred Bristolian’s sense of unbridled joy and obvious awe at being able to fly the world and play records for a job shines through. And it’s hard to not be swept along with that; whether you’re a shuffler, an Ibiza veteran or a jaded music journo, Eats Everything is a breath of fresh air.
As anyone who saw the ‘Origins’ film on Resident Advisor earlier in the year will know, all this is the result of years spent working his ass off to be where he is now. His is a story of hard work, belief and a shred of luck combining to finally deliver him to dance music’s top table after years of effort – and he’s clearly loving every single moment of it.
In the middle of a US tour that’s taken in everywhere from LA and Denver, to New York and Miami, we catch Eats on Skype just before he jets back home for a packed Christmas and New Year period that includes the aforementioned New Year’s gigs and the release of a double-disc mix album in January for the much-vaunted Hypercolour imprint.
Read on for one of the most honest and unpretentious interviews we could ever hope to get from a house music DJ sat in a New York hotel room talking about himself and his job before flying down to Miami and back again…
Hello mate. First things first; there’s an amazing story behind how you came to be where you are now. You were still working as a recruitment consultant in your early 30s and your wife gave you a year to make it…
“Yeah, that’s right, I was doing recruitment and a lot of different boring jobs… It wasn’t that my wife said, ‘One more year – that’s it!’… It was more like, ‘Look, you’ve been doing this a long time, we know you’re good at it, but you’re not getting anywhere, so let’s just give it another year – put your time into it, don’t work, go on the dole and see if you can do it. And then, after a year, if not, it will be time to make it a hobby.’
“It’s not how I’ve maybe made it seem like before – it wasn’t a Rocky moment. It was more ‘Go on mate, give it another go, see if you can do it and if not, then you’re gonna have to fuck it off I’m afraid.’”
So what happened in that year?
“Luckily, I made ‘Entrance Song’. I’d had that conversation with my wife in April 2010; I made ‘Entrance Song’ in June, just a couple of months after. That’s the record that gave me the steppingstone to become what I am. It got rejected by so many labels. I won’t name them, but a lot said ‘Nah, it’s not for now’ or ‘It’s too much.’ But then I gave it to J.Phlip the following March and that was it. Bang.”
It was a tight call then!
“It was a fucking tight call! I had two months left of that year! But, you know what, I’ve never said this before, but I wouldn’t have given it up! Not a fucking chance. There’s no way I would have stopped doing music. I would have gone back and worked a shitty job, sure, but there’s no way I’d stop trying to do what I was doing. I still would have tried my hardest – I’d been trying since I was 12 years old.”
You can’t just drop a passion…
“No, I couldn’t. But a lot of my mates have; a lot who’d been DJing since I was a kid, the guys who were better than me, they all just gave up. Some of them are probably now thinking ‘Fuck!’. You’ve just got to keep on trucking, as they say. Eventually, if you’re good enough and you’ve got enough drive and enough passion, you will get there. It’s as simple as that – if you work hard enough at something you’ll get there eventually.”
We hear that a lot when interviewing guys like you. But you’ve got have the tenacity to get through the period where you feel like no one gives a shit…
“Yeah, exactly, you’ve gotta keep battering down doors and talking to guys who now kiss your ass, but at the time didn’t give you the time of day. Again I won’t name names, but there’s so many of them… People who maybe I get on with now, but back then, ignored me or toyed with me, got me to do certain things to tracks and then still didn’t want them… I think it’s a little different now; there are so many people breaking through. I’m only talking four years ago, but it was a lot tougher then.”
It does seem like dance music is more of a meritocracy than it used to be…
“Oh, definitely. Now, if you work hard you can get noticed. Before, it was the elite crew of people keeping it for themselves. But the tables have definitely turned. At the end of the day, labels want to be seen to be putting out the best records, they want to be the ones catching the next person who’s gonna smash it. I do it all the time – I’m always looking for the next big thing, you want the best people to be part of your gang.”
Staying with ‘Entrance Song’ for a minute. That was a powerful record – along with other bass-centric tracks like Bashmore’s ‘Battle For Middle You’, it brought a lot of people to house music that had maybe never considered it for them before. Where did that record come from? What were your influences making something as groundbreaking at that track?
