After the recent departures into garage and dubstep, the 1 More Mix series returns to the D&B vibes with this epic extended session from Lee UHF.
Originally hailing from Sheffield, the spiritual home of bassline, but now based in Birmingham, Lee’s explored vast swathes of the underground electronic music map during his life in music. From his hardcore and gabber roots, he’s dabbled in all manner of styles and vibes before arriving at his current status as deep-digging, unrelenting powerhouse D&B DJ. You can go ahead and add multiple label owner to his Linkedin profile too, if you like.
Perhaps best known for the powerhouse multi-subgenre imprint Dirtbox Recordings (a label named after his hybrid DJ/beatbox performance concept), Lee’s been responsible for bringing our attention to the likes of Slaine, Varkid and ESKR in recent years.
Meanwhile on VTO (Vertical Take Off), he and his label partner Traced have been dishing out high grade neuro from the likes of Kaizen Flow, Transforma and Binary. If that’s not quite enough label work, Lee also runs a fine in bassline and UKG with another label – R U SRS.
And that’s just a very brief introduction. 1 More Thing gets to know Lee UHF in more detail below as we get torn to pieces by a mix that he had planned to play to a packed dancefloor on NYE but unfortunately couldn’t. Find out why below!
Let’s chat about these three labels of yours! You got all the sounds locked down… Garage, neuro, dancefloor.
Some of the many many sounds! It’s weird how they call came about, really. I actually started off in hardcore and gabber. I ran a big event in the early 2000s called Bedlam. Gabber, happy hardcore, hardstyle. I had a label and sold loads of vinyl, it was great fun but eventually I just got fed up with it. Around that time I was at The End nightclub in London and heard Noisia. It was one of them, ‘Wow, I need more drum & bass in my life’ moments. I started to play it and realized there was a lot of DJs doing the same type of thing so I looked for something a bit different. I had a guy who was a beatboxer so we developed a touring show called Dirtbox which was a hybrid of a DJ and beatboxing performance. It took off and we had gigs all over the world.
As time went by, Dirtbox also became a label which, like my sets, was dedicated to all forms of drum & bass. But I also love garage and bassline and I was getting loads of cool stuff sent to me on that side of things so So R U SRS became a thing.
I thought I had enough label stuff on my plate after that but a long time friend Traced approached me to start another. We go back to hardcore days and got into the neuro stuff around the same time and it’s both our first love in D&B. He came up with a bit of a plan specifically on neuro and he was right. It’s got a very punk kind of following to it. Really hyper-supportive and engaged. So I’m glad I got involved and I love all three labels, I love building the brands and making content to support them. It’s taken attention and time away from my production but to be honest I prefer this side of things.
Me too. So this mix… You mentioned on a message that it effectively happened because of a murder?
Yeah kinda. So I really wanted to record a Dirtbox mix that singled out some of the subgenres on the label. I could do a three-hour neuro mix of stuff coming out on Dirtbox, I could do you a three-hour mix of liquid stuff coming on the label or the deeper stuff like this mix. I wanted to represent one of the sounds on the label, you know?
Then around the same time I was planning an NYE set for a gig I had at a club called Crane in Birmingham. They lost their licence because a kid had been stabbed there, which was obviously a tragic situation, and the club is currently closed. So yeah on NYE instead of playing there I recorded this mix. I was happy with the mix and wanted it to have a good home so got in touch with you.
Happy to provide a home for it. So this was a good reflection of what you were going to play?
Yeah 100% And I know it would have gone down really well, too. Crane really looked after me. A set I played there late last year was three hours. After me was Natty Lou, Friction, Kings Of The Rollers and Chase & Status. I started playing to an empty room and within half an hour it had 4000 people in it. I had a lot of fun that night. It doesn’t take much, though, I love DJing full stop.
Yeah you can tell. How about your love for bassline and garage? It seems like it’s the law to be into bassline and garage if you live in the midlands or up north!
That’s very true. I’m actually from Sheffield. I moved to Birmingham in 2007 but when I was up in Sheffield I managed a record shop called Reflex which was a massive store for bassline. Sheffield is obviously the home of Niche and you had so many people making massive anthems up there. But you know what? I hated bassline.
I was hardcore through and through. And every day the punters would come in and be like, ‘You got any garage?’ ‘You got any Niche?’ I’d get so angry! Like, ‘It’s not called Niche!’ Every Saturday morning you’d have gurners coming in straight from the rave asking for tape packs. That’s probably why I hated it. It was forced down my throat up there.
But I came down to the Midlands and started to get nostalgic whenever I heard it. Then I was starting to get bookings down here but it was all in garage because the drum & bass side of things was very tightly sewn up. That took me time to establish. So yeah, I do love garage and bassline and R U SRS is a passion project reflecting that. I’m going to build up things on that label this year.
Awesome. Tell us more about your hardcore roots!
I’m not sure how much you know about the Yorkshire hardcore scene but it’s a world unto itself mate. It was very serious. Very dark. You’d have drum & bass style MCs over hard house for example. It was all based around events called Uprising and Destruction, which were legendary. That’s where I cut my teeth as a raver and a DJ. They’re a bubble. No one goes in and no one comes out. I seemed to be one of the few DJs who was able to do things within that scene but also take it beyond Yorkshire with Bedlam. It took me all over, playing places like Candyball in New York, Slamming Vinyl, HTID and all over the place.
Yeah I noticed you play a lot of international shows
I did a few foreign gigs in hardcore – in New York and in Hungary – but it was with the drum & bass that things really took off. When we started the beatboxer b2b DJing things it kicked off. We did regular tours all over Europe. Like Czech Republic, Romania, Germany. We’d go over every year and I try and set up a big US tour as well. Last year we did all the east coast, nine gigs over 10 days.
How about this year? What do you have planned?
Well I got a baby dropping in a few weeks so he’s my priority and I’ll be looking to take a bit of time off things for a bit and not be on the road.
Love it! Dad vibes!
I love it. It makes me want to push this even further and work hard on behalf of my family, you know? So yeah I’ll be taking my focus off touring until July onwards. I’ll be putting my foot on the floor with releases and content around the labels, though. It’s just the being on road thing.
You’re a busy guy! Do you have a day job as well?
Yeah I work in newspapers with advertising and publishing. I’ve been doing it for years and I love it. It fits in with everything else I do.
You do seem to do a lot!
I love it. I’m not happy unless I have a lot things to do. My girlfriend thinks I’ve got ADHD but I keep it all balanced; family, friends, job, life, hobbies, passions. As long as I got my whiteboard and a plan then there’s no excuse!
Amen! And sometimes you find the time to DJ blindfolded?
Haha you saw that post on social media? That was from lockdown when everyone was looking for things to entertain themselves and keep them sane! I was doing everything I could. I was doing the press-ups, the streams, any daft things to do. I played every genre of music you could think of. Hardcore, trance, garage, disco sets. Then it went to dressing up, then I DJ’d blindfolded. With vinyl too! Luckily lockdown ended or I might have ended up DJing naked! Thankfully that didn’t happen.
Haha. Finally… What’s up next?
Dirtbox and VTO have both got big compilations dropping soon. VTO will have Chapter One – all of the music from the last two years with four exclusives which are brilliant. And Dirtbox is a best of from last year. It was a busy year we did two albums, a compilation and seven EPs so we got the best of that with three exclusives on that. Dirtbox is out this month, VTO is out in March. A recap of what we’ve achieved and some brand new vibes for the future. I can’t wait for you all to hear them!