Words: Miljan Milekić
I’m plain awful at recognizing artists I love. I am the guy who came straight at Real Friends‘ Dan Lambton in Brussels, only to ask him if he could get me someone from Neck Deep as we have the interview scheduled. I am the guy who stood on a traffic light in Budapest, just a few steps away from Tim McIlrath, singer of one of my all-time favorite bands – Rise Against, and not figuring out who he was. In the same city, a couple of years later, in the backstage of the Aquarium club, we met a super-friendly guy who showed us around, offered us drinks, and chatted about random stuff. Well, until he destroyed the stage an hour or two later.
Yup, it was none other than René LaVice, and I had no frickin’ idea. DJ, producer, avid skateboarding fan and the mastermind of BBC Radio 1’s Drum & Bass Show with René LaVice is someone I wanted to interview for so long and finally got the chance. As one of the most genuine and the most creative people on the scene, he has a lot to say, and we are there to listen. We got to chat about his music, radio show, favorite skateboarders and much, much more. Enjoy!
You have just been announced as a support to amazing The Prodigy for a few of their UK dates. Are you preparing anything special for these shows, and how does it feel to be on the bill with pioneers of aggressive electronic music? Also, this won’t be your first time touring with them, as you already did it back in 2015. How insane can it get, and are they really as crazy as we all think them to be?
René: It’s always a buzz, every time I get involved with The Prodigy in any capacity. I’m amped up for it, and you can expect to hear some exclusives and special tracks selected just for those events. They’re going to be huge arena shows, it’ll be thrilling. I also supported them at Brixton Academy last year as well. They’re definitely more than you’d expect. There is an intensity and an incredible energy level which comes naturally to them. When they take the stage, they absolutely consume the crowd, and it’s an incredible thing to witness from the crowd.
I only got to see you once – last summer in Budapest with The Prototypes and Rob Data, and the whole night was just insane. How important is direct contact with your fans?
René: I really try to bring my own sound and show the crowd my story and my perspective. I just headlined a packed out show in Vienna last night and looking out into the crowd and seeing the reactions on everyone’s faces, and the way it elevated people – it’s one of the best feelings on earth.Being able to connect with other people through music is a very powerful way to relate to each other and know that we are all connected.
Recently, you dropped a remix of Jareth’s ‘Rings of Saturn,’ which received lots of love from your fans. However, this is not your first time working with her, as she made an appearance on your track ‘Let You Go.’ How was it to work with her again, and can we expect even more in the future?
René: Jareth is one of the greatest singers of our time. She is one of a select few people whose voice gives me goosebumps. Her EP ‘Moonchild’ is far ahead of its time, and I truly hope people clock onto it. I had to literally track her down for two years in order to work with her. Jareth was incredibly hard to find, and being allowed the opportunity to work with her was truly one of the best experiences of my life.All seriousness aside, Jareth’s really humble and creates really naturally about stuff she feels like expressing. Both of us have been working hard on our solo projects, but I do hope we can connect creatively again!
There’s a word on a street that you never read your own press, stuff like reviews, or even interviews. Are you still not doing it? Is it your way to escape the potential negative words, or you want to stay away from the potential subconscious influence it could have on your music?
René: (laughs) I didn’t know that. Is that what people think? – Well, I guess it’s true. I’m just busy actually living in the moment and living the dream, so to speak. It’s not really about anything else, I just never really see it. I don’t really care if people say negative things because it’s art, it’s a conversation. If someone says something negative about something I believe in, then it’s just motivation to take it further, I guess. So, the negative press doesn’t really bother me. Literally, anything I experience gives me something to express creatively, so it’s a never-ending cycle. Some of the stuff I write is kind of reactionary as well. I mean, I don’t know if I would have written things like ‘Absolute Monster,’ or ‘Air Force 1,’ if I didn’t feel that it went against the grain of what so many others were doing at that time. It’s a risky thing to do sometimes, but those types of things just become an itch to scratch. I’m going on a bit of a tangent though… at the end of the day, I don’t read my press.
