If you're down on the south coast and you haven't heard of Neffa-T, you're either 65 years old and regularly attend Gala bingo on a Friday evening or you live under a rock.
Whether you've caught him at Bugged Out Weekender, Outlook Festival, Horizon Festival or Foreverland, you're guaranteed the absolute pinnacle of grandstand grime within his performance.
When Olly Bernhardt isn't creating bootlegs for Monki or helping to run the 'It's Foundation' music label, he manages to squeeze interviews in.
So we sat down and spoke to him about what it's like playing Outlook Festival and what to do if you're caught short mid set.
I’m here with Neffa T who has made a huge impact on the south coast and who has made a huge impact within the grime scene. So, Neffa T, who were your early influences with production and with DJ’ing?
That’s a tough one because there were so many influences back in the day. I kind of started by getting into deep dubstep. I think the my first influences that got me into that music were people like Loefah, Mala and a lot of the OG dubstep guys. But then as far as grime goes, JME was one of the first guys I got into when I was 16. I listened to all of his stuff. Skepta a little bit, but he was someone I learnt a bit more about over time.
Do you know what I think it is? I think I was trawling through and digging. It wasn’t necessarily a case of who was my biggest influence, it was more of a case of what I was finding about the history of genre’s that kind of influenced me. Like what happened, and what people were doing as a collective within a genre. For example, what’s happened at Sidewinder events. That sort of thing has definitely played a part in it. I’ve listened back to old mixes from Rinse FM.
When I was younger it was more of a case of being open to loads of stuff really. I think you have to be when you start out, to find what you’re really into and what your sound is.
So I’ve seen you play down here in Bournemouth probably five or six times, with MC Skydro and playing solo, but what’s been your highlight of your career so far?
Straight off the bat, I’m going to say that playing Outlook festival is always going to be a high point. Whenever I’ve played it it’s been wicked man. You can’t really beat playing in Croatia, doing what you want to be doing. Everyone who goes to Outlook is there to hear a certain kind of music. Some night clubs you might go to and people might just be there for a night out. But at Outlook, it’s specialised music. You’re playing to people who might have a more full bodied understanding of what you’re presenting to them.
Bugged Out Weekender was another cool one. It’s mainly most time that I’ve had friends with me when I’ve been doing stuff DJ wise. That’s made a big impact. When you’re with friends who are also DJ’ing and you can chill with them and kind of enjoy the moment for what it is. It doesn’t feel like work then, it’s the best feeling. I can’t really complain about that kind of stuff.
Festivals are kind of like a mini holiday. You get to kick back, have fun, check out the place you’re playing at. It’s a bigger package than doing a one hour set down the road, which is still cool, but it’s just a different scale.
If you could only pick one to do for the rest of your life, DJ’ing or producing?
That’s really hard. For me at the moment that’s harder than ever because if you’d have asked me three years ago I probably would have said DJ’ing because I’d done it for eight years. Nowadays though, I’m so much more into making tunes.
I think it’s one of those things where the more you do it, the better you get, so you enjoy it more. You learn more things and you can apply them to production so it just becomes this cycle.
That’s so hard, but I think I’d say DJ’ing. It’s such a close call, but that’s what I’d choose because when I was a teenager it’s what got me into all of this. I wouldn’t have even thought to start producing.
Also, for me, nothing beats the feeling of DJ’ing and playing those kind of events. So I’d say DJ’ing, but close call.
You play quite a variety of music. You play grime, dubstep, occasionally drop a bit of hip hop, what’s one sub genre that you feel doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
That’s another hard question.
Actually, no. That’s simpler than I think it is. I think at the moment, I would say dubstep.
I feel like there’s this kind of tarnished, not negative, vibe. With dubstep, it blew up and then disappeared real quick. I think that although it’s very much alive, it doesn’t get as much love as though I feel it should be getting.
So you’re on about the likes of Kahn & Neek, Loefah and Kode 9 kind of dubstep, not the American brostep that came through?
No, not the brostep stuff. I know it kind of sounds overly cool to reference it like that from our ends, but because there are so many different forms of dubstep, it’s important to be clear on that stuff. The stuff that’s going off in America is getting a lot of attention. You see festivals with thousands and thousands of people and it’s getting a load of love which is wicked. But, at the moment, I feel like the UK stuff isn’t getting enough recognition.Hopefully it won’t stay like this. There’s some seriously good labels, putting out some seriously good stuff, by seriously good artists.
