Booming Basslines and Banter: A Chat with wAFF

Feb 14, 2024

Photo of Michela Iosipov

Michela Iosipov

16 min read

Meet wAFF, an artist with steez., energy, groove, and production wizardery who keeps the dance floors jumping. From the gritty dance floors of Leeds and Hull to the most eminent stages of the world's most iconic festivals, wAFF made a name and carved out a superb niche for himself. With a personality that's as radiant as his tracks and a spirit that's as free as his mixes, this journey is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride through the realms of house, tech house, and everything in between.

In an industry where it's easy to get lost in the shuffle, wAFF stands out—not just for his music, but for his unapologetic embrace of spirituality, environmentalism, and, well, life itself. He's the kind of guy who finds inspiration in the everyday and turns it into something extraordinary, whether it's through his label, NATURE, or his own festival in Comuna 13, Medellin.

Yet, for all his success, wAFF keeps it real. He's the first to admit that the journey from DJ to label owner wasn't all smooth sailing. But with a bit of creativity, a dash of perseverance, and a whole lot of grooves, he's managed to keep the beat going, stronger and fresher than ever.

So, what's the secret sauce in the UK music scene that you won't find in the States? How does one juggle beats, nature, and a bit of gaming on the side? And just who would wAFF invite to his dream dinner party? Dive into our exclusive interview with the man himself, where he spills the beans on everything from his musical evolution to his future projects—and, of course, a few laughs along the way.

You've rocked from the local scenes in Leeds and Hull to massive stages across the globe. How has this wild ride shaped the way you create and perform your music?

Well, at the start of my career, I really didn't know how to play any other way than to just play big room tech house tracks one after another, and although I still have that style in my sets, I have learned through the years to play very differently for certain environments/parties. I always love high energy in my sets, but I feel that from all this time playing around the world on so many different stages, I've learned to become a better DJ. I can and do play all different styles of house now, and I feel just the whole experience has built me to become a better DJ as a whole.

As for when I create music, I think I still have my wAFF style in all my music, but I'm making very different styles of house, tech house now than I did before. I have a lot of influence in my productions now from so many different styles, and I feel the music I'm making is in a really good place right now where it feels fresh again and something a little different.

You juggle spirituality, environmentalism, and beats like a pro. How do you keep it real and make sure each passion shines through in your work?

Hmm, good question, ha… well, I don't think my spirituality or environmentalism side comes through in my music. I mean, everything is energy, so I'm sure there are some connections to my spiritual side in my music, as sometimes when I make certain tracks, I do feel a certain energy about them. You get a feeling, and you may try to add more of that into your music, but I feel that for me, it's all its own thing.

But of course, with my label, we always make sure that with the music we put out and the money we make, we put back into the world by helping animals or by other means, so it does all connect, but for myself and my productions, it's just always an expression of me as an artist, so I don't feel like I juggle them around, I guess it all just works out… I think, ha.

Do you have any cool stories or lightbulb moments that sparked the idea for your label, NATURE?

It just came about during COVID, having so much time to myself for the first time in 10 years, it was a great experience for me as I suddenly started getting all these new ideas of creativity. Making a label was one of them. I always had that in my mind that one day I would like to have my label and start my events, but I just never felt the mental space to even think fully about it. But yeah, COVID life gave me that, so I went down the rabbit hole of figuring out what my label would be named, what it would mean, and what I could do to stand out amongst all the other amazing labels I look up to.

So after a lot of back and forth with the label name, I kept coming back to Nature as I love nature, it's important to me and it's part of who we are as humans, and the planet, so it felt like nature would be a perfect name, although I didn't like the name nature for my label, ha! So it took a long time for me to get comfortable with keeping the name, and what I found through the creative process of Nature being the label name, was that if I could somehow create something I almost like its character, then maybe the word Nature could become its own thing, its own identity.

