Big Interview: Vis
As one half of BBC 1Xtra's troublemakers of radio alongside his partner-in-crime Ace, Duane Jones, better known as Vis, has kept the nation entertained throughout the revolutionary station's 10-year history. The Wrap Up's James Walsh caught up with the talented DJ, fashion designer and TV presenter to discuss how it all began, his 1xtra highlights and the many different fields we will now be seeing him flex his creative muscles in...
The Wrap Up: Hi Vis. What music did you listen to when you were younger?
Vis: I was a hip-hop kid at heart; it was the first genre I fell in love with. It was US hip-hop and then UK hip-hop at an early age, before drum and bass and then grime. They were the genres I really studied.
TWU: How did the spot on 1Xtra come about?
Vis: I left school with limited qualifications and found out about the BRIT school by fluke. I didn't know there was a place that existed where you could study TV, radio and media - it was the only form of higher education I applied for. They only interviewed me because I filled out the application form so honestly, they knew I'd give it 110%. I was there when I found out the BBC wanted to launch a black music station and I felt I ticked all the boxes, so put myself forward for it. I started off with a day time show five days a week and then six shows, with one on Radio 1 too.
TWU: You have interviewed many stars. Which interview was your favourite?
Vis: I really enjoyed interviewing Kanye West and 50 Cent. When I spoke to both of them they were at the top of their game and it was great to be in their presence. At that time 50 was very different to what I was expecting. He was very business minded and articulate and while everyone knows that now, at the time people thought he was just riding the Aftermath wave.
TWU: Moving onto your TV presenting roles, how do you find it compared to radio?
Vis: I love it! Especially hosting and adjudicating the last two top 10 MC's of the year for MTV Base. Literally, everyone is discussed and it can get very heated. The 10 get the credit for what they've put in across the board, including online presence, mainstream success and street buzz. I look forward to it every year and it keeps getting bigger, better and more exciting each time.
TWU: You did some work for the BBC during the Olympics, can you tell us about that?
Vis: I did a documentary called 'The Champions Playlist' and I got to speak to Louis Smith and Serena Williams as well as a lot of other big athletes. It was all about getting into their mind-set and finding out how they used music to prepare before their event. It was great as I got to combine my love of sport and music.
TWU: Speaking of which, you've been doing some interviewing for Rio Ferdinand's #5 Magazine, right?
Vis: Yeah, it's the world's first digital lifestyle magazine which is pretty cool. I've spoken to the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Estelle and Example for it. And Nicki Minaj, which was cool because it was her first time in London.
TWU: You have a clothing line called S.I.W. Can you tell us how that came to be?
Vis: I've always been into shoe wear and fashion, but I never thought I'd get into the design and distribution side of it. I have a great relationship with Adidas now, but when I was doing a lot of TV and radio work, a lot of my ‘grime friends’ were getting free stuff. I called but didn't get anything so I decided to do my own range! I met with New Era; they loved the designs and what I was about. As a specialist presenter in TV and radio I was in the perfect position to market the inner-city urban look, and at the time they didn't have anything like that. [Because of] the direction JD Sports were moving in and the relationships they have in place with magazines, I felt they understood the line and we've now got the apparel in there.
TWU: What is next to come from Vis?
Vis: In the last 10 years I've been exploring the avenues that have interested me. I don't intend on pulling back but there's going to be a lot more structure to what I do. I have a real hunger to be creative, and will continue to be so as I take things to the next level. You can keep an eye on everything over at my site. As well as the streetwear, DJing and presenting, I'll be producing online projects. In terms of A&R and music consultancy, my passion has always been with producers rather than artists. They fascinate me, so there's a few I'm planning on working with in the future.
TWU: Lastly, as such a knowledgeable DJ, which artist would you tell music lovers to watch out for?
Vis: (Laughs) For me, it's all about Wizzy Wow.
Words: James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)