Get to know DJ Sagepay
Ryan has been on our radar for a few years at least; his unique ability at mixing, his vast music collection and having the fastest limbs in the business has you leaving a night with his set firmly concreted in your mind. We sent Sagepay fanboy Kris down to meet him, take a few snaps and delve deep into his mind to answer some questions that we have all wanted to know for some time.
K: Evening, hope you’re blessed. To start things off I would like to know why exactly you are named after an online payment site? Of all the things to choose, SagePay was what you stuck with so why is that?
S: I didn’t have a ‘proper’ DJ name before GrimeDisciple kindly asked me to do a feature with him back in 2014 (I did roughly 4 mixes and played out before this, under no alias) and I did not want anything too serious or too cringe. I discovered footwork just before that feature and knew there was a DJ PayPal, DJ Mastercard and rated it. I think I put a tweet out saying I wanted a name like that and Gundam suggested ‘Sage Pay’ so I went with DJ SagePay. Weirdly enough a few days after that feature dropped I had bare emails from LinkedIn saying Sage Pay Security Team had viewed my profile, I was so shook.
K: Wait, so shortly after, somehow, they managed to find you and what, did they go any further?
S: They got in touch with me, told me they had found out I did graphic design at university and the senior designer wanted to give me a bell! He spoke to me for a bit about the bootleg logo I did (and some other stuff). He invited me to Sage HQ to be interviewed for a graphic design position there, after the interview he asked if I wanted a photo with him and the Sage Pay plaque. Was surreal, never heard from the guy and never got the photo annoyingly. I did make the company newsletter though.
K: That is mad and quite funny to be honest, your first ‘big break’ from the music game haha! Your naming influences coming from Footwork and you also play quite a lot of Grime, so I know you’re a fan of both 140bpm and 160bpm but if you had to choose between them which would it be?
S: I think just because there are more genres and sounds at the higher speeds (to my knowledge) I’d give it to 160. They are both very close to my heart though. Any producers or MCs who send me 140ish bits reading this I still love you all and still want your music.
K: Understandable really because I would bail at answering that myself, but now we have it in writing Footwork is placed higher in your heart haha. Aren’t you an ‘honorary’ member of Teklife?
K: Now I finally have my answer, because I know you was one of the first people I saw wearing Teklife merch in the UK and at the time I did not know, so more shame on my part. When I first got to know about your DJ’ing back in 2015 I was told you have the fastest limbs in the scene, what would you say to that?
S: Fastest and most overly and dramatic yes. I’ve been told I remind people of those inflatable car wash men.
K: This is why people need to go to see you play just to witness the limbs. Speaking of raves, I know you’re one of the best when it comes to putting together a well-crafted mix. On the spot, if I was to ask for a perfect 10 track mini mix, what would it include?
S: This list would probably change if you asked me every hour, and I’ve given you 11 that is more of a mixtape than a mix, but I know I could listen to these tunes forever in no order:
1. Kode9 – Xingfu Lu (played at 160bpm no MT)
2. Portishead – Biscuit
3. Vibes & Wishdokta – Rouge Trooper
4. JLIN – Guantanamo
5. Mala - Blue Notez
6. Grandmixxer – SLSA Instrumental
7. Komonazmuk – Leaving
8. Cherelle – Didn’t Mean To Turn You On
9. DJ Rashad – Rollin’
10. Kelela – Keep It Cool
11. Luke Benjamin – Asha
K: Haha, dodged the question completely I see, but I like this list a lot. The selection choice is mad, but to be expected from a top selector such as yourself, I’m even sure you could possibly put these into a mix even though they vary tempos quite drastically. You always seem to make sure the tunes in your mixes are really thought out, what would you say is your favourite blend is from another DJ?
S: It has to be Riz La Teef, he was and still is a big inspiration for me, there are loads I can think of but I really like his blend of Lemzly Dale’s ACME into Dizzee’s Ice Rink. Unsure which mix it’s on, check out his Soundcloud - it’s a goldmine for mixes of (mainly) UK music.
K: I love that ACME into Ice Rink blend he does, that r&g flip into a classic eski riddim is sick. What about from your own sets / mixes?
