He discovered a love for hip hop in the mid 80's through breakdancing and tagging (Skitz was his tag) and became further inspired after a trip to the US in which he witnessed KRS-One perform live.
In 1996, Skitz released "Where My Mind Is At" with Roots Manuva. Aside from launching both their careers, the tune made waves on both the hip hop and jazz scenes being picked up by the likes of Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge. In 1998, the follow up "Fingerprints Of The Gods" was released which affirmed Skitz' commitment to working with his local UK scene and was the only UK track to reach Hip Hop Connection's Top Ten Of The Year.
2001 saw the release of Skitz' debut album Countryman on Ronin Records. Countryman featured the cream of the UK's hip hop talent such as Roots Manuva, Rodney P, Skinnyman and DJ's such as Tony Vegas and Primecuts from the Scratch Perverts and it explored Skitz' musical diversity and covered a range of styles including reggae, funk, drum'n'bass and even folk music.
Skitz has been asked to mix and compile Homegrown Vol.1 - a showcase of the latest tunes from established UK MCs and producers, loaded with exclusives with a couple of tracks from the other side of the Atlantic thrown in for good measure. Skitz and Rodney P are scheduled for a tour down under to showcase the album and RA caught up with Skitz himself for a quick talk about hip hop, DJ-ing and of course the CD itself.
- You've been in the scene for a while now. How long exactly have you been a DJ/producer for?
I've been DJing for about 16 years, but I've been into hip hop since 1985, when it first exploded on the shores of the UK.
- What first hooked you into hip hop? Was it an elusive tune? the breakdancing?
I saw the movie "Wildstyle" and that was the catalyst that started it all and when I fell in love with it. I was a graffiti artist - Skitz was my tag at the time - and a break dancer, but I've never been a beatboxer.
- Is there anything hip hop related other than DJing that you are adept in doing?
Apart from graffiti and breaking, I'm a producer first and foremost - that's what I like to be known as. I have my radio show on BBC - Original Fever - I never expected myself to be on radio talking - I'm the one who is usually in the shadows, but I like it now. I get to play tunes I don't normally get to play out, downtempo and laidback tunes that would never get much play in the club.
- When did you first team up with Rodney P and what was the driving force behind it?
I was DJing with Roots Manuva in 1997, and I've always wanted to work with Rodney P, I knew about his stuff when he was with the London Posse. The UK hip hop scene is a small small scene, so I put the word out that I wanted to work with him and gave out my number and two days later he gave me a call. We share a love of reggae music as well.
- There a real sense of community between hip hop, breakbeat and drum'n'bass scene's in the UK with artists from all genres collaborating with each other. What can you attribute this to?
The music scene in the UK is very diverse, it crosses borders all the time - drum'n'bass artists delve into breaks, breaks artists delve into hip hop and hip hoppers do some drum'n'bass. Each scene is quite small so artists tend to hook up with each other. I'd sometimes go out to a drum'n'bass rave and I love the basslines. I've been working with DJ Die from Reprazent, he's been like a brother - we both make tracks at hip hop tempo and I've always been using d&b MC's on top of hip hop tunes - Rodney P will MC on some drum'n'bass tunes and Dynamite will MC on top of hip hop.
- Which artists (UK, US or otherwise) should we be looking out for in the upcoming future that you think are going to blow up?
There's a few people in UK. Ricochet Klashnekoff and a crew called Terra Firma are going to be big. There's another producer Stone - he's amazing and has done work with a lot of people. The Sea has produced a lot of Rodney P's tracks. Who else? Deadly Hunter he's an amazing MC. There are a lot of next generation and next level MC's coming out right now.
- What upcoming projects have you got lined up that you can fill us in on?
Currently I've just finished a compilation called Homegrown vol 1 which should be hitting the stores as we speak. There's loads of exclusive tunes from the UK such as one from Skibadee. It's just a little flavour of where I am about right now. I'm also working on the follow up to Countryman called Sticksman - once you've moved from the country you go into the sticks and will feature tracks from mew MC's like Pesky and Deadly Hunter.
- Remix wise, do you remix tracks into a hip hop format or is there more to Skitz than we've come to expect from production and remixing?
I always remix tunes into a hip hop format. I love hip hop first and foremost but I have done a few offkey things which aren't hip hop - I've done a beatbox style track, a jazz song and I've remixed a FreQ Nasty and Rodney P tune (Come Let Me Know) the original tune was around 130bpm but I remixed it into a southern style bounce.
- What can listeners expect to hear from Homegrown vol.1? Are there any favourite tracks?
The Dynamite MC track produced by Stone - Bubble bass - It's amazing cos it's so different, not the same format and not the same template you'd expect from a hip hop track. Roots Manuva's "Check It" is awesome. The one I did I like because MCD delivers conscious lyrics. It's very revolutionary.
- If it is a homegrown collection of UK hip hop, why did you incorporate tunes from Pharaohe and Kardinal Offishal?
It's actually put together by a "homegrown" DJ so it is my take on the hip hop scene. When I play out it's about 50/50 UK and US tunes. I included Pharoahe's cos of its political stance and I liked the two songs from Kardinal Offishal and the Rascalz because of the reggae bounce.
- You were in Australia not too long ago, how did you find the trip? Are there any interesting experiences you'd like to tell?
It was great. I noticed lot of parallels between both the UK scene and Australia scene. Unlike France and Germany who have their own scene's and are supported by major labels, the UK and Aus scenes are very underground and independent. I was there for 2 weeks and never saw a beach unfortunately, but everyone we met showed us a lot of love.
- Now you're gearing up for another trip down under, what are you looking forward to and what can we expect to hear from your tour?
I'm looking forward to a bit of sun - I'm also looking to get out of England for a bit. We're going to showcase tunes from Rodney P's album which drops in July. We just want to get out there and soak in the vibes... oh yeah the Jack Daniels will be flowing continuously.
Rodney P and Skitz are bringing The Sound of UK Hip Hop to Australia and New Zealand in June 2004. Proudly presented by Sonar.
Sydney Thursday, 3 June 2004 Metro
Wellington Friday, 4 June 2004 Sandwiches
Auckland Saturday, 5 June 2004 Venue TBC
Christchurch Sunday, 6 June 2004 Ministry
Queenstown Monday, 7 June 2004 Sub Culture
Byron Wednesday, 9 June 2004 C Moog
Melbourne Friday, 11 June 2004 Hi Fi Bar
Perth Saturday, 12 June 2004 Heat Nightclub