I don’t want people to associate the word nature with just what we know of nature. I didn't want animal prints, or people thinking of a forest or something, ha, I wanted people to see nature and see this amazing creative character I had created. So that's when I started coming up with all the artwork and branding. Having a kind of Crash Bandicoot mask logo for the A in nature so it has some character to it. Then the artwork stood out and was vibrant and creative, which took a long time to get right, but now I feel so happy with what I managed to create from it all. I feel that I have achieved the overall vision/goal I had in mind with the label in terms of how it looks and feels. Then it made complete sense with my other idea to use my platform with the label to help the planet in some way, so the name Nature felt perfect in the end!

Jumping from spinning tracks to running a label is huge! What bumps did you hit on that road, and how did you keep your groove going through it all?

It was just a huge challenge the whole way through as when you start a label or a huge project like this, you most often start with a blank canvas and just try to figure it out through endless ideas that never work out, but maybe there's just one thing that you get some glimmer of inspiration from and then go again from there. So, it wasn't easy to get the label up and running, but it was a very enjoyable creative process at the same time.

The only thing I think I could have done better for myself was I didn't release any music for those two years during COVID as I worked on my label, so I saved all my music for Nature, but I think that kind of hurt my career slightly as everyone was putting out new music over COVID and still building their profiles where I guess I went quiet and waited, so looking back, I should have been releasing music still whilst working on my label instead of just holding onto it all. It wasn't anything major that affected me, but yeah, I feel I didn't keep my groove going as you said, ha, I could have done more. But I've got my groove going again right now with all this new music I've made recently!!

You've hit up some legendary spots for your gigs. What are your top three venues and what makes them stand out for you?

Ah, this question is always impossible to answer as there have just been so many amazing moments, and memories in so many different places, but the ones that have stood out that meant a lot to me are DC-10 at my very first show there. It was one of my first-ever gigs and it was DC10 which was pretty insane, I had all my best friends there with me at the time, so that was a very special moment I won't ever forget.

Comuna 13 in Medellin where I do my festival there now, is something very special to me and unique as it's never been done there before, and I created this whole thing on my own in a place that was once the most dangerous place ever to go which has now been turned around to become this amazing tourist attraction for people to go and visit. It has a lot of history there, so to have the opportunity to create my event there is special and it just blows me away every time. And I have to say Burning Man is another. There is just simply nothing else like this place on Earth, it’s Earth being on another planet for one week and the experiences I’ve had playing there I don’t think anywhere would ever top it off. I know these aren't exactly venues, but they are three places that have impacted my life in a very special way.

Ever had one of those 'wow' moments during your career that just stuck with you or changed your game?

Well, yeah, playing DC10 was 100% at that moment. Also, I remember playing for Cocoon at Amnesia in Ibiza many years ago, and I had that WOW moment there too, as that was always a dream. Also, I played for elrow at Zurich Street Paradise many years ago, and there were one million people there, so I played to an endless sea of people, which completely blew my mind. To be honest, there have been many moments like these, but yeah, I could go on forever talking about just how many there are.

The dance scene and Mother Nature – how do you think we can get them to jam together even better?

I think some really cool events combine these two things. Day Zero in Tulum, Damian Lazarus’ festival, really feels like they have the perfect combo. Many other events have this connection with the earth and music, of course. I mean, every festival is pretty much located in nature, but the nature element doesn't really stand out. But Day Zero really feels like you are entwined with music and nature for sure. Which is something I aim to bring to my Nature events this year too.

You've seen the beats evolve over the years. Any fresh trends or new faces in the scene that have caught your ear lately?

Yeah, the sound has changed a lot over the past couple of years. House music has come back around; I mean, it's never left really, house music is always the root of our music, but different trends always come and go. But right now, this deep/tech/minimal sound has become really popular, and I really love it. Many amazing new artists are just becoming so big right now from this sound like Chris Stussy, East End Dubs, ANOTR, Archie Hamilton, Rossi., Max Dean & Luke Dean, to name a few. But some so many amazing new young artists are making the sickest music on the scene right now, which is really exciting and fresh… I dig it a lot, and my new music and how I play are heavily influenced by this new sound at the moment.

