Leader of the Pack – Talking Front & Centre Stage with MC Eksman
By Jon Brown
As the clock rolls round and the days quickly pass taking us up to the next eagerly awaited instalment in the Destiny Upfront Drum & Bass saga at The Opera House in Bournemouth (this Saturday 8th November as it goes), I took the time to talk to one man on the line-up that his been considered by many to be one of the most dedicated masters of his craft.
MC Eksman has a lyrical flow like no other that has come before him; his stage presence is more than enough to make him the undisputed champion that the Raveology National Drum & Bass Awards so correctly touted him as just over a year ago. An Award which not only confirmed his place as one of the scene’s very best, but also marked the first time that an MC swooped not one, but two of the Awards in a row; that’s not to say he hasn’t won others or at least been nominated of course, (he’s collected quite a few as it transpires) but it does neatly underline his clear and present talent upon the stage and in the studio. Not bad for someone who originally wanted to be a DJ, but then swiftly found his professional feet with a microphone.
Having worked everything from a room in an East London tower block to host pirate radio right up to the main stages of some of the biggest events in the World and approaching every single one of those appointments with the same amount of heart, soul and respect no matter the size of the crowd, it’s evident that Eksman is quite easily at the forefront of his scene. After all, eleven thousand people Worldwide voting for him to pick up the ‘Best Lyrical MC Award’ in 2004 (off of reigning champion Skibadee at the time), can’t be wrong.
His work in the studio has seen him work on tracks with well established stables such as Bingo, D-Style Recordings and countless others allowing him the opportunity to work with the likes of DJ Zinc, Herbzie, Shortston, Majistrate and D Kay.
With a totally jam and packed event diary week in, week out which frequently takes him throughout the UK and across the Globe working with some of, if not all of the biggest players in the Drum & Bass scene; sometimes as much as up to seven times a week there’s no doubt in our minds that Eksman is fast becoming ‘King Of The Jungle’ in scene that is already heavily stacked with undeniable talent.
This week, I spoke with Eksman about Drum & Bass, MC’ing and why Bournemouth is one of his favourite gigs…
To many of the new school, you are a name that has really become part of the A list over the last couple of years – although you have in fact been working the scene for quite some time now haven’t you? How long have you been an MC and where did it begin for you?
I first got onto pirate radio in 1996 and started to do small events from just after that. I performed in every up and coming / stars of the future room available. These included One Nation, Innovation and Best of British and I did these rooms for many years before finally getting my break into the main arena in 1999 at Heat and Fever at Hastings Pier. That’s 12 years and still going strong.
What inspired your name and how did that come about?
My MC name was originally ‘Ecstasy’, I know well cheesy, but was actually a cool name back in 1991. I originally wanted to be a DJ and asked my older brother about a cool name as he was into the Acid / Hardcore movement back then.
I then went onto radio five years later and shortened it from Ecstasy to Ecs, changed the spelling to ‘EKS’ instead of ‘Ecs’ then added man on the end as I thought it sounded better.
Was it something you always wanted to do? How did you discover that you were as talented as you are?
As I say, I originally wanted to be a DJ. I still have a collection of Hardcore and Jungle records from ‘92 to ‘94(ish) stored away. However, I use to watch a lot of Reggae stage shows from Jamaica and was intrigued by what they did. As three of my older brothers were DJ’s I was sick of waiting for a go on the turn tables so took up the mic. I wrote a few lyrics and from there knew in my heart that’s what I wanted to do.
After hours of making tapes in bedrooms for years I decided to send a tape to a radio station and was on air the week after.
You hooked up with Pressure FM back in the day and then further on down the line with Rude Awakening, tell us about those days and the importance of radio, pirate, legal, internet or otherwise for an aspiring MC? Are you working any radio at the moment?
Radio back then was so important, it was a way of being heard. You didn’t have Internet then, which now plays a big part for new artists coming through. Without radio I would never have got to where I am now. I had some of my most fun and exciting times while doing shows on pirate radio especially when the phone line is going crazy on a Sunday afternoon with the sun blazing through the window in a tower block in the middle of East London or Essex, great memories.