S: Favourite that I have done?! that’s tough, I’m so bias and love all the ones I’ve done haha. I’ve started uploading some of them from sets to YouTube to give them a bit of a definitive platform. I really love doing JT The Goon’s ‘Flux Capacitor’ into Treble Clef and Katie Pearl’s ‘Ghetto Kyote’a as well as Dominowe’s ‘Africa’s Cry’ into Luke Benjamin’s ‘Asha’b but I think my favourite has to be ‘Under The City Lights’ by Skream and ‘124’ by Mssingno. Both tunes have been top contenders for my all-time favourites ever since I heard them. I started my Rinse FM debut with that one. I guess the one a lot of people know me for is either Busta Rhymes x Coki or that Tessela x LSDXOXO one though but they’re ones that are done live.
K: I know exactly which Busta Rhymes and Coki blend you’re on about and probably my favourite of yours too. Yet another reason for people to go watch you live because that Tessela x LSDXOXO blend is a must listen. How do you keep your library organised? you span a lot of different genres, you must have it on lock!
S: You’re too kind! Like I said I’m a bit of a collector and I like to be able to have access to all my sources (whether that be music, scans of books or photos) so I have this nerdy as fuck system I started a couple years ago that I’ve been adding to called ‘The Golden Pigeonhole’ haha. It’s a folder with bare playlists in that have a mixture of sounds, speeds, labels and some other esoteric references, all typed like custom registration plates. I don’t really use genre as a main way of defining within my system, it’s too vague. It’s more about the mood and energy I want to create and drive into the previous track.
K: Feel as though I’ve managed to dodge the most blatant question in any sort of interview for long enough but it’s time to ask, why did you get into DJ’ing?
S: I’ve always loved music and actively wanted to share it with as many people as I could, even before thinking about mixing. I think that’s why a lot of us start doing music because we just have a bit of a weird obsession with it and love it so much, I’m a bit of a collector. I’ve got it in my blood as well, my dad used to mix (and still does sometimes). I got into DJ’ing around the same time I had discovered Dubstep, I was watching a lot of GetDarker videos like fuck I’d like to do that one day. I was so gassed when I got asked to do one in 2015, got that a bit too early on I feel.
K: That’s mad! a GetDarker set is a bucket list goal for a fair amount of people that DJ so be proud about that. DJ’ing isn’t even the only think you do within the music scene (and day-to-day life) because you’ve also done a lot of artwork for various people in the scene for a while now, how did that come about?
S: I used to fanboy Stuart Hammersley to the point of asking him to come to the studio and find out more about him and his amazing work, he designed all the artwork Tempa. J Beatz and Scope hit him up once for an early Scope EP but he couldn’t do it, so he referred them to me. They were my first ‘clients’ if you like, that was back in 2012, before I even had this alias. I’ve been freelancing within the scene since and it helped me get my name around as I’d trade artwork for dubs (given I consciously don’t produce). I still do art for tracks now, it’s important to me that everyone is compensated for their work, regardless of medium.
K: Touching back to the music you collect which label(s) and artist(s) would you say take up most of the space in your collection?
S: Artist wise I’ve probably got the most Gundam or Nights as I’ve known those guys the longest. But I think I’d have to give it to the Teklife Family / Chicago Footwork or the Boxed ‘sound’ as they were the genres I was playing solely when I was starting out.
K: You’re a big name in the DJ’ing world, so I’m sure you get sent a bag of dubs, what's your favourite one?
S: Haha I don’t know about being a big name but I’m trying. My favourite right now probably must be by Darkos Strife called ‘Yamato’ I reckon but everything he’s sent me has been mad. ‘Tilt’, ‘Boost Up’, and ‘Daphne Blake’ all bang. He’s an MC as well and he bodies both. Modelle with ‘Anaconda’ is also a big, he’s so talented and everything he’s sent me has been mad as well.
Please check these guys out (5 and 18 min mark – https://soundcloud.com/djsagepay/g2snukg4bbb)
K: What’s your take on dubs verses released tracks?