“First and foremost, I’m a junglist; I’m massively into hardcore. That was my first love, when I was around 11 or 12 years old. That’s always been there in me. The reason I made that track was because I wanted to make something that had massive fucking bass, but still had groove. I’m forever happy that I made it; I wouldn’t be talking to you now if I didn’t, but I don’t know where it came from, really. I guess it was just in there waiting and one day, it all just came together and came out.”
Bristol is a city known for its enduring love affair with all things bass. Growing up and living there must have played a part in the way that record sounded?
“Oh yeah, definitely. It’s an inspirational place, Bristol. You have such a heritage right back to Smith & Mighty and then later Flynn & Flora, Full Cycle, Portishead, all the way through to Redlight. There are so many people that have come from Bristol and smashed it; that gives you hope and inspires you.
“And for me, when my tune came out, it was off the back of Julio Bashmore really… Bashmore was the first one in years to come from Bristol to really leave a mark on house music and to make it really big. There had been Jamie Anderson and Deep Groove – they were big, but they weren’t at the heights that Bashmore and, luckily, myself have managed to hit.
“Bashmore opened the door and then he just held it open for us and we ran through – me, Waifs & Strays, all the Futureboogie lot and now even My Nu Leng. He held it open and we all went charging through, with me running as fast as I could to be at the front! It’s all partly down to him really, if he hadn’t made that record, we wouldn’t have got a look in. He put the eyes on Bristol, and people thought ‘Fucking hell, this kiddy’s from Bristol, there must be other people like him.’ Now, Bristol isn’t just a bass music city, like perhaps it was seen as before – it’s an everything music city.
We remember you causing quite the twitter storm for saying something similar to The Sun, of all people, a while back…
“Yeah, I got misquoted by The Sun and ended up getting loads of grief on twitter. I said that Bristol has always been known as a bass-music city, but now, for the first time, house is at the forefront, but essentially Bristol is a music city. They turned that into me saying Bristol was now a house-music city.
“There’s no way I would have said that – that’s bullshit, and would be a huge disrespect to most of my mates in Bristol who are DJs and producers that don’t make house music. For me to diss 70% of my mates in my own city, that wouldn’t make any sense. It was a misquote; that’s what newspapers do, isn’t it? It just happened that I was on the end of it…”
That’s a taste of serious fame, when you’ve got The Sun misquoting you!
“Haha, I guess it means you’re not doing too badly! But really, you shouldn’t pay any attention to it ‘cause it’s a load of fucking shit! It’s not like it’s written in blood on a scroll and then burnt, it’s The Sun; one massive lie!”
You’ve already told us you were a jungle and hardcore kid first and foremost – when did house music grab you?
“From 1994 onwards, all I was into was house and techno. Once jungle had become D&B in ‘95 and hardcore became happy hardcore, I was over it then. I was never into the harder, darker D&B stuff, that period ‘95 to ‘96 was when jungle died for me. I like jungle, ragga jungle, DJ SS and Swannee – that’s what I like! From then on, I’ve been a house music person. But I don’t have that snobby elitist thing, because for me, at the end of the day, it’s a fucking rave. It’s just dance music, it doesn’t mean you’re any better than anyone else cause you listen to a certain type of it.”
That’s what’s so refreshing about you – you don’t give off that elitist vibe that puts so many people off the house and techno scene. You’re definitely not that typical Ibiza or Berlin guy – is snobbery and elitism something you’ve experienced coming into the scene over the last few years?
“There are a few people I’ve not got on with, but I’ve never had snobbery directed at me. I’ve noticed in certain cities or islands, there are places where there’s a ridiculous dress sense and stuck-up attitude. I just avoid those places, and if you end up somewhere where that is a thing, you and the people you’re with just have to rise above it and take the piss out of them all! Have a laugh. At the end of the day, dance music is about getting fucked up, partying and having fun. It’s a rave. There needs to be more acid house spirit and less elitism…
“It’s the elitism that really annoys me, though. I don’t care if you got into any form of dance music a day ago, or 30 years ago. No one should look down on anyone else because, for instance, they’ve only just discovered house and they listen to MK or Disclosure. Who gives a fuck? I was into Venga Boys ‘Up & Down’ back in 1998! At the time, when I was going Lakota, that tune got played and I was into that. The first house tune I ever bought was Felix ‘Don’t You Want Me’, which is considered a massive gay anthem, but who cares? It’s an amazing record!
