Chanelle Tourish caught up with Tim Westwood, a pioneer of the urban music scene in the UK, to talk new ventures and performing at Croatia's Fresh Island Festival
By Time Out contributors|
Tim Westwood is perhaps one of the most recognisable figures on the UK urban music scene. Having worked as a DJ on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra for 19 years, the East Anglia-born DJ has interviewed everyone from Jay Z to Drake and Nicki Minaj. He’s thrilled to be coming to Croatia to perform at Fresh Island festival.
The DJ worked on various radio stations throughout the ’80s including the UK’s Capital FM, before joining BBC Radio 1 were he became the first Rap Show presenter on legal radio in the UK. ‘I really love DJing, I used to go to clubs all the time, that was my thing as a kid. Then hip-hop took off and that was me hooked.’
The 57-year-old – who is one of BBC Radio 1’s longest-serving broadcasters – was replaced by fellow British presenter, Charlie Sloth in 2013. ‘There’s no such thing as a job for life in this game,’ he says. ‘I was blessed to be part of the station for 19 years and it was a tremendous experience. It was during the era of Eminem and 50 Cent and before that we had Notorious BIG and 2Pac, so it was an incredible journey and I’ve loved every moment of it.’ Westwood was named Best UK Radio DJ at the MOBO Awards in 2000, 2003 and 2005, but he says the industry has changed dramatically. ‘When I started I was the only source for new music and I got it first. I was the only way for people to access their favourite artists. But the hip-hop DJ isn’t a trusted guide anymore. We were in those days. So I’ve just changed with the times and that’s all because of the internet. There’s no such thing as exclusives anymore because if you have it, the whole world has it.’
Despite access to the industry changing, Westwood still has close links to big names including Jay Z and LL Cool J.
‘Early on in my career I spent a lot of time with LL Cool J, and he told me that from an artist’s perspective, interviews can be relentless and I tried to look at what I was doing a little bit differently after that,’ he explains.
‘It’s like a new lease of life, a new energy and a new excitement. I’m really happy to be there, the man who runs Capital Xtra is the one who gave me my first break into legal radio. So coming back to him is a great thing because he started my career and I owe him a lot. We’ve got an earlier time slot and we have more hours, so I’m winning right now.’ Proving that he is moving with the times, Westwood realises the importance of social media in this era – he is active on Twitter and regularly uploads video content to his website, which also receives tens of thousands of downloads of his radio show weekly.
‘To be honest, as a DJ, you need to keep relevant through the music, it’s the easiest thing in the world. I never got stuck with one era and only catering to the old-school crowd.
I keep reconnecting with the younger audience,’ Westwood says. And after two decades in the industry, 419,000 followers on Twitter and 234 million video views on his YouTube channel, he certainly is as influential as ever in 2016.