An early pioneer of UKG, Masterstepz has a background that stretches from London to New York and right across to Dubai.
Having made his name as a broadcaster at London’s iconic Choice FM, he has interviewed artists such as Mariah Carey, Jay Z and Destiny’s Child and has sat alongside LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes as Violator’s first and only UK DJ on their roster. He now continues to tour the world, lighting up dancefloors wherever he goes.
Our friends over at 51st State Festival are welcoming Masterstepz to their festival this Summer. Here's what went down when they caught up with the man himself ahead of the big day.
Masterstepz! How’re things?!
Things are great! I'm feeling good with a positive attitude.
Where in the UK did you grow up?
I was born in Highbury and grew up in Poplar on the Isle Of Dogs in East London.
What was the music scene like there?
The music scene was quite small, as there were not that many DJ's and artists at the time when I was growing up - we all kept ourselves close to the area. There were a few parties in youth clubs, and of course there were house parties - but nothing much else. If we wanted to go to a big dance we would have to come out of the area and travel to Hackney. It wasn’t that far, but it was a complete different atmosphere - they had so many all-dayers there. That’s what it was called before festivals, and yes they were free! Can you imagine? Hackney Downs, Hackney Wick - and so many more events! It was a big thing for us to travel out of the area.
As well as DJing in underground clubs in and around South London, you were part of a Sound System called King Tubbys based in Brixton - can you tell us a little more about that?
Well, I was always into sound systems from a very young age. My uncle had big sound that ran things in the 60s and 70s on the North London scene. Sir Biggs (AKA The President)...way before my time. I was young and our parents would take us to excursion trips; they would string up the sound and I would always watch them in amazement!
Then, in my teens my cousin had a sound in Tottenham called Diamond Touch. He knew I was a good DJ and a mic man so he asked me to join the sound. He then went on to start his career in music production, so the sound lost our captain and it faded out. He went on to become an icon in the industry, by the name of SHY FX.
I knew the daughter of King Tubbys sound and they were looking for a mic man. They asked if we would like to come to a King Tubbys dance. Whilst this was new territory for me (as I’d never really gone over to South London much in those days), I didn’t hesitate to take my chance working for a massive sound system like King Tubbys. We also had to the hard labour like lifting an 18 inch scoop bass bin, amps and the massive record boxes. I worked with the sound for a year and it was a great experience getting to meet some of the legends in the sound system industry.
At what age did you start getting into garage music, and what was it that made you want to get into the scene?
I was around 18 or 19 when I got into Garage - it was more known as ‘House and Garage’ at the time. I got into this scene when going to jungle raves in Astoria back in the days. I used to into the second arena for a break and sit down where I’d hear some really nice sweet, soulful house music and ended up staying. I started going to a few house and garage events in Epping Forest Country Club and Charlie Chan in Walthamstow Dog Stadium.
A few months later I went to a real underground house and garage event in South London called ‘In The Arches’. The event was called Pleasure Playground and it was one of the most memorable events I’d been to in my life! This was the first time I’d ever heard of DJ Spoony, Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont and MC PSG. At this point in 1995, I knew exactly what music I wanted to play.
You’re well known for your show on Choice FM, and worked with them for 6 years, right? What were your highlights working for the station? And was it a tough decision to leave?
My highlights were winning a Sony Music Award for Best Radio Show, and a UMA Award for Best Radio Station. Being part of that was a massive part of my journey of being a radio presenter. Me leaving the station wasn’t a tough decision for me - it was something I needed to do. The station was going in a different direction to where I wanted to go, but I left on very good terms.
Now you’ve interviewed a fair few people yourself over the time... Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Michelle Williams, Chris Brown, Christina Milian, Ashanti and Ludacris, to but name a few. Who did you enjoyed interviewing the most… and the least?
Hmmmm this is a hard one. I have four people I really enjoyed interviewing. Mary J. Blige was amazing, simply because had to do five other radio stations back to back which were more commercial, and it was obvious that they would just ask her the same types of questions. I was the last presenter to interview her and I knew she had a reputation of being difficult to interview. So I started the interview telling her about when I saw her first UK performance, and spoke to her about her first album. That full knowledge of her career impressed her, and so a 10 minute interview turned into a 45 minute interview - and that’s what made it so great! Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Mariah Carey were also great interviews.
Is there anyone you haven’t had a chance to interview that you’d really like to?
I would like to interview Drake, Martinez Brothers and Denzel Washington - and would have loved to have interviewed 2Pac and Biggie Smalls.
What’s one thing outside of music that you’re really passionate about?
Building a legacy to pass on to my son, and of course good health.