Aphrodite, aka DJ Aphro, aka Gavin King, is recognised as one of the main players in the global drum n bass scene. He’s been rocking the funky beats since the early days of the rave scene and was instrumental in shaping the early sounds of jump up jungle. No drum and bass anthem set would be complete without a few of his tunes in it, and they’re welcomed by old and new school alike. Alongside fellow partner in crime, Micky Finn, he runs the Urban Takeover label which is dedicated to releasing tracks by new and established talent of the drum n bass variety. Aphrodite Recordings is King’s solo label released on V2 Records, and has over 40 releases on the label.
I interviewed King from his hotel room somewhere in the US as he was nearing the end of an intense tour, and he sounded tired and distracted. He did a show the night before in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and says, “it was really really good. Last night there were about 250 people, and they were bangin’ to it, so when the house lights came up they were all still dancing, with encore and cheers and stuff.” That sounds like Adelaide, where you can get 2 -300 dedicated junglists out on a Wednesday night to see an international. “I haven’t played in Adelaide for yonks, years and years!” he says, “so it will be good to get back.”
King is well renown for using hiphop samples in drum and bass: in fact at one time that’s all jungle seemed to be – a phat rolling bassline, a sped up breakbeat, and some hiphop vocals. “They love the hiphop samples”, King says of the American audience. On his last project, King moved away from samples and had some old school masters of hiphop perform on his album, including Schooly D and Big Daddy Kane. “I think they may have heard some remixes, and became interested”, King says of the team ups. “I met Schooly D thru a mutual friend in Philadelphia, and Big Daddy Kane was hooked up thru the record companies”.
The drum and bass crowd is a fickle and cliquey crowd who seem to have a new hero every week. King used to be king of the beats and his tunes used to rock the dance floor every time someone dropped the needle into the groove. However, in more recent years, especially in Adelaide, he’s fallen out of favour. Some claim it’s because “all his tunes are the same”, claiming them to formulaic, cheesy and bland. Yet hearing his latest stuff, one would have to disagree, because King’s new stuff is quite different. “I generally ignore the message boards and press”, King says of the attitude toward him. “Now again I go look on them, and it’s pretty silly because someone will be saying I’m absolute crap, and someone else will be saying I’m brilliant, so, obviously none of these people know what they’re talking about” he says gruffly. “I play music for the crowd in front of me, to try and get them going. If they go off to them then that’s good.”
This last statement is also the way he makes music. He says he doesn’t sit down to specifically write a happy or bouncy tune, but rather he makes tunes in order to get people to move. “Making an album is hard. You’re stuck in a box studio for a couple of months at least, and… well it’s just a lot harder [than touring]”, he says. Despite the negativity aimed towards his style of music, he is one of the biggest selling drum and bass producers, and his last album even outsold Baby Spice’s solo effort. “I don’t really care that I’ve outsold Baby Spice… or anyone else… I just make records for the love of it,” he says of this achievement.
A lot of drum and bass DJs are embracing CD technology, and it’s not uncommon to see someone like Pendulum perform a whole set purely off CD. As it is well known that King plays a lot of dubs, but he still prefers vinyl. “Generally I don’t use CDs; I’ve just started too, but I prefer acetate,” he says. “Because I’m old school!” he laughs. CDs also allow DJs to grab tunes off the web, and play it to a crowd hungry for the latest banger. “There’s good things and bad things about people downloading my tunes and playing them out. The bad things are obvious, yeah?” King says. “My last album sold 2 or 3 times less than my first, but people seem to know Aftershock more. More people know the tunes, which I find bizarre! For example, in January this year I played in Russia, there were 3-4,000 people to see myself, Goldie and Technical Itch… it was a massive show… and they all know drum and bass and the tunes, and I don’t know when I last sold a tune in Russia! It’s all due to downloading.”
King is known for playing a good vibe that ranges from classic to upfront and exclusive dubplates. Earlier in 2003 he released the ‘Urban Junglist’ compilation on his Aphrodite label which features Peshay, High Contrast, MC Fearless and Skibadee as well as a some new original talent making their release debut’s on the compilation. King is heading to Australia for the ‘urban junglist tour’ to rock the crowd.