Breathless bassline and UK garage from a pillar of the scene.
"The DJ EZ of the North and Midlands." Tags like this don't get bandied about willy nilly in UK garage—you have to earn them. Shollen Quarshie, the Huddersfield-born artist better known as DJ Q, has spent the past 20 years doing exactly that. He cut his teeth as a teenager among elders, quietly learning his craft while also figuring out the gaps in the market. Why, for example, play ten or 12 tracks in a set when you could play 35? His frighteningly quick mixing soon became a trademark, as did the new house-garage hybrid he and others were hammering to packed clubs like Niche in Sheffield in the early 2000s. This sound, known as bassline, grew in tandem with Quarshie, and in 2004, he was rewarded with a show on BBC 1Xtra, making him the youngest host on the station at just 18 years old. (He held the slot for eight years.)
But DJing and bassline are just part of the story. Quarshie, as you'll hear across RA.766, is also a supremely gifted producer with decades of experience making house, bassline or, his first love, UK garage. During the UK's recent spate of lockdowns, he was in the studio (or other people's studios) "constantly," and you'll hear some of the results of these sessions in this hour-long mix. His entry is quintessential DJ Q: pacy, bubbly and chock-a-block with tasty vocals, hooks and melodies. When it comes to UK club music, few do it better.
What have you been up to recently?
I've literally been in the studio, constantly. Either working from my own studio or going to other studios when I've been able to travel. It's been a mixture of working on new music and just working on my craft in general. I've got a few bits of hardware I've been using the last few months to get into them properly. Tons of YouTube tutorials later and I think I've got the hang of them fully now.
Can you tell us the idea behind the mix?
The idea behind all my mixes is to just play how I'd want to hear a DJ play if I was in a club listening. It's very fast paced with lots of energy. Expect to hear some recent tracks from me along with a good few unreleased exclusives. There's established artists and emerging producers who I think will have a decent year. I've also included a few of the songs which have got me through the last year or so—N:Fostell, 20Syl and of course Todd Edwards.
What do you make of the UK garage resurgence in recent years?
For me I haven't really seen it as a resurgence because it's something I've always made and played. You can hear garage influences in a lot of other genres as well. At this moment in time, in terms of garage music in general I think it's really healthy. A lot of new producers are making decent music across a wide spectrum of the sound. As weird as it sounds I think not having clubs has actually helped the sound, it's given an opportunity for new producers to come through on a level playing field.
You recently reconnected with Local Action after some years away. Why now? What's still to come?
Local Action is family. We've always been connected. If it's not releases on the label then there's been collaborations and remixes with other artists from the label. Over the years I've worked with a lot of labels but with Local Action it's different. There's genuine respect there. I'm actually a fan of the label and Tom from the label genuinely rates what I do so in terms of releasing music it just makes sense. We always said when the time is right and I've got the song that fits we'll do another release. As soon as I made "All That I Could" I knew that was gonna be the Local Action single, I might've even text Tom at the time I was making it saying "I've got one." Off of the back of the single there's been remixes by Octo Octa and Lavonz, and we've got another Local Action single dropping this month—a collaboration with an up-and-coming producer from the states called Hans Glader.
What are you up to next?
You're gonna be hearing a lot more music in the coming months. More stuff with Local Action. I released an EP with American label Night Bass towards the back end of last year with a follow-up planned very soon. Remixes, DJ mixes, singles... You may even see a full-length project!