DJ Vadim interview

Described as “the John Coltrane of hip hop”, Russian-born DJ Vadim has made his name playing show after show of big hip hop tunes as well as producing beats that stick in your memory for a long time to come.

However, his world was flipped around when he was diagnosed with cancer of the eye and had to go through a potentially risky surgery to remove the problem.

But, as Abjekt finds out, he came through the other side with a huge desire to enjoy life and music and having been signed to the juggernaught that is Ninja Tune and now moving across to BBE, 2009 is set to be another big year for Vadim

You were born in Russia and have lived around the world – Was this continual blending of cultures pivotal in how your music was made?

I think that the place where you make music undoubtedly influences what you do and how you do it. If I was born in Mongolia and lived there, would I be doing music now? Probably not. So my environment influences me a lot, London and New York for example and these are always forever changing too!

Do you have any particular influences that made you stop and think “yes, this is what I want to do with my tunes”?

I always wanted to play in a club and be paid to play in a club as a DJ. That was my first dream, as such because back then in the late 80s and early 90s I used to throw my own parties, so the thought of someone else hiring me was huge.

There are genres popping up from all over in clubs and DJ sets these days – Kurduro from Angola, Cumbia from Colombia, B-More from Baltimore, Dub and Dancehall to name but a few, do you feel it’s important to such a diverse mix in the music that’s played in the UK to open people up and experience rhythms they may not have been open to before?

Well yes and no. It’s great that people are listening to such a big variety of music now because it definitely didn’t happen 10-15 years ago… Whilst its not my job to play every style, because that’s impossible, I can still include influences from so many styles.

Your live shows are always great to watch, what’s the process in deciding what you’re going to do for the crowd?

Well it depends if its a DJ show or a live show. It also depends on where and when and what for. Is it a launch party? Is it for a sponsor? Is it part of a tour? What are the crowd like? Are they responding? There are a lt of factors but it all boils down to me connecting and moving the people.

Skipping the age-old question about downloading vs CD buying, is putting on a live show important to get people to come out and buy your CDs there?

Yes of course. It’s all about market presence but aside from the commercial aspect of it, playing live keeps me on my toes and also I can hear what’s hot and what’s not!

You must love playing live with the amount of shows you play in various countries, has there ever been a time where you’ve really want to just chill out and not play live for 6 months or a year? Or is there a constant yearning to get that atmosphere going with the crowd that you can’t stay away from?

Well it’s that age old problem – When you do it, you want to chill and when you’re chilling you think about being on the road. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?

Have you ever had what you can now look back on and label the perfect show? If so, where and when was it and what made it such a perfect night?

I have had nights where the response has been so incredible that it blows me away, yes. Where people are singing along, dancing like nutters and applauding, whistling and stuff. However, looking back at the those times I think what I did could have been better. The time when I get to the perfect show is the time to retire. That’s why I keep searching for the perfect beat.

You’ve worked with people like Vakill, Gift Of Gab, Slug, TTC, Task Force and more in the past as well as being part of the One Self project with Blu Rum and Yarah Bravo – what do you get out of working with various people?

Well it’s fun and passes the time away quite nicely!

Are there still artists and groups that you want to collab with?

Well yeah, of course. From KRS1, Rakim, Black Thought, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Roots Manuva, Damien Marley, Capelton, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan, De La Soul, Dweli, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Al Green… where do I stop?

Are you actively pursuing that or do you just keep going and see what comes your way, because I’d imagine that those organic sort of partnerships are the easiest to get on with.

Well unfortunately most of that list would probably want 5 figure sums just to enter into a conversation so until the time where I have that kinda backing, it will remain just a dream!

So, the new album coming out is U Can’t Learn Imaginashun, which is coming out on BBE Records. What’s good about being part of the BBE label and family?

Well, they give me the creative freedom to do what I want to do. Also, being surrounded by so many influential artists is very inspiring – Jazzy Jeff, Kenny Dope, Eb Darge, David Rodigan, Pete Rock, J Dilla, the list goes on.

The new album comes after what must have been a very distressing period in your life – your close family were ill, the credit crunch kicked in and you were diagnosed with eye cancer – how difficult was it to battle through and come out the other side?

Yeah, it was grim. I thought about death a lot going through cancer and I gave music up for a short period. I had an operation which gave me my energy back. Coming through the operation successfully gave me the impetus to go on and make this album. I have have come through all this and been super skeptikal and cynical, but I just felt lucky to be alive.

So do you have a new perspective on life both personally as well as musically?

Yes, like I said, when you go through something so life threatening, you cannot help but be affected one way or another. I try to enjoy the moment more and work less!

What can people expect to hear on the new record?

Music for the mind, body and soul!

And why the title for the record?

Because there are so many things you can learn in life – language, science etc. You can even learn to draw pictures and play instruments but to be creative, you need imagination and no-one can give you that. It’s something that you have to go deep within yourself to find.

Any last words for the world at large?

Stop the separation wall in Palestine/Israel. That will become a symbol of mans stupidity and hatred.

Cheers again for the time and I look forward to seeing a Vadim live show again soon!

DJ Vadim’s new album U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun is out on June 8th through BBE Records. You can check out more of Vadim’s stuff at

Make sure you don’t miss the launch night at SoundCrash, Thursday 21st May, The Rhythm Factory, Whitechapel, London, E1 1EW. 7pm – 1am – tickets £12 (inc bf) in advance from