I built up a massive following through weekly shows and would recommend any up and coming MC or DJ to try and do a show on as many radio stations as possible to spread your name.
I’m not currently doing any radio shows at the moment. The main reason is because I perform at between 3 and 7 events a week and that extra two hours radio show puts a strain on my throat. I sometimes do one off guest shows here and there.
Do you think now that there is a massive boom in Internet Radio sites has made the platform for MC’s much wider now than say – when you started out? Is it effectively easier now to be an MC than say back in the day?
Yes I think it is much easier to be heard now. The thing is there are so many MC’s about now and to be totally honest and not saying it in a negative way 95 percent of them are not very good or original. The thing is you can be heard but if you’re not that good or are just doing something that has already been done you won’t get anywhere.
It is hard to come into the scene with something new as a lot of styles have already been used, but I’m sure someone will pop up soon.
What inspires your work and in answering that who do you draw inspiration from – are there MC’s or artists out there that you look up to?
Life inspires me I speak about what I've seen, other people’s experiences and my own. I do like competition and it does make me work harder but I think as I’ve got older I have realised its not all about being the best; its about enjoying yourself and making sure the ravers enjoy themselves too. I think too many MC’s nowadays let their egos affect the way they perform.
When I first started MC’ing I was inspired from the Reggae sound systems. Fearless, Shabba and Stevie Hyper D also inspired me. I use to listen to these guys especially Fearless and Shabba from a young age on a London pirate radio station called Rush FM and this was about ‘93/’94. I loved what they were doing and knew in my heart I wanted to do this.
You’ve been quite a busy fella of late; you must have collected some serious Air Miles by now! Tell us about some of your UK and International excursions and for whom?
I work all over the World; some good places I’ve worked are Brazil, Hollywood, Miami, Toronto and Vancouver. Germany is also very big with dnb. They have a One Nation in Germany and also a Kings of the Jungle. I’ve been to some European countries and cities that I would never had though I’d visit. Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Slovenia, Estonia, Czech Republic plus loads more
The hardest crowd in the UK has to be London and my favourite places to perform are Bournemouth, Birmingham and Bristol.
Drum & Bass is really doing big things on an international level right now – what are your thoughts on this – from an artist’s perspective?
Jungle was massive internationally for many years. For example Mannheim in Germany they use to have festivals with tens of thousands of people, this was before I was even getting booked in London. I do like working abroad and is great for the scene but like I say there is no place like home.
MC’s also have become a much bigger part of the scene and indeed the headline more so now than ever – what are your thoughts on this?
I think the scene is strong and big enough now to have different styles of raves. MC’s have definitely come to the forefront a lot more compared to many years ago when a MC was just there to big up the DJ and host. I think as long as the MC does his thing professionally and works with the DJ it is fine.
There are raves I work at where I know the crowd are not into MC’s so I tone it down and host more. I think being versatile and reading a crowd is a very important skill to have.
We’ll close by letting you know we’re looking forward to your set at Destiny at the Opera House this weekend – for which you are a regular. What are your thoughts on the brand since it’s re-launch and move to the almighty Opera House?
Firstly I absolutely love Bournemouth and have a great following there. It is always a fantastic night with no attitude and amazing vibes.
I’ve worked with Destiny for years and have always enjoyed working at the events. The new re launch has been great; the last night I performed at was excellent with a lot of thought into production, sound and lighting which makes a huge difference to the vibe of the rave and the artist performances.
I’m really looking forward to another blinding night.
See yaw there!
Thanks for this – if you have anything you wish to add, any shout outs or messages, please let us know here…
Check out my My Space – MySpace.com - Eksman (Dynamic Duo) - UK - www.myspace.com/mceksman or find me on Facebook ‘Eksman MC’.
Big up all the supporters… keep it Drum and Bass!
Piece researched, compiled and edited by Jon Brown, with thanks to Eksman and Drum & Bass Arena.
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