I think it’s based on where we are. I probably wouldn’t have given you the same answer if I lived in London or Bristol. But in Bournemouth, there’s no dubstep night at the moment which is a shame because there used to be dubstep night everywhere. It’s a great genre of music.
So I think my answer is relative to where we both live.
A lot of DJ’s have had famous blunders whilst playing. What’s been the worst thing that’s happened to you?
There was this time where I was playing before a headliner. This headliner showed up an hour and a half late in the end. So the promoter asked if I could carry on playing until he showed up. It ended up going from an hour set to a three hour set. I’d drunk a load of water beforehand, but initially I thought it was fine because I was going to be off in 15 minutes.
Then, two hours later I was like I really need to go to the toilet. But the promoters weren’t there, I didn’t have my friends by the decks because they’re off getting a drink or outside smoking. So I had to put on a really long tune and storm through the crowd, go the toilet, then storm back whilst there was no DJ on the setup.
It was okay, I think everyone kind of got it. I was the quickest I’d ever been, it was like time trials. I’ve only had to do that once. It’s just making the best of a tricky situation.
I’ve always wondered when you see people like Andy C or Seth Troxler doing these mammoth six / seven hour sets. How they prepare for it and keep going?
Yeah definitely. Not comparing this to my scenario at all, but watching DJ EZ’s 24 hour set, he pops off for 5 minutes and that’s his toilet break. When you’ve got a 24 hour set, it’s a bit of a no brainer that he’ll be taking breaks. Where as with me, I think people started to wonder ‘where is that dude going and why is he in the crowd with us?’
If you could sum up your personal sound in three words, what would they be?
It’s really hard because my sounds changing a lot and it’s quite open in terms of what I’m writing. One day I’m writing something really deep and then the next day I’m writing something really angry and fun. I’d say one of them is intricate. I like the intricacies in my tracks. Breaking them up and adding different effects and tamper with it.
I’m quite influenced by dark stuff, so I’d put dark in there. A good deal of my tunes are dark and eerie.
I think I’d say experimental for the last one. When I started producing properly I thought ‘oh I should be writing this stuff and it should follow a certain set of rules’ but then as time went on I though I just need to write what I want and the best results will come from that.
So, experimental, intricate and dark.
What’s one track for you that never gets old no matter how many times you play it or hear it?
I’m gonna say DJ Zinc - 138 Trek. Whenever I hear that tune or play it, it never gets old. There’s a million cool tunes I could name, but that track over the last eight years has just never got boring. I still play it in the club and I’m never tired of hearing it.
On the flip side, what’s one popular track that you can’t stand?
That’s really hard because I never sit there and think ‘god, this tune is really annoying me, I can’t listen to it.’ If I hear a mainstream tune on Radio 1 and it’s something I don’t fully enjoy, I can still appreciate something from it, whether it’s production or a cool melody or how it’s composed. I don’t think I have an answer for that. It’s a bit of a cop out, but I’ve never heard a tune and thought ‘I can’t stand that.’
Can you tell us the story behind the name ‘Neffa-T’?
I got a book called ‘The Prophet’ around the time I was thinking about DJ’ing. A really close friend of mine gave it to me and it ended up inspiring me to DJ. Another word for prophet is ‘neferti’ so basically with a bit of word play you get ‘Neffa-T’. It was an homage to this person that helped me get into DJ’ing and gave me the push to go for it.
It was in a tougher time of my life and this person helped me and I thought yeah, this makes sense. I think everything I do, I want to give it meaning. That’s not saying that it’s right or wrong to do that or it’s better or worse if you do, but for me, I wanted it to have some significance.
With regards to events and new music, what can we expect from you in the future?
Release wise I’m working on a free download for Monki which is coming out in the next couple of days actually, so it should be out by the time this interview goes up. It’s a flip of a classic tune that I did as part of her bootleg series. I should be working with White Peach in the future on a digital and vinyl release. Then just keep doing my thing musically with DJ’ing. That’s the advantages because you can test out new tunes. You can play your forthcoming bits. Just cracking on with production. It’s quite intense, but it’s good.
One last question, if you could do a b2b with any artist or DJ, who would it any why?
I’d say someone like Mala or Loefah because every time I catch their sets, their selection is on point and they kind of take you on a journey, which is something I really value. There’s other people I’d like to do it with as well, like Addison Groove and DJ Cable. It’s kind of just people you see who you can appreciate for being a solid DJ and you know they’ve put in a lot of time crafting their skill.
If you want to keep up to date with Neffa-T on all his upcoming events and releases, follow his social media pages here:
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