S:I’m more interested in the mix to be honest, how the tunes in are thought about and put together in a very specific way (to then create a destined vibe or mood) if that doesn’t sound too wanky. Whether they’re unreleased or not, isn’t a thing for me really. The potential for order within a mix can be super interesting and change the context of the tunes that are in it, some people who have this conscious approach are: Hesska, Betty, Teki Latex, Sicaria Sound, Alya L, Riz La Teef and Fellony.
K: Nah that’s fair point regarding dubs and releases because as you say you want an interesting mix at the end of the day. Your mixing style is unique and if you ask anyone they can spot a mix from you a mile away, how did you develop your mixing style?
S: Thanks man that means a lot! I’ve got a bit of an unhealthy obsession with mixing, spending lots of time watching and listening to other people’s mixes and seeing how they do it. I’m always looking to learn, get ideas and get inspired by whoever. Coming through and having Footwork being a massive influence; the way a lot of those guys DJ and their production style gave me a bit of a different take on mixing from other people’s go to DJs in the UK in comparison maybe? Listening to my dad’s mixes, the type of older mixes normally found on UK Garage CDs gave me a bit of an old school influence. I just loved the way they sounded you know? Raw, ambitious and they had like personal ‘watermarks’ (or like ‘DJ tricks’) that made those mixes unique and identifiable by the person that did them, I feel that’s really present in my mixing.
K: Are you ever happy with a mix or do you try find the smallest of mistakes within them?
S: Never haha, there’s always things to improve but I kind of like that. The thing that holds my interest in art and music is that they can never be completed, you can always get better, learn new techniques etc. To the people who fear putting stuff out because they’re not at a certain level… fuck that and go for it! There is no golden bar you need to reach, use your content at the time to timestamp part of yourself and keep going. I know a lot of you think you must be at ‘xyz level’ to do anything, you’re only holding yourself back, my first mixes were shit, and that’s fine.
K: You run a label Hi–NRG, tell the people that might be not too familiar what that is and what are your plans for it in the future? and Is there is a certain sound for the label?
S: Around mid-late 2016 Illumination Boiz, 3 producers based in Durban producing GQOM were sending me stuff. The bits they were sending me were banging and I was like fuck I must put this out and get these guys and their music out there. Originally it was going to be a vinyl thing, but I had some stuff go on and Hi–NRG’s debut release with Illumination Boiz came out around February 2018 on digital. It got support on Rinse, NTS and a couple other stations by some of my favourites: Ikonika, Teki, Betty and E.M.M.A. People are still supporting it to this day which makes me very happy. I think the aim of the label for me is to give those tunes and producers an (albeit small) continuous spotlight long after the release date. I’m always looking for release number 2, but I just need to hear it. When it’s right I’ll know, you know? I put out a free download of ’Hoth’ that was meant to be on a collab EP with Illegal Software’s ‘Equip’ time ago but sadly he passed away and the EP never materialised. I decided to put it Hoth out thru the label as it was just sitting there. It was my first production and even though it probably sounds like shit, it got supported by Mumdance and some other people. In terms of what the release must be, coming back to what I said earlier I hope the music on Hi–NRG has longevity even if it is a small label. I’m fortunate enough to be able to hop around genres from all different periods in my sets and I want the label to reflect that diversity - timeless music etc.
K: That Illumination Boiz release was sick If I do say myself, I remember that getting a lot of support too. Can’t forget your own release because up until then didn’t even know you could also produce. That’s sad to hear about Illegal Software though. Well I’ll be anticipating what’s to come, what is on the horizon for yourself outside of label stuff?
S: I’m taking a planned hiatus from end of Feb for to 2-3 months. I’ve been doing bare mixes, bare radio and haven’t had any time to further sort my collection in that system I use or find new stuff. I want to dedicate time to sorting that. My taste has really grown over the past couple years and I’m only playing a small percentage of what I own or that I want to play and I’m not fully representing myself. The other half of that time I will spend working on the technical side of my DJ’ing. I have my own style but with I feel a bit stagnated with both the aforementioned, I’ll be working on those a lot more without the pressure of mixes, radio or gigs and I’m hoping to come back in May
K: Any last words?
S: Yeah, thanks for your time and energy. Marni Tempo 4eva, – without you I’d be in a drain.
Huge thank you to Ryan for taking the time to talk to us, be sure to follow him here