What's cooking in your studio? Are any exciting collaborations or projects on the horizon that you can give us a sneak peek into?

So, I recently just finished about 15 new tracks that are all ready to be sent out to labels, and some music I'm keeping for my label too. I have been putting out a lot of clips and previews on my Instagram page for everyone to check out, which has been exciting to see how much engagement people have been showing and excitement on each track, so I'm very excited for the music to come out this year. I'm working on a lot more too; I hope to land some releases on labels like No ART, Eastenders, PIV, Solid Grooves again, Microhertz, Crosstown, Vatos Locos, and others, so I've got a lot of goals and music getting cooked up for all that to happen.

But I've recently agreed to do a collab with Rendher and another with Wheats, so that's something we just discussed recently. I have a remix due to come out on Mahony’s Take Notes label for Mene sometime soon. Another remix I'm about to take on for Illario Allicante’s label ‘Sound D’Elite’. I have been working on more of a commercial house/garage track with a sick vocalist, Rahh. I started this maybe two years ago and really was struggling to get somewhere I was happy with, but I'm going to try to get this off the ground this year. So, there's a handful of exciting new music to look forward to.

What's the special ingredient in the UK music scene that you just don't find in the States?

I would say right now, this new deep tech/house sound that I talked of before is the UK sound right now. I don't know how much of this is popping off in the States at the moment, but I have seen that it seems to be popular over there now; I guess I will find out when I and Max Dean come over for our tour, which I can't wait for.

If you were stuck on an island, and could only bring three records with you, which would they be? Also, which three people in your life are you bringing with you?

Ahhh, this is impossible to answer as I don’t have a clue what the names are of any tracks anymore, ha. I don’t even have one favorite track, and even if I do, I don’t know the name of it, ha. I never listen to music unless I'm DJing making it, or downloading it for my sets, but in my spare time, the last thing I ever want to listen to is music. But on the occasion, I do, then I listen to some random stuff. I would have to bring Enya’s album; I love Enya. Which is random, I know, as it's like classical emotional music; I don't even know how to describe it, but I love it. I would bring Slipknot’s Iowa album probably as I love Slipknot, ha. And something like The Kooks' Album ‘Inside In / Inside Out’ as I just loved that when I was growing up and still do. Or maybe Kings of Leon's albums.

Any of them will do, ha. As for people, well, I'd take two of my best friends, and just find the hottest girl I could find that I could somehow convince to come and get stuck on an island forever, she would have to be sound though, and not a nightmare; otherwise, we would just have to build a raft and kick her out to sea, but we wouldn't want to do that because then we're all fucked! Ha. Oh, I would need my PS5 and VR with me at all times; that would be the last thing; otherwise, I'd just jump face-first off, the tallest tree and just end everything, ha.

Imagine you're hosting a dinner party and can invite three musicians from any era. Who makes the guest list, and what's on the menu?

Ah, another hard one… Probably Michael Jackson because why would you not want to have dinner with him, that would be mental but amazing too. Then maybe John Lennon because it would be so sick to just meet him and talk about life, plus he's a Scouser from Liverpool and all my family are Scousers, so we would get on. And he was spiritual, so I reckon we would get along. The last one would be… Snoop Dogg maybe as he's just sick and seems like he's such a cool guy and good laugh. That would be a sick dinner and some very interesting chats. As for the food, well, who knows because I can't cook for shit, but probably would be a banging spicy Indian curry, maybe vindaloo as that's one of my favorite meals. The dessert would be vegan vanilla cheesecake with ice cream…banging.

If you could wake up tomorrow and be a pro at any other skill, unrelated to music or the arts, what would it be and why?

Well, I have been wanting to learn the violin, so I would love to be a pro at that and be in some orchestra band and make music for movies or games. Either that or be a pro game developer. I've currently been learning how to make games for the past year and have managed to make a couple so far (not completed), but I've got a pretty decent horror VR game on the go. It's so difficult to learn coding and everything else that I'd love to just wake up and know everything and be a pro overnight.

What is one thing that makes you smile?

Seeing people happy <3

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