“Everyone has to get into something at one point, so why give people shit for it? People saying shit like ‘Oh, shufflers, they’re not here for the music’. They are there for the music – they’re fucking dancing! They’re having a great time and they’re not causing trouble. Who cares if they’ve been into it for a year or 10 years? That’s bullshit, and it’s that sort of snobbery that seems really prominent. Actual dancefloor snobbery; people sneering at others for not knowing their Levon Vincents from their Theo Parrishes or whatever. Oh, fuck off. Just have a laugh!
“Who cares if some girl goes to a Westlife reunion concert two weeks after she went to DC-10? As long as she enjoyed herself at DC-10, walked round with a smile on her face and didn’t cause any trouble, what does it matter if she’s into Westlife or One Direction? It’s ridiculous. People are fucking idiots! It’s music! My wife is a nurse, she saves people’s lives, stops them bleeding to death out their ass, and we’re here getting funny cause some girl’s only been into house music for two weeks and she used to like Westlife or One Direction! It’s a fucking joke mate, a joke!”
We couldn’t agree more. I guess we should talk a bit about your new mix album for Hypercolour…
“Yeah, I guess we should! I got asked to do it three years ago and I’ve been going over and over it, then finally late last year, I thought ‘Right, let’s do it.’ There are two discs. The first one is upfront dance music; if you came to watch me, for instance, on New Year’s Day when I’m playing eight hours, or at my residency at XOYO this year – any of the gigs where I play all night long – CD1 is all that condensed into 74 minutes. You get a snapshot of me playing for several hours in one CD.
“We did it live; that first CD is mixed by me on decks in my studio at home and it must have taken me 18 or 19 takes to get right. I did it a different way to normal; I hooked three decks up to Ableton Push instead of using Pioneer mixer effects. It’s all studio effects; I can do a lot with club mixers and effects, but the possibilities in the studio are infinite. There’s one mix that’s slightly out the whole time, but I like that.
“I’m really proud of it. I went in on being really picky about the selection, so there are no massive tunes; I picked records that I don’t think will be over played by everyone else. I tried to pick as many rare records as possible. And every record is slightly edited too, so they won’t sound the same as the versions you hear elsewhere – I’ve changed breakdowns, added acappellas, layered drums… Hopefully that will help keep bringing people back to the mix to hear the edits.”
A bit like the old jungle days with dubplate specials?
“Yeah like the Mickey Finn version of ‘King Of The Beats’, or the SS version of ‘Super Sharp Shooter’, those guys had their own edits and that made you want to listen to their tapes over and over to hear that version. And then CD2 is a classic mix, but they’re my classics. The average of the year of release for the music on there is around 1995 or 1996; they’re tracks that have defined my musical upbringing in house music, without going for the obvious big ones. The whole thing has been a mega labour of love.”
And you’re happy with the results after all those attempts?
“Yeah, I’m really, really happy with it. The classics one, I love. A lot of kids won’t have heard of a lot of the music on there. I’m hoping it will give younger people an introduction to some great records.”
Finally, with the mix out the way, is an Eats Everything artist album next up?
“I’ve been talking about doing an album for the last two and a half years. I’ve not got anywhere! Although, recently, everything I make that I think is good, I’ve started labeling as potential album material. I’m definitely planning it, but I’m just going to make records and see if they work as an album. I’m not going to come with a concept or anything, although that’s probably the way to do it, but, if I’m honest, I’m not that fussed about making an album.
“I am a DJ over a producer; I only make music to DJ. I do enjoy making music, don’t get me wrong, but DJing is the best thing in the world. I love DJing more than… apart from my wife and my child… I best say that… I love it more than anything in the world. It’s the best.
“DJing, watching people get down to music you love; there’s no better feeling. I actually think DJing is officially the best job in the world – that and being a rock star. If you wanna get fucked up – like some DJs we could name – you’re revered; people love you for being off your face! If you’re a footballer, you can’t be seen getting off your face! And by 30 years old, you’re done and you’ve got loads of money, but there’s this massive void in your life. So then you go into football management and that ain’t fun! Not as fun as playing football…
“As a DJ, you earn a fortune, you get to see everywhere in the world, play all these amazing clubs. I challenge anyone to show me a better job than being a DJ. And I know I’m very, very, very lucky to do it…”
‘Fries With That’ is out now on Hypercolour.