Search
  • Gwarden

Interview: HABIT [ProgRAM]

Wellington-based DJ, producer and promoter Stu Habit is a regular fixture in the NZ drum & bass scene. I caught up with him to find out about his history, his future, what Sonic the Hedgehog can tell us about the internet echo chamber, and which artist made him rip his shirt off...

You've been involved in drum and bass for a number of years - how and when did your musical journey begin? Have you always been into electronic music?


I have always been into electronic music and went through a metal phase. A lot of bands I was into had a DJ in the background and I was always curious about what the guy at the back was up to. Was lucky enough to see The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and many other electronic acts play at events like Big Day Out. I went to about 4 or 5 of those, you could tick so many legends off your list like Beastie Boys, Slipknot, Metallica, Garbage to name a few.


There's definitely a connection between harder guitar-based genres like metal/rock and drum & bass. I guess it's the attitude and the heaviness? Do you still listen to any metal or are you mostly focused on electronic now?


Yeah and I think the guitar and double bass sounds are coming back, much like the jungle sound. I still listen to other stuff but mostly electronic now. Working on music or building a set, checking out new music, checking demos etc, it’s full time so sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and crank some Deftones or Linkin Park (RIP).


Is there a moment, a tune, or a gig that cemented your love of drum & bass?


I think there were a few moments. Hearing Shy FX’s Move Your Body in a cafe or playing Josh Abrahams Addicted To Bass at a mate’s house. I went to a few raves but it wasn’t until my mate took me to see Bad Company UK for the Shot Down On Safari tour I was sold. They played Mo’ Fire and I heard it coming in the mix, the build up blew me away and I ripped my shirt open like a wild animal! I knew that I needed more of this music in my life and wanted to learn how to create that raw emotion on the dance floor. Then it was Concord Dawn that showed me Kiwis could do it and finally after seeing DJ Craze do a DnB set I was sold and bought my first turntables the next week. Those turned out to be Numarks so I sold them and got some Technics instead.


That's a great description of the effect this music can have! Shot Down on Safari is a classic LP and released right around the time the sound began shifting from dark underground vibes towards something a bit more accessible (c. 2003) - do you think that was a factor in your discovery of DnB?


Yeah I think Bad Company UK at the time was the right amount of dark and cheese I needed to be converted. Everything came together at the right time and I had no direction or didn’t fit in a group but the DnB community was very welcoming. The music was in a golden era.


DJ Craze is a wizard on the decks, and good call on swapping out the Numarks - did you ever go down the scratching/turntablism route?


I can scratch but I don't. I’m more of a rewind guy haha.


You're a producer as well as a DJ - which came first? Do you prefer one over the other?

I have been making beats and mixtapes for my friends since the late 90's and didn’t get into DJing until around 2002, started playing out in public for the first time around 2004.


Has your production style evolved over time? I'm guessing that like a lot of producers your collection of software/hardware has only grown, has that had an impact on your workflow?


My style has evolved and always will I guess, I now make what I want and try not to worry about sub genres anymore as that isn’t good for my creativity. I’m always learning new tricks and trying to do my own thing rather than sound like 100 clones trying to sound like someone else.


You're based in Wellington and are very active there, running events, nurturing talent. What's the scene like? Ever considered a move to a location that's more of a DnB hub?


Wellington has always been my home and I am very passionate about the city and the scene. I have always pushed up and comers and watching amazing artists blow up and take off is amazing. I have a lot of friends and family here but I also feel like eventually I could move somewhere else... or do both. I have had a lot of offers and different projects/ideas thrown at me so it really depends on where the next few years take me.


I guess with the rise of online collaboration that location isn't such a barrier as it used to be. Are you open to working with artists from other locations or are you more focused on supporting locals?


I am working on a few collabs with people from around NZ and around the world. I have a lot of collabs lined up this year and a few remixes I have done will be coming out soon. I also collab on other events and help others curate nights. Sometimes I will be running two different events on the same night! It’s crazy, but it works.


Drum & bass is your full-time career - you're a promoter, DJ and producer - is that a tricky balance in New Zealand in 2020? Historically, even some of our hardest working musicians have had to get day jobs to stay afloat.


It is tough in any creative industry in general but especially in NZ. Over the years I’ve made it work and I do all the jobs now, from social media, flyer design, lineup curation, radio, fundraisers and the odd freelance job. Anything I can do that is creative and can still give me time to make music. Last few years my goal was to make 30 tunes a month and it was a great way to put the hard yards in and get some tunes out of it. I did eventually burn out but I still try to make as much music as possible. I had multiple names for different genres but now I just make everything under HABIT.