Since last November, you run the show at BBC Radio 1, successfully taking over from Friction. I like that you do your own thing, instead of just try to fill his shoes, but how hard was it to take over something so huge, with so much impact on the scene?
René: It was a profound experience. I was living in a shithole flat in the ghetto and finding my way through the next stages of my career, and I didn’t think radio was a door that was open to me. Then, out of nowhere, they emailed me and called my phone and offered me a show on Radio 1. It’s not until I looked back a few months later and saw how all the dots connected perfectly. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished because I was never fast-tracked; I just kept working hard at what I do, and when I was good enough the right people took notice. So in that way, I’m always very grateful, and I really respect my fans. It’s also a real thrill to be able to put all the knowledge I have about this music to use in another format. I see when a tune is building steam, and I can also pick a part of a piece of music and tell almost instantly who they’re drawing their influence from. Or sometimes who they’re copying! (laughs) So in that way, it all comes really naturally to me. I really want to make this genre bigger than it’s ever been and directly oppose a lot of the conversations at the same time. This is British culture gone global. LET’S ‘AV IT!!!!
As I said, the show is highly influential, and demanding, but how cool is it to get to hear so much new music from all over the world, before everyone else? When you stumble across something that you really like, how do you resist the urge to share it?
René: Well, that’s the beauty of it – I DO get to share it. WITH THE ENTIRE WORLD. It’s a buzz and a half. It’s sick.
How hard, and how challenging is it to run a radio show, working on new music, and playing shows at the same time? How do you find balance and the energy to do all that, and keep your level as high as possible?
René: It’s incredibly hard. Living the dream is hard. The fans don’t need to know that, but doing anything you are passionate about is hard. I know that it could all end tomorrow, and that’s why I live every day like it’s my last. Doing things I care about gives me energy. I don’t really know that there really is a balance. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t quit their job and tried to do what I do would understand that. It’s just a different way of thinking.
Earlier this year, you released your latest LP ‘Far From Perfect,’ and it’s still one of the best releases of this year. From this time distance, how happy are you with the release, and reactions you received from fans?
René: I love it. I hope people keep sharing it. It’s been amazing to watch people discover the music for the first time and send me their reactions online. It’s like getting a birthday card over and over again.
I know you are a huge fan of skateboarding. Do you still find time to do it?
René: Yeah, I’m absolutely obsessed with skateboarding. I don’t find the time tho, I just have to steal it. When other people are lying in bed with a hangover, I leave the hotel with like three hours of sleep, and I go skate somewhere. Luckily, I’ve been skating for about 15 years or more, so I really rarely get hurt. Injuries happen no matter what, but there’s something that happens to your nervous system after years where your body somehow avoids things a lot more. Even just small stuff, I barely ever get hit in the shin. It’s like being a cat. But if I take three weeks off because I’m too busy, I feel soooo stiff. It’s good to try to do a bit here and there to keep going. Obviously, my potential is hindered massively by my other commitments. But this could be solved by money. So please send me lots of money, and then I will be good at everything. Thanks.
This year was insane with Nyjah releasing ‘Til Death,’ Chris Joslin dropping ‘Unstoppable,’ Jim Greco unleashing the ‘Jobs? Never!!’ film, and many others sharing some of the craziest stuff around. Who would be your favorite at the moment, and who’s the one to look at in your opinion?
René: Man, I love all those guys. I follow them every day on Instagram. Nyjah is really incredible. I love watching Jamie Foy as well because he’s such gnarly beast and also very talented. I’ve been watching a lot of the @cultoftom clips and zoning out on that stuff again on kind of a retro vibe. It’s not all about hammers tho. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s really fun to watch Tom Asta skate. He really reminds me of a Ronnie Creager 2.0 or something. Very technical and extremely smooth. Oh, I need to shout out Daewon Song who’s extremely technical, creative and killing it at the moment! Follow him at @daewon1song!
What do you think about skateboarding being the part of the Tokyo 2020? Do you have any plans of visiting it?
René: I’m so excited for it! I might have to go!