WHP FEATURE 009
“My parents had asked me what I wanted to be when I was older, and supposedly I said to them that I wanted to be a DJ in Ibiza even though I had no idea what one was”.
“My Dad once told me a story from when I was 5 years old” begins wAFF, taking a prophetic look back at his earliest years. “My parents had asked me what I wanted to be when I was older, and supposedly I said to them that I wanted to be a DJ in Ibiza even though I had no idea what one was”.
It’s a rare thing for someone to actually realise their childhood dreams, even rarer when you have no real idea of what those dreams actually are. Most people become jaded with those typical childhood pursuits of becoming an astronaut, wrestler or whatever else as general life responsibilities take over but not Jon Wafer, who has achieved that as wAFF.
As a mainstay of Jamie Jones’ Paradise at DC10 wAFF has built up a reputation as a DJ and producer who, while embedded within the Ibizan club culture, brings a more underground and eclectic offering to the hedonistic home of the super club. As a longstanding family member of the Hot Creations crew wAFF has built his name soundtracking the sunrises of the White Isle, yet with releases on Cocoon and Drumcode he has shown a tougher, grittier side to his music that’s helped diversify the label and steer it away from its tech-house confines.
As it was, his vision at the age of five was realized in somewhat unlikely fashion. Born in Blackpool wAFF’s musical lineage began with a passing love of happy hardcore, something that “me and my mates all used to get drunk and listen to” as he puts it. After a move to Hull wAFF swiftly moved on from “shit like Bonkers and Scooter” and found his creative expression not through happy hardcore, but with theatre and dance. “I was always the main one in drama, acting and doing dance” he says. “I was took on to an agency and paid to dance at events and stuff. I didn’t do it for that long because by the time I ended up getting into house music, I completely stopped dancing and started partying more which was quite mad.”
I’m discovering what my real music actually is, what works and what I think is best.”
From trading drama for decks over ten years ago wAFF’s path to where he is now has been a long one. While quickly rising through the underground ranks at the start of his career, in part down to the Koala parties he held in Hull and Leeds from 2009 - 2011, wAFF is not an artist who achieved immediate headline success or who was thrust into the limelight alongside the Jamie Jones’s of this world. Instead wAFF is an artist of patience, one who honed his skills over several years adamant in the fact that he would only put himself out into the world should the time, and more importantly the music, be just right. He prides himself as a man of impact not output, something that he cites as the key to his success.
“I think if everything happens too fast it’s probably difficult to keep up the momentum and the unique style you have” he explains. “I feel like at the minute I’ve become so much better both as a producer and a DJ. Even though I’ve become slower at producing because my life is so crazy I feel like the more time I’m doing this, the more I’m discovering myself. I’m discovering what my real music actually is, what works and what I think is best.”
“I’m lucky to be with Hot Creations, Drumcode, Cocoon and everybody else” he continues. “There’s some amazing producers and DJs out there but they’re not part of these big groups of people who all travel and spend time together. I think that if you wasn't a part of a label or a ‘limelight’ it would be easier for people to drop off. It helps you in the times when you aren’t releasing, you’re still there in the face of it because everyone just knows what you’re doing and who you are.”
wAFF’s dedication to not only staying at the top of his game but also progressing as an artist is something he is keen to mention, addressing both the ups and downs that are a fundamental part of his, and any DJs, career. The benefits? By cementing himself as a member of the Hot Creations crew he has helped keep the imprint at the top of it’s game for years, creating for himself a unique role in a close knit collective of DJs who are all independent successes in themselves.
“With Paradise everyone’s doing really well for themselves in different ways. I do definitely believe that Paradise is always going to be big because Jamie [Jones] is huge, but I don’t believe it would be as strong as it is if we weren’t a part of it. Patrick [Topping] is reaching number ones all the time, Richy Ahmed is absolutely smashing it and I like to keep it underground so I think I separate myself from everybody in that aspect. Everybody who’s a part of it are really helping to create their own special little part of it. We’ve all got our own styles, we play different music and we all bring something new to the table.”
As grateful as he is to receive it the level of success enjoyed by wAFF is not without its failings, both to his health and the future of his career. Under the lights of DC10 It’s easy to see wAFF as someone who can take this all in his stride with a smile, someone who can revel in the excesses week in week out while still holding his place as one of Ibiza’s linchpins. Thankfully his time in the underground has not only taught him what he needed to do creatively to reach that next level, but also how to control himself amongst the lifestyle to stay there.
“To the outsider you wouldn’t think that this life would be negative in any way but there are definite negative elements to it, and there are definite challenges which I struggle with the whole time. I actually find this life to be really intense. Partying, no sleep, the travelling, I don’t want to put myself and my body through the constant trauma of getting wrecked all the time.”
“I don’t want to do drugs anymore. They don’t give me anything, they just take away instead.
“A lot of people end up doing this life and then just disappear, and I really think they lose their way with it all because of how the lifestyle is. I realised that through failure, through making mistakes. My first year was all about making mistakes and failing as my first few EPs accelerated me so quickly I became really laid back with it all. I was partying all the time, didn’t make any more music for about a year and then I saw a slight dip in my self and my career. It wasn’t massive but I could just tell that this is the start of you losing what you’ve got.”
wAFF’s honesty on the subject is incredibly refreshing. It is much easier said than done of course but how, in an industry where the odds for success are increasingly stacked against you, can we stop self-destruction being yet another one? “It’s important for people to talk about how difficult it is” says Jon. “I don’t want to do drugs anymore. They don’t give me anything, they just take away instead. It’s a constant challenge and a battle to say no, a constant challenge of trying to get away from it and maintain yourself and your health.”
“I’m starting to realise what’s better for me and what makes me better and stronger as a person. Even though I do see it as a negative it actually isn’t in some ways, it’s always teaching you better lessons for yourself so I guess it can be good.”
Sven probably tours as much as I do at his age is just mental. He’s old as fuck, still going mad, crowd surfing, and I’ve got big respect for it
It would be easy to settle into a role you’re comfortable with and ride that train for as long as you wish. After experiencing all the ups and downs that come with a career as part of one of electronic music’s leading collectives what way forward is there now? “There’s so much I still want to” he replies. “I want to get to a point where I’m one of those headline DJs who will hold the show for the rest of the night. They’ll be there all night doing their thing, and they’ll have such a huge following of people who just want to listen to them. It’s like I want to express myself fully to the best I can and show people what I can actually do.”
You always want to have it so fuck it, I’ll probably be doing it at 60.”
“The main thing I actually want to do in life is I want to act. I don’t want to do this forever.” he goes on to say somewhat out of the blue. “Don’t see yourself as a Sven Vath character then?” I reply. “I don’t know what I see myself as, I’ll be doing this for ages but to see that Sven probably tours as much as I do at his age is just mental. He’s old as fuck, still going mad, crowd surfing, and I’ve got big respect for it but I find it intense already.”
“The thing is, when you’re playing it’s ace. If you’re into this sort of thing that is one of the best feelings ever, so why would you never want to experience it again? You always want to have it so fuck it, I’ll probably be doing it at 60.”
wAFF 'Sick Pleasure EP' is out now on Hot Creations, purchase here.