I think doing all these different things and different genres has made me a better artist and I am way more open minded when it comes to making music now. Learning the industry through promotion and touring has exposed me to a whole different perspective and dealing with music labels has taught me patience and learning how the music industry ticks. Every day is different and I never know what is going to happen next. You can plan and plan, but not one experience is ever the same, and I think if you want to you can learn everything from Photoshop to Fruity Loops online. Artists are better off learning as many of the skills and tricks of the trade as possible that is relevant to their chosen path.


30 tunes a month is a massive workrate! Will many of those get a release or was it more about the process? Do you find that financially the music production side or the promotion side tends to be more rewarding or is that a moot point?


Yeah it was a cool way to get some work done. Most of my music will get released eventually. I have thousands of unfinished or almost finished tracks. Some tunes need a bit of time and fresh ears or just missing a vocal or something. I like to sit on music and not rush them but at the same time some tunes I’ve made in an hour and released in a week. Sometimes I know when a tune is finished and other times a collab or feedback from the label can put into words what you were trying to fix, if that makes sense. The 30 tracks a month are ideas that could change a dozen times, everything else is in the queue for release.


Sub-genre discussion can be pretty heated in DnB circles. Without locking you in too much, do you prefer to listen to or play certain styles or are you more about the full spectrum? Any trends that you like/dislike?


If you have listened to any of my mixes or tunes or caught me live I try to play everything. I like everything from liquid to half-time to neuro and jump up. Basically I like good music but at the same time that is very subjective and down to the individual what they think is a banger and what is trash. There are gems in all the sub-genres. I also try and play to my time slot which is an artform lost on many people who just want to pump out as many bangers as possible on 3 decks... which is great at 1am, but not at 9pm.


Trends I like: a good bootleg sing along; trends I don’t like: toxic comments and forums where people waste their energy on saying how much they hate certain styles, or it was better in the 90's on vinyl etc...


Seems to be a trend not just in music but society as a whole that the internet echo chamber enjoys trashing things they don't like more than celebrating things they do like. Do you find that social media is useful as an artist beyond just promotion of your work?


Social media is a funny one. People complain about social media or blame it but really, if you understand how it works, then there is no problem. You create your own feed and algorithm - if you don't like it, hide it or unlike it or whatever. Social media is great to keep in touch, follow artists, find new music/events and we all like a good meme, but there is some horrible stuff online just like in real life. Up to you if you want to feed it or just do your own thing. Look at the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, fans bashed the original concept until they changed it. That’s some scary power the internet can have when it wants to.


Favourite producers/labels of all time? And any producers/labels to watch out for in the coming years?


Favourite DJ’s I’ve seen live would have to be Andy C, Friction, A.M.C. Producers would have to be a long list but to be honest… Pendulum, Fresh, Sub Focus, Dimension, Frankee, Alix Perez, Bass Brothers, Jam Thieves, Dillinja, Bad Company UK and The Upbeats would have to be up there for consistency in my sets. I love that big sound but I also like playing the weird stuff.

Favourite labels: Ram/ ProgRAM/ Critical/ Hospital/ Playaz/ Symmetry/ Eatbrain. The Dreamers and Saturate Records have some cool stuff. I love experimental sounds as well as a nice cheesy warm well produced vocal. I guess that’s why my sets can be a bit unpredictable. I constantly feel like im playing music months before it’s popular which can be annoying. I really like Ozma and Neve. Local artists to watch out for: Lily {Unsub}, Paige Julia, Matiflow and Dead Space Collective.


Are there any labels that you haven't released on but are on your bucket list? And events or venues you'd like to play at?


Critical, Viper, Hospital, Metalheadz would be the dream labels. Would love to play Let It Roll, Rampage, Boomtown, Fabric, XOXO, Printworks, Burning Man...just a few haha.


I've seen you say you're only just getting warmed up - what's on the cards for the upcoming decade?


Heaps more music, I’m sitting on a tonne of releases ready to drop on ProgRAM, Mayan Audio, The Dreamers and heaps more. Looking at UK, OZ, EU and Japan shows over the next few years. Just heaps more shows and heaps more music. I can imagine doing this for the rest of my life, so I am making plans for the next 5-10 years and its exciting and I love it.


Thanks so much Stu for taking the time to speak to me. Expect plenty more from HABIT in the coming years: event-wise check out Church Of Bass and you can pick up his latest single Left Over Pizza on ProgRAM right now.

0 views

©2019 by DJ Gwarden. Proudly created with Wix.com