Long-time collaborators and creative pioneers of the hiphop world, DJ Format and Abdominal are hitting the road again in May 2017 in support of their forthcoming new album, ‘Still Hungry’. This is the first joint album for the duo, boasting the best of what they each bring to the hip-hop community: funky, up-tempo and slick beats, coupled with intelligent, savvy lyrics. We caught up with them to find out more.
Your last UK tour in 2015 cemented your plans to record a full-length album together (Still Hungry). Can you give us some background on the title, as well as what fans can expect from the new record?
A: The title Still Hungry works on a few levels: musically speaking, it signifies that, even though we’re both getting older and have been doing this for some time, we’ve still got an appetite to continue doing what we love (namely, making music). But on a more general level (for me at least), it signifies an overall appetite for life; that no matter what life throws your way, you persevere and keep moving forward.
DJF: We chose the album title because we want to convey that we aren’t some old has-beens just going through the motions to generate some money, we are still very much inspired and definitely ‘still hungry’ as artists. I guess it doesn’t hurt that there’s also a subtle nod back to our first ever song together, Ill Culinary Behaviour, with the food pun.
You’re clearly a solid partnership. How was it creating something as a duo, vs. working together on solo efforts?
A: Pros of working as a duo: we’re both pretty good at what we do (I’d like to think anyway!), so when we combine our respective skill sets, it only elevates the end result. Also, it means another set of ears, to listen for problems, bounce ideas off, and just in general to offer a different perspective on things.
Cons: we’re both picky as f**k, so often want to kill each other after hours of debating minutiae like, ‘does that cymbal work over those drums?’.
DJF: I think the process was fairly similar because we’ve always taken each other’s opinions and wishes into consideration when collaborating in the past. It was maybe different this time because it was our first album together as ‘DJ Format & Abdominal’, rather than DJ Format (featuring Abdominal) or Abdominal (produced by DJ Format). That meant that everything had to be agreed 100% and a few more compromises had to be made along the way but we’ve got a good musical understanding as well as a good friendship so we can always work out any differences of opinion in the end.
— DJ Format (@DJFormat4) January 16, 2017
What’s in store at your forthcoming live shows? Any surprises?
A: At the moment it’s ALL surprises for us, given that we haven’t actually started putting it together yet (have been busy focusing on finishing the album)! My resolution for 2017 is to start incorporating pyrotechnics into the stage show though, so be on the look out for a phoenix of fire (budget permitting of course)!
DJF: We’re excited to have a whole album of new material to perform, but also understand that most people still want to hear our old songs too. We’ll strike a balance of the old and new and continue to make sure our shows are fun and entertaining. I’d like to think that’s our trademark and what sets us apart from most other hiphop acts. A couple of my friends in Glasgow pointed out that our show up there is on 4 May (May the fourth be with you) so maybe we’ll break out the Star Wars costumes for that one, haha!
What’s the best live show you’ve ever done?
A: Too hard to narrow it down to just one after so many years performing, but both of our Glastonbury appearances were pretty memorable. And Boomtown last summer was also pretty special (special shout-out to the girl in the front row who kept flashing us all set long, much to the delight of her boyfriend)!
DJF: It’s hard to pick just one, but it would either be supporting Jurassic 5 at Brixton Academy in 2003 or the Paris show from that same J5 tour. Back then we were an unknown warm-up act. I remember feeling VERY nervous standing on a massive stage in front of 2000 Parisians but they went crazy when I started cutting up funky French records…and then Abdominal started freestyling in French!
And what’s the best live show you’ve ever witnessed?
A: Also too hard to narrow it down to just one, but seeing James Brown live back in the late 80s here in Toronto (on a revolving stage) was pretty awesome (he did the multiple capes schtick and everything)!
DJF: I think seeing J5 up close every night for a month is hard to beat. They were so tight as a unit and had great live routines exclusive to their shows, as well as a catalogue of great songs. What really set them apart from anyone else was the amazing additional DJ routines by Cut Chemist & DJ Nu-Mark.
How does a UK crowd compare to other parts of the world?
A: Great! My experience has been that, in general, UK crowds love coming out and watching/supporting live music more than most! I literally wouldn’t have a career without UK crowds (so a big shout-out to UK crowds)!
DJF: I think the UK crowd has always been the most enthusiastic. We’ve been lucky enough to play all around Europe, Australia and Canada but the UK feels like the place where we have the strongest following. I would welcome any other countries to prove me wrong, though!
Are there any names you’d love to work with?
A: I see music and its creation more as a journey; usually based on circumstances, different people and musicians kind of organically end up entering your creative orbit, and those are just naturally the people you end up working with at the time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
DJF: I’m actually looking forward to working on my own again, haha! I quite like the idea of not compromising again for a while. I’ve got some instrumental songs I’m working on, I just need time to finish them.
Any advice for up-and-coming producers, DJs or rappers?
A: Spend thousands of hours writing, recording, and performing, until you eventually stumble upon some semblance of ‘discovery-of-self’, which will then allow you to create and offer your own unique musical creation, thus helping you to stand out from the thousands of other individuals attempting exactly the same thing. Also, have a back-up plan.
DJF: My advice would be to just have fun and do your own thing. There’s no point following trends or trying to please everyone because you can’t. Just make music for yourself first & foremost, and if anyone else likes it then that’s a bonus. Don’t expect to make any money out of it, let alone make a living out of it, because 99.9% of people don’t.